Passionate truth-telling by women of color

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Unless you are friends with someone who’s told you in detail about the indignities of discrimination – and you really let it sink in – or you know someone and are deeply offended when this person regularly utters racial slurs, or you yourself are a person of color, you may not know the extent of the damage the world’s racist societies can do to the human spirit.

It’s worse than you think. Listen to this powerful and emotional TED Talk from Anjelica Dass,  a now-famous artist of color whose work is a passionate appeal for people the world over to stop dividing ourselves into black, white, red, yellow and brown, but rather acknowledge we come in all colors. Think strawberry yogurt, coffee-with-cream, walnut, dark wood that’s gotten wet…

Passionate truth-telling stories

And now comes a powerful book, compiled and edited by Deborah Santana, that gives voice to twenty women-of-color essayists: All the Women in My Family Sing: Women Write the World – Essays on Equality, Justice, and Freedom. Each writer in this book describes with deep feeling some small measure of what she has experienced because of racism and of how she is coming or has come to terms with the inequality, the injustice and the lack of freedom that being of-color can mean.

The offspring of my Jewish-Christian, Russian-Irish mixed marriage were raised in Shaker Heights. I chose to live there because it was considered by many at that time to be the most successfully integrated community in the world. Living there helped attune us to many of the nuances of discrimination. And because someone very close to us is the offspring of a mixed-race relationship, all of us are always seeking to better understand how to combat prejudice and racism in this society. No matter whether you know, or want to know more, about the experiences of persons of color, Santana’s book is a powerful aid to understanding.

I read all these stories through, my heart squeezing and my chest heaving as I felt the suffering and confusion so many of the writers experienced growing up race-stigmatized. And of course, their suffering doesn’t stop in the adult world.

Although good readers of any age can easily understand the language, the content in some – detailing memories of profoundly abusive experiences – might be too discouraging for younger readers. All the stories are worth reading. Below is a selected list to consider:

  • Home Going. Novelist Natalie Baszille writes of her experiences of “home” as the daughter of a black man born and raised in Southern Louisiana who moved far away to escape the pain and indignities of the persecution commonly handed out to black people in that part of the country.
  • Indian Territory. Growing up Indian in a white world, author Eliana Ramage tells of rude questioning, experiencing the feel of history rewritten when her school visits the home of Andrew Jackson, who so ruthlessly persecuted her ancestors and is honored as a great hero.
  • From Negro to Black. A woman who lived through the Civil Rights movement, La Rhonda Crosby-Johnson writes of finding herself and family shifting identities first as Colored, then briefly Negro, then Black, then African American, and of her struggle to learn how to shed such labels and become herself.
  • A Letter to My Granddaughter. A highly successful journalist, the first Black woman to be recognized for her achievements in the field, writes a letter to her granddaughter explaining that the only way to overcome prejudice and racism is to speak your truth fearlessly.
  • Asian American Punk. Want Chyi, then a tiny girl of Taiwanese-Chinese heritage, often stared-at in her mostly white high school in the U.S., writes of how falling in love with punk music freed her to feel like she belonged somewhere at last.
  • The Girl from the Ghetto. Deborah L. Plummer writes in vivid detail about her life as a kid in a Black neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. At age 11 she was done with the kids’ book section of the library and moved on to subjects that matched the seriousness of her life experiences.
  • African in America. High schooler Ugochi Egonu writes in poetic stanzas of her frustration and anger at the ignorance and presumption about Africa that many white people display. While she is growing up in California, her grandmother lives in Nigeria and speaks only Igbo. Egonu mourns that she herself cannot speak more than a few words. But she vows that she will grow to womanhood and be the one to tell her story.

In case you have a granddaughter or grandson that you want to help understand the damage that racism does, this book is a treasure full of important truths.

*To see the names of all women who contributed, click on the “19 more” link under the title on the Amazon page for the book.

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St. Louis grand opening of Gateway Arch Park July 3, 2018

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Ever been to St. Louis? If you’re like me, you’ve longed to visit. Once I met a couple of beautiful ladies who were from St. Louis and who come to bask in the glories of Chicago every once in a while.  Now, with the grand opening of St. Louis’ Gateway Arch Park, St. Louis is making itself even more attractive as a destination.

The opening this year will be followed by the massive July 4 celebration of Fair Saint Louis. Hosted by the Gateway Arch Park Foundation and its partners, this party will include the grand opening of the Museum at the Gateway Arch, a newly expanded and renovated cultural hotspot that’s changing the narrative about westward expansion. Throughout history, the realities of the Lewis & Clark expeditions have been largely glorified – virtually ignorning the negative impact they had on people who already lived there, like Native Americans and Mexicans. The new museum will now tell the full story from several different perspectives. Some of the designers of the museum expansion include NYC-based Cooper Robertson and James Carpenter Design Associates, along with Seele, who manufactured the glass for the Visitor Center entrance (and also manufactures the glass for Apple stores).

The museum’s opening will mark the completion of a nearly 10-year $380 million public-private redevelopment project, used to reinvigorate St. Louis’ downtown and connect the St. Louis community back to the river that helped establish the city. A total of $250 million was raised from private donations for this project, which came almost entirely from the St. Louis community – the largest private investment ever made in a US National Park. To date, the park revitalization has had a nearly $2 billion economic impact, with major hotels, largescale real estate and trendy restaurants and bars moving into the surrounding area as a direct result of the project.

So if you’ve ever thought about visiting St. Louis, right now is a super time to do it. You can also try TripAdvisor’s 15 Best Things to Do in St. Louis. Though it doesn’t include this new stuff, it’ll give you some other ideas.

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Reading reviews – 1 medical memoir, 1 kid book and some cool kids’ magazines

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We have been out for medical stuff for several months and are just beginning to catch up with a few things – like book reviews. We select books to review on how they have relevance to the lives of our families and friends, so they’re often in completely different arenas. Below are 3 completely unrelated ones to get started with.

Triumph over Tragedy book by cardiologist

Triumph Over Tragedy: The Odyssey of an Academic Physician, by William H. Frishman, MD, MACP. This is a memoir about a young boy who grew up so poor that the glass of water by his bedside would freeze over on many a cold morning. Growing up in the South Bronx, Frishman had to run to school to avoid being attacked by gangs. And then when he was a junior in high school, his father died of an early heart attack. It made Frishman even more determined to realize his dream of becoming a doctor. And he spent his career as a cardiologist during what some call “The Golden Age of Cardiology,” during which scientists developed almost every drug that’s currently used to treat heart conditions. Frishman writes with a storyteller’s touch about his time in the military where he learned leadership and integrity, and about his journey through the field of medicine, ending up as a medical educator and Director of Medicine at Westchester Medical Center and several other relevant prestigious appointments. He acknowledges the inestimable value of having good mentors all through life. And he also suggests where to find them and why it’s important to “repay the favor.” Http://williamfrishman.com/

Jason’s Imagination: The Rain King by Jason Edwards. A book for your grandchild – the hero is a boy but there’s no reason your little granddaughter couldn’t relate – about a kid who uses his imagination to save himself and his mom from a monster. Complete with magic sword and armor, Jason first fears the ferocity of a thunderstorm and then decides – at mom’s urging – to use his imagination to overcome his fear. It appears in the book that his mom is a single mom – no mention of dad appears anywhere in the book. Certainly appropriate for today’s demographics of increasing numbers of single-mom-headed families. My very grown-up 10-year-old granddaughter said she thought her 8-year-old boy pal would enjoy the book – the best recommendation you can ask for. And I’d say it would be appropriate for even much younger kids.

Cricket Media publications consistently win awards – and kids love ’em

Cricket Magazine is a marvelous literary-quality publication aimed at 9 to 14-year-olds, but Cricket Media publishes several different varieties, each aimed at a particular age group. I passed age-appropriate copies out to a group of kids – ages 4, 7 and 9 – and each one of them settled down with their copy and remained engrossed throughout the magazine. Talk about high recommendations. Babybug, Ladybug and Click are for the youngest group (0-6 years), Ask and Spider are next (6-9 years), and then for older kids Cricket and several others for kids 9 to 14. Each one has a Letterbox full of readers’ letters and several other regular features that the reading audiences love. The Realm of Imagination is a collection of favorite stories from multiple previous issues.

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Interfaith group giving holiday kits to homeless

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It’s hard to realize that all year around there are hungry and homeless Chicagoans in the city.  In the colder months, people build temporary structures across the city in an attempt to stay warm and safe in the harsh wintery conditions. These, our not-so-fortunate neighbors, are more at-risk and in danger in these cold months and need additional warm clothes and blankets to survive.   

Sunday, December 24 at 10am, Forward Humanity will pack and distribute 100 sleeping bags, hats, gloves, socks, scarfs, a hygiene kit, and a thermal blanket to gift to their neighbors across the city.  It’s never too late to donate to this commendable effort.

Volunteers will gather at the Downtown Islamic Center (231 S State St.) to make 100 healthy lunches and pack holiday gift bags full of warm winter items and hygiene kits which have been donated through a social media and an online campaign.

Distribution will take place throughout the city at known underpasses, viaducts, and other noticeable temporary housing areas.

Forward Humanity is an Illinois not-for-profit organization that began as an outlet to show Muslims as present, active, and positive members of their community.  Forward Humanity is now a collective comprised of over 200 volunteers of all faiths who initiate and organize activities, events and projects in support of organizations and social causes. They aim to provide a platform where people can come together, whether for short-term or long-term initiatives, to serve their community.

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Review of 3 books by-for-about boomers

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Books about getting old come in a lot of varieties. Here are some thoughts on 3 completely different types of books aimed at baby boomers or people who study boomers. One is a brilliantly written memoir by a successful public speaker. The second is a wonderfully human, trying-to-be-funny-and-succeeding-against-all-odds book about the difficult subject of caring for close senior relatives with  dementia/Alzheimers. And the third is actually a textbook on research about grandparent roles in many countries of the world.
Aging Disgracefully by author Cahill

Aging Disgracefully: A Memoir, by Danny CahillWe all talk about page-turners, usually in connection with mystery novels, but this memoir is just as compelling. It’s written by a guy who was tremendously successful his whole life – from his first job out of college as a recruiter, and all the way to  buying that company. His success, though, is chronicled only incidentally as he bares his soul about his love life and his marriage and his relationships. The guy pulls no punches – though you may wonder how it’s possible anyone could be “the good guy” so much of the time.

He includes some embarrassingly frank descriptions of the sexual antics of younger persons who learned about sex from porn on the Internet. But I was particularly amazed by his statement late in the book: “I never understood why Sydney, and later Kelsey to a far greater degree wouldn’t stop something they knew to be harming them.” Who has never heard about the madness of addiction? Dysfunction? Danny Cahill is a public speaker, a successful entrepreneur, a playwright, and one hell of a storyteller. I couldn’t put this book down, and probably your giftee won’t be able to either. $18 hardcover on Amazon, $8 for Kindle version.
Operation Caregivers by author Allred

Operation caregivers: #LifeWithDementia by Alexandra Allred. This is truly a compelling account of what Allred’s family went through when both her parents were afflicted with dementia/Alzheimer’s. She and her sister spent incredible amounts of energy helping their parents adapt slowly to their medical conditions – denial is common among those who are becoming memory-impaired – and then moving them into memory care facilities and watching over them. Whether your life is touched by dementia or Alzheimer’s or not, this book is engaging and extremely readable. Despite many other pressing to-dos, we couldn’t stop reading it. It truly opens a window onto the realities of caring for loved ones who are no longer in their right minds much of the time.

The stories of poor care from lackadaisical, uncommitted workers are full of details, often related with vivid dialog, and are frightening to contemplate. The sisters’ love is clear as Allred narrates the many struggles they go through – to visit, to correct poor conditions, to communicate with their parents, to pay the overwhelming financial cost, and to keep seeking a better facility. The book is also full of helpful, hard-learned tips about ways to communicate with someone overtaken by serious memory issues as well as practical advice for every step of preparing yourself or a loved one so that chaos does not ensue when family must begin hiring caregivers and seeking memory care. Good book. Hard-hitting but funny – Allred worked hard to find humor in such difficult circumstances. Printed with double-spaced and lots of white space so it’s easy to read. $20 for paperback on Amazon.
Grandparents in Cultural Context

Grandparents in Cultural Context, edited by David W. Shwalb and Ziarat Hossain. This book is a textbook written in academic style – a little dry, lots of statistics, a sprinkling of illustrations – but it contains some interesting facts about what it’s like to be a grandparent in countries all over the world. Compare, for example, the growing cultural diversity in the United States and Germany, brought on by immigration and fostered by increased acceptance of intercultural relationships, to the dwindling number of grandparents in Japan and China brought on by rising levels of childlessness among younger generations. If you’re a boomer and thinking of emigrating to another country, this book might give valuable insight into that nation’s expectations of you in your role as a grandparent. Full of information and educated speculations; interesting, but not what you’d call a page-turner. ~$59 paperback, $47 eTextbook on Amazon.

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Holiday gift guide 2017 – 3 personal items, 2 wine accessories and 5 books

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So hard to buy gifts for some people. And many of us don’t have the imagination or that special gift-choosing gene that makes a person especially talented at finding gifts that are just right for others. So if you’re among the gift-buying-impaired, you probably like to look through gift guides. Never know when you’ll hit on something you wouldn’t have thought of but that seems just right for your dad, your adult offspring, best friend, grandkid or whoever.
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PERSONAL CARE IN TIME FOR WINTER
Spoonful of Comfort soup

If you have a sick friend – or just one who loves homemade soup – consider Spoonful of Comfort. They deliver handcrafted soups in four classic versions: chicken noodle, butternut squash, tomato basil, and vegetable. Plus, the 64-ounce jar of soup comes complete with rolls and a cute ladle that’s good for serving and also as a keepsake. The promo material seems to indicate you can send just soup, but we weren’t able to get the website to accept an order that did not also include cookies. The company, featured on Shark Tank, also has gluten free soups. Unique gift for someone you care about and is perfect for the man/woman who has everything. Prices for soup and cookie packages start at $69.99.

Extra emollient, moisture-repairing lip balm epiCeram-L

Winter = dry, cracked lips for many of us. When invited to test a product that promises to heal – rather than mask – that condition, we were enthusiastic. EpiCeram-L Lip Care, which says it is different, does indeed feel different from our usual Chapstick routine. This lip balm actually made our lips feel noticeably better after only 30 minutes. This lip-care product’s claim to therapeutic ability is based on its being lipid-based (meaning it contains three of the body’s natural fats – ceramides, free fatty acids, and cholesterol). These lipids are said to literally replenish lost moisture to rejuvenate and repair cracked lips. Happily, the product is steroid-free, paraben-free, gluten-free, petrolatum-free, fragrance-free, color-free, and lanolin-free. The promo says to expect significant results within one week of use. At $44.95 for a 3-pack, this is not a cheap product. But if you tend to have serious issues with keeping your lips moist, it is definitely worth a try. And could make a truly appreciated gift to a loved one – especially one you like to kiss. We’ll keep testing as winter progresses and update you.

Itzy expandable bag

Itzy. Imagine a shopping bag so tiny it fits in the palm of your hand – but that easily expands to many square inches to hold almost anything you need to carry. Keep a few in your pocket or in your big bag so when you go to the grocery or wherever, here in Chicago you don’t have to pay the 7-cents-per-bag tax for store-provided bags. And you’ll be truly helping the environment. Use it for shopping, laundry, shoes, the beach, toys, and more. And happily, when the carrying task is done, the Itzy shrinks back to its Itzy size. . . over. . . and over again. A win-win all around. A set of three for $20 – black, purple or white. Fun gift for your busy friends, too. Get ’em here. Also available for purchase on Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, The Grommet, Catalog companies, and online at http://www.gadgitgirlz.com. Coming soon to Walmart.

WINE IDEAS
Fun holiday or hostess gift – design your own wine label

Wine is almost always a welcome gift for the holiday season and how about this idea: custom bottle labels from OnlineLabels. They come in standard white matte material as well as some waterproof options that don’t smear (one specifically for inkjet printers, another for laser printers). The waterproof labels work even for white wines that may be chilled in the fridge or placed in an ice bucket.

Check out the pre-designed templates to use with the labels. The company says more will be added soon. Below are a few creative ways blank wine bottle labels can be used to add a personal touch to any holiday party or family gathering.
  • Print-and-go wine bottle labels – these are perfect for wrapping up and taking with you to parties as host/hostess gifts.
  • Better-than-holiday-card wine bottle labels – instead of handing printed holiday cards to everyone, give them the same message on a bottle of their favorite wine!
  • Office party favor wine bottle labels- impress your employees and their guests with branded wine bottles as the office holiday party favor.
Choose from a variety of sizes for the most popular wine bottles on the market. So pick a wine, choose a template, and design a cool gift.
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Coravin Wine Preservation Opener

Coravin Wine Systems. Do you love good wines but like to savor them one glass at a time or even one sip at a time? Consider Coravin’s unique Wine Preservation Opener for tapping any bottle of wine – even screwtops – for just a sip or a glass at a time while perfectly preserving the remainder of the bottle. Read our review of Coravin Wine Preservation Opener here. $200 and up for systems with varying accessories.

1 BOOZE COOKBOOK, 2 FUN CHICAGO BOOKS, a FOOD HISTORY BOOK, NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY PICS and TIPS
Cooking with Booze – cool ideas for using up leftover liquor

Cooking with Booze by George Harvey Bone. For your spirit-loving chef-wannabe friends, this book is affordable and charming, A great way to make a dent in those bottles of tequila or rum or other spirit you bought to make one cocktail recipe and haven’t touched since. Imagine: Watercress Salad with Tequila Tangerine Dressing (p. 120). Or Mushrooms a le Carré (butter-sautéed with onion, garlic, lemon double cream and brandy p. 111 – yum!). Wild Turkey Wild Turkey (turkey breast strips marinated in honey, Worcestershire, Dijon and Wild Turkey bourbon, fried and broiled with cheese p. 78). Fun cookbook by a Britisher with both British and American measurements. Get it on Amazon for under 2 bucks.

111 places in Chicago

111 Places in Chicago that You Must Not Miss, by Amy Bizzarri with photos by Susie Inverso. Bizzarri has done her research with duly creative diligence. Her book spotlights unusual or little-known locations all over the city and gives a little history about each as well as all pertinent information like website, hours, and interesting tidbits. A few notable spots we hadn’t heard of: Optimo Hats, 51 W. Jackson Blvd., historic home of classic and custom made hats.  Magic, Inc., 1838 W. Lawrence Ave., supplier to magicians and mentalists. Kusanya Cafe & Roastery, 825 W. 69th St., offers a cup of Joe with a side of community – a far cry from Starbucks. MSRP for the book ~$20 but available at Target for $13.53.

Start to Finish Chicago!

Start to Finish Chicago! – Meticulously handmade line drawings of iconic Chicago buildings, statues and more that include complex maze paths throughout each picture. Fun for kids or grownups who love Chicago and want to know more about famous landmarks. Unique gift for young and old giftees who love the challenge of navigating the pathways.

Food on Foot: A History of Eating on Trails and In the Wild, by Demet Güzey, PhD, who writes about food and culture and, for fun, climbs mountains. Part of the Food on the Go series, this is definitely a history book and has an academic feel to it, so it’s not for everyone. But if you’re into culinary history, this is a perfect book to peruse on, say, a dark, chilly winter day when you have nothing else pressing. Light a candle and imagine yourself in the shoes of the pilgrims, pioneers, soldiers and explorers she writes about – making their way in every kind of environment, from desert to polar.  How did they store food? What tools did they use for preparing? What kinds of food did they manage to acquire and preserve while traveling? Based on historical facts – like how German soldiers drugged with meth were able to fight longer, and how Marco Polo crossed the Gobi Desert at age 21. Extensive bibliography suggests lots of further reading. MSRP $38.
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Expressive Nature Photography

Expressive Nature Photography: Design, Composition, and Color in Outdoor Imagery, by Brenda Tharp, naturalist, teacher and photographer. The book is full of expert tips for mid-level photographers on topics like shooting at night, using filters to create long exposure, creating natural effects using light painting, controlling visual flow, successfully breaking rules of composition, and finding story in a landscape. Written in clear, informative style, the author offers insights on learning to see, woring with color, and other techniques to help even seasoned nature photographers hone their artistic skill. And even if you’re just a wannabe photographer, you can enjoy the beautiful pictures and learning about how they were selected, positioned and framed by the artist/author. Tharp’s excitement and creativity shine forth from the book’s images and its prose. MSRP ~$30 but available on Amazon for ~$18 and in Kindle for $11.

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Book review – Aging with Care

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Clear professional advice on managing caregivers

Aging with care: Your guide to hiring and managing caregivers at home, by Amanda Lambert and Lesley Eckford. It’s depressing to think you might have to be on the receiving end of this kind of care in the near or distant future. But if you’re an early-stage baby boomer. you’re already in the vicinity of 70 and might even have some health issues. But if you’re faced with taking care of your aging parent(s), this book offers solid, reliable information on a multitude of questions.

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Critical areas of concern range from how to find, screen and hire caregivers to completing a full inventory of possessions in the elder’s home, and include the challenge of determining the truth when elders complain about caregivers as well as concerns about suspected criminal behavior or abuse. Financial exploitation is not uncommon and can be difficult to verify, especially if the elder feels obligated to the caregiver for giving such intimate service. Confidentiality is important in regard to salaries, taxes and so on. The book abounds with real life stories that demonstrate problems, pitfalls and possible solutions.
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Both authors are professionals in the field of aging: Lambert, an aging lifecare professional and certified care manager; Eckford, a licensed clinical social worker and registered nurse whose main focus is geriatric mental health.
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Cautionary note. Don’t just hand this book to your overworked adult child whose life is so stressed already. The idea that you might need care and oversight at some point could just send them into a tailspin. But if they’re ready or are facing a need for this kind of information, the book is an excellent guide. And a help for you to set guidelines for a time when you might be the one in need of care.
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Travel – Luxury at safari camp in Tanzania

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Tanzania in east Africa is home to more than 52 million people. It’s the largest and most populous country in Africa, with a birth rate among the largely Bantu people of nearly 5 children to every woman. At least two city names have appeared regularly in world headlines and in stories of adventure – the capital, Dar Es Salaam, and the city of Zanzibar, even more exotic because of the strong influence of Arab/Muslim culture and language on the inhabitants. Features that attract tourists to this country include the Serengeti Plains, Serengeti National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria, Sultan’s Palace (Zanzibar) and many more.
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At least a third of the country’s people live in cities, so there are hotels aplenty, but there’s another way to experience the country if you’re investing a serious chunk of cash. Nyaruswiga Safari Camp in Tanzania offers incredible luxury for upscale travelers who want to explore from a far-more-than-comfortable base. Here’s a brief partial list of the amazing features at this travel destination:
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  • 24 Hour power + hot water purified by remote osmosis
  • Upscale canvas tents supported by African Eucalyptus poles and capped with elegant brass crowns
  • Walk-in closets, steam-ironed clothing overnight, handmade custom furnishings
  • Emperor-sized beds (larger than King) with pillows of varying firmness and the finest sheets
  • Wood burning fire stove + free-standing hammered copper bathtub en-suite
  • Rejuvenating outdoor shower and private verandah with elegant mahogany loungers
  • Gluten free & vegetarian menu amongst the gourmet cuisine prepared freshly daily by a top chef
  • DSLR camera for rent for the most stunning photography
  • Signature wellness treatments
  • Elegant guest lounge with top espresso machine, cigar selection, parlor games, elegant leather chairs and a 300 year old map made for Sir Isaac Newton
  • Elegant Royal Albert bone china for the most exceptional dining experience
  • Butlers trained in fine dining, evoking the glamour of the early 1900’s
  • Astral observation deck wtih 508x magnification, ideal for stargazing
  • 4-seater leather bound vehicles, unlike any you’ve seen- complete with charging ports, binoculars, teak wood fitted storage compartments and clamps for cameras and checking kiwi habitats in a New Zealand wildlife conservation initiative
If you’ve always wanted to see the heart of Africa – and you only want the finest accommodations while you do so – check out Nyaruswiga Safari Camp.
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Got lower back issues?

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If you sit or stand for long periods of time, your back probably gives you trouble now and then. Or maybe all the time. Or maybe you don’t have to sit or stand for long periods, but your back hurts anyway. Or maybe you run a lot, or lift heavy stuff, or you’re just plain very active. Whatever the situation, if the pain is in your lower back, a product called BaxMax promises to give that area the support that could give some relief.
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BaxMax super-supportive, breathable

The BaxMax is a support device that adjusts to fit around your waist and over the top of your hips. It’s “Power Unit” consists of two discs connected to each other by strong extendible drawstring-type fiber strands. You open the space between the two discs and position it so that the discs are situated with your spine right between them. Then, when you pull the belt snug and connect it with the hook-and-loop closure, the two disks push firmly against the muscles that help support your spine and the front compresses your belly muscles.

Growing up, I remember seeing a strange-looking contraption hanging on the hook on the back of our bathroom door. I remember staring at it for long periods of time while I took a bath or did my kid business. Never asked anyone about it – figured it was some grownup thing I probably wasn’t supposed to know about. Years later I found out one day that it was a sacroiliac support device my dad used when he was working on his milk truck, lifting and pulling and pushing hundreds of pounds of milk bottles and cottage cheese cartons around inside the truck, onto the heavy wheeled hand truck, into the little neighborhood stores and then switching them out for outdated items in his customers’ refrigerated cases.
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My dad’s back device was made of stiff gray cloth and bloomed with what seemed like a mad array of straps and belts. The BaxMax is a much sleeker device, and you don’t have to sport baggy striped overalls like my dad did in order to wear it under your clothes. Of course, you can wear it outside your clothes in situations where support is more important than sleek lines.
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I don’t have any back issues but hoped it would enhance my ability to maintain proper posture while sitting for long stretches at my computer. It was helpful for brief periods. I then asked a friend who has back issues to try it. She is extremely pleased – appreciates the support she gets from the two disks on either side of her spine. Wore it under her dress to a party and loved the relief it gave her. She was also very happy that the material was so breathable. She said her previous devices were rubberized, and she was forever having to change her shirt when she wore them because she got so sweaty.
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Here is an interesting review of the BaxMax on a website that talks about how back support devices work. It says don’t use any belt if you’ve never had a back injury, but that the BaxMax can be very helpful immediately after a back injury or to support your spine while lifting heavy objects (no heavier than you could lift without a belt). Available from BaxMax, the manufacturer, via Amazon at ~$70.
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2 books on improving Boomer bodies

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As we mature into our 50s and beyond, decades of hunching over computers, staring down endlessly at cell phones, and otherwise inadvertently abusing our muscles, tendons and joints, can begin to take a toll. Many of us develop, as a result of too much hunching, a kink in our posture that bodes no good. But, like the 85-year-old stooped-over woman who discovered yoga and regained her properly aligned spine, there are things we can do to rectify the situation no matter how late in the game we start.
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Agreed recently to review a couple of books by Dr. Karl Knopf, a professor of health and fitness for older adults and the disabled. For 40 years he’s worked in multiple areas ranging from personal fitness and therapy to consultation, plus he developed the “Fitness Educators of Older Adults Association” to guide trainers of older adults. Now he’s writing an ongoing series of books on fitness and health topics for older adults.
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Surprising help in this book

Stretching for 50+ is one book in Knopf’s series. I took it with me one day to a place where I had to sit and wait for a long time, which gave me plenty of time to pay serious attention to trying the exercises. The biggest surprise was the stretches relating to posture.

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A family friend who’s a doctor came up to me one Sunday while I was helping my daughter prepare family dinner and said, “I’m worried about you grandma. Your shoulders are getting rounded.” Now this friend is not only a doctor but is also a former personal trainer. So you can bet she doesn’t prescribe drugs if stretching and exercise will solve the problem. She said there was a solution.
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She taught me an exercise that I’ve been working on. But when I read this book, I learned there’s more that can and should be done. It describes stretches to help remedy the situation – whether your poor posture comes from working on a computer all day or using your cell phone for texting and typing emails, which tends to lead towards the “head forward” problem.
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Sensible ways to strengthen bones and and prevent falls

And Dr. Knopf has also written a book called Beat Osteoporosis with Exercise that features low-impact stretches and exercises designed to improve posture, build bone density and increase strength and flexibility – all of which can help prevent falls in the first place.

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Each book includes hundreds of photos so it’s easy to see how the moves are done without having to read an inordinate amount of text. No matter how old you are, you can benefit from incorporating even some of these exercises and stretches into your routine. Remember, this stuff deserves just as much a place in your schedule as all the things you do to keep your mind strong and nimble.
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Travel, fun and curiosities for Chicago women over 50