Baby-boomers: Do your grandkids know how the Vietnam War affected your life?

Classroom debate at Delta College.
This is a picture from 1965-66 of me (right) debating an anti-Vietnam activist.

Every generation seems to have their own war someplace in the world.  My dad and my uncles had World War II.  I had the Vietnam War.  It affected every part of my life even though I was never in the country.

As I dramatically downsize a huge collection of clippings and photographs, I found these two items going back to the days of that war.  My five grandkids are really young, but there may come a day when one of them will ask about what I remember of the Vietnam conflict.  

How did it affect me?  It started in high school when I was ordered to register for the military draft.  I got a draft card which I had to carry with me at all times.

To stay out of the draft, I had to get a deferment which I did by going to college.  The requirements were that I go full-time and that I finish within four years.

While attending my first two years at Delta College, I went through a streak of political activism.  In addition to other causes, I was the head of Students For Victory in Vietnam.  We sponsored student rallies and debates.

During a history class, I debated an anti-war activist.  The local newspaper covered it with a reporter and a photographer.  


Vietnam source material.
Remember the Pentagon Papers which tore the lid of the Vietnam War.

One thing I've learned after being 70 years-old for almost a month

My birthday cake
The birthday cake for me at my surprise birthday party

It's been almost a month since I turned 70-years-old and my family threw me a surprise birthday party.  I've been thinking a fair amount about my past seven decades of life and what I've learned.

I've made my share of mistakes and I've tried to learn from them.  I can see clearly that learning is lifelong.  Some of that learning is about life and decisions I've made and some is more factual and about things that interest me like the carrot cake in the above picture or about drones and how they fly or about telling stories through video.  You get the drift.

In the first category, I've learned that I need to be more assertive in my prayers.  I believe in God and I believe that I have 24/7 access to him and that he listens to me.  I also believe that he has given us a book of promises and assurances that I can use to get to know him more personally.

Every Tuesday I have lunch with my friend Ken.  We are reading Philip Yancey's book Prayer which raises and answers questions about the topic.  I think it has fueled our prayer engines.  

We don't have all the answers, but we know that we have a God who listens and who wants to know all of us.  

My bucket list as a 70-year-old is being rearranged.  In the top tier, I now have prayer warrior.  What's more important to me going to the Maldive Islands or talking and listening to God?

It's clear to me.

Older baby-boomers: Go to Amazon and buy "virtual reality" goggles for a new look at the world


If you knock on my front door during this warm weather, there's a good chance you'll see me with these virtual reality goggles.  It has nothing to do with the myriad eye problems I've had over the past few years.  These goggles allow me to view hundreds of videos taken with cameras that give you a 360 degree view of whatever you're looking at.

I just got back from a virtual helicopter trip over downtown Las Vegas.  It was amazing.  It was as if I was actually taking the ride.  I could see everything and look anywhere in any direction, including up and down.  I could even feel the bumps in the ride.  I'm ready to go again.

The device allows me to adjust it to my tricky vision and to see everything with a natural sharpness.  The New York Times has a collection of 360 degree videos.  At least two will be watched before the day is over.

I'd recommend this to just about anybody.  I can't wait to show it to my six-year-old grandson and to my wife, a retired third grade teacher.

Are you familiar with Virtual Reality (VR) goggles?  Have you ever used them and what have you watched?


Does turning 70-years-old have to mean getting on the fast lane to becoming elderly?


My family celebrates my 70th birthday
My family helps me celebrate.



When asked about my age, I like to say I'm a member of the first class of baby-boomers and slide over the fact that I turn 70 years old in a few days.  In my mind, it's a number that has some sharp edges that can poke your thinking about the future.

I think my family surmised this and arranged a surprise birthday party this weekend.  They came from two different states with their families, including three babies and one toddler still in diapers.  As I walked into a local craft brewery with my wife, they were sitting just inside the door.  My two-year-old grandson came rushing to me and in a daze I looked over and saw everybody.

Here's my situation:  For the past several months I've been getting an increasing volume of mail from funeral directors, hearing aid dealers, cemeteries and Medicaid vendors.  These have a certain subliminal message that you're getting old and that your clock is running out of ticks.

Having my whole family here really layered these feelings with a strong topping of love.  They care for me and care enough to travel a good distance to celebrate and help me live forward, rather than looking over my shoulder.

They are each special:

  • My wife Gladys--she has not laughed at me when I see all the numbers on the obituaries that match my age and then wince.  
  • My daughter Krista--She and her family are in the process of resettling in this country after living and working in Europe for five years.  She's an organizer and knows how to help make her dad feel special.
  • My son Justin--We have a special father-son relationship that goes back to when he joined this world.  He has been consistent in his love and his tolerance for my shakiness in retiring and getting older.
  • My son-in-law Adam--he's a victim of my watching the Father Of The Bride too many times.  He has been an awesome friend to me and tries to understand and support me as I move into this new season of life.
  • My daughter-in-law Lauren--she's an amazing woman who has made our lives more full and loving.

Then there's our grandkids.  They have helped us experience and give love in a new way.  We can see the future through their eyes and their growth.

I'm looking forward to living forward with this great family that God has given me and my wife.

Thank-you to them for making this rite of passage special.

What should you be thinking about as you get ready to turn 70-years-old?

Me and my granddaughter.
My granddaughter and I check out the day's news.

I'm a member of the first class of baby-boomers born in 1946 right after the end of World War II which means that I turn 70-years-old in less than a week.  It's just a number, right?

I've never been an obituary reader, but over the past year, I've paid more attention to the ages of those who are being written about.  And I've noticed that a whole lot more of them are around my age.  In my mind, this means that I need to carefully pick where I want to concentrate my attention.

Life circumstances can turn on a dime at any age, but it seems to happen more quickly when you're older.  Am I ready?  In my spare moments while going up and down steps, walking in the neighborhood, cleaning out the garage, I try to both strengthen both my physical and my spiritual heart.  They both need to be strong as I enter this next phase of my life.

In reading a biography about a young woman who suffered through a virulent case of cancer where she transparently writes about the experience, I came across this quote:

In the absence of comforts and friends, is Jesus enough?

Her name is Kara Tippetts and her book is "The Hardest Peace"--expecting grace in the midst of life's hard. Her writing as lit a spark in my thinking about how to deal with what lies ahead.  

Are these old Gillette Razor Blades found in my garage a treasure?

Gillette Razor Blades
I found these at the bottom of an old pickle jar filled with old screws and nails.


Our plan is to downsize which means cleaning out rooms and our garage which has been a catch all for all kinds of stuff, including items I inherited when my mother died.  My mom was a saver.  One of the items was a big pickle jar filled with old screws and nails and in the bottom was a pack of old Gillette Razor Blades.  

It has been decades since I've shaved.  And when I did I usually used an electric razor.  Check these pictures.  Are these old?  Worth saving?  They look almost antique, a little piece of Americana.

A report to my mother--Frieda Thorp--in heaven about her great grandkids






I'm not sure what my mother-Frieda Thorp-would be doing in heaven on a Wednesday afternoon.  She would probably miss this blog post showing three of her five great grandkids visiting my mom's sister Aileen Anderson in West Virginia.  I would ask my mom's cronies in heaven to point these pictures out to her to show that she has left legacy that has left a trail of love in its wake since she died in 1996.

My daughter and her husband along with their three kids were traveling through Aunt Aileen's area and popped in.  You can see that their visit to my 91-year-old aunt would rival most medicines you could obtain in a pharmacy.  The smiles show it.  I hope that my grandkids will pack away a memory of that visit.

She's a special lady.  She had five sisters and six brothers.  They lost both their parents at a very young age.  It happened during a time when there was no foster care or social services.  The older siblings took the younger ones as their responsibility.  This was during the 1930s when life in this country was uniquely hard.  They stuck together.  

Aileen married when she was a teenager.  Her husband-Ron Anderson-served in the South Pacific during World War II.  When he came back he took his radio skills and used them to become a pioneer in two-way radio communication for governmental units.  He did this with Motorola.  He and Aileen were role models for me and my cousins.  

Last year, Ron became real sick and didn't recover.  He died one week and Aileen had a leg amputated a short time later.  During that time she kept looking forward.  She didn't dwell on her loss, but on what she still had and what she was looking forward to.  I've watched her hit lots of high walls in her life and you could almost see God right next to her boosting her over.

My mom needs to know that Aileen was there today representing the family.  Three of my grandkids got to meet her.  I hope they remember.  If not I hope this blog post will help.

Mom, you should be proud.  

The source of our problems in the United States is the devil, according to old newscaster Paul Harvey in 1965

If you're an older baby-boomer, more than likely you remember Paul Harvey who brought the news on radio everyday.  Growing up in Bay City, I grew up listening to his reporting.  As the years passed, he added his observations.

Check this newscast from 1965 where he talks about if he was the devil and how that would affect the choices he would make for turning this country upside down.

What about it? Is the problem the politicians or is it the devil?  How do you deal with getting rid of the devil?  That's not a mystery, is it?

Drinking less expensive wine-under $3 a bottle-while living on a pension and Social Security

Winking Owl merlot
We bought this under $3 per bottle of Merlot this week at Aldis

What wine do you drink when you watch television on a Sunday night?  While watching Madam Secretary or the Good Wife, we occasionally get out our stemless wine glasses and have a taste of wine.  This can be expensive, especially if you're a retiree living on a fixed income.

This week we shopped at one of the Aldis in our area and found Winking Owl Merlot for under $3 a bottle.  We haven't opened it yet.  We hope it's drinkable.  Perhaps, we don't have to spend the equivalent of three gallons of gas for a decent bottle of wine.

Have any of you drunk Winking Owl wines?  What do you think?

I'm a member of the first class of baby-boomers getting ready to turn "seven-oh" this year



My birthday this year on August 31 will be a landmark.  I turn 70 which means that I can admit with confidence that I'm older if not old.  I'm a member of the first class of baby-boomers, part of a group of more than three million born in 1946 right after the end of World War II.  

To reach this point, scares me in many ways.  I know that I need to carefully consider what I want to do with this rest of my life.  I have a limited amount of time to make a plan, 120 days,  17 weeks, three months or 2880  hours before I reach that mark.  

What about a rocking chair

The only way I'd consider wiling my time away in a Cracker Barrel rocking chair is if it was right on the Gulf of Mexico and there was good wi-fi.  There's no likelihood of the former happening.  

Things that occupied my attention during my day-job years hold little interest to me now.  In the past, certain things could excite my passion.  I was trained to be and worked as a journalist for many years.  Then I worked as a staffer in our state legislature where I worked with and around many different reporters everyday.  At one time, I could get excited about politics.  That's changed.  Governing has morphed into gaggles of people at all levels trash-talking each other without regard for the consequences.  The truth of an issue was immaterial.

Effective communication interests me

I still enjoy the whole area of communication where those with a message try to communicate it effectively to change behavior.  Over the years, I have written hundreds of news releases, speeches and newsletter articles.

I've watched as people have changed the way they communicate, particularly through the use of social media and the web.  I've watched and participated in the changes in this area pretty closely.

Telling stories with video

Story-telling is another area that has caught my attention.  I have a personal story that I feel is worth sharing and I know many others who have the same.  It's fun to see how this is done through the written word, video and still pictures.  

My role as a husband, father and grandfather still excites me.  I'm having to be alert to how these roles change as I and my family get older.

Remember the television show Parenthood with a group of grown kids who have their own children?  There was a patriarch named Zeke Braverman and his wife.  They all dealt with real life issues.  They lived their own lives, but they came together as a family unit.  

As I traipse through the challenges of aging, I want to continue blogging about it.  There are things I will give a lot of thought to and others that will roll off the top of my thoughts.


Baby-boomers have the answer to putting a new door on your house?

How many of you feel comfortable putting a new door in your house?  I don't.  That's way beyond the limits of my do-it-yourself capabilities.  Hiring a professional carpenter would cut into the old pension check.  So, what do you do?  We hired a retired baby-boomer with the necessary skills.  It's a real win-win.


Win 1

We went to Home Depot at my friend's direction where we picked out a new backdoor along with a storm door.  A new lockset was added.  With the aid of my trusty smartphone camera, I took pictures of what I wanted, showed it to my friend and he picked them up.  Using the skills he gained from installing many doors at his home and others, he has started the process.  He says, it should take four hours.


Win 2

As our seasons change, we will have a new door along with a storm door that allows us to switch from screens to windows easily.  It's a great upgrade to our house.  


Win 3

Where do you go for your home repair work?  Do it yourself?  Hire contractors?  Do you have retired friends with the skills needed to do it well and but who don't need to charge the big bucks of a contractor?

Do you remember your first cup of coffee?


My coffee cup yesterday.
Do you remember your first cup of coffee? I remember mine.

During lunch yesterday, my wife and I talked about our first cup of coffee.  Do you remember yours?  I remember mine.  I was studying late one night with my roommate while a student at Michigan State University.  He was a coffee drinker and I was not.  As I yawned, he encouraged me to try it.  The rest is history.

I remember introducing my son to caffeine during a time when he was in grade school and when he and I would shop for groceries on Saturday.  We were at the local Meijers where they had a stand for this drink called cappuccino.  We split one.  That was it.  He's 30 and he's a coffee drinker.  I wonder if his 18-month-old son will develop a taste for the beverage.

I often wonder whether I could stop my coffee habit cold turkey.  I drink a couple of cups a day.  It's almost ritual that a coffee mug is the second thing I say hello to in the morning.  

Do I want to?  Right now, I have no reason to stop.

My week in pictures as an almost 70-year-old baby boomer

I'm often asked what I do with my time as a retiree and a member of the first class of baby-boomers who turn 70 this year.  Being empty-nesters and with no day job, we have time for neighborhood meetings.  We went to two this past week and we supported the organization we volunteer with-the local Meals on Wheels.
Water collection at the Lansing Mall.
While we walked at the Lansing Mall this week we noticed a collection point for water to give to Flint's people.


Averill Woods Neighborhood Association meeting.
Our neighborhood-Averill Woods-had a meeting Thursday night. Local police gave a report.


Walking at the Lansing Mall.
One day this week, the cold took our walking to the Lansing Mall.
Judge Clark brought pens
At one of our meetings, local District Court Judge talked to our neighborhood. He brought pens.
We attended a fundraiser at a local restaurant.
My wife and I have started delivering Meals on Wheels. They had a fundraiser this week at a local restaurant.
My meeting shirt.
I like bright yellow as I demonstrate in my going to a meeting shirt this week.

Looking back at my Vietnam era training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri

My mom and me at Fort Leonard Wood.
My mother and me pose at the Chapel at Fort Leonard Wood.

Thousands of guys went through Army training in the late sixties and early seventies at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.  I was one of them.  

It was a time of turmoil in this country as baby-boomers were faced with the draft and then with a lottery for the draft.  The Vietnam War during that time was incredibly unpopular and the perception seemed to be that anybody joining the military back then was the real enemy.

I was able to join an active U.S. Army Reserve unit in the Detroit area.  But the first requirement was to go through several months of training.  

I still remember individual drill sergeants, exercises we went on and fellow recruits I trained with.  The picture above was taken when my mom visited me at the post.  Notice the sign for the services for different denominations.


Baby-boomers: How many of you still stay in touch with your cousins?

A picture of me and my cousins.
This is a picture of me and four of my cousins. I'm not sure of the year.

I come from a very large extended family.  My mom had six brothers and five sisters and most of them had kids.  Her brothers and sisters lived near each other and they stayed in touch.

This meant that I had a lot of cousins.  Even though I was an only child, I had cousins who I would see often at family functions, especially Sunday dinners when the whole clan would get together.  My cousins had a variety of interests.  One was into cars and machines.  Another was into two-way radios, while others covered the rest of the waterfront from politics to carpentry.  A few were into playing games, like anything with cards.

As we grew-up and moved away, our contact was less and less.  Some had major life changes like losing a spouse.  One was killed in Vietnam.  They had kids and developed interests where our paths would not cross often.

Now most of us are firmly past middle age and some of us are get into the period of being full-fledged senior citizens.  We do have some contact at funerals of aunts and uncles.  But that's becoming less with only one aunt left.

Is the interest in renewing relationships still there?  With social media, it's much easier.  There's a whole lot of catching up that can still be enjoyed.

I still stay in touch with a couple.


Have you thought about the movies you want to see in 2016?

Our ticket stubs for Daddy's Home.
Only five bucks for the morning show at the mall.

It started when my wife was still teaching in the classroom.  I'd pick her up from school and we would catch an early movie and then go out for a sandwich.  

That was fun most of the time.  Occasionally, we saw some movies that were real clunkers.  We continue going when a movie piques our interest and we take advantage of the senior citizen discount.  

Last Wednesday, we saw "Daddy's Home" with Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg.  It's a story about Farrell's character who marries a woman with two children and Mark Wahlberg who was the ex-husband who comes back to reengage with his kids.  I know that the movie reflects plenty of real life situations along with the challenges.  But this looks at it with humor.  It makes you laugh and we did.

What about movies for this year, particularly during the cold months of January through March.  Two candidates are Whiskey Tango Foxtrot with Tina Fey who plays a young woman reporter going to cover the war in Afghanistan.  It's based on a true story but it looks like it has a funny side.  It comes out in early March.  Here's the trailer.



The second movie is about the famous Olympic athlete Jesse Owens who set records during the time of Hitler and World War II.  He also faced all the issues of being African American during that time.  The racism of the period was stark and it was more out in the open.  The movie is titled "Race" and it's out in February.  Here's the trailer.


Baby-boomers: Do you remember getting National Geographic in your home?


Holidays like Christmas remind me of going to my aunt and uncle's house for dinner where I would see one of my favorite things on their bookshelf.  It was the National Geographic magazine that was stacked on their bookshelf and which served as a doorway to the world from my hometown in Michigan.

At the very least, I would thumb through their collection and look at the pictures and read the cutlines to the pictures.  I learned a lot about geography then.  I learned about different countries and saw scenes that fueled my imagination.

This love for the magazine and for geography really got started when I was a lower grade student at Mt. Olive Lutheran School in Bay City where they had a bookshelf the length of the room that also housed a Webster's Unabridged Dictionary that quite often grab my attention.

The collection of National Geographics at my elementary school was huge.  During an inside recess, I could travel to just about anyplace in the world.  

During that era, you had to be recommended to get a subscription to the magazine.  Those who subscribed got a special certificate of membership with their name on it.  Now the magazine is available on supermarket newsstands and content-wise it is much thinner.



What would Barry Goldwater say about how politics is practiced in the United States in 2015?

Barry Goldwater in Bay City, Michigan.
This picture in Life magazine shows Goldwater in Bay City at a campaign stop. I'm in the back row.

I can't believe that we watched the whole Republican presidential debate this past Tuesday.  But we did.  It reminded me of the glory days of professional wrestling that would come to our town where you would see guys like Leaping Larry Chene and others make lots of noise and shake their fingers at each other.

The debate was disappointing.  These guys and one woman want to govern our country.  And all they can do is trash talk each other.  I found it impossible to pick through the bile filled words to discern the real values of any of them.  It seemed like they changed whenever convenient depending on the audience.

That wasn't the case with another presidential candidate who came to my hometown  when I was a freshman in college.  Barry Goldwater made a whistle stop to make a case for his candidacy in 1964.  I still remember it.  You could disagree with him, but he was clear and he was consistent.

He wouldn't twist his words just to get your vote.  I really respected that.  I still do, but I don't see it much anymore.

Do you like politicians who tell you what they think you want to hear or do you prefer those who are honest about what they feel based on their values?

Last night's GOP debate made me think of the Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960


Jeb Bush during last night's debate.
We watched the GOP debates last night.


We watched the whole GOP presidential debate last night on CNN.  We weren't glued to our television, but we got the gist of all the comments from the candidates.  Nothing was said that got us excited nor did we produce any extra bile from any of the feigned anger and sharp exchanges.  Best part was probably the thimble full of Baileys that we had during the whole thing.

But, it did remind me of the first presidential debate that I watched between Kennedy and Nixon in 1960 when I was a freshman in high school.  

With two buddies, John Hebert and Bill Young, we watched from the small apartment that my mother and I lived in on Marquette Street in Bay City.  The television set was black and white and it was portable.  

It was a historic moment.  That was the first time such a debate was done on live television.  Bay City was a blue collar town that had a strong identification with labor unions.  

But, there were lots of doubts about Kennedy.  It had a high proportion of Lutherans and Catholics with the Lutherans kind of wondering if the Pope might move into the White House.  Really, that was the talk among many.  During that time there was a social gap between the two groups.  The town stopped the night of the debate.  People watched and they talked about it.

That debate cinched it for Kennedy.  The contrast between he and Nixon was stark.  It was an easy choice for my neighbors.  

We didn't have the same reaction last night.  None of them on either side are moving me.  

Do you send Christmas cards, a newsletter or none at all?

Our Christmas newsletters.
I have a full file of our past Christmas newsletters.

Do you like getting Christmas cards?  Christmas newsletters?  Both?

This year are you sending cards.  More or less than past years?  And how about a newsletter?  Have you written yet and what will you include?  What do your friends and family want to read about your past year?

We've been married 34 years and we started sending out cards in year one and then our daughter came along the next year and we added a newsletter.  Then two years after that we added our son.  And we had plenty to share.  People wanted to know about the kids.

And we did a newsletter just about every year after that.  One year we tried e-maling most of them and sending paper copies to those we knew didn't have a computer.

Then we became empty-nesters, our kids got married and they had kids.  This year I will write one more newsletter.  We will email some and send some with cards.  It will include plenty about the grandkids and their parents with some reaction to engaging with life as full-fledged senior citizens.

What about you?  Have you already sent cards?  Newsletters?  None?  Received any?