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Tom Murphy, December 1, 2011
Like many boomers, my siblings and I just went through the experience of
moving our mom into an assisted living center. Having written about this a
number of times, I followed all the advice I could remember. First, I did a lot
of research ahead of time -- long before we thought I would need to put the
information to work. Second, I conferred with my sister, who is my mom's primary
caregiver, about the location of the facility and what it would mean for my
sister. For example, it means a slightly longer drive, but far fewer chores and
a lot less worry about my mom's health. Third, we spoke with our other siblings,
explaining the process and answering any questions. There was a little
resistance -- mostly concern about my mom's independence -- but that went away
when my mom fell in her apartment and spend a night on the floor. She ended up
in the hospital for a night, but was lucky -- nothing broken. However, when she
came out and needed rehab, she agreed to move into her new home as a temporary
rehab patient. As she recovered, she moved into an apartment that looked just
like the one she had before she fell -- just a little smaller. She likes the
staff (lots of attention!) and the food -- I spent a lot of time in my research
making sure I like the people and the menu, too. But she doesn't like getting up
at 6 a.m. for breakfast and exercise -- who would? I've got to admit, that
seems pretty early. But I'm comforted to know that she's eating right and
getting some exercise. In her old place, she didn't exercise, which may have
been part of the reason she fell. All in all, I think we did everything right
and, in time, I think my mom will like her new digs a lot better than the lonely
apartment she left behind.
Tom Murphy, July 3, 2011
America is the world's envy when it comes to democratic systems. But don't
tell that to Minnesotans, who saw their state
shut down for the Fourth of July weekend over partisan budget squabbles,
or California college students, who've watched their tuition climb from the
hundreds per year to the thousands to help cover mounting costs. Closing
parks in summer? Cutting food to the poor and elderly? Making it harder to
stay in school? You can blame the lousy economy, but the real culprits when
democracy breaks down are the elected officials who don't understand that the
people put them in office to keep the government running smoothly - not shut it
down at the first sign that the other party disagrees on a key issue.
Things are no better on the federal level where the GOP seems intent on ruining
the US credit standing rather than allowing a tax increase on the wealthiest
corporations and individuals. Americans aren't whiners, but they're not stupid
either. They know the rich are making record profits while the middle class is
struggling, and they don't like it. Expect a populist movement to arise in
response. At RedwoodAge, we believe it's important to think critically, share
information, act on that info and live a balanced life. But you can't live a
balanced life if you can't afford groceries, enjoy a park or get an education.
It's time to get life back into balance by acting on the information before us.
Tom Murphy, May 24, 2011
Whether it's a flood in New Orleans, a tornado is the heartland or an earthquake in Japan, it's important to remember that the victims are people just like us. We may speak different languages, pray to different gods and hold different political views, but we all share the same planet. And we're all caretakers of that planet, and of all the people on it. It's easy to dismiss a tragedy halfway around the world with an "Isn't that awful?" and move on. But I challenge you to visualize yourself in that disaster, and think about what you'd do if your loved ones were missing, injured or dead. What would you do if your home was destroyed, along with your town and your livelihood. Awful doesn't begin to express the horror. We must take care of the world around us, and that includes our neighbors when they suffer. And we should hope and pray they'll take care of us when our turn comes.
Tom Murphy, March 13, 2011
earthquake and the resulting tsunami are reminders of how connected we
are in the world. Within hours of the quake, waves were washing up on the
California shoreline, capsizing boats and ripping apart docks. One person was
killed in California by a natural disaster on the other side of the planet. The
cause and effect was very apparent in this case, but it's good to keep in mind
that for every action, there's a reaction. "Every" means that
everything that happens on this planet has an effect on everything else. When
you eat a steak in Omaha, that may make corn a little more expensive in Mexico.
When we buy goods trucked into your local store, the diesel fumes may trigger an
asthma attack in a child living near a freeway. And when we live our own lives
sensibly, we make the world a better place for everyone. The old bumper sticker
used to say, "Think globally, act locally," but maybe a better motto
is "Think globally, act personally." Or the way we like to say it
here: "Think. Share. Act. Live."
Cecily O'Connor, September 1, 2010
"Look at me, Mom!" With hands on the steering wheel, I
automatically whip my head around. "Ha, ha, Colin. That's a funny face. But
remember, I need to keep my eyes on the road." I'm sure a lot of people can
relate to that type of road distraction. However, we often hate to remind
ourselves that in those brief moments when we're not looking, the potential for
a crash increases. Every 10 seconds in the US, someone is treated in an
emergency room for crash-related injuries. About 40,000 people a year die as a
result, while the costs of medical care and productivity losses total a whopping
$99 billion. The loss of life is significant on its own, but given the
subsequent costs in the current depressed economic environment, the Centers
for Disease Control is focusing on more strategies to prevent accidents.
That includes a "graduated driver licensing" program that would give
teen drivers experience in low-risk situations before putting them behind the
wheel in high-risk traffic. Increased emphasis also would be placed on helmets
for motorcycle drivers, child safety seats and sobriety check points. I'm glad
the CDC is focusing on prevention. But addressing these issues above is just the
beginning. I think a basic problem is that many of us are guilty of not taking
the act of driving seriously. Rather, we drop everything to pick up a cell phone
call, write a text message or answer the call of our kid in the back. Granted,
my son could one day have a legitimate problem from his booster seat that
doesn't involve a scary face or snack attack. So perhaps it's time he and I work
on some prevention strategies of our own.
Pamela A. MacLean, August 3, 2010
Knowing what to do in an emergency may be something we've all pondered, and
even think we're ready to handle. But handling an emergency takes practice
when you're not under stress. That's why the idea to make
resuscitation easier by skipping the whole "mouth-to-mouth"
part seems like such a good idea. Researchers are suggesting chest compression
until the ambulance comes may be the best thing you can do. And no matter how
much you may have hated disco, it's good to know that pushing on a patient's
chest to the beat of "Stayin' Alive" or about 100 beats per minute is
more likely to save a life or prevent brain damage. And this way disco never
Pamela A. MacLean, July 14, 2010
It is hard to believe that the lessons of poorly coordinated disaster relief
in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina could be so quickly forgotten, but one
only has to look at what is not happening in Haiti. In the wake of the January
12 earthquake that killed 230,000 to 300,000 people, the Red Cross raised
millions from generous donors around the world. The group now has $468 million
in the bank, but despite deplorable conditions in the state-run hospital and
strikes by unpaid staff, the Red
Cross has agreed to pay less than 1 percent of its stash, about $3.8
million on unpaid wages. It plans to pay 1,800 doctors, nurses and staff at
the largest general hospital. True the Red Cross is not responsible for the
situation at the hospital, but it certainly could have moved quickly to make
things better. Instead it negotiated for four months over terms for assistance.
Just days after the criticism of the Red Cross hit the news, the charity it
would also $8.6 million on semi-permanent shelters for the homeless. President
Obama has encouraged continued help, but has not criticized the slow
pace of help generally. Now hurricane season is approaching and the long delay
to get people in dire need simple medical care and pay doctors does not bode
well. What will happen to the thousands still living in tents and without work?
Tom Murphy, May 26, 2010
When a friend drove through New Jersey recently, she was astonished by the
scene and smell of the industrial belt. Then she noticed a sign for Camden, one
of the badly polluted towns mentioned in Nahmyo Thomas' superb series of stories
elders living amid industrial waste. What she didn't notice - what most
people forget - is that people live in those places. A lot of them are older
Americans who worked in those factories for years and now can't afford to move
away. For those elders, the risks of pollution are far greater than they are for
the young. They lead to asthma, lung problems, cancers and death. There's an old
saying that you can tell a lot about a society by the way it treats its elders.
What does this say about growing old in America?
Wendy Wolfson, April 14, 2010
You probably heard that my home state, California, has a bruising budget
crisis that will linger for years. The schools are the easiest thing,
politically, to cut. The state has been indifferently strangling its school
districts. It is disheartening to realize that the only state with more miserly
spending per pupil than California is Mississippi (no offense to our Southern
friends). The local parents association in this working class town wistfully
asks everybody to contribute a dollar a day to fund a student. The elementary
schools are asking for donations of paper, art supplies and toner cartridges. I
have odd rescue fantasies, like signing up every kid in California for GalaxyZoo.org
so they can use their collective intelligence to categorize galaxies. Maybe
somewhere in a galaxy far, far away libraries, school sports, music and art are
funded. What if the National Science Foundation would give your school $10 bucks
for each galaxy you spot?
Tom Murphy, February 12, 2010
It's worth noting that despite the amazing advances in drugs that treat
everything from cancer to indigestion, many of the underlying causes of our health
problems are of our own making. We eat too much. We smoke. We don't get
exercise. We don't get enough sleep. We don't wash our hands enough. If we did
those basic things, a lot of the heart disease, cancer, diabetes and organ
damage we see around us would vanish. Then it might make sense to risk the side
effect of pharmaceuticals to treat stubborn addictions and diseases. Case
in point: Chantix. This is, by any measure, a breakthrough drug that
attacks the urge to smoke by manipulating signals to the brain. But it's still
only twice as effective as sugar pills, and falls well behind will power as a
way to quit smoking. In exchange for its added help, there are rare but
significant side effects, including depression and suicide. The FAA has banned it for pilots and air controllers, but you and I can get it by prescription and drive our cars. At this point,
nobody but the very stupid should be smoking cigarettes. And nobody but the
truly desperate should rely on drugs before trying the natural alternatives.
Tom Murphy, January 12, 2010
There are plenty of miracles in modern medicine. But none matches the miracle
of nature. Once again, astute medical
researchers have proven this with a study showing that eating lots of
leafy green veggies, or at least taking vitamins that contain some
natural-occurring compounds, may help prevent some of the cellular abnormalities
associated with lung cancer. Nobody is saying chemotherapy doesn't have a
place in treating this pernicious form of cancer. But common sense says
that we should all be doing what our moms told us to do: eating a sensible,
balanced diet and finishing our veggies. This theme pops up all the time in our
reporting here at RedwoodAge, where our motto encourages our readers to live a
"whole life" that balances the physical, spiritual and intellectual
sides of our existence. Over the decades, a natural approach to life will help
you avoid ugly and unnatural consequences.
Pam MacLean, December 16, 2009
The glint of good economic news, from a drop in jobless claims, home sales
and other signs of a turn around, may be cheering economists and politicians but
many Americans still expect a lump of coal this holiday. There many
unemployed professionals are cadging
for part-time, temporary jobs as sales clerks, competing with neighbors
and friends for some income. And a more troubling
trend is the division between long-term and short-term unemployed.
The number of those out of work longer than six months is growing while
the short-term unemployed numbers are declining. This is going to mean a
bleak Christmas season for many Americans who look for ways to pay bills and
still put something in the stockings for the kids. Let's hope for a real
turn in the new year.
Tom Murphy, September 14, 2009
If there's any silver lining to the recession, it's that our priorities seem
to be shifting away from being obsessed with possessions. When the economy was
booming, people spent with reckless abandon, buying big-screen TVs, gas-guzzling
cars and houses couldn't afford. They paid for it by taking on debt and working
too hard in an impossible effort to try to pay it off. As the economy collapsed,
leaving 25 million Americans underemployed or completely jobless, the pain has
been palpable, with cutbacks
in the most basic social services, rising numbers of homeless, increased
numbers of uninsured Americans and families that can't afford basic school
supplies for their children. At the same time, we've seen families eating more
dinners around a kitchen table instead of some unhealthy chain restaurant. We've
seen people spending more time socializing with friends instead of trying
to impress the boss. And we've seen people taking a little more time to
read a book, work out in a gym or just think about where they're heading in
life. The lesson here is to focus on the good things in your life, cut back on
the bad things and focus on the ability to always being able to tell the
difference. No matter what the economy does, you'll be happier following those
Tom Murphy, August 6, 2009
Remember that 1960s-something saying "you are what you eat?"
Well, it was truer than we ever knew. At RedwoodAge, we've long preached the importance of
balancing living a "whole life" that includes a sensible diet, regular exercise and spiritual solace. As it turns
out, medical researchers have been looking at pretty much the same thing since,
well, since Jimi and Janis were still wailin' at Woodstock. The results are pouring in, study
by study. The latest says that high
cholesterol gives you a much higher risk of dementia in old age. Great.
Wish they told us that before we gobbled down all that schlock under the golden
arches. Despite exercise, I've got a cholesterol count like a cheese danish. But
I'm working on it, eating more than my share of oatmeal and garlic, and staying
away from the cheese and butter. Maybe we can't bring back Jimi and Janis except in recordings, but I can
try to drive the bad cholesterol levels down as I spin my vinyl. I'll eat well while doing it. And
the bike rides commutes are pretty nice, too. So cook with honey, baby, and don't forget to feed your soul.
Julie Mitchell, July 12, 2009
in five single women age 65 or over lives in poverty.
And as we boomers creep toward retirement, the problem will only get
worse. Like all Americans, I've
been doing my best to curb spending, especially on "frivolous" things.
I don't really need another pair of sandals; summer is half over. And I
can buy my granola in bulk, not boxes, and load up on non-organic nectarines.
But I just got back from a long-planned trip to New York with my teenage
daughter, and being frugal on vacation is easier said than done.
Sure, we bought our own water rather than raid the mini-bar, and we
walked miles instead of taking cabs (I've got the blisters to prove it).
But we dined out and went to the theater and did a wee bit of shopping
because that's what 14-year-old girls really, really like to do.
And of course we did have to take cabs to and from the airport.
It got me to thinking: should I be foregoing things like vacations in
order to avoid a future as an elderly bag lady?
After all, I'm married now, but statistically, I'm programmed to outlive
my husband. And I have only
worked part-time since having kids. The
future looks kind of terrifying, both on a environmental and a fiscal basis.
But hey, kids only want to travel with their parents for a short time.
This may be the last mother-daugher trip we take.
Until we go back to look at colleges in New York in three years, because,
charmed completely, that's where my daughter has decided she wants to go.
Let's hope we can afford it.
Julie Mitchell, June 30, 2009
Farrah Fawcett.Not only did
she have the misfortune of dying on the same day as King of Pop Michael Jackson,
but she died of anal cancer. And
there's just no way to pretty that up. Yet
Farrah was a fighter, who battled her cancer with determination and grace for
three years before she finally succumbed. While
many are speculating about the reasons for Jackson's sudden death - most
centered around the apparent fact that he was addicted to a variety of
prescription drugs a la Heath Ledger and Anna Nicole Smith - Farrah's cancer
seemed to be just bad luck. But it's
also possible that the reason she developed her particular type of cancer was
that she may have had HPV, or the human papilloma virus.
Researchers have reported that as many as three
out of four baby boomers could be infected with HPV as a result of all
that youthful unprotected sex we indulged in during our college-and-after years.
The virus is usually linked to cervical cancer in women, but studies has
also linked HPV to other cancers, including anal, vulval, vaginal, and penile.
Farrah Fawcett, with her sinuous, curvy body, wide, white smile, and
lavishly layered locks, was THE sex symbol of the 70's; her poster graced many a
high school and college boy's wall. It
was a time before AIDS, a time when many of us thought if we were on the pill,
we were good to go. Now we know
otherwise, and poor Farrah might just become another poster girl, this time for
Julie Mitchell, June 23, 2009
We've been hearing contradictory things about wine lately.
For a while, it seemed that consuming a nightly glass of wine, especially
red which is high in the antioxidant ,revesterol, was the smart thing to do.
But then women were warned that even that single glass could raise our
risk of breast cancer. No, said
another study, those who drink moderately, such as a glass of wine a day, live
longer and are healthier. But wait!
Are moderate wine drinkers already
healthier than those who don't drink at all anyway?
And I read another article that said if I drank my usual glass of wine
with dinner every night, and then the occasional second glass on the weekends,
then I was consuming more than seven drinks a week - the maximum for women -
landing me smack in the middle of the road to alcoholism. It reminds me of the
oat bran hype. Back in the early '90s,
the media convinced me that oat bran would make me feel better and live longer,
so I baked batch after batch of bland oat bran muffins.
I dutifully ate them for breakfast until I got bored and went back to
granola and yogurt. And it turned out
that while oat bran is certainly better for you than Pop Tarts, it's not a
wonder food. I look forward to my
nightly glass of wine. I especially
enjoy the way it enhances the flavors of my dinner, and during the week I have
never once poured myself a second glass.
So, I wonder: am I an example of a healthy middle-aged woman who knows
how to be moderate, or an under-the-radar drunk playing Russian roulette?
Julie Mitchell, June 15, 2009
My husband and I, 48 and 52, respectively, were watching TV when
Lee Majors - The Six Million Dollar Man - started hawking a special hearing aid.
We both laughed. And then I
pointed out that, from 5-7 pm when the news is on, most TV
ads are geared to the elderly.
Maybe some commercials (think erectile dysfunction) are skewed a little
younger, but in the course of an average newscast, I am treated to ads for
age-related dry eye conditions, telephones with extra-large keys, products to control
the bladder and medications for high cholesterol, diabetes and osteoporosis.
Are older folks the only ones who watch the news these days?
Are the Gen-X and Y kids getting everything they need from the Internet?
It made me think that maybe TV news will go the way of daily newspapers.
It's sad enough to think that my kids never knew the brilliance of news anchors
such as Walter Chronkite and David Brinkley.
It's sadder still to think that because I like to read the newspaper or
tune into the evening news that the ad industry thinks of me as old.
Tom Murphy, June 6, 2009
If you're a boomer, you're probably thinking about how you'll get by in
retirement. If you're a black boomer, you may be wondering how you'll get by
next month. Despite our generation's nearly incessant talk of reducing the gap
between the haves and have-nots, the gap has been growing wider, and not by a
little. Today, whites
heading into retirement typically have ten times as much net wealth as
African-Americans, and it's not exactly like the whites are ready for
the carnage that lies ahead. It would be easy to throw up our hands and say,
"well, we tried," but this is a problem that will affect us all. If 10
or 15 percent of the 77 million boomers end up living their final years in utter
poverty, the strain on the larger society will be daunting. One of the strange
ironies of living in America is that every poor person in our society ends up
costing the society a great deal more than it would have cost the individual in
the first place. For example, if you have $10,000 and you get very sick, the
government will make you spend everything you have and then give you hundreds of
thousands of dollars of medical care for free. If you have $170,000, same thing.
You can burn through your nest egg very quickly, give up your three-bedroom,
two-bath house, and end up penniless after you're discharged from the hospital.
Who pays the big bills? The taxpayers (aka, the younger generation and those
lucky old folks with a lot of money). So wouldn't it be better if more elders
had enough money to support themselves at least part way through retirement?
Yep. The social costs of helping people build their savings now - of getting
blacks, hispanics and other low-income groups on the same level as the wealthier
white population - are tiny compared to the costs all of society will bear as
boomers age. But can we afford to do this now while the country is wrestling
with an enormous debt and digging its way out of the worst recession since the
Great Depression? Well, if we can't afford to do it now, we certainly won't be
able to do it later.
Julie Mitchell, May 25, 2009
Two years ago, when we bought our "crossover" vehicle - it's as
close to an RV as I'd ever come, I was riding high. Literally. I was sitting in the driver's seat looking down at all of
those small, nondescript cars on the freeway, driving my honking big tank,
pleased with my power and the knowledge that I could fit seven kids in the thing
if I wanted to. Or at least
four with all of their school and sports gear. I volunteered to drive assorted groups to lacrosse practice and volleyball games and sleepovers and birthday
parties. Then gas prices went up, and so did my blood
pressure. Filling the beast, as
I came to think of it, cost somewhere between $75 and $80. And even when I did cram all my errands into one trip and
picked up both kids in a time-consuming loop around the city, I still couldn't
go more than a week without a fill-up. I picked up several prominent dings and scratches I
tried to squeeze into parking spots and ridiculous neighborhood
crannies. Now I look down in envy at those smug Smart Car drivers I see on the
streets, whipping in and out of miniscule parking spots with ease.
I covet the Mini Cooper, the Prius, and the cute two-seat convertibles.
I don't offer to drive nearly as much, dreading the treks across town
with a load of stinky high school athletes fogging up the windows and blasting
the stereo. I'd trade the beast
in tomorrow, but unfortunately my husband says we're stuck with it 'til it pays for
itself - at least
another five years. "You
begged for this car," he says. Don't remind me.
Julie Mitchell, May 17, 2009
I love my technology. Even when
I'm working, the distinctive plink of a message hitting my email box sends me
clicking to check it out. And when I
want to know the long-range weather forecast, how to get someplace I've never
been, a new recipe for chicken, or almost anything else, I head to my favorite
search engines and Web sites. But the
other day my daughter needed a couple of books to take along on her 8th grade
trip to Washington, DC, and there wasn't time for my usual Amazon shopping
spree, so we stopped at the small, independent book store near our house.
As always, I was drawn to the table of new fiction, familiar and new
authors' names catching my eye, the books themselves like treasures in my hands,
creamy pages stiff, their new smell enticing.
And, as usual, after leafing through several novels and reading the
blurbs I bought three along with three for my daughter.
There's something so deliciously engrossing about a good bookstore, or
any small business.
Everywhere I've traveled I've always managed to find a bookstore and
spent at least an hour or more browsing and discovering new things.
I use the Internet to buy batches of books when I've got a long list or I
need textbooks for the kids, but it will never take the place of the hands-on
bookstore experience for me.
Julie Mitchell, May 10, 2009
Late one afternoon my 16-year-old son called me using a friend’s cell
phone. “I hate to tell you this, Mom,” he said, “but when I was on the
bus, my phone was in my back pocket, and somehow I think I lost it.” “You
think,” I screeched unsympathetically. It’s not the first cell phone to be
lost, broken or ruined in the washer. “Yeah,” he said. “Well, you know you
have to be home by 10:30,” I told him. “Call us if you need a ride.” Then,
for the next four hours, through dinner with my husband and TV with my daughter,
I stewed. Where was my son? What if he didn’t call? We’re so connected these
days, calling and texting, it gives us a false sense of security. Just because
my son tells me he’s at a buddy’s house, at the diner he likes to hang out
in, at the park, I really don’t know where he is. Just as my parents didn’t
really know that I was “parking” with my boyfriend, not at the movies back
when I was in high school. And they couldn’t call me; they had to wait till I
came home. I got a taste of what that’s like last night until Matt called, at
around 10:00. Unnerving.
Julie Mitchell, April 27, 2009
I agree with President Obama. What kind of country lets food
producers routinely poison their customers, especially children? My
daughter, like his, loves peanut butter sandwiches. So I was completely unnerved
by the peanut butter-salmonella outbreak. How could something as innocent as a
PB&J be the carrier of a serious food-borne illness? But for me, it started
with a spinach salad. Some friends and I went out for lunch, and most of us had
the delightful spinach salad. Two days later I read about e. Coli in fresh,
bagged spinach and felt we had dodged a bullet; no one became ill. But for a
health freak like me, who already cooks her hamburgers well done and avoids raw
eggs and suspicious shellfish, it was a shock to think that my simple salad
could be contaminated. Then came pistachios, a family favorite, and now I hear
salmonella has tainted spices. Come on Mr. President, let's make our food supply
safe. Because I want to know the food I set before my family isn't going to make
Julie Mitchell, April 11, 2009
I live in a major metropolitan city, I have never been a fan of public
transportation. Why take a herky-jerky,
crowded, smelly bus when I have a perfectly good car? Despite the dwindling number of parking spaces in San
Francisco, the viciously aggressive meter maids (and men), and last year’s gas
cost crisis, I chose to drive. Then
I started composting, bringing my own bags to the store, and joined my
daughter’s school’s Eco Council. In other words I turned “green” just as
government moved towards stricter rules on greenhouse gases. So,
when the school started a Ride the Bus program, I felt it my duty to give it a
try. Last Monday my daughter and I
boarded the bus at a stop just around the corner from our house. I chatted with the other parents, my daughter listened to her
iPod, and we were within blocks of school in less than 20 minutes, no longer
than it takes to drive. Then
another bus whisked me home even faster while I scanned the paper.
I may not be a complete convert, but I have to say, riding the bus is
Julie Mitchell, April 1, 2009
costs of health care goes up as we age, and not just in terms of dollars. My 81-year-old father has a complication of dementia that is politely
called "disinhibition," which means he's given to swearing
and grunting without control. When we speak on the phone, he no longer knows who
I am unless he’s looking at my picture. My stepmother is shopping for a
new doctor, and new pills. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law is already switching from
one antidepressant to another to cope with the sadness of watching my
father-in-law deal with diabetes and lung disease. And now I'm starting to wake
twice a night, skin slick with sweat. My doctor is happy to prescribe hormones,
but I’m not sure I want them. Are all these pills a blessing or a curse? Are
they truly giving us a better quality of life as we age? And at what cost?
Julie Mitchell, March 15, 2009
I've been hearing a lot lately about "conscientious meat eaters."
They're the ones who say it's okay to eat red meat, like beef, as long as it
comes from a local, sustainable farm where the cattle feed naturally on grass.
Packaged grain-fed beef from the grocery store is verboten. They say it comes
from cows bloated from corn and antibiotics and violently slaughtered
in unsanitary conditions. The anti-feedlot supporters suggest we all
turn vegan. The grass-fed livestock gang say pay the extra dollar or three to
buy the better beef. And scientists say both the production of both kinds of
meat uses far too much water and land. What's an omnivore to do? I'm with
Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and Mark Bittman,
author of "Food Matters." I'm going to focus on grains and greens and
fruit and smaller portions of everything, especially meat. But I'm also going to
have that succulent grilled steak every now and again. Because if human beings
weren't meant to eat meat, we wouldn't have these nice sharp canine teeth. I
rest my case.
Julie Mitchell, March 10, 2009
trend didn’t start with Marilyn Robinson, the official grandma in the White
House, moving in to take care of the presidential offspring. But apparently there’s
an expectation among young mothers today that their own mothers will be there at
the ready, volunteering to babysit for a night, a weekend, even every day after
school. Grandmothers adore their grandchildren, but many are happily pursing their own interests.
They aren’t interested in becoming surrogate nannies, and are so being
bemoaned by their daughters for “not caring.”
My kids are still teenagers, so I don’t expect to have grandchildren soon. But I can tell you, after years of tending and loving and driving and
being there every minute for my kids, I’m not planning on being a built-in
babysitter for my grandchildren. That doesn’t mean I won’t dote on them and spoil them to
death; I just won’t be offering to take care of them every weekend.
Rearing two kids the first time around was enough for me.
Tom Murphy, March 2, 2009
When I was about 12, I rode the Broadway Limited over the rails from New York
to Chicago, passing the mighty steel mills of Pittsburgh along the way. Four
decades later, I still remember how the orange sparks leaped into the black
night sky, like industrial-strength fireworks celebrating a then-vibrant
industry. Those plants vanished long ago, but that vision came to mind as I watched the Rocky
Mountain News publish its final issue, and learned the San Francisco
Chronicle also might close. Other big papers are sure to follow, because the
newspaper industry is fighting for its life. Outside the business of
journalism, not many people know that newspaper do almost all the real reporting
for the news you get through TV, radio, blogs or wire services. Without them,
we'll all know a lot less about our crooked politicians, pollution in a nearby
river, medical miracles or the business trends that affect our nest eggs. Other
media can't make up the gap. But we'll lose much more than that, because a great
newspaper reflects its community of readers. It's a mirror of who we are on any
given day. It echoes what we think. It's a place where we can share our pride
and sympathize with neighbors facing tragedy. Great newspapers fire us up and
create excitement. But now they're fading out, like rusty sparks drifting
downward in the darkness.
Cecily O'Connor, February 20, 2009
It seems a boomer can't plan enough these days. Just about every financial
news story talks about how boomers are revamping their retirement plans as the
economy continues to crumble. Boomers continualy ask, "Where do I go from
here?" The latest numbers from Bell Investment Advisors, a wealth
management firm, show that the number of affluent
boomers re-charting their retirement course has doubled since last year. The
biggest change is working longer. But it's going to take a lot of time in the
workforce for older employees to recoup retirement savings losses. How do you
plan for that at a time when job losses are raining, and the downpour will
likely grow worse this year? It's a big concern for boomers. It seems many are
caught in a Catch-22 of cashing in savings to pay down debt, or leaving the
money alone with the hope that assets will recover in a few years. Ug...these
are frustrating scenarios. It feels like the only thing all of us can do is stay
informed, think through our choices and avoid making knee-jerk decisions. That
sounds like a plan.
Robin Evans, February 6, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI faces a flood of criticism for his decision to let a
Holocaust-denier back into the Catholic church. The sex-abuse scandal that
drastically undermined the church's credibility should have taught the Vatican
something. Richard Williamson was among four priests ex-communicated over their
illegal ordination by a group of ultraconservatives who broke away from the
church in the '60s over the modernizations of the Second Vatican Council.
(Reforms included an acknowledgment that Jews are no more responsible than
Christians for the death of Jesus.) Benedict's action outraged Jews, prompted a
admonishment from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and even had many
European cardinals publicly disagreeing. The Pope says he didn't realize
Williamson was a Holocaust denier - though in a television interview just last
month Williamson discounted the number of Jews killed and said gas chambers
weren't used. Like US executives spending taxpayer bailout money on jets and
fancy offices, you have to wonder why the Pope didn't see this firestorm of
outrage coming. But the public was having none of it. Perhaps in religion, as in
business, the era of infallibility is coming to an end.
Tom Murphy, January 29, 2009
It's not like we need another problem. With the economic challenges, global
warming, two wars and the looming crisis of the graying of America, the US could
easily ignore problems in the Middle East and Africa, saying "not this
time." But it's important to remember that the whole world is
connected. America is greatest when it shows its generous spirit and the deep
compassion of its citizens. We
cannot allow the damage to Gaza to go unchecked, and we cannot allow the
killing in Darfur to continue. Perhaps by addressing issues like these, we will
generate jobs to provide supplies, counseling and other forms of help - steps
that could help the economic issues here at home. Boomers who made up the first
volunteers of the Peace Corps may wish to return to that role after they retire,
bringing professional skills with them. Such efforts could help restore the
reputation of the US as a caring country, diminishing the risk of conflict with
those who feel otherwise. There is only one world, and we all play a part in
making it go 'round.
Aaron Crowe, January 13, 2009
It was the summer of 1980, and I was 16 years old, when I became a baseball
fan. It was at an Oakland A's game and there was something about this young guy
in left field who was stealing bases, chasing down fly balls into the corner,
and playing with such happiness that it somehow rubbed off on us fans in the
bleachers. Like teens before me who discovered Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson or
some other baseball hero, I had found my favorite player that day in Rickey
has now been voted into the Hall of Fame. I had been to a few Giants
games with my dad and grandpa when I was a boy, but this was different. I was
never much of a baseball fan, but seeing that wide open field at the Oakland
Coliseum, and the way the players went about their sport, that made me a fan.
Probably like many boys at age 16, it was a chance to strike out on my own for
awhile and see places without my parents. It was the first time my parents had
let me get on BART without them, and taking the train to the stadium felt like
newfound freedom. It was a chance to find something new and to be a part of
something larger than myself - to be a baseball fan. It was a chance to find a
Aaron Crowe, January 9, 2009
my family's health insurance was a shock in June 2008 when I was laid
off as an editor at a newspaper. As a boomer with a wife and 4-year-old
daughter, I was more worried for them than I was for myself. I worked full-time
and my wife worked part-time, and only I was eligible for health insurance.
Luckily, part of my layoff package included the company continuing to pay its
share of the insurance for three months. After that I could stick with COBRA,
meaning I'd have the same insurance but would have to pay the entire cost myself
- at about four times what I had been paying. I vowed to find a full-time job
with benefits as quickly as I could, but didn't before the three months ended. So
my wife went back to work full-time to get the health benefits for our family.
That's how things stand now. It's enough of a headache to send me Starbucks for
a 20-hour workweek just so I can be eligible for their health benefits.
Aaron Crowe, January 1, 2009
new year must come resolutions and new, clean calendars. While I've
never been good at keeping the resolutions, I've always done my best to keep my
schedule organized on a monthly calendar. For the first time since college, I've
bought a weekly planner to keep my schedule on track for the new year. Having
been laid off in June, looking for full-time work is a full-time job by itself.
While I haven't missed any appointments with potential employers, I can do a
better job of keeping track of other job hunt duties. It's not overwhelming, but
it does seem like a lot at times. Once I find a full-time job, I expect the
calendar won't be nearly as full, and keeping keeping a more orderly calendar
has to be a lot easier than losing weight.
Aaron Crowe, December 13, 2008
I'm not so amazed that boomers are spending
$604 million this year on sleep aids. I can understand if someone needs a little help from a pill. But what I
wonder about is why people are using pills as a long-term solution. If you can't
get to sleep easily at night on a consistent basis, then try some of the things
your mother probably suggested to do before going to bed: Drink warm milk, take
a hot bath, turn off the TV and relax. Not eating before going to bed is another
good idea, although difficult if you get hungry for a snack or something sweet
like ice cream after dinner. Or not drinking so much coffee during the day? Or
not exercising before going to bed? The idea to getting a good night's sleep, in
case you're unsure, is to relax your mind and body and not have them stimulated
by caffeine, exercise or eating too much. That's the point of going to sleep: To
relax. So exercise earlier, then relax at night.
Aaron Crowe, November 26, 2008
One thing that quickly struck me as I wrote about boomers
worrying about rising prices was that it's almost a stereotype for
parents. I remember my dad complaining about high prices when I was a teen. It's
not a shock that my dad, or anyone's parents since the dawn of the free market,
would be worrying about rising prices - they're the ones doing most of the
buying. When prices go up, they notice. What the Harris Interactive Poll fails
to point out is that these attitudes migrate as people age. Who has the same
worries in their 40s or 50s that they did in their 20s or 30s? That said, I
don't remember complaining about getting too much information, like today's
"echo boomers" do. That must be a sign of the times. Younger people
might have too many things to do because they give themselves too much access to
too much information - text messaging on mobile phones, surfing on the Internet,
updating social network sites. Like the executive who takes his laptop to the
beach while on vacation and then wonders why he isn't relaxed, the echo boomers
(and probably everyone else) needs to learn to put that stuff aside and relax.
Worrying about it won't get them anywhere.