Thursday, September 29, 2011

I was a social worker in another life, so here are some things for your consideration

I consider it both a responsibility and a pleasure to suggest that midlife persons investigate resources, such as the following, for their future well-being.

Please note: I do not have, or imply, any vested interest in the businesses listed below. I also do not assume any responsibility for any outcomes of any of my readers' transactions with these, or any similar businesses.

For Long-Term Care Insurance: Brian R. Kavanagh, Genworth Financial, 805-657-9559, We "boomers" are the "sandwich generation." While we are so busy caring for our young adult offspring--and for our aging loved ones, as well--we forget that we need to plan for the future. Brian is a very knowledgeable agent, as well as having a calming, reassuring demeanor. This is vital for those of us who may experience anxiety when we consider purchasing Long Term Care insurance, or any other contract which forces us to acknowledge that we (who may have gone by the credo "Don't trust anyone over 30") are not "immortal" or "invincible!"

For Financial Consultation: Shawn Francis, World Financial Group, 818-559-6367. In an age where real service and relationships in the financial services industry are rare, I have found both in Shawn Francis. I am appreciative of Shawn's knowledge of the potential financial vehicles available to mid-lifers like myself. Shawn's willingness to accommodate my busy schedule has been essential to me. He has been willing to sit and truly listen to my goals and concerns, and design a program that will address them, though he keeps a very busy schedule himself. I trust Shawn. He charges no fee for his services and while he is happy to serve the wealthy, his focus is on the everyday person and family that would otherwise be ignored by the industry, regardless of income. I highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to speak with him.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The AARP Life @ 50+ Convention in Los Angeles--or as I say, "Age be damned!"

It's 1:30 AM on Saturday, and I've got to wind down and sleep. Still, I feel compelled to write about my experience at this conference, and how it has enriched my life.

In the past several months, when I first became aware of this convention, I vacillated as to whether I was going to go or not, wrapping three days -- Wednesday the 21st, Thursday the 22nd, and today, Friday, the 23rd -- around my standing therapy appointments. In the end, my curiosity won out, and I'm glad I attended. I met some wonderful people, and have come away energized and inspired.

On Wednesday evening, we were escorted to a fleet of tour buses to go to the "Meet & Greet" at the L.A. Center Studios. We almost didn't make it. What was supposed to have been a quick jaunt down Figueroa ended up being an hour-plus odyssey with a bus driver who was young, inexperienced -- and totally lost. After an unintended scenic tour that nearly took us to Long Beach, and having a busload of disgruntled riders ready to mutiny and commandeer the vehicle, some stepped to the front and convinced the driver to get back on the freeway toward "home."

Ultimately, the Meet & Greet proved worth it. There were catering trucks with quality grub, including one from In 'N Out Burger, a bakery, and some vegetarian fare. There was a cash bar and free wine tasting. What made the evening, though, was the jazz sounds of The Spanish Harlem Orchestra. How wonderful to see so many jumping up and down, waving their arms rhythmically as if they were kids at a rock concert, and dancing under the stars.

When we packed into the Nokia Theater on Thursday, passing the bag checks at the security check-points, we were all thrilled hear Jon Secada give a heartfelt performance of the national anthem. Jon also performed at Friday's Ice Cream Social. Major Villaraigosa and AARP officials were on hand to set the tone with an encouraging welcome, and it was also a learning experience. CEO Addison Barry Rand told us that AARP got its start in 1958 by Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, a retired high school principal who had begun the National Retired Teachers Association in 1947. Dr. Jane Goodall, who most of us remember from the National Geographic documentaries we saw growing up, gave us elders an urgent call to action on behalf of the world our children and grandchildren will inherit. The Jane Goodall Institute, together with its Roots and Shoots program, helps combat ignorance and apathy among youth who have despaired over being able to turn back some of the damage inflicted by prior generations. For a dramatic shift in tone, the show ended with the riotous comedy gifts of Carol Burnett and Tim Conway. I wanted to get Dr. Goodall's autograph on one of her books, but I got distracted among the vendor booths, and didn't get to that area in time. I consoled myself with ambling around the vendors, from travel firms to computer companies--to things like Depends and hearing aids!

My AARP experience was topped off with the Friday return visit to the Nokia Plaza for the Ice Cream Social. The Rope Master amazed early arrivals with his talent with novel moves with an ordinary jump rope. I also enjoyed walking among antique automobiles, buffed to a mirror shine. It was a pleasure to make the acquaintance of some representatives of a local chapter of the Red Hat Society ( Fueled by a combination of ice cream and Cosmopolitans, I followed them onto a packed dance floor, and we concluded that the music of the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band is the best damned fibulator in the world!

The most important thing I have taken away is the camaraderie I felt and observed, and the validation of my belief that "life does begin at 50." I feel a renewed sense of purpose, hope, and responsibility to my generation.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thoughts for Labor Day, 2011

When we're kids, either at play or in school, we are encouraged to ponder, "What do I want to be?"

Fast forward a few decades, and wherever we go, one of the first questions posed is, "So, what do you do?"

At what point, in so many of our lives, does being and doing become separated?

It could start when, after the glossiness of being in that new (often first) job wears off, due, perhaps to fatigue, confusion, or the embarrassment of having made your first "mistake." It's one that usually doesn't result in termination, but it's one that gets burned in your brain FOREVER. It's then that, sadly and often, an older, jaded colleague will take you aside and say, "Hey, kid, it's just a job!"

Ouch. For this you went through years of school, richly envisioned a career path, sent out resumes, ran the interview gauntlet, idealistically hoping that you would stand out, be noticed, and make a difference? How many kids do you hear say, in their playtime fantasies of the future, "Awww, I just wanna job..."? No, they dare to dream, and it usually involves doing something--humble or grand--that somehow leaves a legacy.

At church yesterday, our interim pastor, Rev. Mike Young, led a service that was rich in material to mine for this post. In the opening words, we read in unison, "May we be reminded here of our highest aspirations,/and inspired to bring our gifts of/love and service to the altar of/humanity./May we know once again/ that we/are not isolated beings/but connected, in mystery and/miracle, to the universe,/to this community and to each/other."

Mike then told a sweet story to the children, "The Stone in the Road," about a miserly, rich old man in Persia, who became more abundant in spirit once he shared his treasure, buried under the boulder in the middle of the road, over which everyone tripped. A little beggar boy happened upon the old man's stash as he pried up the rock, simply because he was tired of falling over it. One of the messages Mike underscored to the young listeners was that the "issues" we "trip over" in life can be used to our advantage if we stop simply complaining about them and look for the solution. (More on that in posts to come!). As I heard Mike tell this story, I also thought of Jesus' story of keeping one's candle under a bushel, and how our lighting up people's lives means being bold, and putting our energy out there for everyone to see and use. Being "the light of the world" is generous and loving, but it can be risky on many levels, and that's why so much--in our personal and work lives--remains undone, and unacknowledged. How many times do we not reach out to our loved ones because we assume they "just won't understand?" Or, at work, we sit silent in staff meetings because we're afraid of saying something that would be "stupid," and we think it might reflect badly on the image our peers have of us? Little by little, our "light" gets extinguished, and no one would know the power it might have had on the moment...

It would be easy to belabor (pardon the use of this word) the topic of unemployment stats, stock market, the GDP, the IMF, etc., etc. When the children left the sanctuary, Mike discussed, for the grown-up ears, just how illusory the whole concept of money ("pieces of paper") really is. He also reminded us of something I've said on the web about collective fear being the primary driving force of the economy these days, as opposed to actual scarcity of funds, or seeing community work projects that need doing. The amount of "stuff" is still there; it's a matter of how it's being distributed that is problematic. It's very easy for our society to become like that old man in Mike's story, when competing priorities scream at us from the headlines. Sharing resources with our communities under these circumstances is not always easy, but, as Mike stated, it serves "enlightened self-interest." With each of us doing our small share, we each benefit. Is it any accident that there are now coaches/therapists coming forward in increasing numbers, offering services to help people with their "relationship with money?" In the same vein, there are employment coaches, and therapists who intervene when workplace bullying causes employees to feel threatened and disempowered, trapped in situations that are psychologically unsafe.

Perhaps we also need to look at work as something we are, not simply what we do (re-read the first two lines of this post). I'd be horribly remiss if I neglected to acknowledge unpaid laborers--including volunteers, family caregivers, house-spouses, stay-at-home parents--as part of the force. This can help rekindle some of the initial joy of our jobs, and help take pride in how we serve others on a daily basis. In other words, from a relationship perspective, we can revive the passion we once had, and combat the burnout that can so suddenly overtake us. And for those who have been laid off and are "resorting" to taking a job that is "not what I'm really looking for," I would suggest that there is dignity in all work, and it's mentally as well as financially healing to look for that worth. The pain of this current economy is in large part about feeling displaced, and no longer feeling useful. It's sort of like getting dumped in a relationship, but eventually, other passionate connections can be made. It's a matter of rolling away the boulder, and fiercely, courageously looking at unconsidered possibilities.

At the end of the service, we read Marge Percy's, "To Be of Use:"

I want to be with people who submerge in the task,
Who go into the fields to harvest and work in a row and pass the bags along.
Who stand in the line and haul in their places,
Who are not parlor generals and field deserters but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud. Botched, it smears the hands,
crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil, Hopi vases that held corn, are put in
museums but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry and a person for work that is real.