September 28, 2015

Next Year's Travel: What's On The Horizon?

Most of the travel plans Betty and I had for this year ended up being abandoned. With a move to our new home, a decision to cancel a summer-long RV trip, and the need to stay close to home for awhile after my heart problems, several anticipated getaways never happened. 

We did manage to fly to Portland for a week to see friends, but that was short circuited  with a hospital stay. Our just completed time with family at Disneyland and California Adventure was memorable and special. And, we will take the RV up to the White Mountains later this week for a four day stay in the cool pines by a pretty lake. But, overall, this was a year we spent pretty close to home.

Betty and I will celebrate our 40th anniversary in June, so we would like to make 2016 very special. After the year that is quickly coming to a close, we are ready for some serious self-pampering.

Right after the first of the year we are off to join Mike and Tamara Reddy for a week at the Palm Springs Film Festival. This past January was our first visit to the annual gathering of thousands of film fans, along with the famous and nearly famous folks who appear in those movies. With well over 1,000 movies to choose from, the toughest part is deciding which ones to see. During the eight days we will be in town we will see six films, enjoy excellent meals together, do some hiking and shopping, and enjoy each others' company. 

In early June we will fly to Seattle and board a cruise ship for a week enjoying the inner passage of Alaska. This trip has been on our must-do list for several years; 2016 is when we finally make it reality. How can you not enjoy something that involves too much food, being pampered by a crew of hundreds, and visiting places with names like Skagway and Ketchikan? 

After returning to Seattle we may take a boat back to Victoria for a day. The cruise ship stops there for only a few hours, not long enough to explore Butchart Gardens and the thoroughly British feel of the small downtown near the dock. We were last there twenty years ago and still have vivid memories of the area.

In early November we are discussing a trip that would be truly special: Hawaii and then two weeks in New Zealand. For the first time, I would be turning over all planning and transportation to a tour company. Typically, I plan a trip, book all the hotels, arrange for the airplane flights and rental car, and then plow through an intense itinerary that leaves me frazzled and unable to see much since I must focus on driving.

In all honesty I must say that the idea of being on a structured tour with someone telling us where and when to be someplace is a little scary. The lack of control and the need to be with a group of people for two weeks will be different. I will have to practice my patience and people skills, and give up my need to manage everything.

Hobbit House
On the plus side, I will have the opportunity to actually see the countryside, learn about the history and importance of places we visit, and not worry about driving on the left side of the road! We would spend time on both islands, enjoying the stunning countryside and sights. One required stop is Hobbiton, where parts of the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed. 

The flight to Auckland is 14 hours from L.A. That is more time stuck in a tight airplane seat than I am willing to endure. So, we would fly from Phoenix to Honolulu and spent 3 nights enjoying one of our favorite places on earth. That leaves "only" a nine hour flight to New Zealand-much more doable. On the way back we would stop off in Hawaii for two nights to help with jet lag and another too-long time in a metal tube before continuing home. 

The cost of that trip is giving us pause. To spend so much on just a vacation strikes us as questionable. But, it is a major milestone in our marriage. Stay tuned for a final decision.

A few long weekend trips in the RV to Flagstaff and Arizona Wine Country should help us make up for a disappointing travel year in 2015.

Quite literally, 2016 should be a truly Satisfying Journey with experiences and memories to last the rest of our lives.

Now, if we can just stay healthy.......

September 24, 2015

A Magic Time At The Magic Kingdom

Disneyland 60th Anniversary

Is it possible to have a bad time at Disneyland? Maybe, but you won't hear that from me. Betty and I are just back from our second trip to "The Happiest Place on Earth" in the past 10 months. With the grand kids, two daughters, son-in-law, and both of Keith's parents we formed quite a troop - 10 fun-seekers.

Armed with three day park hopper passes we managed to thoroughly cover both Disneyland and California Adventure. A mix of hot and sunny weather with some drenching downpours left us alternately steamy and soaked. We loved every minute of it. I kept a close eye on my heart rate and had no problems, thank goodness.

There is something very special about experiencing the parks through the eyes of youngsters. As an adult I would not normally decide that a 60 minute wait for a 60 second ride makes much sense. But, when a grandchild has a firm grip on your hand and makes it clear he (or she) wants to ride with you time isn't really an issue.

The drive to and from L.A. reminds me how thankful I am to not experience that type of freeway traffic very often. But, being less than seven hours away does make the trip an easy one and an important part of my satisfying journey.

Betty snapped thousands of photos to add our stock of memories. Enjoy some of her pictures taken during Disney's 60th anniversary celebration and our time together.

California Adventure

Reaching for Grandad's hand - priceless

What is the wait time on the next ride?

Disneyland character

Always look for the orange cap if we ever get separated!

Loving my ice cream

Me, too

Anyone have a wipe?

The girls and their beloved aunt

Rain doesn't slow us down

Is Betty tall enough for this ride?

Mary and Tom (Keith's parents)
Our daughters

And, the satisfying journey through retirement continues.

September 14, 2015

Even To A Reader This May Be Too Many Books!

bookshelfMaybe it was because I had extra time after my heart problem. Maybe I was getting tired of the super heat of an Arizona summer. Or, maybe I just like books and like to have lots of choices.

For whatever reason, last week I found myself with more stacks of things I wanted to read than normal. Add to that at least three books on my library hold list that would be available soon and I was in reading heaven....or in need of a break!

Let's see, what was in stacks in the living room, family room, kitchen, office, and by the bed?

Two of the titles make perfect sense:Prevent a Second Heart Attack and Outliving Heart Disease. I am looking for an explanation of what got me where I am today and how to prevent another ambulance ride when my heart rebels.

Close by were Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook, Quick and Easy Cookbook from the American Heart Association, and The Complete Mediterranean Diet Cookbook. Oh, and The South Beach Diet to help me lose some weight quickly. The days of potato chips, burgers, lots of bread, and processed cold cuts were over. What were safe choices from now on?

In my office were two books waiting for me to read and review on the blog: Live Well With Chronic Pain and Windows 10 for Seniors for Dummies. The first is one that Betty is reading to give me her reactions. As someone who has lived with pain for the last 30 years, her take on that book would be important. I had just converted from Windows 7 to Windows 10. I figured the Dummies book would point me toward features I hadn't discovered yet and might helps others in the transition.

In a real shift of topics, by my chair in the living room was a copy of Philip Yancey's Prayer and an English translation of Lao Tzu's Te Tao Ching. I have read the Yancey book before but didn't really enjoy it. Now felt like the right time to give it a second chance. The Te Tao Ching was one I stumbled across while in Portland. I found many of the author's thoughts to be remarkably in sync with my Christian beliefs, others both confusing and enlightening. I do like to learn about subjects that are new to me; the Te fit perfectly.

For pure escapism, Kathy Reichs' Bare Bones was a nice change of pace. The lead character is Temperance Brennan. If you watch the TV series, Bones, that name should sound familiar. She is the forensic anthropologist that the series is built around. I enjoy the show so I decided to give the book a chance. Summer fluff that feels good after all the "heart" books! 

And, finally, a book that seems so appropriate: Browsing, a Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books. As its name implies this is a series of essays, by a book fanatic, on the thrills of reading and collecting books. Each essay contains at least a half dozen suggestions. I knew I was in trouble when I had added four authors to my must-read list and I was only halfway through the first chapter.

A Satisfying Journey moves forward, one printed word at a time.

September 9, 2015

Have We Forgotten What Enough Feels Like?

I recently read a book by Wayne Muller,"A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough." His premise is simple and powerful: our striving for a life of constant motion, commitment, and responsibility guarantees we miss what is most important: living fully now and understanding what we have is entirely sufficient for a full, joyful life.

If you envision your most perfect, beautiful day, does it include a meeting at work or rushing to meet volunteer commitments along with family and spousal responsibilities? Does it include emotions like feeling drained, angry, or rushed? Does it include your falling into bed at the end of the day so frazzled that sleep is almost impossible? Is it the day you bought the new big screen TV or stainless steel refrigerator? 

Probably not. 

For most of us a beautiful, perfect day might include time by the ocean, or being deep in a mossy forest. It may look like a family picnic where everyone is laughing, playing games, and loving each other's company. It could be the day your child or grandchild is born. It might be a few hours spent on the back porch, with a cup of coffee, watching the clouds scud across the sky, leaving your mind blank and calm.

Mr. Muller makes a powerful case against the wasteful habits of worry and constantly striving for more, and then more. He states that we often feel defeated and discouraged no matter how much "progress" we might have made that day, or week, or month. He believes that we have the innate ability to be happy when we slow down, take stock of what is right and good in our life, and accept that as enough. 

Chinese author Lao Tsu spelled out the same message thousands of years ago in the Tao Te Ching: "Those who know that enough is enough will always have enough."

Mr. Muller is not saying we should withdraw from the world, or be content without any movement forward. He is making the case for understanding what is worth striving for; it usually is already right in front of us. I love his assertion that our life is always a glass that is both half full and half empty. How we react to that reality is what matters. 

Over the course of a life, most of us experience a combination of joy and sadness, contentment and disappointment, love and grief. It is never all of one and none of the other forever. The glass always contains the seeds or probability of both. If we look for a constant flow of external successes, possessions, or accomplishments we will eventually realize we are chasing the wrong goal. 

Mr. Muller says, "there is a geological term , isostasy, which is the tendency of something to rise once whatever has been pushing it down is removed."   Are we our own worst enemy in this regard? Do we simply have to remove what it is that has been pushing us down to rise? Abraham Lincoln said, "most folks are as happy as they make their minds up to be." Mr. Muller says, "Happiness is an inside job."

My Satisfying Journey is a wandering passage of discovery and acceptance. The signposts in this book has been quite helpful to keep me on track and working on my insides.

September 4, 2015

Is Financial Security a State of Mind ?

Financial Security

Over the last few weeks the stock market has proven yet again it is no place for sissies. Huge drops in the Dow Jones average one day, followed by an encouraging partial recovery, only to be dashed by another fear-induced sell off makes for an emotional roller coaster. What will the Fed do about interest rates? What happened to the price of oil?

China has become the financial equivalent of jello: a seemingly solid mass that quivers and shakes with each new move by their government to hold things together. And, don't even get me started on Greece.

The bottom line is a financial headache for nearly all of us. Even if you don't have much skin in what happens on Wall Street, we are all affected by what happens there and around the world. It is absolutely true that if one developed country sneezes, we all worry about catching a cold. 

So, what does all this mean for the concept of planning for satisfying retirement financial security? If you are retired, close to leaving the work force, or even just thinking about the time when you will be freer to live your dreams, what are you supposed to do when the Dow drops 1,000 in 10 minutes, or China, the world's second largest economy, starts to slow down? Do you rejoice when gas prices are dropping again, or realize that means bad things for whole industries? What about the California will that affect food prices this winter?

As regular readers know, I am a non-financial blogger. I still managed to retire at 52 by following a simple rule: spend less than I made. I have had a few financial advisers over the years. Generally speaking, they have been positives for me. Yes, some of their recommendations were poor (think Greek banks in 2012) and I lost money. Since the financial markets are not very logical and are subject to seemingly counter intuitive moves, I  know losing is part of the process. As long as the growth exceeds the decline by a decent percentage, I am happy. 

So, what is financial security and how do you achieve it? I suggest there are three parts to the answer:

1. Knowledge. I don't mean understanding derivatives, swaps, or other esoteric financial tactics that helped launch the 2008 meltdown. Obviously, many of the professionals didn't understand what they were buying either. I mean knowledge about your goals, the true state of your financial health, and the amount of risk and uncertainty you are willing to tolerate. Self-knowledge is a key. Without it your future is at the mercy of others.

2. Patience. This is a tough one in a culture that literally screams at us, "buy now and buy often." Saving for something and delayed gratification are just not part of our collective mindset. When the stock market falls we react in precisely the wrong way, by allowing panic or fear to dictate how we manage our financial assets. When housing prices begin to increase we decide to sell our home so we don't miss out on the rising tide - completely forgetting that the house we are moving to is also more expensive. 

Patience is a winning strategy in much of life, but particularly in financial matters. The hare lives up to 10 years. The tortoise closer to 150 years. There is a reason he eventually wins the race. 

3. Attitude.  This is the belief that you will succeed in preparing adequately for your retirement. Life may make that difficult, but without an attitude that the problems can be overcome or worked to your advantage, serious damage will have been done to your long term success. This isn't just positive thinking. Rather, the proper attitude allows you to make proper decisions, execute your plan, and adjust your goals as need be.

The title of this post is a little flippant. Certainly financial security does require money. It does require being smart with your investments. It does require a certain level of resources, though for each of us that level is different. That is the reality. 

But, I contend that the mental part of the equation is every bit as important. With self knowledge, patience, and the right attitude your financial security is not just what is in the bank, but what is in your mind. 

And, unlike a stock market that runs more on emotion than logic, I find it quite comforting that the mental part of financial security is 100% under my control.

 I find that quite satisfying.