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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Everything Old Is New Again, Even Aging.

I don’t recall taking any philosophy courses in my undergrad days. And even if I did, I couldn’t tell you who or what I read, especially of the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers. Or even which was which.

Fortunately there is google, which will drive us willingly around every corner of the interweb in search of whatever. It was during one of those crazy rides that I discovered the Roman philosopher, Cicero, who in 44 BC wrote a treatise, aka, an essay, on aging, handily enough titled “On Old Age.”

Now I’ve yet to read the work, though it’s definitely on The List. But I have been reading about it, including online links that kindly summarize, in modern English, some of what Cicero had to say about aging.

One such link I was lucky to discover about an hour ago: the Introduction to How To Grow Old: Ancient Wisdom for the Second Half of Life: Marcus Tullius Cicero. Published by Princeton University Press (2016), the book is a translation of “On Old Age” by scholar Philip Freeman, who also wrote the introduction. In it, Freeman nicely summarizes Cicero’s main points about aging, three that I found especially interesting:

3. There are proper seasons to life.
Nature has fashioned human life so that we enjoy certain things when we are young and others when we are older. Attempting to cling to youth after the appropriate time is useless. If you fight nature, you will lose. 

6. The mind is a muscle that must be exercised.
Cicero has the main character of his book learn Greek literature in his later years and carefully recall the events of the day before going to sleep each night. Whatever technique works, it is vital to use our minds as much as possible as we grow older.

7. Older people must stand up for themselves.
Or as Cicero says, “Old age is respected only if it defends itself, maintains its rights, submits to no one, and rules over its domain until its last breath.” The later years of life are no time for passivity.

As for #6, I’ve decided to exercise my own mind muscle by actually reading Freeman’s translation of Cicero. I’m hoping that he will gently lead me through the thoughts of a man who not only lived over two thousand years ago, but also recorded those thoughts in Latin.


And speaking of exercising that muscle, I've started a second blog that chronicles my return to the faith of my youth after a 45 year absence. It will feature posts I expect to be fun, informative, hopefully illuminating, and perhaps a bit cranky.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I Was There: Loyola Ramblers Are NCAA Champs

This was in 1963, the first and only time the Ramblers won the tournament, though they did make it into the 1985 NCAA Bracket.

I was a student at Loyola in 1963, along with my friend, Mary, who I’d known since 5th grade. We weren’t at the game on that fateful night, regrettably, but we learned about it while on a double date at the Hillside Theatre, watching some dumb movie neither of us can remember.

Sometime in the middle of the movie, one of our dates—John? Ken?—had his small portable radio on and let us know that the Ramblers had won. According to Mary, we then got up and rushed into the Theatre lobby so we could turn up the radio.

Now it's 2018, and the Ramblers again are in the tournament. It’s a swell time to be reading the sports pages both in the Chicago newspapers, and even in the New York Times. That article was focused on Sr. Jean, the 98 year-old Loyola team chaplain since 1994.

Today in the Chicago Sun-Times there were two more articles about the Ramblers, one that especially moved me. Because for some reason I hadn’t either remembered or known that the championship game between the Ramblers and the Mississippi Maroons (now Bulldogs) is referred to as the “Game of Change.”

 As reporter Madeline Kenney described it:

“The beginning of the end of racial barriers in college basketball started with a handshake 55 years ago Thursday.

“Loyola senior Jerry Harkness, an African-American, extended his hand to Mississippi State senior Joe Dan Gold, a white player, before tipoff of the Mideast Regional semifinal. Flashbulbs popped and nearly blinded both as they made history.”

March 1963, just five months before the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech. Oh, what a year it was.

And what was even more surprising--and unsettling--to learn was that the Mississippi team had to sneak out of Mississippi to play the Ramblers in East Lansing, Michigan. Turns out, then-governor Ross Barnett “barred Mississippi teams from playing opponents with African-American players.”

While there's more I'd like to say about this--something about barriers broken, both in March and August of that year--the Loyola-Miami game is now in progress. Time to go online and check the score.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

What Should We Celebrate?

Following is a slightly edited version of an email I sent to Chicago Sun-Times sports writer, Rick Morrissey on Monday. It was in response to his very fun column on Chicago Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon’s dyed hair.

Dear Mr. Morrissey,

I LOVED your column today on Joe Maddon's hair. 

I'd take issue with only one sentence though: "Women dye their hair and society celebrates it." Fortunately, that is changing. As a longtime grey/white-haired Beyonder, I've actually received compliments on its natural color, from both Boomers and Millennials.

As we used to bellow in the '60s, the times are in fact a-changing.

Here’s how Morrissey’s column begins:

Come home, Joe Maddon!

We, the gray-haired men of America, beseech you to put down your dye kit, to withhold your money from salons and stylists and to embrace the silver path that nature has laid out for you.

Then five paragraphs down:

We who are blessed with gray hair want you to know that we believe in freedom of choice and that you should be able to do what you want. We’d also like to think we’re above telling you that men with dye jobs look like either a rusty sink or an oil spill. Or like Sylvester Stallone. So, three things.

Then the paragraph introducing the sentence I took issue with:

Women dye their hair, and society celebrates it. Middle-aged men dye their hair, and mass snickering ensues, always behind their back.

And nearing the end of the column:

We gray heads and graybeards just want you to know we’re everywhere. We live good lives. People don’t walk by as if we’re not here. They put coins in our cups. Kidding! It’s good to be gray, and it’s better than being bald. But that’s a column for another day.

Just a couple of hours later, I received a response to my email:

Thanks, Carol. I'm all for gray pride! My point was that women can get away with dying their hair and men can't. And there's a reason men can't -- it generally looks bad on them.

Now I didn’t reply back, but I’m still not convinced that women in 2018 can “get away with dying their hair,” regardless if men can or can’t. And I use my very self as exhibit A.

Back when I was a much younger woman who was turning gray—in my early 40’s—I became smitten with an even younger man. I imagined that he might not return the attraction if I continued to gray, so I decided to dye it.

Now maybe it was because I didn’t pay top dollar for the dye job. Or maybe it was the color—something more maroon than dark auburn—which had no resemblance to any hair currently waving atop my head. But no matter the reason, I looked like I was wearing a dark helmet, one spray-painted around my face that made me wince every time I looked into a mirror.

It was the first and only time I dyed my hair.

Now I confess that it wasn’t easy to stay gray for the ensuing years. But then over time the gray turned to white, and now bits of it are even blond.  But throughout it all the color of my hair at least matched the lines on my face. No weird and obvious contradiction between the two. 

And it’s that mismatch that makes me believe that no one—women or men—can really “get away with dying their hair” as they age. Because everyone knows that that's what they're doing.

So, yes, dye if you must your old gray head. Or don’t. But, no matter the color of our hair, let's all be be comfortable in our own aging skin. Even celebrate it. 

That we can get away with.


And just this brief note: I've begun a second blog, "From the Desk of the Prodigal Daughter."

As I write in the first post, which is now live, it is about my having returned to the faith of my youth after a 45 year absence. So far, it's been a fun, stimulating, and meaningful ride. If you care to join me as I attempt to make sense of it all, please do.

Look for those posts on Tuesdays of each week.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Now Get Back To Work

As is far too common on the interweb, one may go googling for one thing and up pops another. Which is how I discovered the following article on the Kiplinger website written by Paul Michael and posted July 28, 2017.

And though in today’s world that might make it ancient history, I do believe what Mr. Michael says still holds and is relevant today. Also, it addresses one of my favorite Boomer/Beyonder topics: working beyond the very traditional retirement age of 65.

Following is the article—“6 Job Myths Boomers Should Stop Believing”—in its entirety, starting with the subtitle. I hope those interested in finding meaningful work well into their 60s and beyond will find it helpful.


If you have the skills, the drive, and the right attitude, you will get job offers whether you're 25 or 65.

“If you were born between the early 1940s and the early 1960s, you are considered a baby boomer. And that means that in the year 2017, you are considered to be at the late stage of your career.

“However, as we all know, times have changed. Very few people can expect to start at a company in their 20s and retire with a gold watch in their 60s. Layoffs and downsizing are commonplace. But with these employment fears come myths that many baby boomers still firmly believe in. It's time to bust them once and for all.

1. Once you hit a certain age, you're unemployable

“Let's make it clear: Getting a job in your 20s and 30s is always going to be easier than getting hired in your 50s and 60s. There are certain expectations about pay, and as we get older, we may have more health concerns and less energy than we did at the start of our careers. But there's a difference between hard and impossible. If you have the skills, the drive, and the right attitude, you will be valued and you will get job offers.

“The key is to stop shooting yourself in the foot by believing that your age is an anchor. There are pros and cons for every stage of our career. Early on, we're too young and have no experience, but we're cheaper and are willing to work longer hours. At the height of our careers, we sacrifice time with our families for ladder-climbing, but the pay and rewards are there. Later, we can be considered too expensive for the open positions, but we have the experience and wisdom that employers crave. It's all give and take. Market yourself with the strengths that come from a long and successful career, and how those strengths can benefit your potential new boss.

“2. You're too old to retrain

“They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but that's a complete fallacy. In fact, to continue the analogy, skilled animal trainers can take an old dog with behavioral problems, and make it a loving, family-friendly pet. While it's true that it's a little harder to pick up certain skills later in life, it's not even close to being unmanageable.

“As The Telegraph reported in 2014, more middle-aged workers are retraining for new careers as a response to their original careers dying out, or being too physically taxing. And in 2013, almost 12,000 people over age 50 in the U.K. found apprenticeships in health care and public services. In 2015, Time magazine reported that the job market was hot for workers over the age of 50.

“3. Older workers are not as valued as their younger counterparts

“You've probably heard some of these degrading statements thrown around the office (or even used them yourself at the start of your career): "That guy's a dinosaur, don't listen to him," or "She's been here for decades, she's not up on the latest news." It's complete nonsense.

“With age comes experience and wisdom, and the ability to solve problems much faster than those who are just starting to climb the ladder. Consider the story of Picasso. One day he was sketching in the park, when he was approached by a young woman who asked him to sketch her portrait. In a single pencil stroke that took just a few seconds, he captured her likeness completely. When asked how much she owed him, he said $5,000. Taken aback, she asked how he dare ask so much for something that took only a few seconds, to which he replied, 'Madame, it took me my entire life.'

“This is so true of the experience you bring to the table. You have spent decades learning how to do things, how not to do things, and how to cut to the chase. Time is valued by employers, and if you can prove that your skills can save them time and money, age is just a number.

“4. If you take time off or retire, you'll never get rehired

“Retirement is not forever. You may decide to retire, then realize that you still want to be part of the workforce. Don't think that a gap of a few years at the end of your resume is going to tarnish it. The break between one career and a new venture is actually going to be looked upon favorably by employers. They will see that you have taken time off to reboot, clear your head, relax, and figure out how you want to spend the next decade of your life.

“So, feel free to take a break and recharge. Use the time to work out what you really want to do. Maybe retirement is just what you want. Maybe you want to try your hand at something completely different. When you start looking again, you will have options open to you.

“5. Only part-time work is available for older workers

“Once again, this is untrue in the present climate. In 1995, you could make a case for that argument. Back then, around 56 percent of the over-65 workforce was part time, with 44 percent being full-time. But by 2007, those figures had completely reversed, with 56 percent of the over-65 workforce now in full-time work, and just 44 percent doing part-time jobs.

“So, what kind of jobs are available? Well, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of people over 55 are working in management positions, sales, and office jobs. Next comes the service industry, followed by production, transportation, construction, and maintenance. If the last two seem surprising, consider that we are living longer, and have made great advances in medical care. It's now possible for a 55+ man or woman to enter the construction and maintenance industries and enjoy great success, despite what they may believe about being too old for manual labor.

“6. There are only certain jobs available to me

“Greeter at a grocery store. Fast food server. Security guard at the mall. Delivering newspapers. Driving a cab or a school bus. The list goes on. These are the jobs many baby boomers think are in their future.

“However, while those jobs are available for those who genuinely want them, your options are much broader, and exciting. One of the most popular options right now is retraining to become an interior designer. If you have the eye for it, you can make great money on a schedule that suits you. Other options include working on a cruise ship, planning weddings, public speaking, casino work, consulting, and seasonal opportunities at ski lodges and resorts. The world is your oyster, especially if you're open to doing some traveling and taking a few leaps.

“Remember: As a baby boomer, you may have fewer years of your career in front of you than behind you, but that does not mean you have just a few paths to follow. With drive, enthusiasm, and the willingness to retrain, you can do almost anything you set your mind to.”