March 1, 2015

A New (Temporary) Member of Our Family

Meet Adler, or Adi for short, an adorable 13 week old cocker spaniel.



She is our youngest daughter's new "baby" and couldn't be cuter or more loving. Because of her "mommy's" schedule, Adi is spending enough time at our home to qualify as an almost full time member of our family, too. Our daughter has a job that causes her to travel 14-16 weeks a year. For most of that time we anticipate being a two-dog household.

So, how does Bailey feel about a new sister? So far she tolerates Adi, gives her plenty of space, and probably wonders what is so special about her that causes the humans in Bailey's life to seem to care so much. Over time, we trust the two will become buddies and share good times together.

Bailey way in the back, wondering who took her pillow!

keeping an eye on the new kid in town

Adding another puppy to our home does mean some adjustments for us. The baby gates are back in use, keeping Adi from trying to climb the stairs, or confined to the kitchen area when we need to run some errands. Piddle pads and carpet spray are always handy, though her potty training is progressing very well. Just like a baby, we have to be attuned to her signals that she needs a bathroom break. And, double water and food bowls must be maintained for both Bailey and Adi. 

A short RV trip that was scheduled for a week ago was cancelled since the puppy can't safely be around other dogs who may or may not be current on all their shots. Plus, having a dog that isn't completely housebroken inside a motorhome sounds rather messy! After 16 weeks, when Adi has had all her shots, she can join Bailey for romps in the park and RV trips around Arizona. 

In the meantime, Betty, Bailey, and I stick close to home. The weather is perfect for lots of time in the backyard, where Adi can safely play to her heart's content. 





Actually, our puppy sitting isn't that different from being grandparents: love and enjoy our time together, but know at some point she is off to her real home and Bailey is once again queen of the castle.

Welcome, Adler, to our family and our home.


February 25, 2015

Another "Eat Your Vegetables" Article about Retirement

The title grabbed my attention: 10 Ways to Live Frugally. In the section on retirement, this article in USA Today listed ideas for cutting back spending during retirement.

Unfortunately the author used an approach I refer to as "Eat Your Vegetables," meaning the information is so basic, so much common-knowledge, it is like telling someone to stop smoking, exercise, and eat more fruits and vegetables to improve his health. There is nothing new, nothing that hasn't been suggested a million times before.

A sampling of the 10 Ways included:

* Plan carefully if you are thinking of moving
* Plan your meals for the week
* Review your cable bill
* Be a savvy grocery shopper
* Check out discounts and freebies

I am a little surprised that the list didn't include, don't walk in front of a bus, and close the windows when it is raining.. OK, that is a bit snarky. But, seriously, the best this national newspaper can come up with is review your cable bill and look for dining discounts?

Sometimes I think folks who write retirement articles are all in their 20's or 30's and look at us as if we have lost the ability to think. They present ideas as if their target reader is a class of 2nd graders. They have no clue what our life is like or what steps we have already taken to insure a satisfying retirement.

A thoughtful article on ways to cut expenses during retirement is always welcome. Cutting out waste and evaluating where our money goes are important. A recent national survey of those 65-74 suggest that we spend 43% of our money on our home and house-related expenses. 14% for transportation, 13% on food, and 11% for health costs (thank you Medicare!). 

If those numbers are accurate, nearly half our money each year goes to keeping a roof over our head and in good repair. Logically, there are substantial saving possibilities in that category alone. Everything from freezing property taxes for those over 65, or getting help with utility bills if your income is low enough to qualify, to the potential savings from installing energy efficient windows, solar panels, new siding or LED lights are worth exploring. 

My bottom line is simple: articles in national newspapers and magazines that target retirees should be putting more effort into the content. We are not simpletons that need to be told to look for coupons to save money when dining out. Give us meaningful, actionable information that isn't a simple repackaging of hackneyed, trite, and obvious material. 

Does this qualify as a rant?

February 21, 2015

Getting Off My Duff

Toward the end of last year I began to feel somewhat stale and bored. Things were going well at home and with the family. We were recently back from a great two-month RV trip to the upper Midwest. But, my days had fallen into a routine that I didn't like. The stimulation of new activities and challenges was missing. In the post, Time to Come Clean, I detailed my feelings. 

Your response was overwhelming. That post generated more feedback than anything I have written in almost 5 years of blogging. Along with a few comments that wondered what I was complaining about, the bulk of the suggestions, support, and ideas were very positive and helpful. I began to play with some ideas and ways of shaking things up.


Less than two weeks after that Betty and I joined friends Mike and Tamara Reddy at the Palm Springs Film Festival for a tremendously creative and fun-packed 5 days. Maybe that was the final push I needed to move forward. Since then I have been experiencing all the newness I craved. 

In early January I began twice a week Tai Chi lessons. The simple, low impact, and slow movements are perfect for improving my balance and flexibility. I am forcing myself to learn something completely new, and being a stumbling amateur in front of others - something I generally shy away from. The people are a nice bunch and totally accepting of beginners like me.


If I am lucky mine will look like this!

A few weeks ago Betty and I took a ceramics class together. Again, this was something I had never attempted before. Betty cautioned me to avoid the potter's wheel and attempting to turn a lump of clay into a bowl or vase since that takes quite a bit of experience and practice. But, she felt I would enjoy shaping a simple plate and spoon holder. In fact, I did, and it was fun to work alongside Betty who has done pottery before. We go back next week to glaze the final products and bring them home.


Then, last week, we attended a fascinating presentation at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts: Around the World in 80 minutes. An organization, ProMusica Arizona, is a group of nearly 100 singers and musicians who have performed 150 shows over the past eleven years. The premise for the show we attended was simple: seven different styles of music from seven different countries would be presented in 20 minute, mini-concerts, over an 80 minute period. Ticket holders pick four of the seven and rotate between venues to hear each performance.

Betty and I listened to a 60 person chorale sing beautiful South African music in the Zulu language. That was followed by a women's ensemble singing songs of Scandinavia. After a short intermission we thoroughly enjoyed a trio playing Chinese melodies, and wrapped up the afternoon with a men's group singing songs of the British Isles. 

German music played by a brass group, a full symphonic performance of Russian music, and a jazz combo with music from Brazil were also being offered, but limited to four choices, we can only guess they were every bit as good as what we heard. 

A final performance of the entire Chorale and Orchestra sent us home after a moving version of Let There Be Peace on Earth. The entire experience was tremendous. If it is ever repeated we will be the first in line to buy tickets.

On top of these activities I am taking three on-line courses: making the most of social media contacts and opportunities, an introduction to American Law, and one to help me stimulate my creativity.

I feel comfortable in saying my dip in energy and enthusiasm is past. I am off my duff and having a truly satisfying retirement again. I am living my word for this year: move, and it feels good.


February 18, 2015

The One Thing They Never Tell You About Retirement

Just a quick review of the titles of some of the top selling books about retirement paint a picture of ease and contentment. If you were just starting to think about retirement, here is what you might find available:

*You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think
*How To Retire Happy Wild and Free
*The Joy of Retirement
*Barefoot Retirement
*Living a Satisfying Retirement ( a classic !)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with these books. I have read all of them, and written one of them. They contain valuable information and practical information about this transformational time of your life.

Unfortunately, there is one part of this stage of living that most retirement books tend to overlook or downplay: this is a journey without a reliable map.

As someone who spent most of his working life traveling around the United States, have been to Europe, Canada, and Mexico a few times, and traveled almost 15,000 miles in our RV, I depend on maps. Today it is more likely to be a GPS system on the dash rather than the folding type. But, I still do all my planning with paper maps and carry a full set on any trip Betty and I take.

Imagine my shock when I retired 14 years ago and realized that there were no easily accessible, easily transportable, easily understood maps for one of the most important trips of my life. I was about to embark on a journey without any idea how to get to where I wanted to be.


 travelersjoy.com
A few years later I finally understood why there are no maps for retirement: every trip is unique and no one really knows where he is headed. The journey has never been traveled before in exactly the way you will. Kind of scary? Yes. But, quite liberating when you understand that you can't really make a mistake.

A mistake requires a "correct" or acceptable way of doing something. If I slice the ball in golf, back my RV into a picnic table, or forget to pay the water bill I have made a mistake. If I spend all my retirement money in the first five years, I would suggest that is probably a mistake.

But, when you take awhile to figure out what you want to do with your time, decide that naps in the hammock are one of God's gifts to mankind, go back to work because you want to, or enjoy a 10 mile hike at 4 in the morning,  then you can't possibly make a mistake. There are no rules that you are breaking, no normal ways of behavior that you have bypassed.

OK, there is one "mistake" you can make in retirement: allow others to tell you how to live your life. They are in no position to suggest what you should do or how you should act, for the simple reason they are not you. Even the most well meaning advice-giver can't give you the perfect road map for you.

So, the one thing that they should tell us about retirement is this: collect all the information you can, talk with anyone with something to offer, read some good books, and then strike out on your own, unique path. The only "mistake" you can make it following someone else's path.


February 14, 2015

Retirement and Your Social Network

When you read the phrase "social network" what do you think of - Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram? Is your first thought that it is past time to post some fresh pictures or read what your friends are doing and thinking?

The dictionary definition of social network agrees: a dedicated website or other application that enables users to communicate with each other by posting information, comments, messages, images, etc. 

Importantly, that is the second definition listed for the phrase, social network. The preferred explanation is the one that seems to be lost to many of us today: a network of social interactions and personal relationships.

For many in America (the only country I can speak of with any confidence) the first definition has been lost in the chatter and bustle of a permanently connected electronic leash between us and others. We are all familiar with the reality of the 24 hour a day nature of news and information. The gap between something happening and everyone being made aware of it is measured in seconds or minutes. 

I read an article on Huffpost not too long ago about a growing business: electronic detox. Attendees of these conferences are banned from cell phone, laptop, and tablet use for the weekend. The goal is twofold: to dramatically demonstrate how addicted many of us are to these devices, and to teach someone to physically talk with and respond to another human being, face-to-face.

Not surprisingly, the article mentioned the rather high dropout rate of attendees. After just a few hours, the desire to check for messages or text someone was too strong to deny. You can certainly appreciate the irony of texting someone that you are at a weekend retreat to break the hold electronics has on you. 

Regular readers know I have removed myself from Twitter. While I maintain a presence on Facebook to help promote Satisfying Retirement, my participation in the regular flow of messages and videos is minimal; the snarky, vulgar, and hateful stuff was affecting my attitude throughout the day. 

I get requests to join someone's LinkedIn network several times a week but I politely decline. Pinterest would take too much of my time to participate in a meaningful way.

The problem, then becomes, building and maintaining a meaningful social network of real people. I will be the first to admit I am a loner by nature. When you consider my 35 year career in radio that seems a little odd. Entertaining thousands of people at a time on the radio doesn't seem like a good fit. But, actually it worked well. Locked in a studio with some records and a microphone I could project a friendly, let's party type of presentation while operating completely alone and not having to really deal with many of those listeners.

In retirement, my loner nature pretty much continues. I can "behave" well in social situations. I smile, listen to others and affirm someone else whenever I can. But, I just find making many new friends to be hard work. I have lots of acquaintances and  "Hi, neighbor" type exchanges, but few close relationships.

Blogging has been good for me in this regard. I have met several new people in person who are either fellow bloggers or readers. I find those exchanges to be quite satisfying. I look forward to spending time with those folks. We share common experiences and common problems and have an easy time relating. Those friendships have blossomed into something much more than just blogging issues. 

I think as we get older friendship becomes more difficult at precisely the time they are needed the most. Work relationships fall away. Those we have known for many years move away, get sick, or die. Adult kids have their own lives and families so interaction time tends to diminish. 

There are solutions. Join a club or a group that focuses on an activity you like. Become more active in your church, something more than an hour spent in a pew Sunday mornings. Volunteer in such a way that you interact with people. Use the "other" social media to stay in touch with friends who live too far away to see anymore. Of course if your personality type leans toward being a loner, then those simple ideas don't hold much appeal or seem to work well. 

Many of my posts urge you to live your life your way. The retirement journey is personal and unpredictable. Part of the reason it is so much fun is that change is a constant. Yes, there may be periods of boredom or staleness, as I well know. But, overall the experience for most of us is quite positive.

So, my question to you is this: social networks and interacting are positive. The benefits of being with others is well documented. But, what if you are happier being alone, or primarily with your spouse? There are a handful of people you enjoy spending time with, but you are just as happy with a book, the back porch, and sunshine. Is that wrong? Is that approach meaning I am losing out on joyful interactions with others? Am I shortchanging myself by claiming to be happiest with my own company (and Betty's) or am I being true to myself?

Your thoughts and experiences are encouraged.