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Copyright 2009-2010 by
Mary Brotherton
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Inside my Brain

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Who Said you Have to Grow old Gracefully?

The Suntree United Methodist Church’s chapter of the Red Hat Society, known as the “Red Hat Angels” sponsored their third annual Red Hat Rally in the Worship Center at 7400 Wickham Road, on September 19, 2005. With more than 350 women reserving seats, the event was sold out in August.

The Red Hat Society has often been referred to as a "disorganization," though there is more order than chaos, when hundreds or even thousands of women gather in their outrageous fashion statements. The Society was started by Sue Ellen Cooper of Fullerton, California when she and a few friends took inspiration from a popular poem entitled "Warning" by Jenny Joseph, which begins "When I am an old woman..." The poem mentions wearing a red hat and a purple dress, which Cooper and friends make a point to wear in public when they meet for meals or other social activities.

"The Red Hat Society began as a result of a few women deciding to greet middle age with verve, humor and élan,” said Cooper, affectionately known as the Exalted Queen Mother. “We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life, and since we are all in it together, we might as well join red-gloved hands and go for the gusto together. Underneath the frivolity, we share a bond of affection, forged by common life experiences and a genuine enthusiasm for wherever life takes us next.”

Cooper states, “We are all helping to develop an enormous "nurturing network" for women over 50, by joining red-gloved hands and spreading the joy and companionship we are finding within and among the chapters. We have also discovered a "mission" of sorts: to gain higher visibility for women in our age group and to reshape the way we are viewed by today's culture.”

Sandy Harrison, lifelong resident of Florida, is a stand up comedienne and spokesperson for the Suntree United Methodist Church Red Hat Angels. She explained that one-third of the membership of her chapter’s 100 Angels are not members of the church, but are members of the community. Each woman there is dedicated to nurturing herself as well as other women, through just having fun together. “It’s a sort of girls club for older girls,” explained Harrison.

Following the official stance of the Red Hat Society, they strongly suggest that women under 50 wear pink hats and lavender attire until their 50th birthday. Cooper is insistent, “This adds an element of fun to aging, which we think is invaluable to women in our society who have learned to dread aging and avoid it at all costs. We believe that aging should be something anticipated with excitement, not something to dread.”

With over 200 Red Hat Society chapters in Brevard County alone, it’s no surprise that the Red Hat Rally filled up so quickly. Harrison said that there has been considerable thought about renting a larger facility in the future. This year’s Rally was based on the Depression era, and called The 1940’s Red Hat Canteen. Period posters and military uniforms decorated the center while swing music filled the air.

Each of the 42 tables was brightly decorated in purple and red, with replicas of care packages as centerpieces. Inside each of the plain brown boxes, was a unique piece of Red Hat Jewelry. One lucky Red Hatter from each table won the box by participating in a game. The women were entertained by Jitterbug dancers; the local singing sensation, Hot Cocoa; the humor of Theresa Brewer; and Sam Legree, author of “Champagne in a Plastic Glass,” who talked about the modern maturing woman.

With chapter names such as Red Hat Mixed Nuts, Royal Purple Panthers, Paradise Princesses Prepared to Play, Florida Red Snappers, Red Hot Flashes, and Kool Shuttle Chicks, it’s easy to see that the local women who have joined the Red Hat Society know how to enjoy themselves. And, because they know that they have shouldered many responsibilities at home and in the community their whole lives, they come to the Red Hat Society to unwind, to meet friends, and to just have fun.

The refrain of the popular Red Hat Society theme song by Mike Harline puts it rather bluntly: "All my life, I've done for you. Now it's my turn to do for me."

There are some who disparage groups like the Red Hat Society, suggesting that there is no place for such a silly group in today’s world. The women of the Red Hat Society, here in Brevard, and across the world are very community minded, and do what they can to help when disaster strikes. They also know that even those most affected by tragedy will need a place to go for friendship, sisterhood, and silliness. The Red Hat Ladies will always be there with open arms, warm hearts, and a unique take on fashion.

To learn more about the Red Hat Society, or to join a local chapter, interested persons are asked to go online, as the Society fully embraces the technology of the Internet. The website is but for those who would be more comfortable with a telephone call, you can get more information by calling 866-FUN-AT-50 (866-386-2850).


SHINE – A Beacon for Seniors’ Health Insurance Needs

January 1, 2006 will bring an important change to both the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Both programs were developed 40 years ago, and the upcoming change is the first benefit change of significant size in that time. In October 2005, Seniors should begin receiving information from healthcare plan providers as well as Social Security and Medicare about the upcoming changes.

Medicare will offer insurance coverage for prescription drugs through Medicare prescription drug plans and other health plan options. Medicare's new prescription drug coverage will typically pay over half of a patient’s annual drug costs, for a monthly premium. It could also provide peace of mind, protecting persons whose out-of-pocket drug spending is more than $3600 per year.

Lynn Meager, a volunteer with SHINE encourages all Seniors to call their local SHINE office for more information and assistance before the enrollment period begins on November 15, 2005. The enrollment period ends May 15, 2006. Persons who are eligible to enroll now, but don’t, may have to pay higher premiums if they wait.

“Everyone on Medicare,” said Meager, “must make a decision, now, whether or not to join, and which plan to use.”

SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) is a statewide volunteer based program that gives power to people on Medicare and their caregivers to make informed decisions about their Medicare and other health insurance issues. The services are free, and healthcare counselors are knowledgeable after going through intensive training sessions.

Meager explains that there will be 24 prescription drug plans to choose from; monthly premiums will range from $0 to $35. There will be at least two drug options in each of 200 categories. Learning which program is best for each person can be a challenge, but the volunteers at SHINE are eager to help.

“We empower people on Medicare by providing them with the information they need,” said Meager who moved to Florida, from Pennsylvania, and immediately began working with SHINE, nearly 8 years ago.

SHINE offices are located throughout the county, but Meager stressed that since there are not enough volunteers to keep them open full time, callers may have to leave a message. Before the process to enroll in the new program can begin, callers will need to be prepared with a list of all prescriptions currently being taken. The SHINE counselor will need to know the correct spelling of each medication, the exact dosage, and how often they are taken. Then the counselor can better assist the caller in choosing a plan that is best for him or her.

Some people may be eligible for extra help. Everyone on Medicaid is automatically eligible and will receive a notification letter in the mail. Many on Medicare may be eligible if they meet certain income and resource requirements.

Specially trained SHINE counselors will assist people in determining eligibility and in choosing the right plan. They will not choose for patrons, but will help them to understand the program. Persons already on Medicare will automatically be enrolled in a plan, so that there is no gap in coverage. SHINE counselors will help persons to make informed choices so that they can select a plan that best suits their specific requirements.

Important points about the new program:
• Medicare prescription drug coverage helps you pay for the prescriptions you need.
• Medicare prescription drug coverage is available to all people with Medicare.
• There is additional help for those who need it most.
• Medicare prescription drug coverage pays for brand name as well as generic drugs


Inspirational Writers get Their Inspiration from Others

For the past seven years, 150 to 170 poets have faithfully submitted their work to the Space Coast Poetry Club’s contest every spring. This year, more than double that number of people who ranged in age from 30 to 93 wanted to be sure that their voices were also heard. Nearly 80% of the 345 entrants were Seniors, and they wrote on a variety of topics in four categories.

Shirley Griffith is married to the Club’s president, who was elected to the position, even though he wasn’t present at the electoral meeting. She said of her husband, Dan, “People have learned that they can count on him. He’s busier since he retired from teaching than he ever was while he was working. He’s intellectual and keeps his mind going.” Formerly from Syracuse, New York, the Griffiths have lived in Brevard County for eight years, and have been members of the Poetry Club for seven years.

“We think that living in Florida has opened up our creativity,” Mrs. Griffith said.

The Space Coast Poetry Club is affiliated with the Florida State Poets Association and the National Federation of State Poetry Societies; many members are also officers in other local writers' clubs such as the Florida Writers Association, Scribblers Writers Club of Brevard, and the Writers Guild of Brevard County.

Mr. and Mrs. Griffith are members of the Florida Writers Association, which “recognizes the rich opportunities of seniors and others who may not be able to physically attend group meetings.”
Mr. Griffith encourages all writers to visit the website at for more information about that organization’s many programs, some geared specifically for Seniors.

93 year old Louise Firth doesn’t attend the meetings, because she has reluctantly relinquished her driving to family and friends, and doesn’t want to impose. “I’m just happy to be alive,” she said.

Firth has been writing poetry since she was seven years old. Originally from Kentucky, she lived in Sarasota for thirty years before moving to Palm Bay in 1982. Her poem, “I Never Question God” won 3rd place in the rhymed category, and was inspired when she saw her neighbor’s newborn baby. Years before she submitted her poem to the Space Coast Poetry Club’s contest, it was aired on a television show that was viewed by a grieving mother in Alabama. The young woman was so touched by the poem that she sent Mrs. Firth a box filled with freshly cut red azaleas in gratitude for her words.

James R. Shott is a retired pastor who also found poetic inspiration when he moved from Pennsylvania to Brevard County twenty-five years ago. His poem “The Goddess Who Lives in the Sea,” was inspired by local surfers.

Shott has authored 16 published novels since his retirement, even though he got 45 rejections before first book was printed.

He said, “When I changed addresses, I changed vocations.”

Each of the 32 winners of this year’s contest has found inspiration and motivation for individual poetry in different places. Fifty-five year old retired Lt. Col. Howard Tune was inspired to write his 1st place poem, “A Hymn of Thanks” while recovering from open heart surgery. The former Mensa member knows exactly how to balance his machismo with his mentality, and is living proof that real men do write poems.

“I did not allow the Military to harden my heart; I kept my poetic side,” said the man who has served as a Marine, an Army Green Beret, and Chief Detective of the New Jersey Police Department.

Born in Tampa, he spent his youth in New Jersey, enlisting in the USMC before his 17th birthday. He met the inspiration for his 2nd place poem, “My Angel,” in a grocery store in St. Augustine. His new bride, Peg, formerly from Pennsylvania and he have recently moved to Viera.

Like many of this year’s contest winners, Irma Garbarino won in multiple categories, and has been “writing poems for as long as I can remember.” Garbarino taught English at Satellite Beach’s De Laura middle school before retiring and moving to New York, as a reverse Snowbird. Two years ago, she moved to Pine Island, but Hurricane Charley drove her east, back to Brevard County. Hurricane Charley was also her inspiration for “Hurricane Turnaround.”

Before retiring from teaching fifteen years ago, she encouraged her students to enter poetry contests. Even today, she believes, “The most important thing is to enter these contests. Don’t worry about winning, just make the effort.”

Dan Griffith, president of the Space Coast Poetry Club agrees. He said, “Writing is a source of profound personal satisfaction to many seniors. In retirement, new opportunities and new restrictions move everyone toward new use of time and development of previously neglected or unrecognized talent. Writing is especially satisfying as shared expression of experience, insight, and imagination... sometimes interestingly and informatively combined. The many genres and topics open sources of friendship and conversation. Now new technologies lend rich potential to literate pursuits.”

Griffith said, “Writing is such a great door to contemplation and communication.”

To learn more about next year’s contest, to pre-order an Anthology with this year’s winning poems, or to get information about any of the writer’s clubs, contact Dan or Shirley Griffith at 321-455-2986; or email the Space Coast Poetry Club at .