A “Boomer’s” Journey Leads to Affection

I used to believe (or taught by example) that “all good things come to those who wait;” that “boys don’t cry;” and that (reasonable) “public displays of affection are inappropriate.” Up until I changed my exterior behavior to match what I felt inside, I found myself “left behind,” labeled “insensitive,” and failing in my duty to demonstrate (to anyone who may have been watching) what it looks like when people love and care for each other!

This is not unusual for men in our generation.  My father wasn’t a “hugger” either.  He was rough, tough, blue-collar, and the household disciplinarian.  Mom dished out the hugs, kisses, treats, and all things nice.  This wasn’t by design mind you, but how their mothers and fathers prepared them for parenthood.  Think “Ward and June Cleaver,” but make Ward a Boeing machinist and you have my childhood experience. When it came to being a role model for manly affection, Ward Cleaver was clueless! So when the closest Dad got to affection was saying “…I want you to know, this hurts me more than it will hurt you” just before laying a paddle across my butt at 40 mph — how was I going to learn to be more outwardly affectionate?

Guys, it may sound trite but tuck away your machismo for a few seconds and just do it!  Sure…hugging a woman is easy. I haven’t read a single article that suggests you’d be rebuked for trying — unless a) you’re at work (a no-no!) or b) smell like you just got back from a fishing trip with the boys. You might also find yourself rejected from future hugs if you held the first one just long enough feel creepy! Oh…and it helps if you have some connection with the other person.  Personal experience has taught me that total strangers aren’t too hip to the hug!

Start with your spouse or significant other, and not just around the house or in the car. What your father failed to teach you is that a simple light touch on her arm, or shoulder, or taking her hand in yours is what you’re supposed to do when you care about this person. Innocent physical connections lead to powerful emotional connections, which support healthy, long-lasting relationships.  Take this from someone who’s working (yes…WORKING!) on his 32nd year of marriage to the same beautiful woman.

But, how then do you show your best buddy that you really care?  Fishing tackle?  Okay…go back to the beginning of this article and start over!  I think it would be easier to show you, than to tell you:

How To Give A Great Man Hug

Okay…now that doesn’t seem to hard, does it?  I realize the video is intentionally humorous, but I don’t think we (guys) would have watched the entire video if it wasn’t funny. So let me leave you with this:

The "too cool to hug" hug!

“Good men must be affectionate men.”  Samuel Richardson English epistolary novelist (1689 – 1761)

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The “Sandwich Generation” Vacation

In today’s employment market, one of the most sought-after benefits to a good job is vacation time.  You could find yourself moving from one company to another — like I did recently — and negotiating a vacation package as close as possible to the one you left.  Good luck…I had to settle.  Anyway, this time is valuable to you because, like the lion’s share (love that phrase!) of Boomers, you’re using vacation time to care for your parents AND assist your grown children and their families.

My wife and I did not take a vacation away for the first ten years of our 30-year (and counting…) marriage.  During that first decade, we coordinated our ten and fifteen vacation days with each other and made the trek to Portland, Oregon to invest a week in new and maintenance projects at my wife’s parents place.  This time was in addition to the one weekend per month, every month, that we’d drive the 200 miles from our home just to provide some company, or make sure her folks were following doctors orders!

Memories!

Once we’d adopted our first son (he was ten years old at that time), coordinating these trips became a little more difficult with his school and all.   It was nice to have someone with me who could lift the other end of the ladder, or climb the taller trees to prune limbs I would point out to him!   I would climb the trees myself but the mountain ash and quaking aspens got a petition signed to keep my “substantial” girth off their tender limbs.  Any way…I digress.  At this point we had to figure out how to take family vacations that didn’t always involve going to Nana and Pop-pop’s house to do work.  Our son deserved to experience Disney, camping, cruises, air travel, train travel, road trips by car, summer camp, and all the other things his hard work in school would afford him.  Ergo, I give you the “Sandwich Generation” vacation planner:

"The moose out front should have told ya!"

T-minus 1 year

  • First, can you tell I grew up fascinated by the space program?  T-minus?  Who talks like that anymore?  Does NASA still exist?
  • Decide if vacation will be during the school year or summer months, and get those days on your employer and school calendars.  If your child attends “year round” school…sweet!  Find an evening baby-sitter and take off!
  • If you plan to take your child out of school, offer the teacher to have your kid write a pre-vacation report on all the places they will visit and what they learned (from research) about the places they will go.  Convince your son/daughter that this pre-work will make vacation more enjoyable!

T-minus 9 months

  • Try not to conceive a child at this time.  Save that effort for vacation.  Last thing you want is to go into labor so far away from your gynecologist.
  • Tell your family that you’ll be unreachable during this time and that they’d better make arrangement to either check with Mom and Dad while you’re away, or make arrangements to some spend some quality time with the parents who gifted them with life, eighteen years of food, water and a place to sleep, and an overseas education.

T-minus 3 months

  • Make your packing list and ask other members of the family to make theirs too!
  • Remind your kids’ teachers about vacation coming up.  If you child has earned a stint of summer school that’s getting in the way of the vacation, the summer school teacher might be persuaded by Ben Franklin, or Ulysses S. Grant (cash — they are on a teacher’s salary after all).
  • Tell your boss that they have only 30 days to change their mind about granted you the time away.  Let them know that at the 60-day mark the trip is paid in full, and non-refundable.

T-minus 60 days

  • Finalize your packing list and the rest of the families too, as they could not be bothered
  • Arrange child-care for the kid who’s stuck with Summer School.  Hey!  Why should their failure to complete their school work keep the rest of the family home?  Some of life’s lessons are hard!
  • Have pets?  Arrange for a neighbor, cousin, or close friend to check on and feed the animals.  If you have a dog that can’t go with you, now would be a good time to call the kennel.  If the dog is going with you now would be a good time to check your supply of Febreze.

T-minus 30 days

  • Might be a good time to have the car or truck serviced if this is a road or camping trip.  Who wants other families driving by and “tsk, tsk, tsk-ing” you for not servicing your ride?!
  • Shop.  Invariably something on one of the packing lists is lost or in disrepair.  I’m still looking for six bungee cords I know I saw in the garage a week ago!
  • Put a map of your vacation destination up in your cubicle at work.  Envy and jealousy can work in your favor.

The final 5 days

  • At the office — delete all your unread e-mail messages.  If it’s truly important the sender will re-mail it to you, get your out of office reply and react with anger, envy and jealousy.  No worries.  Experiencing emotions is good for the soul!
  • Re-mail all your “action needed” emails to yourself with a delivery date three days after your return.  Nothing feels better than to head out for vacation with an empty e-mail box!
  • Load those last few road tunes onto your iPod, or smart phone.  Let me suggest some Jackson Browne and Van Morrison to stave-off road rage.
  • Download a novel or two to the iPad or smart phone e-reader application.  When you return home you might have a chance to read these books.

Now…go and have a good time — God knows you’ve earned it!

Why Am I So Impatient Sometimes?

It seems to me probable that anyone who has a series of intolerable positions to put up with must have been responsible for them in some extent; not that it was simply “their fault” – I don’t mean that – but that they have contributed to it by impatience, or intolerance, or brusqueness – or some provocation. ~ Robert Hugh Benson (1871 – 1914)

Just the other day I found myself standing with others near the delivery counter at a local Starbucks tapping my foot – not to the music I was listening to (Led Zeppelin IV by the way) – but to the timer in my head counting the time as I waited for my cup to hit the pass-through!  I think the total time from order to first sip was like…two minutes.  The nerve of “Fivebucks,” making we wait like that!  If I want coffee in two minutes I would make myself a cup from my Keurig before leaving the house each morning.  When it comes to coffee I expect every barista, even those I’ve never order from before, to simply know what I want and have it on the counter when I arrive to pay.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, but I did find myself being a tad impatient.  When did it come to this?  I think I was twelve when my father shared his thermos of coffee with me while we were fishing – thanks, Dad!  One rule he had was that if I were the one to drain the carafe of the last drop, I had to make a fresh pot.  Because we had an electric percolator back then it took twenty minutes to brew a pot of coffee.  Twenty minutes!  Dad thought he’d hit the lottery when the Mr. Coffee was invented and brew times dropped to ten minutes.  And here I am being pissy about a two minute wait for a latte!

It’s been found through studies that we tend to lean more toward anticipation as we grow older.  How much older will I need to be?  Dr. George Eman Vaillant considered anticipation as one of “the mature ways of dealing with real stress…You reduce the stress of some difficult challenge by anticipating what it will be like and preparing for how you are going to deal with it.  There is evidence that “the use of mature defenses (sublimation, anticipation) tended to increase with age.”  Can this be so?  Is the key to having more patience just a matter of reducing our stress levels?  So I don’t actually have to be older to find my patience, I just need to reduce stress.  That I can do!  After a short tour of some Google search results, I found 99 year old Randy Godlose and his Set’s All Set blog.  There, he espouses Five Easy Ways to Reduce Stress.

Here they are:

  1. Green – the color, not money.  Although more money would reduce some measure of stress, Set reminds us that “staring at something green, your mind tells your heart to relax and it slows down.”  Good advice!
  2. Soothing, Soft Music – I think we can all agree to this one.  This is why your dentist and doctor aren’t blasting AC/DC’s “Back in Black” from the house music system.  They want you relaxed, so you get to listen to Air Supply while you wait.
  3. Breathe Deep – “Breathing deep expands the stomach rather than the chest and can be very therapeutic.   This breathing technique allows for better absorption of oxygen thus also relieving physical stress.”  This answers why guys can get so stupid in the company of women.  All that inflated chest breathing is increasing heart rates, lowering oxygen absorption, and boosting stress levels.
  4. Physical exercise – Yes, as Set tells us, exercise is physical stress which can lead to emotional stress if we aren’t conditioned to handle it.  Exercise conditions our bodies to increased tolerances for managing physical stress, which reduces our mental/emotional stress.
  5. Chewing your food – The science behind this recommendation simply must be read, so I’m leaving this one to you.  I’ll just say this – I now know why people on liquid diets always seem ready at the drop of a hat to throw a punch.

So there it is – five easy ways to reduce your stress, and increase your patience.  Easy-squeezy as my wife would say.  And what I really like about this list?  Not one of the five suggestions says anything about cutting back on my caffeine intake.  Good for you, Set!

My Boys Rarely (if ever) Call Home!

Remember those days when you told the kids to “…go outside to play; I can’t think with all this noise?”  Did you know then you were teaching them a valuable lesson for today – how to survive in a world without you?  It’s true!  We did such a great job with one of our boys that he rarely calls – for any reason.  Okay…that’s not completely true.  When he needs cash, he calls!

Hello, Dad?

But it’s not that he doesn’t want to talk to us, doesn’t think of us, or doesn’t need us – he does.  He just doesn’t think about THE PHONE.  Why would he since a) he rarely used one growing up – everything was e-mail with him and his friends, and b) calling us usually means getting our voicemail.  So from his point of view – what’s the point?!  We have been damned by our own technology!

Both of our boys are really “text hounds.”  Omar, the older son, never bothers to set up his voicemail on his mobile phone and I have NEVER failed to get a reply to a text within the hours from him.  Our younger son, Zach, lives on his cell phone and responses are measured in the minutes with him.  In fact, at 3:07 pm, as I was beginning this blog post, I sent a TEXT to Zach and got his reply at 3:27 PM.

Check out this graph from the Nielson Group on texting and age:

Mid-lifers just not there yet


I suspect these numbers actually tell us that…

                    • 13 to 17 year old’s can’t stop communicating
                    • 18 to 24 year old’s can’t be bothered
                    • 25 to 34 year old’s are too busy (recently wed!)
                    • 35 to 44 year old’s are running their kids to and from activities, and
                    • the rest of us just haven’t caught on.

Since I want regular conversations with my boys, I learned how to text to stay in touch. It was slow at first, and most of my messages are long-hand (or thumbed to be accurate).  I’m slowly learning the text lingo…you know…the LOL’s, OMG’s, IMHO’s, and IDK’s.

Dad? Send money...

However, something about this new paradigm rings familiar.  Who reading this DID NOT introduce their parents to e-mail when it became more the norm?  My wife and I certainly did with our  parents – mainly because our jobs involved being on the phone all day, and by night we’d had all we could take of Bell’s greatest invention.

So I guess I’m suggesting that change is necessary to stay in touch with our kids today.  If you’d like some guidance, here are some links to some great resources to get your started:

U.S. Teen Mobile Report: Calling Yesterday, Texting Today, Using Apps Tomorrow

The List of Chat Acronyms & Text Message Shorthand

Mom, promise me you won't text and drive?

Remember, the only true constant in life is change.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Move on.

~ Lane

My “Involuntary Career Transition:” Part Two

…now where were we?  Oh yeah…1/2 way through my unemployment period…though at the time I thought my ½-way point was my end!  Every day I woke up and said “Today I get an interview and the job.”  I smiled, stood tall, and forged ahead.

As I mentioned in Part 1, I learned on February 2nd that my last day would be March 1st.  This extended my benefits for an additional month and provided an additional week of severance.  My former employer also paid for eight weeks with a “career transition” service company and their resources – which included online training programs.  On days when very few new jobs were available to apply for, I was earning my Project Management Professional certification online.   But this didn’t make the phone ring.

Why was this taking so long?  Was Age-ism at play here?  He’s a little Devil that one!  No one mentions him when he’s in the room – laws don’t allow it.  Laws don’t allow speeding on our highways either, yet people do it every day.   HR people get around the law using terms like “experienced,” and “has held several senior positions,” and “challenging fit.”  There was no disguising my age on my resume when looking at the school and job history.  Was I not getting even initial consideration because of that one factor?  I started considering coloring my hair — I guess they call it “low lighting” – when you diminish the appearance of gray for the little bit of natural dark brown that remains.  But that just wasn’t who I am.

At eight weeks is when Desperation wanted to stop by to pay me a visit, and maybe take me out to dinner and a movie.  I struggled against her willful ways on a daily basis, vile temptress though she was.  What I haven’t shared to this point is the certainty that I didn’t want to work in insurance any longer.  I don’t think I even uttered those words to my wife, but I know she could sense it from the direction my search was taking me.  I was too COMFORTABLE with a capital “C” in insurance, and rarely felt the rush of a challenge.  I was no longer learning new things…simply learning new ways to apply existing knowledge to a changing marketplace.  At the age 52, with possibly my last job EVER looming on my horizon, I decided I deserved to work WHERE I wanted, WITH whom I wanted, and AS I wanted – and  I wanted some FUN!  I smiled, stood tall, and forged ahead!

As you have read, my wife is my best friend who I use to get a laugh now and again, and I love her dearly.  She helped me fight off the wiles of Desperation with her common sense approach, attention to detail, and most of all, her love.  She helped me assess my skills and phrase them in terms that most recruiters and HR representatives would understand.  She continually challenged me to open my eyes to potential employers and job roles I didn’t personally assess myself qualified for.  From this point forward, every position I applied to would have a “targeted” resume that utilized keywords or phrases from the posting, and sold my abilities to that job exclusively.  My wife read every resume, made recommendations for improvements, and for three weeks did it from Indianapolis, IN, where she was on a business trip.

By the ninth week of my transition I focused my job search to the following potential employers:  Amazon, Boeing, Expedia, Group Health, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Puget Sound Energy, Starbucks, Tommy Bahama, and all of the Puget Sound based insurance companies.   Using LinkedIn I found people I knew at most of these companies and began networking.  I asked for names and recommendations, willingness on the part of those I knew to take my resume to a hiring manager.  The response from friends and acquaintances was overwhelming when they learned I was looking.  And I smiled, stood tall, and forged ahead.

Utilizing these contacts, by week ten I was “in consideration” for 16 different positions with the group of companies listed above.  The phone was ringing and first interviews were happening.  It was still a much slower process than I was comfortable with; I had only 11 weeks of severance pay in savings.  What’s the address again for the Poor House?  I needed the second interview.  I smiled, stood tall, and forged ahead.

In week twelve I answered a “blind posting” hosted by a local consulting firm.  They posted a process analyst position that I felt I’d read somewhere else before…and it was tailor-made to my skill set.  So I registered with them, answered the application questions, and attached a resume not know anything more about the hiring company other than it was in the “greater Puget Sound” area.   Five minutes after hitting the SUBMIT button my cell phone started ringing.  It was the recruiter for the position I’d just applied.  We talked for about ten minutes before she said she wanted to submit my resume to the company who’d hired them (and four other firms) to submit candidates.  I said “Yes!  Thank you!  Would you like to meet in person?”  She said time was critical, but she was comfortable enough in speaking to me that the in-person meeting could wait – the company with the opening was taking only five applicants – and it had to be that day.

The silver lining around my cloud began to show a little luster!  By one o’clock that afternoon I had full day of interviews scheduled with “the company” and a meeting set for the next morning with “my” recruiter.  My smile grew wider, I stood taller, and I started brushing up on my interview techniques.

The short and sweet of it all is that I got the job;  I’m having FUN while being challenged to learn a completely new industry; my new co-workers call me “Barney” (you know…the dinosaur!); and I have a new good friend who was formerly my recruiter!

I want to wrap this up with a big Thank You to my wife Carla — without whose support I would have taken Desperation up on her invitation to dinner; all our friends and former co-workers who offered to do “anything” they could to help; and to Kirsten at Wimmer Solutions for her faith in my ability to represent them sight unseen.

And I appreciate that you stayed with me on this 15 week adventure – gazing with me over the lip of the crevasse into the dark depths of unemployment.  As a reward for your time investment, here’s a quick list of what I learned on this recently completed swim:

  • Unemployment isn’t a TV network sitcom, a simple problem wrapped up in 22 minutes. 

It’s more like a season of “Deadliest Catch,” with rough water, lots of competitors on the ocean, and you need to lay out a lot of pots (resumes) to catch a few crabs (phone calls);

  • Do not face the challenge of unemployment alone, in a vacuum.

Engage with family, close friends, and peers.  You need your support network during this time, and (if you’re a man) this is neither the place nor time for machismo.

  • More interview opportunities come from personal contacts than a resume submitted to a mailbox.
  • Tailor every resume to the job to which you’re applying.

Yes.  It takes more effort, but it shows an interest in the particular position and demonstrates that you read the posting and maybe even researched the company.

  • Say “Yes” to every invitation to submit a resume, or take a phone or personal interview.

Even if it isn’t the job you really want, but every interview allows you the chance to practice interviewing skills.  That last thing you want is your first interview to be with the one job you’re dying to land!

  • Learn how to successfully manage your search on SimplyHired.com, Indeed.com, and LinkedIn.com.

Your profile and keywords are the keys to more posting referrals.  Set up “auto-bot” search tools to do the work for you based on your keywords and locations.

  • Above all else remember – ATTITUDE is everything – smile, stand tall, and forge ahead!

My “Involuntary Career Transition:” Part One

“Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy. If you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll like yourself, you’ll have inner peace. And if you have that, along with physical health, you will have had more success than you could possibly have imagined.”
Johnny Carson (1925 – 2005)

Let’s play a little game, shall we?  Everyone stand up, but make sure you can still read this.  It’s okay…if you’re at work, have your co-workers play along too.  Now let’s read this list of words and phrases that all have one thing in common – being separated from your job – and take as seat once you’ve read the phrase that pertained to you.  It’s okay if you’re honest; I’m not going to take a poll.  Let’s start:

Axed — Given the boot – Canned – Discharged – Dropped — Given the bum’s rush — Pink slipped – Sacked — Handed walking papers — Laid off — Let go – Terminated – Fired – Furloughed – Riffed…

Still standing?  Excellent!  Either I didn’t list the phrase that described how you left your last job, or you’ve never been let go.  For those of you who took a seat during the game, was it as difficult for you to read this list (while thinking back to that time in your work history) as it was for me to type it?

For me the experience is still very fresh in my mind – I entered my “involuntary career transition” in March of this year.  And without going into too much detail, it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to face in my life.  My first thoughts: “I’m 52 years old!  Who wants to hire a white-haired, worked in one industry (insurance) all his life, dinosaur like me?”  They assured it was not a performance issue, and that I’m first on the re-hire list when things turn around.

Adding insult to injury this news graced my ears on Monday when I was home sicker than a dog.  Because the announcements were going to go out via e-mail that day about the 40 of us being “let go,” it was imperative my manager tell me before I read it in my e-mail (nice touch!).   Because this occurred on Groundhog Day made me laugh a little.  I could only hope that I wouldn’t wake up the next day, or the day after that, and receive a call from my boss telling me all over again that I was being let go.

Nothing my former manager could say would lessen the shock, disbelief, hurt, anger, fear, uncertainty, or overall feeling that it must have been something I did, or didn’t do.  They say that losing a job is like losing love one, or beloved pet, and that we all go through the clearly documented Stages of Grief when it happens.  Because I’m not a psychologist and not wanting to short-change the reader who wants to know more about dealing with the emotional impacts of job loss, here’s a link to well-written story on ABCNews.COM: How To Cope When You’ve Been Laid Off.

How I Coped With My Involuntary Career Transition

The first call I made after receiving the news was to my much employed wife, who was appropriately sympathetic — I think because I was sick at the time.  I didn’t get a chance to make a second call.  Five minutes after the first one to my wife, she called back with a game plan.  I guess the grieving period was over!  By the time she got home that day, I had followed her instructions to the letter and updated my old resume (draft, of course, nothing’s final until my lovely bride has a chance to spew red ink all over the paper), read about how to apply for unemployment, and had the start of a list of potential employers.

By the end of Day Two I had profiles, uploaded resumes, and job search wizards on job aggregators Monster.com, Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com, and NWJob.com. During this time I was also completing my assignments at my soon-to-be-former employer, and brain-dumping everything I knew on the guy who was staying and adding my job to his (Jeremy, I’m sorry…she made me do it!).  I spend Day Three reviewing results of my job search wizards and flagging positions I wanted to apply to – going to meetings at work, etc.  The rest of February was pretty much like this.  By the time March 1st rolled around, I had resumes out to 15 potential employers on 25 possible jobs – and not a single call-back.

Once I no longer went to a job, looking for new employment became my job.  My wife’s office building has a very nice public lobby, with an espresso shop and Chinese restaurant, and that became my office.  Each day I’d wake up, shower, shave, put on business attire and take my wife to work.  From the building lobby I’d search and apply for work, and be available for any meeting at a moment’s notice.  My new job was to get a new job!  I was applying to a minimum of three positions every day.  The phone didn’t ring still.

Needless today it was getting a little tense around our house.  After 6 weeks (my unemployment lasted 15 weeks) I went to see a counselor at the unemployment office.  She said that my experience was pretty typical, and to expect that I could be off work for a month for every $10,000 in salary I was looking to earn.  Thanks for bolstering my outlook!

Another five weeks go by.  Nothing promising has perked yet.  A career fair is coming up this week in Seattle and representatives from Boeing will be there that I can meet face-to-face and provide a resume.  All I need is a chance to go one-on-one with a recruiter – me selling me has never been a problem…

End of part 1