Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Times, They are 'a Changin'

I just read about a man who was recently laid off after working for a food company as a salesman for twenty-four years at The Boomer Chronicles.

The first time I was confronted, as a career counselor, with this type of situation, was in the early 90’s. I was called in to speak to a group of laid off aerospace workers who had lost their jobs during the post cold war defense downsizing. They were all men, mostly professionals, engineers, accountants and managers. The loss they felt was inconsolable.

It was the beginning of trend that continues today. Prior to that time, it was common for blue collar workers to be laid off. That marked the beginning of lay offs of professions. A trend that continues to this day.

A few years later, I went through a similar situation. With a partner, I started a career center. I had arrived. I had become who I wanted to become. Then one day, she proclaimed she wanted to dissolve the partnership. I was devastated.

People don’t understand. Yes, you lose you livelihood and that’s scary as can be. Many people also lose their sense of identity. We are a society that defines ourselves by our work and as wage earners. If you take that away, there is a complete lose of self.

It’s hard to recover, but people do. People can move to the other side and discover a whole new way of being. They do find other jobs and move on. It’s not easy. It can be incredibly painful.

I fell into a depression that lasted eighteen months. Slowly, I learned about a process I now teach to help people heal and become whole again.

The next few years are going to test the resiliency of a lot of people. Dreams and expectations are going to be challenged. Ultimately, we’re going to have to learn how to function with less than we imagined.

In all of this, there is still opportunity. There is opportunity to come together as families and communities. There is opportunity to reevaluate what is truly important to individuals and to our country. There is an opportunity to redefine work and its role in our lives. I’m hoping there is also an opportunity for companies to redefine what they are all about. Is there something beyond the bottom line? Stay tuned.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Half Full Glass

I just finished sweeping the chards of glass off the floor. My beloved gallon jar used for making sun tea slipped from my fingers as I reached to take it out of the refrigerator. Of course, my first reaction was, “Oh, sh..!”

As my husband arrived with the vacuum to retrieve the slivers, I commented, “At least it wasn’t full of tea.”

He then responded in his sardonic voice, “There you go again seeing the glass (in this case jar) is always half full.”

I am a half-full kind of gal. I write this as I sit with a sewer system that is backed up since yesterday, waiting for the beloved “Joe the Plummer” to come replace the fifty year old sewer pipes. My husband cleared the hillside they have dig up early this week. We’re intending to replant with drought tolerant plants. The good news is we haven’t planted yet, so they aren’t going to have to distroy new bushes and shrubs.

Last year we our flight to Lisbon was cancelled. We didn’t get a new flight for twelve hours. As a result, we arrived in Lisbon at 10:00 in the morning instead of 4:00 in the afternoon. Had we arrived at 4:00, we would have had to try to find our hotel in Evora, fifty miles away in the dark. Initial disappointment turned into a godsend.

Psychologists now think people are either born with an optimistic or pessimistic disposition. I have long given up trying to figure what part of our personality is choice or predetermined by genetics. I feel blessed that no matter how bad the circumstance, I’m ultimately able to find the silver lining.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Successful Aging

What does aging successfully look like? For me, it means being able to stay active, engaged and healthy until the end. Fantasy? Impossible? High unlikely, you say?

Actually, according to a massive multi-disciplined study sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, it’s not far-fetched. John W. Rowe, M.D. and Robert L. Kahn, Ph.D. document the study and results in the book Successful Aging. This is easy reading and very informational, designed to change our ideas about what aging is all about.

The primary conclusions are the older we get, the less genetics plays a role and the more environment and lifestyle choices matter. That’s the good and bad news. You can’t just blame your parents any more. I think we have to tread carefully not to blame the victim, but we have control over our aging.

Another important finding is the body starts to repair itself immediately from poor choices. I was a smoker most of my adult life. In the ten years since I quit smoking, my chances of getting heard disease and stroke have diminished to the same as someone who never smoked. If I survive another five years of not getting lung cancer, my chances of getting it the future are the same as someone who never smoked.

No matter what you’ve done, you get a second chance. That’s certainly not permission to make poor choices, just because you can reverse the effects. However, since most of us have eaten poorly, and over indulged in many substances through the years, it’s nice to know you can start right now to make positive changes.

The most important thing you can do, besides quitting smoking if you still do, is to get off the couch and start moving, according to the study. It’s more important to get exercise than what you eat, or drink. Physical activity helps your body, your mental functioning, and you emotional well-being. You can start small and whatever changes you make, will have a positive impact on your life.

I highly recommend this book to everyone who is making the transition into elderhood, however you define it. I guarantee you’ll learn something that you can easily implement into you life to enhance you aging successfully.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Night on the Town

I went to see Ed Bagley Jr. last night. It was actually a monumental event. For twenty-five years, if I wanted to do something in the evening, I had to go alone or call a girl friend. It was the first time my husband and I did something together in the evening on a weekday. That was nice.

Ed Bagley Jr you're asking. Both my husband and I are interested in environmental issues. We are certainly not hard-core environmentalist, as I've mentioned before. The talk was sponsored by the Discovery Center which promotes the love of science.

I was a bit concerned Ed Bagley Jr had become a caricature of himself. The green geek riding along the Los Angeles roads on his bicycle oblivious to the realities of city living. I actually found him to be passionate, which I knew, incredibly informed on all aspects of the environmental world and surprisingly apolitical.

This man has been in the environmental game for a long time and has learned to handle himself deftly in a crowd. He was speaking to the choir, but I got the feeling he would have been equally adept with group of coal burning utility owners.

For example, he didn't spend a lot of time talking about the climate change. Instead, he focused on the age-old concerns of water and air pollution. Remember those.

He wasn't all doom and gloom. He stated we were making lots of headway in these areas. For example, Los Angeles has four times as many cars on the road as it did in the 1970's, but one-half the pollution. That's progress. He also discussed the rivers that have been cleaned up in the twenty-five years, without negating the work that still needs to be done.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Morro Bay

My husband and I returned from a few days at Morro Bay on the central California Coast. It was perfect. The weather was mild. We spend most of our time looking at birds; pelicans, heron, egrets and of course, sea gulls. Sea lions entertained tourists and annoyed the locals. At least six otters guarded the entry to the bay. We took hundreds of photos. I love digital cameras!!!!

We didn’t watch the news once, but did peak at the newspaper that was delivered everyday to our doorstep. There is something so amazing about being in nature. Whether it’s walking in a forest or sitting by the beach, it’s so much harder to be anxious, angry or fearful. Nature is like taking a tranquilizer. Whether it helps put everything in perspective, or the sounds and sights calm the nervous system, it’s easier to be in the moment and not fret about what’s going on.

We know one thing for sure. The current financial situation isn’t going to be over this week or next. If you find yourself feeling more stressed than normal, find the time to take a walk in nature.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Finance as Entertainment Doesn't Work

My friend picked me up this morning to go paint. She announced the long deserved trip she was planning with her husband up to Napa was put on hold. He's freaking out about the markets. Later, in class she mentioned the first thing she does when she gets up in the morning is turn on the tv to see what is happening on the markets. Turn it OFF!

We're all scared. And yes, it is a bit like watching a wreck. It becomes hypnotizing. Just because it's compelling, doesn't mean it's healthy and we need to do it.

I worked through three or four major recessions as a career counselor. In fact, my husband was unemployed during the recession of 1982. I used to tell clients to not open the paper. In those days, one needed the paper to look at the want ads. Our little brains just love to buy into the concept of 'the sky is falling.'

The sky may be falling. Our job is to stay calm. Let it run it's course and then figure out what to do. Allowing yourself to get crazy doesn't help you and it doesn't help the country.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Retirement Begins

I started this blog as a way to share my own journey as my husband makes the transition into retirement. At the same time, I wanted to share whatever words of wisdom I have about this process. It’s an interesting tightrope to walk between sharing who you are and what you know.

On Monday, the stock market took and nose dive. Tuesday was my husband’s last day of work-as we know it. It’s a little intimidating to start this transition at the same time as the financial world seems to be in a tailspin. Realistically, if he and I are to live to the ripe old ages we plan, this was going to happen eventually.

Neither one of us have looked at our 401K’s. We’re not nervous. More pensive. Just trying to take it all in.

I wish people wouldn’t ask me how I like him being retired. It’s been one week. For 25 years, he’s taken at least one vacation a year where he’s hung out and did fix-it around the house. It still feels like he’s on vacation.

I’ll let you know how I like him being retired in six months.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Warren Buffet Quote

There is a new biography being released about Warren Buffet. There are numerous stories about how he has chosen not to leave his children any inheritance. This is not quite accurate. In his wife's will, the children were given $10 million dollars each and Warren gives them $1 million every five years. He is quoted as saying (I love this), "I wanted to leave my children enough money so they could do anything, but not so much as they could do nothing."