May 30, 2011

A Blogger's Code of Conduct

RJ Walters is a busy blogger. I count six different avenues for his creativity to be expressed. I list his Waiting 4 God under "My Favorites Blogs."  Frankly, I have a hard time keeping up with just this blog. How he finds the time to manage and freshen half a dozen, I have no clue. One day I noticed something labeled Code of Conduct at the top of his Red Letter Living blog. He bases this on the words of Jesus, hence the red letter title.

RJ, who is a regular commenter on Satisfying Retirement, has posted what he expects from those who visit his site. I have no idea how many of his readers check "the code" before proceeding, but I did and found the inspiration for today's post. What follows are his words, followed by some of my thoughts. I am trusting he won't mind.

RJ's Code of Conduct:

I welcome your comments to anything I say. But I will not allow others to use my blog to vent their bitterness. As long as you comment by the code below I will post them for others to see.

All bloggers decide if they want to permit comments to be left after a post. Some decide the blog is more of a personal journal, so someone else's comments don't really fit. But, most blogs encourage and actively solicit comments...I do.

It is certainly OK to disagree with a blogger. It wouldn't be very interesting if every comment simply echoed whatever the post was about and agreed with everything that was said. A different point of view can open up a meaningful exchange of ideas and solutions to problems.

But, if you spend anytime at all reading blogs, you have probably come across comments that are downright nasty. The blogger's ideas aren't just disputed, but the attacks become personal. Name-calling and denigrating someone's honesty or integrity take place. RJ spells out what he considers the basic rules you should follow if you expect him to allow your comment to see the light of day. Being a Christian, RJ bases his code of conduct on a few principals in the Bible, hence the references at the end of each of his three "rules." Whatever your feelings about religion, I would doubt you can disagree with what he asks of his contributors:

• I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the this online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree—even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I wish this simple statement was one more of us followed in our daily life, not just when leaving a comment on a blog. I am afraid the concept of respectful disagreement is being drowned out by the shouts and rants of angry people, fully believing he who yells the loudest and longest wins.

 
• I will express my disagreements with other community members’ ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I am not sure American politics in 2011 could function if RJ's code was enforced nationwide. To run for virtually any elected office means inviting the worst type of personal name-calling and slanderous accusations from those who disagree. Mockery and insults are the preferred tools in public discourse.

I will not exaggerate others’ beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

Extending the benefit of the doubt means someone accepts the possibility that he may be wrong and the other person may be right. It means accepting that, as a human being, each of us has incomplete knowledge. We are not infallible.

This is not a subject that is exclusive to bloggers or retirees. It is an important topic for everyone. Common decency, or open and constructive debate are held hostage by the extreme fringes on either side of an issue. Trying to reach a consensus is required in a democracy. For whatever reason those yelling the loudest about freedom are those least likely to grant it to those who may disagree with them.

RJ's code of conduct would be a great starting point for a lot more than just comments left on his blog.

OK - notice I am inviting comments. Fire away!

May 27, 2011

Summer Kickoff: Enjoy!

Memorial Day weekend is considered by most to be the start of the summer season. Our family will have big brunch and family day here at the house on Monday. With a father and son-in-law who served in the Navy for several years we will also pause to honor our service men and women.

To help get you in the mood for this weekend, I've assembled a bunch of summertime hits from Youtube. Turn up your speakers on the computer or iPad and get in the mood. I'll probably get a bit more serious with the next post on Tuesday. Have a great weekend.



















and finally, believe it or not, this is ranked as the #1 song for the entire 1960's decade on many charts, topping anything by the Beatles or any other musical acts of that decade.



There you go...the summer of 2011 is officially underway. What songs do you associate with summer and good times? Leave a list and I'll do part two for July 4th weekend.

May 26, 2011

A New Look

Maybe it is a case of summertime fever, or maybe just because I like to try new things.

Whatever the case, here is the new look for Satisfying Retirement.

Also, if you are attempting to navigate here, you can now simply type in satisfyingretirement.com and be directed straight to the blog. There isn't even a need to add the www or http:// at the beginning.

By the way, the photo shows a sunrise, the beginning of an exciting new phase of life.

May 23, 2011

Simple Living: One Room at a Time

Summer is when I tend to tie up loose ends in my life, reassess where I am going on my satisfying retirement journey, and tackle inside projects. Most folks think of summer as the time to turn off the brain, relax, and be outdoors as much as possible. BarBQs, gardening, hiking, bike riding.....almost anything that means leaving the house. Phoenicians, on the other hand, tend to look for reasons to stay inside and away from the heat. Think of it this way: our summer is your winter without the snow.

For the last few years my wife and I have been slowly decluttering and simplifying our living spaces. We have cut out things like newspapers and most TV viewing  that were not contributing to our quality of life. We gave away two bookshelves worth of books. We have expanded the amount of time we volunteer, but cut the number of organizations that receive part of our time. 

This summer I am going room by room thinking about what should go. Betty is actually leading the charge this year, looking to declutter with a vengeance. If you are a simple living convert, or leaning that way, maybe some of what we noticed will spur you into action. Let's take a closer look at a few rooms:

Not my office, but you get the idea

 My office and closet have become cluttered, full of things I don't use very often, and a dust bunny's heaven. Even though I gave away hundreds of books last year, there remain at least fifty that simply sit on the bookcase or on my desk. This is a no-brainer: more of the books must go.

I have a credenza that does one thing: supports a printer. There are six drawers that contain virtually nothing. So, do I get rid of the credenza or make better use of the drawers to clean off other surfaces? That will take some thought.

There is a clothes closet in the office (since it used to be a bedroom). Off season clothes, sports coats, dress slacks, and ties are kept in there. It is jammed. I have a hard time getting anything in or out. I own 14 sport coats and wear each one maybe once every 3 years. There are 15 sweaters in there somewhere. Each one is worn once a year. Two dozen ties hang in a corner. The only time in the last 10 years I have worn a tie is to a funeral or memorial service. Clearly this closet is destined for a major thinning out. I'll keep the best six sports coats, two or three ties and a few sweaters. The rest get donated.

I'm off to a good start.

Betty's office and closet are home to a woman with more projects, creativity, ideas, and scraps of paper than any human should have to juggle at once. A bomb couldn't create a bigger jumble than what is in there now. Just to use the computer mouse one must navigate around a few dozen sticky notes,  some yellow legal pads, stacks of papers, opened mail, and a few catalogs. Her closet has more art supplies, paints, papers, pens, clipboards, and bits of this and that than a well-equipped hobby store.

As I type this she is moving every single thing out of the office, down the stairs, and into the garage. Spackle and paint cans are about to be brought in. Ikea catalogs are consulted and trips to the Container Store happen with increasing frequency. Her office and closet are being completely reworked with the goal to simplify, streamline, and maintain only what is part of her life now. If something isn't going to be actively used over the next six to eight months it will not survive in this space.

The master bedroom has a nice easy chair and ottoman in front of a television. Big problem: the TV has been disconnected and the chair is used to hold yesterday's clothes before they make it to the hamper. Clearly, this arrangement makes no sense. There is a stereo with CD player and speakers for listening to music, but that almost never happens. The room is quiet and the chair is comfortable so this could be a great place to read, if only there was a place to put a reading lamp.

This is going to take some serious thought. We are wasting a nice piece of furniture, electronic equipment, and a quiet environment. Clearly the television set can go. It hasn't been on for 5 months. The stand it sits on needs to leave. But, what to do with the chair and the need for better light? At the moment, I don't know.

Just like the closets in our offices, too many clothes are jammed into too little space in the bedroom. A few days ago I looked at all my shirts-polo, Hawaiian, dress, and T-shirts. I realized there was probably a third of them I didn't like, were old and torn, or hadn't been worn in a few years. I knew if they were not there I would never miss them.

Gone.

You have just read over 800 words and I haven't made it downstairs yet. I have targeted just three rooms so far, but have enough donated stuff to fill my car twice. Living spaces where Betty and I spend a good part of each day are being declutterd and simplified in a way that improves the quality of our lives and helps others in the process. This has been a good start to our summer.


How about you? Have you ever taken each room in your home, condo or apartment and made everything justify its continued existence? If your possessions could speak would they be able to convince you they should stay where they are...or would you only hear the sounds of silence?

May 20, 2011

Because I Have Always Done it That Way

Like a lot of folks I enjoy gardening. Or, at least I enjoy the end result of gardening: a backyard that is pretty to look at and relaxing to be in. Spending time weeding, watering, and planting is decent physical exercise. As long as I remember to put on enough sun screen it is also a safe activity, even in the Arizona sun.


Over the years my wife and I have changed a plain-Jane backyard with nothing put a few scraggly bushes and lots of grass into a mini oasis. While there is still more I would like to remove, fully 30% of the original lawn has been replaced with flower beds, trees, and bushes. Over time those bushes have been converted to low water, low maintenance plants.

We had a Ramada built, expanded the original porch to add a dining/sitting area, rigged up a small fountain to provide the relaxing sound of falling water, and made sure the view from windows was colorful and engaging. It has been a 10 year process but we are happy with the result. It has become part of my satisfying retirement lifestyle.

One of the steps I have taken every year about this time is to pull out all the winter/spring flowers from about forty pots. Then I replant with something that will survive an Arizona summer. There are a handful of flowering plants that can tolerate 105 degrees for 4 months and still look pretty. Yes, all those pots have to be watered every single day, but I like the idea that the backyard would still be a full of color.

Proving that it is never too late to learn, I stopped before replanting all those pots again last weekend. It occurred to me that Betty and I rarely sit outside from now until late September. It is just too darn hot. We can be on the porch for 30-40 minutes in the early morning to read the paper along with our morning coffee or tea. But, since we no longer get a daily newspaper even that brief period to enjoy all those flowers doesn't exist.

So, why exactly was I going to spend the money on plants, potting soil, and fertilizer? Why was I going to commit myself to at least 30 minutes every day watering those flowers? Why was I going to have to set up a complicated system of timers and tubing to water all the pots while we were out of town on vacations? Why? Because that's what I have done in mid-May for the  twenty-six years we have lived in Phoenix. No matter that I don't enjoy spending the money or putting in the effort. I have a schedule and I am following it.

That is, until, I considered the alternative: don't do it. I have the choice to not follow my routine if it no longer fulfills the purpose it once did. I could pull out the spring flowers and leave the pots empty. What a sense of freedom! I felt as if I had discovered a great, new truth: we could go all summer without mindless, purposeless work. Amazing.

The point is quite simple: often we do something one way because we have always done it that way. But, that doesn't make it the only way, even the best way.

From time to time there is tremendous value in reviewing how you live your life or what has become habitual behavior. I would not be surprised if, like me, you discover there are things you do that you really don't like to do anymore. There are ways you structure your day, or seasonal things you have always done that have become a drag on how you chose to live now.

I guess one of the signs that my mind is still functioning at a decent level is my ability to call a halt to the pointless pot planting every summer. I won't dwell on the fact that I probably haven't enjoyed it for the last decade, and instead think about what I am going to plant next fall.


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May 17, 2011

You Can Retire- Can You Rework?

Why would anyone want to work after retiring from a full time job or career? Didn't you spend all those years commuting, toiling away at a desk or factory floor, teaching kids who would rather be on the playground instead of a classroom, or dealing with insensitive customers so you could walk away from all that and enter that magic time of life called retirement? Isn't a satisfying retirement lifestyle all about never getting a paycheck again?

For an increasing number of Baby Boomers the answer is a resounding, "No!" The long-held image of retirement being a period of total leisure, only broken up by a round of golf and a nap, is really a cliché. Now, many of us are seeing retirement as simply another phase of our life that probably includes some form of work.

A satisfying retirement seems to mean something very different for those approaching or just entering retirement age than it did for earlier generations. True, retirees have always volunteered in droves and taken classes in art or photography. They have flown to Las Vegas or Paris and explored the world. They have helped raise grand kids. But, by and large, what they didn't do was work.

Welcome to a new retirement. While reliable figures are hard to come by some studies suggest up to half of all Baby Boomers plan on working ....after leaving work. Is this the new normal of retirement? The reasons are as varied as the people, but some common motivations are evident:

Want extra money/extra income. It isn't news that the economic mess of the last few years did a real number on folks' retirement accounts. Investments and home equity have disappeared faster that the Cubs' hopes of winning the World Series. Many boomers have left themselves in terrible straits with an average of less than $50,000 saved for retirement. That means many must work to make enough money to supplement an average social security payment of $1,200 each month. Even without $4 gas that doesn't stretch very far.

For others, the extra income is the "extra" that allows for a nicer lifestyle, vacations,  giving money to children and grandkids, the latest iPad, a nice meal at a fancy restaurant once a week...all the things that make someone happy but would bust a budget without some additional income.

Want the benefits that come with working. For a lot of retirees, the benefits that come with certain jobs are either essential, or a welcome perk. A decent health insurance plan is the new gold standard of job benefits. It is likely you know someone, maybe even yourself, who has taken a job strictly for the health insurance.

Want the social interaction that can occur while working. A lot of folks miss the daily contact with others. "Water cooler talk" isn't just a clever phrase, it is an important part of staying connected. Even with a fabulous relationship with a spouse or partner, having the larger universe of co-workers can be a real attraction.

Want to stay physically and mentally active. Of course, working doesn't guarantee a stimulating environment. There are folks who are at a job simply to pay the bills. They may find the working life deadly dull, but necessary. For others,  the physical boost and mental stimulation that comes from some type of work is a real plus. My part time job as a tour guide for visiting business people to the Phoenix area allows me to be outside in beautiful places, helping others enjoy something new and exciting in their lives.

Want to give more structure to the day. Humans crave structure. We gravitate to social structure in families or relationships. We live with a governmental structure and the rule of laws because pure anarchy doesn't work. We divide our day into artificial units of measure we call time. For many, when a regular schedule based on employment ends, chaos begins. Minutes, hours, even whole days seem to vanish without us being able to remember what we did. Having a job, even a part time one, can reestablish a structure to the day. There is an obligation to be somewhere, doing something that others count on.

Want to use knowledge and experience in a positive way. For many, leaving the work world means no more chance to share what you leaned over your working years. Whatever skills or knowledge you gained will stop when you do. True, volunteering is a valid way to put your skills to very good use. But, if that isn't enough for you, then re-entering the work force can give you the opportunity to put your years of experience back into action.



I find it fascinating that this whole area of working after retirement has become so important to so many. This interest is yet another indication that old stereotypes of what makes a satisfying retirement are undergoing a radical adjustment.

There have always been folks who retired and then got another job to help stretch pension checks or to stay busy. But, as this post notes, today the reasons often have less to do with the money and more to do with the satisfaction that holding a job brings. In the next post of this series I'll look at various ways a retiree can re-join, re-work, and re-occupy his or her time.

Where do you stand in the re-work world? Have you retired only to un-retire? Why did you find employment again? Has it been good or bad for you? What do you think your future will look like?

If you have yet to retire, do you think retirement is a concept that is no longer valid? Do you plan on working until you drop? Why?


Related Posts

May 15, 2011

The Late Night Knock

Regular readers know I was a radio DJ for part of my career. While no longer a job choice that inspires any reaction at all, being a disc jockey on a rock and roll radio station in the 1960's and 70's was a fairly big deal. Your picture was on the weekly list of top 40 hits. You were asked to introduce Aerosmith or Rod Stewart or Jethro Tull in front of thousands at a concert. Supermarkets wanted you to cut the ribbon that marked the opening of a new store. People wanted your picture or autograph. Everyone wanted to know if you knew Casey Kasem of American Top 40 fame.

At some point you grow up and realize playing records isn't much of a life. Being hounded by 15 year old girls is no longer fun. Aging DJ's are not in high demand. But, for a time..........


The knocking on the heavy, gray, wooden door was insistent even though it was well after hours, long after anyone should expect an answer at this address. Except for one rather forlorn street light a block away and a dim bulb by the outside entrance, this corner of the city was growing dark and deserted. Deserted, with the exception of whoever was knocking.


In a small room, with blaring music and soundproof glass, the resolute pounding would never be heard. The outside world didn’t exit. Here was equipment, small, scratched, vinyl records in organized stacks, a dangling microphone, walls covered with faded photos and posters of musicians, some important, some not. Every few minutes a switch was thrown and a voice spoke a few words heard by hundreds or maybe thousands of invisible ears. Only the non-stop blinking buttons on the battered, black, desk phone and the glow of various lights and switches assured the voice that what he was saying was not going unnoticed.

Eventually, the person in that isolated room was required to leave the private space and wander down a short hall to look at a few meters and dials. The people who owned all the equipment and the government bureaucrats who held the power of continued operation required such a trip. The transmitting equipment was temperamental and needed to be checked every hour. A few scans of the various measurements, a hastily scribbled signature on an official looking form, and it was time to stride quickly back to the private space before silence replaced the blare of the latest pop hit.

But, just at that moment, during those few seconds of the journey back down the corridor when the front entrance was only a few yards away and within hearing, the knocking began anew. The person stopped, judged how much longer the song on the turntable had to play, and headed toward the sound. Not thinking about any potential danger, the fact that he was totally alone in the building, or who might be asking for attention, he unlocked and swung open the door.

Before him stood a twelve year or thirteen year old girl, all alone, wearing shorts, a blouse, and an expectant expression. She glanced quickly at the person who answered the door, and asked ‘Is Bobby Sherman here? Can I see him?” Wanting to laugh, but realizing the young woman was serious, the person gave her the response she probably expected. “I’m sorry but he’s busy on the air. Can I give him a message for you?” Muttering her first name and a song request for a piece of music that was played every 60 minutes anyway, she was assured “Bobby” would be told of her desire. She smiled, walked away satisfied, and the front door again locked out reality.

It was at that moment I began to truly understand the power of radio, the power of the voice behind the microphone and the ability of the medium to communicate and motivate. For you see, the person who answered the door was “The Real Bob Sherman,” my on-air name at a top 40 station in Syracuse New York in 1969. The Bobby Sherman the young listener wanted to meet was not me. He was the man who had released several hit records and was the star of his own television show, “Here Comes The Bride.” The fact that the same person was not likely to be the night DJ at a radio station in upstate New York never entered the youngster’s mind. Through the incredible power of radio to stimulate her imagination, it was completely logical and possible that her fantasy was inside that building.


As I closed the door and went back to the studio just in time to start the latest two minute hit single by the Grassroots, or Tommy Roe, it really hit me: I have the power to create a world for my listeners completely separate from reality. Any thought of ever changing career paths or finding a more stable industry was gone.


This is a glimpse into a world that no longer exists, but was tremendously exciting and fulfilling for a young man just finding his stride in life. Some 40 years later my satisfying retirement is in part based on that night and what it taught me.

May 13, 2011

Cutting the Cord : How's That Working Out?

About two months ago I fulfilled a New Year's promise to eliminate cable TV from our house. A 20% price increase in March was the final straw. With only a few hours a week spent watching the tube, it seemed an easy decision to make.

Not so fast.

Because there were still a few shows my wife and I enjoy, plus the occasional big news story (like Osama bin Laden's death) I didn't want to go without the ability to watch some live television programming. Because free broadcasts of all local stations are available with an antenna that was the route I chose. After doing some Internet research an amplified digital TV antenna was selected. I mounted the antenna in the living room, aimed it toward the antenna farm just south of downtown Phoenix and sat down to enjoy free programming.

Immediately, I realized I had forgotten an important step: programming the television to find my local stations. After locating the instruction book and poking around for a few minutes I found the steps to take. A few minutes later the TV told me it had found 42 signals. Wow!  42 signals and all free!

Yes, there are 42 signals but almost half of them are in Spanish, a language I do not speak or understand. OK, so now there are 24 signals. Of those, 4 show weather 24 hours a day.  So, now I am down to 20 watchable signals. Well, not quite. Two of the digital channels assigned to the local PBS station aren't being used. And three of the channels that are used show up twice in the lineup of choices. Subtract all that and I have 15 watchable channels. The networks and a few independent stations are streaming into my set.

The first thing I notice is how incredible the pictures look. For the first time I am seeing  High Definition quality pictures. Cable companies have to compress and squeeze what they send down the wires so much that what they call HD is not. The network pictures I am now seeing are stunning. I turn off the set and go about my day.

A few hours later, after dinner, I turn on the set ready to impress Betty with what we are getting. Suddenly, half of the channels that came in so clearly earlier in the day have disappeared. I move the antenna a few inches and they come back...while the ones  we were just watching disappear. I jiggled some more, same thing. I finally find the exact spot to get the channel carrying the show we want to watch.

Halfway through the hour, the signal freezes, flutters, and sputters. I haven't touched the antenna, the house hasn't shifted, and as far as i know the antennas on South Mountain haven't fallen down. It is a bit windy. Could that be the reason?

Not one to give up that easily, I purchase 50 feet of coax cable, run it up the living room wall and over the second floor railing. Betty is thrilled with the new look. I put the antenna up on the second floor landing, re-program the TV set and find 38 signals. Half are Spanish, the weather channels are all there, and everything looks good. Twenty minutes later the signal disappears from the channel we are watching. I run upstairs and move the antenna an inch this way or that, re-locate the signal, and settle in to watch the rest of the show. The next night, the same routine is repeated, though this time I can only receive 3 usable signals.

My eldest daughter lives in the southeast part of the Phoenix metro area. From her home to the antennas is a straight shot with nothing in the way. She uses a small, inexpensive, digital antenna had rarely has any problems. She can receive everything I can, plus 6 more stations I have never picked up, as well as several from Tucson, 100 miles south of her. My home has a mountain and downtown Phoenix between me and the TV towers. I am beginning to sense a serious flaw in my plan.

For whatever reason, when the federal government required all TV signals to become digital they also insisted that the power of those signals be drastically reduced from what they had been during analog TV days. That means that digital TV signals are extremely finicky. This may be an exaggeration., but I think that even a large bird flying through the sky in front of my house can disrupt that signal. As I have noted if the antenna isn't aimed exactly right, no picture is received. And, I mean exactly. Move the antenna a fraction of an inch and a signal is suddenly there, or just as suddenly gone.

Bless her heart, Betty has (for the most part) quietly endured these problems. But, she did ask what my long range plan was. I am afraid this grand experiment is not working because of my home's location. So, my answer to her is simple; when I have been away from the cable connection long enough to be considered a new customer and there is an attractive offer to get me to sign up, I may rejoin the connected world. We have agreed to not go back to the 250 channels of television, movies, and music. But, when the company offers the basic 75 channel lineup at a rate that is attractive, our cord may become uncut. I may consider satellite TV but I'll have to do a bit more research on their picture quality and stability during storms.

Television programming is crammed full of commercials, promotional announcements for stuff we have no interest in watching, and fluff that is insulting and boorish. But, until I can move a mountain and get the federal government to increase allowable signal strength, there is just enough there that can't be watched any other way.

Or, maybe not. Suddenly I have found another option. 

What if I keep the antenna aimed so it usually picks up a few of the important channels. Then, I use the web sites of the other networks, and specialty nets like HGTV, or Hulu, to fill in what is missing? By hooking the laptop to the TV the program is shown in excellent quality. Network shows may be a day or two late, but that doesn't bother us. HGTV or Discovery channel shows aren't time-sensitive so it doesn't matter when they were first aired.

Betty has agreed to give this new approach a chance. The story continues.

May 10, 2011

Did You Notice?

About a week or so ago I made two changes to this blog, one obvious, the other more subtle. In the first instance I made size of the words in each post slightly bigger. As a nod to our aging eyes and my own experience in visiting other blogs where I had to struggle to read the words, increasing the font size seemed a logical thing to do. I have received no comments pro or con which is what I had hoped for: a chance that wasn't jarring but makes your time here a bit more comfortable.

The second adjustment was in the wording just under the Satisfying Retirement blog name. What used to read "Helping You Create an Exciting and Productive Lifestyle After Work" now lacks the last two words, After Work. Big deal, right?

Why did I bother?  Maybe I am a slow learner, but almost 11 months after starting this blog it has become obvious to me that a growing percentage of folks who have retired from their primary job have no intention of giving up work completely. Various studies show that anywhere from 20-43% of all retirees want to continue to work part time, start their own business, get another full time job, or even combine periods of leisure with periods of employment. Probably due to a combination of factors, to many the idea of stopping work at a certain age never to get a paycheck again seems outdated.

Most retirees (and those moving in that direction)  are not satisfied to play 18 holes of golf a day, watch TV until falling asleep in the easy chair and call that a satisfying retirement lifestyle. We are eager to find new passions and hobbies, volunteer our time and talents, develop and strengthen relationships, travel extensively, and effectively manage our financial health. We are also not ready to give up making money and being stimulated by work.  

So the two missing words at the top of the blog are quite significant. It means I am able to include more posts that reflect the desire, or need,  to stay employed in some fashion. While the mission of this blog remains to help us develop our own version of a satisfying retirement, that vision will now include how into integrate work into your retirement lifestyle, if you so choose. That subtle change allows me to expand my horizons and you to receive and share a new category of information.

I am at work developing a series of posts for this blog that will deal with

  • The reasons many of us want to work after retirement
  • Part time work and retirement
  • Starting your own business: why?
  • Cycling: work for a while, travel and leisure for a while, then back to work

Watch for this new series over the next several weeks. I hope the addition of this topic helps you better achieve your goal of building a productive and satisfying retirement lifestyle.



May 7, 2011

These Costs Don't Show Up At The Pump

None of us who drives is unaware of the rapid increase in gas at the pump. We are also know that oil companies are reporting massive profits, again. Unless you can use a bus, a bike, or your own two feet, there is no way to avoid pouring more money into your gas tank. As I read about oil company windfalls I quietly seethe inside. My retirement lifestyle is better than the vast majority of the world's citizens. But there is a cost to me beyond the dollar amount. Big Oil and OPEC don't see the individual impact of their greed.

From the street level where my reality takes place, $4 a gallon gas affects me directly and noticeably. My radius of living has shrunk. My range of choices and experiences has tightened. Maybe that is a good thing. Maybe it will reinforce a lesson about sustainability and the true cost of lifestyle choices.

But, it chaps my britches when I hesitate before driving to spend time with my grand kids. The visits still happen, but I am more careful in planning them. Since the trip is close to 60 miles round trip my wife and I am less likely to make more than one trip every 7-10 days. My daughter's budget is so tight I don't like to ask her to drive to our house as often as the kids would prefer, either.

Also, now I always try to tie a visit to them into a side trip to see my Dad rather than making a separate trip to visit him. That is good for my gas use but requires a much bigger chunk of time.

There is a nice park, with a lake, picnic benches, and lots of shade trees that Betty and I like. But, being  about 15  miles away I think twice before deciding to just go sit for a few hours, read a book and people-watch.

Running errands involves plotting a route as precisely as a military maneuver. A quick drive to the store for a forgotten item rarely happens. If it can wait then a trip to the library, Home Depot for paint, Costco for prescriptions and an overdue haircut become part of that trip.

I have added a commitment to my prison ministry volunteer efforts. I now work out of their offices, half a day, once a week, helping the staff with paperwork, scheduling, correspondence, and such. That is a 39 mile round trip. Originally I had been asked to help two days a week but at today's prices that is $45 a month extra in gas. We agreed that once a week would have to do. 

If both cars never leave the garage for a full day, I silently celebrate. No miles driven means no gas consumed and no money handed over to others. Even so, the monthly budget for gas runs out before the month does. Public transportation isn't an option where I live and walking outside for at least half the year produces heat stroke in 20 minutes.

I know this sounds like whining. A car is a luxury to many. The cost of gas is something I can afford, though the extra $80 a month has to come from somewhere. The less driving I do the better off the earth is.

I just wish those who game the system for their own advantage would stop to consider the cost down here where most of us live. Each bump in the cost at the pump means one less trip to see family, visit a museum, or enjoy an afternoon by a lake. It means one less meal at a restaurant this month, one fewer movie, or a couple of books not bought. It isn't life and death. But, it has a very direct cost on my ability to enjoy a satisfying retirement.


How has your life been affected by more expensive gas? A lot, a little, not at all? Have you had to cut back or sacrifice in a meaningful way? Share your stories. It won't solve the problem, but we'll feel better knowing we are not in this alone.

May 4, 2011

What Am I Going To Do About Mom?

Not long ago a reader asked for some feedback on the important issue of dealing with a difficult parent. This problem is one that many of us are facing now, or will have to deal with in the future. I don’t pretend to be an expert in this area of human relationships. But, doing some basic research on the Internet has provided some approaches that may be helpful for that reader, and you, to consider in your quest for satisfying retirement lifestyle.

Don’t expect your family member to change. Whatever you do (or don’t do) accept that the difficult parent may not change. You can change some of the factors under your control that may make the relationship less stressful. But, expecting a difficult parent to become loving and accepting will only make your feeling toward that person worse when change does not occur.


Don't Give Advice Unless It's Asked For. Your parent is probably feeling a loss of control and freedom. If you begin to reverse the parent-child role by offering unsolicited advice on unimportant topics, you are risking problems. Importantly this concerns advice, not critical health and safety issues that must be faced.


Accept Differences of Opinions. After all, your parent is not you. Mom or Dad does not think exactly like you. Respect the opinions of others, don't disregard them. Don’t dismiss, out of hand, an opinion no matter how different from yours.


Listen to What Your Elderly Parent is Saying. Listen completely, really listen. Remember that an older person might take longer to form a response or finish a thought. A period of silence is not a bad thing that you need to fill immediately. Paying attention and listening carefully shows respect. Of course, listening works both ways so try to determine that your loved one is hearing and understanding what you are saying.


Attempt to determine a pattern. Does your parent’s mood worsen the longer he or she is awake? Could it be pain? it a growing feeling of frustration at the inability to perform usual daily tasks or to remember things? Angry outbursts, complaints, and sarcasm may be the result.


Respond to strong emotions with none. The best response is no response at all. Most people who like to argue do so because it tends to evoke a strong emotional reaction from others. Don't take the bait. If you respond to a challenge with a clam and neutral emotional tone, it is likely the combative parent will move on to another subject. your mother will probably drop the subject pretty quickly.


At all costs, stay calm. When you must deal with criticism and anger keep yourself under control. Yelling back never helps. Your parent’s emotions can be a projection of feelings of isolation and inability to do he or she used to do. Don’t allow yourself to be pulled into a battle that is about emotions and not reality.


Protect Yourself. You and your parent cannot afford for you to suffer from burnout. While you can't change your aging parents' condition, you can do things for yourself. Remember that you need a respite for yourself. Your parent may not be happy (so what else is new?), but hire someone for a few hours, or even a full day to recharge your batteries. Taking a break is something that you require. Don’t feel guilty. Don’t accept criticism from others. You know your limits.


There are many quality organizations and web sites with more information and suggestions. Here are a handful that I have visited:


Related Posts

May 1, 2011

Becoming a Published Author

A long time friend of mine, Pascal Marco, is about to do what he has dreamed of for years: have his first novel published. Identity:Lost will be available everywhere beginning in early June. If you have ever thought of writing a book, Pascal has some insights you will find useful. Even if you aren't a writer, I thought you might find his story inspiring.  I posed a series of questions to him. Here are his answers.

Q. Have you been a writer all your life ?

I’ve always loved putting words on paper to express my thoughts, and have always loved to expand my vocabulary. My Dad was very big on a strong vocabulary.  His idea of “the good book” was the dictionary. He was a newspaper intellectual and loved to read about current events and challenge all of his children to analyze the events of the day and discuss them.

I actually started writing in grammar school. A friend and I would write episodes of our favorite TV show. That taught me a lot about the power of  imagination. In high school, I wrote for the school’s newspaper as a sports editor. This is when I learned a lot about the job of being a journalist and what you could and couldn’t do in terms of reporting vs. editorializing. In college I became the op-ed writer for a fledgling college monthly.

Q. When did you know you wanted to write a novel?

 When I started writing for fun again in my 50's I didn't realize I wanted to write a novel until I joined the Scottsdale Writers Group (SWG). We met every other week to discuss and share our work. When I started listening to the fiction writers share their work I was intrigued by the format and the genre. At that point I decided to write my story as a novel. Little did I know how tough the task would be and what a long road I had ahead of me.

Q. How much time has been invested in bringing Identity:Lost to reality?

The story first came to me in July 1979. I read about the brutal attack and eventual murder of an 88-year-old man riding his bike in Chicago where I lived at the time. That story stayed buried for almost 27 years. When I joined the SWG in 2006 I decided to take that murder and use it as the framework for the murder in my book.

Three years ago I finally had a completed manuscript after writing and rewriting part-time at night and on weekends. Then, it took another two years to find a publisher for the manuscript. Finally, in March 2010 I was told it would take another year, but the novel would be published.

Q. How do you balance a full time job and writing a novel? 

Balance is the operative word here. More like survive. I have a sole proprietorship company, Pascal Creative Group,  which after selling my previous business became my sole income source. That was tough. I worked in sales all day and wrote at night.  But, I think the biggest test was with my marriage. Without the undying and completely unselfish support of my wife of nearly thirty-eight years, I could have never accomplished this feat. She sacrificed many, many hours of not having me around as I’d escape to various retreats and venues to write. I owe an awful lot to her, more than she’ll ever know.

Q. What were the most difficult parts of getting your book ready to publish?

By far the most difficult part for me was maintaining the belief I could get the book traditionally published versus settling for self-publishing. Maintaining a positive attitude throughout the process has also been a huge challenge.  I developed a very thick skin to deal with the ups and downs on the road to getting a book published.

Q. What is it like to work with an editor? How do you overcome the urge to be defensive about what you have written?

When I hired an editor a lot of good came from the process because the editor was able to look at my story objectively. That helped immensely with developing characters and clearing up plot problems. But when I saw the editor start trying to change my "voice" with the way she manipulated a paragraph or even a sentence and it just didn't sound like me, I had to put stop to it.

I think you'll know right out of the gate whether an editor is good or bad for you. A very good editor will take your stuff and make it better without you even noticing.

Q. Once you have a deal to publish your book, is the work over?

 
I have worked harder since getting the deal than before. Before the deal I didn’t know the rules and all the nuances of what to do. My attitude was: what was the worst that could happen?  Once I had received the publishing OK I felt the pressure was now on to make sure I took advantage of this potentially once in a lifetime chance. So few are rewarded with this opportunity. For the last year I’ve been driven to make sure I give it my very best to promote my book.

Q. What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

It’s never too late to live your dream. If you’re a baby boomer like me, go for it. If you’ve got a story to tell,  get it down on paper. Don’t worry about style or grammar or format or any of that. Just put your butt in the chair and start typing.


I will be at Pascal's book-signing at The Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, AZ on June 11th and Barnbes & Nobles in Scottsdale on June 12th. I wouldn't miss them for the world. I am proud of him and happy for him. Also, check out his web site for more information.



Pascal at book signing in Scottsdale, AZ
 Your take-away: you can accomplish your dream whatever it is. Time, effort, belief in yourself, and a willingness to fail and look stupid on occasion is part of the process of building a satisfying retirement. The payoff can be a real kick. Just ask Pascal. Give it a go.


note: Identity:Lost is available through bookstores and Amazon. I am helping Pascal promote his book as a friend. I am receiving no compensation.