Come The Revolution


Work Or RetireA friend of mine is looking forward to retirement, after being with the same company for nearly 40 years. She’s been there through the formative years, and the technological shifts that overtook them in the past three decades. Since she’s in Human Resources, she’s privy to information that was never committed to either paper or computer files.

This year, her work colleagues are basically downloading all of the insider information that only she can divulge, siphoning off her knowledge and memories of the people and actions that created the agency she’s helped to build and maintain.

And therein lies the difference between being a cog in the machine, or one of the main wheels. What she contributed to the agency, through connection, trust, and patience, cannot be duplicated, only recorded.

Do any students today even consider a gold watch after a lifetime career in a company, never mind a field or trade? The loyalty once prized by workers and bosses alike is a thing of the past, broken under the wheels of corporate capitalism, overwhelming greed, and a complete lack of empathy for the workers that make companies great.

While my friend is excited about the opportunities retirement will bring, there’s always a bit of a sadness in leaving behind the ‘real’ world that has shaped our environment. The restrictions we’ve chafed against were the frames – physical, emotional, and in the very days and hours we were expected to be resident – that shaped our lives.

As the Baby Boomers near and attain retirement age, we’re seeing an enormous sea change in North American society, a major shakeup of the status quo, and a repudiation of a tendency to believe that our social attitudes are set in stone, are ‘just the way things are’ and can’t be changed.

florida students nine daysCould there have been a #MeToo movement before 2017? The Womens March?  A #BoycottNRA? What has changed?

We Boomers had a good run – possibly the best run of any previous generation. And many of us became leaders, politically, or in the business or entertainment world. We have changed the way the world worked since we came of age in the sixties, and have kept our thumbs on the scale to keep it going, the way we insisted upon in our youths. Or – in some semblance, some blurry nostalgia, of what we thought we wanted in our youths.

And for those who have wielded power, the prospect of being powerless has no appeal.

Trouble is – there’s another wave coming up behind us, and they need the world to reflect their interests and concerns. It’s not that the next generation is demanding that we ‘leave the premises immediately,’ it’s that an awful lot of very powerful people are hanging in, with their outdated ideas, and in doing so, are holding back the fresh air this new wave will bring to society.

The way we did things in the past has to change, because new and often improved systems have come into being. We went from paper to digital, from the rotary phone to the handsfree and then smart phones. We can change. We just often balk at changes to our environment, and can be slow to embrace new systems – mainly because we are afraid we’ll fail to excel at the new tasks.

The fear and paranoia that propelled Trump to the American presidency came from the older and middle class voters, who were, essentially, out of ideas. The head of steam that the young bring to the planet was largely absent.

But we need to acknowledge and face the truth – the kids are here now. They are determined, opinionated, internet and media savvy, way stronger, more dogged, and less tired and jaded than we are … and they are gonna outlive us. They are the ‘WE’ we used to be, full of ginger and moxie and ready to take on THEIR world.

Which might be one reason why they’re so pissed at the mess we’re leaving behind. Most of us wouldn’t even leave an overnight stay in a cheesy motel in the disastrous shambles we’ll leave the planet.

Does Don Cherry speak for millennial hockey fans? The recently departed Billy Graham, or his son, Franklin, a political hack busily rebranding evangelicalism as a belief system ruled by fear of Muslims and homophobia? Any of the heads of state in any country, who give lip service to rights for everyone, but consistently fail to keep their promises once in power?

A media that constantly brays about ‘breaking news!’ that is rarely, if ever, acted upon in a reasonable length of time, and relies on controversy over substance? The daily newspapers that contain more advertisements than actual news? A housing market and stock market reaching astronomical heights that few, if any, millennials will ever get near?

Seriously .. subscribe to the NewsBroke channel on Youtube .. you will be glad you did.

This week, the NRA, once an institution that advocated gun safety and control, now run by the delusional Wayne LaPierre, lashed out at the kids who survived the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida, for daring to criticize and protest the NRA’s chokehold on policy and politicians. In an ironic and sickening twist, the survivors are now receiving death threats from NRA members.

But the kids are fighting back, and holding their own, disputing the NRA’s nonsensical claims and extremism, and Trump’s ridiculous notion of arming teachers rather than addressing the core problem – a plethora of deadly weapons, and the very real risk children run of being killed in a school shooting. (Since 2000, there have been 188 mass shootings in American schools and universities. So it’s getting to be, not a question of IF your kid will get shot at school, but when.)

thoughts and prayers cartoonI’ll admit that I greeted the latest shooting in Florida with grief, anger and cynicism. These murders, combined with the mealy mouthed offerings of ‘thoughts and prayers‘ rather than actually taking action to prevent further murders, drove me to despair.

But this time around, it seems that the victims themselves have opted to ‘be the change they want to see happen.’ Rather than wait for the next massacre, they are demanding that the authorities take responsibility, and work to prevent another slaughter in their halls of education.

And the adults, many of whom have sat quietly by, cowed by the bile spewed by the NRA and their rabid fans, are getting an infusion of energy from these students, with many even developing a spine from the shattered vertebrae of their previous compliance.

boycottNRACompanies that have now severed ties to the NRA under the #BoycottNRA hashtag, include the nation’s largest privately owned bank, First National Bank of Omaha, which will no longer offer an NRA branded Visa card. Other companies, including car rental firms Hertz, Entreprise, Alama, Avis, Budget and National, soon followed suit, while the Allied and North American Van lines pulled their perks as well. Software giant Symantec, MetLife Auto & Home, home security company SimpliSafe, Teladoc, Chubb, HotelPlanner.com, United and Delta Airlines, and even Vinesse wines, which operates the “official wine club of the NRA,” have joined in the protest.

Talk about being on the wrong side of history. The NRA overplayed their hand – and it’s bust time for the ammosexuals. In order to prevent the complete demise of his association, LaPierre will have to choose which master the NRA will serve in the future – the powerful and wealthy weapons manufacturers or the right of the American people to live in safety and peace.

every great institution Emerson quote. jpg

Our children are watching as all of our time honoured institutions, those collections of rules and norms agreed upon by human beings, the venerable systems we could look to for protection and security are being attacked, denigrated and abused. Every day we get closer to the day that these institutions will be weakened to the point of collapse, and once that happens, the very character and quality of democracy will fall with it.

So – can you really blame the kids for being pissed at the status quo? What exactly are they meant to inherit from us, except massive debt, chronically unstable employment, and the ruin of a planet we couldn’t be bothered to clean up after we’d used up all of the good things it once had to offer?

the future is hereAll of life is a flow of non-linear changes, threads in a tapestry that is ever changing and unpredictable. Our challenge must be to learn how to confront and respond to new life transitions, no matter how unpredictable they may be.

The world is changing, as the world always does, and it will continue to turn long after our time has come and gone. Mark Twain reputedly once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

For many in power, the time has come to step aside, and let the future unfold, just as it always has. Step aside, and let the new kids in town take their turn at centre stage. They certainly can’t do any worse than we did.

no man ever steps in the same river twice

 

 

 

If Aging is Inevitable …


It really is unfortunate that Trump decided to pause his retirement to be a part time president.  He’s happier golfing, or lying in bed eating cheeseburgers, and I think we all would be delighted to see him go back to those pastimes full time. trump in bed w chzburgers

That being said, being aware of the declining thought processes of a 71 year old person who insists on being the center of attention 24/7 has, for good or ill, has shone a spotlight on how to age disgracefully.

Trump embodies much of the fears, confused thinking, and self indulgence associated with declining mental health.

One of the first and most important signs of this psychological decline is what is called ‘doom thinking,” or thought processes becoming instantly hostile, stressed or sad. With this mindset, anything that doesn’t resemble the familiar is perceived as threatening.

Another sign is extreme mood swings, with periods of elation, anger, depression or even rage. Disorganized speech, evasive answers to even the simplest questions, and a tendency to wander mentally while responding are also warnings.

Cognition EqualsPaying attention to our own physical and mental needs as we age should be a top priority for everyone – not just for our own good, but out of respect for those who will share those senior years with us.

I recently entered a study that focuses on the impact of aging on memory. I’d noticed myself having more difficulty memorizing song lyrics; I could remember the words to songs I’d sung 40 years ago, but was struggling to remember new lyrics at rehearsal. I also found myself having a tough time coming up with just the right word to use, whether in writing a column, or in discussion with others.

accept responsibilityBut it wasn’t until I began the interview process of  the study that I realized how many workarounds I’d unconsciously adapted, in order to conceal the normal mental decline we all face during the aging process. I also began to notice how often I blamed circumstances or other people when I made an error, rather than recognizing that the error was my own fault.

Our brains are wonderful things; they are extraordinarily adept at finding the least difficult way to do things.  And that is great, during our youth and middle age, when we’re negotiating our way through school, a career, relationships and all the matters that we have to contend with in the full throes of life.

But as we approach and enter retirement, a lot of the distractions have faded away, and we have less worries to occupy our thoughts. That’s when we may discover that we’ve lost some of our mental agility, along with the supple physicality of our youths.

brain stimThe study that I’m a part of requires confidentiality on the specifics, but I can say that it involves electrical and cognitive brain stimulation on a daily basis, and includes cognitive remediation (computer games) for an eight week period.

It also includes daily discussions on known methods of combating mental decline. Most of these have been around for quite some time, but so many of us fail to plan for a time when we no longer have to answer to anyone but ourselves.

Everyone approaches retirement differently, and how we hope to spend our days is often based on how we have spent our time in the previous four decades. Some are looking forward to afternoon naps and endless NetFlix, while others want to get into volunteerism, cookery, or further education.

If one’s daily work kept the wolf from the door, but didn’t fulfill an artistic urge, this might be the first chance some will have to finally pursue their ambitions.

The most important thing is to HAVE a plan. Drifting into retirement without any idea of where you’re going next, will ensure you go nowhere of interest  Time will pass; whether or not you enjoy that time is up to you.

retire happy(A good book on planning for retirement is one I read a few years back, by Canadian Ernie J. ZelinskyHow to Retire Happy, Wild and Free. It’s a great follow up to his previous book … The Joy of Not Working: 21st Century Edition – A Book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked. The focus of both books is on enjoying life and both encourage physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being and improvements.)

So, what are a few things that anyone can put into practice to build new brain cells, and alleviate mental decline?

Cognitive impairment is not inevitable. You can really reduce the risk of age-related memory loss by keeping mentally stimulated, through activities that stimulate new connections between nerve cells. To develop neurological ‘plasticity’, indulge in mentally stimulating activities, like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and crafts like drawing and painting, that require manual dexterity as well as mental effort.

healthy eating. jpgIt is tempting to ease up on our diets as we age, but it’s probably more important  to be nutritionally wise as you age, than it is during the more physically active years. It’s not just about how much or little you eat, as it is what you’re eating. Reducing consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol from animal sources and of trans-fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, along with a concentration of foods high in the B vitamins can help lower your homocysteine levels, which are often linked to an increased risk of dementia. Eat your greens, and enjoy more grains.

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet combines elements of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which is designed to reduce blood pressure, but could also protect against dementia.

The ten foods considered healthy are:

    •    green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale 
    •    other vegetables, such as red peppers, squash, carrots and broccoli 
    •    nuts 
    •    berries, including blueberries and strawberries 
    •    beans, lentils and soybeans 
    •    wholegrains 
    •    seafood 
    •    poultry 
    •    olive oil 
    •    wine (in moderation)

Five foods considered unhealthy include red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries, sweets and fried or fast foods. So .. all the fun stuff. <le sigh>

 Beyond staying lean, it’s particularly important to keep a stern eye on your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels. Diabetes is not a given as you age.

Although you may not want to hear it, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol intake are pretty much essential. Some say up to two alcoholic drinks a day is safe for men, with slightly less being ideal for women. Excessive drinking is a major risk factor for dementia.

Good, refreshing sleep is probably the greatest gift you can give your brain cells. A deep, REM sleep of from six to eight hours a night replenishes the brain, and allows ‘janitor cells’ to clear away dead cells and make room for the new. There is some evidence that sleeping on your left side makes that process easier for your body.

https://dailyhealthpost.com/6-hidden-health-benefits-of-sleeping-on-your-left-side-that-you-should-know-about/

Anxious, depressed, sleep-deprived, or exhausted people are at an increased risk of cognitive decline in old age. Keeping control of our emotions will help. Having a circle of friends and acquaintances with whom you enjoy interacting is also very important for keeping a positive attitude.

Despite the aches and pains often associated with aging, older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain.

MDS LogoExercise is known for promoting both body and mind, with the elderly seeing especially great improvements. But it is not known which type of exercise is best for the elderly. To help address this, the traditional fitness group conducted mainly repetitive exercises like cycling or Nordic walking, while the dance group was challenged with something new each week.

Consistently changes in dance routines of different genres were implemented. These included the likes of jazz, square, Latin-American, and line dancing. To help keep the dances more challenging, speed and rhythms were changed every week to simulate the learning process as the seniors learned new routines.

Both groups were found to have increases in their hippocampus regions of the brain – an important area prone to age-related decline and affected by neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s. the hippocampus is also known for playing key roles in memory, learning, and even balance.

 “Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity. In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that lead to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance,” says Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Germany.”

Aging is not for sissies .. or the lazy. But with mindfulness, self love, and an open mind, it can be the best time of your life. Live! Love! Dance!

admire kind people

For more information on the paid study on aging and memory:

http://www.camh.ca/en/research/research_areas/studies_and_recruitment/study-websites/Pages/PACt-MD.aspx

 

Epiphany – Life Changes


We sold our house a month and a half ago … got a good price, and a long lead time, so we’re pretty happy about that. My husband is retiring in December, and I won’t be that far behind him. And this is a fairly large property, that feels too big for he and I to care for. Well, we probably could. We just don’t care to.

Big changes in life are like earthquakes; all that was simmering below the surface is suddenly revealed in the upheaval.

The last six weeks have been traumatic. At first, the relief of selling, along with the funds that will follow, made me giddy with excitement. And then, after the thrill wore off, ugly reality set in. I’ve been a home owner for almost thirty years, and a hoarder for at least the last ten. Faced with the need to evaluate what I value, and what is valuable – two very different things – it was time to finally decide the direction my life will take for the next chapter.

I sank into a paralysis of indecision, tortured by what I would be giving up … my large back yard, and gardens; this beautiful street; the lake at the bottom of the hill. The house, I realized, had never really mattered, but being an owner of a house did. If I decided I wanted to put up shelves, paint a wall, even put a nail in a cupboard to hold my measuring spoons, those were MY decisions, and the consequences mine to answer for.

Renting will be very different. I will have to ask ‘permission’ to do so many things, including keeping a pet. I understand that. Owning property is a big deal. Making sure that property retains value is a big deal. I can’t expect to freely treat a rental unit as I would a home in which I have a financial stake.

However, losing that autonomy is also a big deal. In many ways it feels like a surrender, like going home to the parents after making a stab at liberation. I’m an independent cuss, so that doesn’t feel very good at all.

It also smacks of the other end of life, of the surrendering of independence in pursuit of once more being taken care of by others.

So I am simultaneously feeling like a young bird, leaving the nest, and an old dog, hoping its owners will still appreciate and comfort it as it ages.

 

life-changes-oprah-quote

But What If You Live?


 

baby-boomer-stats-chart-jpgFor boomers, aging is a bit like puberty; we don’t know what’s next, and we’re both eagerly anticipative and terrified of what’s to come. Often simultaneously.

Thing is … part of us always knew we were gonna age, if we were lucky. But that old ‘hope I die before I get old ‘kicks in every time we try to picture what ‘old’ looks like.

If we’ve failed to plan – financially, emotionally, spiritually – for how we’ll live out our Golden Years, we’ve done ourselves an enormous disservice. But hang on … if we got the lucky genetic ticket, we may have decades to live those years!

happy retirement book.jpgSo when the idea of retiring comes along, whether because we’re closing in on 60 or because other factors, like failing health, or a kick out the door from long time employment, play a part, it can be a bit of a shock. It doesn’t matter whether your retirement is because you want to, or have to .. it’s gonna be a ride.

What does 65 look like? What about retirement?  How do these new facets of life feel? Do I have one foot on a banana peel and the other on a bar of soap?

20-retirement-decisionsWill I be happy and relaxed, comfortable, with plenty of time to pursue my hobbies, living the good life, traveling for pleasure, or to visit family and friends? Or will I be scrambling to make ends meet, worried I’ll outlive my money? Some will never feel secure, no matter how much money they have, while others struggle with very little in their pocketbooks, but are rich in friendship and emotional support.

One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to cultivate friendships with a diverse group of like-minded people. No matter how many friends you had at the age of 50, I can guarantee that number will have dropped considerably by the time you’re 70. But it’s not the quantity of friends you’ve got, it’s the quality. We always have to keep in mind that the excellence of our own lives is improved or damaged by the people we are surrounded by . Toxic people will suck your energy dry, and leave you unsettled and defeated. People who see possibilities, and have hopes and dreams of their own, carry you along on their energy.

older-friendshipsAs my friend Barbette Kensington says, “Aging is about how bright your light glows…. keep up the energy level; the more you do the more you can do. Watch your friends and environment; don’t let anybody or anything break your stride…“

But how do you fill the hours that used to be spent, not only at work, but getting ready for work, and winding down from work? Although we spend the majority of our working lives believing that we’re an important cog in the machine, the truth is, the hole we leave behind is quickly filled.  When you step off the moving sidewalk of life, even for a few moments, it’s still moving on, just without you. And it can be mystifying to try and get back on, and scary when you don’t know what you missed while you were off the treadmill.

When I popped my head out of the gopher hole of several years of clinical depression, I was stunned at how subtly but irrevocably the world had changed while I was oblivious.  It was frightening, and all I wanted to do was to crawl back into that black hole.  Expect to feel that way at times. it’s a fast paced world we live in, and some days are harder to cope with than others.

insults of aging. jpg.jpgPlanning for a decent retirement from full time work goes way beyond financial, by the way. Even those retirees I know, that have salted away a good nest egg, have much more to deal with than just money. There may be downsizing involved, which in itself is horrifically conscious altering. There may be health issues, relationship issues, or, just to complicate matters, the health issues of those you’re in a relationship with.

Whether it’s your own physical problems, or those of a loved one, our ability to enjoy life may be hampered, and make even the most mundane things difficult.

For many, having a secondary income  may be necessary to supplement pensions. The base income of most Canadians without a company pension is around $1400.00 a month. If you live in a big city, that’s just not gonna cover much more than your rent. Finding paid consulting work in your field, with the accompanying benefit of staying on top of what’s new in that playing field, may be just the ticket. But even if that’s off the table, finding a part time job of any kind, and no matter how humble, can help bridge the gap. Just having a schedule … somewhere you have to be, and where people rely on your being there, can help maintain mental and emotional health.

babyboomerVolunteering may never have been something you’d thought of as ‘work,’ but it is, and it can be a lot of fun, as well as a benefit to your community. Sharing your knowledge of what you’ve learned in your field can be another way to not only keep your mind ticking over, but of giving those just starting in your turf a leg up.

My desire to be an ‘eternal student’ may be in my future, thanks to special grants and waivers given to seniors, and Ontario’s recent change to the Ontario Student Grant, which will provide free tuition for Ontario students with a family income of less than $50K a year, and increase access to interest-free and low-cost loans   (read all about it at https://www.ontario.ca/page/new-ontario-student-grant)

The bottom line is – so many of us worry about getting old – but so few of us think about what we’ll do if we live. Our choice then becomes the quality of that life.

I’ve seen some who have weathered much in their lives, and are stronger for having fought and won their battles. Those are the live wires that may flirt with retiring, but somehow can’t get the hang of it. Those are the people wringing out every bit of life for as long as they can. They are the people you see on the street, and want to know, because they glow with purpose. If they are forced into retiring, it’s not long before they’ll announce that they are ‘unretiring.’  Running out the clock just doesn’t work for them .. they’re not leaving this good earth and all it has to give until they’re damn well ready to do so.

flirting-with-deathWhile I see others, who have ‘retired’  by retreating from life, and  waiting for death, sinking deeper and deeper into the anaesthesia of pills and booze, ‘self-medicating’ the pain of their losses, kept housebound, fearful of their surroundings, and interested only in their own aches and pains, and needs and emotions. Addicted to quasi-medical shows that sensationalize the dangers of everyday life, and media that fattens its ratings by appealing to their fears of a world that feels increasingly more dangerous, they wrap themselves in cotton wool, unable to trust anyone, spiralling down into a paralyzing world hell bent on picking their corpses clean before they’ve even been buried.

It’s a lifestyle choice.

There’s always more to learn, and you owe it to yourself to do so. Dr. Christiane Northrup is spreading the message that as you get older, you do not have to conform to the cultural baggage of what that means.

“Age is just a number, and agelessness means not buying into the idea that a number determines everything from your state of health to your attractiveness to your value,” she writes in the introduction to her new book, “Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being.”

Dr. Mario Martinez, a neuropsychologist, wrote in his book “The Mind Body Code” that getting older is inevitable. It just means moving through space. Aging, on the other hand, is optional. What we’ve come to associate with the word “aging” in our culture is an inevitable decline and deterioration. time travel trams.jpgWhat I’m talking about is reframing the experience of moving through time, so that as we do grow older we can step out of these age-based associations that can keep us in a cage. “

Me and Doctor Who, moving through time … I like that …     

When we fear the future, we are running FROM life – when we anticipate what might be, we are running TOWARDS it, with our eyes and minds and hearts and arms wide open, ready to accept all that a lifetime has to offer.

open_arms_wide

Loving The Sharing Economy


Times are tough. Wages are stagnant, but costs keep rising. It’s getting harder and harder for the average Joe or Jane to get from one pay cheque to the next, and that’s assuming they’re even lucky enough to have a job. Students skip meals to buy books.  If you’re in the arts, making ends meet is nearly impossible … and that’s before you hit your Golden Years.

everyone's brokeYep, all ages are feeling the pinch. For many, it’s the first time they’ve ever felt the bite on their bucks this savagely, so they’re under equipped to take advantage of some of the newest survival techniques out there. Time to use every trick you can find.

But how?

UberAllMarket_MainWhen Uber came along, it seemed a great way to make a couple of bucks, if you had a halfway decent vehicle. But many cities put up a good fight against ‘ride sharing,’ worried that it would cut into the taxi business, a rich tax resource, and strictly regulated.

The same thinking applied to Air BnB, and the renting out of space. Once governments realized they were losing hotel tax dollars to those entrepreneurs, regulations increased, and tourism taxes were applied.

In both cases, what seemed like a good way to make a few extra bucks, turned out to be primarily profitable for the owners of Uber and Air BnB.  They reap the big bucks, while the entrepreneur incurs all the costs and risks.

There may not be many legit or  magical ways to make extra money.

charity-fashion-collageBut there are ways to pinch a penny, if you’re open to new concepts. Charity shops are a mixed bag these days. Value Village is no longer such a value, and the Salvation Army and Goodwill are slowly increasing prices.

I do like the Kind Exchange, though items vary from location to location. (oh, and you can sell your gently used clothing to them, as well!)

But why bother, when I can pick up brand new clothing for less, and usually do, at outlets like Ardene, where prices are generally 70% off on clothing, and ridiculously low on shoes, jewellery, and other girly delights.

ardene shoesThree pair of flats for $10? Three new summer tank tops or new leggings for $15? I’m in! You can pop into one of their outlet shops, (I like the one at Woodside Square,) or even shop for their deals online at  http://www.ardene.com/en/clothing.html .

That’s just one chain – there are many more that have crazy clearances and outlets. Google ‘outlet’ and you may be surprised at how easy it is to get your cut-price shopping on.

Or let’s say you want something that’s ‘new to you,’ but the only thing you’re rich in is dreams. You might want to try a Bunz group. My grandson told me about this barter group last year, but I finally found them on Facebook a few weeks ago. These are usually private groups that you’ll have to ask to join.

keurig-bunz-appToronto’s Emily Bitze started the Bunz Trading Zone (BTZ)  (originally called Bumz) in 2013. It’s a swap/trade group that operates on a no money basis. The ‘currency’ can be anything from TTC tokens to beer cans. You offer anything from clothes to furniture, advice or services, and negotiate your own deal.

Another intriguing way to stretch a buck is with the Toronto Tool Library , also on Facebook. For $50 a year, you have access to over 4,000 tools, ranging from electronics to carpentry and everything in between. They also have a Makerspace with 3D printers, lasercutter & full wood shop. It’s a great way to start or indulge in your hobbies without a fortune in outlay.

freecycleI’ve been an avid user of Freecycle (www.freecycle.org)  since it first appeared, about a decade ago. “The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,285 groups with 9,182,159 members around the world. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free.”

You give, and you get. As a member of several groups (you can join as many as make sense to your location) and the moderator of one, I’ve seen everything from food to clothing to furniture, professional equipment, and oddities be offered. I’ve even seen cars, trailers, and once – a boat! –  be recycled. It’s a terrific way to spring clean or downsize, while giving to those who have a need, and feeling great about keeping perfectly good items out of landfills.

There are no strings attached, which instills a sense of generosity of spirit. Similar groups have sprung up as well, usually specific to geographical areas, that operate in the same manner. Google FreeTOreuse, or Trash Nothing! for instructions on how to join those groups.  trashNothing

Most of the freecycling groups will offer some basic rules and cautions. I’ve had little problem with either the items I’ve offered, or the items I’ve collected, but you want to use some basic common sense when interacting with people you don’t know. The majority of freecyclers prefer to leave or pickup items from door steps or porches.

So now that you’ve got your basic material needs covered, you need somewhere to keep your stuff.

Community living is quickly becoming an affordable way to share space and costs. Once standard amongst students and musicians, the crazy price of real estate has brought back the practice for all who cannot or will not pay sky high rents.  It’scommunity also a great way to sample an area, without committing to long term leases.  You can find Facebook groups that list sublets and temporary living spaces  in your area, or somewhere you’d like to be.

For those with champagne tastes and beer budgets, sharing a living space can mean a major lifestyle upgrade – if you can handle your roommates’ personalities. A group of twenty-somethings  with like tastes can rent a great space, if they’re pooling their cash. Shared living opens up possibilities that might not have been in the budget for a single renter.

old-bikers-bike-nursing-homeI’ve been talking about a ‘rock and roll retirement home’ for years. It only makes sense for those in similar fields and with similar backgrounds to pool resources in a way that allows freer expression than that most commonly seen in retirement homes. I’m just hoping I can get it off the ground before it’s time to move in!

It’s possible to live fairly well on a limited budget, if you are open to changing hard-wired views and beliefs. The market has spent billions convincing buyers to spend. But you don’t have to buy what they’re selling. There’s a whole new world of possibilities within the sharing economy.

 

Big Dreams and Lotteries


schrodinger-1325709458I love that moment just before I check an old lottery ticket. For as long as I can avoid checking the numbers, it’s like Schrodinger’s cat – the dream is both dead and alive simultaneously. I can continue to muse upon what I’d do with a big win, because until the numbers are checked … I just might be a winner!

I never am, though.

But still I keep buying the tickets. Not all the time, just now and again, and when I really feel like a lotto win is the only way out of my life, that’s there’s no other way I can break free of my personal cage.

gilded_cage_by_kirschsalvator-d45ti8mWe all have cages. Some have gilded cages, others cages of straw. Some perpetuate a cage they’ve known since childhood. But they’re all cages, and we’ve usually built them for ourselves. It’s much more fun to dream about a magical lucky event than to challenge the cage.

I like to tell myself about all of the altruistic things I’d do with a lotto win. … I have a lot of plans. I could do a lot of good, I argue with some imaginary deity who must hear millions, if not billions, of such pleas daily. I, of all of the past winners, would make that money work for so many … just put it into my hands, and I’ll show you …

lottery_winnerSurveys show that many baby boomers – especially those free spirits like me, who thought we’d “die before we got old,” – are hoping for either a lotto win or a good inheritance to retire comfortably. Certainly, we can’t depend on the government to cushion our aging bones.

I read stories about people who’ve won large lotteries. It seems like many of those people don’t end up as happy as they’d thought. Winners in Canada tend to fare better, and invest their winnings more wisely, although we have our share of sad stories. And certainly, a big lotto win will bring out all of those lost friends and relations!

another jackpotThere does seem to be a method to some of the winners’ strategies. I can never figure it out myself. But I had an email the other day that said that someone had worked out a scientific way to ensure multiple wins. I just had to send them some money, and I’d be set for life. And I mustn’t tell anyone about this secret, because the government would stop the loophole.

I didn’t send them money either. Sounds like just another lottery to me.

Comedian John Oliver on why American state lotteries are a ‘stupid’ tax.

Greece Is The Word


The outcome of the election in Greece is sending shock waves across Europe. Syriza, the left-wing, anti-austerity party led by new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, won 36% (149 of the Parliament’s 300 seats,) and, by forming a coalition government with the center-right Independent Greeks’ win of 13 seats, will have least 162 seats, a viable majority.

Greece new govt plansThe new government plans to raise the minimum wage, and create 300,000 new jobs, reverse the bank bailouts and stop banks from foreclosing on home owner’s principle residences, close corporate loopholes and offshore havens, and bring in a voucher system to help seniors in need receive food and healthcare.

For more than five years, the Greek citizens have been crushed under austerity policies imposed by the Economic Union’s “troika” of creditors; the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Greek foreign debt currently stands at 175% of Gross Domestic Product.

Almost a third of Greece’s economy collapsed under the restrictions. Since June 5, 2011, when the “Indignant Citizens Movement” or the “Greek indignados“, held a demonstration of between 300,000 – 500,000 people protesting in front of the Greek Parliament, a change in government thinking has been pre-ordained. greek protests 2011

The Greek protest was non-violent for about a month, but on June 29, 2011, the police cracked down viciously on the protesters. Three people were killed, and accusations of police brutality, excessive use of tear gas, as well as the alleged use of other expired and carcinogenic chemical substances, led to an outcry by international media and Amnesty International.

austerity greeceWith half the population in poverty, and no end in sight to continued austerity and misery, it was inevitable that the people would rise up, and demand change.

“Both Syriza and Independent Greeks have detailed emergency economic programs that will commit their government to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe left by five years of the hated Troika policy. The damage has been unprecedented short of wartime, and has led to unemployment officially at 28%, but considered by experts to be actually as high as 45%; pensions and salaries have been slashed by 25-45%. The destruction of the health-care system has increased the child mortality rate, the suicide rate, and the death rate.” (http://www.larouchepub.com/other/2015/4205grk_elex_eup_new_deal.html)

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech  at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, ScotlandEuropean leaders were swift to denounce Greece’s audacity. British PM David Cameron tweeted, “The Greek election will increase economic uncertainty across Europe.” (Britain’s membership in the European Union is a major issue in the campaign for the upcoming May election.)

russia-greeceGerman Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann told ARD network that he hoped “the new Greek government will not make promises it cannot keep and the country cannot afford.” But Germany’s opposition Left Party l called the Syriza victory a “sign of hope for a new start in Europe.” And today, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told CNBC that Russia would consider giving financial help to debt-ridden Greece.

The EU is shaken by the possibility that Italy, Portugal and Ireland, also horribly impacted by austerity measures, will follow Greece’s lead. Fiscal conservatives fear that Greece’s demand to write off up to half of their of €240bn debt will create a “Global Event,” on the scale of the 2008 collapse of the Lehman Brothers Holdings, who went bankrupt with $600 billion in assets.

German Economics 1953But there is precedent in countries restructuring debt. In 1953, Germany was in a similar position to Greece today. With debt from pre-and post-war, they owed nearly 30 billion Deutschmarks to around 70 countries. With no access to capital, and creditors who didn’t believe the country could turn the economy around, Germany was desperate for cash to begin the country’s reconstruction and growth.

Despite budget cuts and laborious repayments, the economic burden was crushing their population. FinanDebt-Accord-290cial negotiations were begun by banker Hermann-Josef Abs, who led a German delegation in London in 1953. He hoped to turn the creditors of today into the financiers and investors of tomorrow. But the foreign creditors felt his first offers were insulting.

The London Debt Agreement, finally signed on February 27, 1953, saw half of Germany’s debts written off, with the rest restructured for the long-term. Germany was not to be economically overburdened. Today, our view of Germany’s economy is paired with the idea that the German people are just a very hard-working people. But none of what Germany accomplished would have been possible without the Agreement.

Greek beach NaxosThose who believe that Greece’s new vision is childish and selfish stereotype Greece’s economy as being irreparably rife with corruption and greed, and fed by an indolent, Mediterranean lifestyle. Those same people once thought that all Germans were Nazis.

greek protests 2014In fact, the average Greek retirement age is nearly 65, but the pension is quite small, requiring many retirees to continue working as long as they are physically able. According to Eurostat statistics, the Greeks work 40.6 hours a week, the highest of all 27 EU member states. The ordinary Greek citizen in not lounging on the beach drinking ouzo, they have been protesting in the streets, as tax increases and social security cuts destroy the peoples’ hope, and the public sectors are privatized to serve as collateral to service the European debt.

The Eurozone finance ministers have no intention of continuing debt relief negotiations unless the new Syriza government promises to honour all existing austerity agreements. Meanwhile, the Euro is trending downward, and the Podemos in Spain, a year-old political party that has surged to the top of the polls promising to reverse austerity in Spain and impose a levy on banks, are poised to join Greece in challenging the stranglehold of the Troika. As Tsipras pointed out during his victory speech, the old ways of doing things in Europe are doomed.   debts are not destiny