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Redwood Age: The Whole Life
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Tom Murphy,  December 1, 2011

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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

Japan's tragic 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

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"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

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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 dies.

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 about ethnic 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

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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 simple steps.

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

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One 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

Poor 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 safe sex.

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. Really 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 us sick.

Julie Mitchell,  April 11, 2009

Although 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 the 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 pretty cool.

Julie Mitchell,  April 1, 2009

The 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

The 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

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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 rare public 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

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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 Henderson, who 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 hero.

Aaron Crowe,  January 9, 2009

Losing 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

With every 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. 



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