Archive for January, 2014

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AND 2014 BEGINS

January 5, 2014

On December 30, I received a call alerting me to check my bank account; money had arrived! 

Indeed, that illusive invoice payment had been credited to my account and all was well with the world as the year ended…staff were paid; bills were paid; family and friends who offered support were reimbursed and the experience had forced me to make a commitment to myself to waste no more time; but to energetically pursue that illusive “third career” whatever that might be.  How I find that time in the next six months, is another story but the thinking has begun; the place has been determined and there is direction one more time in my life.  

So I was feeling good as I finished my year-end financials…putting in order all the papers, receipts and account records that clearly told the story of a difficult 2013 ridden with health issues, doctor bills, and a scarcity of work in its first six months. I had survived and I’d met my goal:  I was debt-free for the second time since my infamous fall in 2002 that wrecked so much havoc in my life-and when I least expected it, returned to bring me down again.

The sacrifices, pain, and humiliation of 2012-2013 evaporated and I was ready to face and conquer 2014 – or so I thought.

Then, I received a message from a friend that quickly “popped that balloon”.  Suffice it to say, I got a reminder that success by any definition is fragile and sometimes, the terms of others quickly rob you of victory and celebration. Stuff happens, not necessarily on purpose but simply thoughtlessly, and although I knew this to be the case in this instance, I chose to make a stand. I did so because the previous interaction with that person had been humiliating as well – despite being well-intentioned.

In that case, we had not visited in a while, so I suggested we have dinner; I cancelled plans to attend an ISES event because I could not readily afford both social outings and we set the time, place, and date to meet.  Unfortunately  I ended the evening humiliated unintentionally.  I did not have the cash flow to buy dinner for both of us, but I did not suggest the outing until I knew I could pay my own way-once more it’s that “I can do it myself” trait I often fight.  And yet, my friend insisted on paying the bill, thinking she was being helpful, I am sure, when, in my mind,  she was robbing me of my dignity.

And so after the second instance, I pushed back and begged her to accept the payment owed her; explaining that accomplishing  the debt-free goal  the only thing that kept me going through some pretty rough times. Although I am sad that I have had no response or interaction with this person since, the circumstances became yet another “lesson learned.”

Good intentions are not always enough unless they are wrapped in empathy and understanding.  Giving AND receiving are hollow acts indeed without dignity.

A good lesson and a painful start to the new year so I proceeded carefully with that lesson uppermost in mind, as I, in turn, offered some “assistance” to another friend.  There was no drama, and only a grateful thank you telling me that it was enough to know I would help if things did not work out.  Perhaps my own pain caused by the situation with the first friend made the second situation less painful for the second friend.  If so, then all is right in my world.

 

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THE AGING OF AMERICA

January 5, 2014

GOOD FOOD FOR THOUGHT …both in the Strib and on Meet the Press today as the documentation of the urbanization of the world continues, the ACA healthcare system becomes official and what in the world we do about those suburbs filled with aging traditionalists and boomers.

Millennials do not want their kids to grow up in a car like they did…and while searching for alternatives, they discovered the benefits of the city.  And with that, the demographic role reversal continues to escalate.

Of course, this is not a new phenomenon.  I first “emigrated” out of the metro burbs in 1994 and a whole new culturally rich world became available to me reinforcing the decision to leave a world of “ticky-tacky little boxes” as well as “McMansions “behind.

After growing up in Rochester that had (and still has) a real cosmopolitan downtown, those burbs were never my location of choice.  The Rochester of my youth was a place with one-of-a kind stores and chain stores, hotels, art galleries, live theatre, a symphony orchestra, and colleges -along with people from around the world that were found at the Mayo Clinic, the hospitals, and in businesses.

 But unfortunately, as I found myself living in Minneapolis, my career choice dictated a change.   The companies in which I was employed were located off interstates and major highways…and neither Bloomington nor Plymouth measured up to “my standards”, but they were convenient-no long commutes to the workplace.

Naturally, over time, the suburbs have countered to what is inherently missing in their midst with all sorts of schemes…creating “movie sets” that imitate workable downtowns but most of them are pretty similar…big box stores, huge parking lots, and strip malls that may have at one end a building that perhaps handles the city business or a library or more likely, a movie theatre. And, nary a sidewalk anywhere-nor a heart of a community.

But now, reality is setting in.  The young want more.  They do not want to waste their time in a car or bus to get to anything of interest they want to do. Nor do they want to raise their children the way they were raised – in a car. So they are migrating to the cities…leaving the old folks who built those burbs to themselves and complaining.

 Unfortunately, those left behind don’t drive much anymore; alternative transportation modes within their “safe zone” are few and far between; and their lack of density and eroding tax bases don’t allow funds to make changes.  So they are trapped.  What could be drearier than a whole suburb of old people!  They whine about never seeing their kids; never doing anything; and yet they choose to let their brains atrophy as they perch in front of the boob tube for company-hour after hour after hour.

In fairness, those that know me well should expect I would feel disdain for all who choose TV over live interaction.  Yes, I watch the news; I can’t wait for tonite and Downton Abby, and occasionally, I mindlessly watch a “special” J  But there is no doubt, a good book trumps TV every time for me, and certainly so does good conversation! I simply don’t like my brain just sitting there in “park” not being exercised!

Yes, I also am exaggerating a bit, for some of our aging population are out there going to the gym, or visiting other lonely folks at the Senior Citizens Center – (most of whom are also complaining that their kids never visit). But at the same time, my brother and sister-in-law now in their eighties JUST retired.  And certainly some search for and find a new purpose in life after 65; they continue to work, to volunteer, and to give back to their community or a cause that holds significance for them.  Nevertheless, overall, we have problems.

Today the Strib pointed out a significant one – the ambulance costs from senior citizens in aging suburbs.  And Meet the Press focused directly in on the Medicare issue and the fact that medical expenses for aging patients in current systems are simply not sustainable.  No better experts could be found, I think, than the heads of the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic.

I cannot speak for Cleveland Clinic system, but I can speak for the Mayo Clinic.  In just the past two years I have spent thousands of dollars on residual medical issues stemming from my disastrous fall in 2002.  Only when, in desperation, I went back to Mayo did I find relief – not only from the pain, but financially- for a total out-of-pocket cost of $65!

As I think about it, it is really up to us – those that are that aging group – to stand up and make some changes.  Most of us don’t have to be isolated in the suburbs; we don’t have to be afraid to go outside, or of a knock on our door; we do not have to lobby for money for more infrastructure so that our kids have a way to get to us in the crumbling burbs; we do not have to be hindered by lack of disposable income. Most of us do not have to be lonely and dependent upon our children for conversation. And if we choose not to do something about it, then whose fault is that?  Not the kids, nor the government.