A Baby Boomer sings her way to 65

“Sugar Time”

I just received my Medicare card in the mail. I can’t use it until June 1, but it still “freaked” me out. It’s made me face my mortality. On June 24, I will turn the dreaded 65.  I’ve never been one to care about approaching age,  but this year I’ve thought about it a lot.

A few years ago I started looking in the mirror and my older mother and grandmother were staring back at me. Yikes!

Walking into a Senior Center for the first time

I got up the nerve and joined a senior center. When I walked in, I felt really sheepish. I went up to the lady who runs the place and blurted out, “Could you tell me about this senior center. I feel like I’m not old enough to join .” By the knowing look on her face, I think other people have said the same thing to her.

‘You won’t be the youngest one here, our starting age is 55,” she replied. (I later found out she only has a year to go.)

At the center, they play card games, majong, do crafts, and exercise.  I lose at cards, am not crafty,  and still do outdoorsy stuff and attend a health club where i am on the old side.

I do enjoy singing in choirs. I am not a solo singer, but I can carry a tune. Even in the worst of times, I’ve managed to keep singing.

The Golden Clefs

I had a friend tell me about a Senior choir called “The Golden Clefs” that meets in the center. I decided to check it out. Not only was I late, but I tripped into the room after mishandling the lock on the folding door that led into the rehearsal space. The director gave me a big smile and said,  Come on in!”

The leader is one energetic, upbeat senior citizen. The piano player for the choir is a former professional pianist and music teacher. When she tickles those ivories, you can tell she’s not the typical choir accompanist.  She smiles a lot too. The members range in age from the late 60’s to probably the 90’s.

The songs we sing are really old, but I know them all.  My mother loved music,  and I think of her every time we sing some of her favorites.

Serving the community

Twice a month The Golden Clefs go to some kind of nursing home or senior residence center and perform.   I felt a little silly wearing my sparkly golden clef vest for the first time. I kept thinking, what would my adult children say if they saw me wearing this get up?  (Would they start adjusting my seatbelt for me in the car?)

After we arrived at the nursing home, I was pleased to see chairs set up for us. I was a little surprised when I found out we had to stand up for each song. One of the choir members mentioned she graduated high school  in 1946 when one of our  songs, “Cement Mixer” was popular. I wondered how she was going to make it for an hour.

Once we started singing, my uneasiness vanished. Audience members knew some of the songs, and many were softly singing along. People who looked somber began to smile.  A lady, bent over with some malady, got up and started moving to the music.  One of the aides got up and started dancing with her. It was one of those moments you don’t forget.

Suddenly, I heard an alarm go off. It took me a minute to realize it signaled that someone was trying to get out of their wheelchair. The director ignored it, and we just continued singing.

I found out how the director had tackled the standing problem. I was relieved to sit down between some of the numbers. That’s when some choir members got up and did little solos or quartets.  I  hadn’t heard some of these songs in decades. They brought  back cherished memories.

One lady sang “Que Cera Cera” (whatever will be will be). Doris Day sang this song, and it was popular when I was a little girl. I loved it, and remembered singing it with my mother. A quartet sang the 1958 Maguire Sisters hit, “Sugar Time”.  Another group sang “Love Me Tender” by Elvis. The audience really liked that one!

After the performance  was about over, the director asked the audience and choir members if they celebrated their birthday that month. Everyone got to sing “Happy Birthday” and we incorporated those names into the song. This was a big crowd pleaser. Even the most disabled audience members participated. (Who hasn’t had at least one happy birthday?)

After our concert was over, we went into the audience to talk to the residents. A chorus member mentioned to me that touch is so important to these people because when they’re in a facility, they  don’t get much human physical contact.  So, I made it a point to touch people’s hands and give them hugs. A lady , slumped in a wheelchair, grabbed my hand and smiled after I hugged her.

Many people told us how much they enjoyed the show.

So I guess I’ll continue with this for a while, and I’m certain the time will come when I’m not one of the youngest singers. I’m hopeful I can pick up on the happy and energetic attitudes of the members of the choir. I’m betting that when I’m 90, I’ll still want to get up and sing out.

Ushering opens up the arts in Columbus, Ohio, for me.




I am an usher at several Columbus, Ohio, theaters. I am one of those people wearing black pants, jacket, white shirt and name badge. Many of us are past our prime. In other words, we’re elderly; maybe, it’s because we have the time to spare. Occasionally, young people on a budget usher too. I wish I would’ve started earlier because there are many cultural and artistic events occurring in Columbus, Ohio.

The theaters are beautiful: The Ohio Theater, The Palace, The Southern, The Lincoln, and The newer Riffe Center. Someone, I don’t know who, had the foresight not to demolish these grand old theaters. I’m grateful that they are still standing, and most have been beautifully refurbished. There are amazing chandeliers, wall decorations, velvety curtains, big stages, and cushy seats.

Many times, I will watch the show sitting in the last row of the upper balcony because ushers aren’t permitted to sit in front of paying patrons. I have stood up in the back of the theater while watching “The Lion King”, Le Miz” and “Phantom of the Opera.” I love the arts, and am in good health so I don’t mind. The voices and dancing of the Broadway series is astounding.

Once in a while if attendance is down, I’ll get a nice seat on the main floor. I also have the option of standing in the back of the main floor. Ushers also can choose to sit in the lobby, and watch the performance on a big TV. I would rather stand because there is nothing like watching a live performance.

Earning a free performance and parking

Getting to the theater and parking before the performance is one of the first requirements. Often, that is  an hour and a half before the show. There is a meeting before the show, so you can know how long it runs, when you let it late patrons, if beverages and candy are allowed, etc.

Being an usher is fun and good exercise, and I do get to talk to many people. If there is a hot act or play, I quickly walk up and down the rows to seat people. There is a captain to direct us –whether to seat people on the right or the left. I do appreciate this, since it saves time.

I have done concessions, selling candy, drinks, etc,  but that is not my first choice. There is not much time to get people fed and watered, before the show, and at intermission  If you like being on the edge, and handling money, you might enjoy this.  It does go very fast.

I like to see people’s faces before they are attending an event. They look excited because they know they are about to be entertained. Also, some people get dressed up for certain events, and that’s fun. It’s enjoyable to be part of someone’s special experience.

One of the major questions asked by patrons is: Where is the bathroom? It might not seem like an important questions, but it is!

I know I’m getting older when I’ve never heard of the act that is performing. I signed up to usher at Gabriel Inglesias performance because I figured he was Enrique Inglesias’s brother.  He was pretty funny, and his humor was clean. (However, the guys before him were funny, but a little more risqué.) If I stay the whole time, I know it’s pretty good, and I did. I try to be open and nonjudgmental.

Dressing up for the theater: Not so much in the 21st Century

I do miss the days when people really looked nice for certain events. A few people will still dress up, but it’s mostly nice casual, and sometimes just ordinary casual. I get really excited when I see an attractive couple dressed up for each other. It happens every once in a while.

When they have “The Nutcracker” at Christmas time, the moms dress their little girls up like dolls. It’s absolutely adorable: little dresses with fancy ballet skirts, or just princess type dresses, patent leather shoes and little crowns they buy at the Nutcracker concessions. If there are little boys, they’re dressed up in nice pants and shirts. Truthfully, the princes are really outnumbered by the princesses. Once in a while you’ll see a brave dad accompanying the ladies.

I’ve also gotten to see other performances of Columbus Balletmet which is fantastic. I would’ve never known I would enjoy ballet if I hadn’t seen performances after ushering. If you get a chance, go see them perform. They are first-class, innovative, creative and entertaining. I really enjoyed their version of “Dracula.”

There are many first-class children’s performances too: Children’s Hospital Pleasure Guild, Children’s Theater, etc. I think there are a lot of opportunities to watch the arts that people are unaware of, and I don’t think they’re that expensive.

Sometimes, I feel like I’d rather be in the audience, but you can’t have everything. I’ve seen a lot of things I wouldn’t ordinarily see, so it’s a good way to get out of the house. When I do buy a ticket to something I do feel like a queen when I am seated by the ushers.

The Columbus Symphony is also terrific. Last night, they had a woman conductor, something you don’t see every day. They played some Beethoven and it really touched my emotions.

If you’re thinking of signing up for ushering, don’t hesitate. It’s not everyone, but it is for me.

Appreciate your volunteers: You’re getting something for nothing!


wikimania 2007 volunteers

wikimania 2007 volunteers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From early childhood, we are geared to be on a schedule and work. Even little kids are busy getting up and going to preschool. Then, if we have any common sense we go to school for 12 years.  Many people go to college and beyond.

Afterwards  if you’re lucky you hold some kind of job that keeps you going. Everyone, no matter how old, needs to feel like they count. They need to feel like their contributing to society. You still need to work. (Even if you don’t get paid for it.)

I’ve been happy with most of the things I’ve been doing. I volunteer in things I enjoy. I’m in a chorus and we do service projects. That’s rewarding in itself. Everyone does it together and the people we work with are so happy to be with us. There is something self-rewarding about getting about in front of people and singing. You do get applause when you’re finished.  (Another form of approval)

The man in charge of the project is continually thanking us and making us feel good about the whole experience. He even gives people handwritten notes thanking them. No wonder there’s a waiting list to get into this group

Greensburg Volunteer Reception Center

Greensburg Volunteer Reception Center (Photo credit: Jon Person)

Today, I said I’d go work in an office for an organization that I’m involved with. Although office work is a little boring, I think it can be a good escape.  I’ve always been a fast typist, so I don’t mind doing a little mindless work.

I went into an office. The woman in charge barely smiled at me. She showed me how to enter the information I was working with into a computer.  This woman gave me sheets and sheets of stuff to put in a computer. She never checked up to see how I was doing. She left and never told me goodbye.  (She did tell me the bathroom was at the end of the hall.)

She left me sitting at a desk by myself with a stack of stuff to input into her computer. I am a nerd and enjoy typing, but this was ridiculous. It was at least a weeks worth of typing.  I really didn’t care about that as much as being upset that she didn’t bother to ask me how it was going?

I figure if you’re doing a job for someone , the least they can do is acknowledge you. A little bit more than a half-smile.

My daddy used to say, “sometimes they get people to volunteer, so they don’t have to pay someone. Think about whether or not you’re taking a job away from someone who really needs the money.

That’s how I felt today.

I must say her subordinates on the second day were really nice.  One young woman even gave me a card in case I ran into trouble after she left for the day. The other people told me they appreciated it. But the big boss never said much to me.

I guess I’m alerting people to be really nice to people who volunteer for them, even if you’re super busy.

Am I being oversensitive?. Should I have just been willing to do it because I like the organization this person was representing?

Do you think people use people in volunteer positions,  so they don’t have to hire extra people?

Do you feel like you’ve been exploited in a volunteer job? Should a person need constant approval?


volunteers (Photo credit: campdarby)

What do you think?


We are Family: The Columbus Ohio Group that gives: The Harmony Project

The Harmony Project led by David Brown gave everyone in Columbus, Ohio, a fun day of participating in a flash choir. It was all kinds of families: traditional, non-traditional, and just good friends. The definition of family is changing!

Come to our concert on July 18, and July 19th at the Southern Theater. You can buy tickets at OH CAPA,www.capa.com
We are 200 strong. This show will be fantastic, I guarantee it!

We raise money for projects in Columbus! Instead of talking about what we can’t do, we just do it! This group has been giving me joy since 2010. I can always count on attending either a rehearsal or an event, and coming home with a positive feeling.

Our amazing leader is David Brown. He is the conductor, and you can just see from this video how much positive energy he conveys.

*if you were there, look at the gallery, and then watch the video!

Volunteering can bring you joy!

Retirement wasn’t sitting too well with me. I was bored stiff. I decided to answer a volunteer advertisement I found in a community newspaper. It didn’t specify what it was, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.

When I got there, I found out it was a Hospice organization. I decided to attend the training sessions. After completing the training, I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to volunteer directly with the clients.

My role would be to visit people, and comfort them. Although I felt confident in that role, my mother had recently died, and I didn’t know if it was too soon after her death. I was afraid it would make me miss her even more than I already did.

I didn’t know if I wanted to confront dying people. Would it be too much of an intrusion on their privacy to be a witness to their last days on earth? How would I feel about a complete stranger visiting me when I was at my worst? I thought about it for a couple of weeks.

One day I called up the person in charge of volunteers, and told her I was ready to give it a try. She gave me the address of a nursing home close to my house that had Hospice patients.

In less than ten minutes, I found myself in front of the nursing home for my first assignment. I nervously opened the door, and entered the bright, clean facility.  “How can I help you?” asked the young welcoming receptionist. She made me feel comfortable, and directed me to the rooms of several Hospice patients.

The first person I met was Betty. She was a heavy set African American woman who appeared to be sleeping.  “Oh, she’s not really sleeping. Betty, open your eyes!” shouted the aide. I felt like running out the door.  Betty opened one eye, and smiled.  “Hi, I’m glad to meet you. I keep my eyes closed ‘cause I can’t see out of them anyway,” said Betty.

We started talking, and became fast friends. We were different races, religions, and ages. But somehow we clicked.  I usually find Betty sitting in the TV room in the nursing home where she lives.  She’s blind, and is confined to a wheelchair.  She has a fondness for baseball caps, and I can usually spot her with her eyes closed, and leaning to one side of her chair.    It makes me happy when she says to me, “You always make me laugh.”

She tells about her travels around the world. She’d lived an exciting life. She never expected to end her life in a nursing home. She makes the best of it, and doesn’t complain. “I was at a worse one before this. There were rats running around,” she said

She outlived three husbands. She misses her last husband most of all. “Oh, I loved that man.” she says “He used to hold me so tight.” Thats a cue for me to give her a big hug, and I do.

Last December 15th was a special day for Betty. We were watching an amateur country band perform at the nursing home. They were playing happy holiday music.   Betty turned to me and said, “I want to sing the Lord’s Prayer.”  I knew Betty had been the soloist at her church for many years.

I approached the leader of the group “One of the clients wants to sing “The Lord’s Prayer”. What do you think?” I asked.   “Just wait a few minutes,”he said.

He finally called us over, and I wheeled her toward the band. He handed me a microphone and I placed it under her mouth. She sat up as straight as she could. and began to sing. Her voice started out soft, but soon gained strength. Suddenly, she wasn’t an ailing woman unable to sit up straight in her wheelchair. Once again, she was the soloist of a church choir talking to her God. The others sitting in the audience weren’t nursing home patients— they were the congregation.

Astounded aides were starring at her with big smiles on their faces.   “That’s it, Betty,” said one. “That’s it.”

That moment will always be frozen in my memory.

“I was kinda loud wasn’t I?” she asked.  She hadn’t realized I’d been holding a microphone for her.

Like a typical musician she said, “I have to practice; did I sound all right?”

Now, it seems like that moment took place in another lifetime, although it was only a year ago.

Betty isn’t getting any better, and I realize the end is coming. So, I go over there more often than I did before. I read her stories, or play her songs on a CD player.

Even if a life is diminishing, people still need to know that they matter. Some people want no part of visiting ill people, especially ones who are not going to be with us much longer. But those are the ones who need us the most.  The truth is that when you give of yourself—you receive so much more

Postscript:   I found out that sometimes people can qualify for Hospice for several years. They can reapply after six months. My friendship with Betty lasted  for two years, long enough for me to get to really know her. She passed away several years ago, but at least I think I brightened up her life a little at the end.