LOSING YOUR JOB WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND – Marilyn Armstrong

A lot of people figure that everyone “retires” on their own terms in their proper time. That hasn’t been true in our world. Certainly not in Garry and my world. Garry lost his job because the company he worked for decided to move on without “the old guy.” I lost my job because my bosses son needed one.

Many of the people I know were “laid off” which feels exactly the same as getting fired, except there’s no legal reason for it. They just feel like doing it. In Garry’s case, it was clearly age-related. In mine, it was just smarmy.

I’ve known at least half a dozen people who got forced out of jobs they’d held for as long as 40 years. They had no preparations for retirement, no significant saving, and no plans. They all figured they’d work until they hit the official “date” … but it didn’t turn out like that. Not even close.


All the awards you want … but no pension you can live on.


Garry, after 31 years at channel 7, was shown the door in literally five minutes. When he came home, he looked like he’d been bludgeoned. I should mention that Owen lost his job during the same week. It was a hell of a week.

I hadn’t been at that job for very long, but the boss had me “showing the kid” how to do the job. Sneaky. I was in my 60s. There wasn’t another job waiting for me and I was ill.

For two years, we lived on what Garry got as his union payout. No medical insurance — and I kept getting sicker. He was miserable too. He was terribly depressed and demoralized — while I was wondering if I was going to die.

He went to rehab. I found a doctor who would treat me for free and actually invented a surgery to “fix” me because I was very broken. We had no money. To keep afloat for those two years before Garry got his pension and I got disability, we refinanced the house multiple times which bloated the mortgage payment to an impressive amount we couldn’t pay. There was the HARP Program — which Obama started. The problem? The bank didn’t have to let you into the program. Great program, but all you could do was beg. Weird, right?

I had been negotiating with them for months. When finally I got cancer in both breasts, I called and said, “Well, now I have cancer. Can we please get into the program?” I think I actually shamed a banker because a couple of months later, our mortgage payment dropped by $1000 a month. That was the beginning of survival.

I found a doctor who treated me for free. A hospital that never asked for payment. A bank program that cut our mortgage in half. Finally, Garry started getting Social Security and his (very small) pensions … and I finally got Social Security Disability. We went from having no money (blessings on food banks everywhere) to almost being able to make it through a month.

I remember the day when we no longer needed the food bank. It was a small, but meaningful triumph.

Garry stopped drinking. I didn’t die.

These days, when I hear how people are melting down over getting laid off from their jobs and basically losing everything. I’m sympathetic … but mostly, I figure they’ll get over it. Not immediately. Eventually.

You have to get over it. It’s a terrible time. We went for two years without any income. None. Zero. Nothing. Whatever little we had put away disappeared. Somehow, we survived and damned if I know how. I got any help I could from anyone who gave help. I don’t even know how I did it.  We are both alive — and we still have the house. At some point, Mass Health (our version of Medicaid) kicked in. It was the idea on which Obama built his medical plan.

It was designed by our Republican governor. That’s one of many reasons it baffles me that the GOP has been so against it. It was their program.

When this was taken, I weighed 93 pounds. An XXS was too big for me. I wore a size zero and it was loose. It was not an attractive look.

Most people don’t get to retire like in the movies, with or without the gold watch. We get ditched, usually around age 59, typically 6 months before pensions fully vest.

For all of you who got dumped because you got “too old,” yes it was illegal to let you go. It’s call ageism, but it’s done all the time. You can sue, but unless you’ve got money to live on while you sue, by the time you get paid off — and you will get paid off — you’ll be up to your lip in debt.

Did we have mental meltdowns? Sure we did. That’s why Garry needed rehab. I would have been more melted down, but I was trying to save my life and it was sheer luck I bumped into a doctor who introduced me to another doctor who took me in. I was days from my demise by then.

I developed a sort of yellow-green complexion. Which was also not very attractive

If you have had a life calamity and everything gets taken away, it will take a couple of years before you pull yourself together. It’s not just your finances that take a hit. Your soul gets maimed. Your self-esteem goes down the tubes.

When anti-medical care legislators say “no one dies from lack of medical care,” that’s bullshit. Lots of people die without care. They don’t get written up because they aren’t in the hospital or seeing a doctor. They just die. Kids, old people, and all the others in the middle.

Why am I talking about this?

Because those of us who had this terrible disaster overwhelm us need to know we aren’t alone. It wasn’t just us. It’s lots and lots of people many of whom used to be solidly middle class before their world collapsed.

So try to remember one thing:


It gets better. Somehow, some way, it gets better.


WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

The Senior Issue, by Rich Paschall

Recently a friend of mine commented that if Congress cut Social Security and Medicare, they will see a lot of angry seniors vote them out of office.  Many Republicans promised to do just that before the last election.  If they maintain control of both houses, they almost certainly will do it now.  The problem here is why would seniors wait to see if something bad is going to happen before taking action?

While seniors historically vote in larger percentage than other age groups, there are still many who stay home as if the election does not matter.  Yes, some are physically unable to vote and do not get any help to get to the polls or vote by mail.  Others are victims of political actions attempting to deny them the vote.  But for many, the excuse is the same as other age groups, “My vote doesn’t really matter.”

Of course it matters.  In the coming midterms it matters a lot for seniors and those about to reach retirement age.  The Republican party has targeted what they term “entitlements” as a reason for the deficit and hope to cut back on them.  You may recall, however, this same group of legislatures engineered a massive tax cut that primarily benefited corporations and the one percent, and resulted in a deficit of almost a trillion dollars at this writing.

It is often repeated, but seems to fall on deaf Republican ears, that Social Security and Medicare are not “entitlements.”  These programs are not some sort of hand-out to seniors and the disabled.  We paid into these programs for all our working lives. We didn’t have a choice, either. We have the right expect to receive back the pensions (Social Security) and medical coverage (Medicare) we were promised.

Then along come Republican legislators who have their pensions and medical care secured for their retirement, and now plan to cut yours.  Their campaign promises should not be dismissed lightly.  They are coming after your retirement savings, which they control.

In the federal budget, Social Security, Unemployment and Labor are the largest piece of “mandatory spending.”  Military is the largest piece of “discretionary spending.”  The military spending for 2016 was 36 percent of the global total, or more than the next 8 nations combined.  If you suggest we could cut military spending, Republicans will paint you as un-American.

There is something important to be noted about the Social Security payments.  They are covered by the SS Trust Fund.  The money we have been paying for years goes into a trust to pay out when you retire.

According to Marketwatch, “For the first time since 1982, Social Security has to dip into the trust fund to pay for the program this year.”  If revenue has more than covered payouts for many years, what is the problem, exactly?

No, the feds are not “raiding” or “stealing” from the fund as some suggest.  They did that under Reagan. If there were more money, they’d still be “borrowing” it. Note: Do they not understand the concept that “borrowing” implies returning the money at some point?

It also indicates a lack of budgetary knowledge.  There are ways to make the fund viable well beyond the projected 2034 date currently being given as when Social Security won’t be able to cover 100 percent of payments. But that’s another issue.

The point of concern for seniors now is that the Republican Congress wants to cut payouts now as if Social Security is adding to the deficit, rather than the loss of revenue due to tax breaks for the very rich.

Republican Ronald Reagan told us that Social Security had nothing to do with the deficit, something current Republicans likely do not want to hear.

In 2017, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, one of the poorest states in the nation, told us that the tax cuts for the wealthy would pay for themselves. Now he says of the increasing deficit “It’s a bipartisan problem: Unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”  And according to McConnell those “real drivers” are “Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.”

Really. And all that money we paid in? Where did that go?

In fact, a whole host of leading Republicans have promised to cut these programs as early as next year.  There is no reason to believe that they don’t intend to do it.  If they maintain control of both houses, they can fast-track these ideas and cut the social program virtually every administration since Franklin Roosevelt has vowed to protect … except for this one.

If your thoughts are that they would not dare do such a thing to a large voting block, you had better think again.  They have shown a willingness to serve the one percent at the expense of everyone else, so why would they not cut these programs if they have the votes to do so?  If you are here in the US and are a registered voter, you have a voice in this.

I suggest you use your vote.  You may regret sitting out this one.

In order to try to keep the votes of the many seniors who voted “red” last time out, the Republicans are engaging in scare tactics.  “The Democrats’ plan means that after a life of hard work and sacrifice, seniors would no longer be able to depend on the benefits they were promised,” President Trump recently wrote for USA Today.

The column, however, was filled with “false and unsubstantiated claims” according to NPR.  Of course, that will not matter in Trump country if his followers believe the lies and vote for those who will ultimately cut their benefits.


While I have used this space for social commentary a number of times, I don’t like to give up my Sunday space for a political piece (satire and fiction aside). I thought this was too important to not speak up.

I also didn’t want to make this look like a research paper but I thought it was important to show this was not merely a political rant, but a serious issue for most Americans.

Remember: You may be young now, but you won’t be forever.


Here’s a list of references you can check:

“Dozens of black senior citizens ordered off bus taking them to vote,” October 16, 2018, thehill.com
“Voter-Suppression Tactics in the Age of Trump,” October 29,2018 issue, newyorker.com
“U.S. Budget Deficit Swells to $898 Billion, Topping Forecast,” September 13, 2018, bloomberg.com
“The Top 15 Countries For Military Expenditure In 2016,” Niall McCarthy, forbes.com
“Social Security to tap into trust fund for first time in 36 years,” June 6, 2018, marketwatch.com
“Policy Basics: Understanding the Social Security Trust Funds,” June 29, 2018, Center On Budget and Policy Priorities, cbpp.org
“McConnell eyes cuts to Medicare, Social Security to address deficit,” October 16, 2018, msnbc.com
“GOP Revives Medicare Scare Tactics As Election Nears,” shots, Health News from NPR, npr.org, October 30, 2018.
“Trump’s False Claims On ‘Medicare For All’,” Fact Check, npr.org, October 10, 2018.

PLEASE DON’T LET THE CHIMNEY FALL ON YOUR HEAD – Marilyn Armstrong

Life is killing all of us, but it seems to be killing some of us faster than others. Maybe it just seems that way.

Mystery bricks are falling

Right now, my house is killing me. When we moved in here, we put up a new roof. We put up vinyl siding. We put in French drains. We removed the old rotting back sliding doors and put in French doors. We replaced all the toilets and sinks. We painted almost every room, though it took another ten years to get around to the floors. We never got to that kitchen restoration or repaving the driveway. Both are still on my agenda (ha, right, sure).

Meanwhile, we are doing what we can. We installed the new roof in 2000 — 18 years ago. It is in reasonably good shape.

Mayflowers – in May!

And of course, there’s the heating unit. It  was installed 12 years before we moved in. Add another 18 years we’ve lived here and suddenly, you’re looking at a moderately well-maintained 30-year-old boiler.

The front door is in round three as of last summer and just got its first layer of paint on the inside yesterday. It was my mother’s day present along with Owen putting together my new Oreck vacuum cleaner which, though they promised me it was better than the old one, apparently is exactly the same. Isn’t there some kind of bad joke about women who get vacuum cleaners for mother’s day?

The new – identical to old – Oreck vacuum cleaner. Turns out, I’ve got a spare in the attic I can use for extra parts.

Have I mentioned that advertisers lie? It is almost exactly the same machine with a bigger motor and a fancier handle, but the main difference is that it says “Commercial” on the box.

We replaced the steps to the deck right before I got to where going up that many steps was no longer an option. We put in a stair lift, but it needs some kind of fixing. It works, but only sometimes.

The el cheapo flooring with which we replaced the ratty old rugs is beginning to peel and the house needs painting … which is not happening anytime soon.

Ever, actually.

A few days ago, bricks from the chimney landed on the front stoop which I commented was “not a good thing.” We don’t own one of those old charming houses with 12-foot ceilings and tall windows. This is a 1970s bread box of a house that is getting old and tired. It’s not a bad place to live, mind you … but charming? Not so much.

When they say “They don’t build’em like they used to” they are NOT referring to this house.  They build houses today exactly like this, only worse. Regardless, all houses need repair and maintenance which costs money. Unless you are luckier than most seniors and have money.

We had a bit, for a while but it paid for the restored septic system and the well. Last week, we had to add a replacement window and a substantial piece of the house’s front wall. There are lots of other damp spots on the house. Turns out, vinyl siding is not a cure-all for your house. It looks good, but it doesn’t mean the walls underneath aren’t damp or crumbling. It is, as the pest control guy said, “cosmetic.”

See the round white thing in the sidewalk? That’s the well-head.

We are on round three (or is it four?) of the hot water heater. It’s an expensive one because it runs through the boiler and keeps the boiler working all year round. If it didn’t do that, our heating system would croak.

I live in holy dread of having to replace the heating system. We are way beyond wood. No one able to chop it and haul it into the house not to mention that buying wood is not cheap.

They were new just one year ago … time flies!

I also need new glasses. Wouldn’t you think weaker glasses would cost less than stronger ones? I’m here to tell you it isn’t true. Although larger size clothing always costs more, petite clothing never costs less. So it also goes with glasses.

Politically, the country is revolting and three are too many stupid people living in it. They are busily trying to take away the few things that are keeping us alive.

I’m curious about what they think they will do with the vast majority of aging baby boomers if they take away Medicare, Medicaid, low-cost senior housing, food stamps, et al. We’ll have entire cities full of grumpy, pissed off sickly boomers mugging you. Not for your wallet but because they are in a really lousy mood and they don’t like your face.

I’m not sure what is going to finally kill us. It might be keeping the house, trying to get up the stairs, a stroke, heart attack, cancer. Who knows? We’re all going to go sometime. Most of us would prefer to do it in a heated house with dogs, WiFi and a modern television. And computers, too.

Never underestimate how lethally angry a senior can get. Or how dangerous. We’ve got nothing left to lose except what remains of our crumbling chimneys, so we might as well enjoy clubbing people who think they are immune to “the bad stuff” in life.

IS THERE MORE MONEY THAN MONTH? OR MORE MONTH THAN MONEY? – Marilyn Armstrong

Depletion is our current financial state. This is because this is the time when we pay the mortgage.

It’s The Big Bill of the Month and it pretty much sucks us completely dry until the next fly by of Social Security. We get through the month, but there is usually more month than money. They would have to take away at least a week of month (and probably add one more check) to make it come out even.

I am also contemplating whether or not having taken — as of this morning — THREE antibiotics and a good deal of Flovent — if I am improved from yesterday. I thought when I could get up from the john without a sky hook and grabbing onto the sink, I must be better. But I don’t feel better right now and going back to bed sounds way too yummy.

Regardless, I need to sit up for a while. Drainage. Garry’s sore throat is gone. Now he feels bad everywhere. Welcome to my world.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I actually had to put the drugs from the doctor on a credit card yesterday. I hate that. The clouds are piling up, the temperature is dropping and we are getting sleet for the weekend.

How is this fair? I ask you? Okay, don’t make me rich. Just make me warmer. Make a few flowers bloom.

Is that too much to ask?