On pneumococcal disease—and vaccination—awareness


This is a sponsored post in partnership with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

When I was in fourth grade, I was the only one in my class who could spell pneumonia. I clearly recall my teacher standing at the front of the class, carefully writing out P N E U M O N I A on the chalkboard then asking the rapt students who knew what the word was. No one raised a hand… so I did.

I did indeed know the word because I was, in fact, the reason my teacher had written it on the board. He resourcefully used my return from an extended absence—due to pneumonia—as a lesson on a wacky word that not only began with a silent P, but boasted an abundance of vowels.

That wasn’t the first time I’d had pneumonia. I had suffered a serious bout at 18 months, though I naturally don’t recall that time. I do recall the three…

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Disrupt aging: Today's grandmas smash the stereotype... even when embracing it

Disrupt aging: Today's grandmas smash the stereotype... even when embracing it

Disclosure: This post made possible with support from AARP's Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own.

When I first started my blog in 2009, one of the "editorial guidelines" I set for myself was that I would not post photos of myself on my website. At that time I had been a grandma for a little over a year, and in those twelve-plus months, when I shared my grandma status with strangers—retail clerks, random folks encountered while out and about, friends-in-the-making, and so forth—I was more often than not met with the comment, "You don't look like a grandma."

As a goal for my blog was to establish myself as a go-to guide for all things related to the grandmother lifestyle, I determined that—based on such comments—posting pictures of myself might…

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The Let's Be Well Diabetes Box™ a thoughtful gift for loved one with diabetes

This post sponsored by AARP and the American Diabetes Association.

LBW box Jim.JPG

My husband isn't normal. I guess a more accurate descriptor would be that he's an anomaly. See, my husband has peripheral neuropathy—numbness, tingling, pain, and worse in his feet. It's a condition most commonly due to diabetes. Yet my husband does not have diabetes, not even pre-diabetes. According to literally decades of blood tests seeking a diabetes-PN connection, there is no connection.

There are, though, chronic—and oh-so stubborn—foot wounds my husband regularly contends with, similar to the foot wounds folks with diabetes often experience. It's a confounding state, to say the least.


Shingles and shots: On the shingles virus and vaccine

Shingles and shots: On the shingles virus and vaccine

This post sponsored by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases through an unrestricted educational grant from Merck & Co., Inc.

What you should know about shingles and getting vaccinated to prevent it

When conversations and considerations turn to vaccinations, immunizations for little ones is most often the focus. Or, for traveling folks, the shots necessary for globe-trotting trips might be what comes to mind.

The shingles vaccination rarely registers in the top shots grandmothers and others consider in relation to must-get vaccinations. Which is a shame considering that, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), one in three adults will get shingles in their lifetime. In the United States, shingles affects nearly one million people each year — roughly half of them are age 60 years and older.

Which means thousands of grandparents likely suffer the pains and problems associated with shingles.

My older sister happens to be one of those struggling with shingles. Becky, three years older than me, was ...

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Sweet'N Low® Spread Sweet Holiday Cheer sweepstakes

sweet n low holiday sweeps.jpg

Sharing sweets and treats with loved ones tops my list of ways to spread holiday cheer. My traditional Spritz Cookies, loaves of Cranberry Pumpkin Bread, and stockings filled with Confetti Popcorn are the goodies I most often give.

Sweet'N Low®, America's favorite pink zero-calorie sweetener, has gotten into the giving game this year, launching a national sweepstakes to spread holiday cheer. Fans of the brand can enter for the chance to win sweet prizes not only for themselves, but for a friend of their choice, too.

The makers of Sweet'N Low® have shared with me a gift card in exchange for sharing with you the details on their sweet seasonal sweepstakes. Check it out:


Saturday movie PREview—and giveaway: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The last time my husband and I went to see a movie at the theater, we did as we always do: Jim headed off for the popcorn while I made my way to the theater to nab our seats. As I sought out the correct theater, a middle-aged couple walked just ahead of me. Suddenly the woman stopped in her tracks as her hubby kept walking. The woman was mesmerized by the movie poster in the hallway.

As I got closer, I realized what had caught her eye... and I joined her in front of the colorful, oversized promotion for THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL.

second best exotic marigold hotel

"I can't wait to see this! Did you see the first one?" she asked in dreamy tone.

"Oh, yeah," I said in an equally smooth voice as we...

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National Family Caregivers Month: Kudos and resources for those who care

 This sponsored public service announcement on National Family Caregivers Month is in partnership with Midlife Boulevard.

National Family Caregivers Month

The Grandma's Briefs community is filled with compassionate souls who regularly care for loved ones in need, above and beyond the care and love they provide their immediate family. Just off the top of my head...

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Oh, the places you'll go... with AARP discounts

It's Throwback Thursday, and today I'm going to go way, way back to... last Thursday.

AARP Member Advantages

Last Thursday I was in Boston, courtesy a generous invitation from AARP Member Advantages. I was invited to learn about all the places you can go and all that you...

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On books, dogs, cars and the benefits of age

Yesterday was a jam-packed day at the Life@50+ Expo. My day started bright and early as I volunteered with 700 or so other Expo attendees for the Community Day of Service, kicked off by James "JB" Brown, Dan Marino and Pepper Schwartz.

Several Atlanta-area organizations were on the slate for us to help out. As promoting literacy has long been a cause near and dear to my heart, it was quite fitting that my service project turned out to be helping sort books for Books for Africa, whose mission is to "collect, sort, ship, and distribute books to students of all ages in Africa. Our goal: to end the book famine in Africa."

Community Day of Service 

My day ended with cars and dogs — in the Exhibit Hall. Now, I'm no car enthusiast, but how could these vehicles not catch one's eye?

display autos 

pit bullI am a dog enthusiast, though, and one serendipitous moment among the masses was running into pit bull companion dogs and their trainers as I was leaving the hall.

I was tired and I just wanted to hop on the shuttle and head back to the hotel. Instead, these precious pits lured me into a presentation from UnitedHealthcare on the many ways dogs play an active role in keeping humans healthy. Because I own a pit bull-pointer mix and have first-hand knowledge of the bad rap the sweet dogs get (because of irresponsible owners), I was delighted to see pit bulls as the companion dog models for the talk.

bit bulls 

And in between the books and the cars and dogs, my day was filled with the primary reason for my attendance at the Life@50+ Expo: to learn about all the great offerings from AARPDiscounts.com.

There are far too many discounts and benefits AARP members get for their $16/year membership fee for me to list them all here. Besides, there's an entire AARPDiscounts.com website dedicated to disseminating that information... and in a far fancier manner than what I can offer. There are a few I learned about, though, that I thought might be of particular interest to my Grandma's Briefs friends, including:

Michaels — Save 10% at Michaels Stores on Tuesdays. Every Tuesday.

1-800Flowers.com — Save 20% off or $20 off $79.99 or more.


The UPS Store — Members receive 15% off eligible products and services and 5% off domestic and international UPS shipping services. (Great news for long-distance grandmas shipping gifts for the holidays.)

Movies Unlimited — The long-time video retailer offers rare, classic movies and hard-to-find TV shows on DVD or Blu-ray. As an AARP member, you get an extra 10% off Movies Unlimited’s already reduced prices.

Live Nation Concerts — Get four concert tickets for the price of three.

Ancestry.com — Get free shipping on the results of the $99 DNA test that will reveal your ethnic roots. Enter coupon code AARPDNA13 (expires Oct. 31, 2013).

The AARP Travel Center powered by Expedia — All kinds of deals and specials. All kinds. Click and see.

Norwegian Cruise Line — Through Nov. 1, 2013, get up to $250 to spend on board fleetwide; up to $500 to spend on board when you book a Cruisetour; or a special $100 offer on our newest ship, Norwegian Getaway. Also enjoy up to $1000 in Air Credits; 50% reduced deposit; up to $100 off select sailings. Plus, when it comes to cruising, you can't cruise any cooler than on a Peter Max-bedecked vessel:

Peter Max vessels 

Getting older definitely has more benefits than I was previously led to believe.

Disclosure: My trip to the Life@50+ Expo was sponsored by AARP Member Advantages, though that takes away from the authenticity of my opinions above not one whit.

Today's question:

What was the highlight of your week?

Fun in the desert: Our LeapFrog Touch Magic Rock'n Learn Party


Over the weekend I had the privilege of partying in the desert with my grandsons and their friends. The occasion? A LeapFrog Touch Magic Rock'n Learn Party, with party goods and products supplied for free from LeapFrog.

I was delighted to be chosen a while back to host a Rock'n Learn Party to introduce two new exciting LeapFrog products: the Touch Magic Rockin' Guitar and the Touch Magic Learning Bus. Both are part of the new Touch Magic product line from LeapFrog that brings intuitive touch technology to preschool toys for the first time. LeapFrog supplied two Rockin' Guitars and one Learning Bus—plus loads of fun activity ideas, coupons, and such—to get the party started.

We kicked things off with a coloring activity as guests arrived, which the little artists were quite diligent in completing. Once the artwork was placed on the wall next to the "party decorations" Bubby had asked to color and hang beforehand, the gang posed with their masterpieces.

Next came the "Learn" portion of the party, focusing on the Touch Magic Learning Bus. The Bus features an interactive flat surface with vibrant graphics—the alphabet, piano keys and more—that encourage exploration of the 200+ learning and musical responses and more than 40 touch points. My assistant, Bubby, demonstrated the features, then the party guests had a chance to try it out as we played one of the suggested activities.

I must say, it's at such times that having a teacher for a daughter comes in mighty handy. Thanks for leading, Megan!

The Touch Magic Learning Bus, for ages 2 years and up, builds the core learning skills of letter sounds and letter recognition; early vocabulary; animals and instruments; and creative music play. MSRP is $24.99.

The largest portion of the party was dedicated to rockin', thanks to the LeapFrog Touch Magic Rockin' guitar. The Guitar also features the Touch Magic technology, allowing kids to choose to play solo without a backup or to play along with a band, selecting electric or acoustic guitar to play 10 built-in songs. The experience can be customized by adding guitar riffs, silly sounds, and drums—more than 100 possible musical combinations. There's even an applause option that claps along or encourages encores.

Bubby demonstrated the Rockin' Guitar for the guests, though he was a little too shy to share Rainbow, the tune that had quickly become his favorite to play. Then the party guests took center stage and rocked the house.

The Touch Magic Rockin' Guitar, for ages 3 years and up, encourages the learning skills of music and creativity; music role-play; social play; and motor skills. MSRP is $24.99.

The kids seemed to enjoy the play and discovery options of both toys. One thing parents will especially appreciate in addition to the fun and learning both provide: Each has an on/off button that also allows the toys to be played at a lower volume so Mom and Dad can keep sane while the kids keep learning and exploring.

The LeapFrog Touch Magic Rockin' Guitar and Learning Bus are available at Target and other major retailers. For more information on the great features to be discovered, visit LeapFrog.com or like LeapFrog on Facebook.

Disclosure: I received free LeapFrog products in order to host the LeapFrog sponsored Rock'n Learn Party. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Brain fog, head games and Cranium Crunches

I always admired my mother-in-law's determination to keep her mind functioning as well as possible. She did crossword puzzles every single day and regularly engaged in new activities to help keep the wheels of her aging brain turning.

I used to enjoy crossword puzzles but I've done only a handful in the past decade or so. I did start taking piano lessons in my forties in hopes of increasing the dendrites in my brain, those little networking cables that make the mind move better the more you have. Unfortunately, though, I had to eliminate piano lessons when money got tight. My determination to keep up the practicing sans lessons pooped out soon after, as well as my dendrite production.

My mind and memory have apparently pooped out, too. A recent lunch with a friend I'd not seen in more than five years made me all too aware of my egregious lack of recall. As my friend and I and her daughter dined and discussed getting together with our husbands for a game night, I told my friend that although I don't know her husband, he must be a pretty good guy if she's married to him. To which she responded that I have indeed met him, have actually had him and her over to our house for a barbecue several years ago.

I didn't remember. At all. And felt pretty stupid about it. I couldn't even blame it on having a few too many beers during that forgotten BBQ because it wasn't that kind of a gathering, considering her then-adolescent kids had attended and enjoyed hanging out in our hot tub. Which I didn't recall either. At all.

Again, I felt pretty stupid. I wanted to blame the brain fog on having MS, to say, "Oh, I must have a sclerosis smack dab on top of that specific memory." But that would be even more stupid. And surely a lie.

Truth is, my brain fog, my memory, my total (or even partial) recall has been getting worse and worse and worse as I age. And I'm not really all that aged. But I find myself more often than before forgetting what I was going to say in certain circumstances, and I've become pretty bad at brainiac things I was once good at, like word play and matching games and puzzles.

I've found help, though. It's free, it's fun, it makes a difference, and it can be enjoyed by anyone at any age. It's called Cranium Crunches.

Cranium Crunches is the brain child (yes, pun intended; I can still throw together a pun now and then) of Ruth Curran. Curran, who is degreed in psychology and has extensive research experience, hatched the idea for the site after witnessing dementia issues with her parents—attributable to cancer and chemo in her mother's case, Parkinson's disease in her father—and the difference puzzles and games made in restoring their cognitive ability and their confidence.

"I set out to create a series of photo based puzzles that remind us of our lives," Curran says, "a set of brain exercises with cross generational appeal that provide a safe place to practice those skills that might be slipping, work on/hone some skills, improve focus, or just look at some cool photos and tell stories. It had to be free, require no subscription, no plan, no commitment—just come and play."

Which is exactly what Cranium Crunches provides, as well as a page on what games will help you most. The selection of photo-based games and puzzles include Memory Match, Find the Difference, One of These Things is Not Like the Others and more. All the games are quite fun and engaging, but my favorite so far has been Find the Difference, mostly because I'm determined to find them all before my time is up (which I've not yet been successful at). With increasing degrees of difficulty, it's easy to choose one you like and get better and better and better at it, all the while exercising that cranium and achieving an ageless brain in tip-top shape.

Ageless and tip-top shape is my goal for my brain. I've got quite a ways to go, though, according to the scores I've earned so far in my Cranium Crunches game play. But it's a start. And it's fun. And it's something I plan to incorporate into my daily routine—just like my mother-in-law used to do with her crossword puzzles.

photo: stock.xchng

Disclosure: I wrote this blog post while participating in a campaign by BOOMboxNetwork.com on behalf of Cranium Crunches and received payment for my participation. All opinions stated within are my own.

Today's question:

What do you like to do to keep your mind challenged and exercised?