About Heather McPhaul

Creator of AgingGal.com. When I'm not fretting about getting older, I am acting on TV shows and writing books.

How a Pet can Save your Life

No, I’m not talking about Lassie pulling Timmy from the well. I’m referring to how animals can reduce stress and lower blood pressure, by stemming loneliness and depression. Pets can give us a purpose and even stimulate learning (gotta read up on how to take care of your new “baby”!).

Senior_pets“Dogs — and other pets — live very much in the here and now. They don’t worry about tomorrow. And tomorrow can be very scary for an older person. By having an animal with that sense of now, it tends to rub off on people,” says Dr. Jay P. Granat, a New Jersey psychotherapist.

That said, it’s important to choose the right pet. Here are some tips:

1. The pet owner should be involved in this decision. Do not just pick a random pet for your older parent and call the deal done. That could — and has — led to disaster. For example, active puppies can scratch and jump and wreck havoc on elderly skin.

2. Consider the personality traits of the older person. Is she set in her ways? Has he been a pet owner before? Dog lover or cat person? Is your senior disabled? Homebodies may appreciate a cat who doesn’t need to be walked as does a dog. On the other hand, if social interaction is desired, find a dog who matches the pace of the future owner.

3. Then consider the pet. Puppies are tons of work (just like human babies are loads of work). An older dog has already calmed from its puppy phase. A three-year-old dog is twenty-one in human years, isn’t that better than raising a toddler and teenager again?

4. If finances are an issue, think about less costly pets like a fish or a bird. Or if you need the cuddliness of a dog or cat, rescue a pet and contact the local humane society for help in paying vet fees. Lastly, consider looking into therapy animal programs and see if they’ll visit.

As Jack T. Dog would say, “Arrffff.” Which means, “Enjoy your pet and thank you for adopting!”

Aging Gal and Jack T. Dog

Aging Gal and Jack T. Dog

 

 

How to be an Inspirational Ager

As many of you know, Bitty is a social worker — a do-gooder. She sees patients of all ages, but, as we live in an aging society, she has many patients of a more mature age.

And they kick ass.oap-yoga-teacher

This week, for example, she began seeing a 96 year old whose quick wit and humor is reminiscent of a Catskills comic. Another client decided months ago that it was time to live her dream and enroll in the Fashion Institute of Technology… at the age of 68.

My point? It’s never to late. Follow your dreams. Live your life. Here are some pointers:

1. Embrace Aging. We’re getting older, yes, but we’re not dead. And regular activity — physical and mental — is proven to make us healthier. So go for coffee with friends, join a book club, walk or gym on a daily basis.

2. Don’t hesitate to laugh at the Aging process. Are some changes that happen to our bodies mortifying or, even, horrifying? Absolutely. Go to the doctor when necessary, screen for illnesses as warranted, ask questions of professionals and, even, friends. Then give in to the amusement when you can and laugh. We’re all in the same boat and this is why God, hopefully, gave us all senses of humor.

3. Set Goals. Always wanted to take an improv class? Go do it! Time to write that long-thought-about novel? Go for it! Hankering to travel, work with animals, make a movie? Then (to steal from Nike) Just Do It! Take advantage of all that technology has brought us in the last decade and learn to self-publish your book, make a video with your smartphone, or paint that masterpiece with an assist from computer software.

4. Maintain Relationships. Stay in touch with friends and family who love you for you and will help find the humor in the silliness of life (see Tip 2).

5. Be Prepared. Get all your ducks in a row. Last will and testament? Check. Advance directive? Done. Medical and financial power of attorney? Yes and yes. Talk to those closest to you so everyone is clear on what steps to take if and when the time comes. Then — Whew! — that’s over.

Now go live the rest of your life.

Grow Back Your Hair — And Your Confidence

While I’ve made many confessions on this blog, none may be more embarrassing than this: I am bald.

densefx-and-texture-effect-122x350Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration. But in all honesty, I have battled bald spots throughout my scalp since my early 30s. (I remember visiting my doctor in those days and begging for a solution… a solution that never came.) I’ve always had baby fine hair… after I finally grew hair (until I was eighteen months I was fat and bald and nicknamed Mussolini). In high school and college, stylists would comment that they’d never seen such fine, thin, soft hair — and mean it as a compliment — but my hair and I were already mortal enemies. It refused to hold any styling even with 80s-era hairspray.

Little did I know that my hair would up the ante in my 30s and 40s by falling out in baseball-sized clumps with every shampoo. For twenty years, I have been my own shedding Golden Retriever.

By my 50s, I had given up.

And then my knight in shining armor galloped up in the form of Cerafill Defy by Redken.

Now I’m going to show you some photographic evidence, so don’t run away screaming. (Yes, I know, my bald spots light up the front of my crown like a shiny hood ornament; I am constantly self-conscious.) Witness this BEFORE photo:

BEFORE

BEFORE

Ignore all the wiry gray hairs and focus on the hairless cue ball above my left eye. To me, that clump of white skin is mortifying.

So when I learned that I could participate in this promotion for hair-thickening products from Redken, I jumped at the chance.

Redken sent 100 bloggers four samples of their products including Defy shampoo and conditioner, and Maximize Dense Fx thickening treatment and texture effect. I was asked to use the products for two weeks and then share the results.

As for the shampoo and conditioner, I must say they were somewhat medicinal. The shampoo did not lather enough for me, and the conditioner left my hair stiffer than usual. After towel drying my hair, but while it was still damp, I applied the Dense Fx thickening treatment to the roots and massaged it through my scalp. Lastly, I sprayed on the texture effect before styling. Both the thickening and texture products are to be used between shampoos to keep that hair growing.

Now, Redken advertises “up to 9,000 more hairs after one use!” I’m not sure about that, but, yes, I did see some buds growing (albeit my fuzzy little fine hairs — why can’t I have Barbie-esque locks?). For me, it took the majority of the two weeks to witness a difference in hair growth. I also relied on their tips to maximize your hair, including using a diffuser on my blowdryer, crimping my hair, and creating a zigzag part to disguise my thin spots.

And here (again, please don’t run screaming) is the AFTER photo:

AFTER

AFTER

Between the products and the tips, I do feel my hair is thicker. If there’s one product I will continue to use it is the Dense Fx thickening treatment. It seems to be the crux of the product line and, honestly, there are menthol-infused Tea Tree shampoos and conditioners out there that I prefer.

But check out Redken’s products — and tips — for yourself:

Redken Cerafill website

Redken Salon Finder

The bottom line is that this experience helped give this 50-Something back a little confidence. Maybe I’ll never have the exact hair I want, but I can have more of it and I can style it better. That alone makes this Aging Gal content.

Here’s the skinny: I am participating in a Vibrant Influencer network campaign for Cerafill powered by Redken. I am receiving a fee for posting; however, the opinions expressed in this post are my own. I am in no way affiliated with Redken and do not earn a commission or percent of sales.

 

Nursing Care: Turn to the Best

Recently, I started volunteering as a “friendly visitor” and spending time with a lovely new older friend named Dorothy. Dorothy recently broke a hip, and I only visit for an hour once a week, so she spends a lot of time with her round-the-clock nurse, Christy.

Nurse-and-Elderly-PatientNow Dorothy is a sweetheart, and Christy is her angel. Christy monitors Dorothy’s health and behavior, administers her medications, assists with sanitary needs, and offers overall companionship. Dorothy is fortunate to live at home, but that may not be the case for everyone later in life.

So, if it’s not possible to remain at home, then where do we turn? Turn to professionals who are not only qualified, but who love their jobs. Turn to the award-winning best: Barchester Healthcare.

Visit one of their care homes, and you’ll notice the difference immediately. From the warmth of the people to the quality of the service, Barchester ensures its staff is happy so the staff ensures the clients are happy.

When it’s time to seek out nursing care, follow this link and be secure in your choice: Barchester.

 

Friends You Can Depend On

Disclosure: I am participating in a Vibrant Influencer Network campaign for Depend. I am receiving a fee for posting; however, the opinions expressed in this post are my own. I am in no way affiliated with Depend and do not earn a commission or percent of sales

Okay, gals, I’m gonna go there: What happens when we start to leak?

I’ve certainly had occasions of laughing with friends or trekking a strenuous hike when I wondered, “Did I just pee a little?”

main_exerciseWell, our friends at Depend® are here to help. Aging Gals everywhere can continue to lead active lives — laughing and hiking and more — thanks to Depend Underwear with new Fit-Flex Protection.

In fact, this underwear feels just like that — underwear. It flexes with our legs’ movements, has Lycra® strands for a smooth fit, and is reinforced with a soft underwear-like waistband for comfort. Plus, it absorbs and traps in odor, so we don’t have to lose our confidence.

Check out the Depend website and see for yourself. Watch the Real People videos. And, if you’re still not convinced, request a free sample to try on your own!

Plus, you can find tips on managing your condition. They have advice that leads to better health for all of us, such as pay attention to your diet and drink six to seven 8 oz. glasses of water a day. Some foods — citrus fruits — and drinks — caffeine, alcohol — can irritate the bladder; learn what triggers your leakage and eliminate them from your diet. Not only can staying hydrated keep the lining of the bladder from getting irritated, but it dilutes urine and prevents that strong smell.

Above all, don’t let leakage keep you from living your life. Keep moving, learning, and thriving and let Depend® assist when necessary. After all, isn’t that what friends are for?

 

I Am Always Ready for Reddi-wip

Time to fess up, Aging Gals: Aren’t we all watching our weight these days? Well, that doesn’t mean we have to miss the most important meal of the day — dessert!

My favorite spring and summer time dessert is fresh berries top with a dollop (or two) of Reddi-wip®. My recipe is so easy even a non-cook like me can make it: wash berries and top with Reddi-wip!

In this photo I spooned raspberries together with blueberries and finished it all off with my favorite: Fat-Free Reddi-wip®.get-attachment

It’s a perfectly patriotic dessert for July 4th… or everyday! (I call it Aging Gal’s Antioxidants with Cream.) The Fat-Free Reddi-wip has only five — yes, five! — calories per serving. I must use more calories than that just eating this delicious treat!

Reddi-wip® tastes so good because it has always been made with real dairy cream — never hydrogenated oils like some other whipped toppings. You can also try Original, Extra Creamy and Chocolate Reddi-wip; each has just 15 calories per serving.

Redd-wipAnd — as if the joy of eating Reddi-wip isn’t reward enough — now through July 7, 2014, consumers can share their everyday Reddi-wip® berry-licious moments on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook for the chance to win a trip for two as well as weekly prizes! Simply Share, Tweet or Tag a pic with #BerryJoyfulSweeps!

If you’re more of a gourmet than me, check out this link for recipe inspiration using Reddi-wip®: http://bit.ly/1lRfDUD

And here’s where to share your love for Reddi-wip® on social media:

reddi-wip-sweepsNow excuse me, but after all this writing about my favorite guilt-free treat, I’m going to indulge in those heavenly berries and Reddi-wip. Who’s with me?

Disclosure: I am participating in a Vibrant Influencer network campaign for Reddi-wip. I am receiving a fee for posting; however, the opinions expressed in this post are my own. I am in no way affiliated with Reddi-wip and do not earn a commission or percent of sales.

Last Gun in America

Twelve year old Casey Wilcott was declared the winner today. By default.

gun-control“He was always most comfortable with a gun in his hand,” Casey’s proud mother would have said if she was still here.

“Casey is clearly the best shooter in the 6th grade, probably in the whole school. Nobody handles an Uzi like Casey.” These were the last words of Principal Miller of Williamette Middle School before being gunned down.

If Casey’s classmates were still alive, they would give Casey one last wedgie and tease him about mining for gold up his nose. Alas, Casey made sure they can tease no more.

Of course, Casey will now be forever attached to his reviled braces after shooting his dentist dead during his last orthodontic adjustment. Casey should have pulled the trigger after his orthodontia was removed. But then hindsight, like Casey’s aim, is 20/20.

Now Casey has literally no one to bully him, love him, worry over him, or fix his overbite. But no matter, like some old episode of The Twilight Zone or Grimm’s Fairy Tale, he is the last man/boy standing. He is the king of the world. Or at least of America.

As he ages and his hormones get the best of him, Casey could try to make his way to Canada, or swim an ocean to Australia or Europe with the intention of procreating, but he would, sadly, have to leave his arsenal — and his talent for wielding it — at home.

Again, no worries. No doubt whatever Casey decides will be the right decision. The best choice for him. Because, now, he is all that matters.

How I Got My SAG Card

It used to be that getting your SAG – or Screen Actors Guild – card was a big deal for actors who wanted to act onscreen. It was a big deal because it was so incredibly difficult… in a Marxian way. Not Karl, but Groucho. The only way to join was if you did union work. And you couldn’t get union work because you, well, weren’t in the union. Another club that didn’t want me as a member. As a young actress, I was, of course, dying to get in. This is the unlikely story as to how I finally did.

Dateline: Los Angeles, 1991SAG Logo

I was working as an assistant to an executive producer who had created a primetime puppet show. Yes, puppet. As in the Jim Henson family of puppets. (No, my boss wasn’t Jim Henson, may he rest in peace.)

My boss didn’t create the puppets. He just thought he created the world.

Other than being obsessed with himself, this boss was also obsessed with – of all things – the promotional posters used in advertising the puppet show. Posters, really?

Let me back up a bit more and write this story in chronological order.

I didn’t start off working for this executive producer (How ‘bout I call him EP from now on?). No, I began this decade (1990) working as an assistant to a former boss who I had known and loved. But she was a co-executive producer on another show run by EP. So the EP would hang around not only his puppet show, but this other show as well.

And one day in a meeting where my boss and the EP were pitching stories, I made the mistake of massaging the EP’s shoulders briefly. It was a nice thing to do, I thought. Little did I know this would lead to my downfall.

Because after a few minutes of this friendly shoulder massage he grabbed my wrist and instructed me to keep massaging. So I did. What was I gonna say?

I ended up massaging his shoulders for two hours that day. This is closest I’ve ever come to a casting couch. From then on, if at all possible, I steered clear of the pitch room.

But that two-hour massage was enough. EP loved me after that. So, later in the year, when his assistant announced that she was leaving, EP told my boss that he wanted me to be her replacement.

My boss encouraged the switch. “It’s a good move for you. He is the head honcho, after all…”

And so I became the right-hand woman to the big boss, the EP.

In the meantime, I had started being trained by his current assistant in their offices a floor below. She was leaving to get married or have a baby – I don’t remember. But I do remember how haggard she looked. Like she couldn’t wait to dance into the sunset – or run.

I also started hearing stories of how EP liked to be “babied” with, for example, homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or, you got it, neck massages.

So, within a week or two, we made the transition. I was EP’s new mother, er, assistant.

One of the first phone calls I got as the new assistant was from someone on the crew asking if he could have one of the show’s publicity posters. These were posters of the various puppets on the show, shot in couplings and situations to elicit mirth from even the most brain-dead of television viewers.

I don’t remember when the friction started between EP and me, but I do know the fact that I no longer was the “mistress” giving massages and was now the “wife” who refused to make widdle-biddy-baby a PB&J didn’t help the situation. And, frankly, I didn’t care. I was an executive assistant, not a professional coddler. (And yet the latter is exactly what 99% of show runners want in an assistant.)

I could see EP getting cranky about my refusal to change his diapers and wipe his butt, but what really surprised me was his anger at the fact that I’d given away a few of his publicity posters.

“I told you to always ask me before giving away these posters.”

I didn’t remember this conversation, but okay. “I only gave one to the studio publicist who called and asked for a poster for the photographer who took the pictures.”

“I DON”T CARE,” I remember him bellowing from the same mountain upon which Moses delivered the Ten Commandments. “ASK ME FIRST!”

Evidently, I didn’t realize that these posters were, in fact, gold. If only eBay had existed in 1991.

But the shit really hit the fan on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

I had used my lunch hour to get my hair cut and told the other assistants where I’d be. I was sitting in my chair, chatting with my hairdresser, when the salon’s phone rang (remember this was before the ubiquity of cell phones). My hairdresser answered the phone, looked at me with perplexity, then walked over — extending the cord a good twenty feet — and handed me the phone.

“It’s for you.”

From the receiver streamed such histrionic vitriol that I had to hold the phone away from my ear. Even my barber was stunned. EP spat at me so viciously that spittle practically flew from the earpiece. The call ended as abruptly and abusively as it started.

After taking my beating, I lowered my head and silently cried through the snip, snip of scissors.

I arrived back at the office and could see past the bullpen of assistants’ desks to the large corner office that was the EP’s. He was pacing like a tiger. Back and forth.

He saw me and motioned me in. The moment I was past the threshold, he released the door’s magnet and it closed behind me.

“I quit.” This was gonna be an ugly mess, but at least I got in the first words.

“I told you not to give away my POSTERS!” I felt like Christina Crawford in the showdown with the wire hangers.

I was already crying ugly, snot running, dry-heaving. But – dammit – I would have my say. “It was your wife who asked for them. She said you wouldn’t mind.”

“Oh, I MIND alright!” He gesticulated to the credenza behind his desk. “Those posters are more important than THESE!” He pointed to the photos of his children. To this day, I don’t know if he meant the posters were more valuable than his children’s pictures or than HIS ACTUAL CHILDREN.

Through the kind of abominable sobs only a twenty-something girl can emote, I said, “I give you my two weeks notice.” Then I walked out and sat at my desk in the bullpen.

Cut to:

The Monday after the four-day Thanksgiving holiday.

I went back to work, honoring my two weeks notice. And, ironically, after some downtime and a likely chat with his wife, Attila the Hun came to me with remorse. No, he didn’t apologize exactly, but he did tell me he’d like to “help me get started in the field I want to work in.” He had helped a previous assistant get a job working with a director, is that what I want to do?

“No,” I said, “I want to be an actor. You can give me a line on the show and those few minutes of work will pay as much as my salary for the week. The extra income will also help as I look for another job.”

“Oh,” he replied, “I can’t do that. EVERYBODY wants a line on the show. Every wife, sister, nanny. EVERYBODY.”

“Okay,” I said. “But if you’d like to help me that’s what I want.”

————————————————————————–

My line on the show was, “Hi, my name’s Lynn, and I’m having trouble with my boss.”

The irony of this line was not lost on either one of us.

And, that, is how I got my SAG card.

Circus Freaks

I went with Bitty to a casual business lunch the other day. Her cohort really wanted to meet me.

“Everyone’s fascinated by the gays,” Bitty said.mosbyauction_-ringlingbrossideshow_medium

“It’s like we’re the Siamese twins I saw in the circus when I was twelve,” I said. “They were watching TV in a trailer and laying on a bean bag.”

“That explains a lot,” Bitty said.

“Yeah, I’ve never been the same since.”

“So you’re saying we should join the circus?” Bitty asked.

“I could spend the summer inside the A/C watching TV,” I said. “Plus, I’ve got a beanbag chair.”

“Might as well make money off your slothfulness,” Bitty said.

“Step right up and see the Gays behaving as boringly as everyone else,” I announced in my best P.T. Barnum.

“Cue the calliope!” Bitty said, humming the high-pitched circus music.

“Come to think about it, everybody has some freak flag to fly,” I said. “So everyone we know can join the circus with us.”

So who’s with us? Any other circus freaks ready to join us on an adventure? First dibs on the TV!

Star Wars Episode VII: Visiting the ADHC

Old Han1Yippee, there’s a new Star Wars movie on the horizon and, hurray, all the original 1977 cast members are returning! So it’s set in an adult day health care center, right? Let’s get a preview of where they are now: As a result of a critical cloud car crash, Luke Skywalker went through extensive rehab. This led to his patent pending invention, Skywalker (TM). It’s a walker for Galaxy boomers — those from a long time ago and far, far away. The device even allows for yoga-style exercises which Luke is also developing under the name Death Evader.

Alas, studly Hans Solo found himself pained with gout and prostate issues. But it was worry over loss of testosterone and a mid-life crisis that led to an affair with Ally McBeal and a subsequent divorce from Princess Leia.sw-poster-43

Princess Leia has battled both the bottle and an addiction to Chips Ahoy. Ironically, it was the attention of her former captor Jabba the Hutt that brought Leia to her senses. He convinced her that all men are giant worms, whether literally or figuratively, and that she had too much to offer not to move forward with her life. Leia is now a born again Christian and organizer of AA meetings at the Creature Cantina.