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Oct-28-2011 00:28printcomments

Temp Separation Can Spur Subterranean Bachelor Skills

Independence does have its price.


(SALEM, Ore.) - The other day I ran into an old friend who had opted for a temporary time-out separation from his wife of 25 years. The two, as he described it, were not mortal enemies but just recognized how profoundly their differences were. They felt the need to take what he called a "marriage respite".

Adjustment to living alone became a necessity. He claimed that he craved "being free" but there were inherent moments of doubt.

Indeed, independence has its price as well. My friend, whom we shall call Jim Dandie, struggled at first the pay to household bills. This had been in his wife's domain. He decided to use the kitchen calendar to record whenever a bill came in. That gave him some sense of the total picture of his newly assumed duties.

He wrote down all the utility account phone numbers in one place, just in case he needed to call for clarification. And then he made a chart to take a look at his total outlay of expenses for the entire month. He had never before even thought about the different "pieces of the pie".

Jim then took to shopping and cooking for himself. He began to look at supermarket shelves not only for bargains but for nutritional value. His concern for better health led him to examine the ingredients of what he bought. In the process, Jim relied on fewer sodium-laden canned goods and more for fresh fruit and vegetables and healthy drinks. Whenever a certain juice product had heavy sugar content at low cost, he would thin in out with water.

Usually flavor was not diluted that much. He saw a significant weight loss of 8 lbs. in just under two months.

Food preparation, according to Jim, had a life all its own. He was something of an amateur artist and loved to blend color variations. For example, in cooking kidney beans he's add mixed veggies and salsa sauce. When piecing together a toss salad, he'd throw in crushed pineapple and sliced radishes and diced zucchini to the traditional lettuce and tomato. With cool weather closing in, Jim went to doing home-made soups. He added diced baby carrots and slivers of coriander, then a dash of sunflower seeds for good measure. At times, inspired by his new chef role, he tried rice crispies as a substitute for croutons.

In the assortment of household duties, remembering to take out the last vestige of garbage for collection day needed an extra reminder.

How did Jim handle this situation? He used the visual-cue message. The night before trash pickup he'd place a waste basket in front of his door, blocking his passageway. If the forgot that next morning, that basket became his prompt. So too with bills awaiting the mail. Jim used a plastic bag with mail-to-go hanging inside on his doorknob. He could not get out without kicking in that absent memory.

After a matter of several months, the couple reconciled and Jim's spouse returned to the scene. But now he had a deeper appreciation of domestication 101. If you meet Jim on the street today and asking him, "What's cooking?," be ready to hear about his latest kitchen capers.

--------------------------------- NOTE: Lee Coyne has lately been interviewing his single friends in order to learn their troubles and travails. He welcomes your email on any similar experiences you have faced to the person above. Contact him at:

_____________________________________ Community Writer Barry Lee Coyne brings to our readers stories from his combined career of journalism and gerontology, and explains that these paths shaped his values. Lee Coyne once worked for The Civil Service Leader in NY State and covered the Legislature. He has also done features on mediation and arbitration, and believes in healthy skepticism. This writer-therapist often views the world as the masks of comedy and tragedy placed upon the scales of justice. For him, optimism inevitably wins. "Lyrical Lee" has traveled to 30 nations aboard and was once a press intern at the UN. His first published article was in The NY Daily News in '59, dealing with the need for integrity in public office.

He also launched the nation's first tele-conference on health education for shut-ins, created the Eldermentors project in VA to pair retirees with immigrant students needing role models, and was the main catalyst behind CCTV's "Public Public" panel show here in Salem. Lee received his BA in International Relations and an MSW in community organization. He currently serves as a member of Salem's Library Advisory Board. To send Lee an email, please write to this address:

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