A Perfect Birthday

I was 70 years old on Saturday. When friends had asked what I wanted to do on the day of my birthday to celebrate, knowing me, they were not surprised to learn that I wanted to have a party at the Equinox Sports Club New York that would include a yoga class for all my guests.

Related Post: My Home Away From Home

Thanks to the support of Monique Dash, the group fitness manager at the Club that’s what happened on Saturday afternoon. Thirty of my friends joined me for a gentle yoga class and celebration planned by Whitney Chapman, one of my long-time teachers.

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The beautiful, sun-flooded yoga studio was all set –up when we walked in; mats were facing the windows and the New York skyline. The energy in the room was palpable as we all chanted “OM.” One of my other instructors, Jeanene Garro, shared the teaching with Whitney. They were an incredible team.

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As the class was ending, Whitney asked everyone to bring the cardboard container that was next to their mat and form a circle around me. The containers were filled rose petals. One –by –one, my friends looked me directly in the eye and made a one-word wish for my future; which was sealed by showering me with rose petals.

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There were multiple wishes for love, health, magic, adventure, companionship, and fulfillment. My friend Dede Brown, one of the founders of the Spinsters Union, was the last to step forward. In a booming voice, she shared her wish for me: “Great, passionate sex!!!” “Amen!” shouted my friends as rose petals rained down.

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A yoga party was the perfect way to celebrate this Milestone Birthday.

Related Post: Milestone Birthdays

I feel blessed and loved as I begin a new chapter of my life.

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A Visit to the Dermatologist

As part of this summer’s countdown to my 70th birthday, I scheduled a series of doctor’s appointments. I’ve been fortunate health wise. I have no chronic conditions; I’ve never been hospitalized, and I’ve never had surgery. My intention is to keep it that way. I wanted t make sure that if there were any potential problems, I’d catch them at an early stage.

In the last two months, I’ve seen my eye doctor, general practitioner, dentist, and gynecologist. All delivered good news. “The cataract in your right eye hasn’t changed. No need for surgery.”“ Marian, your test results are good. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing.” No new prescriptions. No problems.

My most recent appointment was with my dermatologist. I was nervous before this one. I wondered if the stupid use of a sun reflector when I was in college and the endless hours I spent in the blazing sun during my years representing the scuba diving industry had done more serious damage than the freckles that dotted my skin. Were the hated bumps and blotches that had sprouted on my body like a garden out of control more than an annoyance?

Marian Rivman - poolside in the Caribbean. Photo Credit: Pechter Photo
Marian Rivman – poolside in the Caribbean. Photo Credit: Pechter Photo

My concerns were not unfounded. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

Dr. Lisa Travis at Upper West Side Dermatology listened to my concerns and patiently answered all my questions. Then she pulled out a magnifying glass and examined my body head to toe, inch by inch.

She determined that the blotches and bumps I loathed were Seborrheic Keratoses, common, non-contagious skin growths that can appear anywhere on the skin in middle-aged and older adults. (An unwelcome gift of aging????) Some people get just one. Most people have many. Too bad, I’m in the latter category.

Seborrheic keratoses - a common skin growth.
Seborrheic Keratoses – a common skin growth.

According to the AAD, most Seborrheic Keratoses do not require care. However, they recommend you see a dermatologist if:

  • The growth grows quickly, turns black, itches, or bleeds (possible signs of skin cancer).
  • Many new skin growths suddenly appear. This can be a sign of cancer inside the body.
  • Your skin growth does not look like a typical seborrheic keratosis.
  • Your growth is dry, flat, rough, and scaly. It could be an actinic keratosis, which can progress to a type of skin cancer.
  • The growth is easily irritated, such as from shaving or clothes rubbing against it.
  • You want the growth taken off because you do not like how it looks. An option I may consider some time in the future for the blotches beginning to develop on my face.

There was only one spot, the size of a pinhead, which Dr. Travis said could be problematic and she wants me to watch. To me, it looked like just another freckle. She explained that it was much darker than my other freckles and that color was an important variable.

The suspicious dark spot that needs to be watched.
The suspicious dark spot that needs to be watched.

Before I left the office, I asked Dr. Travis the most important things people my age should do to keep our skin healthy and hopefully, cancer free. She said her recommendations would be the same for people of any age.

First and foremost, be sure always to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. She also said that everyone should examine his or her skin regularly. She suggested that I visit the Skin Cancer Foundation website that has an excellent step-by-step guide for skin self-examination. I did that as soon as I got home, and I encourage anyone reading this to do the same.

All-in-all, it’s good to know that I’m as healthy as I feel.

I hope you will continue to follow me on my countdownto70.

Home Sweet Home

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It has never been easy to find an affordable rental apartment in New York City. Snagging one was always considered a major accomplishment and the subject of many a dinner party conversation.

Decades ago, the shortage of available housing led to a series of laws aimed at stabilizing the Big Apple’s real estate market. Though there’s been a weakening of those laws over the years, there are still currently close to a million apartments in New York City that are stabilized. These prize apartments offer perks including a guaranteed right to renew your lease and limits on how much your landlord can hike up your rent each year. It is my good fortune to live in one of them.

It most definitely was not my plan to spend my entire adult life in the same one-bedroom upper westside apartment. However, that is what happened. I have the dubious distinction of being the longest continuous tenant on my block, which runs between Broadway and Columbus Avenue.

Marian Rivman's block - West 68th between Broadway and Columbus Avenue
Marian Rivman’s Block – West 68th between Broadway and Columbus Avenue

I moved into my apartment in November 1968. I’d been staying with my best friend who had an apartment on West 83rd Street, which was a seriously seedy area at the time; Columbus Avenue was neither stylish nor safe. My friend’s apartment had been robbed multiple times, and she was having a new lock installed. The first thing the locksmith said was “What are two nice girls doing in a place like this?” He was the super of a building on West 68th Street and said there was an apartment available. We signed the lease the next day. My friend left two years later to move to Israel. I remained and have been there ever since.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my apartment this summer.As I develop the financial plan for my retirement, I realize just how blessed I am to have affordable housing.

Related Post: A Financial Check-up.

There have been many changes since I moved to the block. There were years of blasting and drilling as high-rises went up all around me. I used to envy the people in my building who had apartments with windows that faced 68th Street because they had unobstructed skyline views. No more. Thanks to the 47 story building that was erected directly across the street, they now face a brick wall.

For the most part, I embraced the changes. The Loews AMC multiplex was a welcome addition; I joined the Sports Club New York before it opened. However, the cost of commercial and residential real estate in the neighborhood has reached astronomical levels, and we are losing needed services.

For virtually all the time I’ve lived in my apartment, there was a supermarket on the corner of Broadway and 68th Street. No more. The Food Emporium left because it was more lucrative for them to sell their long-term lease than to sell food. Now Lowe’s Home Improvement is anchoring the corner.

Lowe's Home Improvement - 2008 Broadway NYC 10023
Lowe’s Home Improvement – 2008 Broadway NYC 10023

Lowe’s will be having its Grand Opening on September 12th, my 70th birthday. And on the same day, for the first time, the West 68th Street Block Association will be holding their Fall Party on my street rather than the block between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.

How very thoughtful of my neighbors. I hope you will join the festivities. There’ll be partying from 11:00am-4:00 pm.

Four Must Have Legal Documents

There are four legal documents all adults, regardless of age, should have. They are a Last Will and Testament, a Durable Power of Attorney, a Living Will and a Health Care Proxy.

I have had these documents in place for years. However, when I reviewed them as part of the countdown to my 70th birthday, I found that they were woefully out of date. Several of my beneficiaries had died; non-profits that I wanted to support had gone out of business. Friends who were named as health care proxies were no longer in my life. The good news is that these documents can be changed multiple times in your life and are now readily available on several websites at a reasonable cost. August is Make a Will Month, so several sites have specials. I chose Legal Zoom’s estate plan bundle.

Last will

Last Will and Testament- This is where you decide how your assets and property will be divided upon your death, and who will handle that process. Generally, assets are left to a surviving spouse or children. I was the executrix of both my parents’ wills; my sister and I were the only beneficiaries. As a single, childless woman, I had to give serious thought to who I wanted my beneficiaries to be.Where would my money do the most good? Who would need it the most? Who would get my jewelry? My art work?

POA

Durable Power of Attorney – You name someone who can step into your shoes, legally speaking, should you become incapacitated. You can authorize this person to do such things as sign checks and tax returns, enter into contracts, buy or sell real estate, deposit or withdraw funds, run a business, or anything else you do for yourself. Without a durable power of attorney, the courts would have to intervene if you are no longer capable of handling your affairs. For the decade I was my mother’s caregiver, I had her power of attorney. Two close friends have agreed to act as my agent. I hope I never need them to do so.

Living Will

LivingWill-A living will, also called a directive to physicians or advance directive, is a document that lets people state their wishes for end-of-life medical care, in case they become unable to communicate their decisions. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have no interest whatsoever in having my life prolonged by being on a respirator or a feeding tube. Often a Living Will is part of a Health Care Proxy, which is the case at Legal Zoom.

Health Care Proxy – This document puts your life in someone else’s hands. A health care proxy makes medical decisions on your behalf when you are not cable of doing so. Scary stuff! Without a health care proxy, you are at the mercy of the medical establish and the courts could intervene in your care. It is imperative that your health care proxy has a copy of your living will and agrees to follow your directives. I was my mother’s health care proxy and made endless medical decisions on her behalf. The two friends I have designated as my health care proxy fully understand and will abide by my directives

From now on, I will review these documents on a yearly basis to make sure the information is up to date and reflect my current wishes.

My Home Away From Home – The Sports Club New York

Fitness experts advise people that when choosing a health club, convenience should be their number one priority. So, when it was announced that the 47 story building that was being constructed directly across the street from my apartment would include a health club, I joined before it opened. The Sports Club New York, first owned by Reebok now by Equinox, has been my home away from home for more than 20 years.

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While I have used all the facilities of the Club at different times, it is the mind/body classes that are the core of my workout routine. The yoga studio is my dream come true. Big windows allow light to pour into the room, and the view of the Manhattan skyline is the antidote to my closed-in apartment.

Yoga studio at Equinox Sports Club New York
Yoga studio at Equinox Sports Club New York

Though I had taken many a yoga class before I joined the Club, I had not been exposed to Iyengar Yoga. It turned out to be just the right form of yoga practice for me. It is slower; poses are held longer, and props are used to help students achieve proper alignment. Depending on my schedule, I take 3-5 Iyengar classes a week. I also throw in a couple of gentle yoga classes for good measure. I have been taking the same classes, with many of the same students for 20 years. We are a community. During the decade that I was my mother’s caregiver, my yoga classes kept me sane.

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In the last couple of years, I’ve added two additional techniques to my weekly list of classes. The first is Melt, which helps to rehydrate the connective tissue, rebalance the nervous system, and restore space to compressed joints. The other is  Floor-Barre, which helps with alignment, correct muscle usage, and strengthening joints. I’m such a floor-barre fan that for my summer pre-70th birthday shape-up, I’m taking a Wednesday evening class that my instructor teaches at another studio.

I want to take this moment to thank all the teachers past and present who have helped to keep me flexible and grounded. They are Carol Foster, Cheryl Malter, Michelle Hill, Eve Holbrook, Robin Simmonds, Kavi Patel, Whitney Chapman, Jeanene Garro, Suzanne Taylor and Jodi Moccia

Related Post: Milestone Birthdays

In addition to the yoga studio, I am grateful for the outdoor track at the Sports Club where I have logged thousands of steps the last couple of weeks to meet my daily goal.

The track at the Equinox Sports Club New York
The track at the Equinox Sports Club New York

It is hard for me to imagine my life without the Sports Club New York.

Nearly 70 and Still Looking for Mr. Right

Marian Rivman at two years old
Marian Rivman at two years old

My mother told me that by the age of two, I was an expert at the Match Game. She would name one-half of a married couple, and I’d supply the name of the spouse. Marcie… and Murray. Evelyn… and Ira. Schendel… and Abram. Ruthie… and Manny. Corinne… and Aaron. Selma… and Nat. There was no fooling me. Ingrained at that very early age was the belief that adults lived their lives two-by-two.

The core couples in Marian Rivman's life. Front row: Marcy and Murray Jameson; Back row: Ira and Evelyn Shear, Nat and Julia Rivman
Front row: Marcy and Murray Jameson; Back row: Ira and Evelyn Shear, Nat and Julia Rivman

Growing up, I thought a crucial element on the ‘to do’ list for my life was finding the Frick to my Frack, the Salt to my Pepper. It never occurred to me that I would live most of my life alone

When puberty hit I was at an all-girls junior high school, so there were no boys around; the search for Mr. Right was on hold. Though popular in high school and college, I was never one of the girls who had lots of boyfriends or dates.

Senior year in college, a crop of new engagement rings would appear on the fingers of friends after a holiday break. I hadn’t found my Mr. Right but I was sure he was out there somewhere. In the meantime, I’d go about the business of my life.

During my two years of service in the Peace Corps right after college, my focus was on my assignment, traveling, and learning about Filipino culture. I managed to find a couple of Mr. Wrongs that were fun to be with but offered nothing in terms of a future. Not to worry. I had time.

No pressure, right? Wrong! It would hit when I’d least expect it.

My parents came to see me while I was living in the Philippines. They spent two weeks visiting my assignment, meeting my friends and witnessing first hand how I had adjusted to life on the other side of the planet. We were saying our good-byes at the Manila airport when my mother leaned over and whispered to me, “I’m so proud that you’re doing so well as a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) but I can’t wait until you’re an MRS”. Would someone please shoot me!

Over the decades, there have been Mr.Wrongs, Mr. Okay for Nows and a Mr. Almost, who was in and out of my life for a dozen years. There was a time when I secretly suspected that the authors of the book Smart Women/Foolish Choices did their research while hiding in one of my closets.

I got used to being the third, fifth, seventh, etc. during gatherings as more and more of my single friends found  Mr./Ms. Rights. My coffers would be in much better shape if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard: “You’re not married? How could that be”? “I wish I knew someone I could introduce you to.” “You must want to stay single or you would have found someone.” “Do you think maybe you’re too fussy”?

My lack of a Mr. Right did not stop me from living a rich and full life. I was not one of those sleeping beauties who was waiting around for a prince to come before I started living.

May 2015 - Marian Rivman in Rome
May 2015 – Marian Rivman in Rome
Marian Rivman at BlogHer15
Marian Rivman at BlogHer15

Yet, here I am at nearly 70 thinking it would be nice to have a Mr. Right in my life, which is a pretty tall order for a woman who hasn’t had a date in ten years. But hey, I’m ever the optimist. In the spirit of  ‘God helps those who help themselves’, I joined Match dot com where I’ve been resoundingly unsuccessful.

So, should you happen to know an age-appropriate, healthy, financially secure, single man with loving children and grandchildren (Why not go for the whole enchilada??) who is affectionate, kind and generous; whose politics are left of center and who possesses both a great sense of humor and of adventure – do me a favor – send him my way.

Me and My FitBit

Marian Rivman always wears her FitBit and her WORD Inspire
Marian Rivman always wears her FitBit and her Intent Project word INSPIRE

As my 70th birthday loomed large in the September horizon, my intention for this summer was to devote my time and energy to getting my body, mind and spirit in shape for that milestone. I intended to walk more, eat less, drink plenty of water, have check-ups with my doctor, dentist, financial consultant and spiritual advisors. In short, I was going to get my shit together.

Ah, but we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Would I keep the commitments I made with myself??

There were good days and not so good days. People may think of me as a human road runner, but my couch potato, ice cream and carbohydrate loving self-lurks just below the surface.

Several friends suggested that I get a FitBit to help me keep track of my steps, food intake, calorie output and water consumption. They said the device was helpful and kept you ‘honest’. I resisted until one of my FitBit using friends was hit by a car as she was crossing the street. She went flying through the air and spent the next ten hours in a hospital emergency room where she was checked head to toe. She was badly bruised, but nothing was broken.

When I spoke to her the next morning, I assumed she would take to her bed for a couple of days to recover. Wrong!! She had her FitBit on and was going out to run errands and log steps. She did 10,000 steps a day, every day. No excuses, no exceptions.  Now that was the commitment and motivation I craved. I ordered a FitBit the minute I hung up the phone.

It’s now been 30 days since I strapped on my FitBit; it has become my BFF. I wear it all the time. Unfailingly, I’ve met or surpassed my daily goals. I’ve lost weight, increased my stamina, and am looking more toned. I’ve been feeling so self-empowered that I even started this blog.

There’s a whole community of ‘FitBitters.’ It’s commonplace to have people point to mine as I pass them on the street and have them give me a thumbs-up or a high-five, and I return the gesture. My new fun activity is planning when and where I’m going to log my 10,000 steps.

For the record, I have ZERO connection with FitBit. I’m just in love with mine.

Hope you will continue to follow me on my Countdown to 70. Marian Rivman.