The First Leaf

The First of Many

A few days ago, I noticed a red leaf on my lawn. For crying out loud, I’ve just gotten used to cutting the damn grass every week. Since we’re heading into late August / early September, seeing leaves dropping this early tends to mean we’re in for a pre-fall cooldown. Which I’m sure will be great news for all those kids who have been practicing football and soccer in the scorching summer heat. Temperature-wise, we are heading into an extended downturn of highs in the upper 70s. Warm days, followed by cool comfortable nights in the 50s. Sleeping heaven.

My love affair with fall is only exceeded by my love affair with Christmas. However this year, I’ve decided to give fall the attention it deserves. We generally don’t go overboard with decorations, but this year I really want to make Halloween special. Probably like most people, I have a tendency to gloss over the fall season, in preparation for the Christmas chaos. The website Organized Home, doesn’t even have a Halloween Countdown Checklist, which is pretty surprising. Unlike Christmas, I generally just (bat) wing it for Halloween. However, this year I thought might be a good idea to develop a checklist, to make my spooky preparations a little less hectic.

The other night, I ran up to my local Big Lots just before closing. After I hustled through the wide-open doors, I noticed a very realistic Halloween bat decoration flying around the store. Then I realized that was no decoration, he was the real deal. Vlad was pretty large, as bats go, and he even had the white chest markings. So it was pretty easy to picture him transforming into a guy in a black tuxedo, slicked-back hair, and a pointy overbite.

The store clerks and I tried to shoo him out the open doors, with no success. So I headed to the audio section of the store, to pick up a new set of earbuds. On the way back, Vlad came swooping at me from the Halloween aisle! No lie. If he’s getting into the Halloween spirit a little early, who am I to argue? Crack open the hot cider and grab me a tasty donut. The fall colors are coming soon to a neighborhood near you. 

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The Lead Ball

Can You Feel It?

Just to be clear, I’m not usually prone to fits of anxiety. Although, I have had times in my life when I’ve had the lead ball in the gut feeling. We’ve all had moments of stress, which cause us to feel anxious or uncertain. I’ve lived a relatively stress-free life for the past few years. So, when I check my stress level with the Samsung Health app, it’s normally at the low end of the spectrum.

However, when I’ve measured it over the past few days, it’s been skyrocketing. There’s a host of reasons for this spike. First, the launch of this new website. When I suggested to my friend Larry, that we import all of the old articles from Become Nostalgic About Today and The Brown Parachute Club, I had no idea the can of worms I was opening up. What followed were months of edits to the articles, plus syncing up all of the links for the new website. Tedious work, but I think the end result was worth it.

Also, I recently rearranged our living room furniture, but I can’t seem to get the proper Feng Shui. I know it sounds trivial, but I have a tendency to obsess over something like that until I get it right. So, that’s causing me frustration as well. In addition, I’ve recently checked out a new job opportunity which seems very promising. However, it’s more change in my life, and that’s resulting in even more stress. At least in the short term.

Over the years, I have come to realize that there is very little difference between the feeling of excitement and the feeling of dread. For instance, reaching the crest of a roller coaster versus being called into your boss’s office first thing on a Monday morning. I don’t handle change very well, and as a result, my stomach tends to do flip flops until I identify the cause of the discomfort.

Needless to say, I have a lot going on in my life right now, and my stomach has been flip-flopping nonstop. Hopefully, that will come to an end soon, as this new website catches hold, and I’m able to expand my horizons in the job market. We’ll see. In the meantime, please pass the TUMS. Thank you very much.

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Black Pickup Trucks

Watch Your Rear

At the risk of alienating some of my readers, I’m just going to say it. What the hell is up with drivers of black pickup trucks? Is there something inherently evil about that paint color? Last summer, I wrote an article about tailgaters. However, it seems like owners of black pickup trucks tend to take it to a whole new level. If you drive one of these vehicles, I apologize. I don’t know if I’m just getting older, but honestly, what’s the frickin’ hurry? Unless you have a hot date with a supermodel, slow the heck down and get off my butt! However, maybe that was Justin Verlander on my rear end a few years ago, just trying to get home to Kate Upton. In that case, not only should I have moved over, I should’ve also called ahead for a police escort! Bro Code.  

As I mentioned in Gotta Go Joes, I know some drivers will be unhappy with whatever speed I’m doing in the fast lane. As long as I’m in front of them, I’m an obstacle to be overcome. One day I decided to keep a mental tally of the number of times a black pickup truck rode my bumper. I’m pretty sure the final score was around 95%. If you were in the other 5%, thank you for not giving in to the Dark Side. Don’t get me wrong, there are a huge number of idiots on the road these days, and I’ll admit that sometimes I’m one of them. However, it seems like virtually all pickup truck drivers feel the need for speed. There must be some secret Pickup Drivers Training School, where your final exam is to successfully tailgate six inches behind the slowpoke in front of you, for at least five miles.

As I said, there is more than enough bad driving to go around. Just this past weekend, the Woodward Dream Cruise was in town, and I saw more reckless freeway driving than I’ve seen in years. Plus, there is a disturbing new trend on the expressway, where two muscle cars will deliberately hang back in traffic, then have a short drag race. Needless to say, this puts all of us at risk. If you think your car is so bad, take it up to a local race track and see what you’ve got. Otherwise, please leave us innocent bystanders alone. Back to pickup trucks. Although these can be some of the most aggressive drivers on the road, pickup owners are generally more likely to stop and help if you get stuck in a jam. It seems like they live for an opportunity to haul somebody’s car out of a ditch or a snow bank. Black pickup truck drivers, like Darth Vader, we know there is good in you. So, please give the rest of us pilots in the Galaxy a break. I will now get off my soapbox. Thank you.

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Old Tech

It Never Hurts to Have a Backup Plan

Yup, I’ll say it. I’m from Ye Olde School of Technology. I cut my teeth on Cobol, Beepers, and 1400 baud modems. That said, I have a dilemma. Our son recently moved out and took his Sony 65″ 4K TV with him. It has been replaced by our vintage Panasonic 44″ LCD Rear Projection monster, from way back in 2007. I have to say, before my son moved back home for a year with his Sony 4K, I was always very happy with the Panasonic. We have AT&T cable, and the picture has always been excellent. However, after watching 4K for a year, our LCD Rear Projection is looking pretty sad. It doesn’t help that my son, who also works at Best Buy, is constantly going on about the great prices on the new 4K TVs. However, until the LCD TV gives up the ghost, we’re stuck with it. I can’t bring myself to donate or recycle a perfectly good TV, just because it’s seen better days.

The other morning, my laptop gave me a scare. While booting up, it went into Toshiba Recover and Repair mode. With over thirty years of IT experience, seeing a message like that sent a shiver of terror up my spine. Eventually, it finished booting up, and my heart rate returned to normal. However, this latest episode got me thinking. What do I do if this PC goes belly up for good? Then I remembered my old Acer laptop in the basement. I bought it for $100 many years ago from Craigslist. It’s still running Windows 7 and I was going to recycle it because the Wi-Fi controller was flaky. I had replaced the card once before, but it still had intermittent connection issues. Then, I remembered something. Last summer, I had purchased a USB Wi-Fi adapter and had completely forgotten about it. I popped it into the Acer, booted it up and Shazam! Instant Wi-Fi!

Now, my old Acer runs like a champ. I’m in the middle of an obsolete technology purge, and that laptop was slated for the junk heap. Now it’s been given new life. It never hurts to have a spare PC. Plus, I remember I had replaced the battery on the Acer right after I bought it. So now that sucker has power for about 4 to 5 hours. Try getting that from a new PC these days for only $100! Not gonna happen. Yesterday, my Toshiba laptop went through a five hour Windows 10 update, and this morning, I had to manually reconnect the Wi-Fi. God help me. So all in all, I have to say that old technology does serve a purpose. If nothing else, it makes a great backup plan for when your new technology craps out at the worse possible time. Happy computing! 

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Cruisin’ the Dream

Here They Come!

(Author’s Note: This is the first article posted on my new website. Please take a look around and let me know what you think! Also, if you haven’t seen The Brown Parachute Club before, check it out and please share it with your friends!)

It happens every year. Spring arrives and you can hear them emerging from their garages, like bears from hibernation. The roar of hot rods revving their engines fills the air. As summer breezes in, they are unleashed on the streets of The Motor City. Twenty-five years ago in Suburban Detroit, a tradition began. It’s called The Woodward Dream Cruise. It runs along M1, otherwise known as Woodward Avenue, from 8 Mile Road all the way up to M59 in Pontiac. Back in the day, cruising Woodward was the place to be if you were a motorhead and wanted to show off your baby. 

I’ve never really been a “Car Guy”, but I understand the appeal. Back in my teen years, I had some buddies who owned cars that would definitely be considered classics today. Rick had his orange 1968 Firebird, Jim had a neon yellow 1970 Mustang Mach I, and Kurt’s brother had a 1972 Camaro Z28. I can’t even imagine what those beauties would sell for today. I always tried to call shotgun whenever I rode in one of those street machines. If I ever got stuck in the backseat, I had to rearrange my 6’3” frame across the seat sideways. That way, I wouldn’t wind up eating my knees if we went over a pothole, or God forbid, had an accident. 

The Woodward Dream Cruise is in its twenty-fifth year and shows no signs of slowing down. Since we are THE Motor City, hot rodders from all over the world bring their cars to Detroit, to cruise up and down legendary Woodward Avenue. It’s quite a spectacle, but it’s turned into a week-long nightmare for people living in the neighborhoods along Woodard. However, it’s only once a year. Before you know it, the boulevard will be covered in falling leaves, and the dream machines will be stored away for another year. Come next spring, the sound of revving engines and smell of burning rubber will signal the arrival yet another Dream Cruise. So enjoy it while it last.

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http://www.woodwarddreamcruise.com

 

 

My Story

Too Old to Hire, Too Young to Retire

It was February 24th, 2014. That was the day it happened to me. I was downsized with eighteen of my co-workers. Most of us had been with the company for fifteen years or more. I had been with the law firm I worked at for almost twenty-six years. I was fifty-four years old and just like that, I was a member of The Brown Parachute Club.

To say that I felt angry and betrayed is an understatement. Is this what I get for twenty-six years of loyal service? Without delving too far into the details, the law firm I worked for had suddenly found itself with a large financial deficit. The company needed cash and many of us earning the bigger paychecks (who were also, coincidentally, the older employees) became expendable.

At the time, I had planned on working at least ten more years before even thinking about Retirement. This illustrates the fallacy of Retirement Planning. You do as you’re told. You stash away the maximum allowable amount every year in your 401k or IRA. However, what do you do if you are suddenly out of work, and still ten years away from Retirement? I don’t remember attending a seminar on that subject, so I started this blog to hopefully provide some answers to that question.

The title, The Brown Parachute Club, is a tip of the hat to the legendary job-seeking guru Richard Bolles. His book, What Color Is Your Parachute? is a classic in the field of job-hunting. I have the 2012 edition. He updates and publishes this book every year. For the past 45 years! Now that is an amazing track record! His “Job Hunter’s Bible” is full of great information on how to find a job. More importantly for us in the “Over 55 Club”, it also goes into great detail on Finding Your Mission in Life (Appendix A). Essential reading if you are looking to reboot your career.

The Brown Parachute Club is the name I gave this blog for a reason. If you are allowed to retire from your job, it is said that you receive a “Golden Parachute” as part of your retirement package. If you’re let go from your job before Retirement, you get a “Brown Parachute”. As I mentioned before, the phenomenon of not making it to the finish line is being largely ignored by the financial industry and career planners.

However, according to a New York Times article, Laid Off, With Retirement Almost in Sight, there are over 2 million of us between the ages of 55 and 65 in this crappy club. Now you understand why I call it The Brown Parachute Club! Not only that, according to this article, the average time that someone 55 or older was unemployed was 52.2 weeks! Over 1 year!! Not only that, over 210,000 of us have given up looking for work entirely! If you do find a job, you’re looking at a pay cut of 30% or more and dropping to the bottom of the seniority ladder. Aren’t those some rosy statistics? To make matters worse, this article was published on January 6, 2012. Do you think that things have improved or gotten worse since then?

It occurred to me that a blog on this subject, with a potential audience of over 2 million people, might be worth writing. Since I was laid off, I have tried several different opportunities to start a new career. I drove for the ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft for a while. It is a lot of fun, and I got to meet new people every day. I provided a valuable service for folks, offering a valuable alternative to taking the bus or having to call a cab. I began driving for Uber & Lyft in November 2015. However, driving 6 hours per day (6am – 9am and 4pm – 7pm) took a toll on my car and my body. So, I recently started to look into alternative sources of income.

I’ve decided to make this a weekly blog, at least for now. These are some of the topics I plan on covering. CareerProductivity, Lifestyle, Side Hustle, and Work from Home articles. Then, with all the unexpected time you have on your hands, Volunteering and why you should consider doing it. And finally, as my readership increases, I hope to feature a Letter of the Month from one of my readers. It will tell their story and how they are dealing with early (forced) retirement.

That’s it for now. I hope you have enjoyed My Story. Please come back to learn more about the plague that is infecting the older job force in this country. Also, to hear how we can all help each other, by sharing opportunities and new ideas. I truly believe that we can enjoy this chance we have been given, to reboot our careers, and truly enjoy our remaining years in the workforce.

UPDATE: (Silver Lining! After searching for work that would allow me to maintain my semi-retired lifestyle and generate a REAL income, I was finally hired by Global Discovery Vacations! So Never Give Up!) 

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

 

Seasonal Flags

Keep an Eye Out for Them

While taking my morning walk the other day, I noticed a small flag in my neighbor’s flower bed. It depicted a scene of a starfish, beach towel, and flip flops. Definitely, a summer banner if I’ve ever seen one. Over the past few years, more and more of these little flags have sprung up all over the neighborhood. As I stroll around the block, I’ve taken note of the houses that put out these flags. I always enjoy seeing what comes next. It has become a way to recognize the passing of the seasons without going overboard on outdoor decorations.

When you really think about it, with the exception of Christmas and Halloween, there’s not many exterior trimmings for most holidays or the current season. O sure, there’s the occasional wreath of flowers on a front door, indicating that spring or summer has finally sprung. Or maybe some window clings, put up by a second-grader, to celebrate Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day. However, when it comes to determining what time of year it is, you can’t beat these little banners. Plus, they add a nostalgic feel to the neighborhood, which I personally love.

These seasonal markers are available at your local hardware store or many online retailers. They come in many different sizes and varieties. The one I’m looking at right now says Welcome with a bunch of daisies in the background. If you’ve read any of my previous articles about Fall, you’ll know it’s my favorite season, by far. Outside of a leaf wreath for our front door, we don’t really have any Autumn decorations. So, I think I’ll start my seasonal flag collection with a Fall flag. I’ll put it out the day after Labor Day, the unofficial start of the football and pumpkin spice season. Can’t wait.

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The Bugs of August

The Audio Invasion Has Begun

Summer is beginning to wind down. The initial School’s Out mania has surrendered to the dog days, and Labor Day will be here before you know it. Back to School ads for supplies and clothes fill our airwaves and mailboxes. Our local Big Lots has gotten so bad, I think the back to school stuff was stocked before Memorial Day weekend! The kids weren’t even out of school yet! It won’t belong before winter coats start showing up in the stores. Although summer is beginning its annual descent into fall, it still has a ways to go.

By early August In Southeast Michigan, the annual audio invasion of the cicadas has begun. Their life span is anywhere from one to seventeen years. While most of that time is spent underground, once they hatch, they live on the surface for five or six short weeks before they lay eggs and die. That life-cycle can be considerably shortened if they run afoul of one of our feathered assassins. These are huge bugs and would make an excellent afternoon snack for one of our neighborhood hawks. Even though they’re only on this earth for a relatively short time after hatching, they certainly make their presence known. It’s one of the signature sounds of summer.

I remember as a kid, summer hadn’t really arrived until the cacophony of cicadas filled the air. Here in Michigan, summer arrives around Memorial Day and usually peters out by mid-September. Therefore, we try to take advantage of the warm days we do have. Since my backyard shade was cut down by my idiot neighbor a few years back, it’s become unbearable in the afternoon sun. However, I have recently hit upon a solution. Once the sun dips below the roof line, I’m going to set up a lawn chair in the driveway facing east. That way I can enjoy the cool down of the day, and the serenade of the cicadas. Sounds like a plan to me. So, enjoy the rest of your summer. But, remember the House Stark motto, “Winter is Coming”.

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The Big 6-Oh!

Ready or Not, Here it Comes!

Last Friday, I noticed the calendar and I was struck with a very disturbing realization. I was exactly one month away from turning 60 years old! Of course, I knew it was coming. However, knowing a life milestone is approaching, then realizing it’s only a month away, are two completely different things. Naturally, this caused me to pause and take stock of my life. Have I accomplished everything I wanted to? Not even close. However, I have to say that in the area of personal growth, it seems like I have achieved more in the past five years than in the previous fifty-five.

Eight years ago, I had a pretty good life. I had a job I enjoyed, a wife and two sons who loved me, and nothing much to do except ride the wave of life in anticipation of retirement. Then, I would really start living! Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. However, in my case, I wound up taking an off-ramp on the expressway to fulfillment and wound up on the backstreets of frustration and hopelessness. That’s when I launched The Brown Parachute Club, and everything changed. It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly, my circumstances started to improve.

I became inspired to try new things, like writing this blog. I also drove for Uber & Lyft, transported veterans to the VA, created two websites, worked in sales, and much more. I’d like to say I was motivated to do all of this on my own. However, when your comfort zone has burst into flames, then been bulldozed off a cliff, you don’t have much choice but to spread your wings and see if you can fly. It wasn’t very pretty, but so far, I have avoided hitting the rocky bottom. It’s amazing what can happen the universe gives you a giant boot in the ass.

All this reflection makes me wonder where I’ll be when I turn 120. Hey, with future advancements in medicine, who knows? It will be the year 2079. I’ll be able to see if they ever got that damn flying Jetson-mobile off the ground. In the meantime, I’ll have plenty to keep me busy. Earlier this year, I announced some major changes to this blog, and I’m close to launching the new website. It will combine this blog, along with The Brown Parachute Club. I never thought it would take this long, but you know how that goes. Anyway, keep your eyes open for new and interesting changes to Become Nostalgic About Today. I hope you’ll like it, and as always, I appreciate your feedback.

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Volunteering

Help Yourself By Helping Others

Unfortunately, now that you have a lot of time on your hands, you will need to keep busy. This is not just a theory. Being active and productive will help you to stay positive, even though you may be a new member of The Brown Parachute Club.

After I was let go from my job, I had the same amount of anger and bitterness that any normal person would have. I decided to try a new path. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and I thought it would be a good time to explore that option. I came up with an idea I thought was going to be a sure thing. However, it appeared that the timing wasn’t right. I won’t go into any detail about what it was, just in case I decide to make another go of it.

Anyhow, while attending various career workshops, I kept coming across the word “Service” over and over again. I didn’t quite understand why. However, one of my primary goals in trying to start my own business was to hire Veterans. This would hopefully help my new company grow and also provide career opportunities for our Heroes. Unfortunately, the “Hiring Veterans” plan didn’t work out. However, I kept coming back to the word “Service” and I kept on looking for a way to serve our Veterans.

Since I was already driving for Uber and Lyft, it seemed like providing “Free Rides” to Veterans was a natural way to provide “Service”. However, this proved to be far more difficult than I would have imagined. Eventually, I got through to the person who is in charge of the Volunteer Transportation Network for the Detroit VA. After a lengthy paperwork session and physical (hey, it’s the government, what are you gonna do?), I have become a driver for that program and I now drive a VA Shuttle once a week. My quest to provide “Service” has finally been realized. If you want to learn more about driving for the VA in your area, please click here. To drive for the DAV (Disabled American Veterans), please click on this link. Thanking you in advance from the VA & DAV.

In addition to driving for the VA, I also donate blood every 2 months. This may not seem like much, but the Red Cross is always in need of blood donations. While I was working a 9-to-5 job, I had tried to get into the habit of donating, but finding the time was always difficult. Not a problem anymore! Plus, as I have discovered, giving blood is like an “Oil Change” for your body. As your body works to replace the donated blood, it creates all sorts of health benefits. Dropping the risk of heart disease, reducing the amount of iron in your blood, as well as minimizing the risk of some cancers. Click here to learn more about the health benefits of blood donation. Follow this link to learn more about how to donate blood in your area.

In addition to looking for work, and hopefully generating some income with the Side Hustle jobs I will be detailing in this blog, please consider adding Volunteering to your “to-do list”. Besides the VA and Red Cross, many organizations need your help. Your local church, school, library, hospital, or animal shelter are good places to start!

I firmly believe that the idea for this website came from applying to drive for the VA. After I had applied to become a VA Driver, I was talking with one of my Uber passengers one day and I said, “They always tell you how to prepare for Retirement by putting aside enough money in a qualified plan, but they never tell you what to do if you don’t make it to the Retirement Finish Line!” Boom! The idea for this blog was born!

Hopefully, this article will inspire you to get out there and volunteer. If you are already doing volunteer work, excellent! If not, please consider volunteering to build up some credits in your “Karma Bank”. There are many organizations out there that are always looking for additional help. Below, I have listed some links to help you to find an organization that needs your support.

Until next time, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

VA: http://www.volunteer.va.gov/VolTransNetwork.asp

DAV: http://www.dav.org/help-dav/volunteer/drive-a-van

Red Cross: http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood

School:http://peopleof.oureverydaylife.com/volunteer-public-school-5807.html

Hospital:http://www.ehow.com/how_2052539_volunteer-local-hospital.html

Animals:https://www.petfinder.com/animal-shelters-and-rescues/volunteering-with-shelters-and-rescues/volunteering-local-shelter/

WikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Volunteer

Volunteer Match: http://www.volunteermatch.org