Dale Says

May 4, 2012

On My Birthday

Filed under: On My Birthday — Dale @ 2:32 pm

“It’s one of the things that young people don’t understand, that old people feel as if they’re still young except in certain ways, which are all too horrible. Like the fact that you simply physically aren’t what you used to be. But you really are the same person as you always were. And much wiser and yet, not. But younger people have no sense at all about older people. None. No imagination at all.”

– Nora Ephron, Screenwriter and Author

On my birthday I’m 61 years old.  I’m now in my 60s, which is a heck of a note!  Your 60’s is when you are officially a “senior citizen” and you start qualifying for MediCare, and Social Security, and discounts at movie theaters.

Like Nora Ephron wrote, I don’t feel old; in fact I feel as if I am still able to do most of what I could do in my 40s (although I would hurt more the next day).  But the math says I’m in my 60s, and that’s hard to refute.

60’s:  A Mixed Blessing

Being in your 60s is a mixed blessing.  There are advantages, ‘though they are few, and there are plenty of drawbacks, too.

One advantage is being wiser.  It’s a poor trade-off – older for wiser – and it’s one few people would make willingly.  At this age, I suppose I am wiser, and I (hopefully) won’t repeat the mistakes I made earlier in life.  To some extent, I don’t have the energy to repeat them, but there is also an element of wisdom involved, too.

I have more disposable income now, primarily because I no longer have to put money from my earning aside for retirement — and I feel like I can spend more of the income I have.

I can do whatever you want – every day.  There are days when I do very little, and others when I do only what I want, but most days I have a “to-do” list and spend most of the day doing what I need to do to get my list done.  That helps direct my day and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

And I have more time for the things I love to do; including writing, travel, and spending time with family and friends.

There are also disadvantages.

I have more aches and pains, which for me means lower back pain, an aching shoulder, and a stiff neck.  I knew that was coming, but I didn’t think about it when I was younger.  So far, most of the issues can be minimized by stretching, massage therapy, acupuncturists, and doctors, and I’ve found it helps to keep my weight down and force myself to exercise.  I see friends who don’t do those things, and they seem to have it worse.

I have less energy now.  At first, I was in denial about that, but now I can see a pattern.  I can’t go as long and hard as I used to, and I’m sorer after a workout.

I have less patience with prejudice and stupidity.  The longer I live and the more I travel, the more I realize that most people are trying their hardest to live good lives, and the vast majority of them are succeeding.  We all share dreams, ambitions, and hopes for a good life for ourselves, our friends, and our families, and we have more in common than we have in differences.  So picking out any group of people and labeling them as evil, or lesser is ridiculous, and I have little patience for people who do it.

People I love are getting sick and dying.  This is the one I didn’t know about.  Each time someone close to me gets sick or dies it takes away a little piece of me.  Over the past year, I lost three more people who were very close.

Uncle Louie was a favorite uncle, primarily because of his unique sense of life.  He had a sense of family, which was very important to him, and a sense of devotion to his country and his God.  He had a sense of fun and was always ready to play cards or pitch horseshoes or lift a glass of beer, and a sense of success that made him work hard to achieve goals and support his family, but without being a slave to his career.  He had a sense of loyalty to his wife, his friends, and his country and he never let them down.

Our friend Jim Bolding died from colon cancer last year at age 62.  Jim was a world-class athlete, and a respected coach, successful businessman, loyal friend, avid golfer and skier, and passionate supporter of the Oklahoma State University Cowboys.  He had a great run for more than 60 years, and his positive, never-call-it-quits attitude made Jim a hero in every aspect of his life.

And my friend Jim Struthers died last year.  Jim was a terrific minister, an inspiration to many, and a good friend. We had become very close the past couple of years, and I worked with Jim to publish a book that had been on his mind.  I also wrote an article about Jim’s experience with the US Army Divisionn that liberated the Buchenwald Concentration Camp during World War II.   Freeing the survivors at Buchenwald should have been a gratifying day in Private Struther’s life; instead, it was a turning point. That day, as he stared at the piles of bodies and saw the hopeless looks from the survivors he gave up his plans to be a physician and decided instead to become a minister. Others could heal bodies, he decided, he would spend the rest of his life trying to heal minds and hearts.

A Challenging Year

The past year has been a challenge.  For whatever reason, I’ve been in a bit of a funk much of time; not a depression, and not even a bad mood – just a bit of a funk.

I realize I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to spend every day doing whatever I want.  And I realize I’m very lucky to have enough money put away so I don’t have to work for a living.

Yet, for whatever reason, there’s a dark cloud hanging over my head much of the time.  I think much of it might have to do with losing people I love.

Love of my Life

Patty continues to be the love of my life.  She is by far the most important part of my life, and she has been for 23 fabulous years!

Shortly after I turned 60 we had a fabulous party for Patty’s 60th birthday.  It was in Tahoe, at a cozy south shore mountain lodge called the Black Bear Inn.  The day before her birthday party, Patty and I cycled more than half way around the lake (we rode 34 miles) to complete a similar attempt by Patty on her 21st birthday.  During that earlier attempt Patty crashed half way around and was unable to finish.  The ride was great!  We rode past snow drifts at times, but the highways and cycle trails were clear.  The long, steep climb up to Inspiration Point wash an invigorating challenge, and we were proud that we were able to do it.

The entire weekend at Tahoe was magical.  All of our special friends drove up and spent the night, and we hiked at Hidden Leaf Lake and explored the Lake area.  The birthday dinner was a work or art; a customer-designed menu and table set just the way Patty wanted.

Shortly after our birthdays we traveled to Scandinavia, where we cycled in Denmark and took a cruise through the spectacular fiords of Norway.  During our cruise Patty slipped on a wet rock (while trying to get the perfect photo) and broke her elbow.  She had surgery in July and was in various types of casts for nine weeks.

Much of last summer was spent helping Patty with recovery and rehab, which went very well.  Her elbow has healed, the metal that was put in has now been taken back out, and she should have nearly full use of her arm in a few more weeks.

Mom’s Health

Last December, when we were visiting my mother in Nebraska, she complained that she had been experiencing stomach pain for several weeks.  We took her for medical tests, which revealed a large mass in her abdomen.  It turned out to be colon cancer and in January she had surgery to have the tumor removed, which was successful.  I flew to Omaha to spend a week with her in the hospital, and in February and March I went to Nebraska to help her recover.  She also had visits from my brothers and sister during her recovery.  She pulled out of it very well, and she is now nearly fully recovered.  It was a remarkable testament to the ability of our medical system to treat people of all ages, and her quick recovery was a tribute to the way Mom has taken care of herself over the years.
Fixing Up the Cottage

We continue to work on our little Victorian cottage, as we have for the past 21 years, and it’s turning into a charming little home.  During the past year we remodeled the office, upgraded the lighting system in the kitchen and dining room, and installed a new Wolf range and hood in the kitchen.
Scandanavia and Santa Fe.

Last June we travelled to Scandinavia, took a bicycle tour of the island of Zealand in Denmark, toured Copenhagen on foot, explored a little bit of Sweden, and enjoyed a cruise of the west coast of Norway.  Cousin Tom joined us for the cycling week, and Ruth and Bill Diefenbach were with us in Copenhagen, Sweden, and Norway.  We loved Denmark and coveted the Danish life style.  It’s a small country with a rich history and a remarkably developed society where people are happy and fulfilled.  Highlights included the Viking museum at Roskilde, Tivoli Garden and the museums of Copenhagen, the Hamlet Castle, the fantastic scenery of the Norwegian fiords, and the people of Denmark and Norway.

We also had a terrific week in Santa Fe in October.  We love the unique style and rich history of Santa Fe, and we explored the area on foot, bicycle, and car.

Experimenting with Writing Styles and Voices

My writing continues to evolve, and I continue to experiment with different styles and different voices.

During the past year, I wrote an article with my Mother about the history of the Sioux Army Depot near Sidney, Nebraska, which was published in the Sidney Sun-Telegraph.

I also wrote several personal “profiles” over the past year, including essays about Jim Bolding, Walt Harlow, Cathy Koch, and my father.  For me, personal essays are difficult to write, but very rewarding.

During the past year I’ve become more involved with the program for seniors at Tel-Hi.  I started serving lunches to the seniors last summer, and continue to do that every Friday.  And I organized and taught a course on Memoir Writing this spring that was very rewarding.  It was a six-week course that emphasized voice, writing style, organization, outlining, and editing and the students (who ranged in age from 65-94) were very appreciative.  I hope to offer it again this summer and am looking forward to it!

I am writing a regular column for SCIP again, this time with Toni Wilson.  It’s hard to stay current in the field of competitive intelligence when I no longer work in it, and I have to do much more research and rely on Toni to know what is really going on.  I’m glad to be working in the field again, and writing the columns challenges me to research and think about new ways of doing things.

Hikes with Ruth

My friend Ruth and I have been exploring San Francisco during a series of Thursday afternoon hikes.  Each week, we pick and hike an area of the City.  Afterwards, we find a coffee shop, enjoy a latte and a snack, and talk about what we saw.  It’s been rewarding for both of us, and we have had great talks, terrific exercise, and have discovered many interesting parts of our City that we didn’t even know existed.  We’ve seen the Blue Angels fly over from the top of Bernal Heights, climbed an amazing set of mosaic steps in the Sunset District, watched a sailing regatta at Crissy Field, toured the mansions of Pacific Heights, checked out the murals of the Mission District, explored Japan Town, shopped in China Town during the Chinese New Years celebration, and had many, many other adventures.  I look forward to our very special time together each week!

Economic Recovery

The U.S. economy is finally rebounding (slowly) after the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  It’s been a long haul and most peoples’ retirement funds still aren’t back to where they were before the recession, but at least the economy is growing and companies are starting to hire again.  Unemployment is still too high and too many companies are struggling, but at least the worst seems to be past.

Now, there appears to be an economic bubble arising in the high tech world.  Stock prices of many high-tech companies are rising rapidly, some of the companies are going public, and there’s speculation which ones will be the next stars, much like at the turn of the century.  Apple, in particular, is going crazy, with extremely high valuation and stock prices over $600 per share.
Higher Gas Prices and More Electric Cars

Americans are buying record numbers of hybrid and electric cars as gas prices climb (now well over $4.00 per gallon) and new models arrive in showrooms.

Consumers bought a record 52,000 gas-electric hybrids and all-electric cars in March, up from 34,000 during the same month last year.

Last year, Chevrolet and Nissan introduced electric cars in the U.S. (the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf), which have received good reviews.  Sales are slow so far, primarily because of the high cost of the cars and uncertainty of the ability to re-charge them.

Social Media

Whatever your personal feelings about social media, it is becoming an increasingly significant force in today’s business world.  More than 80% of Americans use at least one social network, and worldwide numbers aren’t far behind.  Each day, millions of messages are sent across the internet on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, forums, rating sites, and other social media.

Social media is influencing nearly every aspect of our lives; from education, to politics, to socialization.  Everyone talks about it and the news is filled with stories and developments.  New apps appear every day, and start-up companies are popping up to supply software of services to social networks or to allow consumers or businesses to do more with them.

Revolutions and Occupations

The prolonged severe economic recession has generated a significant amount of unrest around the world, which has resulted in the overthrow of several governments and strong dissention is other countries.  Citizens rose and overthrew the governments of Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, and they are protesting in Syria and other Middle Eastern and northern Africa countries.

A grass roots movement (Occupy Wall Street) started protesting in the U.S. early in 2011, partially stimulated by the revolutions in northern Africa and the duration of the economic recession.  At its core, the movement appears to be pushing for more income equity in the US, and their mantra is they represent the bottom 99% of Americans, who have a decreasing portion of total U.S. wealth.  Groups of the informal (and leaderless) Occupy Movement sprang up on Wall Street and in many large U.S. cities last summer and fall.  Eventually, some of the protests turned violent, as protestors camped out in public places, and in some cases destroyed private and public property and fought with police.  Initially, the “Occupy” movement had the support of a large segment of the US, but as it dragged on and grew increasingly off target and violent they lost a lot of public support.

Now, as spring approaches and colleges empty out for the summer, the Occupy movement is trying to rekindle support.  At this point, it’s mostly an empty gesture.

Rogue Countries

As a child, I used to watch the evening news and marvel at the fact that people continue to start wars and kill each other.  I was confused and disgusted by it and wondered why.  I also assumed that at some point during my lifetime people would wake up, figure it out, and stop wars.  Now, it looks like I was too optimistic.

Rogue countries continue to become aggressive, slaughter their citizens, start wars with neighboring countries, and develop weapons capable of killing people en masse.  Syria is an example, where over the past year the government in power has put down a revolution by killing thousands of its own citizens.  And Iran and North Korea continue to develop nuclear weapons, despite protests from most of the world, warnings, and sanctions.  Coalitions of developed countries (i.e., the United Nations and NATO) are powerless to stop these atrocities, and often they are unable to even agree they should be stopped.

Afghanistan and Iraq (10 years, $1.3 trillion)

U.S. soldiers came home from Iraq during the past year, and we are finally starting to get out of that mess (which George Bush got us into).  But the U.S. is still waging war in Afghanistan (which George Bush got us into), and that war is costing the U.S. $2 billion every week.  Imagine what good the $500 billion we have wasted in Afghanistan could have done elsewhere!  Imagine how much good we could have done with the $800 billion we wasted in the fruitless war in Iraq!  Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, we continue to make enemies, embarrass ourselves, and waste soldiers and money.

Obama

Barack Obama is in his fourth year as president.  This is an election year, and at this point he’s running neck-and-neck in the polls with Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s presumed candidate.

Obama must be telling himself that his job is a lot harder than he thought it would be.  Four years after taking office, he has been able to achieve only a small portion of what he had hoped to achieve, primarily due to the deep recession the country has been in, and because of the Republican Party’s opposition.  He must be terribly frustrated and disappointed.  Hopes are high for a better second term.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are doing everything they can to stop Obama and Congress from being able to accomplish anything.  There is a very deep ideological divide between liberals and conservatives – a divide that is spiteful and hateful, and It is very disappointing to live in a country where ideals are so sharply divided that a significant number of my fellow citizens are willing (and eager) to do anything to destroy a politician who has views different from the own.

Mitt Romney Plays Wack-a-Mole

This year’s GOP presidential primaries have been interesting and telling.  The U.S. is deeply divided along financial and social issues, and that division was evident in the Republican presidential primaries.  Mitt Romney, former businessman and governor (who really has to be considered a moderate), has been opposed by one right-leaning Republican candidate after another.

First it was Michelle Bachman, who is way off to the right on most issues.  Then, when Bachman’s mouth got her in trouble, Ricky Perry appeared.  He is the governor of Texas and his good looks and right-wing agenda appealed to many on the far right.  Then his memory and his mouth got him in trouble and he dropped out of the race.  Then Herman Cain appeared.  He had no ties to politics (he’s a former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza) and he spoke in clear and simple tones, but his mouth (and his past indiscretions) got him in trouble and he dropped out. Then Rick Santorum appeared.  He has an extremely right-wing social agenda and he’s very adept at blasting President Obama, which appealed to a few supporters (primarily in the south and mid-west).  Eventually, he lost his home state and had to drop out.  Then came Newt Gingrich, who professed to have all the answers, and his star shined through a couple of primary wins.  But Newt is sleezy and a conceited jerk, and he eventually ran out of money and time, and he dropped out.

So, now the GOP is stuck with a candidate they have trouble supporting.  He’s moderate, he’s extremely wealthy, and he has a very hard time relating to average Americans.  But he’s the Republican candidate, and he will run against Obama this fall.

Steve Jobs

Apple founder Steve Jobs died of cancer at the age of 56 on October 5th, leaving behind a legacy that changed the computer, music, film and wireless industries. Apple, the company he co-founded, was once written-off as passé, but last August it topped ExxonMobil as the most valuable U.S. corporation. In that month Steve Jobs resigned as CEO. Jobs created the Macintosh in 1976 and was fired nine years later after a power struggle with Chief Exec John Sculley. He returned to Apple in 1996.  Steve was a hero to many fans of Apple products, and his death was mourned by millions.

Movies

It was not a banner year for any form of art.  The recession seems to have cast a pall over the arts, and there has been a de-emphasis of art as a result.  Movies were no exception, and there were no standout films last year.  The Artist won the most awards, and it was certainly the most unusual film of the year.  Others receiving honors included Hugo, Iron Lady, Midnight in Paris, and MoneyBall.

The 49ers Gave Us a Thrill

A year after the San Francisco Giants won it all in baseball, the 49ers had their best year in more than a decade.  They finished the year with a record of 13-3, made the playoffs, and went all the way to the NFC Championships, where they barely lost to the New York Giants (who wound up winning the SuperBowl).

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