BOOMERBROADcast

Baby Boomer's social commentary on life in OUR sixties for those who rocked life in THE sixties.


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Want the secret to a successful career?

The future is no longer in plastics.

If your grandchildren are planning to get a degree in Sociology, Women’s Studies, Art History or Musicology tell them to forget it. They’ll run up tens of thousands of dollars in debt for a degree that will never get them a job in today’s  market and they’ll miss out on an opportunity guaranteed to provide even more secure and profitable work than becoming an orthodontist. And it requires fewer years of education. While they won’t be able to put “Dr.” in front of their name, they will be able to work anywhere, including from home or a small town conducive to raising a family, and make decent money. It’s sad to think that some people keep prolonging their education and growing their debt load to obtain a useless graduate degree in the vain hope it will improve their chances of employment.

It’s getting harder for Boomers to keep up.

The answer to the employability conundrum is called computer software programming. Early last year I wrote a piece entitled “Mothers, make sure your daughters grow up to be coders. A recent article in the newspaper said that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million more software jobs than qualified applicants. Enough said. Get those kids out of career paths directed at philosophy, kinesiology or political science (unless it’s for fun) and get them learning to write computer code. That would never have worked for me because I’m a right-brain thinker and could never get my mind around logical subjects like algebra, physics or chemistry. But I sure need someone to help me with my computer issues. And having that someone in the family (a grandchild?) would make life so much easier . . . and cheaper, assuming they’d help us for free. Or, if they could hack into Trump’s tax returns, that would bring in enough that they’d never have to work again. It’s a no-brainer . . . particularly if you’re a left-brainer.

Click these links:

Mothers, make sure your daughters grow up to be coders.

Both my left and right brain say ‘go for it’

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What did you do yesterday?

This is a test. To reassure me that I’m not losing my marbles. When I was out walking the dog the other day, I stopped to visit a friend who casually asked “What did you do yesterday?”. I drew a complete blank. At our age (Boomers) memory lapses are to be expected as some mental inventory gets rotated out to accommodate new material, but my off-loading is getting alarming. Just to test myself, I do remember what I did yesterday. I went grocery shopping, got my glasses adjusted and had lunch at Five Guys. Are you impressed?

Ask any Baby Boomer how they keep busy now that we’re retired and the answer is inevitably “I don’t know how I had time to work every day”. We fill our days with activities that we enjoy and even routine chores are no longer as onerous now that we have the luxury of controlling our own time. But not being able to remember what I did just yesterday is concerning me. That prompted me to dig up an earlier post from about three years ago on this issue. If you remember reading it—congratulations. If not, welcome to my world:

I’m not OK. Are you OK?

 

 

Was it something I did wrong in the sixties?

Could the once-brilliant minds of our entire Boomer generation be slowly slip-sliding away? Was it too much wine and other mood-enhancers we’ve used over the years?  Do we have late-onset brain damage from all those years of sleeping on brush rollers in high school? Or are we retiring too early and “losing it”? Perhaps the sins and excesses of our youth are coming home to haunt us. In a short 24-hour span this past weekend I experienced and witnessed enough lapses in cognition to cause major concern.

It began on Friday when I joined a girlfriend for lunch at her condo. The table was beautifully set with fine china, colourful, origami-folded napkins, a little gift bag at each place and large goblets for our flavoured mineral water (if we drink wine at lunch we fall asleep before dessert).  When I questioned the third place-setting and my hostess mentioned it was for so-and-so, I reminded her that so-and-so had e-mailed a week earlier that she couldn’t come. OMG. Hostess didn’t read the entire e-mail and just assumed the reply was an acceptance. On the positive side, that meant that I could gorge myself silly on extra finger sandwiches and fruit flan.

The second misadventure was a double-header. When my honey and I got married, the wedding date conveniently corresponded closely with his birthday so he’d have no excuse for forgetting our anniversary. Anniversary on the 12th. Birthday on the 16th. Simple. On the morning of the 12th I gave him his birthday present and cards and wished him a happy birthday. “But it’s not my birthday” he said. Second OMG. “Oh no. You’re right. Today’s not your birthday, it’s our anniversary” I yelled as I snatched the gift and cards from his hands. “It’s our anniversary?” he said. Emergency run to Superstore for flowers and card. We’d both screwed up. The honeymoon’s over.

 

 

About an hour later, we received a phone call from friends who’d gone to a cottage for the weekend. After taking a day off work on Friday and driving four hours to get to the cottage, they arrived to find no-one there—they’d got the date wrong and were a week early! Another four-hour drive and they’re back in the city and miraculously, still married. Some friends turned up a week early for a dinner date at an out-of-town restaurant with other friends. Hmmm.

Is it just me?

Finally, on Saturday we went to my husband’s birthday celebration (on our anniversary, in case you’re having trouble keeping all this straight) at his son’s place in London, Ontario. During late-afternoon cocktails, his grandson asked my husband what type of car he should buy. Puzzled by the question, said grandson produced a blank cheque I had written for said grandson’s birthday. In the course of writing a number of birthday and graduation gift cheques I had inadvertently neglected to fill in the amount. Thank God no one at Canada Post intercepted that one or we’d be living in our car and getting paper routes to keep us in Pinot Grigio.

Calendar confusion? Inattention to detail? What’s next? It wasn’t that long ago I used nail polish remover instead of toner on my face when I inadvertently picked up the wrong bottle. I’m a voracious reader and I also log every book I’ve read as soon as I finish it because as soon as I start a new one I can’t remember the last book I read. I can remember the words of every song from the sixties but not my cell phone number. How long will it be before I start hiding my own Easter eggs. Has the Mad Men/Mad Women era returned? I’m not OK with that. Are you?

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How much is enough?

How much more do we really need when we have each other?

The other day my friend Margaret commented “I have enough.” She said that there’s nothing in life she wants or needs that she does not already have. That observation is profound and got me thinking. Now that baby boomers have reached the stage in life where we are retired, semi-retired or close to retiring, we have time for reflection, and that is a wonderful luxury. We no longer have to drag our tired bodies out of a warm bed on a cold morning and sit in grid-locked traffic to serve the master. For wont of nothing, we have enough.

We’re gradually off-loading our crap gathered over years of consumerism to accommodate moves into smaller living quarters and generally simplifying our lives. I remember when I thought my life would be complete if I just had that one special item, perhaps a certain pair of shoes or a new sofa. Going back even further, remember when we longed for enough money to make a down payment on our first home or pay off our car loan? Think of all the stuff we’ve hauled off to Goodwill or just thrown out after we got tired of it or no longer had room for it in our cluttered, busy lives. What I wouldn’t give to have that money in my bank account now. We’ve all made financial mistakes over the years; that’s how we learn. The most important thing we’ve learned now that we’re at that special age when we do have time to reflect is that happiness is not about things. It’s about sharing life with those we love and being grateful that we have enough to eat, are warm and sheltered and live in a country that values caring for and about each other.

Margaret found the realization that she has enough to be very empowering and was inspired by reading David Chilton’s recent book The Wealthy Barber Returns.  “It was like a light coming on to finally recognize that I do have enough and allowed me to see everything differently, to relax, enjoy, be grateful and live in the moment” she said. Although I’ve personally not read the book yet (it’s on my list), I did read David Chilton’s original The Wealthy Barber when it was first published more than twenty years ago.

Most boomers are finally where we want to be in life and are happy that most of the stress is behind us, as long as our health holds up. Margaret makes entries in her gratitude journal every night which is something I also used to do and found incredibly uplifting. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and reflect on the gifts that surround us already. Today I took an early morning picture of the pond behind our house. It was as still and clear as a mirror reflecting the surrounding trees and birds walking along the shoreline. I never tire of my morning pot of tea while reading the paper. When I first started blogging almost four years ago, I posted an essay The age of acquisition about appreciating these and other simple pleasures. That’s more than enough for me and for that I am truly grateful.

Click here to read The age of acquisition . . . too much of a good thing.

Click here to order The Wealthy Barber Returns from Amazon

Click here to order The Wealthy Barber from Amazon

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Liar, liar, pants on fire!

A celebrity interviewer once asked Cher what quality she most detests in other people. Her answer was immediate and simple, “Lying.” Cher holds honesty in high regard and the fact that that one question has stuck with me all these years later attests to its profound impact. I have always felt that lies, even tiny “white” ones have no place in daily life. Bear in mind that withholding the truth is not the same thing. For example, in order to not hurt someone’s feelings, it’s sometimes prudent to not tell it like it is.

liar1Watching our politicians, business leaders and people in our daily lives utter blatant lies is disheartening to say the least. Much of the plot humour on television shows and in movies originates from and glorifies lying. Imagine how much less complicated our court systems would be if people really did tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Or, before crimes even come to court, if the guilty simply told the police officer the truth. Unravelling a string of lies to unearth that nugget of truth is an exhausting, frustrating and often futile ordeal.

Think of all the lies we’ve been victims of by the big banks during the economic crash of 2008, by Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, our own politicians including Kathleen Wynne and the late Rob Ford, not to mention Olympic athletes and celebrities. How much stronger would our society be today if we were treated like intelligent human beings who are capable of handling the truth.

liar2I would like to invent a secret device that automatically detonates and sets someone’s pants on fire when they tell a lie. Much like the swimming pool chemical that turns the water red when you think you’re sneaking a pee in the pool, your lie would be immediately be visible to all. Imagine how different our world would be. Of course, there should be an adjustment to accommodate the question, “Honey, do these pants make me look fat?” Or it might prompt us to stop asking the question. It’s rhetorical. Those pants probably deserve to ignite anyway.

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Live life in the present perfect

retired1

We’ve earned it!

Jane Fonda chronicled her life in three acts in her best-selling autobiography Prime Time, with her current stage of life being Act Three.  We each have different ways of remembering, analysing and categorizing our lives to make sense of our journey. Retirement has also been broken down into three stages. The first, where many early Boomers are now, is when we have the resources to do what we’ve waited our entire lives for. This may include traveling, playing lots of golf or tennis, ladies white wine lunches or simply relaxing on the patio, in your LaZGirl chair or on the dock with a good book.

During the second stage of retirement we slow down a bit. The inconvenience of travel has diminished its lustre, we’ve seen most of the places on our bucket list and we really prefer to sleep in our own beds at night. Our energy levels are compromised and we’re starting to get a bit creaky which requires more visits to the doctor with its associated blood tests and various hard-to-pronounce scans. Our spending is reduced and we’re content in smaller, more efficient single-level accommodation close to friends, family and services. Our lives centre around comfortable routines and rituals like a daily walk, regular meal times, watching the news or playing cards with friends.

We'll need to be creative about how we spend our retirement years.

We need to be creative about how we spend our retirement years.

The third stage of retirement is the most difficult and least rewarding. Some of us may be fit and able enough to still live in our own homes or apartments but the majority of us will require some level of care. Then our expenses will rise again as assisted living and chronic care facilities are not cheap. Depending on where you live and the level of service you require, costs can range from $2,000.00 to $5,000.00 per month, per person. We’ll be eating through our nest eggs pretty fast at those rates. I expect Boomers will be getting creative about our living arrangements by then (à la Golden Girls). Many of us are already discussing communal or clustered living with friends and hiring a cook, driver, cleaner, gardener or whatever support services we need to keep us rockin’ and out of the “home”.

christiane1The number of years associated with each of these three stages of retirement is fluid depending on the individual. I see my own life as now being in the first trimester of my third trimester. Then, I happened to see Dr. Christiane Northrup (the definitive authority on women’s health issues and menopause) on PBS the other day that has me rethinking the cycle. She was promoting Goddesses Never Age and her other books and DVDs, but her message is always solid and dependable.

We tend to think of our journey through life as a linear progression from baby to old age, then death. It can also be viewed as a circle in which we rotate from being fed, diapered and cared for as dependent babies to being fed, diapered and cared for as dependent seniors. When I first moved to Toronto at the age of seventeen to start work, I moved into Willard Hall, a girls boarding residence. My life’s possessions were contained in one suitcase and a train case and I shared a spartan dormitory room with another girl. How long will it be before I repeat that experience when I move into an assisted living or chronic care facility with one suitcase filled with nightgowns, slippers, track pants, toiletries and contraband bottles of Pinot Grigio, coming full circle over a lifetime.

life2Dr. Northrup suggested another way of looking at our lives that has a less negative connotation. Instead of perceiving of our journey as a linear progression with diminishing returns, consider the possibility that we are simply occupying space not time. That concept is reminiscent of Ekhart Tolle’s philosphy of living life in the moment. We are what we are, where we are in current time only. I rather like that concept. Occupying an abstract chunk of space in the universe sounds much more appealing than following a finite timeline that is running out.

A major bonus of embracing our lives as abstract chunks of space is that as Baby Boomers, it’s very likely we’re in the best space now that we’ve ever been in before; we’re more financially comfortable than we have ever been now that the mortgage is paid off or we’re living in an affordable rental space that we like; the kids are launched, literally and financially (we hope); we don’t have to get up and endure the stress of rush-hour traffic in snow storms to get to work on time and be lashed to our work stations until the clock says it’s time go to home; we’re as healthy as we’ll ever be (Boomers are the healthiest generation in history) and we can still do whatever we want. We get seniors’ discounts on movies, public transit, certain retail purchases and we’re finally our own boss. I’d say the present is a pretty perfect time to be who we are in the circle of life.

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Want to get inside Lucy Barton’s head?

lucyAfter waiting many weeks to download My Name is Lucy Barton by Pulitzer prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout, I finally received the book from the library the other day—and read it in an afternoon. At less than two hundred pages it was a quick read but most of the context involved reading between the lines. Written in the first person, Lucy describes a lengthy hospital stay in New York City resulting from complications during a routine operation for appendicitis. Her two young daughters are taken care of at home by their father who has an aversion to hospitals and summons Lucy’s estranged mother to sit by her bedside.

As Lucy describes her mother’s arrival and stoical stay sitting in a chair for five days, eschewing offers of a cot by hospital staff, the two women reach an understanding of their relationship through reminiscences of old neighbours, friends and acquaintances. Missing her own daughters terribly, Lucy attempts to recreate with her own mother the type of affection and intimacy she shares with her little girls. While her mother concedes some emotional ground begrudgingly, their relationship is forever coloured and affected by unspoken and undescribed forms of child abuse Lucy and her siblings endured as children. Their father, a veteran of World War II and the Battle of the Bulge is forever damaged and this in some way permits the children a level of forgiveness for their troubled childhood. The abuse perpetrated by the parents is referred to in vague references but not fully explained and is left to the imagination of the reader. If you enjoy well-written stories of introspection by women about mother-daughter relationships, you’ll find My Name is Lucy Barton to be a worthwhile read.

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It’s time to tune out . . . again

badnewsEvery few months I experience a severe aversion to news media. The symptoms present as anxiety, temporary depression, frustration and anger. The solution is to once again (as Timothy O’Leary said)  tune out. I know I’m not the only one who gets sick and tired of all the bad news we are confronted with every day from various sources. The evening news on TV is a predictable, formulaic lineup of updates on never-ending wars, robberies, stabbings or gun violence, consumer rip-off scams, car accidents and the resulting traffic chaos, political mismanagement, or trials related to any or all of these events. I know it’s the media’s job to report these tragedies but I don’t have to be part of the cycle by listening, watching or reading about it. It sucks the life out of me.

Notwithstanding this position, however, reading the daily newspaper is one of my greatest pleasures. I can spread it out on the kitchen table with my pot of tea and spend an hour reading the funnies, my horoscope, Dear Abby, lifestyle columns, business news and whatever light, interesting bits of information my eyeballs land on. The thing is, newspapers are conducive to skipping over the nasty bits. Television doesn’t allow that option. I realize I should be informed about the dark side of life but a steady diet of gloom is stressful and soul-destroying.

Canadian news sources  are only marginally better than those in the United States because:

  1. We’re not involved in the American election and therefore have more than one issue to report on.
  2. Canadians understand that an entire world exists beyond the borders of the United States so we get a more comprehensive, balanced perspective.
  3. We know and understand that guns are dangerous and stupid. Therefore, there are fewer gun deaths to report on Canadian news.
No news is good news.

No news is good news.

My inner voice is telling me it’s time to take a news sabbatical. The less I know about ISIS bombings, mismanagement by Wynne’s Ontario Government and Ontario Power Generating Company, the expense account abuses by Federal senators, boring celebrity non-news items, the horrible possibility of Donald Trump winning the American election, and other issues beyond my control, the better I’ll sleep at night. I’ll take my chances on not knowing about the latest cancer-causing foods, how to increase my sex drive or the negative impact on our health caused the latest lifestyle activity. So, for the time being, I plan to concentrate on my monthly magazines, library books and whatever offerings pop up on my Yahoo home page. I feel lighter, healthier, safer and happier already. And I feel a baking spree coming on.

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