BOOMERBROADcast

The voice of baby boomers, the silenced majority. Rants and reflections on lifestyle, fashion, current events, books and more . . .


5 Comments

Today’s lesson for Boomers. . . 1 + 1 = 1

Math has never been my strong suit. I’m a consistent 20% tipper in restaurants because it’s easier to calculate 20% than 15% in my head (and because I was a waitress a long time ago, so I appreciate the value of tips to servers). But, as baby boomers age, we realize that it’s easier to get through life with two people than it is with one. I was single for ten years before I married for the first time and spent seventeen years between husband number one and number two, so I’ve had a total of twenty-seven years of experience being single and on my own. And I’ve come to the conclusion that as we round out our third quarter, as The Beatles so eloquently put it, “we get by with a little help from our friends”. And that includes husbands, partners, neighbours, family members and even pets. They all help us get through the day. They filled the void during all those times I was on my own and continue to do so. The much maligned phrase uttered by Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire, “You complete me,” is suddenly not so corny.

I’ve written before (click here to read I’m not OK. Are you OK?) about the downside of certain aspects of aging. Being forgetful or absent-minded is natural—rather like defragging our hard-drive. Our brain has to dump old data to make room for new input. Regrettable but understandable. But my honey and I have recently experienced too many memory faults and error messages to write them off as simple updating of our ROM. Just last night we were sitting at dinner and couldn’t figure out what year we moved into our house. Was it two years ago or three? The mental exertion soon proved to onerous so we moved on to dessert.

Never again.

One day when I was checking out of a big box store I got caught with 12 items in my cart and only 11 items on my bill. I’d picked up two bags of pecans and accidentally only rang up one. I naively thought I was intelligent enough to handle the self checkout but obviously I over-estimated my abilities. To make it worse, just as I was standing there sorting out the issue with the checker at the door, while the lineup of impatient shoppers grew even longer behind me, I hear “Hi Lynda”. My friend Jeannette happened to be passing by just in time to witness my embarrassing shakedown by store security. Two lessons emerged from this experience:

  1. I am incapable of managing self-checkout without supervision
  2. Henceforth, I will always check out with a cashier because, a) they not only do a better job, but, b) I’m saving a job. Self-checkouts and other self-serve functions deprive someone of a real job and that’s not good for anyone.

Last week I mentioned to my husband that the windshield washer tank in my car was empty. When I kept pushing the lever, nothing happened. He was inappropriately smug and a tad too condescending when he informed me later that I’d been pushing the wrong lever.

And the list goes on. I gathered some girlfriends recently to watch a Christmas movie and swill wine but my television froze. Nothing worked. A couple of days later when the cable guy came out, it was a loose connection on the back of the receiver—which I had already checked, several times. He was very understanding, under the circumstances (dealing with an old lady).

But the pièce de résistance came earlier this week when my laptop computer died. It’s only 18 months old and when I bought it I also purchased every warranty and service package available to humankind for just such occasions. I checked the power outlet to make sure it was working, even moving it to an outlet in the kitchen to double-check. I changed the battery in the mouse and double-checked that the mouse was ‘On’. I couldn’t even reboot, which usually solves most problems, because it wouldn’t turn on or off. I pushed the laptop’s On/Off button multiple times with varying degrees of pressure and lengths of time in futile attempts to achieve ignition. No luck. Like Monty Python’s parrot; it was dead—not resting, not asleep—definitely dead!

So, I called Microsoft and the nice man informed me I might have a faulty display driver and suggested I take it to the Microsoft store where they would address my problems and perhaps replace my laptop. I was thankful for my brilliant foresight in purchasing those expensive warranty and service contracts. The next morning I made a 45-minute drive to the store. When I explained my situation to the little boy working there, he laid a nice protective pad on the counter, placed my dead parrot on the pad . . . and . . . TURNED IT ON. It worked!!! Heaven only knows why I couldn’t do the same thing pushing that little button; maybe my laptop just wanted to go for a nice long car ride and be fingered by someone with a gentler touch. Even my technically challenged husband now takes great delight in offering to turn my computer on.

I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.

As I said earlier, I’m not a math whiz; in fact I’m a complete ditz but when it comes to numbers. Fortunately my husband is amazing so he helps me. But he’s not good with the English language, written or spoken so I’m always available to bail him out with spelling and pronunciation issues. It’s the perfect yin and yang. We support each other’s shortcomings. Watching my parents as they grew older, I began to appreciate the value in having someone alongside to help shoulder the load. Now we’re in the same boat. What one can’t do, the other usually can. We muddle through. My friend Terry showed me how to use the timer on my oven; Gail’s our social convener; her husband Mike’s our go-to I.T. guy. I’m the source of new Britcoms on television. When we’re feeling discouraged or in need of a little moral support, who do we call? Our friends.

The challenges of aging aren’t what John Lennon and Paul McCartney had in mind when they penned “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends” but even then they understood the depth of meaning in the words to When I’m Sixty-Four. So far, he still needs me, still feeds me (twice a week when it’s his turn to cook), and still sends me Valentines. Mine for ever more. The reciprocal shortcomings of two people added together equals a whole in any equation. That’s not just science; it’s life. Maybe Jerry McGuire wasn’t so stupid after all.

To order a copy of my latest book BOOMER BEAT from Amazon, click here.

When I’m Sixty-Four

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four
You’ll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you
I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four
Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight, if it’s not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck and Dave
Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four
Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul McCartney
When I’m Sixty-Four lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
With a Little Help From My Friends
A little help from my friends
What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
I get by with a little help from my friends
I get high with a little help from my friends
Going to try with a little help from my friends
What do I do when my love is away
(Does it worry you to be alone)
How do I feel by the end of the day
(Are you sad because you’re on your own)
No I get by with a little help from my friends
Do you need anybody
I need somebody to love
Could it be anybody
I want somebody to love
Would you believe in a love at first sight
Yes I’m certain that it happens all the time
What do you see when you turn out the light
I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Do you need anybody
I just need somebody to love
Could it be anybody
I want somebody to love
I get by with a little help from my friends
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends
With a little help from my friends
Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul McCartney
With a Little Help From My Friends lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC


2 Comments

Mirror mirror on the wall . . . what the hell happened to us all?

My friend Margaret had already purchased the 10X magnifying mirror—before I could warn her about the consequences. As we progress along the aging continuum (how’s that for euphemizing ‘getting old’?) we often need help chasing down those errant eyebrow or chin hairs. Over time, we move from 5X to 7X and we’re now at the 10X stage which can be truly traumatizing when we go exploring.

If you want to restart your sluggish heart or enact your own version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, then checking out your face in a magnifying mirror is guaranteed to get all your bells ringing. The reason our eyesight gets weak as we age is an earned kindness. We were never intended to see the resulting wrinkles, pitting and pigmentation we’ve acquired over the years. When we look in the (regular) mirror we hazily see pretty much the same face that stared back at us in our twenties, and that one was rather pretty. Why spoil the illusion by getting a magnifying mirror? In fact, they’re so distorting it’s impossible to cram your whole face into one full-size shot to apply makeup and we are forced to view our imperfections pixel by pixel. Downright horrifying.

Those pores and fine lines I keep working so assiduously on trying to wrangle with expensive lotions and creams appear like moon craters. Stray chin hairs look like birch trees in a field of dried grass. Tiny wrinkles become trenches. And, I’ve discovered, it’s not just men who get unsightly nose hairs. It’s best not to be confronted with the harshness of all that reality. I was much happier and prettier before burdening myself with a magnifying mirror. Facing the truth in the mirror can be very demoralizing.

Makeup mirrors should come with a warning label. At the very least, they should have a decal affixed, like on the side mirrors of cars: “Image may appear scarier than it really is.” It’s too late for me and my friend Margaret but I’m warning you. If you’re contemplating buying a 10X magnifying mirror—DON’T. Just slap on the spackle, paint those eyebrows somewhere in the middle of your forehead, add a slash of blusher and put on a great, big smile. It’ll remove years. Face it; you’re the best you’ll ever be; you’re still able to admire yourself so be thankful and celebrate it.

To order a copy of my latest book BOOMER BEAT from Amazon, click here.


7 Comments

Are our senior citizens really OK?

The other day I posted a book review that included a condemnation of our tendency to judge people without knowing their background story. In fact, my entire blog is a form of judgement. I did it again this week, at the grocery store. I’ll give you the details and let you be the judge.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for fresh local produce. Does everyone have access?

It’s harvest season in Ontario, the season for juicy, fresh beefsteak tomatoes, peaches and no end of wonderful local produce. Shoppers are checking out with bushels of Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and fruit for preserving. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year for fresh food.

As I was standing in the produce section husking corn into a giant bin in the middle of the floor, a small, very elderly, very frail gentleman approached. He was probably in his nineties and his face was sweet and kind looking. His grocery tote was a hand truck he’d brought with him with a single reuseable vinyl grocery bag propped open on the base. He was wearing worn, comfortable shoes and socks, a short-sleeved plaid shirt and beige shorts. His shorts were held up with striped suspenders and where one of the suspender’s clips was broken, he’d used a bit of twine to tie the suspenders to the belt loop of his shorts. This simple piece of twine touched my heart as it reminded me of how resourceful and practical his generation is—those who grew up in the Depression—so different from the obscene consumerism of subsequent generations.

For a few minutes I was transfixed as I watched this stooped gentleman pick three ears of corn and place them in his vinyl shopping bag. An Asian woman standing nearby helped him dig through the bin to find some nice ones. All of a sudden I found myself contemplating his entire back story in my imagination. Where did he live? Did he live alone? Did he drive himself here? Did he walk, pushing his hand truck? How does he manage in winter? Particularly in a large city it’s so easy for these vulnerable people to be forgotten.

Because he was buying groceries, he obviously does not live in an assisted living facility. Perhaps he lives in a nearby apartment or maybe he’s still living in the same little bungalow he bought in the 1950s and is unwilling to leave. Does he have children? Do they visit him and help him out? Is his wife still alive or did she pass a few years ago? Is he lonely? Does he need help? So many questions swirled around in my head for the few minutes I observed him.

I found myself thinking of my own father who is 92 and lives in the most wonderful assisted living residence I could imagine. He’s happy, healthy, well taken care of, still drives and is mentally as sharp as ever. His residence overlooks the Trent Canal in front and Ranney Falls on the Trent River behind the building. It’s an idyllic environment and he’s surrounded by kind, caring people and fellow residents he’s known for decades.

I worry about whether our vulnerable seniors are being cared for.

My dilemma concerns my judgement of the elderly man in the grocery store. My initial reaction to seeing this man was sadness. I found myself wishing he could be living carefree in a residence like my father’s. Then, he wouldn’t have to worry about grocery shopping, cooking meals, cleaning or even getting his clothes mended. But perhaps I’m wrong to cast judgement. Maybe he’s living the life he chooses, independent and busy with the simple rituals and routines of daily life. Perhaps my concern is misplaced and he’s happily living his best life. I wonder if and how my husband I will be coping when we’re in our nineties—which isn’t that far off anymore, and if we make it that far. Once again I found myself casting judgement on someone I knew nothing about, however, sympathetic my intentions. I’m still thinking about him, days later. I can’t get him out of my mind, wondering how he’s doing. Is he OK? Are they all OK?

 


5 Comments

Don’t buy into the multi-tasking myth

Don’t you believe it!

Science is now confirming what we’ve long suspected—that multi-tasking is not only an overrated virtue but can in fact be counter-productive. Women in particular have been brainwashed to think we should be able to juggle work, home, community and social activity balls simultaneously and efficiently without dropping a single one in order to be deemed successful mothers, wives and human beings. Well, it’s all bull crap. Multi-tasking only results in an outcome that is less than it could or should be. This realization prompted me to dig up a posting on the value of down-time that I published a few years ago. Let’s not fall for the multi-tasking myth and instead allow ourselves the time and space we need to properly manage and in fact, enjoy our lives.

Feeling uninspired? Take a nap

Leah Eichler’s Women@Work column in The Globe and Mail was a source of inspiration and affirmation better than most I’ve read in a while. Eichler maintains that we often get our best ideas when our brains are off-duty. Haven’t you ever been struck with a brilliant idea just as you’re about to drop off to sleep or when you’re walking the dog through the park? According to Eichler we should allow ourselves more down-time to allow these bursts of inspiration to emerge. Research has shown that we need quiet time for our brains to arrive at the state of zen conducive to new ideas.

It's all in there somewhere. I just have to create the right level of nothingness to let it out.

It’s all in there somewhere. I just have to create the right state of nothingness to let it out.

I agree wholeheartedly with this philosophy. For that reason, I keep a pad and pencil on my night table and another in the map pocket of my car so I can write down these flashes of genius when they happen, or at the next red light. Fortunately I’m very good at zoning out. And to think teachers used to yell at us for not paying attention. Just think of all the earth-shattering discoveries and inventions they probably killed when we were daydreaming in school.

Multi-tasking and “busyness” are considered virtues in today’s world of 24/7 cell phones, e-mail and texting but these activities are ultimately counter-productive. Thomas Edison would regularly sit on his boat dock holding a fishing pole and line in the water, with no bait. He needed time to think. Bill Gates used to isolate himself at his cottage to free his mind for creativity. Gordon Lightfoot would check into a hotel and stay in his room for days to be free from distractions so he could write songs. And, Winston Churchill is well-known for his afternoon power naps that freed his mind from the stresses of trying to save the world from destruction.

This is my idea of being productive.

This is my idea of being productive.

When I was working, I always found the activity and noise inherent in daily office life to be distracting. My best ideas always came when I was doing some non-work-related activity. I needed my head to be free of clutter and my brain to be in a happy place to be truly productive.

So, with that in mind, please excuse me while I go take a nap. There are major world problems that need solving and I’m pretty sure I’m just on the cusp of finding the key to cold fusion—right after I summon up that Nobel-prize-worthy literature bubbling away in there somewhere. Maybe checking into a Four Seasons Hotel in Bali with the scent of fragrant blossoms and the sounds of surf outside my window would help. It certainly can’t hurt.


Leave a comment

What do you want to be?

The Beatles even wrote a song about it:  “She’s Leaving Home” and it’s one of my favourites.

When young people graduate, they are officially launched and become full-blown adults. Hopefully these two milestones occur simultaneously. But I keep reading about the stresses faced by young people in choosing their college or university career path. They demand greater support from mental health services to help them cope with the stress. How on earth is a teenager qualified to determine what he or she wants to do with the rest of their lives when they’re still coping with acne, learning the ins and outs of the opposite sex and micro-managing their social media profiles.

Even today, at the age of 70 and with more than 40 years of work experience behind me before I retired, if someone asked me what I would like to do with my life I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a satisfactory answer. Sure, I’d like to edit a leading-edge women’s magazine or write best-sellers that would make me rich. But how realistic are those goals? Expecting a young person to know the answer to that question can be soul-destroying. Pick a course of study that’s too restrictive and you’re denied flexibility. Pick the flexibility of an arts degree and what are you trained for? Not an easy choice.

What complicates this decision, in my opinion, is the misguided direction to “do what you love”. I think that misleads many young people into thinking that’s the key to success. It creates false hope because it’s not always possible to earn a living and support a family when all you really enjoy is playing video games, making music or taking selfies (the Kardashians being the exception to the rule). It’s not always practical or possible to earn a living doing what you love. Aptitude may be lacking. A favourite activity may not lend itself to a sound business case. Loving writing does not mean you’re going to be a successful author. In fact, few authors are able to support themselves with their writing. The same applies to acting, art, music and even technology. Although individuals with strong technological skills have a better chance, particularly if they know how to write code. Sometimes doing what you love must be relegated to a side hustle not the full-time job.

When baby boomers were finishing high school in the late sixties and early seventies, there was not as much emphasis on post-secondary education as there is today. Most of us were never asked “What do you want to be?”. We simply left home, moved to the big city and got a job with the telephone company or an insurance company. If we were career oriented, our options were teacher, nurse or secretary. Boomer guys could work for Ontario Hydro (which in retrospect would have been the best career choice if you consider benefits and pension), become a mechanic or get a job at General Motors. Once that was accomplished, we started assembling the components of what eventually became our lives. There was no great discourse, no years of scholastic preparation, no months of consultation with parents and guidance counselors and no particular stress involved. And since most of us did not go to university, no crushing student debt.

I also worry that extensive post-secondary education may lead some to naively believe that high-paying employment automatically follows. There are many people with several degrees and tens of thousands of dollars in student loans who are unemployable. Women’s Studies and Psychology are wonderful subjects to study but a tough fit in the world of business. While all this pressure on young people to pursue multiple degrees continues, there’s a serious shortage of electricians, plumbers and tradespeople. Not everyone is well-served by attending university and there should be greater encouragement for those who opt for alternative careers. We must remember that educational institutions are still businesses that need customers so further education accompanied by its attendant debt is encouraged.

When I was still in the corporate world and in a position to hire young people, I never looked at marks applicants got in school. Other qualities such as interpersonal skills, creativity, motivation, energy and resourcefulness were more valuable in the world of business. Most of what we needed to function in the working world (with the exception of doctors, nurses, teachers and other trained professionals) we learned on the job or developed through supplementary training throughout our working lives.

In a way baby boomers were lucky. We escaped the “What do you want to be” pressure. We were happy to just have a job and personified the Bloom where you’re planted” ideology. Most often, we were happy to break free of the restrictions of living at home and get out on our own. We worked as receptionists, bank tellers, manual labourers, secretaries or salespeople when we finished school. From there, we ran with whatever we were dealt and many of us did very well in spite of our lack of education and degrees. I’m glad I’m not young anymore. I don’t think I could take the stress of deciding what I want to be. I’m so glad I’m old.