Wednesday, July 29, 2009


It seems that everywhere you turn lately, people are losing their jobs. Or their organization is downsizing, leaving them wondering if the next visit to the boss’s office will include a complimentary cardboard box for their personals. This economic downturn that we are experiencing is being felt in every facet of our lives, every profession, and every community, as well as every age group. I know of more than a few men and women who have been cut from the payrolls and are having considerable trouble securing a new job. Age discrimination is supposed to be illegal, but one friend of ours decided to color her hair from a lovely silver to up her chances in the job derby. And guess what… it worked.
My own profession of teaching is not immune to troubles. Generally considered a recession-proof field, education is seeing not only cuts in staff numbers but also an overall reduction in new hires. Some boards of education are being forced to face the problem of increased classroom numbers in order to meet their fixed budgets. They are simply not filling the open jobs that have come about through attrition.
There is a problem here. Some folks in the older ages who find themselves jobless have taken up “re-careering”. Originally termed for those who have retired and then still find a need to use their skills in other full-time pursuits, we are finding many who are looking to education as their ace in the hole. Our own state has a controversial program that is designed to speed up the certification process for those who currently have a degree. Those for this plan see it as an opportunity to bring experienced and mature professionals in the sciences and other areas into the classrooms. The opponents, some of whom are the teacher associations and some of whom are school districts themselves, cite the lack of methods training offered in the certification process.
I can see both sides as having valid points, but lean toward the former, especially if the new teacher can handle the rigors of 25+ not-always-so-eager learners for 7 hours a day, 186 days a year. Of course, what with the aforementioned cut backs in many districts, these folks may have difficulty finding that opening.
There is an emotional side to all of this, to be sure. Having to leave a place where you have enjoyed not only the work but also the people you see everyday is not easy. Then, the task of retooling the resume, seeking job leads, working the internet, networking and otherwise selling yourself all over again can take its toll on even the most optimistic job-seeker. Especially now, when much of what they are hearing is not good news. On the other hand, some have been able to use this time as a rebirth. They really didn’t like the job, or the people. This layoff might just be a blessing in disguise, giving them a good excuse to branch out into areas they have always wanted to try but feared to because of the security of their current position. But now that the rug has been pulled out from under them, they have the chance to take that road less traveled.
I guess the message here is one of hope. In spite of the times, there are opportunities.


Saturday, July 18, 2009


It was a tough stretch a few weeks back for some iconic Baby Boomers. After a long and many would say courageous battle with cancer, Farrah Fawcett passed away. The Texas girl with the fabulous set of teeth who did more for the feathered hairstyle than The Six-Million Dollar Man did for slow-motion running burst on to the scene with her 1976 poster that became the best-selling pinup in history. That shot was considered somewhat risqué at the time, but when you see it again, it is tame by today’s standards. Hard to believe she was one of “Charlie’s Angels” for just the first season. To many, she will always be the Ultimate Angel. Maybe she is again.
Then, some mere hours after her passing, another Boomer of renown hit the deck. The self-proclaimed “King of Pop”, Michael Jackson, ended his time on this stage in characteristically controversial fashion. The news was abuzz with “was it a heart attack, an overdose, an accident? Did his doctor have something to do with it?” Of course, as in many stories such as this, we may never know the true cause of his demise. The world went into a weeks-long mourning (at least the news world) over the loss of an inarguably talented but equally tormented soul. Nothing can diminish the stamp he put on the face of music. His contribution to the genre of music videos may never be equaled. I stood as enthralled as the next person the first time I saw “Thriller” performed. He had a gift like no other. But, like many in that business, his demons managed to overwhelm any good he had to offer. There will forever be the questions regarding the nature and extent of his involvement with young boys, acquittals notwithstanding. Wonder will always exist concerning his bizarre physical transformation. And now, the allegations of his possible drug abuse.
The memorial to his life, televised live throughout the day and costing the cash-strapped city of Los Angeles a reported $4,000,000, just seemed to punctuate how skewed this planets values have turned during his tenure as pop icon. Every news outlet that could hustle a camera had its crews poised to capture the most minute overdone moment. And now that it is over, we will have a front-row seat at the sad drama of his family’s fight over custody of his children and control of his estate.
Then there is the story of Billy Mays. Born in 1958, this hard-charging guy from Pennsylvania, who got his sales chops hawking portable wash machines along the Atlantic City Boardwalk, takes an early exit from what was promising to be a fast climb to an iconic status of his own. A tag line on his website, “Life’s A Pitch, Then You Buy”, seemed to be ironically prophetic for the way he went out. For me, this man’s death was the saddest in the string. Regular guy hits it big, and then, kaboom, it’s over in an instant.
So it’s “Farewell, Farrah”, “Later, Michael”, and “Godspeed, Billy.”
Three very different additions to the pages of history.
(From "A Boomer's Journal". Suburban Journals of St. Louis, MO July, 2009)

Friday, July 03, 2009


Remember that old cliché that the only thing constant is change? Well, this took on a whole new meaning the other Sunday when we watched a rainy afternoon’s worth of old home movies. How little the trees were 15 years ago! And where did all our neighbors go?
That kid in the movie riding her training-wheeled bike is now getting ready for college. Jill and I had legitimate dark hair. And how about that cordless phone! Looks like a walkie-talkie from an old WW II flick. But one of the things that struck us most was wondering how the holy heck we survived six kids in this house.
Speaking of this house, it has indeed served us well. But now, as littlest birdie gets set to fly, it’s a bit more than we need.
This ticklish subject of downsizing enters our conversation more and more these days, as it does for many of the Baby Boomer generation. Talk of moving brings many questions to this demographic as they leave behind the family homestead to enter condos, apartments lofts and active adult communities. This last is a fairly new idea in the housing market, offering amenities such as pool and spa, golf courses, card rooms and planned outings.
People are selling off their extra furnishings, gifting their progeny with their very own “Amazing Rubbermaid Tubs O’ Stuff” accumulated over a lifetime of kid-raising, and rolling the lawnmower down to the curb with a “Free” sign slung over the handle.
And maybe this is a good thing.
When our parents died, we had plenty of issues to contend with, not the least of which was what to do with their life’s accumulation.
My brothers and I still marvel at how much mom was able to squirrel into her small two bedroom retirement apartment. And Jill’s parents had a two-story house-full that took over a year to parcel out.
My bride’s semi-annual purging party will pretty much save our kids from that task. But there are just some things you can’t part with.
I’ve managed to hang on to a few containers of my past, in spite of her not-so-subtle hints to toss my Boy Scout badges and City Champ jacket.
Any move would require some decisions. Even a math-challenged dude like me can figure out that it makes no sense to go smaller but keep a similar mortgage. We’ve considered condos and even renting, but that means no yard or basement for the kids to escape to when grandpa has had it with the eleventeenth screaming lap around the family room.
Our ideal getaway would be a ranch style with a yard and garage and finished basement, near highways and shopping and some nice restaurants, and within shooting distance of at least 3 cheap golf courses (I snuck in that last one, Jill). And honestly, we can’t imagine a life where the short-bus ride to the casino is the highlight of the week.
So do we stay or do we go?
This old neighborhood is looking better every day.
( From "A Boomer's Journal", Suburban Journals of St. Louis, MO July 1, 2009)