BOOMERBROADcast

Baby Boomer's reflections on the journey from living life in THE sixties to living life in OUR sixties.


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Super Bowl versus Downton Abbey. Which would you pick?

Believe me; it's not easy to leave a Super Bowl party. But the stakes were high.

Believe me; it’s not easy to leave a Super Bowl party. But the stakes were high.

Like so many other people, we attended an amazing Super Bowl party on Sunday night with an incredible assortment of food—different kinds of chili, wings, various chips, veggies and dips, every liquid libation imaginable, desserts, everything anyone could wish for. Our host and a friend had set up a ten-foot projection screen which gave all the guys in attendance a major stiffie. There was also a big-screen high-def television in another area showing THE GAME so it was visible from any vantage point. Sounds like a perfect evening, right? If you’re a guy.

My playoff dilemma this past Sunday night wasn’t about the Bronco’s and the Panthers. I had to leave the party early because in the ladies version of Super Bowl and going head-to-head in the competition was Downton Abbey. It’s in its last season and I didn’t think the guys would appreciate me changing the channel. We’re all on the edge of our seats wondering whether bitchy Lady Mary will land a forever guy before her eggs dry up or her heart turns to ice. Will Daisy pass her exams and lead the Labour Party in a run for Prime Minister in the new world order? Will Anna’s heart breaks be rewarded with twins—one of each, a boy and a girl?

The team lineup for Downton was far superior to the competition.

The team lineup for Downton was far superior to the competition.

Potential love matches are springing up all over the place. What are Mr. Barrow and the footman getting up to in those clandestine meetings in Mr. B.’s room? After six seasons of wearily watching Lady Edith shed buckets of tears, will she fall in love again and create a multi-media empire with the guy who works nights with her. Will Mrs. Hughes finally hit Mr. Carson over the head with a frying pan and tell him to cook his own damn meals? Maybe then they’ll be the way he likes them. So many potential plot twists; so many gorgeous new dresses to admire during evening cocktails.

downton2Such delicious, genteel escapism. No concussions, crotch-grabbing, drug-enhanced testosterone chest-bumps or violence anywhere. In fact, at the risk of sounding like I’m over-simplifying (which I doubt), football to me is a giant yawn. All they do is run and get knocked down; run and get knocked down. End of story. Where’s the fun in that? But I do acknowledge the Super Bowl parties are great fun. And the best defensive lines of all? The ones uttered by Dowager Countess Grantham. Go Downton!

 


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Spare the rod, spoil the child is today’s banking credo

Imagine this. Your parents scrimp and sacrifice to pay for your post-secondary education at a top university, seeing it as an investment in your future. You repay them by choosing to cheat on exams, to plagiarise an essay and purchase prepared top-graded papers on-line to guarantee a good mark. Unfortunately, you get caught but instead of expelling you for being dishonest and deceitful, the university rewards you with a prestigious degree, a top job in your field upon graduation and a signing bonus from your employer. Anyone that resourceful and creative about winning deserves the rewards. Right? Then, ironically, your parents are charged with fraud and fined tens of thousands of dollars for raising a child who should have behaved more ethically. How’s that for justice?

greed1Bizzare as it sounds, that’s exactly how the banking system operates. If you happened to see the movie The Big Short, you’ll understand the absurdity and immorality of the situation. Individuals within the large banking conglomerates fattened their own bank accounts by deceiving customers into thinking they could afford more than they fiscally were able to handle, who played complicated numbers games with the professional skill of Las Vegas card counters and then rewarded themselves handsomely for their evil ways. That’s the world of banking in America.

greed4In a brilliant move by legislators and financial regulators, international banks have been assessed with multi-billion dollar fines for permitting their executives to cheat, lie and otherwise deceive the people who pay their wages and fund those huge bonuses. Tragically, it’s not the banking executives who are going to jail, losing their homes or paying fines but the shareholders and customers who deposit part of their hard-earned wages into the institutions’ savings accounts and investment funds every payday. Yes. Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Barclays, JPMorgan Chase and other banking behemoths who were the instruments of unscrupulous and greedy leaders are being punished—not the unscrupulous and greedy leaders personally. By fining and punishing the institutions (the banks) rather than the individuals, we, the little people who carefully save to buy their GIC’s and mortgages are taking it in the neck, again. Our stock prices suffer but not the people who created the mess.

Not bloody likely.

Not bloody likely.

Give me strength. In what Emerald City somewhere will international governing authorities finally do the right thing and root out the cause of the problem. Have they no brains? We know they have no heart but we keep hoping for some courage to rise above the injustice of the entire financial melt-down mess and eliminate the cancer that exists within the banking system and its associated credit authorities. The corruption is still flourishing with no controls in sight.

As a teeny-tiny shareholder in a bank, I’m being punished for what those greedy, unrepentant criminals did, beginning in 2008 and still going on today. The only upside to the whole stinking cesspool is I’ll never have to worry about paying capital gains. Any potential for me to make money on my savings account or bank stock has been gobbled up by bank executives’ bonuses and fines against the institutions who manage my life savings. It’s not just unfair; it’s unjust. Please sir. No more.


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Are you swingin’ with your circadian rhythms?

Whose brilliant idea was it to ruin my Christmas and New Years by calling for a proposal due January 3rd. There's a special place in hell for you.

Whose brilliant idea was it to ruin my Christmas and New Years by calling for a proposal due January 3rd? There’s a special place in hell for you.

Since I retired and am no longer subject to the tyranny of office hours (which generally averaged sixty hours per week), proposals and other work deadlines, getting up before daylight to negotiate traffic jams in a snowstorm and returning home again after dark, I’ve become unusually protective of my time commitments. One of the most wonderful benefits of retirement is no more anxiety-inducing time constraints dictated by others. The downside is I think I’ve taken it too far and now resist any form of activity with a time-related deadline.

Until the discovery and implementation of electric lighting in homes just over one hundred years ago, most people rose at sunrise and went to bed at sunset. With shorter daylight hours of sunlight and longer nights during winter, human beings adapted by hibernating and bedding down for longer hours to keep warm and conserve body energy. I’m inclined to think we also fattened up during the autumn months, a natural phenomenon I still personally undergo every year. What has been genetically engineered into my body’s natural circadian rhythms is becoming the scary master of my daily schedule.

Do not disturb. I'm now in my happy place.

Do not disturb. I’m now in my happy place and you’re no longer the boss of me.

Ask if I want to go to a movie on Tuesday afternoon? Not until after I’ve had my afternoon nap. Otherwise I can’t guarantee I won’t fall asleep in my popcorn. Dinner on Wednesday at a friend’s house? Sure, as long as I’m home and in my jammies by 9:00 p.m. There’s a dance at the clubhouse on Saturday night? No problem. It’s all baby boomers and we’re outa’ there by 10:00 p.m. latest. We regularly close the diningroom at 8:30 p.m.

What ever happened to going out to the pub on a weeknight, swilling beer until well after last call at 1:00 a.m., inviting the gang back to our apartment for more partying and listening to the oldies on the stereo until it’s almost time to go to work? Sure can’t party like we used to. The upside is I’m getting plenty of beauty sleep, albeit without the rewards. The wrinkles persist; the waistline expands and I’m still going bald. But, all is well. I’m living my circadian dream. Rise when I feel like it; go to bed when I feel like it; attend social functions when I feel like it; nap when I feel like it. The old-fashioned rhythm method is guiding my life and it feels wonderful.

circadian2

 


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Is it your turn to become leader of the pack?

our turnKirstine Stewart wrote the book I wish I’d written. In fact, I could write a book about everything I loved about this book. At around two hundred pages Our Turn is a quick read that’s jam-packed with valuable information and advice anyone would do well to heed. My copy is festooned with sticky page-markers as I was reluctant to deface my author-signed copy with copious highlighter streaks. I’ve had the book since last fall when I attended a book launch hosted by ELLE Canada magazine featuring Ms. Stewart as guest speaker. Throughout her presentation my head was bobbing up and down as my brain screamed “yes, yes, yes” and I mentally fist-pumped the air at everything she had to say.

The author began her working life as a “girl Friday” at a film distribution house after earning a degree in English Literature at the University of Toronto. Through initiative and hard work, she progressed through a series of jobs to become head honcho at venerable CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), and eventually to her current position as the first managing director for Twitter Canada. And she’s the mother of two daughters. Like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, it was not an easy journey. Women in business are still paid less than men, still carry most of the home-front workload and are biologically designated to lose their place in line when they take maternity leave. It’s difficult to achieve that holy trinity of balance between job, marriage and parenthood.

When I first retired it was my intention to write a similar book sharing my own experiences gained during forty years in the corporate world. I was fortunate to work for a liberal employer who gave me plenty of latitude to show them what I could do. I learned a slew of valuable lessons along the way and while Kirstine Stewart was ambitious and savvy enough to put them in a book, I took to blogging. While I’ve shared much of my own wisdom on BOOMERBROADcast for more than two years now, there are so many things Stewart and I agree on. I’m not going to give everything away, but here are five choice observations:

  1. Women's leadership approaches may be quite different from men, and that's a good thing.

    Women’s leadership approaches may be quite different from men, and that’s a good thing.

    Women are better communicators than most men which is a defining facet of the new leadership era. And, our “collaborative, information-intensive approach is more likely to result in sound decisions”.

  2. Personal achievement is more often tied to taking chances than setting a career goal. By stepping outside our comfort zone we’re more apt to discover strengths and talents we didn’t know we had. This includes advocating for yourself in salary negotiations and responsibilities and doing more than is required by your job description.
  3. Don’t be shy about speaking up. If you’re at the table you’re considered to have worthy ideas. While you can’t withdraw from criticism, you could score major points.
  4. Become an expert and respectful user of social media. Reputations can be won or lost through Twitter, Facebook, teleconferencing and other media (consider Gian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby).
  5. Hierarchical management styles have been replaced by customer-driven “flat” management. No room for large egos in today’s successful businesses.

I could write a whole book on the pros and cons, misconceptions and effectiveness of teams and teamwork. While men traditionally grew up heavily influenced by their experiences playing football, hockey or baseball (remember, there’s no “I” in team), women’s activities tended to be more collaborative and subtle. When someone “quarterbacks” a project, perfectly good ideas or contributions may be quashed by one or two alpha males. Women-led teams distribute the load more evenly and encourage equal participation and input from all members.

Women are not the only ones who are often cast as scape-goats in a bad situation.

Women are not the only ones who are often cast as scape-goats in a bad situation.

Stewart describes the “glass cliff” which is not the same as the  “glass ceiling”. In the interests of demonstrating that they are equal opportunity employers, male managers often throw a women into a losing situation, then blame her when it tanks. An example of this is appointing Kim Campbell as Prime Minister when the Conservatives were facing a losing election, or Mary Barra to run General Motors when their ignition switch crisis was linked to dozens of deaths and multi-million-car recalls. A similar example is Barrack Obama being elected President amid one of the worst economic crises in U.S. history.

There’s just too much great information in Our Turn” to do it justice here. It would make a great gift for young women you may know who would benefit from Kirstine Stewart’s experience and wisdom. Although she rose to the top of the corporate ladder she does not suggest everyone could and should do the same. We each have our different comfort level and that should be respected. While I’m totally on-line with everything she has to say, she said it much better than I probably ever could have. Buy the book and read it for yourself, with your yellow highlighter handy. Call it a business expense that is well worth the investment.

Women in business face a unique set of challenges and obstacles men will never understand. For another perspective on this issue, read Maureen Sherry’s “Why aren’t women doing better on Wall Street?” from a recent issue of The New York Times.

 

 

 


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Will Carol win an Oscar?

CarolWith Oscar season nearly upon us, I’ve been trying to catch as many movies as possible in the bonanza of offerings at this time of year. Last week I went with a couple of girlfriends (how ironic, but not that kind) to see Carol starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. I must say, we were all totally underwhelmed. I don’t know what I was expecting but with all the hype it certainly seemed to us to fall short of the mark.

Based on a fifties novel entitled “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith, it’s the story of two women who meet in a department store at Christmas and a love affair ensues. The plot and script are full of improbabilities but that’s the nature of fiction. The movie was beautifully filmed and Cate Blanchett’s nuanced character is lovely to watch. Rooney Mara’s performance was, in my opinion, simply a two-hour display of doe-eyed innocence with subtle undercurrents of precociousness. Within the context of the fifties time period, the movie’s theme of a lesbian love affair was shocking and scandalous, quite different from today’s standards. There are a couple of love scenes that would challenge any straight actor but were beautifully delivered by Blanchett and Mara. It’s a sensitive, tender movie but you might want to wait until it’s on TV. Just sayin’. . . But then I’m not a member of the esteemed Academy so I may be wrong.


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The Nightingale is a worthy read

nightingaleIf you enjoyed reading Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr or Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky then you’ll love the New York Times bestseller The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. In fact, de Rosnay had a hand in fact-checking for this book. Historical fiction, set in France just prior to and during World War II, it’s the story of estranged sisters Isabelle and Vianne whose lives are forever altered by their individual and different experiences during the war. When their father returns from World War I he is psychologically damaged. While the girls’ mother was alive he was able to cope but when she dies he abdicates all responsibility as a father. He farms the younger daughter Isabelle, who is rebellious and independent, out to a series of boarding schools. Her older sister Vianne who has a totally different personality, falls in love, gets pregnant and marries, staying in their small village southwest of Paris. Their father returns to Paris where he runs a bookstore.

With the start of World War II, the sisters’ lives take totally divergent paths. The younger Isabelle joins the French resistance and is active in hiding and transferring downed Allied airmen through safe homes and escape routes to Spain so they can be returned to England. Vianne’s husband Antoine is a prisoner-of-war in Germany while she tries to protect her daughter and maintain their rural home through the Nazi occupation. With SS officers billeted in her home, Vianne is exposed to her own set of challenges and threats to her family, her Jewish neighbours and local friends. The book starts out slow but quickly picks up once the Nazi occupation begins. I couldn’t put it down.


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Why can’t we be happy the way we are?

Does she or doesn't she?

Does she or doesn’t she?

Just when I was thinking about rejoining Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time, I read an essay in The New York Times by Jennifer Weiner (author of The Devil Wears Prada and other books) entitled One Day We Can Stop Trying, Right? Weiner condemns the pervasive commercial and media pressure on women to maintain a standard of beauty that is unrealistic and downright punitive. She particularly criticizes Oprah Winfrey for once again bending under the yoke of being less than perfect by literally buying into (ten percent of the company) and representing the Weight Watchers brand. This is a woman who rose from desperate poverty in racially segregated Mississippi to become the personification of successful womanhood. How many of us have created a multi-media empire, built and sustained a successful school for girls in Africa and otherwise positively inspired millions of women around the world? Her one tiny failing? She weighs more than the fashion mags suggest she should. If Oprah is feeling dissatisfied, what chance do we mortals have?

I hate that I want it all - the hair, the bone structure, the clothes.

I hate that I want it all – the hair, the bone structure, the clothes.

While I am definitely not advocating being unhealthy or condoning bad eating habits, it’s troubling that as women we spend far too much time and emotional energy worrying about our weight. Weiner observes that the bar has been raised by the likes of Jane Fonda and other celebrities looking fabulous into their sixties, seventies and eighties. It’s a superficial yardstick that has ruined the otherwise productive and successful lives of millions of women. Why can’t we just say good on them, accept that we will never have the money or motivation to look like they do and get on with our normal lives, free from the guilt-causing, calorie-counting, carb-eliminating and fat-busting imaginary masochist sitting on our shoulders telling us otherwise.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just snip that little thread of brain transmitter that sends the message telling us we’re only of value if we’re thin? Imagine how wonderful life would be if we could sail through the last half of our lives not trying to look like we did in the first half? Perhaps we could persuade genetic scientists to isolate that tiny genome that governs self-image and modify it so that once we’re menopausal we would only perceive ourselves as beautiful and perfect regardless of our outward appearance. We felt invincible and perfect in every way when we were very young children, before bullying and peer pressure entered the picture in elementary school. If only we could achieve that blissful state of self-confidence with the status quo once again.

I am beautiful. I am valued. I am all can be. And that's more than enough.

I am beautiful. I am valued. I am all I can be. And that’s more than enough.

It’s tempting to seek justification for not joining Weight Watchers again! In fact, I think their programs promote healthy and achievable goals for eating. But I hate that I care about losing fourteen pounds. I empathize with Oprah’s struggle. Maybe it’s the perfectionist Virgo within me. The last time I lost weight on the Weight Watchers’ programme, I felt much better about myself and my clothes fit better. Then I discovered Black Jack Cherry Frozen Yogurt and one pound at a time, put all those lost pounds back on. So until they isolate that elusive gene that allows me to feel unconditionally beautiful, I plan to take advantage of the “Join Free, Lose Ten Pounds on Us” promotion. I’ve done it before and sadly, I’ll probably do it again in 2017, 2018, and forever more. And curses on Black Jack Cherry frozen yogurt for coming between me and perfection. It’s a genetic failure for which I’m not responsible.

P.S. This is not a paid endorsement of Weight Watchers — although they probably should pay me!

 

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