Hey – we may as well have fun as we go sliding into old age, right?

Posts tagged ‘1960’s’

Trust No One

In the golden days of our youth, we left our doors unlocked and let door-to-door salesmen into our homes.  We trusted people.  But our generation, the Baby Boomers, may have become the most cynical generation in history, and unfortunately, we have our reasons.  The world isn’t always a pretty place.  Bad things happen.  As children, we watched riots and assassinations on TV, and the world didn’t seem quite as golden as it did in the 1950s. 

And now, with the introduction of the World Wide Web, our skepticism radar has to be on high alert at all times.  If it’s not, we are increasingly likely to become victims.  It feels like someone is waiting to scam us, steal our identity, and part us from our money and security at every turn. 

Were there scammers back in our youth?  Sure.  Mostly land frauds – they’d sell swampland in sultry Florida or a lot in a supposed retirement community in Arizona, all based on shiny brochures and fancy documents.  People would then discover that the property they purchased (they usually received authentic deeds), was actually inaccessible, unusable, undeveloped land in some god-forsaken remote corner of the state.  A handful of people may have ended up getting the last laugh in Florida, as Disney sprouted in the midst of that dismal swamp, and their tiny lots actually gained in value.  But many people invested their life savings into a future that was just an illusion.  They’d load up the family on vacation into the big Chevy station wagon to go see their wonderful investment, only to drive out into the desert and discover that the pretty tree-lined community in the brochure was a complete and cruel hoax.

Today, scammers are preying on us, our children and our parents with an alarming array of schemes, often frightening people into paying them or giving them private information.  It’s easy to shrug it off and brag that we’d never fall for such a scheme, but that’s stupid.  Face it – if this stuff didn’t work, they wouldn’t be doing it.  Just the fact that the scams are being run at all means that people ARE falling for it.  We need to be aware, and we need to warn our friends and family members of what to watch for. 

Today, a young friend of mine received a frightening message on her cell phone.  It was a serious voice, telling her to return the call immediately to discuss a debt of hers that needed to be addressed right away to avoid legal action.  A single mom who recently went through a terribly nasty divorce, “Sally” called back in concern.  The man told her repeatedly that he was an attorney, and he gave her the last four digits of her social security number and the last four digits of her bank account.  He knew where she worked.  It was unnerving.  He told Sally that they were pursuing a $400 debt from a paycheck advance loan (which she had never made).  When she started asking questions, the caller became threatening, telling her that if she didn’t pay, they’d serve a warrant on her and have her arrested.  When Sally protested that she had young children, the caller told her she’d better make arrangements, because she was “going to jail”.  By now, poor Sally was shaking and crying – begging for more information.  Thankfully, she was smart enough not to respond when they asked her to “verify” her social security number.  The “attorney” terminated the call with more threats.     

When she came to me, my “scam alert” went on – big time.  I called the number they’d given her, said I “represented” her, and I demanded information.  He immediately got belligerent with me, in a heavy foreign accent.  When I told him I was reporting him to the attorney general, he hung up on me.  I called the local attorney general’s office, and the woman I spoke with assured us that no one could arrest my friend for a debt without providing written notice of the debt, which she could then contest in writing.  She referred us to the Federal Trade Commission’s fraud division.

Our contact there was equally pleasant and reassuring (by now Sally was beginning to calm down), and the woman took a full and detailed report.  She told us the caller wanted to steal Sally’s identity by trying to confirm her full social security number and bank account number. 

My young friend is not a fool.  She’s a professional worker in the office of a major corporation.  And these SOBs were able to reduce her to sobbing in fear and confusion.  I started thinking of how many people they have been able to bully into giving up their personal information.  The thought that they might frighten my mother, my aunts, my nieces, my friends into giving up critical data makes my blood boil.

So consider this my public service announcement, and please share it with others.  Mulder was right – TRUST NO ONE.  Question everything.  The worst that can happen is that you might momentarily offend someone who’s not trying to steal from you.  They’ll understand.   

That call from your sobbing granddaughter/cousin/nephew in Europe/Canada/Texas saying she/he was mugged and has no money and needs a wire transfer right away….DON’T DO IT!  Even if they use the right name and say the right things.  If you think for a second that the call might be legit (it isn’t), then ask very specific questions that only your relative would know (“what color is Aunt Sophie’s house/hair/dog?”).  Then get a phone number and hang up.  Call your other relatives and verify where this person is really?  I can virtually guaranty they’re not in some other country being mugged.

Anyone else who asks you for money?  The internet is as much blessing as curse – check them out.  Google them.  Isn’t that easier than handing over your hard-earned cash or your social security number to someone, no matter how nice or honest they sound?  And be sure to protect your internet data by changing your passwords regularly for email, Facebook, etc., (you are using a different password for each one, aren’t you???), and don’t use your birthday or children’s names as passwords – it’s just too easy.

And finally – do not ever, ever, EVER give anyone your social security number over the phone or online unless you are absolutely 100% positive about who you’re talking to.  Get their phone number and call them back with the info – if they don’t want you to do that, HANG UP THE PHONE.  If they say they’re from your bank and want to verify your information, hang up and call your bank to check it out. 

It’s sad to say, but there are a lot of cruel, evil people out there trying to think of new ways to rip us off.  I’d love to get Sally’s callers in a room for just 10 minutes…the bastards.  But since I can’t do that, I will starve them by announcing their “game” to everyone.  Don’t assume your friends and family won’t  fall for one of these schemes.  These guys are very good at what they do.  But we can be better by being informed.  And skeptical.  Talk to people.  Spread the word.  And be careful out there.

Are the Boomers the Cranky Generation?

It occurred to me the other day that whenever I’m watching some American protest on TV, it seems like I’m looking at people my own age.  And I’m not talking about “whenever” as in “just lately”.  I mean “whenever” as in my entire life!  What is it about Baby Boomers that makes us so eager to rush into the streets and yell about stuff?

Look! They're protesting in trench coats! Those were the days... (uwdigitalcollections)

I was pretty young during the turbulent 1960’s, so it may not have been 10-year-olds burning down campuses and burning bras, but it was 18-year-olds – the same age as my big brother.  So those faces on TV looked pretty familiar.  By the time I was getting out of high school in the late 1970’s, I was watching people my age protesting the Iranian hostage situation.  That event triggered some formerly latent patriotism in my generation, and there we were, screaming “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran!”  Then we moved into the very interesting 1980’s, and there we were again – marching on Washington in support of aid for the homeless, or in protest over labor issues.  Postal workers were fired by Jimmy Carter for striking, and the air traffic controllers were fired by Reagan for the same reason.  People were yelling all over the place.

Then the economy started booming, and we became far more focused on our own private anger – divorces, child custody battles, fighting to keep our money for ourselves, fighting to get jobs, fighting to make sure our children had every imaginable opportunity and never had to experience any sort of denial or pain (don’t get me started on that one).  We were the angry parents who shouted down the school superintendent who dared attempt to impose a dress code.  We were the angry workers who protested everything.  We wanted the best, and woe to anyone who tried to stop our upward trajectory and our quest for the next McMansion. 

And today, the Boomers are back in the streets in full force once again.  The woman who camped out at President Bush’s Texas ranch to protest the war that killed her son?  She was my age.  The faces in all the Tea Party protests and marches and conventions?  They’re mostly my age again.  Why is my generation always so darned cranky about everything?

Certainly a lot of it has to do with the events of the  60’s and early 70’s.  So many of the ideals and beliefs we held were dashed during war protests, assassinations, gas rationing, pulling out of Vietnam without a victory, and losing a president to scandal and impeachment.  The status quo of working dad and stay-at home mom with 2.5 children living in the ‘burbs was thrown out the window.  The ground shifted right under our feet, and our disillusion led to cynicism.  Is it any wonder that the flower children of the 60’s morphed into the “me generation” of the 70’s?  Fed up with it all, we started taking care of “numero uno” – ourselves.  We wanted bigger houses, faster cars, fancier clothes, private schools for our prodigy, and more, more, more of EVERYTHING

On the plus side, we are a generation which has dramatically altered the face of the world we live in.  Our noisy travels through life have brought attention to situations that more polite generations may have just chosen to ignore.  Never fear – the Baby Boomers don’t suffer anything in silence!  And we’ll keep yelling until someone pays attention to us (back to the “me generation” again…).  There’s a lot to be admired in that, and issues like women’s equality, racial equality and the environment can thank us for the attention. 

It is curious how our perspective on issues can change over a life time.  Some of the same students who marched for equality and aid for the poor are now marching to deport immigrants and to roll back school busing in the interest of keeping children with those “of their own kind.”  The flower children just wanted peace and love, but unfortunately they chose to disparage American soldiers when they returned home from Vietnam.  Today, we fervently supports our troops with flags, parades, care packages and yellow ribbons galore.  And some of the noisiest protesters who fought so vehemently for clean rivers and air in our cities in the 1970’s are the same ones screaming “conspiracy!!” and “fraud!!” over the talk of controlling global warming today. 

Some of this may be the natural pendulum swing of humanity across the centuries from one extreme to the other.  And I suspect some of it is just Baby Boomers looking for something to be mad about.  All. The. Time.  Now that we’re in our 50’s and 60’s, maybe it’s time for us to grow up and get over ourselves.  I have to admit that I cringe when I see gray-haired folks out there carrying signs and screaming into the television cameras.  Where are today’s college students and young people, and why aren’t they taking some responsibility for changing the world?  Isn’t it their turn now?  Why can’t we retire from the protest lines?

Lots of angry gray hair here... (Sage Ross)

On the other hand, I have to admit I get a pretty strong surge of pride when I see those folks, too.  Yeah, we’re an in-your-face generation, and we’ll probably never change.  When we see something we don’t like, we make noise about it.  And if we really don’t like it, we make lots of noise. And we change things.  Deal with it. 

I can’t help but pity the nursing home workers and social security workers as the years catch up with us Boomers over the next 20 years or so.  As we start needing their care and moving en masse into assisted living and nursing homes, heaven help them all.  I have visions of sit-ins (in powered wheelchairs) over food, or protest signs printed on bedsheets hanging from our windows (but please ladies – no more bra burning!).  Our generation has been yelling about things since our teens, with no sign of slowing down at this point.  So treat us right as we go sliding into old….OR ELSE!!!!

Americana Revisited

Sun-splashed concert goers on a hot summer afternoon

As a “baby” Baby Boomer, my childhood memories are not the bucolic “Leave It to Beaver” 1950s.  But the summers of the early 60s weren’t far off the mark in my upstate New York home.  Joys were found in fireflies and dragonflies and bonfires by the lakeshore.  We feasted on corn on the cob roasted in hot coals, and played kickball while our parents drank beer, threw horseshoes and laughed with our aunts, uncles and neighbors.

Then we grew up and watched the world become so much more complicated.  We went from being hippies to yuppies to workaholics, dizzy with success (or at least the pursuit of it).  We were sucked into the crazy excesses of the 1990’s and frankly, we forgot to have fun.  Our children were driven from school to soccer to cheerleading to baseball to karate to dance to bed in a maddening cycle of tightly organized “playing”.  Fun became something to be planned and coordinated and scheduled.

The century turned, and terrorism introduced itself to us in earnest.  The economy sank again.  Talking heads worked to convince us that we are a divided country – red vs. blue, patriot vs. immigrant, liberal vs. conservative, with no hope of compromise.  You might assume the charming Americana of our childhoods has been lost to our own cynicism.  But your assumption would be wrong.  Our essential American character is alive and well.  I saw it in action over the past holiday weekend, spent in a southern coastal town.  I suspect it was occurring in other scattered towns and neighborhoods across the country.

Saturday evening was spent in lawn chairs in the town’s waterfront park, listening to quality live music performed in the modern yet charming pavilion.  The sunlight splashed through the trees across the people gathered there.  Sitting in a variety of portable chairs, or seated on blankets on the grass.  Young adults were standing in small groups, laughing and dancing in the sea-scented breeze.  Children ran and played across the park.  Babies giggled with their relaxed and smiling parents.  Seniors tapped their toes to the music and chatted over ice-cold lemonade.  My husband and I shared a hot funnel cake buried in drifts of powdered sugar and cinnamon.  As Motown melodies filled the air, I sighed and said “This is perfect.”  And it was.

That perfection carried over to Sunday – the Fourth of July.  First was a church service filled with patriotic music, a powerful homily delivered by an Afghanistan veteran, and an interpretive dance performed by a young man from Haiti.  The afternoon revolved around the annual neighborhood picnic.  As I headed down the road in our pick-up truck to gather tables from the church, neighbors called out and strong guys jumped in to help.  People were scurrying back and forth between houses, with chicken grilling at one, hot dogs cooking at another, and the tents and chairs set up at a third.  Everyone arrived on schedule with food – good old-fashioned coleslaw, pasta salad, baked beans, brownies, pies, cakes.  Laughter and hugs.  Old friends introducing themselves to new neighbors.  The kids (young and old) played volleyball.  And as the sun began to set, chairs were arranged in a driveway so that we could re-gather under the stars to watch a movie projected on a sheet duct-taped to the garage door.   Movie popcorn and candy were served, while we laughed and cuddled.  It was perfect.

Monday didn’t disappoint.  We joined friends on their boat on a sultry afternoon, dropped anchor off a private sandy jetty, and feasted on sandwiches and sangria in the warm sun, listening to great music and enjoying catching up on our busy lives.  Perfect.

Three days without televisions or radios to tell us all about the latest scary predictions or tragedies.  Just good friends and sunshine.  And the best part?  Well, for one thing, it was basically free.  A funnel cake at the concert, and our food contributions to the picnic and boating lunch, and that was pretty much it.  It was a long way from being some upscale spa resort weekend.

But even more special than being inexpensive was that the entire hot southern weekend was true Americana – celebrated by people of different ages, different races, different religions, and vastly different political beliefs.  All those differences were set aside to celebrate America’s birthday and each other.  Our childhood summers are more than just sweet memories –  they can still be experienced today.  The challenge is to figure out how to carve out some of that perfection in the days, weeks, months to come.  A little less television.  A little less “organizing”.  A little less tension.  Less worry.  A little more appreciation of each other.  A little more laughter.  More spontaneity.  A moment taken in our oh-so-busy lives to catch our breath.  A little more focus on the quiet blessings that surround us.

If there’s one thing we Baby Boomers have learned, it is that life runs in cycles – what goes up must come down and (usually) what goes down can bounce back up again.  Political parties gain and lose power.  The economy surges and recedes.  Military tensions flare up and diminish.  That’s why they call it a “news cycle”, after all.  So let’s try to relax and remember the joys of our childhood, and give our own children the chance to experience low-pressure old-fashioned summer fun.  Concerts in the park.  Picnics and sparklers.  Boat rides and beach visits.  Americana revisited.  It’s perfect.

On Being a Baby Baby Boomer

My family is a microcosm of the span of the famed “Baby Boomer” generation.   Having met at a USO in Chicago during World War II, my parents married after the war and began their family.  My brother was born in 1948, in the early years of the post-war Baby Boom.  For another 17 years, there were enough babies born every year (lots and lots) to count as the Baby Boomers, even though “the war” was long past.  I was born in 1958, near the end of the boom, which officially closed in 1964. 

Every time those first Baby Boomers hit a milestone, it makes news.  “Boomers Turn 40!”  “Boomers Turn 50!”  Boomers Turn 60!”  “Boomers Retire!” 

Well, when the afore-mentioned Boomers were turning 40 and facing their burgeoning mid-life crises, I was hitting 30 feeling footloose and fancy-free.  When they reached 50 and changed the cosmetics market forever in a panic to stay young, I was just heading into my 40’s with a new husband and a soon-to-be blossoming career.  And, while older Boomers are now retiring in droves, I’m still stuck in job-land for another 10 years or so.  

I’m a ‘baby’ Baby Boomer.  I was shaped by the 1960’s, but via the television screen, not a college campus.  One of my earliest memories is watching the JFK funeral on a small black & white TV while my mom cried.  I was five.  In 1968, my brother (the Old Boomer) paid my best friend and I fifty cents each to tear all the Bobby Kennedy campaign banners from his car the day after Bobby was killed.  At 20 and involved in his first presidential campaign, he was too heartbroken to do it himself. 

My view of those years was skewed by looking through the prism of how they affected him.  I paid attention to the war in Vietnam because my big brother was eligible for the draft.  I watched violent college protests on TV because he was headed off to college on the other side of the country (Mom’s advice – “do whatever you want out there, but don’t ever let me see your face on the national news!”).   I was 12 when four students were killed by the National Guard at Kent State.  I couldn’t understand it, and I worried that my brother would be shot on his college campus.  

Our childhoods were so very different.  He grew up with Andy and Opie.  I grew up with Laugh-In.  He was an Eagle Scout with a stay-at-home mom in a one car family.  They had a fishing boat and went tent camping in the Adirondacks for vacation.  He played Little League on a small local diamond (that’s still there).  I had a working mom in a family that boasted two cars, three snowmobiles, two boats, and a camper.  We went to New York City for vacation and stayed at the McAlpin (not quite the Waldorf, but almost right next door).  I showed horses for fun.  Yeah – being ten in 1968 was a whole lot different than being ten in 1958.

1958 was full of hope.  Ten-year-olds didn’t have a care in the world then.  1958 was Sputnik, Elvis, Alaska, de Gaulle and Eisenhower.  Yes, Castro and Khrushchev made a little noise, but that stuff rarely made it into the family living room.  Good grief, the musical hero of the year was Van Cliburn.  

1968 was a whole lot more complicated, and the news of the day was in our living room in living color.  It was LBJ, Vietnam, Nixon and hijackings.  Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were both gunned down.  Campuses burned, and Led Zeppelin rocked the radio while Hair rocked Broadway.  In ten short years, the world had turned upside down. 

My mom often says she feels like she raised two “only children”.  I thought she meant it was just because we were ten years apart – he was an only child for ten years, then I came along, then he was off to college with I was only eight.  But I wonder now if her statement also covers the fact that she raised two children in two such completely different eras. 

Some studies show that young Boomers like me don’t like being called “Baby Boomers”.  That’s probably a knee-jerk reaction to wanting to clarify that we’re not as old as those other guys.  But I don’t mind it.  Being a Boomer is cool.  We’re part of the generation that changed the world.  We may not be the “greatest generation” like our parents, but we were the 500 lb. gorilla that had to be dealt with.  We changed everything – politics, entertainment, fashion, civil rights.  We rocked the workplace, and powered the economy as we set aside our hippy beads (well, the old Boomers had more of those than us…), and we went into the workforce – men and women.  As we’ve aged (we’ll all be over 50 within 4 years), we continue to throw our collective weight around, for good and for not-so-good.  We’re spending Social Security dollars faster than our children can replenish them.  Senior living centers are springing up everywhere.  Powered wheelchairs now come in bright colors and stylish shapes.  We’ll need more doctors and nurses as we all begin to fall apart.  We’ve got another good 40 or maybe even 50 years of making our mark on society.  Sorry, kids!

Why would I want to be called the “X” “Y” or “Z” generation?  What does that even mean, anyway?  It’s lame.

Nope, call me a Baby Boomer, and I’ll take the name with pride.  Just don’t mix me up with those really old Boomers like my brother.  I’ll stick with being a Baby Baby Boomer, thank you very much!

A Family of Feisty Women

On the eve of Mother’s Day, I have to pause to pay tribute to the many strong and feisty women in my family.  I come from a long line of fine women, and I’m proud of all of them.  It bodes well for my adventures in aging, since both sides of my family feature classy, long-lived women who enjoy life to the fullest, whether they’re in their 70’s, 80’s, or near 90. 

I stopped by my mom’s apartment a few weeks ago to pick her up for dinner.  At 84, she handily qualifies for her apartment at a “55-and-over” complex.  She found the place on her own, arranged her own move, and settled in very nicely last year.  She drives (and drives very well), but evening driving isn’t her favorite thing.  So I swung by after work, and called her on her cell phone as I neared her place so that she could meet me in the parking lot. 

As I pulled in, there she was.  Striding out with confidence, looking trim in tailored trousers, a fitted corduroy jacket, bright green top and a brilliantly patterned silk scarf.  Every inch of her was stylish.  I was reminded of a former pastor who once told me that my parents had forever redefined the term “senior citizen” for him, because they refused to fit the stereotype of the “little old couple”.   

Back in the day, when I was but a child (yes, that was back in the late-1960’s, as difficult as it is for me to admit), my mom was one of the first working moms in the neighborhood.  My big brother had gone off to college, and that was long before every kid in the world qualified for student loans.  Tuition had to be paid, and dad’s income wasn’t going to cover it easily, so Mom was off to work full time.  She worked for a printing company, out in the physical plant.  And she wore dresses.  Every day.  Dresses.  Sitting next to a huge printing press – in a dress.  It was actually forbidden for women to wear trousers of any kind at most companies in those days.  Can you imagine???

Anyhow… as fashions went topsy-turvy that decade, polyester pantsuits became all the rage.  They had long tunic tops over bell-bottom pants.  Mom’s employer came up with a creative dress code: it was okay to wear trousers, as long as you were wearing a tunic top that was long enough to be worn alone as a dress.  Seriously.  It was like saying “sure, you can wear pants if you want – just wear them under your dress.”  Mom made most of her own clothes, so it was easy for her to comply.   But as time passed, her tunic tops got shorter and shorter.  Enough so that Big Brother and I used to tease her that she’d be in a whole heap of trouble if they ever made her take her pants off and wear the top as a dress. 

Mom made it work, and set an example for her daughter.  By the time I started working for the same printing company 8 years later, I was heading to work in jeans.  Mom came from good stock – her own mother was a feisty, hard-working farm wife who raised three strong daughters in the middle of Depression-striken Iowa.  Mom and her older and younger sisters still get together every summer for a “sisters’ reunion” in Iowa, and she travels regularly with her younger sister, including a trip to Ireland last year. 

In fact, as I think of my aunts, I realize that both sides of my family provided me with fine examples of strong womanhood.  My aunts on both my mom’s and dad’s sided are each independent, active, positive ladies.  Like Mom, they are all widows now.  My dad’s mother was the toughest of them all.  Her husband died when Dad, the only boy, was around five years old.  They were poor farmers in far northern New York State, near the Canadian border.  A single mom in the 1930’s, raising four kids on her own on a rocky scrap of farmland?  It was unheard of, but she did it.  Not only that, she lived to see all of them successful, happily married, with families and very good lives.  She knew several of her great-grandchildren, and her great-great-grandson is being raised in the house where she once lived.  That’s quite a legacy.

What’s the moral of the story?  The best gift a mom can give her children is to set a fine example.  To live a good life, full of responsibility, love, fun, and security.

As I stumble along trying to figure out how to negotiate my way through the aging process, mourning the loss of a little memory here, or fretting over a new wrinkle there, I just need to think of the stubborn, funny, strong, and thoroughly modern women of my own family tree to gain a little perspective.  I don’t have children to teach their stories to, but I hope I can be a “cool” Nana for our grandchildren, and perhaps show them how to age well. 

Aging gracefully is for wimps – aging well means having lots of laughs, being well-seasoned and sun-kissed, having good friends and close family.  My two departed grandmothers and one deceased aunt knew that.  My four surviving aunts know it and live it.  My mom personifies it with her own unique style.  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

And to all the moms reading this – please set the right example for your daughters (and sons) by living your own life well.  Happy Mother’s Day!

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