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Senior Correspondent

I sent a birthday card to my granddaughter. The envelope said that extra postage was required in the U.S. Since it was not an odd shape or large, I couldn't understand why extra postage would be needed. I put on one first class stamp. It came back to me saying more postage was needed. So, I asked the postman why. He didn't know why, but thought that the fact that the envelope had told me from the beginning that extra postage was needed was explanation enough. I re-sent it in another envelope that was larger, but not too large. However, the "why" of it kept bothering me. What I finally decided was that the envelope required more money because it was neither too large, nor too odd-shaped, but was smaller than standard.

Life, in general, emphasizes that what is standard rules. Go outside of standard at your own risk. And yet that is what I have done many times in my own life. What is not standard became more or less my standard. At a time when it was odd, I got married in my senior year of college instead of after graduation. I was moved by the logic of zero population growth and my experience as a social worker with foster children to choose adoption over creating a baby. In the short-lived experiment in the 1970s of allowing white parents to adopt black foster children, we became a mixed-racial family. A decade later, Meryl Streep as Mrs. Cramer in the groundbreaking movie, "Cramer vs. Cramer," and I were among the very small minority of American women who divorced and left their children with their fathers.

I certainly didn't match the average world traveler that wandered the planet for almost two decades. I was solidly middle-aged and rather poor with a pack on my back when I made my own challenges and learned how to face them within a variety of cultures, especially in Asia. I wasn't an explorer who discovered places for the first time (although I was the first foreigner that some Chinese villagers had ever seen), but neither was I following well-trodden paths. I learned that I could avoid crowds by not following the crowd. In my own style, I thrived even in cultures where following the standard way was considered the only, the most important, the best way to live.

Now I live in a retirement community. I buck the tide by not making medical care my major concern. I don't take the standard medications and standard tests that the majority of seniors take. And I get my eight hours of sleep at a very non-standard time.

Yes, there are risks. And there are losses that accompany not adhering to the standard. I don't have enough money to be considered eccentric. And I'm not quite strange enough to be considered crazy. I am, well, odd.

I feel a certain kinship to people like Izhar Gafni of Israel who has invented a 95 percent cardboard and 100 percent recyclable bicycle. People told him it couldn't be done. It is cheap. It is light. It is practical. It is odd. But it works well.

Comments? Email Suellen at ZimaTravels.com

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