June 29, 2012

Off To See New Friends

A few weeks ago I wrote about my summertime goals for this year. One was the chance to visit new friends made through this blog. As I noted at the time this will be the first vacation of my satisfying retirement that Betty and I have built a vacation around spending time with new people. This trip has been in the planning stage for a few months.

Sunday we are off to Oregon for 12 days. Galen Pearl of 10 Steps To Finding Your Happy Place and Barbara Torris who writes Retire in Style Blog along with her husband Earl, will be our personal tour guides of the best the Portland area has to offer. I have been to the Rose City on several occasions for business. Betty has been there once or twice but only on our way to a stay on the rugged coast. Neither of us have really explored all the gems of this beautiful city. Both of us are hoping we find the kind of place we'd like to spend part of our future summers away from the Arizona heat.

After several days in Portland, we are off to a beautiful inn on the coast in the quaint port city of Newport. The Oregon coast is stunning. The waves crash against enormous rocks and on wide sand beaches. There are more parks and hiking trails overlooking the ocean than we could cover in a month. Lighthouses make fascinating subjects for photos.

Finally, to wrap up our adventure, Bill and Wendy Birnbaum have invited us to spend several nights at their home near Sisters, Oregon. Bill, who writes the Adventure Retirement blog, and wife Wendy were in Phoenix in April and we had the pleasure of their company for breakfast. From that too brief together time we agreed to meet again in July. The Birnbaums have just finished a 2 month RV adventure that we can't wait to hear about. A last day lunch with some church friends who spend the summer in Bend, and we fly back to the heat.

Sometime next week I'll post some pictures and thoughts after our first week or so. I am really looking forward to this type of friendship-building vacation. Blogging has opened many doors to me. Making new friends in different parts of the country has been an unexpected bonus.

Got to go and finish packing!

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

June 22, 2012

The Best Place For You To Retire: How Would I Know?

One of the staples of satisfying retirement-based web sites and blogs are all sorts of lists that suggest the best places to retire. I'm sure you have seen them: the Top 10 college towns, the best places in Florida or North Carolina or (name a state), the best beach towns, the best mountain towns....and on and on. Based on various criteria, these lists suggest where you would be happy and content if you'd just relocate to one of their choices.

There is one value in all these lists. An area of the country or a particular criteria that you hadn't considered may cause you to think more deeply about your post-retirement living choice. Gathering as much information as possible before making such a major, life-changing decision is always a good thing.

What I caution against is the awareness that someone's opinion of "the best" anything is just an opinion, or even a sales pitch. Making a move after retirement is one of the most important decisions you will make. I have had all sorts of e-mails from folks wondering about the wisdom of moving closer to kids or grandkids, moving near the beach or mountains, or trying a new city on the opposite side or the country.

My comments to each of them is the same: think long and hard before uprooting yourself from the familiar. Retirement is a substantial life change. Pile a move on top of that and you are setting yourself up for a double dose of serious stress. As we age it becomes more difficult to replace long-term friendships. It is harder to start all over again with doctors, shopping choices, your church and social organiztions. There are major costs involved with a move of any distance.

My best advice is to stay put for the time being. Maybe a move closer to family is best. Perhaps you are sick of winter and want the warmth of Arizona or Florida. Maybe, you want to spend your summers in one climate and winters somewhere else. All of those options are available to you upon retirement. But, please, don't rush into such a change. Give yourself at least a year to adjust to how you handle retirement. Spend a few weeks in a place you are thinking of moving. Live there part time during different seasons of the year. Then, if you are still happy about the decision go ahead and move if you can afford to do so.

What I find almost comical is that every list couldn't be the "best." If I Google the term "best retirement towns " over 2 million web sites pop up. Potentially, that is more than every city, town, and hamlet in the country! Obviously the same key spots show up of most of the lists. But, how could the authors possibilty predict which is "best" for anyone other than themselves?

If you are thinking about a move, besides waiting at least a year after retirement do your homework. Make up your own list of what a new location should have: good restaurants, museums, live theaters for plays and musicals, near a college? Or, maybe none of that means anything to you. Your list includes being near a lake or the mountains, lots of biking and hiking trails, a climate that allows you to grow your own vegetables, plenty of wide open spaces, and no suburbs.

Don't forget to look at the cost of living, taxes, availablity of good medical care, whether you are near enough to an airport if you want to fly to visit family members, good local transportation...even high speed Internet access! We tend to take that for granted, but a lot of rural areas do not lend themselves to computer connectivity. If that is important to you then take the time to check it out.

The bottom line is simple: a published list of the "best retirement towns" should not be your source for picking a new place to live. The "best" retirement location is one that fits your specific, unique needs and helps you enjoy a truly satisfying retirement. And for an increasing number of us, the best retirement place is exactly where we live now. We don't need a list...we have already found our home.

June 20, 2012

Blogging for Two Years and Counting

This week marks the second anniversary of Satisfying Retirement. Almost 400 posts and approximately 300,000 words later I'm still typing. With most blogs folding within 30 days of launch and another 25% gone within a few months, I guess surviving this long deserves a slice of cake.

When I began I had no idea what would happen. I didn't know if anyone would read what I was writing, or even be able to find me on the Internet. With 180 million blogs, how would I possibly even be found?

Lots of reading and learning, experimenting, some lucky breaks, and the BRITW (best readers in the world) helped it all come together. For that I am eternally grateful. Blogging hasn't lost its kick for me so I hope to write about my third anniversary in June of 2013. We'll see.

Now, I am turning to you, the BRITW, once again for help. As you know I am beginning my second book. This time, I am putting together a series of interview with folks who have been retired for awhile, or aren't quite there yet put have the goal in sight. The interest in how others have made the transition from work to retirement is  quite strong. The desire to read about others on their journey tells me the appeal of this book could be powerful.

But, it will fall flat on its e-book face without your input. So, what I am asking for is an indication if you (yes, you who are reading this sentence) would like to be a possible part of this book. If so, the first step is simple: send me an e-mail (satisfyingretirement [at] gmail.com) with "New Book" in the subject line. Include:

  • You name
  • Age
  • How long you have been retired or how long until you plan to retire
  • Married, single, divorced, or widowed
  • The part of the country you live in (New England, California, Deep South, Mid West, etc).

I'd like the book to represent many different types of folks, in varied geographic areas, of different ages, and different kinds of relationships. All participants will be anonymous in the sense I won't use your last name or where you live except for the general geographic area.

I have already contacted and received acceptance from several of my blogging friends and those I know who have an interesting story to tell. But, now I am opening the door to you. If I select you to be part of the book you will receive a free copy of the e-book. If you have a blog you will be given a link from your interview to your site.

I will e-mail you back to let you know I have received your basic information. Obviously, I can't use everyone who wants to be part of this book, but I will contact you and let you know what is going on. For those selected I will send you a dozen questions to be answered by return e-mail.

So, attention BRITW: e-mail me with the information above and indicate your interest in being part of this project. The next satisfying retirement book is coming this fall.

And, thank you, very sincerely, for your support over the past two years. It means the world to me.

June 18, 2012

We Lost How Much Net Worth?

This will not be a normal post for me. But, it bubbled up and out onto the page.

Government reports a week or so ago held this startling information: the average American family had lost 40% of its net worth over the past 4 years. We have all been transported back financially to the early 1990's. That is enough to cause anyone some serious stress and make the words satisfying retirement almost like an oxymoron.

The early 1990's: Desert Storm, a decade before 9/11, even longer before Iraq and Afghanistan, several presidents ago.

The early 1990s: my kids were just entering their teens, I was traveling 100,000 miles a year, my mom still had twenty years to live.

The early 1990's: many have pagers, a very few have large and expensive mobile cell phones, laptops are unheard of and tablets wouldn't be invented for almost two decades. The dot.com meltdown is 8 years in the future.

How can it be that all of that time and all our efforts were wiped out in the relative blink of an eye? How can it be that this news story passed with barely a ripple in the press? How can it be that we are calmly accepting the negation of 20 years of work, toil, savings and investing?

How can it be that many of those responsible have become richer and we seem OK with that? How can it be that the mentality that stole 40% from us continues to repeat itself with certain people making huge gambles to pump up their wealth even more (JP Morgan's recent $2 Billion loss come to mind?)?

What I just don't understand is that this report was met with a shrug of the shoulders. Some folks today go ballistic if their Medicare bill goes up $5 a month, gas costs more, or banks tack another $2 a month fee on something that used to be free. But, lose 20 years of work and 40% of net worth and we are focused instead on the Queen of England's 60th Jubilee.

Have we simply given up and assume the deck is so stacked against us we can only grin and bear it? Have we heard so much bad news in the last 4 years that this is just more of the same?

I am more scared of the passive acceptance of this news than I am of the news itself. I continue to lead a satisfying retirement, mainly because what makes me happy and satisfied is mostly under my control. Attitude and adjustments are mine to change.

But, I am not immune to the continued attack on my lifestyle. The problem is, there isn't much I can do about it, particularly when it seems as though so many are simply accepting this turn of events.

Before you add a comment that is political in nature, stop. There is enough blame to go around. The seeds for this disaster started decades ago, was allowed to develop by a blind Congress, bureaucrats and several misinformed or inattentive presidents. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. Regardless of who occupies the White House and fills the seats in Congress this fall, nothing will change as long as the average person learns he or she has lost two decades of net worth and thinks more about the upcoming NFL season instead.

OK, I needed to vent. I feel better now.

June 11, 2012

Retirement Health Concerns..Part 2

A few months ago I had a post that listed some of the top health concerns of retirees. Along with each of the problems we may encounter, there were links to web sites that provided more information. That post took a look at heart health, strokes, cancer, pneumonia and flu, falls and accidents, macular degeneration, and cataracts...potentially all part of our retirement.

The response was positive. Knowing more about what may affect our satisfying retirement is important. Ignoring warning signs or lifestyle matters that affect the quality of our life is not a particularly good way to approach the problems. I did promise to provide similar links to five more important health concerns: diabetes, osteoporosis, dementia, Alzheimer's, and depression. So, here is the follow up:

Diabetes: insulin is the hormone that your body needs to convert sugars, starches, and other foods into energy. Diabetics' bodies do not produce enough insulin (Type 2 diabetes) or any insulin (Type 1 diabetes). Nearly 26 million Americans suffer from some form of diabetes, most often Type 2. Estimate range as high as another 7 million have undiagnosed diabetes, and most of them are likely to be in the 65+ age group.

Untreated diabetes can cause serious health problems for your eyes, joints, skin, hearing, nerves, and kidneys. The good news is that in many cases, lifestyle and diet changes can control diabetes well enough to prevent most of the damage to your body. Insulin injections for Type 1 diabetics can help manage the total absence of insulin in the body.

Osteoporosis: This is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density. Estimates are that 1 in 5 American women over 50 suffer from osteoporosis and fully half will suffer a fracture of the hip, wrist, or vertebrae. The leading causes of osteoporosis are a drop in estrogen in women at the time of menopause and a drop in testosterone in men, usually after the age of 70. Unfortunately, in its early stages there may be no symptoms. For many usually a broken bone is the first indication of the disease.

Dementia & Alzheimer's: This is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. It affects one's memory, thinking, judgment, and even behavior. Most types are non-reversible, though if caused by a stroke, a brain tumor, alcohol abuse, or certain medications there is a possibly of dementia reversal. Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. It is a progressive disease and the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Recent studies suggest that 50% of those over 85 have Alzheimer's disease.

Depression affects at least 7 million Americans over the age of 65. It is often untreated due to the assumption it is a normal part of aging. Depression can be described as feeling unhappy, miserable, sad or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods and will find the feelings pass over time.

Major depression is a mood disorder with long-term consequences. Those feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration will last for weeks, months, or longer and interfere with daily living. If left untreated, there can be serious consequences of major depression: communication with friends and family is harmed or even totally eliminated. Physical health goes downhill due to stress and anxiety. Depression frequently co-exists with a medical illness, like heart disease, stroke, cancer, or diabetes. People with depression are at a higher risk of alcohol or drug abuse. Ultimately, suicide is a continuing risk.

As I was finishing this post I was contacted by a lady who asked me to pass along her particular health concern and passion. She suffered from a form of cancer that is relatively unknown. It doesn't get the publicity or support of breast, lung, or prostate cancer. But, the effects can be just as devastating. It has a mortality rate of 90%.  At the time it was diagnosed she had a 3/12 month old baby. Now, some 7 years later she is cancer free and fighting to make people more aware of this form of cancer.

I usually don't add specific pleas like this, but the subject matter fit. It may not be a disease that primarily affects seniors, but it could affect your children or grandkids. So briefly here is the story and link if you'd like more information. I have been to her site and am impressed with what she is doing:

"Heather Von St. James is a mother, wife, and cancer survivor. Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer when she was 36 years old-only 3 1/2 months after her only child, Lily, was born. Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by asbestos exposure, and kills 90-95% of those who are diagnosed. With courage, strength, and support from others, Heather managed to defy the odds and is cancer free almost 7 years later. Heather has a blog where she details her journey with mesothelioma and how she overcame such a grim prognosis.

Her objective in reaching out to others is to share her story as a source of guidance, hope, and inspiration to anyone who is going through something similar to what she went though. You can check out Heather's story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog."

As was the case with the first post in this series, these topics are not very pleasant. They deal with some of the issues most of us will face in one form or another as we age. But, to deny they may happen to you or loved ones, to not learn the warning signs and preventive measure, and to turn a blind eye toward them if they do strike, certainly is the worst course of action.

A satisfying retirement is not one lived by ignoring what we must know and do. It is one that requires knowledge and acceptance of the way things really are. That being said, I sincerely hope that we will only need to learn more about these health concerns, but never experience their effects.

June 8, 2012

Vacation Pictures: Memories That Last a Lifetime

There is a closet in our upstairs hallway that began life as a linen closet. Shortly after moving into this house Betty picked it as the storage space for dozens of photo album that hold all of our pre-digital photos. Everything from our wedding to all our family events, holidays, vacations, and children's' achievements quickly crowded out all the extra sheets and blankets. For the most part they now reside under various beds and other pieces of furniture.

This "memory closet" holds the proof of our family's growth and many of our most important times together. As summer starts I thought it would be fun to grab a few photos, scan them in, and remember what happened when they were taken.

A very pregnant Betty and I are huddled around a morning fire at a lake in northern Utah. We had spent the night camping with friends Our second daughter will be born not too long after this picture was taken. That must mean we had an infant, just barely a year old somewhere nearby! We had owned a small Chinook pop up RV before moving to Utah from Iowa. But, with a baby and a dog it was too small.

Shortly afterward we relocated to Salt Lake City and tried tent camping again. The trip in this picture helped convince me that I am not a fan of tents, sleeping bags, and hard ground. I will finally try an RV again this September when we rent one for a 10 day trial. Not one to make rash decisions, it has taken me over 30 years to try again.

Roughly two years later, here is Dad and daughters, sitting on the sidewalk waiting for the evening parade at Disney World to begin. Because Betty's parents owned a few weeks at a time share near Sarasota, we spent a week or two every summer in Florida.

That necessitated multiple trips to the Magic Kingdom. This was the first and cemented a fascination with Cinderella and all things Disney in my girls at a very early age.

By the way, I think I finally got rid of that shirt a year ago.

In what the family considers one of our best vacation together, this shows Dad and his girls eating cotton candy on Mission Bay in San Diego. By now we lived in Arizona, so a summer escape to the ocean for some heat relief became a regular habit.

Those early trips to Southern California probably helped convince both girls to move to San Diego several years later. Luckily for mom and dad, both decided to return to Phoenix a few years ago.

In 1989 the first of several family trips to Hawaii happened. We fell in love with the islands and looked upon each trip as coming "home."

Two Christmas celebrations occurred in Lahaina, Maui. Betty brought a miniature tree and some tinsel. We sat in the hotel room, decorating the very small tree while singing Christmas carols.

Each time we made it a point to attend a Christmas Eve church service in a packed sanctuary. Most of the songs and some of the service were in native Hawaiian ...a beautiful language. We couldn't understand many of the words, but we certainly felt the love of everyone at those services. And, there is something very special about walking along the ocean on Christmas morning.
As the girls became older we became more adventurous. Horseback riding on
the slopes of Haleakala was a great experience, even for my middle-aged butt. The whole family took scuba-diving lessons at home and then flew to Kona on the Big island for our required open ocean dives. All four of us did get our "C" cards, certifying us as able to strap on a tank and dive anywhere in the world.

Still, our best times seemed to be having a simple picnic near Kula, upcountry Maui, ice cream and boat watching at the harbor in Lahaina, or driving to Hana to look at the incredible waterfalls and plants.

In 1998 the family explored the Pacific Northwest and fell in love all over again. The Oregon coast was like nothing we had ever seen before. 50 degree fog in July while in Newport was like heaven to us desert rats. Except for parts of Hawaii, Seattle was the greenest place the girls had ever seen. The water, the bridges, and parks captivated us. After a several hour boat cruise we landed in Victoria, B.C. and discovered another hidden gem. Butchart Gardens were breath-taking. More memories and more things to talk about at family gatherings.

Out of estimated 10,000 pictures in that closet I have picked just a handful. Each one vividly brings back that trip, those special times together, and how our lives have been blessed. Now, with both girls grown, one married, and grandkids knocking on the door, a whole new set of memories and the photos that capture them are filling our lives.

This time, they are stored on computer hard drives (and multiple backups). After all, the closet can't take any more pictures, but our satisfying retirement continues to unfold in ways that amaze and please us.

I hope this post has stirred some memories of your family and those times that you'll remember always. Please, share with us all, a trip you took that will live with you forever.

June 5, 2012

Divorce and Boomers: The Trend Is Not Good

In the last twenty years, the divorce rate for those over 50 has doubled. For those who do separate, more than half have already done so once. After the kids leave couples are finding they have nothing to talk about and share no interests. Simmering unhappiness that was kept in check for years is finally expressed in ways that makes continuing the relationship impossible.

Interestingly, a study conducted by by AARP  seven years ago found that women were more often than not the ones who wanted out. The reasons aren't definitive,  but some suggest they have been parents and caretakers of the household since the marriage began and now they want to find out what else life holds. There is a strong desire to be independent. Spousal abuse, both physical and psychological, are always possibilities.

The behavioral problems that lead to empty nest divorce are no different from those for younger married couples—criticism without support , defensiveness instead of acceptance of blame or flaws, contempt for what the other individual does or is, and resentment for giving up "the best years of my life."

The reality is the average older women tends to end up worse off than the man after a divorce. She was likely to have spent at least some of her married years as a stay-at-home parent, which affected her earnings, and therefore her Social Security payments. Her job skills may be several years out of date. But, continuing in an unhappy marriage is judged to be worse. 

Besides the emotional pain for the husband and wife and any children, this trend raises the odds of large numbers of older people living on their own just when their health needs start to increase. Without a partner they will be forced to turn to nursing facilities, home health care workers, and public programs. Singles are up to five times more likely to live in poverty, so the money won't be there for their care. The social circle of friends who could provide some support tends to splinter after a divorce.

Of course, there is a flip side to this situation. Continuing in a loveless or abusive marriage does nobody any long term good. With a divorce comes the opportunity to discover new interests, make new friends, or find a new life partner who is in better sync with someone's needs. Long dormant skills can be explored. The separation may be the boost needed to go back to school to get a long-delayed degree or study a new skill. An idea for a new business can be pursued. Living somewhere else in a lifestyle that has always held attraction is now possible.

Regardless of these "benefits" of a late-in-life divorce, most of us would probably agree that dealing with the factors that trigger the desire to divorce  someone is preferable. The personal and societal costs make divorce, especially for those over 50, traumatic.

Betty and I will celebrate our 36th anniversary at the end of this month. There were a few periods when the pressures of my business and travel lifestyle put real strain on our union. But, our commitment to making the marriage work and our willingness to close down my business so we could change our lifestyle allowed us to pass those tests.

So, I cannot relate personally to this subject. But, two years of writing for this blog, answering comments, and responding to e-mails has given me a bit of an education. The problems begin well before retirement or the onset of an empty nest. Lack of communication about things that are important to both partners tops the list. Really listening the your spouse and his/her concerns and opinions probably shows up as number two. Allowing each person the time to be alone and follow separate interests is vital.

There are so many factors that can torpedo a marriage that it is impractical to list them all. if the marriage is doing serious harm to both partners, divorce may be the best choice. Society no longer judges a divorced person as a failure - it is just too common. But, if you both believe the union is worth trying to save, begin to strengthen your key relationship when the first signs of problems surface. In this case, time does not heal all wounds, it allows them to fester.

Divorce is a fact of life and increasingly so among those over 50. What we don't know yet is what the costs to society will be when millions of singles reach the age when extra care is required. If health care is already broken, what will happen then? 

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June 3, 2012

Your Retirement IPO

There has been a lot of press recently about Facebook and it's IPO..initial public offering. According to Investopedia an IPO is defined as:

The first sale of stock by a private company to the public. IPOs are often issued by smaller, younger companies seeking the capital to expand.

After being happy I hadn't decided to join the frenzy over Facebook's initial stock sale, it occurred to me that the beginning of our satisfying retirement is very much like a company issuing an IPO. We are at that point in our life when we must step out from the safety net of a job and our life as we have known it. We are ready to take a giant step into the unknown.

Though some company IPO's start off hot and do nothing but go up, most are more like what happened to Facebook. There is all sorts of excitement about the upcoming event, with lots of hype and well wishes. The big day comes...and things fizzle a bit and fall short of expectations. Overall, most IPOs, Facebook probably included, will find their footing, figure out what is causing investor hesitancy, and start to see an increase in the stock's price. But, there are some stumbles along the way.

Our retirement often has the same path. There is excitement and all sorts of expectations of what the end of our work life with be like. Investors (family & friends) encourage us. Blogs (!) and books tell us this will be a tremendously fulfilling time of life. We expect an immediate payback on our planning and dreams.

Not so fast. Facebook got a strong reality check the first day of its IPO. Retirees usually have a honeymoon period of several weeks, months, even years before reality rears its head. But, our IPO will transition into our own personal SPO (secondary public offering). That is when we face the future without the rose-colored glasses. We understand the retirement journey is not all happiness and ice cream. There are a lot of adjustments and hard work ahead.

No matter how well we have prepared, the world isn't required to follow our wishes. In fact, it often seems as though the world is snubbing us on purpose. While I doubt that is true, we must realize retirement is pretty much our ship to steer. If it runs around, we must figure out how to re-float our boat. If, heaven forbid, it sinks, we must learn a new way to get to our destination. Blaming the world or other people usually won't work. Our SPO is ours. The stock market owed Facebook nothing more than a shot. If Facebook struggles then so be it. If we struggle, then that's the way it is.

The good news is that most of us figure it out. We adjust our expectations to our reality. We bring the high-flying projections more in line with what really is both possible and makes us happy. Our "investors" help us, encourage us, support us, and stick with us.

Our unrealistic IPO, our sometimes shaky SPO, becomes a SRO (satisfying retirement opportunity).

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June 1, 2012

Setting Summertime Goals

Phoenix is hot. Saturday's high is supposed to be 109. Phoenix will be hot until early October. It is hot enough that it is very possible to burn your hands on the steering wheel. Outside activities must be completed before 9:00 AM or after 8:00 PM to prevent serious melting of various body parts. Hibernation for the next 4 months is smart in such a situation.

Not being the brightest bulb in the chandelier means I don't plan on following that advice. I dislike summer, but not for the obvious reason: 110 degrees in the shade.

I hate summer because everything stops. Most of the church groups and other social gatherings Betty and I are part of are on hold until at least Labor Day. People disappear into their air conditioned homes, malls, and movie theaters. Those who can head to cooler climates. I tend to read too much, watch too much Netflix, and stay trapped in my own little world inside the house. We usually have a few vacation getaways over the summer that help, but that isn't good enough.

I must admit as I read the schedules and activities of many of the BRITW (best readers in the world...you!) I sometimes feel inadequate. There are a some of you, who will go unnamed, who are squeezing every drop out of your day and your life. After I wonder at your energy level, I look for ways to emulate your approach to your life.

So, besides burning my hands on the car's steering wheel, what am I planning for the Summer of 2012?

* A chance to meet and make new friends on my first "Meet the Bloggers" vacation to Oregon in July. This is the first time Betty and I have planned an entire trip around spending time with folks we have met on-line. We will be shown the best parks, gardens, neighborhoods, and sights only locals know about. Galen Pearl, Barbara and Earl Torris, plus Bill and Wendy Birnbaum have offered to show us their favorite parts of the state. A couple from our small group at church spends the summer in Bend so we will drop by to see them for lunch one day.  And, we have reservations at a beautiful inn on the coast for a few nights. But, primarily this will be a first for us...a vacation focused on cementing new friendships. It doesn't hurt that the temperatures will be much more tolerable than at home.

* Try out RV living. For too many years I have told Betty I would like to try RV vacations. We have discussed it, budgeting for it, and at the last minute, always canceled plans for it. After passing my 63rd birthday a few weeks ago I'm finally waking up to the reality of my situation: if there are things I'd like to do I need to do them. My future time line isn't elastic: it doesn't stretch as far as it once did.

So, we are committed to renting a 25 footer for a 10 day vacation in September in the Flagstaff and White Mountains area of Arizona. We will pick up the RV in Flagstaff, saving me the tough drive up I-17. Since we will drive to Flagstaff in a family car we will have a vehicle for getting around during the days, making it convenient to leave the rental sitting in its camping spot.

The point of this trip is to see if the image of living in an RV fits the reality. Will the small space be a problem, or lots of fun? Will living in the forest in a smallish metal box be fun? I'll never know if I don't stop reading about it and actually try it.

* Take guitar lessons. For the last two years I have tried to self-teach myself to play the guitar. I get to a certain point and stall. I lose interest and put it away for a few months, meaning I have to start all over again. The thing is, I like to make music. It is fun to play a few Christmas songs or nursery rhyme songs for the grandkids. But, I'm realizing unless I commit to spending money on some lessons to correct bad habits and get my playing to the next level, I'll never get much past Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. So, after our return from the Oregon trip I will sign up for lessons, put down my money, and see what happens.

* Have new book finished by early fall. As you know from the post of a few days ago, readers have helped me narrow my focus for a new book. This summer will be the time to turn the concept into reality. The goal is to have the e-book available on Amazon by October. This time around, if the response is solid, I may decide to have a printed version available, too.

* Free Nights at Phoenix Art Museum, Desert Botanical Gardens. I write a lot about finding things to do on a limited budget, but the reality is I don't take my own advice often enough. Though a lot of activities, like the Phoenix Symphony and area theaters, are shut down for the summer, there are still plenty of ways to be entertained and educated. The art museum and the botanical garden continue with free nights all summer. Arizona State University has a surprisingly active calendar of student concerts and lecture series that doesn't stop. Even in the heat of summer, there are on-going festivals, arts and craft shows, and music events that are low cost. All I need to do is work up the energy to get off my butt, leave the house, and take advantage.

* Work with new prison ministry mentee after his release in late July. A fellow I have been visiting in prison for the past several months is set to be released at the end of July. I am scheduled to drive to the prison in the northern part of the state, pick him up the morning of his release, and bring him back to his new housing unit in Phoenix. From that point forward, he and I will talk on the phone almost daily. We will get together at least once a week to talk about his problems and progress in adjusting to life on the outside. We will attend some church services together. I will help him get to appointments, job interviews, even food shopping trips. Roughly 10 hours a week will be dedicated to this important part of my volunteer life, but it is worth every minute.

Having to come up with fresh posts three times a week, means you are likely to know how well I am doing in each of these areas. There is a certain accountability that comes from blogging!

What are your plans? How will you spend the next several months...being active or maybe resting up from a tough year? Going public with your goals may help you accomplish what you'd like.

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