July 31, 2012

Which Decisions Made A Real Difference?

Almost 2 years ago I posted some thoughts on decisions that have had a major impact on my life and lead to my satisfying retirement. since then I thought there are enough new readers to run it again. Also, I have had more time to consider the importance of each decision and add additional thoughts.


A life is a collection of events, happenstances, genetics, luck, and environment. It can be altered in a second by an accident or medical emergency. These factors are usually out of your control. But, a life is also the sum total of decisions that you make along the way. Regardless of age or present situation certain choices you make affect what happens to you from that point forward. Here are some of the primary decisions that have shaped my journey.

 People tell me I was rather odd in one regard: I knew what I wanted to do at age 12 and stayed with that choice for 40 years. A more normal occurrence is to struggle with the decision of what should be one’s life work through the teen years, into college, and maybe beyond. But, the first time I stepped foot into a radio station in Cambridge, Ohio at that tender age I was hooked. By fifteen I was a DJ after school and on weekends at a tiny station in suburban Boston. Another dozen years of playing rock and roll records in various cities lead to a being a consultant and researcher.


I remained completely satisfied with my career choice until I stopped work at age 52. That I was able to discover my life’s passion for a career so young saved me a lot of struggles and uncertainty. The fact that I loved the radio business meant I was not going to a job everyday to earn money. I went to work everyday because I was passionate about all of it.

Today, it is much more likely someone will change careers throughout his or her working years. In fact, current studies suggest most people will change occupations between five and seven times. On one hand I can see that as a good thing. Different parts of one's personality and skills can be more fully used. Feelings of stagnation or being trapped are less likely. Of course, the risk is there is no opportunity to ever be at one place long enough to build much in the way of retirement savings. But, over all I see advantages to the willingness to shake up employment life on a regular basis.

 Marriage must be very high on any list of important decisions. Your life changes forever. It is no longer just your life, but a shared life. You are at least partially responsible for every major choice that now affects at least one other person. Your ability to compromise, to become less self-centered, and to share will have a direct effect on the marriage’s chances for success. I have been happily married for 36 years. It hasn’t always been easy; it isn’t supposed to be. But, the commitment we made to each other was forever and neither of us can imagine a life that doesn’t include the other.

As I noted in a post a while back about Boomers and divorce the rate has doubled over the last two decades among those 50 plus. That post mentioned some of the reasons so I won't repeat them here. But, divorce among soon-to-be retired, or fully retired folks, is a serious social issue. In addition to the obvious emotional pain, there are several unintended consequences for everyone: more people without the financial resources to survive and extra burdens on the health care and nursing home systems. I have no answers to suggest but know we must be aware that the breakup of a marriage among older folks is just as devastating as it is when young children are involved.


From our marriage came two daughters. If you tell yourself that getting married means big changes, hold onto your hat. Having kids makes the changes of marriage look minor by comparison. The primary reason for living, the center of your world, and the force behind almost every choice you make from that point forward are different when you have children. Parents know the absolute love and complete terror that comes with children. At least for me (and my wife), there is nothing I have done that comes close to equaling the importance of the birth and development of our kids.

Very important has been the ability to maintain close relationships with both girls, and now, the grandchildren that have come along. To have all of us living within 40 minutes of each other affects each of us in positive ways. It has been great to see the grandchildren able to experience the blessing of interacting with two sets of grandparents on a regular basis.


Another key decision happened very early in our marriage. My wife and I agreed to live by three simple financial rules. We would always live beneath our means, we would not follow common wisdom as it applied to our investments, and we would value experiences over things. I have written several posts about this direction for our financial life together. As we have moved from our early years together, through the raising childhood phase, to empty nest, and now retirement those financial decisions have proven crucial to our stability and enjoyment of our life together. 


The decisions I made were right for me at that time. If my circumstances had been different some of those choices may have been different. But, that is the amazing thing about life. Every one of us is different. At least to a degree we have the chance to shape and re-shape our life constantly. That makes waking up every morning exciting. What will the day hold and how can I shape it? What will happen that makes this a satisfying retirement?

OK, your turn. Look back on a key decision or two in your life. If you had them to do over again would you? Did your choices prove to be a good ones? If not, what did you do to put the mistakes behind you?

July 29, 2012

The Cranky Old Man

What follows is a very unusual post for Satisfying Retirement. It is a poem. You may have read this before on different web sites. There are all sorts of stories about where it came from and who wrote it. But, before I get into that, please just read the following. It is written from the perspective of a very old man in a nursing home:



Cranky Old Man

What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see?
What are you thinking .. . when you're looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food .. . ... . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . .'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . ... lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking?. .Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse .you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . ..my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, .. ...Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future ... . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . And the love that I've known.
I'm now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel.
It's jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man .
Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. .... . ME!!





There are stories on the Internet that this was left behind by a man who died in a nursing home in Australia. The poem was discovered after his death by a nurse. Other sites claims that story is a hoax. They claim the poem was written by a youngish man who lives in Texas.


Frankly, I don't care where it came from. Whatever the source, this is a tremendously moving piece of writing, because it rings so true. Old people, especially those without the support system of a family, are left to a system that often treats them as simply numbers and no longer as people with stories and a history.


The impact of the message of Cranky Old Man will strike each of us differently. I for one, was deeply touched and ashamed that I have thought of too many very old people in exactly this manner. As I move through my sixth decade obviously all of this becomes more real to me. But, it isn't too late to change my mindset and try to see the whole person behind the wrinkles, pain, and loneliness. The physical decay of a body is inevitable. The decay of our respect for that person is not.



July 27, 2012

The Summer Slump

For many this is turning into the hottest summer ever. Pictures of folks baking on the East Coast or Mid West fill the evening news. Here in Arizona the summer monsoon rains have been too sporadic to green up the lawns or lessen the humidity for even a few hours. Summer is in full bloom (or full withering). My satisfying retirement is getting a little brown around the edges.

The heat doesn't bother me terribly because there is no point in complaining about something that is a fact of life. I suppose someone in Minot, North Dakota or Duluth, Minnesota feels the same about cold and snow. If you live there that's what you get. That being said, I will be spending a month next summer in Oregon. After 27 years it is time for a nice, long, summer break.

No, what puts me in a summer slump is the cessation of most activities I enjoy. It is not the time of year for picnics, long walks, or strolling the paths of the Desert Botanical Gardens. My back yard sits empty most of the time, except for playing with our dog Bailey for brief periods of time.

I miss several church-oriented activities that stop for the summer. Our small group is a made up of a dozen great people who enjoy each other's company. From September until May we get together twice a month. But, with many of our members gone on vacations on and off all summer, trying to keep it going now is impossible.

I take part in a weekly Bible study at a friend's home that also stops for the summer for the same reason. We are a handful of folks who are good friends and are willing to discuss and argue issues of importance. I miss those exchanges.

Betty and I enjoy seeing traveling Broadway theater performances and the occasional symphony concert. Both have shut down as the city empties out. The theater stages and orchestra seats will re-fill in September.

I will be the first to admit I watch much too much Netflix in the summer. Yes, I have stopped watching regular TV, though the Olympics will draw me back. Except for the basic channels we had cable TV removed almost two years ago and haven't really missed it. But, watching a movie and a documentary on Netflix every night is really no different than cable TV is it? I am spending too many hours each night streaming something. It is too hot to have dinner outside, so there we sit, eating and watching.

How do I fill in the summer slump? On a positive note, I start guitar lessons this week. I have tried to teach myself using books and DVDs. But, I always get to a certain point, get frustrated at my progress and quit, only to restart a few months later. Regular reader, Chuck, convinced me that paying for lessons is the best way to get over that hump and really enjoy my playing. So, stand back, Eric Clapton. The new guitar star is tuning up.

Blogging helps tremendously. The need to produce three fresh posts a week keeps my mind active. As regular readers know, I am forming some really important friendships with fellow bloggers. There is always something to learn so I stay busy. And, I have begun my new book. That will occupy plenty of time between now and it's expected availability this fall.

Three blogging friends have produced (or will shortly) books. Sonia Marsh, Dave Bernard, and later this fall, Galen Pearl, are joining the ranks of published authors. Each has asked me to read and review their efforts. I love to do that, especially for friends. So, in addition to my three or four mysteries and current affairs books on my nightstand, I am adding the ones from Sonia, Dave, and Galen.

Betty and I are exploring different restaurants in the area this summer. We tend to get stuck going to the same handful of places. Now, we look for a  restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale or downtown Phoenix that serves a cuisine we haven't tried before. If it has happy hour prices on appetizers even better. It takes motivation to get a little dressed up and drive an extra distance. But, the results have been enjoyable.

We have switched to a mostly vegetarian menu for our evening meals. Posts from Sharon at Midlife Mom Musings blog have convinced me to give it a try. We will still have meat as the main course one time a week. But, we will give vegetable-based soups and main dishes a shot. 


That is how I handle the annual summer slump. What about you? In most of the country this is the time for all sorts of outdoor activities. Has the excessive heat put a damper in those plans or are you unaffected? Do you sort of shut down for the summer and gear back up after Labor Day? or, is this when you get all sorts of projects done?


Let me know. Maybe you'll have an idea or activity that gets my summer blood pumping and my satisfying retirement moving forward.

July 24, 2012

A New Mandate: Retirement Savings. Really?

Saying "mandate," as in the health care law, seems to be like throwing meat to an angry bear. Even though we have been under a mandate to pay taxes into Social Security and Medicare since 1937, the political turmoil over the mandate-tax definition for so-called Obamacare refuses to go away.

So, it was with more than a little little surprise that I was alerted to an article in the New York Times (thanks, Sonia!). A professor of economics outlines the failure of our present volunteer retirement system to provide a satisfying retirement for many.

She points out that 75% of Americans nearing retirment age have less than $30,000 in retirement savings. To her that emphasizes that human behavior does not lend itself to voluntarily giving up something today to have adequate resources in the future. She predicts a looming disaster as people enter retirement completely unprepared. She discounts the supposed solution, to keep working, as unrealistic due to the sky high unemployment rate for those over 50.

Her answer? She proposes a mandated retirement savings system in addition to Social Security. She argues that the only way we will be prepared to stop working is to be forced to set aside adequate resources. To read the full article click here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/opinion/sunday/our-ridiculous-approach-to-retirement.html?_r=1

I am well aware that many people play completely by the rules, work hard, save, and still get screwed by the failure of their employer to live up to its promises. Investments are decimated when greedy or risk-loving people take advantage of the system and get caught. Those are not the people she is writing about. Those folks are victims that are paying a price they should not have to confront.


I do agree with the author on one crucial point: too many people who aren't in the category noted above do a terrible job of preparing for their own retirement. I guess they assume the tooth fairy will make it all OK. They think they can keep working until their dying breath. These assumptions are the human equivelant of the ostrich sticking his head in the sand.

As regular readers know, I am a big believer in personal responsibility in most areas of life. Last fall I wrote that for retirement we are on our own. The days when we could depend on a company delivering a promised pension and health benefits until our death are over. Even government and public service pensions and benefits are under attack in many cities.

Social Security payments are an important part of most retirement plans. I, for one, am very glad it is there. Likewise, as someone who has never had a company-provided health plan, Medicare will be a life-saver for me when I reach 65.

But, the idea of adding another program to insure that my lack of planning for my future won't put me in a pickle strikes me as way out of line. Of course, her idea hasn't a prayer of even being discussed my those who could do something about it. But, the author is proposing a "get out of jail free" card: no personal sacrifice or planning would be required beyond another tax. "They" would take care of what we won't.

If my satisfying retirement depended on that, I'd be scared out of my mind.


What are your thoughts? Without this author's idea in place, she contends unprepared retirees could bankrupt us all. Or, will they? How far should we go to manage peoples' tendencies? Fill the comment page!

July 23, 2012

A Work in Progress

In late May I wrote about my next book on building your satisfying retirement.  After excellent suggestions from you, the BRITW (best readers in the world), I am going to the source: people how have retired or are close to that magic day. A series of questions will be answered by all those included in the book. As I noted in the May post, the book will feature the good, bad, and everyday nature of what makes up this journey. I have a target publication date of this fall.

So, inquiring minds want to know: what is going on with the project? A lot, actually. The first series of questions have been sent to those who originally accepted my invitation to participate. I have asked that those questions be answered and returned to me by early August.

At this point I am putting out a call for more folks wanting to be part of the project. I  know I will be a little short of responses from those who haven't retired yet, but are planning for it and have a tentative date in mind. Also, I could use another 6-10 folks who are already retired. So, if this description fits you and you'd like to be part of the project, now would be a great time to drop me an email with the following information:

Name
Age
When do you plan on retiring or how long ago you did retire 
What part of the country (or foreign country) you live in.


Everyone included in the project will get a free Kindle or PDF copy. All participants will be protected with an alias. If you have a blog or web site, that information will be listed in the appendix at the end of the book so your alias is protected.

Next, will be the editing job of pulling together all the information in a format that will give the questions a few pages each to showcase everyone's answers. After that is done, I will write a summary of the important similarities and differences the answers reveal.

Finally, will come the design of the cover and the conversion of the text into a format approved by Kindle and a PDF version. If you are wondering why I don't also produce one for the Nook or other readers, my agreement with Amazon is an exclusive one. Since any Kindle book can be download to any PC that shouldn't cause anyone major problems.

With Building a Satisfying Retirement well over 2,000 copies sold or given away for both editions, the time seems right to bring something fresh to the table. I am excited about the content of this new, as yet unnamed, book.

A sincere thanks for your support and participation. The book is definitely a work in progress!

Don't forget, if you'd like to be part of the book, send an email with the requested information today!

July 20, 2012

The 10 Commandment Of A Satisfying Retirement

Borrowing rather liberally from a section of the Bible, I have come up with 10 "commandments" that will help you increase the odds that your retirement is a satisfying retirement. Unlike the Bible's version, none of these are necessary to keep you on God's good side, or keep you from breaking a law or two. But, at least in my view, they should form the foundation of your retirement.


Thou shall not:


Spend More than you make. There may be times in your life when this was necessary. Few of us can buy a house or car without taking on debt and a total obligation well in excess of our cash flow. College education for the kids, major medical bills...life happens. Having the ability to borrow money and temporarily go into debt is OK. What can quickly ruin your retirement, however, is spending on wants and desires in excess of what your income is. The basic rules of finance don't get suspended once you cash your last paycheck. Funding your retirement with credit cards, home equity loans, or other options that put you in a perpetual hole will not end well. 


Ignore the need for a budget. Closely related to the point above, I don't know how you can make it if you haven't kept and maintained a budget for years in advance of retirement. That need continues. In fact, when regular paychecks stop, tighter control over your income and expenses is even more vital. The old rule of thumb is you should plan on spending roughly 80% of what you spent before retirement. I suggest that "rule" no longer applies. You should develop a budget based on your resources and what you think you will spend. If those two numbers work for you, then the percentage is not terribly important. But, you must maintain a budget.


Assume others will take care of you. By others I mean the government, your old employer, your family, or winning the lottery. We have entered a new era where personal responsibility must be your primary care provider. It is likely you will receive some assistance in the form of Social Security and Medicare. If you have a pension you may receive everything you expect. Your family very well might be there for you every step of the way. But, I strongly urge you to plan as if none of that support will be there when you need it, not because I am overly cynical but because ultimately whatever happens will fundamentally affect your life, not theirs. 


Make a retirement plan and never review or change it. An overworked cliché, maybe, but still true: the only constant in life is change. That is absolutely true when you retire. There is no way you can correctly anticipate what interest rates, the stock market, real estate, or inflation will do over the next 20 or 30 years. The political process guarantees unpredictability. At the very least, once a year take a look at every assumption, every budget category, and every projection of your future income. Adjust as required.


Become bored and restless. Too many retired folks go back to work because they don't know what to do with all the free time. Others spend their days in an arm chair, watching TV or reading 8 hours a day. Still others play two rounds of golf a day, not because they love it that much, but because it fills the time. This should not happen. Time is a priceless resource. Control over how you spend it is one of the biggest pluses of retirement. Find your passion. Find something to do that jump-starts you out of bed each morning. All too soon, you will wish you didn't squander something that can't be bought, can't be stored, and can't be replaced. 


Treat a spouse or partner poorly. The entire dynamics of a relationship changes when one partner suddenly retires. To assume the person who just stopped working gets a free pass and can contribute nothing to the smooth operation of the household is not going to work. All that extra time together can be the greatest period of your relationship, or can contribute to the rapidly rising divorce rate among older Boomers. Work hard on your budget and finances...work even harder on strengthening your primary relationships.


Move right after retirement. The stress of retiring is substantial. Suddenly what your life looked like changes. Much of what gave you purpose and meaning is over. That is not the time to tear out the roots of your home life. Regardless of how much you want to move away from the rain or snow or desert, no matter how much you want to live near your grandkids....do not make that decision for at least a year. After the upheaval of not working settles down, then you are able to rationally look at what you'd be giving up and what you'd gain by moving. 


Ignore your health. I don't need to belabor this point. If you don't feel well, if you don't take care of yourself, and if you don't follow common sense steps to maintain your health, your retirement will not be all you want it to be. If you already have health issues don't stop fighting for the life you want. You have a mind and you have creativity.You are alive and you are a unique being who have things to contribute and people to love.  


Allows others to define what a satisfying retirement is (including me). This is a personal journey. Lots of people will tell you what to do or sell you a book with the 8 steps to a happy retirement. Heavens, I blog about the subject three times a week! But, the bottom line is retirement will become uniquely yours. Take all the input and suggestions you can. But, in the end, you decide what your life will look like


Become a curmudgeon. The stereotypical grumpy old man (or woman) isn't a requirement of aging. Don't become so set in your ways that you reject everything new as flawed and no match to "the good old days." No one likes to be with a grouch.


Unlike the tablets Moses gave us, these ten commandments aren't written in stone. What have I missed that should be the 11th or 12th commandment? What in your view is the most important one on my list?

July 18, 2012

What Makes a True Friend?

This topic is on my mind because of the just-concluded trip to Oregon to visit a few fellow bloggers. As things turned out I have made several real friends out of virtual ones. What happened to make this transition? What are the characteristics we look for when asking someone else into our life? Since having friends is an important part of a satisfying retirement it seemed worth a closer look.

One of the keys is the ability to share openly. If we are with someone and we must constantly watch what we say or self-censor too much, then a real friendship is unlikely. Sharing both joys and sorrows is critical to a meaningful friendship. That can't happen if communication isn't open and expressive. We shouldn't be hesitant to open up to a real friend.

Be willing to try and experience new things together is a good test of a friendship. When any of us leave our comfort zone there is some tension and nervousness present. Even something as simple as trying a different cuisine because your friend likes it can reveal a lot about the state of the relationship. Traveling might be a better test. Being together for several days while away from the security of home and routine can quickly test a budding friendship. If you can laugh together at misfortunes and share great experiences, then a deep friendship may be possible.

A core of common beliefs and the acceptance of different beliefs must both be present. While these points might seem contradictory, I believe they are critical. Common beliefs might include the importance of respect for other people, that discrimination has no place in our society, or that children deserve the very best we can provide. Different beliefs may be about spirituality or religion, political affiliations and hot button issues of the day. Friendship requires that those differences are never used as a wedge or weapon. Spirited discussions and honest disagreements should create a stronger bond between two people that value that relationship.

There must be no pressure to "perform." Think back to a dating relationship you have had. The small talk and overt politeness are part of that world. We want to present our best possible face to the other person. But, in a true friendship it is perfectly OK for one person to be having a bad day and admit it. We don't have to always look or feel our best all the time. That isn't real life and friends don't want someone to put up a front or play a part. "Dress-up" isn't part of this type of relationship.


There must be an sincere interest  to learn more about that person. Nothing could be more unfulfilling than to spend time with someone over a long period of time and never learn more about each other. That would mean one or both people are being dishonest about their feelings and needs. It would mean that the relationship would never become more than skin-deep.

Many people much wiser than I have made the point that friendship brings depth and joy to someone's life. True friendship is a special gift that two people give to each other. As Proverbs notes, "Disregarding another person's faults preserves love." Deep friendship is an essential part of a satisfying retirement and a life lived well and fully.

Related Posts

July 15, 2012

The Blogger Tour of Oregon Ends Much Too Soon

Many relationships today are virtual. We e-mail, text, IM, or even Skype without actually meeting the people we spend so much time with. As part of my satisfying retirement my wife, Betty, and I just returned from a fabulous 12 day trip to Oregon built around turning virtual friendships into real ones. I wrote about the first half of the vacation last week.

Before heading to the coast and then central Oregon, our last two days in the Portland area continued to add memories to an already very special trip. Galen owns a cabin within spitting distance of Mt. Hood. The weekend getaway home sits deep in the forest, just above a beautiful stream. Our 4th of July was spent sitting on the porch, staring at the water and sunlight streaming through the trees. 


Then, to top off a perfect day Galen took us to dinner at the Timberline Lodge, halfway up the mountain. With mounds of snow surrounding the parking lot and still coating the top of the mountain, we were as far away from the Arizona desert as it is possible to be.



In one of those experiences that seems to define the uniqueness of Portland, our dinner the next night concluded with a barbershop quartet serenade. An international competition was taking place the week we were in town. It just so happened that one of the competing groups from New York was dining at the same restaurant as we were. Suddenly, the sound of several male voices, in tight harmony, began to fill the room. Everyone stopped eating to enjoy the spontaneous concert. The men even invited their waitress to sit with them while they sang  "Sweet Gal of Mine"  to her. That 15 minutes of singing was the perfect conclusion to our stay in a magical city.

Our time with Galen Pearl and Barbara and Earl Torris ended way too soon but we had more of the state to see. A three night stay at a B&B on the coast just north of Newport was the quiet and solitary opposite of the hustle of Portland. The weather was cool and grey, the clam chowder was to die for, and the lighthouses a photographer's dream.

Then, on to see Bill and Wendy Birnbaum who live in the small central Oregon town of Sisters. Obviously, with a population of just over 2,000 folks, Sisters was a quiet place that had a relaxing pace built around coffee shops and wine bars, or so we thought. Our first night in town Wendy and Bill took us to a local bakery that had a backyard set up as a concert venue. Suddenly a Beatles tribute band, Abbey Road Live, took to the stage. For the next 2 hours at least 80 folks of all ages danced and sang along with music. Cinnamon rolls from Angeline's bakery, wine from the bar, and some of the friendliest people we had ever met invited us into their lives.

For the next three days we became a part of Sisters. Wendy and Bill took us on hikes past incredible waterfalls and roaring streams. We saw lakes so clear that boats seemed to be floating on air. We were welcomed into their amazing home, perched on the edge of a canyon, several miles out of town to enjoy breakfast on the deck, dinners by the grill, and gazing at stars without the interference of any human-generated light. 


Sahalie Falls
Wendy, Bill, Betty, and me


We spent one afternoon in a local wine bar, talking about books and authors, politics and the economy with people who just drifted in, recognized Bill and became our friends, too. We were absolutely blown away by the incredible photography of Wendy. Her work is on display at a local gallery and on the walls of their home. She taught Betty more about using our point and shoot camera in two days than we had learned in 6 months. Bill and I shared stories of our past careers (both management consultants) and playfully disagreed about political issues.

A couple from our church spend the summer in the Bend area, too. So we had the chance to meet Al & Patti for a fabulous lunch on the banks of the Deschutes River the afternoon before heading home.

Finally, it was time to get on the plane at the Redmond airport and fly back to the heat and home. We packed as well as we could but got home and discovered we had left one thing behind: our hearts. Taking the chance of meeting new people and turning virtual friends into lifelong companions had been one of the most enjoyable and important trips of our life. I did promise more photos of Oregon wine country southwest of Portland, so here are a few pictures to make Napa California jealous!





Earl & Barbara Torris

Galen & Betty
Thank you, Galen, Barbara, Earl, Bill and Wendy, plus all the incredible people of Portland and Sisters. You haven't seen the last of us.

How to cross a street in Sisters..use a flag!


July 13, 2012

The Top Posts of 2012 (so far)...Why?

Out of the nearly 90 posts I have written so far this year, several have really stood out by generating strong readership and lots of comments. I thought it might be helpful to look at the most popular ones so far this year and attempt to figure out why each resonated with so many.

If you missed one or more of these posts, click the title and see what  all the buzz was about. I encourage you to add your thoughts at the end of this post. Why were these the most-read? Is there a common theme or some reason one or more made the list? Maybe you see some common thread I have missed.

Top Posts through First Half of 2012 (in order)

1. We Lost How Much Net Worth?

2. When Will I Stop Blogging?

3. Volunteering During Retirement: What To Do?

4. What Does Living a Satisfying Retirement Mean To You?

5. Where Are The Good Repair People?

6. Retirement Vacation Ideas

7. How Did We Grow Up So Deprived?

8. How To Mess Up A Retirement

9. What Are You Doing Now That Excites You?


The first thing that jumps off the page is that 7 of the top 9 are questions. Obviously, asking for participation and your thoughts are important in developing a strong exchange. That seems like common sense, but is a different direction than the blog originally was taking. If I look back a year, more of the posts were giving information, providing guidelines, and passing on my experiences than asking for your input.

As the readership has grown I have felt more comfortable in asking for comments. And, I would guess you have felt better about leaving your thoughts as you have spent a bit more time on this blog. Both writer and reader must develop a certain level of trust and comfort before talking about certain things.

One fact I find encouraging is the nice spread throughout the months of these well-received posts. Two are from June, one from May, two from April, two from March, and one each from February and January. To me that says the quality has been consistent and they have been well spaced.

In terms of topics, there is one that is strictly financial, four that deal with your passions and interests, one focused on vacations, one gripe (repair people!), one about blogging, and one with my tongue in my check (being deprived).

I notice that relationship posts aren't in the top 9. That may mean the ones on that topic don't lend themselves to as many comments and interaction, or the ones I wrote were more "instructional" and didn't prompt feedback. I know it is a very important subject to retirement happiness, so I'll have to work on finding an approach that is more "active." 

Over all, guest posts also don't work well. Primarily, I think that is because they tend to be "here's how you do something" or "here's how to save money." I also assume you are used to my particular style of writing and a guest writer just comes across as different....not better or worse....just different.

One very recent change that I guess is a good thing in an odd way: I have had to start comment moderation. The number of "anonymous" comments that are poor attempts at getting a link on this blog have increased from one every few weeks to at least two or three a day. Some mornings, I'll find half a dozen sitting in the spam filter. This means the blog has become seen by more people and is an attractive spammer target. But, it means I must check every comment before it goes live on the blog. I was hoping to not take that step, but the Internet is a nasty place.

Thank you, the BRITW, for such a great first half of 2012. let's see what the next six months bring us.


I'd  appreciate a click of the G+ Google button on the top left sidebar if you enjoyed any of these posts. It helps this blog tremendously.








July 10, 2012

Some Things You Don't Know...About Me

Blogging is an interesting process. It involves some research and a lot of writing. It involves remembering events and decisions that might prove useful or helpful to others. It also involves exposing details of one's life that usually are kept private, especially on an Internet platform. A blogger must open up enough with readers so a virtual connection is made.

Regular readers of Satisfying Retirement know a fair amount about me, my wife, Betty, and our retirement lifestyle. But, something I read on another blog recently got me to think about some other parts of my life that may give the BRITW a clearer glimpse into some of my motivations and personality. Without getting too personal here are some parts of my life that have made me who I am today. Maybe you can see some similarities.

I quit my first job as a camp counselor in training. The reason says a lot about the strength of my ties to family (and something about my maturity level at the time). I quit because I was homesick. At age 14 that might strike you as a little weird. I had been to summer camp as an attendee for several 2-3 week stints and did just fine. But, suddenly being in charge of 11 younger boys for 8 weeks was more than I was ready to tackle. After a week I called my parents to come and get me. To their eternal credit they did not discuss my "failure" but simply took me home.

As these things sometimes happen, being home that summer meant I was able, a few months later, to find a small local radio station that would hire me as a part time janitor, opening the door to my eventual 35 year career in broadcasting. That "failure" ended up being a life changer for me.

My college degree had absolutely nothing to do with my career path. By the time I was ready for college I knew what my career would be. I was fully committed to radio. I was accepted at Syracuse University and started attending in the fall of 1967. I applied because Syracuse had one of the top broadcasting programs in the country. But, after attending a few of the classes and seeing their facilities it became quite apparent that area of study was going to be bad choice. The techniques I was being taught were old-fashioned and not practical, like how to produce radio dramas. The campus radio station was set up like stations in the 1940's, teaching skills that no longer existed in the real world.

So, I ending up switching majors to International Relations. Syracuse had a strong reputation for training diplomats and those in government service who worked overseas. When I told my fellow students I wanted to play records on the radio they wondered about my sanity. But as it turns out, that college major was an excellent choice. I studied political science, political geography, history, social sciences, research and public relations, art history, plus a smattering of debate techniques . I wanted a well rounded liberal arts education and got it. The fact that it had absolutely nothing to do with my job was a plus.

I started to smoke for an incredibly dumb reason. Both my parents were smokers during the period when virtually every adult did. But, they both quit sometime in late 1950's. I never learned why but they showed me it could be done. Later I would use that strength to help me.

I began smoking at age 20 for the dumbest reason in the world: so I would not cough when I was handed a joint at a party. I took up a habit that is dirty, dangerous, costly, and makes you smell like an ashtray so I could smoke an illegal drug with friends. My only excuse was this was the 1960's: joints and college students were good friends. Couple that with my job playing rock records and partying with rock artists and smoking a "J" was almost a requirement.

A few years later the joints disappeared from my life when I grasped how stupid it was. But, by now I was hooked on cigarettes. My constant travel, being alone in airplanes and hotels for days at a time keep me puffing away for years. Finally, a combination of events and a desire to not have my growing children aware that daddy smoked lead me to quit cold turkey. It was miserable but necessary. That was close to 30 years ago and I haven't been tempted since. Looking back, the reason I started to smoke seems so ridiculous. But, at the time it was a completely logical choice!

Not quite as interesting but still part of the story I came from a family of librarian's which may explain my love of books and reading. I am a ham radio operator which allows me to still "be on the radio" but in a very different way. I am a dog person and believe that cats are not mentioned in the Bible for a reason. OK, that last sentence is a bit snarky. Cats have their place, just not in my house.

So, there you have it: a bit more about the the person who fills this blog space. What do you think? Are you now a little worried about me? Do you fear I may be a bad influence? Or, can we all agree growing up involves a fair number of wrong choices? By the way, Betty and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary two weeks ago. None of this is new information to her!
Anything you'd like to share? Feel free to make up a fake name or use the anonymous choice if you'd feel more comfortable!

July 8, 2012

Relating to Your Adult Children

I am on vacation in Oregon for another few days enjoying my satisfying retirement so I'm recycling a post from almost two years ago. If you haven't been a regular reader since the beginning this will be new for you. If you have a better memory than I do and remember this the first time around, I'd appreciate any fresh comments and insight.

This is an important topic for anyone who has grown children.. Our kids are our kids forever. Being a parent is a job without end. But, just like retirement creates major changes, there should be a definite shift in how you and your adult kids relate to each other.

Not surprisingly, parents and their adult children often experience some problems in their relationships. For the parents, the change from being the primary influence to something less in the child's life isn't easy. For the adult child, the roles become blurred. Are my parents still authority figures? Friends? Something in between? What about how they interact with my children? My in-laws?

Various studies have highlighted several areas in a parent-adult child relationship that could cause problems:

*Differences in communication styles

*Lifestyle choices of the adult child

*The way grandkids are being raised

*Political and religious differences

*The employment status of the adult child

*How the household is run and maintained

Parents wouldn't be parents if they didn't compare what they see happening in these areas with how the child was raised. The child wouldn't be considered a mature adult if he or she hadn't developed some differences from the parents. There may be a shared DNA, but each of us is unique and each responds differently to situations and what life throws at us.

It is a given that there will be some rough spots between parents and their adult child. But, a blog reader asked that I look at some ways that may help parents improve this important relationship. My research to prepare for this post lead me to several sources that were remarkably consistent in their advice. Not all of these suggestions will apply in your situation or even be workable. But, it would be wise to think about each point listed below and determine if a particular answer fits your situation.

Accept differences. This is probably the most important suggestion and the toughest. Your adult child is not you. As he or she grows life experiences will result in changes that you may not fully approve of. At this stage of the game it isn't your job to approve. It's your responsibility to accept them.

Don't judge. At least not out loud. Obviously, this closely follows the first suggestion. You are no longer judge and jury. The child is looking for approval, acceptance, or at least tolerance for what they have done. They are not looking for you to tell them what they are doing wrong.

Timing is not under your control. While the child may still need and solicit your input and guidance, it will be less frequently than you may want or think necessary. Interactions of this sort should not be initiated by you. You may not see your grown child as often as you'd like. Remember, he has his own schedule and life.

Respect new traditions and ways of doing things. The way your adult child and his significant other or family celebrate a holiday, decorate the house, plan their vacations, even dress themselves may not be your way. Remember, it is their way and deserving of your acceptance.

Blending two families can be tricky. If married your child is now part of two families. He or she must attempt to keep two sets of parents happy. That can be quite difficult. Take the high road and don't insist on a perfect balance of time and attention. That will only make things tougher on your child.

Respond to questions or pleas for help like you would any other adult, not your child. When I read this in more than one study it struck me as a crucial part of having a healthy relationship. Do you talk with your adult child like you would a co-worker, or a friend? Or, do you talk at him? Unsolicited advice-giving or lecturing won't work on another adult. Why would you think it would work on your grown-up child?

Learn good listening skills. This is something that can improve all our relationships, not just with an adult child. Most of us, myself included, are thinking about our answer while the other person is talking. We aren't truly listening to what they have to say. I made reference to a particular skill called reflective listening in an earlier post. It is a way of listening that will instantly improve any relationship in which you apply it. Click here if you'd like to know more.

Decide that a healthy relationship is more important than the disagreements. Do you want to score points and win the argument while losing the war? Accept that your adult child is not under your control anymore. Accept that he or she is an adult with opinions, ideas, and beliefs that may differ from yours....like most of the rest of the adult world. That acceptance will gain you a much better shot at having the healthy, nurturing, and loving relationship you desire.

Personally, I can report that these suggestions work. In the case of our grown daughters my wife and I have been extremely fortunate. Areas of conflict and differences have been very minor. Nothing has taken place to harm a tremendously close bond between parents and kids. In fact, both girls moved back to Phoenix to be close to us (and other friends & extended family).

I can't tell you exactly why we have escaped any problems so far or claim we never will. We have tried to keep most of our opinions to ourselves. We have respected their choices and allowed them to build their own lives. While we may question some things that occur, we only do that in the privacy of our home, not in front of them. One thing we do is actively look for things we can do together. Picnics, watching football or sporting events together, movies at a theater or at a home or apartment, seeing plays and musicals together, meals out...any excuse to spend quality time together in a relaxed and enjoyable setting goes a long way to smoothing over the bumps that are going to occur.

Thanks to the reader who asked that I explore this topic. It is important and worthy of our thoughtful consideration. It has been helpful to me to look at all the pitfalls and problem areas that can arise. I sincerely hope that something in this post helps you make your relationship with your adult child all it can be. If you an are adult child attempting to improve the relationship with your parents, much of this can be helpful to you, too.

Comment time. Did I gloss over or miss any important areas in this type of relationship? Have you struggled to build a meaningful bond with an adult child? What if the parents and adult child live in separate parts of the country...does that create special challenges? I encourage your sharing thoughts and ideas. A solid relationship with an adult child can make your satisfying retirement much more pleasant.

note: if you enjoyed this post I'd appreciate your clicking the G+ button on the top left sidebar. It helps.

July 6, 2012

Our New Oregon Friends

Earl, me, Betty, Barbara, Galen
As I mentioned last Friday, as part of our satisfying retirement Betty and I flew to Portland to begin a vacation to meet some  blogging friends - folks who live in Oregon that I had met on-line but have never spent time with in person. We were "virtual" friends who were anxious to take the next step and spend time together. I can report it has been a fabulous experience so far.


Galen Pearl and Barbara and Earl Torris have been absolute delights. We are talking, laughing, and sharing as if we had known each other for years. Betty and I have fallen in love with Portland, not just for the delightfully cool weather, but the eclectic neighborhoods, the flowers, the amazing public parks and enough restaurants to keep us trying a different one each night for the rest of our life. 


Galen is every bit as fun and charming, intelligent and inspiring as she seems to be in her blog. She has shown us The Lan Su Chinese gardens, The International Rose gardens and the Japanese Gardens. She introduced us to one of the most interesting dining establishments we have ever been to: The Kennedy School. Her love of Portland is infectious and she seems tickled that we are liking as much as she. She treated the group to a first class dinner at Salty's, a tremendous restaurant overlooking the Columbia River.


Barbara Torris has boundless energy and enthusiasm and is an amazing conversationalist. She makes you feel instantly comfortable. As natives of Oregon, both she and husband Earl know all the background of the area. Earl is a walking history book and our designated driver. They took Betty and me to wineries and an olive oil mill south of Portland where we sampled wine, cheese, and fruit on a patio overlooking fields of lavender. We, along with Galen, enjoyed a tremendous Salmon BBQ dinner at their home. Since Barbara and Earl live in Tucson for half of the year, we expect to make the 90 minute drive to their home several times when they return to the desert to keep the friendship alive.


I am so happy I took the step to turn this on-line friendship into a real one. We have found people who we truly enjoy spending time with. Yes, we share blogging as a common interest, but this trip showed we share so much more than that. Making good friends is never easy, but even more difficult as we age. Maybe it is because we become too set in our ways or aren't willing to put in the effort required. From this experience I can tell you all that doesn't need to be true. The world is full of delightful people just waiting to welcome you into their life. Galen, Barbara, and Earl are proof.


In a few days we are off to spend three days with Bill and Wendy Birnbaum in Sisters, Oregon, about 3 hours from Portland. After having spent a few hours together last April in Phoenix, we already know Bill and Wendy are every bit as warm and fascinating as our new Portland friends. But, to be welcomed into their home is a special treat. I am really looking forward to learning about the Birnbaum's 2 month RV trip and explore a new part Oregon. Bill and I share a background of spending our working life as consultants. We will have plenty of stories to swap.


Betty and I are making plans to come back to Oregon next summer. We'd love to spend at least a month in a place that is already beginning to feel like a second home. But now, it is time to enjoy some of Betty's photos of Portland:



Waterfall at Chinese Garden


Chinese Garden



Street Scene: NW section of Portland


Typical home with beautiful planting


International Rose Gardens

Japanese Gardens


Japanese Gardens

Random couple we saw

Oregon Wine Country SW of Portland

After we return home I'll be sharing more about our Oregon adventure, including additional photos of the area's tremendous wineries, Galen's fabulously relaxing mountain cabin, our time along the coast, and our visit with Bill and Wendy Birnbaum. It has been a very memorable vacation during our very satisfying retirement.

July 4, 2012

Betty's Photo Magic

About a year and a half ago I featured the photographic creativity of my wife, Betty. She had taken pictures of water drops, then distorted them and added colors to create unique works of art. 

Recently she has been going through thousands of photos of flowers. We are going to print some for our upstairs hallway to add color and a needed change to paintings that have been there since we moved in 11 years ago. While watching her work on all these photos I thought I'd like to share some with you. Obviously, the smaller size and limitations of a blog don't show them in their full spender. Even so, I hope you like them and they brighten your day.































That should give you an idea of her work. What is most amazing is all these photos were done with a simple point and shoot camera with only basic adjustments to the exposure or shutter settings. All the final tweaking occurred with Photo Shop. Out of the 2,000 choices whichever ones we pick for the hallway will look great.

By the way, Happy 4th of July!




Note: I've had to turn on comment moderation due to a huge increase in spam-type comments. I hope you understand.


July 1, 2012

Memories of A Difficult Kind

Over the last few weeks I have had posts that have celebrated some of the fond memories of vacationing with our kids and my history of moving while growing up. It was fun to look back and remember as part of my satisfying retirement.

Unfortunately, there is another type of memory that is part of life. For many of us one of the most traumatic events in life is the eventual death of our parents. There have been countless books written and movies made about the long-lasting effect of that loss. No matter how old we are or how long our parents live, we are never ready for that sense of being alone.

Probably just as difficult is watching the mental and physical decline that usually precedes death. If I could ask God to change one thing in his master plan, it would probably be to change how human beings decay away. Wouldn't it be better to simply drop by the side of the road or not wake up after a nap without having to endure our minds and bodies failing us? Since that change isn't likely to happen, we have to prepare ourselves for our parents or relatives to endure the ravages of time.

A few years ago I wrote about this process as my mom was declining in ways that would eventually claim her life in December of 2010. I am reusing some of those thoughts along with additions that come from looking back over the 19 months since her passing. 

Watching the physical and mental decline is not an easy thing to accept. In many societies the norm is for one or both parents to live with one of the children and their family. While there can be tremendous positives in a multi-generational household, it does come with major risks and headaches.


In America it is much more likely that a nursing home or long-term care facility will be the end destination. There are probably many reasons why this is our standard way of dealing with aging parents. But, even that scenario certainly doesn't promise a stress-free period.

My mom was in one of the finer facilities in the area. It provided three-level care, though mom moved directly from independent living to the nursing center without a stop at assisted living. She and dad tried to stay in their apartment as long as possible but it finally became too dangerous for both of them. The transition was smooth and the nurses in the health center were as gracious and compassionate as one could hope for. All of her physical needs were met, and then some.

But, no matter how nice the facility or how caring the staff, to watch your parent end up in a 12 x 15 foot room, with a bed, TV, dresser, nightstand and chair is tough. Mom's life had shrunk to a space with no more room than a freshman in a college dorm. As she deteriorated she couldn't even use the chair or see the TV.

Dad spent most of his days, in the chair, in the room with his wife. For the most part his life started to shut down along with hers. He skipped many choir practices and church services so his wife of 63 years wouldn't be left alone. His back became a constant source of pain after mom fell on him at one point and he hurt himself trying to pick her up. Of course, sitting in a chair 6 hours a day near her bed didn't help. He refused to see a doctor since that would mean worrying her and not being in the room.

Since her death, he has resumed singing and going to church, but has never consented to dealing with his back pain. Most of his days are now spent reading paperback novels he grabs by the handful from the local library. The weekly lunch visits by Betty and me, an occasional haircut, and the days he does his laundry are the highlights of his life. His purpose for 63 years was mom. With her gone he has lost the wind beneath his wings and is simply marking time. It is sad to think of him simply existing, not living. But, he resists every single attempt to add something back into his life.

What do I miss most about mom in the nearly two years when she was too sick or infirmed to be my mom? It is the little things that pop into my head. She was the person I could always ask for the answer to a tricky grammar question. Is it lay or lie? Is it who or whom? I could pick up the phone and have the answer. This blog certainly contains grammatical mistakes she would have corrected.

She was the one wanting all the details of our vacation plans, or what has been going on the girls' lives. She loved sitting in our backyard and enjoying the flowers and stillness. She called it her private resort. Bring her a cup of coffee and she was completely satisfied. She wanted to know what books I was reading and what I thought of the authors. She would make sure everyone had sent thank you notes after Christmas.

She was interested in what we were interested in...because it was important to us. She had that ability to both empathize and relate based on the other person's needs, not her own.

In his own way Dad is teaching me lessons. Certainly a dedication to your partner, regardless of health or hassles, is part of the deal. It is what you do without questions or complaints.

He is also teaching me, without knowing it, the importance of having individual interests and passions. If someone lives his entire adult life just being a support for someone else, when that support is removed there is nothing to continue to prop that person up except basic survival. I don't want that to be my end game if Betty goes before me.


Parents teach us many things in life, starting from the day we are born. The lessons, both direct and indirect continue as long as we live. Even with mom gone and dad existing in his easy chair, there are lessons being transferred.

Is this part of a satisfying retirement? Of course. It is part of life. Learning to accept it for what it is part of the bargain.




Note: I've had to turn on comment moderation due to a huge increase in spam-type comments. I hope you understand.