Author Topic: Number Our Days  (Read 5160 times)

Annie

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #40 on: June 11, 2017, 10:01:37 AM »
The Book Club Online is the oldest  book club on the Internet, begun in 1996, open to everyone.  We offer cordial discussions of one book a month,  24/7 and  enjoy the company of readers from all over the world.  Everyone is welcome.



They say that growing old is not for sissies. Are they right? When Anthropologist Dr. Barbara Myerhoff received a grant to study aging she decided to do it on subjects in the USA, and let them speak for themselves.

The result is an "often funny, deeply moving narrative of human dignity and courage."

 "One of those rare books that leave the reader somehow changed."-- Bel Kaufman.

Join us June 15! 


Questions to Ponder on  Chapter 1

Chapter 1 is a scholarly defense of the subject matter....hard to read... if you don't like these questions, add your own:


1.   a. Who is this a study of?  b. What makes it a unique sample?

2.   How  would you characterize the elders in this study?  Are they high-functioning?  Well-off?

3.   What does the Center fulfill for the men and women on the Boardwalk?

4.   What made for successful aging among the elders?

5.   How does the Jewish faith affect the men and women's approach to aging?  How do they envision old age?

6.   What do you think the psalm "So teach us to number our days, that we may get us a heart of wisdom" mean to you?

7.   What do you think of these elders?  Do they impress you, annoy you?  Do they remind you of relatives?



I'm going to add some non stock questions  I think are important, too, in fact they are what jumped out at me, what jumped out at YOU?


1. What seems to be the most important thing to the people she is writing about? What do you think the most important thing to YOU would be?

2. What function does the "Center" have for the community of elders that use it?

These two questions, in my mind, are not related, but they may be, in yours.



Ginny!  Well the green doesn't offend but, for me, it's harder to read than black.  I stopped using teal or green which I sometimes even used in bold.  But I decided that just plain black is best for my eyes.

I have never read a Drabble offering.  I think reading her fiction at the same time we are discussing Number Our Days might be an interesting undertaking.  I might order The Dark Flood Rises from my library.

Well I must return to packing my books for library who are glad to have donations. I have an emotional attachment to my books and giving them away is excruciating!!!😢😢😢😢😢❤️❤️❤️❤️🙏🙏🙏❤️🤓!
"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth." Robert Southey

bellamarie

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #41 on: June 11, 2017, 12:10:08 PM »
Welcome home Ginny!  I am like Annie, the green text is difficult for my eyes.  I have been having dry eye and irritation for about a year now and I notice certain brightness and color of text does irritate them more so than plain black text. I also noticed my eyes are more irritated if I read from my ipad vs a book, so I am happy to keep purchasing my books to add to my library.  Our member Barb St. Aubrey has been less active in the discussions due to her eyes giving her some problems. I have spoken with her and she is going to try to drop in from time to time. I guess it's an aging thing..... I wonder if our character discusses the changes in her sight as she gets older.  Guess we'll find out soon!
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

hongfan

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #42 on: June 11, 2017, 01:08:13 PM »
I am passing by and seeing the mention of dry eye. Dry eye bothers me from time to time and also bothered my father, but during a lunch a couple of weeks ago, one of my friends told me that Dr. Korb in Boston is having some good advice on treating dry eye. I haven't got chance to investigate into this and experiment with myself yet, but thought just paste the links here if any of you might be interested in reading:

http://www.neco.edu/news/entry/dr.-donald-korb-lectures-about-dry-eye

http://korbassociates.com/eyecare-services/dry-eye.html?_ga=2.42328099.74229380.1497200305-50103585.1497200305

My friend has known Dr. Korb for a long time, he said Dr. Korb invented a new type of contact lens and sold the patent to Bausch & Lomb for $25 millions which he invested now into his research on dry eye. So seems he had some track record for innovative research, but I don't know him myself and you will have to judge yourself. I only hope it does work!



PatH

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #43 on: June 11, 2017, 04:55:29 PM »
Good luck on your sorting and moving, Annie.  Take care of yourself as much as possible.  :-*

PatH

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #44 on: June 11, 2017, 05:08:10 PM »
Welcome back, Ginny.  I've found that people's offers of help increase in jumps, not linearly, and I'm never sure what change (if any) in me sparks a jump.  I'm guessing that the efforts to keep up with a 10 year old, plus the fact that you probably couldn't always take breaks when you needed, made you look rather tired, and that was what they responded to.  If you went back on your own, you might not get so many offers.

Regardless of whether I need the help offered, take it or don't, I always try to say something to make the person feel good about having offered.  They deserve it, and they won't be scared off from offering help when it's really needed.

Jonathan

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #45 on: June 11, 2017, 10:38:12 PM »
Pardon me, Ginny, that I should be laughing after reading your splendid post. It would look good in any color. And I thought we would be hearing about Barcelona! As it is, it's a grand portal into the book we are about to read. Do we, in fact, need the book? As they relate to your experience, people will be posting.

Just look at all the experience and good sense Pat has picked up in all her travelling.

bellamarie

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #46 on: June 12, 2017, 10:03:54 AM »
Hongfan,  thank you for the links and info on dry eye.  I will be bringing this to my eye doctor's attention my next visit.

Ginny, I had to giggle at your post, indeed we do not see ourselves as our age rather 29 as you choose for yourself, and we all have a number we have stuck our self on.  I'm not sure what age I am stuck on, but I do know it's not my present age of 63.  I can say when I was at my son's house yesterday on their deck by the pool getting up and down to dangle my legs in the water surely told me I am not my imagined age in my head.  Oh how I hate when reality hits me in the face.  Now that school is out I will be having my two grandkids 6 and 9 yrs old, three days a week.  They are so active and my hubby and I are exhausted by the end of each day.  They keep us young, but our body says is it rest time.

Annie,  Good luck with your move.  My hubby and I have tossed around the idea of moving a little closer to our kids now that they have bought homes 30 minutes from us.  They think for some reason it's time for us to move into a condo close to them.  First off, we are completely contented and capable to keep up our home we have lived in for 35 years.  Secondly, we are not yet ready to downsize into a condo, and thirdly even though the drive to each of their houses is hectic expressway, we do still like being in our end of town.  I do have to admit I love the quaint little town setting of Perrysburg where my one son is moving to this week, and I could easily see my hubby and I moving there one day.  Oh but, just the thought of going through our attic things horrify me.

PatH.,  I am with you, when ever someone offers me help I graciously thank them with an, "I'm good."  As my Mom always said, "Don't look a gift horse in the house." 

 
 
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

bellamarie

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #47 on: June 12, 2017, 12:06:21 PM »
Ooops I meant in the "mouth"
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

ginny

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #48 on: June 12, 2017, 01:45:50 PM »
Oh how I hate when reality hits me in the face.

Yes, Ma'am, in any shape or form.

Thank you, hongfan, (and welcome!) for that interesting link and article on dry eye. Those of us with contacs who don't want to give them up even at this stage  need that information. 

Thanks,  Guys. I do hope that along with what remains of my dignity I still have some  manners. :)  No matter what I am privately thinking. I wish I had a movie of me struggling to "help" each person who wanted to just take the bags  and do it, I kept saying oh but you must not do it yourself, as we both did a pas de deux  with each bag.  Made a right fool of self, but hey, that's what it's all about, right?  In an elevator last year in the Louvre a young Japanese couple and I did such an "After you, Alphonse," that the doors of the elevator closed and we descended, much to the disgust of those behind us still trapped within.  hahahaha

James Cordon (the Carpool Karaoke Guy) said in one of those flight magazines that yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not come, be the best You you can be today. That's all you can do. I like that philosophy.

  But I wonder if he's right.

 Meanwhile Margaret Drabble continues a veritable drumbeat of controversial statements about old age, which I think we can, if you'd like to comment on THEM, consider here, too. I'll start with them once we really get under way.

Jonathan,  Do we, in fact, need the book?

Yes, we do.  I read the first chapter this morning and found:

1. This is a serious book, meant to be taken seriously.
2. It's full of what anthropology is and isn't.
3. The first chapter outlines the basis for the entire book from a scholarly perspective. I am surprised at what anthropology really is and is not, were you?
4. We should start with the 2nd chapter, the real stories, but since she didn't, then why should we? Let's attempt to mush thru the scholarly jargon and ferret out the nuggets.

Here are some "stock" questions ON Number our Days from the publisher which we can be pondering while we read chapter 1 for Wednesday's start. I'm not putting them in the heading, here is good:


 Discussion Questions for Number Our Days by Barbara Myerhoff:

1.   a. Who is this a study of?  b. What makes it a unique sample?





2.   How  would you characterize the elders in this study?  Are they high-functioning?  Well-off?





3.   What does the Center fulfill for the men and women on the Boardwalk?





4.   What made for successful aging among the elders?





5.   How does the Jewish faith affect the men and women's approach to aging?  How do they envision old age?





6.   What do you think the psalm "So teach us to number our days, that we may get us a heart of wisdom" mean to you?





7.   What do you think of these elders?  Do they impress you, annoy you?  Do they remind you of relatives?


I'm going to add some non stock questions  I think are important, too, in fact they are what jumped out at me, what jumped out at YOU?



1. What seems to be the most important thing to the people she is writing about? What do you think the most important thing to YOU would be?

2. What function does the "Center" have for the community of elders that use it?

These two questions, in my mind, are not related, but they may be, in yours.


There's our opening salvo, hope to see you all on  Wednesday the 15th when we discuss chapter 1.

:)



bellamarie

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #49 on: June 12, 2017, 11:14:22 PM »
Ginny
Quote
4. We should start with the 2nd chapter, the real stories, but since she didn't, then why should we? Let's attempt to mush thru the scholarly jargon and ferret out the nuggets.

Thank you for this post.  I thought it was just me feeling a bit overwhelmed with as you put it, "scholarly jargon."   As I was mushing through, I thought, oh my heavens what have I gotten myself into here, is this book over my pay grade?  I will muddle through chapter 1 and check back on Wed. for the beginning of the discussion to see what the rest of you could deduce from it ,and what nuggets you could ferret out ,as Ginny mentions. 
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

ginny

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #50 on: June 13, 2017, 08:31:59 AM »
I personally think it's in self defense. She has to defend doing an anthropological study, not of the some exotic unknown culture, say,  pygmies in New Guinea, but one Jewish community in the US in the 70's  which, let's face it, you didn't  have to travel to Borneo to see, and which not only are many of her readers quite familiar with,  she herself has roots in. I myself have had recurrent dreams of Tennannah Lake House and the entire Borscht Belt thing  which I can't wait to talk about.

 I think her idea of subject matter is brilliant, I didn't need one word of rationale. I would rather have read this chapter at the end, if I still needed convincing of that. We'll see what the others think if they get far enough to talk about it. :)  I hope they can, I think it's worth it.

I am hoping once she has established her own credentials and the study parameters, sufficiently in her own mind,  we can get on with what really resonates: their stories and what we can learn from them. I think she has made some tremendously important points here for any culture and any time and I think that's maybe what anthropology  is about, I don't know. I hope to find out.

Everyone is welcome!

CallieinOK

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #51 on: June 13, 2017, 10:40:54 AM »
Marking a spot.

ginny

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #52 on: June 13, 2017, 11:11:30 AM »
Weill HEY there, Callie! Am I glad to see you!  Welcome aboard!

CallieinOK

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #53 on: June 13, 2017, 12:34:10 PM »
Thanks, Ginny.  I haven't participated in a Book Discussion for quite a while. 

Just finishing up a major retiling floor project (Messy!!!!!) - plus Granddaughter who moved to New York City last Fall is home for 3 weeks.  Probably be hit and miss with comments but I am interested. 

ginny

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #54 on: June 13, 2017, 12:41:58 PM »
Well at least your floors are now retiled and I am sure, spotless, no seams in linoleum for you (I'm afraid to even begin tackling ours), and there's nothing like a grandchild!  We will be interested in your comments, I know they will hit the spot when you do make them. :)

Jonathan

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #55 on: June 13, 2017, 05:57:39 PM »
It's a mekhaye!!! Ginny is going to make an adventure out of this book. Being stuck on an elevator isn't so bad if you're having fun. Getting us past the preface and on to the borscht belt was a great move.

'Mekhaye': Pleasure, a real joy. Keep it throaty.

Thanks for the questions, Ginny. Already things are coming into focus.

ginny

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #56 on: June 14, 2017, 10:32:56 AM »
:) Jonathan, you always have such a way with words.

It's tomorrow, too. I am not the least afraid with this group so far assembled, and those I know are coming, to tackle anything. But this first chapter raised a lot of questions in my mind, and those "stock" questions, did, too. I think this is going to be a very worthwhile endeavor, with all of you  present.




bellamarie

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #57 on: June 14, 2017, 01:50:39 PM »
I have not finished reading chapter one just yet, but from what I have read in the first ten pages it is packed with so much to ascertain about this elderly center in New York and all the residents.  I think I am going to have just a bit of an age gap here when discussing this book because already Ginny's comment,  " I myself have had recurrent dreams of Tennannah Lake House and the entire Borscht Belt thing  which I can't wait to talk about."  has me scratching my head, and yet Jonathan knows exactly what she is talking about.  I will confess to being raised in a very small, rural town in Michigan, not having much access to libraries, newspapers, or other forms of learning information about what was going on in the world as far as culture, politics, etc.  I came to love reading at high school age once we began reading in our English Lit class, and I had access to the school library.  History was NOT my strong subject throughout my school years, which left me void in knowledge of wars, places and cultures, especially Jewish communities.  So all of this in chapter one is  completely new for me.  In saying this, I look forward to learning from our anthropologist Meyerhoff, and ask you all be a bit patient with me.  I am like a duckling taking to water among seasoned ducks with this story. 

In all honesty I had to look up the word "anthropology" to see what it meant before delving into chapter one.

an·thro·pol·o·gy  (ăn′thrə-pŏl′ə-jē)
n.
1. The scientific study of the origin, the behavior, and the physical, social, and cultural development of humans.
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

Annie

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #58 on: June 14, 2017, 02:18:16 PM »
I know well the area where the Jewish Community in Santa Monica is located.  Most likely the center is gone. When I was there, the park and surroundings were covered over with the homeless folks.  I hope the people we are reading about were able to find a new place to live.
"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth." Robert Southey

Jonathan

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #59 on: June 14, 2017, 04:14:51 PM »
Yes, Annie, these people were able to find a new place to live. Barbara Myerhoff gave them the chance. In her book. Now they will live forever.

7.   What do you think of these elders?  Do they impress you, annoy you?  Do they remind you of relatives?

 I love that. It may well be that some reader should find her or his roots. It's happening all the time.

Bellamarie, you're going to enjoy this book. I'm looking forward to your insights. Thanks for the definition of anthropology. I admire the audacity of the author. That the scientific mind should hope to make something of these unique, imaginative people seems like a fantastic challenge.

It's nice to have you show up, Callie. Keep coming back. With or without the book, there will be lots to talk about. I'm looking forward to hearing what Margaret Drabble has to say about life's last momentous stage.

bellamarie

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #60 on: June 14, 2017, 07:33:42 PM »
Ooops.... why on earth did I mistype and say New York.  This story is taking place in Venice California.  Sorry, I just finished a good book that was taking place in New York and got myself turned around.  I have been taking care of my two little grandkids the past six days and am pooped out, so maybe I can blame it on that.   ::)

Jonathan, I plan to stick around, but yes, this first chapter is a bit much.  It is so packed full of info I am using a highlighter to underline points I want to discuss.  I'm not too concerned it will ruin my book since it is a used paperback anyway. 

“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

PatH

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #61 on: June 14, 2017, 09:36:50 PM »
Bellamarie, I agree the first chapter is formidable.  Myerhoff starts off being so busy being an anthropologist, explaining what she's doing and why her fellow anthropologists should take her seriously, that you can drown in it before you notice that there's an incredible human story here, and that Myerhoff herself is taking a journey too, as Skloot did when she got involved with Henrietta Lacks' story, though not so intense.  Starting with chapter two, we get into the much more accessible meat of the story.

Like you, though, I found a lot of things to think about in chapter one.

ginny

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #62 on: June 15, 2017, 08:47:08 AM »
Well  a bright good mornming to you all as we meet htere to discuss anything and everything pertaining to the subject of Number Our Days. There are "stock" questions in the heading, which, on retrospect, are quite helpful with Chapter 1, and I can see why she wrote it but I still think it would have been better as a foreword.  Since it is not, it's clear she intends this subject to be taken seriously, so we'll give her that, and proceed to talk about what we also enjoy of the subjects raised in the book.

I think when people read, even when they read for information, they make connections to things. What I felt as a connection might not be what you did, that's the joy of a book club discussion, we can try to talk to each other and appreciate all elements.

Here I am doing the same thing she did. hahaha

So let's begin.

What struck YOU the most in the opening chapter? Why?
That's my question du jour but you answer any question you want or make up your own.

The floor is now open for all of your random thoughts.

ginny

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Here's to you, Tennnannah Lake House
« Reply #63 on: June 15, 2017, 09:24:50 AM »
I'm going to start with an unlikely thing: the benches. That's what stood out to me, the benches.

These elders (what shall we call them?) These folks liked to meet daily on benches and sit and talk.

The men talk about one type of subject, philosophy, etc., the women, another, children, etc...wasn't that interesting?

I found myself wishing I could hear the men...I wonder why?

Which group would you have wanted to listen to?

________________________________

But these benches, this gathering and grouping by gender,  hit me with a long ago memory.

In the US from the 1920's to the 70's if you said the words "Catskills"  and "Borscht Belt"  to any person in the NorthEast of this great country,  they immediately knew what you were talking about.

Here's Wikiwackia on it:


Borscht Belt hotels, bungalow colonies, summer camps, and קאָך-אַליינס kokh-aleyns (a Yiddish name for self-catered boarding houses, literally, "cook-alones") were frequented by families of middle and working class Jewish New Yorkers, mostly Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants. Antisemitism, particularly in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, meant that they were often denied accommodation elsewhere.

Some of the Catskill hotels were converted from farms that immigrant Jews had started in the early 1900's. As the area grew, it began to cater specifically to Jews, providing kosher food, synagogues, and other features of Jewish communities, including entertainment. The area became known as "The Jewish Alps", and the Sullivan County portion as "Solomon County".

From the 1920s through the 1970s, nearly all notable Jewish entertainers would hone their skills at resorts in the Sullivan County area. Fallsburg became the catalyst for American stand-up comedy.[4] Comedy legends Mel Blanc, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, Danny Kaye and Red Buttons made an early living at the night clubs here, as would Hollywood stars Mel Brooks, Billy Crystal, Rodney Dangerfield, Don Rickles, and Joan Rivers. Famed prize fighters like Rocky Marciano, Sonny Liston, and Muhammad Ali  trained here. Millions of tourists, especially New Yorkers, came to swim in the lakes and oversized hotel pools, to ski or ice-skate or take lessons in golf, tennis, and dancing. No fewer than 538 hotels sprang up in this area of Eastern New York



____________________

These mammoth resorts are hard to imagine now. The big ones like Grossingers (that second G is pronounced, like "Gross in GRRRs") and the Concord saw the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher (who got married there) and I remember seeing Slammin' Sammy Snead play golf there. Grossingers, who thought it would ever die? The Concord, Neveles. Gigantic places. Books have been written on their declines.

But the benches?

In the summer of 1961 I, a blond  blue eyed Protestant, before starting college,  worked the summer at Tennannah Lake House, a Kosher Jewish Resort   not far from Grossingers and the Concord. One of the "Paleys," (not the Babe Paley of Truman Capote, not the famous CBS Paley, one of the lesser brothers or relatives or something), ran it. It  kept Kosher like many of them did but was a lot smaller and less opulent, appealing  to perhaps a comfortable middle class, tho why I say middle class I have no idea. The staff (including members of the band who played for Johnny Carson's show in their off time making money  here) lived in airless top floor rooms which were so small they didn't even have  a closet but I never will forget the room rate on the door: $125 per night in the main lodge. For no closet. That was NOT Middle Class in 1961, particularly if you'd stay a month.

And believe it or not, that is NOT Tennanah Lake House in the photo, it's a smaller place they took down to build the real one, which sat back from the lake,  long gone in photos and memory except for those of us who stayed there. I always thought one day I'll come back here, but not as a staff member, I'll come back here and stay as a guest, but it fell almost immediately in the great 60's decline, to an Ashram and I believe it burned down. I won't be staying there, the mah jongg tiles will be silent forever.

The families would meet, year after year, at the great lodge,  and enjoy summer fun, concerts, swimming in the huge lake, the big  pool, billiards, anything and everything you can think of, these resorts offered. There were  big name comedians in the night club, and there was this  sitting, by the old folks,  on the porch on benches catching up with the other families who came every year and appeared to stay for months. Sitting and commenting on anything and everything. Something for every age to do in the Catskills in the summer.

 I picked up a lot of Yiddish here.  I also failed at every single job given me to do. Finally they gave me the job of "Receptionist," because I had such a "pretty voice, like singing," (they should hear me now).... which involved using one of those push  telephone  console things people make jokes about now, with all the wires and trunk tubes, you talk about difficult. ....that lasted until somebody called about fall accommodations and inquired "Are you open after the Holidays?"

"What holiday? " I asked.  Silence (about the same silence that occurred when I ordered a glass of milk in the dining room once, even tho we ate a long way back from the paying guests)...and then..."Is this Tennannah Lake House?" ... Me: "Yes." "Can I speak to somebody who knows what they are doing?"

hahahaa I miss that? I miss that entire way of talking and thinking.

I can hear the mah jongg tiles now that the Chinese kitchen staff would gather to play after hours in the dark. We were warned this was serious business and not to disturb or interrupt them in any way...just a wonder to be seen wherever you turned your eyes. It was like a United Nations, the wait staff came from Miami, the Maitre d' was Italian and brought up all his kinsmen to be waiters and lifeguards.

And like so many things of the past, particularly in this  area, that's all gone. That is the great resorts, how heartbreaking it is to see the ruin of Grossingers, whoever thought IT would die?  People discovered Florida, cars and planes took people to more exotic vacations, and the huge culture which was, is no longer.

 There's a DVD called Things That Aren't There Any More, of the area I actually grew up in, in PA,  and they aren't. The great amusement park Willow Grove Park, gone, the famous Ball Park. Gone.

But people still gather on benches, don't they? And the thing that I've been wondering, is.....I wonder how much of this is particularly Jewish,  how much of this is a particular Ashkenazi Jewish Culture, and how much of this is human nature?

These people don't seem exotic to me. Do they to you?

 They seem normal, they seem very strong (or are they?) Is it strong to want to live by yourself? Or is it something else?

I love this book and I hope we can talk from all our various backgrounds and understandings to see what we think.

But what do YOU think? What struck you?




bellamarie

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #64 on: June 15, 2017, 09:35:28 AM »
Hmmmm.... what struck me the most in the opening chapter?  I think so far since I have not finished the chapter, what I find sticking out is the humanistic story of the elderly.  I have a friend of the family who recently had to be placed in a senior living center at the age of 80 yrs old.  She was very sad at first because she is very independent, used to taking care of her own home, driving, shopping, going out with her girlfriends and even driving herself up to her summer home on the lake.  She began having bouts of dementia and the family became concerned, so they decided it was the best thing for her.  She has now been in the center living there for almost a year and is very happy, gotten to know the other elderly men and women and is participating in all the activities.  The family is having a birthday party for her on the 21st of this month and it will be my first time visiting her at the center.  Reading this first chapter has shown me a new perspective on how the elderly can become their own community, can look forward to the familiar surroundings, the same schedules and the companionship of each other.  I found it interesting how Meyerhoff shows us the differences of the gathering of the men and women and their subjects they tend to discuss. 

pg. 4  Bench behavior is highly stylized.  The half-dozen or so benches immediately to the north or south of the Center are the territory of the members, segregated by sex and conversation topic.  The men's benches are devoted to abstract, ideological concerns__philosophical debate, politics, religion, and economics.  The women's benches are given more to talk about immediate, personal matters__children, food, health, neighbors, love affairs, scandals, and "managing."  Men and women talk about Israel and its welfare, about being a Jew and about Center politics.  On the benches, reputations are made and broken, controversies explored, leaders selected, factions formed and dissolved.  Here is the outdoor dimensions of Center life, like a village plaza, a focus of protracted, intense sociability.

Already this book is having an affect on me, the reality of life coming to a time I may be faced with these same situations.  My hubby and I are still healthy and capable of keeping up our three bedroom, two story home with a beautiful backyard I have turned into a sanctuary. We sit and just enjoy watching the birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and various other animals visit each day.  We love watching the flowers bloom as the seasons change especially now that all the Spring flowers are bursting with color and the summer flowers are pushing up to take over as the Spring flowers will be done soon.  Our grown kids have asked us many times if we think of moving to a condo, and I can't even imagine why we would want to leave our beautiful home and yard.  Oh dear, I'm getting flutters just typing this.  One word  I will find myself using often in this discussion is,  "reality."

 
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

bellamarie

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #65 on: June 15, 2017, 09:39:34 AM »
Ginny, you and I were posting at the very same time and it seems good minds think alike.  I too as you can see found the benches to be what stuck out to me in the first chapter.   ;)

I absolutely love your story about Tennannah Lake House!  And this....  But people still gather on benches, don't they? And the thing that I've been wondering, is.....I wonder how much of this is particularly Jewish,  how much of this is a particular Ashkenazi Jewish Culture, and how much of this is human nature?

Yes, indeed we do still gather on benches, I crack up every time we go shopping at our mall and my hubby chooses to sit out a few stores and sits on the couches with other men waiting for their wives to be done.  I always laugh and say to him, "Okay what were you talking to those strangers about now?"  He laughs and answers,  "Oh about our time in the service or even sometimes politics."

For the record.....  I will join the men's bench, any day on politics, economy and religion!
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

Annie

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #66 on: June 15, 2017, 10:25:36 AM »
Well, I named the area Santa Monica but it turns out to be Venice.  We used to go there on the weekend just to watch the busy crowds but especially to watch an lady of about 70yrs old show her incredible talents on her skate board.  I will see if I can find the article about her that was in the LA Times. She was just fun to watch. There were many little tent shops along the boardwalk.  It was like going to an arts and craft show. And the benches were part the picture. Also many old men playing chess.  Just like they do in Central Park in NYC in the summer.
I thought the Ashkanazi was an Indian tribe out west. What is the name of that?
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PatH

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #67 on: June 15, 2017, 12:37:43 PM »
Anasazi?

Jonathan

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #68 on: June 15, 2017, 03:33:13 PM »
Wow! What an experience, Ginny. To have been there in the Catskills, at the cradle of a good chunk of the 20th century American cultural renaissance. My own fascination with Yiddish was sparked in a second-hand clothing store, on North Main, during the Thirties Depression, when I was eight or nine and needed a jacket. To hear my Dad, with his German, and the proprietor with his Yiddish, haggle over the price, is something I've never forgotten. And I was so proud of my good-quality leather jacket. On another occasion  Dad got a very good quality overcoat in the same way. And he wasn't even terribly surprised to find several hundred dollars in an inside pocket. He always laughingly maintained it must have been intended as a mitzva (good deed) by the previous owner.

What struck you?

I can't tear myself away from page one, and the page facing it, with its solemn words about life and death. Life is a 'breath', a 'fleeting shadow'. Get yourselves 'a heart of wisdom'. Last rites. I can hear 'I am the resurrection and the life', 'Shall we gather at the river.' We're informed  that we'll be hearing the words again in Chapter 5. Is that a spoiler?

But first, on page one, we hear a few plaintive words from Basha in the midst of life: 

'Everty morning I wake up in pain. I wiggle my toes. Good. They still obey. I open my eyes. Good. I can see. Everything hurts but I get dressed. I walk down to the ocean. Good. It's still there. Now my day can start. About tomorrow I never know. After all, I'm eighty-nine. I can't live forever.'

Basha deserves a medal, and the author a literary award for such a remarkable beginning.

ginny

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #69 on: June 16, 2017, 07:42:01 AM »
What great responses, thank you all.

I am so glad you enjoyed that little segue, Bellamarie and Jonathan. :) They used to say, "Is this heaven? No, it's Grossingers." 1200 acres, 35 buildings, it doesn't look like heaven now, does it?



Nothing gold can stay. 

Bellamarie, and Jonathan, those were beautiful posts.  I especially appreciate both of you quoting from the book.  I don't type well enough to do that often and it's amazing to me as I read it yesterday how beautifully she writes. I agree, Jonathan, she should have won an award, and did for the film and was nominated I think for one for the book.

I HOPE in the book she is going to explain some things about this particular culture, so we can learn by comparison to our own lives, those of us not  Jewish,  as to how important a part the  Ashkenazi Jewish Culture plays.

It seems to me that we might try, lacking any explanation, to notice in which ways our own lives and those of those we know and have known, differ in the aging process and Bellamarie has started out already with her friend: She has now been in the center living there for almost a year and is very happy, gotten to know the other elderly men and women and is participating in all the activities.  I hope you'll give us an update after you see her next week for her birthday.

Apparently social contacts are very important in not only enriching our lives but actually in keeping people alive, don't you keep reading about studies which show that? But conversely, more people than ever want to stay home,  and not leave their homes and go to a center or group living, and society is moving to meet this need but at a cost. IS it the best way?

In YOUR opinion, how important IS social contact? Can we see any difference, can we learn from the examples given here and our own experience, what ARE the differences between the "Center" here and the benches and our own lives?

These questions in the heading also speak to this issue:

3.   What does the Center fulfill for the men and women on the Boardwalk?

4.   What made for successful aging among the elders?


5.   How does the Jewish faith affect the men and women's approach to aging?  How do they envision old age?


And I, lacking anybody telling me flat out (I hope Myerhoff will, but if she doesn't I hope one of you will know) what the difference is, and how that shared faith or cultural background is different. I really would like to learn. I would like to gain in this wisdom the Psalms speak of because I know with the rich and varied backgrounds here YOU do know and I'd like to learn.


The quote that Bellamarie put there: They talk about being Jewish, they talk about Israel.

OK those two right there subjects are not on my list for bench sitting, that's one major difference right there,  and I don't think I have ever sat on a bench and talked about being Protestant.  So there IS a difference. How important IS that difference and what IS it, actually? Is this something we can find out?

What's the KEY to successful aging, do you think? We're all old enough to have seen many examples, I just read about the woman who ran a marathon at 100, having taken it up at 90.

At 90?

Tough questions.  Nobody can deny that's successful at 90 or 100, why her and not us?

What's the KEY? What's the key for these folks? How are they different from us, we're all going to the same end, right?

Jonathan, that's a wonderful point about the prayer from Psalms on the facing page,

 Man is like a breath,
His days are as a fleeting shadow....

So teach us to number our days
That we may get us a heart of wisdom...

What does that mean? How can we do that? How does that relate to what is happening in the opening chapters and how is it different?

I really want to learn and I hope that you all will help us in this journey of understanding...

more...


ginny

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #70 on: June 16, 2017, 07:54:46 AM »
Ann, that's a great point about the men playing chess in Central Park, it's not a regional thing, it's a human thing. And Bellamarie mentioned the men in the malls and stores, I've seen that, too, conversing... And I could not think of the Indian tribe but Pat has it. Somewhere tho there was something about a gene found in one Native American group which seemed to originate in the Ashkenazi, something about Columbus.

Jonathan, what  a lovely memory of your father, it's amazing and kind of frightening how these things stay with us. Frightening because I don't know what my poor children will remember. hahahaa

I've lately gotten kind of stooped, too much hunching over this computer and it seems to aggrieve my sons no end. I told one the other day, after being exhorted to stand up straight,  remember that old saw, what animal walks first on 4 legs, then two, then three? It's MAN of course, the 3 is the cane or walking stick.

But Douglas MacArthur, I just read yesterday, was "ramrod straight" at 70. And Queen Elizabeth is straight at 90.  Is it too late to develop whatever it takes to be physically fit?

 70 is now  supposed to be the new 40. We're not to give in to the vicissitudes of old age. We're supposed to be in the gym, tightening up glutes and abs  and cores and honing selves physically. These folks don't seem to be part of that thinking (tho this WAS written in the '70's, was anybody, then? Jack LaLanne, maybe )  And they also seem to be taking buses at 89 and wrestling groceries.

If you had to rate what was the most desirable thing you wanted to do in old age, or let's say between this minute and the end of YOUR days, no matter if you live to be 1000, what would it be? If YOU could only do 3 things, which one would be the most important?

Oh and let's not forget Margaret Drabble. In her new book on aging, The Dark Flood Rises, she through fictional characters makes some observations. Here's one: "I've got selfish in my old age. I live as a like."

She's big on this "selfishness" thing. She says in another place, "We live for our appetites. Or that's one way of looking at ageing. Old people are very selfish, very greedy."

Drabble is a writer of fiction, not an anthropologist. I'm including her here because she is not writing about  a particular culture or sample  in an authoritative way,  but about all of US. Do you agree with her?



bellamarie

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #71 on: June 16, 2017, 10:07:00 AM »
Ginny,  To answer your question do I agree with Drabble's quotes on being selfish as we age, I have to give a resounding answer of NO!  I do not agree with her,  unless I have not yet got to the to point of "old age." I wake up each day thinking of my kids and grandkids, I am here for their every need, putting myself last on the chain of importance.  I suppose many would tell me I should not be this way, that myself should come first, but I have always put others before me.  In all fairness, I suppose when I am able to serve others, it is my way of gaining pleasure for myself, because it always makes me feel good to be there for them.
I've read a couple of Drabble's books and while I think she is an excellent writer, I find her books/thinking a bit quirky for lack of trying to use a more descriptive word.

You posed a lot of questions, and a lot of food for thought in your posts, and I'm not sure I can tackle them all, but what I do hope to help you with is this..
Quote
what the difference is, and how that shared faith or cultural background is different. I really would like to learn. I would like to gain in this wisdom the Psalms speak of because I know with the rich and varied backgrounds here YOU do know and I'd like to learn.

(Our bench meetings.....Every Tuesday morning Sept-May our church has a Bible Study group who meets for one and a half hours.  It consists of 60 yr olds and over.  Not that younger people are not welcome, but it seems so far we had only one younger lady attend and she drifted away.  I am thinking possibly due to work and scheduling is the reason or lack of wanting to learn more about their faith. We had it on Wed evenings for years and had more younger ones attend, but not enough to feel it hurt to change  the day and time.  Anyway,  when I read how these Jewish seniors are worried that their stories, past, and lives will be forgotten when they die off and how important it is for them to share their faith and family stories I connected with them immediately.  I am American/Italian/Indian and Irish and a Catholic.  I sat talking with my granddaughters last week sharing some stories with them and once they left I thought about how important was it for me to share what I talked about with them.  I wondered if they will even remember the things I shared with them years from now, and in wondering about these things it made me a little melancholy, because like the elderly Jews in this story, I too felt the sense of realizing once I am gone it will end.  My children, like the children in this story, are the next generation, and they do not feel the same as my generation or the generations before me, they have not lived what we have lived to understand the importance of keeping the past alive, or at least remembered.  I am extremely proud of the fact my three adult children and their spouses care about our faith, about the traditions that have been carried down from centuries. I am honored they are giving to my grandchildren the faith they were given, and that my husband and I were given, and they seem to realize that with God all things are possible, (Philippians 4:13 my favorite verse) and in the darkest moments to not give up and lose faith, but instead to trust in their faith and turn to God in prayer.  These Jews have these common threads, as do other ethnics and religious groups.  They have seen that in their darkest days, when war was at their door taking their loved ones that the only thing they had that no one could take from them was their faith.

pg.  36  Everyone wanted to leave a personal statement, wanted to be identified with an enduring record, some indication of what had happened to them, what they believed, that they had been here.

Generally a common theme emerged and clustered loosely around a set of broad topics:  memories of the Old World, the meaning of Being a Jew, being old, and life in America today.

pg.  37  I loved these classes and the style of the exchanges and stories.  Shmuel was right to call them grandmother's tales. for they were the rambling, bubbling, unfocused, running comments that a bobbe might tell her grandchildren without putting down her dough or her sewing.  Too busy to stop and shape a tale with grace and art, but too alive to imagination and verbal expression to be silent, so she might weave a kitchen tale that despite its crude surface, came from and went to a deep place.  This was "Domestic Religion,"  as Rachel once called it, and its roots were in the heart and bond and genes.


As much as Meyerhoff shows us how these Jews were desperate to hang on to their history past, present and future along with their faith it is really no different than we are today.  This book takes place in the 70's and talks of past history, but could just as well be written today.  Aren't we fighting a war today trying to hold on to our family & faith as well?  Every day we see where Christianity and families are being suppressed and killed for who they are, and what they believe in.  Again I will say.....it is our reality.  I do find myself talking on benches, or rather booths at restaurants, with family and friends about our faith and how we must protect it and preserve it.  I do chat with my friends and family on Facebook, about how important it is to not loose sight of the past, and to bring it to our next generations.  I realize the next generation may choose to ignore or reject it, but like these Jews in the center, I too want and need to at least attempt to keep it alive.

Jonathan,  All I can say to your post is.....  WOW!  You always find the most important and intricate things in our books.  Nothing gets by you. 

The picture of the ruins of Grossingers is so very very sad.  How could anyone allow it to become this?  It just shows again the reality of what happens when people stop caring.   
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

Jonathan

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #72 on: June 16, 2017, 03:12:46 PM »
"I've got selfish in my old age. I live as a like."

That brings back such a vivid memory of my mother in the evening of her life. She told me as I sat at her bedside: 'I've become selfish. I think only of myself.' All of us, children and grandchildren, had heard her say many times, 'I pray for each one of you before I fall asleep.'

I'll be looking for the Margaret Drabble book. What a far-ranging discussion this could turn out to be. As one of us has said. 'It's a lovely book.'

It's significant that the author found words of wisdom in the Psalms with which to set the tone or mood of her book. Look for it here among these seniors, she seems to be suggesting. Not long ago I was looking through a Harold Bloom book: Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? The table of contents tells the reader where to look: Job, Plato, Homer, Shakespeare, Bacon, Goethe, Emerson, Freud and Proust. And others.

Why not let Basha, Faegl, and Gita have their say about getting on with life. I think I'll try Basha's way of beginning each day. I must get an ocean into my life. It's so meaningful for her.  The author is certainly being playful when she sees boats, birds, and leaves in her characters. Which would you like to be?

'The men are not so easy to categorize.' Haha.

PatH

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #73 on: June 16, 2017, 04:05:10 PM »
Wow, so many important issues right at the start, going off in all directions, it’s hard to know where to begin.  I’ll start with  the thing that struck me first, brought up in the  foreword, and mentioned less directly by Myerhoff: the three lives of an anthropologist, and the inevitable paradox of the profession.

The three lives: An anthropologist starts off being the product of his own culture and upbringing.  When he studies another culture, he has to understand it by getting into the mindset of the people, sort of becoming a part of this new culture, and the more thoroughly he does this, the better he understands them.

This changes him; he’s no longer the same person; he’s absorbed new attitudes and ideals, and even if he doesn’t believe them he’s changed.

Then he goes back to his original place.  It no longer seems the same to him, because he is different and sees it through new eyes.  So now he’s a third person, not quite back to where he started.

The Paradox:  the better a job he does of sinking into the new culture, the more he understands, but if he assimilates too perfectly, he loses his objectivity, and can’t see the culture clearly.  So he can’t ever do a perfect job.

PatH

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #74 on: June 16, 2017, 04:23:42 PM »
Why does that stuff I just said matter for this book?  Myerhoff has picked a particularly difficult job, because the culture she picked is part of her past.  It's what she has drifted away from, or never completely learned, but it's there.  So her study is also going to be a spiritual journey of rediscovery, finding out who she herself really is.

And we are privileged to watch.

PatH

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #75 on: June 16, 2017, 04:27:00 PM »
Ginny, you really cracked me up with your stories of your summer job at Tennennah Lake House.

BarbStAubrey

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #76 on: June 16, 2017, 04:46:17 PM »
Oh lordy got my Wednesday's mixed up and had on my calendar this was starting next week - will get into this over the weekend and be back - sorry... but at least y'all have just started...

BarbStAubrey

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #77 on: June 16, 2017, 05:13:20 PM »
Without reading I laughed at the first sentence in the heading since I finally realized what happens after, probably for most, age 80 - You are entering a new city as if you moved miles away and were starting over.

Had an old client contact me to sell her home and enjoyed again the fun of the job so, decided that with the many condos in my neighborhood to specialize on the information that would help agents and the public - Trying to sort out what to do and how to go about it, talked to a Real Estate coach who suggested I should get back to basics, that gathering information was going down a rabbit hole. She made a plan with me to contact 3 old clients, friends, those who serve me on a regular basis where i shop etc. till I had 50 emails and then I could start an email campaign that involved sending information about gussying up a house and uplifting stories and remembering their birthdays by looking up what happened in history on that day and tying the positive attributes of the historical happening to the life and character of the one whose birthday I was remembering - sounded good

Execution: I was to do 3 a day - get 3 email addresses a day
First day - first 3 - all dead
second 3 - all in a nursing home
third 3 - needing to move near family or, into a smaller home which would only be available in other neighborhoods - I'm not up to physically handling the sale of a single family resident so all I could do is refer them to an agent I know and trust.

That was when it hit me - I did not want to be a referral base for others - sure I would receive a percentage but it is not about just making money - I want something that would challenge me - something I had not done

I also looked and realized that to go further with this 3 a day - all the places I shopped for year are either gone, or sold to a new owner or at minimum have new clerks - the only consistent is the place where i have my vehicle repaired - even this idea of specializing in Condos could not have happened as recently as 15 years ago because we did not have in the area as many multi-family living spaces.

That is just my experience and I bet it is similar for most of us that are aging - no wonder they say it is not for sissies - like it or not what happens as we age is we are in new surroundings and what we knew has been reduced to a bare minimum - it is reminiscent of being young, with a young family and being transferred or even buying a home in another neighborhood except, as we age even those who in the past were part of community organizations that we belonged are either dead or in nursing homes or have moved out of town to be near their children -

I also see that those who choose some sort of assistant living is like being a collage student living in the dorm - was this what we imagined for ourselves?

No matter it can be a challenge and in the words of Calvin and Hobbs - "Change is invigorating! If we don't accept new challenges, you become complacent and lazy!  Your life atrophies!"

P.S. realized for what I need to do, like moving to a new town, I would research the heck out of the area in order to learn about each area and so for me it is not going down a rabbit hole with no immediate dollar return - the information is valuable to anyone specializing or not, in the condo, townhouse, duplex community - I just need to figure out if I can make it pay and if not it has to be done if I want to go forward.   

hongfan

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #78 on: June 16, 2017, 05:25:42 PM »
Old people are very selfish, very greedy..

I think, there is probably a biological perspective to this, our behaviors are different when we are in a state of high energy vs. in a state of low energy. For instance, changing habit needs extra energy - just like what physics teaches us, to change the direction of a moving car, you need to exert extra force to make that change. So when people in a low state of energy, they tend to keep the same routine, same habit, because that consumes a low level of energy.

Love also needs energy. When we are tired, we are more likely becoming crankier and less a loving person. If you observe our computer, as the battery level goes down to some level, it will start to dim your display, slow down your computing, etc, it is calculating how much energy it has and tries to conserve as much as it can. We also have an energy calculator inside us. When our battery level goes down to certain degree, we adjust our behaviors to conserve our energy. Survival is the first priority, other things come in second, biology makes the call.

So it is not the age per se, it is the state of energy a person in.

I think?


BarbStAubrey

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Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #79 on: June 16, 2017, 05:29:39 PM »
rah rah I like that hangfan - it sure fits and know I have to try harder some days not to be cranky and want many more upbeat pictures and quotes to get through the day...