All posts by Ginnie Dean

Born 1933 in Plainfield, New Jersey. Grew up in Wellesley Hills, Mass. BS degree in Journalism, Boston University 1954. I enjoyed an exciting 4 years in Radio and TV …first at KEY-TV in Santa Barbara, Ca., then at WABC Radio in New York City. Met and married my husband there. He had just left LIFE magazine and was starting his career as a free lance photographer. Poor health put an end to that and we moved to upstate NY in 1962 with our three children. Moved to North Carolina in 1978 and worked for 32 years in a very busy ER of our local hospital. My husband died (59 yrs. young) in 1990 and I’ve led a life of independence since then. In 2006 I started a blog, which tells my life story in short vignettes. My profile there states: “I have a spiritual life based on over 23 years of sobriety thanks to the 12 steps of AA. and have friends of all ages, gender and color.” That pretty much sums it up.

Read the labels !!!

I have lived on my own for many years now and one of the things that I was very lax about was cooking for myself.  I am ashamed to admit that a typical day would start with 2 or 3 cups of black coffee and a piece of toast.  Lunch was my “big” meal of the day and often consisted of something pre-packaged and frozen that I would “nuke”. Supper might be a peanut butter sandwich.   Of course I would feel guilty about my lack of fruits and veggies so I’d often cut up a large banana and top it with two scoops of coffee ice cream, Cool Whip and chocolate sauce!

Sound familiar?   Well, it seemed to work for me and I didn’t have to worry about all the mess that cooking entailed.  But the day came when I had to pay the piper and it’s been a huge eye opener.  I have a condition called SIBO (Small Bowel Bacterial Overgrowth) and I am restricted now from eating sweets or any and all refined grains.

I doubt if many of you will have to adhere to such a strict diet but we seniors all need to be aware of what we are putting into our bodies. Foods that come directly from the field will not have all the additives that are in those packaged varieties.  Becoming a label reader has really opened my eyes.  Look what I found when I decided to try Roasted Garlic Triscuits in place of the ORIGINAL 100% grain Triscuits that were allowed on my diet.

This is the complete list of ingredients for the Original Triscuits:

Now, compare that with the ingredients on the side of the same looking box of Triscuits but with the addition of roasted garlic:

Isn’t that amazing? Actually it was my sharp-eyed daughter who pointed that out to me and it makes me realize how very important it is to READ THE LABELS ! All those “mono-hyrdo-glycer-late-iums” must be in there for a reason and I doubt very much if it’s to promote good health !!

So, to sum up … each and every one of us has to determine what works for our particular situation but getting educated on this subject could be a life saver … and reading labels is a good place to begin.

Taking flight … A Stress Reduction plan

Is your life full of stress?  Do you often find yourself gazing at the birds flying overhead and wishing you were up there too?   Would you like to have your problems take wing?

Well, that describes me… so when I learned of this no-fail STRESS REDUCTION plan that just takes a good imagination and the ability to count I decided to try it. It’s easy, it’s free and I‘ll bet it will work for you too.  Here’s what I did …

Following instructions I settled back in a comfortable position, closed my eyes and slowly started to count …the whole time visualizing my stresses taking flight.  ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR … I barely made it to FIVE before I saw my auto insurance payment sprouting wings and drifting away.

Wow, it was really working.  SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT … and there went my credit card debt. Suddenly I was the one sprouting wings.  I felt myself lifting high and I floated with ease and serenity.  I was completely stress free … a blissful feeling.  I continued to count slowly … THREE HUNDRED AND TWO, THREE HUNDRED AND THREE… until I felt my wings dip and I knew I was being gently guided back to earth.

But, wait … it was not ground that I touched down upon. It was the deck of a ship and, to my horror, I realized that I was being propelled toward the plank!   I could see the dark water roiling below me and I tried desperately to stop counting but I couldn‘t .  I was up to THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY when a great weight pushed me off the edge.

As I plunged to my certain death I wondered why I no longer had wings.   I hit the water and realized that nothing could save me.  I couldn’t swim and I was taking on water fast. It was the most stressful time of my life but I couldn’t stop counting … FOUR HUNDRED AND ONE…FOUR HUNDRED AND TWO … until suddenly, with a jolt, I awoke and found that I was back in my own little room.

I’M ALIVE … I’M ALIVE!  I cried out, breathing a huge sigh of relief…and suddenly all those life stresses that had plagued me before seemed mediocre at best. “I can handle anything that comes my way now” I said to myself…   ”THIS COUNTING THING REALLY WORKS!”

And I bet it will for you too!!

No Tools Involved … Suction Grab Bar

When I fractured my hip it presented my children with a problem.  My small house had just one bathroom that consisted of a full tub with glass doors. Obviously this wasn’t going to work for an 80 year old woman just out of rehab and living alone !

Luckily my two sons are self employed in the remodeling and building industry.  So, while I was in the hospital, they removed the old tub unit and installed a walk-in shower that made it very easy for me.   At first I had a rubberized no-slip chair that I could sit on and with the use of the hand held shower extension  it worked very well.

As I grew stronger I realized I could stand to shower but we had forgotten about installing grab bars.  They were definitely a necessity but I rebelled against having them as permanent fixtures.  So I was relieved when the Physical Therapist who came twice a week suggested that I try the removable suction cup type. …and that’s what we did.

We bought two of them and they were installed straight from the package. It was very easy.  You just release the levers, put the bars where you want them, and push the levers in.  You can feel the suction taking hold as they adhere to the surface.

However, the PT guy warned me of one thing  (AND IT’S A BIG CONCERN)  You need to release the bars and re-suction them every month at least.  They will lose the gripping ability over time and the last thing any of us need to do is to grab hold and have the bar come loose from the wall.

Obviously grab bars permanently adhered to the wall are the best option for anyone with mobility or balance problems … but the suction ones were the answer for my immediate concern and I was very happy with the solution.

Scroll back to June 7th to see why my blogger-mate Peggy, below knee amputee, travels with one.

At UNlimiters, we’re always looking for products that help us live more independent and easier lives. Have you found a product that has improved your life? Let us know in the Shout section of our store and we’ll try to add it to our selection.

Blog entry by Ginnie, proud member of the UNlimiters team.


A gardeners reference library:

This little shed addition is not just a place where my son keeps his gardening utensils…it‘s his reference library too.

When he showed it to me I thought immediately of passing this idea along to all of you out there whose memory is not what it used to be.  I’ve discovered that most of us can use a little help in that area.

Gardening has become an avocation for my son.  He is constantly experimenting and adding new flora and it seems that every time I visit he’s changed a location or added something new. Since so many of the plants are ones that he may never have heard of before, or might be a new variety of an old familiar one it could be hard to keep up with it all … but not since he’s implemented
this great way to keep it all straight.

He calls it his gardening reference library …  a compilation of all the seed packets and product tags of the items he’s bought over the years and he‘s posted them on the inside of the shed door.

Isn’t that clever and it’s an idea that could be adapted to so many other areas, not just gardening.  For instance, I’m using the inside of a cabinet door in my kitchen to post the birth dates of all my friends.  They are amazed when they get a card from me and I cross my fingers behind my back and tell them that having a good memory is a gift that I was born with!!

Let us hear about your clever ideas … I’ll bet there are lots of them.

Anyone for an ANIMAL CRACKER ???

Remember these little gems? They’re still around … as I found out when a co-worker brought a big jug of them recently to the Clinic where I volunteer twice a week. It really jogged my memory and it also made me thankful to see that they are still in existence.

I think that the sugar industry has done a thorough (and despicable) job in changing the taste buds of America.  It’s no wonder we have a crisis of obesity in our country and it’s not just among the youngsters.  Type 2 diabetes has risen drastically in the last 10 years among the elderly and it’s time we faced that head on.

I think I first became aware of Animal Crackers in the late ‘30’s. I would have been about 5 then and I recall that my sisters and I were each given one of the little boxes with the strings attached as a Christmas treat.  We would savor every bite and then hang the boxes on the tree as decorations!

I am so glad that they are still on the market.  They are delightfully different from most of the sickly sweet cookies and candies that are foisted on us today.

I am not a doctor or a nutritionist but it doesn’t take one of those to know that sugar is often the culprit contributing to the rise of Type 2 diabetes and many other medical problems.  We don’t have to cut out sugar completely but how about turning the clock back to that simpler time … when a box of Animal Crackers was all the sweetness we needed?

Much More Than a Loyal Friend …

This little guy is about 4 inches tall and he’s made of rubber.  He sat on my husbands desk for years and I remember how Dick would squeeze the dickens out of him to exercise his hands.

When Dick passed away in 1990 I put the little guy on my desk and he’s remained there ever since.  I’ve loved having him near me because he’s a sweet reminder of many happy times but I’ve rarely put him to use as Dick did.

Well, times have changed.  You may remember my entry a few weeks ago when I mentioned how weak my 80 year old hands have become. That has been true for quite a long time but just over the past year I have developed painful arthritis in both hands also.  I’ve decided to try the squeezing exercises and I really seem to be making progress.

My little pal does not seem overjoyed to be, once again, the recipient of all that squeezing but he puts up with me!

I seem to remember that he was a giveaway from a medical firm back in the ‘80s so it would be hard to replicate him exactly but there are many types of exercise squeeze balls available.

Here‘s what I do 3 times a day.  I squeeze him as hard as I can for at least 5 seconds.  Then I relax for a second or two.  I repeat this process nine more times.  I then switch to my other hand and do the same 10 repetitions there.

I can’t say that it helps the looks of my arthritic hands but it does help to keep the pain at bay and for that I am grateful.  I hope it will do the same for you.

At UNlimiters, we’re always looking for products that help us live more independent and easier lives. Have you found a product that has improved your life? Let us know in the Shout section of our store and we’ll try to add it to our selection.

Blog entry by Ginnie, proud member of the UNlimiters team.

An Inspired Idea Unites a Community!

A few blog entries back I introduced you to my friend Jan and her “stand-uppity” garden.  Continuing in that vein I want you to meet my nephew Chris who has an amazing garden story too.  He made the unorthodox decision to plant a garden in FRONT of his house and had no idea how this would change his life.

He chose the location because it received the best light but as he mapped out and planted his garden he realized that he was being closely watched. People that had never spoken before stopped and expressed their interest. Young parents brought their children to peek in the greenhouse and to ask Chris what he was planting and when it would be ready to be picked.

He believes that he’s met at least 30 or more people who live within 4 blocks … all of them “neighbors” that he would never have known otherwise.  In Chris’ words: “It has turned out that the production of food has taken a back seat to all the other things this garden has done: community building, bringing neighbors together, a teaching tool etc. I still get a lot of food for myself, neighbors & the food bank, but it’s almost incidental.”

I couldn’t help but think how this idea could be adapted to so many of you seniors out there with “green thumbs”. I know that front yard gardens might not be practical or even allowed in some places, but how about putting a wheelbarrow or a small table out there filled with vegetables or flowers from your garden and a sign encouraging neighbors to help themselves!

It’s people that have the guts to do something unorthodox like this that break down barriers and forge friendships. If you have any examples along these lines please share them with us.

Picker-up and Grabber …

Now settle down you old geezers. I am not writing about revitalizing your libido.  The Picker-up and Grabber that I have in mind is this one:

I had never even heard of this tool until I fractured my hip back in 2011.  I was introduced to it while recuperating in rehab and it has proved to be indispensable.   The grip was easy to handle and the pick-up end proved to be extremely versatile.

I remember early in my recovery when one of my get well cards slid off the bed and I didn’t want to bother a nurse or an aide for such a small item.   It was then that I first used the gripper and I was pleased to see that, not only was the rod long enough to reach, but it easily picked up the card

So now I knew that the gripper was able to pick up something as small and light as a card but what about other items?  I decided to try it out.  I picked up medicine bottles, towels, magazines and my make-up kit.  It was almost too easy and I think it was then that I decided to have fun with it.

The breakfast tray had not been picked up yet and I still had a half full cup of coffee on it. So, very carefully, I encircled the cup with the pick-up end and, making sure that I didn’t loosen my grip, I brought it to my free hand.  Voila!  It worked.   I didn’t think until after the fact about the mess it would have made if it hadn’t!

Now, as I write this, it is almost two years later.  I’ve recuperated just fine but I still rely on my Picker-upper.  It’s one of the handiest tools I have.  I use it outside for picking up litter and pine cones and inside it’s great for grabbing items that are stored up high.  It makes me wonder how I managed without it.

…And The Author Wrote Back!!!

This is not just an ordinary shelf of books.  It’s a collection that I started four years ago.  Although the authors vary in content and writing style they have one thing in common … they’ve all answered the emails I wrote to them expressing my pleasure with their work.

I find that many of the new writers are much more open to communicating than ones in the past.  Here are three of my favorites and the authors answers:

“The Book Thief”, Markus Zusak  ….”the fact that my writing has also meant something to you is something that can never be taken for granted.  You write and think no-one will read it, let alone be compelled to write to you about it. You’ve made my day”.

“The Welsh Girl”, Peter Ho Davies …”Many thanks for your kind note.  It is such a pleasure to hear from readers who’ve enjoyed the book.  I was especially glad you liked that scene in the pub, it’s one of my favorites too” etc.  (he goes on to tell me of his new book which he is having trouble putting down on paper!)

“The Night Circus”, Erin Morgenstern … “I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the book!  It is indeed my first novel and it’s amazing that the response has been so strong” etc. (also talks of her new idea for a book and signs it “Cheers, Erin”)

Isn’t that neat?  I’ve found that about 90% of those that I write to have answered.   It tells me that published authors are just as needy of kind words as any of us … maybe more so.

Give it a try … it’s fun, it’s FREE, and, as Markus said …it just might make their day … and yours!

SECURITY … for pennies a day !

In 2011 I fell in my driveway and fractured my hip.  It was about 7 in the evening and luckily it was a warm night because I didn’t get help for almost two hours.  Of course one of the first things that we all concentrated on later was how to prevent something like this happening in the future.

I looked at many options but none of them fit my budget or my life style.  Finally I came up with this idea and it seems to be working perfectly.   I have had a Tracfone for many years and I love the low cost and the versatility that I get with it.  As most of you probably know Tracfone is a no-contract wireless service. I don’t have to sign any binding agreements or pay monthly fees. It cost me less than $20 for the phone AND I only buy the minutes that I want.

Now I grant you that this is not the phone for a person who is in their own business or who uses a cell phone solely. My children all have cell phones that seem to do just about everything but pick up the weekly garbage!

But my needs are entirely different and I limit the people who have access to my number because I use it only for emergencies or when I am traveling or for the occasional time that I am not near a land phone and need to contact someone.

But how does this keep me secure?  My cell phone was in the front seat of my car when I fell but I couldn’t get to it so there goes that idea.  However you might note that there are two items in the picture above and it’s that little black case that makes all the difference.  It’s where I keep my cell phone now and it clips very easily on to whatever I happen to be wearing so I am seldom without it.

I certainly don’t want to fall again but at my age (80!) it pays to be vigilant and it helps to appease the family too!

Tending to Grandma!

My granddaughter Amelia, (pictured here with her dad, my son) is a very recent Summa Cum Laude graduate of NC State and I am extremely proud of her.   She knows her Grandma well and even lived with me for a year when she was 11.  She acknowledges that I am a thrifty old geezer and probably the only person known to her that has never owned a dishwasher.

Let me set the record straight however.  I embrace this new world of technology and love emailing, blogging, and searching the web.  It’s just that, like so many of us at my age, I do not understand the complexities of it all.

I am also thrifty, as I mentioned.  I was born in 1933 and I can remember those years of deprivation where nothing went to waste.  This has never left me and I am constantly appalled at the cost of all these electronic gadgets on the market today.

And this brings me back to Amelia.  She is determined to bring me into the 21stCentury and I think it’s working.  She presented me with a one cup Kuerig coffee maker last Christmas and this year for my 80th birthday she and her fiancé completely floored me with their gift …a Kindle Fire.

She knows how much I love to read and thought it would be perfect for me. I was thrilled, of course, but in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think how expensive it was going to be to buy all those books on the Kindle. I am a voracious reader but my books come from the library or I buy them for next to nothing at yard sales or Used Book stores.

Imagine my delight when I found out that you can actually use the Kindle as a library card. In my state it’s called “The NC Digital Library” and now I can order books on line and have two weeks to read them … just as I would the old fashioned way!  I also took a tutorial (while learning how to set up the digital library) and am slowly getting to know my way around the “Kindle world”… so once again our two generations have joined forces and I can’t thank Amelia enough.

Who could ask for a sweeter granddaughter ???


I have a friend who was in a severe auto accident back in the 70’s. She suffered a fractured pelvis and the nerves that went to her left leg were severed.  The doctors told her she would never walk again but she refused to accept that verdict.

She did have the use of her right leg and that made all the difference.  So, very slowly she persevered and, although she still keeps her wheelchair for long ventures, she manages to accomplish more in a day than most of us do in a week!

Gardening is one of her great loves but she has a very hard time bending over and sitting on the ground or even on a low stool is almost impossible for her.  This makes it very difficult to handle the hard work that goes into a successful garden. Did this stop Jan? Of course not … and I want to share with you how she’s overcome these problems.

It’s her “STAND UPPITY GARDEN” (as she calls it) …a wonderful elevated creation that you see here in the making…

She fashions a table by using cement blocks as legs, topped with a sturdy board. Then she adds the huge bag. It’s by Smart Pots and is called a 100 gallon Big Bag Bed.  I had never heard of Smart Pots but Jan told me that using their containers has made it so easy for her.

When opened the bag has a diameter of 4 feet and holds as much potting soil as a 4×4 garden. It is extremely sturdy and is perfect for her project. They also carry other sizes ranging from 5 to 100 gallons and she uses those too.

What a wonderful concept and a perfect answer to her dilemma. Here we see the beginning of this year’s yield …

I love the way that Jan tackles whatever comes her way. She truly is an example of that old adage … “where there’s a will there’s a way.”

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