I want to have fun with the trappings of aging.

I keep wondering if the biased attitude of the larger world against “old people” (can’t hear well, can’t see sell, can’t walk or count money fast) is because that’s the most obvious things they notice when we are out in public. And we often don’t look like getting old is much fun. (Granted, if you are in pain, it’s not.)

But what if you are like me and don’t mind getting old and want the world to see me as having fun while it lasts? What if the first things they notice about an older female is not that she’s old, but rather than she’s having fun with the trappings of getting old?

Well, you could do it by dressing like these stylish elders. If you live in New York City, or Paris, or London — and if you have occasion to dress more elaborately than the usual pants and sweater (or, if you’re like me, jeans and a t-shirt) — the notices you would get, no doubt, would be positive. But I’m not sure that small town living calls for that kind level of creative dressing. And what I’m more concerned with is turning our frailties into fun.

funkyglassesOK. So, I have to wear glasses. I go online, find a pair of funky oversized frames for $35 and have my prescription put in them. When I get noticed, it’s not because I’m old. It’s because I’m being old with a flair. And, instead of strangers glowering at me because I am in their way, they comment on my glasses when I look them in the eye and smile. (It’s also very important to look them in the eye and smile.)

Now, what I wish is that the folks who are experimenting with these glasses/hearing aids would actually mass-produce them and include some funky frames.

But for now, I have to wear hearing aids. So, to make wearing them a fashion statement, I just sent for a pair of these. If I decide I like them, I might order a set of hearing aid charms from the same entrepreneurial young woman who makes and sells them. (Hearing impaired little kids seem to love them. Check out these photos!)

Now, we are down to the shoes. As we get older, our feet often become a real problem from the wear and tear of all of those years supporting our weight. (And if you subjected yourself to high heeled pumps, then the problems are even worse.)

I have blogged before about my addiction to sneakers. The reason I am able to wear funky sneakers (even though I have a tendency toward plantar fasciitis and years of ballroom dancing in high heels have taken their toll) is that I invested in really good orthotics. You can fit orthotics into almost any shoes, but you have to try the shoes on with the orthotics in them (because you need a longer and wider size than usual, and not all shoes will work). The smart thing to do is to go to a specialist who makes orthotics for dancers and athletes. Almost very city has one. If the orthotics are prescribed, Medicare should pay for them (minus co-pay). I have been using the same ones for 25 years.

Fashionable_walking_canesFinally, we come to canes (which I don’t need — yet). But, for those who do, catalogs and drug stores carry all kinds of colorful ones. If you have to use one, flaunt it.

I’m wondering what other ways we might be able to encourage those impatient “others,” as we move through the public world, to actually “see” us elders as being more than just a necessary nuisance.

[Addendum: My friend Ronni Bennet at Time Goes By has written about wearing hats to put flair over thinning hair. I'm not a hat person, so I'm looking for other possibilities (other than a wig).]

going bra-free

A little over a year ago, I shared my experiment with adding a layer to a t-shirt so that I didn’t have to wear a bra. I decided that fusing an image onto the front makes the fabric too stiff.

Since then, I’ve been trying a some different ways to do it. It’s been a lot of trial and error, but I’m not a perfectionist, and I found an easy way that works for me. Someone has asked me about how I do it, so I’m sharing my process here.

Although I am pretty much a size 12/14, I buy t-shirts in an X-large or even a 1X. If you’re not going to wear a bra and you don’t want to look like you’re not wearing a bra, then you really need a roomy knit top to work with. And the knit needs to be substantial — not the sheer or flimsy jersey kind you find at places like Old Navy. You don’t want the fabric to cling to you.

I have found that the best and least expensive t-shirts to use are made by Croft and Barrow (Kohls), Cabin Creek (JCP), White Stag and Just My Size (Walmart). Make sure that they are not the “fitted” style but are more boxy. A longer tunic works well too.

T-shirts with stripes or graphics also work best because they makes it easier to figure out where to do the top-stitching on the front. You can just follow along one or more stripes or you can incorporate top stitching into the graphic.

You can use any kind of knit fabric for the liner. I recycle old t-shirts for that purpose because the fabric doesn’t run. I don’t even bother hemming the edges. You can also buy really cheap t-shirts to cut up at CVS or Walgreens. I buy the largest size they have so that I can make several liners out of one t-shirt.

Here, for example, is tie-dyed tunic onto which I sewed a lining so that I could wear it without a bra.

tiedye

I measured a rectangle shape that would be large enough to cover my breasts and cut out a double layer from an old grey t-shirt. I pinned and then hand-basted the rectangular double layer onto the inside of the front of the shirt, positioning it so that I could top-stitch along the front design. I used a decorative stitch, but a zig-zag would do just as well.

This is what it looks like on the inside.

tieinside

This is what the top stitching looks like.
tiedyeclose

You can make the liner go all the way down to your waist if you want to. Since it’s not attached at the sides, if it’s longer, you can tuck it into your pants or skirt, leaving the shirt itself loose. You can also use several layers of the knit for the liner if you feel more comfortable with more coverage.

It’s best not to use a ribbed knit t-shirt because top stitching is harder to do; the ribbing stretches out and pulls the shirt out of shape. It can be done, however.

Here’s a ribbed tank top that I lined.

outside front

outside front

inside front

inside front

Here’s what the front of a solid navy t-shirt looks like with decorative top-stitching that looks a little like trapunto quilting.

navyoutside

Here’s what it looks like on the inside.

navyinside

As I said, I’m not a perfectionist, so I don’t worry how the liner looks on the inside. Someone who is more meticulous, however, can adapt my method to work for them. If anyone reads this and tries it, I would love to see what you did and how you were able to improve on my idea.

I wish that some clothing designer would create ready-to-wear roomy t-shirts with nicely designed trapunto or quilted or appliqued fronts that camouflage the lining and adequately disguise a jiggling bare breast. (And I don’t mean appliques of cats or dogs or Christmas trees; art reproductions or original fabric art would be perfect, I think.)

I can’t find my keys

Really, I can’t find my set of keys that hold, not only my car and house keys, but all of those little tags they give you with bar codes that give you special privileges — like discounts at the food market, drugstore, and gas station. It also had my library card on the ring. And a tag that gives my phone number in case the keys are found.

Since I haven’t gotten any calls, I assume that the keys are somewhere in the house. I keep looking. For all I know, they fell into the trash at some point.

There is a place to hang our rings of keys right by the front door when we come in. But I forget to do that.

When I was my mother’s caregiver, and dementia caused her to hide stuff all over the place, I bought a set of key finders and attached them to her keys and her wallet. I would press the remote and the beeping would lead me to the lost article — sometimes tucked in the corner of her pillow case, sometimes in a purse at the bottom of her closet, sometimes under the mattress. Once in the refrigerator.

So I just bought a set of key finders for myself and attached one to my spare set of keys. But I don’t have all of those tags, and now I have to replace them all. I have one “key” finder that can be stuck to the back of something like the tv remote. I think I’ll stick on the back of my iPhone, since that’s the other thing I keep misplacing.

It’s bad enough that, more and more often, I can’t find the word I want to complete my thought. Now it’s my keys that get lost. What’s next? Me?

chatting with China

[NOTE: If you have landed here before reading the previous post, please go and read it first.]

This post tells the end of the story I began in the previous post. It is a story with an ending that I didn’t expect, a story with an opportunity for learning on all kinds of fronts. I begin this post by saying that I cancelled the PayPal claim. But that’s not the end of it all.

There are three participants in this chat — me (the American consumer), staff of UPlay (the manufacturer of the unique phone/tab I bought), and staff of JSXL Technology (the online distributor from whom I bought the device). Two of us, I think, came away from this “chatty” business deal a little wiser about how to communicate with others and how to do business in a way that satisfies both consumer and product provider/s.

The communication issue here was not triggered by national culture or language. It was about attitude and trust. It was about civility. It was about respectfully listening and responding. It was a lot about good business practices and how to build and keep a customer base through good customer service (or the opposite). It also was about how to behave as a decisive consumer who doesn’t always know the right questions to ask when it comes to technology.

I am not a distributor or a marketer, but I am a thoughtful (if somewhat impatient) consumer. In many ways, I am a good example of today’s global consumer: I have a good idea about the product I want; I know how to use the internet to research my options; I expect complete and accurate product and ordering information on e-commerce websites; I order online from a global market. And, like the usual “shop-from-store-to-store-and-deal-with-store-clerks shopper, I expect my product questions to be answered thoughtfully and politely.

I could have been better at my consumer chatting; UPlay staff could have started off better; JSXL Technology has a big #FAIL, right up to the very end when I was still figuring out if and how I should return the phonepad I ordered from them. Bad attitude and bad customer service does not build a business or consumer trust.

JSXL Technology is a brand new e-commerce site, less than a year old. (My bad for not noticing this right away, but they were the site that offered the UPlay phonepad I wanted. The UPlay site itself did as well, but I gave up trying to figure out how to order from them.)

While JSXL might have a good website and know technology, they are worse than worst at knowing how to run a consumer-dependent business. They have a lot to learn and obviously (as demonstrated through their email conversations with me, their consumer) know less than nothing about how to deal with their customer’s questions. My advice is to not buy from them until they have more experience as an e-commerce business; they are hell to deal with.

That leads us to the other chatters and what we might have learned.

I have learned that I have to be more patient and accurate about explaining what it is I am asking about. Part of the problem is that you don’t know what you don’t know. And phrasing a question about a technology problem in a way that will get you the answer you need is severely hampered when you don’t know what you don’t know. (You know?) I don’t know what I can do about that, but I think I might want to get into my more patient “educator” mode when dealing with unhelpful, arrogant, (supposedly) consumer support staff. This time I lost patience, stopped trusting, and entered my warrior mode.

Lastly, UPlay staff, who resolved the whole issue by finding a way to return the phonepad for a reasonable postage cost.

And so here is the unexpected end to the story:

I have decided to keep the phone/pad — despite a really wonky boot-up process and the problems with time-outs when trying to download anything. I still don’t understand why the “Android drivers” come up as downloaded but uninstalled (Code 28) and don’t know if the mobile phone component will work when I eventually get to T-Mobile and get a SIM card and a plan. I’m hoping that the UPlay staff will explain what I still don’t understand and will answer future questions should they come up.

Meanwhile, I have successfully installed an SD card and used the camera; the GPS works; I have downloaded Words With Friends, OverDrive Media Console, Kindle for Android, and a few other apps I use. All of that is working. I am trusting that it will continue to function as I need it to. And I am trusting that UPlay consumer support staff will give me some advice if I run into function issues.

It’s a very cool little device, a whole lot cheaper than the ones I read about that soon will be reaching the American market.

I have not yet tried to download into the phonepad what I need to blog through WordPress. While I’m writing this on my HP Pavilion Notebook with a 17 inch screen, who knows that but soon I will be blogging from my 7 inch UPlay phonepad gen 3. (But first I will have to buy a keyboard case to make it easier; I found one, online, of course.)

I’m the kind of consumer you want to be nice to, young JSLX Technology. I hope that this all has been a valuable learning experience for you.

It has for me.

[UPDATE: Countless email back and forth with uPlay did not provide any solution to the problem of why, even sitting right by the wifi router, connecting to websites and downloading continued to frequently fail. They didn't know why; I should send it back and they would check it out. Instead, I decided to do a "restore to factor settings."

And that solved the problem.

It makes me wonder if the folks at the seller's site put in a setting or something that wound up causing a problem. So, the uPlay phonetab is in play. I haven't yet activated the mobile phone part of it or purchased a smartphone data plan. I'm still experimenting with all the features of the tablet component, which are impressive.]

addictions

I’ve never smoked. I don’t drink because it bothers my GERD.

But I’m addicted to sneakers.
moresneakers

Left to right:
Top row: light weight Rockport walking sneakers; old worn out Easy Spirit slip-ons that I use for gardening; dance sneakers with suede soles that I hope I will use again for NIA

Middle row: cheap Champion slip-ons; my favorite old Rocket Dog slip ons with velcro that are almost worn out; new plaid Sorel sneakers that irritate the back of my heel but I love the plaid

Bottom row: Keds; Keds stretch; second favorite, Dr. School’s slip-ons

I’m also addicted to denim jeans, gray and blue and black; cotton, blend, and stretch; knit and woven; boot cut and straight.

I live in jeans and sneakers. I just need more places to go to wear them.

Funk and Folly

Funk and folly. That’s sort of been the theme of my life over the past several months. Funk gets in the way of lively living, so I’m trying to add a “y” and move toward “funky” — a place where I’d much rather be.

Last month, I had to put my 17 year old cat down for the count; I’m never getting another pet, but the family has added an adorable kitten, Kasza, to the two other big male cats who already live here. The spunky little female now rules the kingdom. Spunky. Rhymes with Funky. So far so good.

I ran out of energy volunteering several times a week at the geriatric center. Part of it is that it’s winter, and I just want to hibernate; part of it is that I really took on too much responsibility there, and they need to be more organized. I’ll probably go back, but with a much lighter schedule.

I will be 73 next month, and I am reminded that my father passed away at age 73. Of course, my mother lasted until 94, so who knows which way I’ll go. In the meanwhile, however, I need to have some fun.

I always feel better when I’m engaged in a hands-on creative outlet, and I love playing with fabric and yarn. I had made some funky walker bags and gave them to a few of the women at the geriatric center; they really like them and I loved making my own designs and playing with the materials. I think I want to try to sell them. Thinking about an Etsy store. How about “Kalilily’s Funk and Folly” for a name? “Funk and Folly.” I think I’ll make that my official trade mark right now.

My living space is filling up with funky creations in wild colors and combinations of materials — hats, wristlets, leg warmers, boot socks. I might try a variation on a kind of overhead shawl I designed and made years ago. It might all be folly, but it’s fun folly. Fun, funky, folly.

By next winter, I should have enough stuff to do a holiday craft fair. Just for fun. I need something fun toward which to look forward.

Funk and Folly — fun stuff to wear and share.

my new invention: the bra-free t-shirt

When it’s this hot, you really don’t want to wear a bra, not matter how big or small you are, how perky or how droopy. But neither do you want your outline to pop through the front of your shirt. So, here’s my solution: a loose t-shirt with a lined front panel that totally and opaquely covers your boobs and allows air to circulate under the shirt.

Here’s my prototype, which has a strategically placed iron on image backed by a lining that has free-form quilting stitches on it to make the relevant fabric even less likely to reveal what’s underneath.

I put some machine embroidery around the transfer to make it less likely to peel off. This is a close-up of a corner of the transfer and the free-form quilting stitches.

Now that I’ve made this one, I’ve come up with ideas for better techniques for the front. The next one will have an Alphonse Mucha image for the transfer, and I’m going to try a softer transfer material that feels more like knit.

After I perfect the design, maybe I’ll make them for sale to special buyers. Stay tuned. And stay cool.

Lego needs a smack on its corporate head

They are making Lego for Girls!! BAD IDEA,LEGO! You are perpetuating the “pink” stereotype that women are trying so hard to eliminate. Don’t they pay attention to what’s going on in the the rest of the world?

What they need to do, instead of making and marketing what basically is a line of “Lego Barbies,” is to add a lot of female figures into their existing lines and market regular Lego to girls — as they did in their more enlightened era, back in 1981.

Don’t Lego idea people ever see any news items? They are 50 years behind the times. I have heard that even the business cards Lego provides to its employees (which always feature an image of a Lego figure of the employee’s choice) offer many different male figures for male employees; the females are supposed to choose between a nurse or a cheerleader.

Elsewhere in the interwebz — if those ill-informed decision makers would just look and follow links –there is a whole generation of females who are vocally and assertively trying to affect the stereotypical ways that females and female superheroes are portrayed by the comic book and fantasy game industries. Lego’s “girly” line is going against the kinds of enlightened attitudes that intelligent informed people want for their kids. (The kind of people who spend a lot of money on Lego products.)

Lego building blocks are the staple of my 9 year old grandson’s play and learning time. He and his female playmates all use the same Lego pieces (although I have had to buy extra female figures because so few come with the sets). In their play, females are cops, firefighters, construction workers, doctors, and moms; males are cops, firefighters, construction works, doctors, and dads.

Girlie Lego figures and sets are not the answer. Lego. The answer is to spend your money NOT making PINK Legos, but rather put your money into including more female figures who are professionals and then including girls in your advertising on an equal basis with boys.

Go here and email Lego a complaint about this issue.

too soon old, too late smart
OR NOT

I am about to go to war.

I didn’t take the advice of friends and family and went ahead and bought a brand of computer that turned out to be the mother of all lemons. It had problems from day one, but, a persistent bitch that I am, I kept calling the customer service techs and kept getting each problem (I thought) taken care of. Until it finally totally crashed.

So, they sent an on-site repair person, who put in a new motherboard and hard drive.

Uh uh. Still no boot up.

I’m trying to get a refund but cannot seem to be put in touch with someone who can take care of that. (It’s a couple of weeks past the 30 days during which one can do a return.)

Today, I did what I should have done before I ordered the infernal machine and googled for complaints about that company. I found hundreds. Maybe even thousands.

So, I sent a letter to the company, enclosed copies of some of the complaints that I copied from just one website, and gave them a choice: give me a refund of the price of the computer and the service contract that I bought with it, or I’m going to war. Online. Virally. Maybe even with a youtube plea to that company to take pity on a poor old lady living on a retirement income. Certainly with a website that documents all of the thousand complaints about that company. And then I’ll tweet and fb the url. And I’ll file my own complaints on every consumer complaint site I can find.

I will become a thorn in their side, an enemy to the death — a hellcat of an old lady whom they wish they had never met.

I might be old, but I’m internet smart and know how to use it as a weapon in my defense.

Unless they refund all of my money and email me the UPS postage to send the damned thing back; then I’ll back off. As the Tao de Ching says — “no fight, no blame.”

But if they don’t — well, did I ever tell you that Xena is my idol?

ADDENDUM: Actually, the retailer from whom I bought it has just about as many complaints. Maybe I’ll make this fight a two-fer.