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Thursday, February 24, 2022

Quick Ways to Get Rid of Lower Back Pain

Achy backs are more common as we get older. Most short-term pain can be resolved with one of these simple methods.    

Back pain - almost everyone gets it at some point. It can be anywhere from annoying to absolutely debilitating. As long as your backache is not due to a serious medical condition but arises from overuse or strain, there are several strategies that can get you back to normal. Be sure to discuss home treatment with your doctor before trying these remedies.
  • Hot and cold treatment. Sore or pulled muscles, muscles aching from common causes such as spinal stenosis, or those hurting due to a collision or fall, may be helped by applying hot and/or cold to the area. The type of pain will control which therapy might work best. Acute pain responds best to cold therapy followed by heat. Chronic discomfort often eases up with repeated mild heat treatments. If your pain comes after a recent workout, go for an ice bag. Hot and cold packs can be purchased, or you can make your own at home
  • Consistent stretching. Gentle stretching exercises are beneficial all the time, but especially when back soreness is present. A few yoga poses are helpful: the child’s pose, cow/cat stretch, and sphinx pose.

What if I Need Something More?

Manipulation may be a welcome option, whether by a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.), chiropractor, or massage therapist.

Some back pain sufferers have pain that won’t resolve with natural means. If your doctor approves, you may want to try transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) that delivers mild electric pulses to nerves in order to block pain signals. Biofeedback may also help by training your brain to control how it responds to pain. Finally, a corticosteroid injection can help to battle inflammation. Usually, your doctor will continue to recommend exercise and stretching as the best long-term means to control pain.

  • Exercise. Your brain may be telling you to be still, but the right types of exercise can relieve discomfort much faster than bed rest. Make sure you discuss exercise with your physician, who can ensure you’re making the right moves. For instance, toe touches and sit-ups are not recommended since they add stress to the spine. Remember not to do anything jarring, but stick to slow, controlled movement. One exercise that may help is stretching your hamstrings daily. You can also use tools, such as a foam roller, or tennis balls, to target specific areas and vary your exercise routine. 
  • Get good shoes. Shoes that are good to your feet can make a huge difference in how your back feels. Find a pair with good arch support and plenty of cushiness to absorb some of the shock every time you take a step. Ladies, ditch the high heels - and the kitten heels, too. You want a level surface to walk on. Size matters. Find a pair that are not too big (these can cause you to alter your gait) or too small (the pain of constriction isn’t good for your foot joints and can make you walk oddly). Orthopedic insoles can do wonders, and the cheaper ones at the store usually do the job well.
  • Reduce stress. Tension caused by prolonged stress and anxiety harms your body in a variety of ways, and it may cause back muscles to tense up, exacerbating or causing backache. Stress can also be a source of more time spent sitting, such as when you’re putting in more hours on a work project. If it’s causing you to exercise less, no matter if you’re lying on a couch or at a desk, stress is hurting your body. Fighting stress can be difficult, but the effort will be worth it. Meditation has proven very beneficial to keep your mind from racing and center on the here and now. Taking time for yourself — to relax, eat better, and spend time with loved ones — may be just what you need to make your back feel better.
  • Sleep like a baby. Rest is an important component of having a happy back. When you sleep, tissues heal and your entire body recharges. It can be hard to fall comfortably asleep when you are suffering with back pain. Try lying on your side with a pillow between your knees to keep your spine straight and take pressure off your back. For back sleepers, it’s helpful to slip a pillow under your knees. Also, make sure your mattress isn’t too soft or worn out.

None of these remedies is likely to work in isolation, or with a single try. All of them are sound habits to begin to instill in your life. If you can adopt them, you’re very likely to have backaches less often and for shorter periods of time. Natural, safe practices are the best way to improve overall health and get rid of back pain.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

What to Do When You’re the Executor

Being the executor of an estate is a complicated task. Knowing what you’re in for can help you prepare.

You may be the executor for a parent or close friend. Accepting this responsibility is the kind, decent thing to do. But you may have no idea what to prepare for, and the task ahead of you is often daunting. It will make a big difference if you know what you may be in for and how to get ready before the person dies. States differ somewhat in how probate is handled, but the following are general guidelines.

Prior to Death

For instance, if the person is sick or older and anticipating death, and has any heirs who may possibly squabble over the will, it is smart to include a directive that states that anyone who argues with their wishes will be eliminated from the will. You may also be able to check if brokerage accounts have beneficiaries listed, and if bank accounts have a “payable on death” clause, both of which can relieve you of the need to manage them after the person’s death. 

Be sure that beneficiaries are listed on life insurance and retirement accounts, and that they reflect current wishes. It’s been known to happen that spouse No. 1 was still listed as the beneficiary at the time of death when the deceased was married to spouse No. 3. In that case, the first spouse gets the money on those accounts.

Many personal possessions can be given away, and arrangements made for pets and plants. Hopefully, you can get a list of passwords for accounts and even a list of bills. If their computer saves passwords, then just getting the main one for the computer may be all you need as the rest will autofill. Preparing a digital estate plan will relieve an enormous amount of headache later on. An obituary can be written and funeral or cremation plans made ahead of time. Often, it gives the dying person some comfort to be involved in the process.

First Steps as Executor
The first week or longer after a loved one dies can be a blur as you are grieving and absorbing the changes taking place in your own life. Don’t hesitate to lean on friends and family members to help out. Being the executor does not mean that you have to do everything alone. 

When someone dies, you’ll need to get a legal pronouncement of death. States differ, but this can come from a hospice nurse, a local medical examiner, or a doctor. The body must be taken for cremation or preparation for burial, and a funeral or memorial service planned. You may opt for an online memorial service. Here are some ideas for how to create a service over the internet.

The funeral home can also secure certified copies of the death certificate. These may be inexpensive but there is a cost. Some organizations will take a copy that is not certified, but you must ask. You’ll need them to shut bank and brokerage accounts, file insurance claims, end Social Security payments, etc. Get several so you’ll have them when you need them.

Pets must immediately be cared for, placed in boarding or taken to a shelter. The property should be secured, and mail forwarded to you so it doesn’t build up. Receiving the mail can also be a helpful way to find the person’s assets and bills. If the person was working, the employer should be notified of the death and asked about company life insurance, as well as making arrangements for pay that is owed. 

Do You Need Professional Help? 

Hopefully, you already have a copy of the will, passwords to bank and brokerage accounts, and knowledge of safe deposit boxes and anywhere else assets may be located. At this point, you need to make some decisions about who will need to be involved.

First, determine if you’ll need to go through probate. States vary, but the following assets do NOT need to be probated:
  • Real estate and joint tenancy assets passed to a surviving joint tenant.
  • Bank accounts and securities registered to beneficiaries as “payable on death”.
  • IRA and other retirement account funds that have named beneficiaries.
  • Assets held in trust (such as living trusts) that have named beneficiaries.

Next, decide if you need a lawyer. This may be prudent if it’s a complicated estate, has significant tax liabilities, or heirs are already disputing the will. You can hire a lawyer to act as a “coach” by answering legal questions, researching, and looking over documents before you sign. Or, you can hire a lawyer to take over handling the estate, for which she may be paid a lump sum or charge an hourly rate. You may ask the lawyer if you need trustee liability insurance to protect yourself if you’re managing a big estate or dealing with squabbling heirs. 

If you don’t need, or want to pay for, a lawyer but want a little help, the probate clerk may answer basic questions, just nothing about your particular case. Some courts have staff lawyers who will look over your probate papers and tell you how to fix errors. You can also consult an online source or book, such as Mary Randolph’s The Executor’s Guide: Settling a Loved One’s Estate or Trust.

Financial and Legal Work

You’ll need to file the will in local probate court and make sure anyone who is a beneficiary is notified. You may also need to notify people who thought they would be included, or those who would have inherited if there had been no will.

Locate and manage all of the assets included in the estate. This includes real estate, securities, cash, jewelry, a business — the gamut. You must take care of day-to-day details such as bills due, terminating subscription contracts, notifying government agencies of the death, terminating cell phone contracts, etc. Pay any continuing expenses such as a mortgage and utilities and file a final tax return. You will pay debts and notify any creditors of the probate proceeding, after which they have several months to file a claim for payment. 

You will distribute any property or cash to people and organizations named in the will. When debts and taxes have all been paid and finalized, ask the probate court to formally close the estate.

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. The best-laid plans can come with hidden tasks, such as the man who found out a living trust can become its own entity in need of a tax number and a return filed with the IRS. Remember that help is available if you need it, and not everything has to be done in a day. Get to the most urgent duties first, and space out the rest. This, too, shall pass.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Online Learning Opportunities

Retirement is a time for exploring and learning. A vast array of online educational opportunities await, and some are free.     

Have you ever wanted to take a class at a top university, but you couldn’t afford it? Are you a little bored in retirement and looking for a way to keep your brain active and engaged? Do you feel like you missed out on your educational goals, but now you have the time to pursue them? Are you looking for an interesting experience that is a little out of the ordinary, taught by someone who is at the top of their field? Not ready to end your career, but you want to work in a different field? Sounds like you’re ready for online classes.

MOOC Lowers the Bar

The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) movement has opened the field for learning anywhere there is high-speed internet. Often these excellent classes are offered at little or no cost, and you don’t have to meet any prerequisites to sign up. You can take classes from MIT, Harvard, and Yale that you may have dreamed about but knew you could never afford. There’s no driving involved, and you can often take them at your own pace. 

Travel Learning

Make new friends while traveling far or near with a trio of offerings that combine globetrotting with learning. 
  1. Earthwatch Institute is a nonprofit that connects top scientists with laymen on its expeditions, where you’ll work on research projects and analyze data. Choose a location and project according to your interests, but read the fine print about how fit you need to be to carry it out. Pick something within your ability, then book your experience!
  2. Oxford University Summer School for Adults is a residential summer program that offers 60 accredited courses, each a week long, over a five-week period in central Oxford. Classes max out at 10 students of all ages studying a broad array of topics from architecture to theology. Live on campus or in town. 
  3. Road Scholar offers hundreds of educational travel adventures both inside and beyond U.S. borders. Join fellow birders, attend an archeological dig, ride a camel in Egypt … opportunities abound. Lodgings are usually comfortable but not high-end, and trips invariably emphasize learning paired with related destinations.
Most of the free classes offer nothing but the satisfaction of the knowledge you gain. An added bonus may be that there is no pressure from quizzes or tests. Some, though, offer a certificate of completion, often at a nominal cost, if that’s important to you. There’s no limit to how many classes you can take, and you can sample a variety of classes from different universities. 

Where to Start

Ground zero is the edX website, an online clearinghouse created in 2012 that is the joint brainchild of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. Their vision: “As a mission-driven organization, we’re relentlessly pursuing our vision of a world where every learner can access education to unlock their potential, without the barriers of cost or location.” 

Millions of students use it every year to take over 3,000 diverse classes in subjects from negotiation to Chinese to cloud computing. Imagine the change that so much knowledge creates — and you can be a part of it! 

Once on the platform, you can sort by level, subject, learning institution, or type of class. You’ll be learning from the best with MIT, Harvard, Caltech, the Sorbonne, Cornell, Dartmouth, Stanford and the like participating. That’s right: you, too, can be an Ivy Leaguer. All of the courses are self-paced, so you can take a month or a year to finish. Studying can take place in your home, the library, your favorite coffee shop, or a combination of all three. 

Another route to take is via Coursera, which offers everything from one-day courses to master’s degrees from such varied institutions as Rice University and the University of Sydney. There’s a wide selection of free courses from both universities and companies, but be aware that degree programs and some classes are for a fee. 

Udemy has more than 183,000 video courses that start at $14.99. If you have ever wanted to learn coding, web development, JavaScript, Excel, data science, or drawing, this may be the platform for you. Courses feature real reviews, often by more than 100,000 users, that are useful when narrowing down your choices. 


In a class of its own is the renowned MasterClass. These are not your typical university classes, but presentations brought to you by world-class experts in the topic. Learn about songwriting and production from Mariah Carey, or let Gordon Ramsay show you how to prepare restaurant favorites at home. 

More than 100 classes are offered, each comprised of about 20 lessons of 10 minutes each. Choose from community and government, where a past president may be your instructor, or delve into writing, business, wellness, style, sports, and more. An annual subscription gives access to the whole library of classes and any new ones that launch that year for $180. 

No matter what your interest, if you want a degree or a short learning session, if you have nothing to spend or plenty, there’s an educational experience out there that meets your needs. 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Save Your Overloaded Inbox With Burner Email

Inundated with email you don’t want or need? Save yourself with burner email.     

Spam. It arrives in your inbox in a constant stream. Every once in a while you take time to send it to your spam folder, but wait a week and more useless emails appear. Dealing with it is a waste of time and energy, but what can you do? Enter burner email.

“Burner” is tech talk for a device or software that isn’t meant to be around forever and isn’t connected to your true identity. Yes, criminals may make use of burner phones in particular, but you, Joe or Jane Good Citizen, can employ burner email in a perfectly legitimate fashion to protect your privacy and make life simpler. 

Apple Walking Steadiness and Legacy

While you’re at it, Apple users should check out a couple of features that have recently been made available. Activate Walking Steadiness in the health app (the white one with a heart that you’ve probably been using to keep track of your activity) and it will continually assess your walking patterns and alert you if you are unsteady and at risk of falling. 

Legacy lets you set up trusted contact access to your iPhone upon your death. This can be a lifesaver for someone who is trying to notify friends of a memorial service, settle bank statements, file your final tax return, etc. It can be a spouse or a trusted attorney or financial advisor. The Legacy contact can only access specific types of data, and only after you have passed away.

Why You Need It

Have you ever been on a site that insists on getting your email before you can use their service? Or maybe you don’t trust that the people on the other end won’t sell your email to all and sundry. Maybe you suspect their security isn’t all that great, or that your data could be uploaded to a social media site where you’ll be tracked and targeted. Or maybe you’re just sick of going through 50 emails a day to get to the ones you actually want. You need burner email.

Five Ways to Use Burner Email
  1. Protect your privacy. You may have a personal and perhaps a work email. Two accounts, but hundreds of online accounts know who you are through them. Your email address identifies who you are and makes you a target.
  2. Add security. Because many online accounts, such as banking and shopping (think Amazon), are linked to one email, having one get hacked means you’re at risk on all of them. It’s called scraping and it doesn’t need to happen to you. 
  3. Try out content. Some accounts won’t let you get to the service without registering your email. You can’t use a coupon or read a white paper without giving away your identity. Want to avoid follow-up sales promotions? Use a burner email.
  4. Checking out other opinions. It’s a crazy world out there, full of many opposing viewpoints. If you want to explore opinions that aren’t your own but aren’t comfortable leaving your email address, a burner is for you. 
  5. Spam. You unsubscribed from three lists, but 10 more pop up. You don’t even know where they’re coming from anymore, but they’re driving you crazy. Burner email to the rescue.

When You Shouldn’t Use Burner Email

While burner accounts have loads of uses, there are times you still need to use an email linked to your personal information. If it’s important and/or confidential, use your main email. This includes communicating with your child’s school, your bank, job applications and much more. 

How to Get Burner Email

There are plenty of burner email services out there to choose from. Some are free, and others charge a monthly service fee. If that’s what you choose to use, do your homework first and research the company’s reputation among leading tech blogs and journals. But there are a couple of services that are free or super cheap and come with sterling reputations.

Firefox Relay comes from nonprofit Mozilla, the company that offers the trusted Firefox web browser. Firefox Relay lets you create email addresses that will forward to your main inbox. If the site starts inundating you with unwanted mail, it’s easy to close the burner email and your problem will go away.

Apple is known for keeping its customers’ information private. The release of iOS 15 heralded a service called “Hide My Mail.” It’s available to anyone using the iOS update as long as you also pay for iCloud storage, which starts at $0.99 per month for 50GB. Access it through the Settings app, enter your Apple ID, tap iCloud, then Hide My Mail, then Create New Address. You can create as many burner emails as you need, and they’ll forward messages to your regular email account, or any account you prefer.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Is Expired Food Any Good?

We’ve been taught to throw out expired food, just to be on the “safe” side. But nearly all of it is fine to eat.     

Forty percent of food produced in America is headed for a landfill. A landmark study found that the average American family tosses out food worth between $1,365 and $2,275 every single year. Part of the problem is our system of labeling foods with “Use by,” “Sell by” and “Best by” dates. In fact, to call it a “system” isn’t very accurate.

For instance, did you know that fresh eggs will last three to five weeks in your refrigerator, although you need to store them on a shelf, not in the door. A good test is to put the egg in a bowl of water; if it sinks, it’s still plenty fresh. And if you have more eggs than you can use, lightly beat them before putting them in a tightly sealed container to store in the freezer for up to a year or so.

Expiration Dates Are Erratic

The only foods in the U.S. that have a hard expiration date are infant formula, some baby foods, and milk from certain states. In fact, with the aforementioned exceptions, date labels on U.S. foods are not standardized and have almost nothing to do with food safety. They started as a service by manufacturers to help grocers rotate stock in the years following World War II, as grocery stores grew and products were shipped across the country. 

How To Extend Shelf Life

Start by checking the temperature where food is stored. Kitchen cabinets should be between 50 degrees F and 70 degrees F (your room temperature). Keep your fridge at 37 degrees F and your freezer at 0 degrees F or below. 

Dry goods need to be stored in airtight containers, which will keep out bacteria and moisture. When you prep foods for storage in the freezer, wrap them tightly and mark them with the date. Check out Consumer Reports for strategies on how to store 17 specific foods. One tip: never store bread or chocolate in the refrigerator.

However, savvy shoppers wanted the freshest food, and booklets cracking the expiration codes began circulating for their use. Seeing this, producers began to put uncoded dates on their products to show consumers the food they offered was fresh. But there was nothing consistent about them. With no federal guidelines, some states passed laws that standardized labeling for some foods. For instance, some states set the freshness label on milk at 14 days after bottling, others set the same threshold at 21 days, and still other states have no standard at all. 

Furthermore, we have dates that mean “best by” from some producers, “sell by” from others, and “best if used before” on other products. The average shopper may not stop to consider the difference in the three terms:

Best By: Refers to the last day to use the product when quality and taste will be highest. It’s always set by the food manufacturer and has no correlation to safety. 

Sell By: Lets the store know when to pull food off the shelf. It is a guideline (and it may even be in the producer’s interest to make this time period brief) and has nothing to do with safety or even how tasty the food is.

Best if Used Before: This moniker refers only to food flavor, texture, or perceived quality. Producers label their foods with this date to avoid having a customer buy a product that may be slightly off in flavor, texture, color, etc. and associate it with the brand. 

Why doesn’t Congress do something about this mishmash of laws and lack of regulation? A bill known as the Food Date Labeling Act was introduced in 2019 but it is languishing in committee. 

About the only food that is really dangerous to eat long after purchase is deli food, or other prepared foods that are left at out at room temperature and not refrigerated. If cooked foods have been left out on the counter for more than two hours, or one hour if the temperature is more than 90 degrees, do not trust them even if they were moved to the fridge. Another caveat is to be aware of the signs of spoilage in canned food:  
  • A bulging can or lid, or a broken seal.
  • Any sign of corrosion.
  • Food that has seeped out under the lid.
  • Gas, indicated by bubbles moving upward when you open the jar.
  • Food that appears moldy, cloudy, or mushy.
And what about milk? If pasteurized milk gets too old, it will turn sour but it won’t hurt you. In fact, it can replace buttermilk or sour cream in baked goods, tenderize meat or be added to soups, casseroles, and salad dressings. Go here for recipes. Don’t throw out your butter, either, which lasts a couple of months in the fridge, or five to nine months in the freezer. Cheeses can be frozen for up to six months. What about cheese you forgot about and left in the fridge? Hard cheeses that pass the smell test are fine to eat (consider them more aged), while soft cheeses such as brie and feta retain moisture and are best avoided. You probably want to cut off the mold, but the Mayo Clinic says it’s not dangerous for healthy adults. 

We hope this information helps you to save money and maybe even some space in your local landfill. Of course, if you have a health condition you should consult your doctor about food safety, but most adults can safely eat a wide variety of foods past the date stamped on the container. You can toast to that - unopened liquor has an indefinite shelf life, and opened bottles usually retain flavor and color for about two years.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

February 13 - Denise Austin, fitness instructor, author

With magnificent teeth, blonde hair, and a tan that never fades, Denise Austin was made for the spotlight. This California girl started gymnastics at age 12 and wound up being nationally ranked on the balance beam (ninth). She had plenty of brains to go with that flexible body and graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and a minor in exercise physiology.

She immediately began teaching fitness classes, creating a burgeoning business with videos and TV shows, writing columns and books to expand her reach. Austin was a huge success and served on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under George W. Bush during both of his terms in office. 

This savvy entrepreneur was also the initial spokesperson for the Reebok Freestyle sneaker, the first shoe created just for women. “I absolutely loved this time in my career,” she says. “I was the first spokesperson for the very first aerobic shoe.” She is also known for staying away from fad diets, preferring portion control at meals. Austin also prefers to eat butter and sugar instead of margarine and artificial sweeteners, but she uses very little of those and integrates yoga, Pilates, cross-training, and aerobic exercise into her workouts.

She married a fellow fitness buff, former tennis player Jeff Austin, brother to U.S. Open champion Tracy Austin. They have two daughters, Kelly and Katie, the latter of whom is a fitness teacher like her mom.

Image Source: Wikipedia

February 16 - LeVar Burton, actor

You may well remember LeVar Burton in his role as the young Kunta Kinte in the groundbreaking miniseries Roots, or as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, or perhaps you or your kids have seen him on the PBS educational show Reading Rainbow, which he hosted for more than 23 years. A phenomenal actor and producer, LeVar has also taken roles in a broad range of movies, and won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.

Burton was raised Roman Catholic and he joined the seminary with the intention of becoming a priest as a teen. He began to question his faith at 17 and turned his sights toward acting. At the still-tender age of 19, he was awarded the role on Roots that would catapult him to fame and for which he got an Emmy nomination. 

In 1983, Burton began hosting and executive producing Reading Rainbow for PBS. He and a partner successfully reimagined the show for the iPad, anticipating the massive move to online education. But Burton had yet another iconic role in Star Trek: The Next Generation, where his character is blind but obtains sight with the use of a “VISOR” worn over his eyes. In fact, his character became better known in the U.S. than that of the starship commander, played by Patrick Stewart. 

You can catch Burton on his podcast, LeVar Burton Reads, where each episode features him narrating a short story. He is married with two children and resides in Sherman Oaks, California.


Image Source: Wikipedia

February 18 - Vanna White, TV host

Who listed her Beverly Hills home in 2017 for $47.5 million? Pat Sajak’s sidekick on Wheel of Fortune, Vanna White. There’s evidently plenty of money in letter-turning! 

White was raised by a single mom and attended The Atlanta School of Fashion and Design, working as a model on the side and competing for Miss Georgia USA in 1978 before deciding to head to the West Coast to try a career in acting. She returned to her home in South Carolina shortly afterward, however, after learning that her mother was dying of ovarian cancer. 

In 1982, White began her storied tenure on the Wheel of Fortune, where she has encouraged each and every contestant, clapping an average of 606 times per show. The clapping won her a Guinness World Record certificate for most frequent clapper on May 24, 2013, when it was estimated she had clapped a minimum of 3,480,864 times! 

Another fun fact: White loves to crochet when she has downtime on the set. It’s a skill her grandmother originally taught her, and that she took up again when a pregnant hairdresser was crocheting a baby blanket. White asked if the hairdresser would refresh her memory on the art of crocheting, and she’s been making good use of her spare time ever since. Another hobby that earns the host a little more money is real estate. White invests in apartment buildings and also enjoys flipping houses.

White is married with two children who have been frequent visitors to Wheel of Fortune. Her daughter Gigi (Giovanna) has often appeared with her mom on the show. White is a Baptist and philanthropist, donating more than $1 million to St. Jude’s Research Hospital. 


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors