Boomer Café was launched by Greg Dobbs and David Henderson in 1999. Boomer Café is the original place on the Internet that focuses on us: baby boomers with active, youthful lifestyles and gives all baby boomers a “voice.”
It’s hard to prioritize the issues before us these days … and that’s true almost any day of the week. Right now, the hot button issue seems to be the children separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border. In his Boomer Opinion piece, BoomerCafé co-founder and executive director Greg Dobbs says, let’s listen to a lady. A former First Lady.
The most moving statement about the separation of families this week came not from elected politicians, Democrat or Republican. No, it came from the wife of one, or to be accurate, the wife of a former official. Former First Lady Laura Bush, who always made us remember that her husband had a gentle side, wrote in The Washington Post that President Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. and it breaks my heart.” Many of us who deplore both the political policies and the personal character of this president have been saying with more ardor as his term drags on, we would take George W. Bush back in a heartbeat. Thanks to Mrs. Bush, it’s true now more than ever.
For Mrs. Bush, whom we can assume would not have penned her column without her husband’s consent, called a spade a spade. Other notable Republican women have only tried to diffuse the family separation issue. Speaking not even directly but through her spokesperson, First Lady Melania Trump said she “hates to see children separated from their families.” That merely mirrored her husband’s empty words a few days before. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on a Sunday talk show didn’t even acknowledge that there are any separations: “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”
Oh my lying eyes. Period.
President Trump ended a speech in which he repeatedly railed against illegal immigration by embracing the American flag.
Forget Trump’s simplistic assertion that this sorrowful situation is borne of a Democratic law. That’s just another counterfeit claim by our lying president, who could fix the problem with a single call on his tweet-tattered phone. He and his attorney general started it; obviously they can stop it.
And forget his sycophantic supporters’ attestations — which, when you think about it, undercut his— that this crackdown is merely a manifestation of the President’s campaign promise. There’s nothing noble about sticking to a promise when it’s an appalling promise.
Federal detention center in McAllen, Texas.
You can even forget about his advisor Stephen Miller’s explanation that what we’re seeing (with our lying eyes)— which also undercuts Trump’s contention by the way that family separation is the Democrats’ doing— “was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period.” (This administration sure does use a lot of periods). A friend of mine wrote when he read that, “You can just feel him calling on his inner Josef Goebbels.” But my friend’s comparison would be lost on Miller. “The message,” Miller says, “is that no one is exempt from immigration law.”
No one. Not even children, who had nothing to do with it.
Children held in a cage, separated from parents.
Back in the 1980s, I covered a flood of asylum seekers from Communist Czechoslovakia who found a loophole at the border to get into Austria. Men, women, and children. After days of divisive debate, even Austria’s hard right, which didn’t exactly have a history of inclusion and compassion for minorities, took pity, and let them in. The children were the trump card. The oppression their families were escaping wasn’t their fault. The refuge their families were seeking wasn’t their choice. But they were stranded, and stateless. Sane, sympathetic arguments saved the day.
Customs and Border Patrol released pictures from inside the McAllen, Texas detention facility.
A few days ago on NPR’s “Weekend Edition,” anchor Scott Simon interviewed a woman named Sinthia. Her husband in Honduras had been abusive and ferocious, she told Simon. “He hit me with belts, electric cables, shoes, his feet.” So to escape from him, as well as from a judicial system that would turn a blind eye toward his abuse, she had snuck into the U.S. five years ago with her five-year-old son.
She thought she would be safer here. “I thought yes, the United States is a country of a lot of opportunities, and it’s a place where you can find help for people like me who are in situations like this.” Asked about Attorney General Sessions’ announcement that domestic and gang violence aren’t going to be considered grounds for asylum anymore, she responded, “I think it’s unjust, because we come to the United States looking for a better life because we’re in fear for our own lives.”
Oh her innocent eyes.
Children sleep on a concrete floor in a U.S. detention facility.
No doubt the President’s minions, and probably the President himself, would scream back at this unworldly woman, “Unjust? You broke the law to get here. You have no right to be here. You weren’t born here.” As if she was born in a hard-luck place like Honduras while they were born here in a freedom-loving law-abiding opportunity-rich place like America because they are smarter than she is… as opposed to just luckier.
And that is true in spades for the children.
Illegal immigration has been a hot-button issue for decades. The numbers of law-breakers who cross the border have fluctuated for decades. They have even fluctuated during the short course of the Trump administration.
The numbers fluctuate, but the arguments don’t. Hard-line Americans argue that immigrants cost them money. And raise the crime rate. And take their jobs. Sympathetic Americans argue that that’s all bogus.
But today, where children are caught in the middle, the arguments don’t much matter.
The Attorney General — when he defended family separation last week “because God has ordained” the law — proclaimed, “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.” Unless the weak and lawful are children.
Anyway, Sinthia put the lie to his logic. “Honestly, I accept that crossing a border illegally is breaking a law. But what would he do in my situation? And you want to live. You don’t want to lose your life. I would say, what decision would you make? Would you break the law, or would you just let yourself die?”
When it comes to Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller, even the President, I’m not sure we want to hear their answer.
Sometimes, when there is no simple solution, we have to figure out which of the hard choices is best. The one Laura Bush would make is. The one this administration has made isn’t.
Greg’s book about the wacky ways of a foreign correspondent, Life in the Wrong Lane, is available from Amazon.
We all get older. What we don’t all do is stress about it. But many do, particularly on the milestone birthdays where the new age has a “0” at the end of it. So how did communications specialist Larry Checco of Silver Spring, Maryland, handle his most recent “big one?” Let him tell you.
Turning 50 for me was no big deal; a hop, skip, and a jump into a slightly older middle age.
Reaching 60 was a minor hurdle, with a bit more thought given to aging.
But septuagenarian? Well, let’s just say it was a mental pole vault — with the hope for a soft landing.
As Paul Simon sang, “Strange to be 70.”
It’s finally sinking in that this journey is not going to last forever.
So several months before my actual birth date, knowing how I was feeling, my very, very understanding wife, knowing my penchant for wanderlust, asked, “So, what are you going to do?”
“What do you mean?” I replied.
“For turning 70. What are you going to do? You’ve got to do something special.”
So a week later I borrowed from a life insurance policy my folks had taken out on me when I was 18 and booked a two-week trip to China. It felt remotely — emphasis on remotely — similar to when I was 24, sold all my worldly possessions (totaling $1,400), and spent the next two-and-a half years working my way around the world.
Why China? Because I’d never been there and have always wanted to go.
Larry on the right with his tour group.
The tour I signed up for included a few days in modern-day Shanghai; a four-day cruise up the Yangtze River; a visit to the millennia-old terra cotta warriors in Xian; climbing the Great Wall; touring Tiananmen Square, the Imperil Palace, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and more.
But after just a few days, what came screaming home to me — as it did all those years ago when I traveled about as a young man — was this: it’s not about the places; it’s always about the people.
Our Chinese guide, Jessica, and the 20 other people in our group were terrific. Everyone got along, no arguments, no one was ever late for a group event, no one got sick, no lost bags. And we all shared lots of laughs.
Beyond that, many of the Chinese people we came in contact with, no matter where we were, were more than friendly. They especially enjoyed taking pictures with us.
Surprisingly, it seemed we were as much a curiosity to them as they were to us, with their hard-to-understand language, cultural and religious icons, foods (including live scorpions slithering on skewers, subsequently fried after purchase), and seemingly suicidal city traffic patterns.
When language was a barrier, we hand-signaled our joy in meeting one another. When language wasn’t an obstacle, it was obvious that their concerns were the same as ours.
All crazy world politics aside, they want the same for their families as we do for ours: security, education, the chance to get ahead and live decent, satisfying lives.
The entire trip was what I refer to as a SMOJ — a spontaneous moment of joy. And a sharp reminder of just how important people are to our well-being.
A few weeks after I returned home, my wife and I hosted a BBQ to which nearly 60 of our closest friends and family came — from a high school classmate to new best friends I made during the China tour, and lots of folks I’ve had the great pleasure and privilege of being friends with during the intervening years. .
Heck, I never made a lot of money during my working years. But if the number of very good people who have crossed my path in the past 70 years are a measure of my wealth, I’m a very rich— and lucky — man.
Wisdom. That’s the word we use here at BoomerCafé when we talk about what baby boomers “bring to the table.” Wisdom comes with age. And experience. And success, and failure. That’s what New York ad exec Bob Brody writes about for BoomerCafé in his essay, Lessons I’ve Learned So Far This Year.
If I’ve learned anything so far in 2018 – and that’s a pretty big “if” – I now pass along my insights and advice in the name of performing a public service:
When in doubt, you probably should be. And if given a choice, you should probably make it.
Every time anything is improved, it gets worse. Exhibit A is every software program ever implemented at your office.
If dusk falls, please make every effort to catch it. And if dawn breaks, by all means get someone handy to fix it right away.
Here’s a good business practice: spare no expense, but also incur none.
Accept that you and your colleagues often have creative differences, but generally it’s because you’re always right and they’re always wrong.
Listen to those voices you keep hearing, especially if it’s just other people talking.
Never absorb information on a topic or issue that threatens to undermine your hard-won ignorance.
In the event anyone ever accuses you of living your life in a state of denial, just deny it.
Nothing unifies like division.
Remembering is good, but forgetting can be better.
Tell people that not only do you appreciate they’re trying to be transparent but also that you see right through it. Meanwhile, just to be safe, invest in developing an X-ray device that enables you to detect hidden agendas.
Resist the pressure to discontinue the hard-copy version of yourself and go all-digital.
Feel free to be spontaneous, but rehearse a little first.
Never let ambiguity leave you feeling ambivalent.
Love everyone equally, just some people more than others.
Spend the holidays with those you love so that later you can get together with your family and friends.
Finally, stop trying to figure out who’s responsible for anything. Each of us is. Individually and together. Period.
As every American knows, the overarching theme of the baby boomer who now lives in the White House is, “Make America Great Again.” But BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs, a longtime correspondent for two television networks who covered presidential politics over the years, has a Boomer Opinion about the question, Is President Trump Really Making America Great Again?
Those still seduced by Donald J. Trump just can’t stand it when the rest of us fail to see how he is Making America Great Again.
I know firsthand. Because after every column I write that is critical of the President, they tell me how blind I am. After a column last week asking why Trump trashes our allies but exalts our adversaries, one reader commented, “When a real manager comes in after decades of incompetence, corruption, and inefficiency, he or she faces a maelstrom of opposition and resentment when he or she begins to put the system back in place and running smoothly.” Another defended the President’s performance at the strained summit of the G7 in Canada, emailing, “After WW2 we saved Europe with the Marshal (sic) Plan and helped them rebuild, now 73 years later we’re still protecting and paying for their military protection and their failed socialist societies.” He ended his defense simply saying, “THANK YOU D J TRUMP, President of the United States.”
But here’s the thing: the reason we can’t see what the President’s protectors see is because there’s very little if anything actually there.
Here at home, is he Making America Great Again when he relieves regulations designed to keep our air and our water safe? Is he Making America Great Again when he gives banks a break that could lead us right back to the recession out of which we recently climbed? Is he Making America Great Again when he impels legislation that grows our national debt? Is he Making America Great Again when he revokes health care options with which most Americans were briefly blessed? Is he Making America Great Again when he triggers trade wars that could cost us more than they strengthen us?
True, there are persuasive economic arguments in favor of the President’s policies, but in the bigger picture, the answer in every case is no.
Overseas, did President Trump Make America Great Again when he showed up at the summit in Singapore? From the standpoint of defusing the tension, plainly he did and thank goodness, but what kind of accomplishment is it when you merely defuse the tension that you yourself created? “Everyone can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump tweeted when he got home, “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” Sorry Mr. President, we were actually much safer the day before you took office. With your rash rhetoric about “Little Rocket Man” and “fire and fury” and your own “much bigger” nuclear button, you had us genuinely worried about war (remember Hawaii’s nuclear alert earlier this year) before you brought us down. And the nuclear threat has not melted away. Not until Kim’s nuclear weapons do.
For that matter, is President Trump Making America Great Again when he announces (to almost everyone’s surprise) that the U.S. will suspend military exercises— aka war games— with South Korea? Definitely not, not if we do have to fight a war with the North after all but our troops and the South’s troops are not coordinated, not well prepared. And is he Making America Great Again if he ends the missions of America’s nuclear-armed B-52s because “I know a lot about airplanes, it’s very expensive?” No he’s not, because while he might know a lot about airplanes, he doesn’t seem to know squat about defense, and about even just the symbolism of America’s commitments to its allies.
On the other side of the world, is Trump Making America Great Again when he calls Canada, a close ally, “weak” and “dishonest”— a loyal ally that has joined America in virtually every war for a hundred years? As columnist Tom Friedman put it, “What country wouldn’t want Canada as its neighbor?” Apparently us, in the playbook of Donald J. Trump. And just to put icing on the cake, Trump’s chief trade advisor Peter Navarro said after the G7, “There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump.” What happens next time we need good faith diplomacy from Canada, or any other ally? What happens when we need joint counterterrorism exercises, or heightened attention to human rights? Does the President’s brash behavior, and his advisor’s, ensure more cooperation, or less?
And is Donald Trump Making America Great Again when he goes to war not just with the major crime-fighting institutions in the nation, compromising their credibility with many Americans, but also with journalists, characterizing members of the media in a tweet last week as “Our Country’s biggest enemy?” Forget Iran and its aggressive Islamic revolution, forget Russia and its aggressive cyberattacks on our democracy, forget China and its aggressive agenda to surpass the American economy and supersede the American military. And by the way, forget North Korea, which so far has only put pen to paper, that paper being shamefully short on specifics. Trump’s tweet accused “the Fake News” of “fighting hard to downplay the deal with North Korea.” What he conveniently ignores is, there’s still no deal to downplay. One might yet come and we can all hope it does, but so far, it’s not even close to the very deals previous presidents thought they had struck with North Korea, which Trump has stridently denounced.
Express your opinion — If you are a baby boomer and want to write a Boomer Opinion piece, check BoomerCafé’s story submission guidelines, which apply to everything we publish.
I’d tell Donald Trump what I’ve told critics of the media ever since the days of Richard Nixon when I covered Watergate: the media can’t make you look like a liar, it can’t make you look like a bully, it can’t make you look like an authoritarian, it can’t even make you look like a cheating husband, without your help.
Instead of Making America Great Again, President Trump is making America, and Americans, estranged again. Estranged from our friends, estranged from one another. And having set that tone since the day he announced his candidacy for the Oval Office, Trump’s underlings are taking estrangement to frightening new levels.
Mike Pompeo shakes hands with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
That even includes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an otherwise smart man who worked hard to make Singapore happen. But when a reporter asked him about verification of North Korean denuclearization, Pompeo responded, “I find that question insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous.” Ludicrous, asking for details that Trump and Pompeo and others had promised before the summit but didn’t deliver? Apparently any reporter who questions the veracity of this administration is fair game. Trump’s 2020 campaign manager even called for the credentials of a CNN correspondent to be revoked, because during the signing ceremony, this correspondent asked the question, “Mr. President, did we agree to denuclearize?” When Team Trump treats this nation like a dictatorship, not a democracy, they’re certainly not Making America Great Again.
And that, for you who still think Donald Trump is Making America Great Again, is why he isn’t.
Greg’s book about the wacky ways of a foreign correspondent, Life in the Wrong Lane, is available from Amazon.
You don’t need BoomerCafé to tell you about the royal wedding last month in England. But this is the only place where you can learn about another wedding that took place on the very same date … although decades earlier. But as she watched the royal wedding, Lucy Iscaro of White Plains, New York, was mindful of that earlier wedding too. And writes her Tale of Two Weddings.
Meghan and Harry’s wedding in Windsor last month brought out the romantic in millions. My eight-year-old granddaughter and her little brother cuddled up on my couch early that morning in their pajamas to watch.
I caffeinated myself awake and told them that this was an important day in their family history too. Because their great-grandparents, my mom and dad, were married on the same day eighty-one years ago.
Sidney and Gladys
It was May 19, 1937. Twenty-year-old Gladys Hilda Wang of Brooklyn married into a less than royal family and became Mrs. Sidney Lederman. Unlike Meghan, now the Duchess of Sussex, she did not wear a white silk gown from the house of Givenchy. There was no hand-embroidered sixteen-and-a-half-foot silk tulle veil with flowers representing all 53 countries of the Commonwealth. The patterned dress Mom wore may have been silk, but I suspect it was made of a more affordable choice such as rayon. The bride in England borrowed a diamond tiara from her grandmother-in-law. The bride in Brooklyn’s grandmother-in-law had escaped from Russia with little more than her life and her children. There were no tiaras.
Harry, sixth in the line of succession, was handsome in his elegantly tailored uniform. Sidney wore his only suit, but royalty was represented anyway by his neckwear tied in a Windsor knot.
The royal groom lost his mother, the glamorous Princess Diana, when he was only twelve. Dad was a toddler when his mother died in the flu epidemic. Like Harry’s father, Prince Charles, Sidney’s father married again.
The royal couple had many who thought they should not marry, and my parents had to withstand objections as well.
Dad wrote in his memoir, “Our families, especially Gladys’s, were mostly against our involvement. They said we were too young. We tried to separate, but it did not work. And so on May 19, 1937, we were married. Gladys and I were together, AT LAST.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are reportedly planning to have a belated honeymoon in Africa as soon as their royal commitments allow. Mr. and Mrs. Lederman of Brooklyn spent their short honeymoon in the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan.
Dad wrote, “I chose this hotel because I had read about its luxury, even to the inclusion of a swimming pool. It was blissful to be in each other’s arms all night. Everything was a wonder in our eyes. We were so much in love.”
It was pleasant for me to escape the hard news stories and watch a real-life Cinderella marry a charming prince. For that I thank the royals. I wish Meghan and Harry the same happiness my parents shared for more than 70 years.
Harry and Meghan’s future family will inherit titles and the security of great wealth. Sidney and Gladys’s family, those little people on my couch included, inherited a history of love that continues to sustain four generations. For that I thank Sidney and Gladys.
Do you still have well-worn stuff you acquired when you were just a young baby boomer? Syndicated writer Amy McVay Abbott of Newburgh, Indiana, sure does. And when she recently bought gifts for three family weddings, it struck her that people our age need new stuff too.
After ponying up substantial gifts for three family weddings, I realized that old married people need new stuff too. Our old stuff is worn out or garage sale fodder. I find little trace of the gifts from two showers and our own wedding 34 years ago.
We had no Ikea or Bed Bath and Beyond. We registered at the Ace Hardware store where one could purchase a toaster or snow tires. Our china cabinet features never-used wedding gifts, a beautiful Foley teacup and saucer, and pink Mayfair depression glass. On a top shelf are six crystal wine glasses and matching decanter with the manufacturer’s sticker still intact. What can I say? It’s too good to use!
The sheets and towels we received as gifts are all gone, now rags for washing cars. We’re on our third or four set of flatware and of everyday dishes, now Fiestaware.
Our parents’ friends gave us practical gifts, like sheets and measuring cups. Our friends gave us Stanley, a papier-Mache troll. Stanley met his demise on our Florida lanai when Hurricane Elena came through.
We received 19 sets of wine glasses. Today we can’t find two that match. But that’s okay. Finding enough glasses is not usually an issue any more. We drank our lifetime quota of alcohol in our twenties, and don’t entertain much.
Wedding showers are more sophisticated today, and may involve a weekend and a bachelorette party.
Toilet paper bride.
We played Toilet Paper Bride at showers with our mothers and elderly aunts. Who remembers Toilet Paper Bride? Divide the shower guests into teams of four and pick someone as bride. Take a roll of toilet paper and dress the designated bride from stem to stern in White Cloud. The winner gets a wrapped spatula, which she immediately gives to the real bride.
The go-go shower drink from my era was 7-Up and Hawaiian Punch with a 7-Up ice ring made in a Jell-O mold.
I have to admit we probably have all the stuff we need, and much more. Maybe my shower can focus on practical items, like white-chocolate-covered Sheri’s Berries or Zingerman’s coffee beans.
How about mailing your gifts to me? I’ll toast you with a punch cup of 7-Up and Hawaiian Punch.
It wasn’t this way when baby boomers were kids but everything’s changing so fast! Including America’s role in the world, and its relationships. In this Boomer Opinion piece, BoomerCafé co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs, an Emmy Award-winning former foreign correspondent, points out what he sees as the perils of the new version of American foreign policy.
It is the nature of the news cycle in the Time of Trump that at the rat-a-tat pace of an AK-47, as this spiteful president shoots one bullet after another into the heart and soul of American alliances and American diplomacy and American prestige and American leadership, one woeful wound swiftly is smothered by another.
It is the nature of the cycle, but it shouldn’t be.
Yet while the impact of Donald Trump’s behavior at the Canadian summit will bedevil us for a long time, the news about it will be smothered by the Singapore summit. It shouldn’t be. Because we can’t afford it.
An iconic image — World leaders gather at the second day of the G-7 meeting in Charlevoix, Canada. (Steffen Seibert/German Information Ministry)
The news is, Trump disdainfully declined in Canada to sign the traditional joint statement by the seven allies of the G7, shorthand for the Group of Seven democracies that have long shared common values and common causes. But because Donald Trump shows no respect for tradition, let alone practical partnerships, realists now ruefully call it G6+1. What’s worse, Trump didn’t just disagree about major issues with our long-supportive allies, which is his prerogative as president; he insulted and threatened them, which isn’t.
How can it be that the few serious, capable, and world-weary people in this president’s orbit don’t read him the facts of global life? What they need to teach him is, more because of the expansion of the economic and military strength of other nations than due to any self-imposed decline of American power, the United States no longer is the undisputed 900-pound gorilla on the planet. And more important, that if we push them away, they can survive on their own.
Express your opinion — If you are a baby boomer and want to write a Boomer Opinion piece, check BoomerCafé’s story submission guidelines, which apply to everything we publish.
I don’t even have to think hard when I scroll through stories I covered around the world to come up with examples of the import of alliances. I shuttled around the Middle East with President Jimmy Carter as he won the support of Arab and European nations to solidify the peace treaty he achieved between Egypt and Israel at Camp David (which against countless challenges has endured to this very day). He couldn’t have done it alone.
I patrolled with foreign soldiers during the civil war in Beirut as President Ronald Reagan cobbled together a force of peacekeepers which, although ultimately not so successful, showed the anxiety of the international community about the war that was ripping that nation apart. We couldn’t have shown it alone.
I did stories, in both Saudi Arabia and at the United Nations, about President George H.W. Bush methodically assembling a coalition of 39 countries to confront Saddam Hussein, which eventually routed his troops after they took up residence in Kuwait. We might not have pulled it off alone.
I’ve traveled with local military units in Colombia and in Bolivia as they attacked drug cartels at the behest of the United States. I’ve covered campaigns for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, where the U.S. was the lead mediator but was not operating in a vacuum. I’ve reported on our multinational agreements and alliances from Libya, from Vietnam, from South Africa, from Afghanistan. As a superpower, we can lead the way, but we can only lead if others choose to follow. If we insult and threaten them, we risk going it alone. Which would cost us dearly.
Editorial cartoon by Kevin “KAL” Kallaugher, Baltimore Sun, www.Kaltoons.com. Used with permission.
Does it really take a dying American hero to bring us to our senses, to publicly (and not for the first time) scold our president for his damaging, dangerous, and disgraceful behavior? Maybe it does, and maybe others will follow, but for now, it is the weakened but not silenced voice of Senator John McCain that shines. After Trump haughtily tweeted from Air Force One after leaving the summit in Canada that the host nation’s prime minister Justin Trudeau was “very dishonest & weak” (because Trudeau had criticized Trump’s trade policies, which is his prerogative), Senator McCain sent out his own tweet: “To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values.”
70 years of shared values. With friends and neighbors who have stood by us just as we have stood by them. 70 years, or more like a hundred, for as Trudeau told reporters, Trump’s national security rationale for tariffs against Canadian steel was “kind of insulting” to a nation that has backed the United States in wars dating back to World War One.
McCain ended his tweet with what our steadfast allies ought to know: “Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.” They ought to know, and they need to know, because one day — hopefully sooner rather than later — we shall have a new president. A new president who understands who our friends are, and understands how friends should be treated.
Donald Trump doesn’t. Which we cannot afford.
Greg’s book about the wacky ways of a foreign correspondent, Life in the Wrong Lane, is available from Amazon.
With the deaths last week of fashion icon Kate Spade and television icon Anthony Bourdain, there is new focus nationwide on suicide. Both Spade and Bourdain seemed to be living the dream, but there were circumstances in their lives which made that only an illusion. Three years ago, our friends at PBS’s boomer-blog NextAvenue.org published an article about suicide by their senior content editor Emily Gurnon. As a service to readers who might need to seek help for themselves or others, they have just republished it and allowed BoomerCafé to do the same. Because the older we get, if our health turns south and our lives become isolated, we are at higher risk ourselves.
Eastman Kodak founder George Eastman had accomplished much by the age of 77, having revolutionized photography and invented motion-picture film.
George Eastman on the left.
One day, he gathered together a group of friends to discuss how he planned to divide up his estate. After the meeting, he excused himself briefly and wrote them a note: “My work is done. Why wait?”
He then shot himself in the heart.
But before we conclude that Eastman was making a sober, well-considered decision to end his days, Kimberly Van Orden, says, consider this: “If you look a little bit closer at George Eastman’s life, we learn that he suffered severe back pain, functional impairment in terms of mobility, had restricted social interactions and likely experienced depression… Suicide is not an expected response to the challenges of aging.”
Suicide and Older Adults: More Common Than We Think
Van Orden, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, took part in a webinar last month on older-adult suicide prevention.
Many associate suicide with young people, like troubled teens or twentysomethings who never quite got their lives off the ground.
The late Anthony Bourdain. He was of the baby boomer generation.
In fact, it is much more common among older adults. According to new figures just released this week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the highest rate of suicides in America is among people age 45 to 64. There were more than 232,000 suicides in this age group from 1999 to 2016.
Other factors make suicide attempts more likely to be fatal among older people, Van Orden says.
“Older adults tend to die on their first attempt,” she says. Their frailty often makes them less likely to survive; their isolation makes them less likely to be rescued and “they tend to be more planful and determined in their suicidal behavior.”
Sounding the Alarm
The incidence of older adult suicide has not gone unnoticed by mental health professionals such as Van Orden. Yet they want to raise awareness of the problem among caregivers, family, friends and others who may be able to intervene.
When an older adult has one or more of the following risk factors, his or her loved ones should be especially cognizant of the danger of suicide, Van Orden says:
Prior suicide attempts
Presence of other medical conditions
Social dependency or isolation
Family discord or loss
Inflexible or rigid personality
Access to lethal means
One of the most important issues to confront is depression, she said. Health care providers should do routine screenings and, if depression is identified, get it treated.
“We know that depression treatment is effective,” at least in reducing thoughts of suicide and likely in reducing suicide itself, Van Orden says.
Acute Risk – The Most Dangerous Time
Warning signs of “acute risk” of suicide, Van Orden says, include:
Threatening to hurt or kill herself or talking of wanting to kill herself
Looking for ways to commit suicide by getting access to pills or weapons, for example
Talking or writing about death or suicide when such actions are not typical
Fortunately, there are some “protective factors” that can reduce the risk of suicide, says Rosalyn Blogier, public health adviser with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Blogier also took part in last month’s webinar, which was sponsored by the National Council on Aging.
The protective factors include:
Assessment and care for physical and mental health issues
Sense of purpose or meaning
Resilience during transitions
Those who work with older adults, including activity directors at senior living centers, have tried to educate residents by offering classes, but the tone of the approach made a difference, says Christine Miara of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, who also joined the webinar. Stigma around mental health issues remains a very real problem.
“They found out that if they called it [the class] ‘Depression Awareness’ or ‘Reducing Suicide,’ they didn’t get many people to come, but when they gave it a title like, ‘Building Resilience’ or ‘Awakening to Joy’ or ‘No Regrets,’ the participation was much better,” she says.
If you or someone you know is in danger of taking their life, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK.
You might have heard of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, but beyond its fame, you might not know much about it. Baby boomer Crispin Haskins of Toronto does. He is a popular novelist who writes mystery books about the Vineyard, and writes now for BoomerCafé to explain the allure.
When I get away, like a lot of people, I want the warmth of the sun and a swim in the ocean. However, there are quite a few caveats to that statement for me.
I do not want an all-inclusive resort that attracts groups of partiers with their “all you can drink” and “pool bar” promises. I need beauty, simplicity, and good people. For me, vacation life doesn’t get better than life on Martha’s Vineyard.
Novelist Crispin Nathaniel Haskins on his beloved Martha’s Vineyard.
Martha’s Vineyard is an island of approximately a hundred square miles, four miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It is an island of flawless beaches, weathered cedar-shingle houses, and proud people.
And they have every right to be proud. In a world as fast-paced as this one, they have successfully created a world with every modern convenience necessary while filtering out the so-called conveniences of today’s world that are not. For example there isn’t a single traffic light on the island. You won’t find McDonalds or The Gap. There are no familiar chains — why would you want one? Martha’s Vineyard is home to some of the best restaurants and small businesses that I’ve ever experienced. All of them are run by islanders and washashores (local term for people who live there, but were not born there) who know their season is short, and they work very hard because of it.
A lobster roll, Vineyard-style.
Every trip, I continue my quest for the perfect lobster roll. So far, I think The Lookout is at the top of my list. Is seafood not your bag? That’s fine. The chicken wings and French Onion soup at The Newes From America Pub will stand up against anyone’s. You can eat supper in Edgartown, overlooking the harbor, then walk up Main Street in the soft glow of the gaslights, or you can eat a seafood dinner in Menemsha fishing village and watch the sunset on the beach. Either way, you won’t regret skipping the loud DJ beats and cement pool of an all-inclusive resort; I promise.
Gay Head lighthouse dates to 1799.
In my opinion, a lot of the mystique of Martha’s Vineyard comes from the presence of five lighthouses — Edgartown, East Chop, West Chop, Gay Head, and Cape Poge. There’s something romantic and magical about lighthouses. They are symbols of an era gone by. Watching the sunset behind the Edgartown Lighthouse onboard a flawless, ninety-year-old catboat is a pretty great way to slow down and remember all that’s important. An evening sail with Catboat Charters will make that happen.
An often-overlooked fact is that there are hiking trails in every direction on Martha’s Vineyard. You can hike to the top of the Menemsha Hills or you can hike through Samuel Correllus State Forest. Every part of the island has a trail or two for all skill levels. These will come in handy when you’re trying to work off the inevitable apple fritter from Back Door Donuts!
There is a long history of artisans on Martha’s Vineyard. Local writers, artists, poets, musicians, all make regular appearances to promote their wares. You can go to The Port Hunter or The Wharf in Edgartown or you can go to The Ritz or The Lampost in Oak Bluffs. Wherever you go, it’s nice to spend an evening in a place where ‘JT’ means ‘James Taylor’ and not ‘Justin Timberlake.’
I’ve been going to Martha’s Vineyard for over forty years now. I’m still finding new things to see and do. I finally checked off all of my JAWS filming locations in 2014. The truth of the matter is, I can write about Martha’s Vineyard for pages and pages and I will never be able to explain the island’s magic to your satisfaction. Martha’s Vineyard is one of those places that must be experienced firsthand.
This story is SO typical of so many baby boomers. You have a dream, but you also have a life to live and the two don’t mix. That was the case for Kathleen Jones of Toronto, Canada, but she never quite let go. And then she persisted. And then this boomer’s 50-year-old dream actually came true.
Ever since I was a child, I have loved writing stories and I excelled at it, from the second grade through university. Storytelling came easily to me. As far as I was concerned, it was more fun than work. Teachers loved my stories and often asked me to read them out loud to the class. My second grade teacher even told my parents that I was destined to become a famous Canadian author.
But when I graduated from university in 1982, I lost my nerve. I soon discovered that it was almost impossible for an unknown author to sell a novel to a publisher, let alone make a decent living from writing fiction. So I did the next best thing: I became an editor, working for a number of Canadian book publishers.
Even though I became preoccupied with paying bills and saving for retirement, I couldn’t let go of my writing dream. In my mid-40s, while still employed at a full-time job, I began writing a novel during coffee breaks at work and on weekends. Six years later, I finally completed it, but I decided that it wasn’t worth submitting to publishers. The writing wasn’t bad, but the plot was meandering and unfocused and the characters weren’t fully developed. Nevertheless, the experience of working on it taught me a great deal about writing. And that first novel, flawed though it was, made me confident that I could actually write.
A few months later, I began creating the outline of a second novel. By then I was in my early 50s. This time, I was much more disciplined and committed to mastering my craft. I wrote virtually every weekend for three years, completing three drafts while still employed at a full-time job. But I was less worried about failing. Self-publishing was now a realistic option, so I knew that I could follow that route if my efforts to sell my novel to a publisher weren’t successful.
But I couldn’t give up my dream of winning a contract with a traditional book publisher. Knowing though that the odds of selling my work were against me, I decided to polish the manuscript before I submitting it to literary agents and publishers. I hired a team of professionals from Editors Canada: a substantive/line editor, a copy editor, and a proofreader. Under their direction, I rewrote and rethought my manuscript, over and over again. Then I crossed my fingers and submitted the polished manuscript to agents and publishers.
By now, it was March, 2017, and I was in my mid-50s. About eight months earlier, I had taken early retirement, after my former employer bought me out, and had become a full-time novelist and blogger. I had set up my own professional author platform and had read zillions of posts on the business and technical sides of book publishing. I was entering an exciting new phase of my life.
Still — despite all my hard work, preparation, and commitment — I was scared. I didn’t think my novel would be picked up by a publisher because it was offbeat and didn’t quite fit into an established genre. My worries turned out to be realistic: a few publishers showed some interest in my novel but they didn’t offer me a contract for it. After five fruitless months, I was ready to give up and self-publish when I received a contract from the publisher called Moonshine Cove.
I am now 58 years old. My first novel, Love is the Punch Line, has just been published. Finally, my 50-year-old dream is becoming a reality! With a great deal of hard work, commitment, and perseverance, what I’ve learned is that YOUR dream — whatever it is — can also come true.
But don’t wait 50 years to do it!
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