November 29, 2018

Does Jimmy Buffett Really Have The Answers?

The ultimate Boomer, Jimmy Buffett,  will be 72 on Christmas Day. Even though he only had a few hit records, Jimmy continues to be one of the biggest concert draws, year after year. In fact, he was in Phoenix a few days ago for a sold-out concert. He portrays an image that is a combination of beach, booze, sun, women, and song into his 7th decade. His lyrics are often witty, literate, and captivating. For millions of  Parrotheads, he speaks to their dreams, aspirations and lost youth.

Confession time: I am a semi-retired Parrothead. I have been privileged to see Jimmy in concert several times, once flying to Denver just to see his show. There is no way I can see him in person or listen to his music and not smile. You can bet whenever my wife and I go to Hawaii Jimmy's music is along for the ride. He has been very much part of my satisfying retirement.

With tongue firmly planted in my check, I contend that many of life's important lessons, especially for us retired and pre-retirees can be found in the lyrics of Jimmy's music. Not so sure? Here are some examples to convince you I am not just a cheeseburger in paradise:

"Few have ever seen, most of them dream.  I've got to stop wishin' and got to fishin'."
  • Too many folks dream their life away without doing what they really want to do. There comes a time to stop dreaming and a time to act.

"All of the faces and all of the places, wonder where they all disappeared.
Vision of good times that brought me so much pleasure. Makes me want to go back again."
  • I have known so many people and been to so many places, but they are no longer part of my life. Luckily, I'll always have my memories and I can visit again anytime.
"Oh, yesterday's on my shoulders so I can't look back for too long. There's just too much to see waiting in front of me. And I know I just can't go wrong."
  • Memories and the past are great, but sometimes they just hold me back. I am excited by what is ahead.

"I'm growing older but no up. My metabolic rate is pleasantly stuck. I'd rather die while I'm living, than live when I'm dead."
  • I don't care what the calendar says, I can still be a little kid sometimes. I don't want to always act like a gown-up and I refuse to stop grabbing all that life has to offer.

"I'm a cultural infidel,. believe in common sense. I'm a cultural infidel, love the present tense."
  • They may not be "appropriate" for someone of my age but blue jeans and funny T-shirts are just fine for me. I don't live in the past; I take what's best about today.

"I wish lunch could last forever. Make the whole day one big afternoon."
  • My schedule is mine. I understand the importance of being wholly invested in whatever I am doing at the moment. And, if that is a long meal with friends, so be it.
"Ain't it funny how we all turned out. I guess we are the people our parents warned us about."
  • My 20's were a blast and completely different from my life today. My values, lifestyle, choices, and mindset then would probably shock many of my friends now. But, I learned tolerance and the ability of maturity to work its magic.

Jimmy speaks to the parts of us that mean so much: treasuring our memories but not living in the past, staying active and full of dreams, and keeping the streak of non-conformist alive, if only in our mind. I wouldn't suggest we try to model our life to fit the image Jimmy projects. But, it is a fun escape with some life lessons tossed in.

November 26, 2018

Your Best Frugal Ideas

Frankly, by now I shouldn't be surprised that the topic of frugality is always so popular. The recent blog post, Retirement and Frugality generated lots of views and some very interesting comments. I think we determined that frugality isn't being cheap, it is being a wise steward of our resources.

A few readers suggested I have a post with nothing but ideas, tips, and ways of being both retired and frugal. Sure, why not. I know there is a real interest in how retirees spend our free time, what part volunteerism plays in our lives, and the frugal lifestyle choices we make. So, this could be quite instructive.

I am turning the rest over to you. Think about anything and everything you do to stay within budget and make the most of whatever you choose to spend. Is your focus in the area of budgeting to control income and outgo?

How about food purchase and preparation? How to you make sure money you spend at the grocery store doesn't end up in the garbage? Do you grow some of your own food? Are your menu choices made with frugality in mind?

How about clothing and home furnishings, entertainment choices, and transportation? One car or two, or none? Streaming services, library DVDs, over the air TV...or no TV? Do you listen to music often? What's your source: the radio, streaming music services (the free version!), old school records?

Books from the library or garage sales? Passed from friend to friend so only one copy must be purchased? Newspapers delivered or only read on-line?
Health and exercise: How do you keep medical expenses under control? Gym membership or a walk and bike regime instead? Drugs from Canada or a pill splitter? Using free clinics?

How about hobbies? Doing what you enjoy, find enriching, and making your free time a joy are a very important part of retirement. But, lots of pastimes can be expensive. How do you deal with this frugality?

You get the idea. I thought wrapping gifts in newspapers was kind of over-the-edge, but I was promptly corrected. So, I am no judge whatsoever.

Educate me!

November 23, 2018

I Can Name That Song In 3 Notes

It is a holiday weekend in the U.S. So, something a little on the light side:

First radio job at 15
 For a dozen years I made my living as a rock and rock DJ. It was an exciting time of my life. My parents weren't too happy when I used a different name on the air, but they understood the need to keep the real me separate from the radio me.

Music was my job. I'm willing to bet it was an important part of your life, too, even if you weren't making a living that way. Studies show that the music you hear in your teens and early 20's becomes the music you take with you for the rest of your life.

 While you are likely to enjoy different styles of music as you age, those songs on the radio during high school and college became part of who you are. Music has an incredible power to trigger memories and feelings like almost nothing else.

Recently, I was looking at a list of some of the top songs of the 1960's and 70's. It occurred to me that some of the song titles were perfect representatives of how we thought and felt during that time. As the years advanced, the changes in society and culture could also be marked by the music. Just for fun I picked a handful of songs to make my point.

I Want To Hold Your Hand.  I can still remember where I was when I heard this song for the first time. I was listening to a transistor radio hidden under my pillow well past my school day bedtime when the song played. The Beatles sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. Instantly I was captivated. At age 14 radio suddenly became my constant companion.  While the music was up tempo and loud and different, the lyrics were not much different from the rest of the songs of that time. The focus was on innocence, acceptable limits of contact, and a form of chaste puppy love. Two of the biggest hit songs of the late 50's were April Love and Young Love. Their message was really no different from the one sung by the Beatles. Upheaval and rebellion were yet to come.

Ballad of the Green Berets. Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler had a number one song in 1966, extolling the bravery and glory of the Green Beret soldiers. This song reflected the mood of the country: military service was an honorable way to serve the United States, and Vietnam had not yet become a political land mine. The song was used in a movie of the same name staring John Wayne. Society was only a year away from the Beatles openly singing about drugs and the rumblings of discord on college campuses.

To Sir with Love. From the movie of the same name, British artist, Lulu, sang of respect for teachers and authority. She was expressing appreciation for an adult figure who helped change her outlook on life. The one interesting subtext in the song was the message of interracial tolerance and acceptance. Though the teacher in the movie was black (Sidney Poitier), Lulu's character in the movie didn't care. While the other students were less than open about having a black man as a teacher, she simply accepted what he could teach her.  During the time this song was released (1967) racial tensions in the U.S. and the rest of the world were building toward a climatic event just one year later in Memphis.

People Got to be Free. Only a few years earlier the Rascals had sung about Good Lovin'. Now, in 1968, the mood of the country had begun to sour. The riots in Chicago were only a few months in the future. The assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were soon to occur. The tide had begun to turn against the Vietnam war and the government. The Beatles were experimenting with LSD, and the movie Easy Rider became an instant hit among the young, glorifying a lifestyle of easy love, drugs, travel, and no responsibilities.

Songs demanding social change became an important part of rock radio. Ohio, about the shooting at Kent State helped propel Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to stardom. Edwin Starr sang against War. Helen Reddy became a feminist icon with her hit, I am Woman. Music was angry, aggressive, and demanding changes.

Flash forward almost a decade. The Vietnam war was history. The campus riots and political tensions had stopped. The gas shortage of the early 70's had faded from memory. The country's mood had changing dramatically since the late 1960's.

Music that was meant for dancing and sex took over the airwaves. The Bee Gees dominated the charts with the soundtrack from Saturday Night Fever and #1 songs like You Should be Dancing and Staying Alive. Such a heavy use of falsetto hadn't been as popular since the early days of Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons. 

Everything was about the beat. Lyrics of disco songs were either unimportant, or strongly sensual. Society had become liberated in a way that made I Want to Hold You Hand look like a song from another lifetime. Rod Stewart wanted to know if you "Think I'm Sexy."  The group Exile wanted to "Kiss You All Over."

As the 1970's ended disco faded away. The 1980's began with hard rock groups like Queen, solo superstars Madonna and Michael Jackson and country flavored artist Kenny Rogers. There was a variety to the types and styles of music that radio hadn't played since the early 1960's.

I trust the handful of songs and artists I've highlighted began prompting memories from that jukebox in your mind. What songs had special meaning to you growing up during this time? Which groups or artists dominated your singles and LP collection? What about Elvis, Motown, Simon and Garfunkel, Three Dog Night, or The Righteous Brothers? Do you remember You're So Vain, Wild Thing, or Paint it Black?

8 track tapes...Do you still have any?

November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

A Happy Thanksgiving from Bob, Betty, Bailey, and the Satisfying Retirement family.

You may be surrounded by your family and looking forward to a traditional meal. You may be far from home but know there are people who love you. You may be serving our country somewhere that looks nothing like home. You may be alone for the first Thanksgiving after a major life change. You may be alone, happy and thankful for the life you have chosen. 

Whatever state you find yourself today, I sincerely wish you a peaceful, joyous day. We all have blessings regardless of where we find ourselves. Today is the day to think about them and celebrate that part of our life.

For readers who are not in the United States or do not celebrate this holiday, my same hope for you remains: life is a heck of a ride. Enjoy it, cherish it, and love anyone and everyone you can.

Please join me for a moment to think about all those left homeless or devastated by the on-going California fires, the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico, the floods in Japan and India...all the natural disasters around the world in 2018 that left so many suffering. Our wish is their future be brighter and one day life again holds things to be thankful for. 

November 15, 2018

Dealing With Difficult Parents: What Can I Do?

Not long ago a reader asked for some feedback on the important issue of dealing with a difficult parent. This problem is one that many of us are facing now, or will have to deal with in the future. That person is responsible for bringing us into the world. In the vast majority of cases, he, she, or both did what they thought best. Maybe their parenting fell short (even far short), but there is a connection that can't be erased. Now, that connection is under strain, maybe even tearing. 

I don’t pretend to be an expert in this area of human relationships. But, I have a few suggestions that may help you and bring you some peace as you work through a tough time with one or both of your parents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My last thought: remember the good times and when your relationship was good. Once your parent is gone any time for reconnecting is over forever. Do what you can to build a bridge, no matter how difficult it is now.

November 12, 2018

Retirement and Blogging: What Do They Share?

After eight years, blogging continues to be satisfying. Even I am surprised I haven't run out of things to write about. I have found a schedule that seems to work for me. But, there are days when I stare at the blank computer screen and wonder how I am going to fill the page.

Inspiration disappears for a period of time. The creative well seem to be empty. There is a little flood of panic. Then, something worth committing to words eventually starts to flow and I relax.

Is retirement much different? Don't we experience times when we are simply going through the motions? There is a predictable, comfortable routine to the day. Nothing really new or interesting happens. There are no problems we can't handle without a little effort. Inspiration is taking a break. Life moves forward.

I thought it might be interesting to draw comparisons between where I turn for blogging inspiration and how I find new energy for whatever might be next in retirement.

Pay attention & shake it up

One of my best sources for blogging topics is to stop long enough to look at the world around me. What in my life might give me inspiration? Old photos,  movies, a play or theater presentation, a headline in the newspaper, mementos around the house, the birds in the backyard, people at the mall, actually just about anything can inspire if my mood is right and I'm open to seeing things in a new way.

Building a satisfying retirement works the same. Looking for a new angle or use of the everyday, meeting a new person or having a new experience, any of these can energize an otherwise mundane day. I might read something in a magazine that changes my perspective. Betty and I decide to try a restaurant we have never been to. Shaking up a routine or attempting to break an unproductive habit can be just the boost I need to get moving again.

Sometimes you just have to act

When a deadline is approaching and there is nothing ready to go, I must force myself to write. I go through files of idea starters, other blogs, even random Google searches on topics that I think might interest readers. Eventually something clicks. If I have a good title, then I will usually just start writing and an hour later a post has taken shape. There is still time required to strengthen weak parts, cut out unnecessary words, spell check, and select a photo. But, if the bulk of the post is done I can relax.

That process is the same for anything in your life that is worthwhile. There will be times when you must force yourself to take action. It would be easier and more pleasant to avoid whatever it is. But, the problem isn't going away until you confront it. Whether this is a relationship issue, a health concern, a financial upset, or even where to go on vacation, you may have to simply grit your teeth and do something. 

Look for something fresh from others 

On a regular basis I read a half a dozen other blogs a day. I like what the writer is saying or I think the information is useful to me. I find inspiration and topic ideas galore from others who spend their time in front of a keyboard. Many write substantially more words than I do, so there must be something I can learn.

Your daily life isn't different. Inspiration often comes from an outside source. Interacting with other people may be an effective way to find an answer to a problem. They may not directly address what your need is. But, by simply being with them you may find a new path toward something. Being with a group of people you enjoy can't help but make you feel better.

Maybe you simply need a retread

Dip your bucket into the may be surprised!
When all else fails and my blogging well is dry, I'll take an older post that I've already written and find a way to freshen it up. Maybe I can add some new or additional information. Maybe my original premise is no longer valid and I can discuss how my thinking has changed. Possibly providing links to other blogs will give the reader a fresh take on the subject. A new photo can help.

Reusing or reworking something you have done before is really what retirement is all about. A lifetime of behavior and expectations are up for review. Just because you thought one way while working doesn't mean that line of thought is best for your life now. Was there an interest or hobby you used to love that fell by the wayside? Is it time to bring it back, maybe in a slightly different way? When you were 30 you loved to mountain bike. But, now at 60, maybe trail riding is safer and more suited to your body.  You still love to bike, but you change the approach.

Writing a blog and building a satisfying retirement are not that different. Both require some of the same skills. Maybe that is why so many blogs are being started by retired folks. One tends to reinforce the other!

November 8, 2018

Retirement and Frugality Work Well Together - Don't They?

satisfying retirement is built on much more than money. But, let's not be naive. Without financial resources retirement could be anything but satisfying. At this stage of the game, whatever the reason for your situation is almost unimportant. What is crucial is what you are going to do about it. But, if the forces of the financial world are aligned against you, what can you do?

There are a few things that make sense to me. You can control your spending by controlling your wants versus your needs. You can change your lifestyle to reflect the reality you find yourself in. You can adjust your attitude to become a positive force instead of a negative drag on your life.

I can't solve all the problems. If I had those answers I'd be running for, wait. Who in their right mind would want that job? But, I have experience in being fired with two young children and a wife to take care of, having a company collapse from under me, living on mac and cheese for several months, losing 40% of my IRA  and 50% of my house value in 2008, and being bled by health care costs. I've been there.

If you have been visiting this blog for a while, you know about some of the steps my wife and I have taken to adjust to our financial reality. This time I am writing more about an attitude change rather than a list of things you can do to get your budget under control.

Wikipedia defines frugality as " the quality of being frugal, sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the use of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance." Since few people would want to be known as wasteful or extravagant, why isn't frugality something everyone embraces? Why is it almost a dirty word to many folks?

Like anything else, there are different degrees of frugality that range from casual to extreme. For example, I can clip some coupons, look for price match opportunities, and stock up on something when it is on sale. Or, I can become an extreme couponer, getting massive amounts of products for free or low cost and spending hours on the computer to get 100 rolls of toilet paper for a few cents. Neither of those approaches fits my definition of frugality.

I think frugality may have become a captive of those who are extreme in their definition and pursuit. Using both sides of copy paper is fine when you are printing something for your home or to file away, using newspaper to wrap a present not so much. Taking handfuls of sugar packets home from Burger King, probably not. Keeping the air conditioner off all summer and heating the house to 55 degrees in the winter goes beyond what is reasonable for most of us. But, I would guess that the concept of frugality makes many think of those examples. 

As a teacher of mine used to say, "I beg to differ." Frugal living means keeping more of what is yours, yours. It means not spending money for things you don't need and don't enjoy. It means eliminating the habits and activities from your life that take away your hard earned resources. All that sounds good to me.  Retirement and frugality should go together. From the first year of Satisfying Retirement comes this post: Simple Living My Way. Take a look.

Again, Wikipedia says, "Common strategies of frugality include the reduction of waste, curbing costly habits, suppressing instant gratification by means of fiscal self-restraint, and seeking efficiency."  It doesn't mean eliminating the things that bring joy and happiness to your life. It doesn't mean living on the edge. It doesn't mean not enjoying what you have saved and planned for. It just means regularly reviewing how you live and how you utilize your resources. Does everything still deserve a place at the table?

Several years ago US News carried a story, "The Secret to Living Well on $11,000 a year." This man's approach isn't one many of us would follow, but it makes for interesting reading. It was a follow up to "The Secret to Living Well on $20,000 a year." This fellow's life is more mainstream but still rather spartan. I'm afraid articles that these give a one-dimensional view of frugality.

So, my simple question to you is are you frugal? Do you think of yourself that way? Are you doing all you can to avoid waste and trim your expenses by eliminating things that no longer serve you well? Have you taken a hard look at everything in your life that costs you money, time, and effort and assured yourself that whatever it is passes the test? 

If so, then I'd suggest you are frugal. Wear the badge proudly.

November 6, 2018

The Pursuit of Happiness

No, this won't be a discussion of the Declaration of Independence, or of the excellent movie with Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness. 

I want to think about the lifelong pursuit all of us have for satisfaction, for joy, for happiness. Of course, this isn't restricted to the retirement years. As a youngster most of us want nothing but happiness; chores and  duties were to be avoided at all costs. As we got older, we often experiment with things that might bring momentary happiness: alcohol, drugs, sex.

Later it becomes the search for deep love and commitment to someone or something. Too often that is followed by the belief that money or possessions equal contentment. "If I only had......I'd be happy." 

Honestly, I fell for all these false gods at one point or another. If you grew up in middle class America it was hard to avoid. Even my religious upbringing stressed the rewards God would bestow on me if I believed completely and followed the "rules," both written and unwritten.

I am quite certain that retirement is a journey, not a destination. Along the way, I have learned that much of what I accepted with blind faith in my younger years might have been well-meaning, but it was wrong, or at least requires a critical review.

I am in the midst of a rather intensive study of spirituality. That has caused me to question and broaden my understanding of what makes the universe and me operate the way we do. It has given me a much wider, more encompassing, and frankly more joyful worldview than I receieved from my traditional upbringing. Facing the possibility of eternal punishment wasn't exactly a happy place.

I am more questioning of the forces that drive our society and culture. Some of the not-so-attractive parts of our history that were glossed over during my school years are too powerful to ignore. Other parts of what made us who we are remain empowering and encouraging.

A post of a week or two ago stimulated some tremendous comments with back-and-forth exchanges of concerns about our future. Frankly, it was not all "sunshine and roses" but was a necessary conversation.

With all that being said, this post is ultimately meant to be uplifting. Through the disappointments, false narratives, even a questioning of the foundation of my faith life, I have reaffirmed the, the likelihood, that the pursuit of happiness (or its more permanent cousin, joy) is both possible and can have a positive conclusion.

What I would like to suggest after 17+ years of the retirement life, is that happiness is a concept that changes over time. What made me happy at my grandfather's farm at age 7 was not what made me feel good at 16, or 22, or 27, the year I married the woman of my dreams. What made me feel successful and satisfied at 40 or 50 holds little interest in my 69th year. 

Maybe that is why we refer to the "pursuit" of happiness. It is not a single moment in time. but in constant evolution. Probably the saddest thing to see is someone who chases his or her vision of happiness that has remained unchanged since teenage or young adult years. Being locked into just one version of satisfaction almost guarantees a life of disappointment, chasing something that can never be grasped, or an outlook on the unfairness of life that is, to put it politely, misguided.

Perhaps we would be better off to replace the word happiness with the word, joy. The former is usually caused by some external event or circumstance. Happiness is to be strived for but is usually fleeting. That perfect, sunny afternoon at the ball game ends. The unwrapping of presents on Christmas morning is followed by the letdown of cleaning up the mess and knowing that something that had such a big buildup is over in just an hour or so. Happiness is temporary. Not bad, just not permanent.

A balance life can be a joyful life

Joy is an internal condition that tends to be longer-lasting. It is the feeling of contentment, satisfaction, of parts of one's life being in balance and working together, of being comfortable with one's self. While the happiness of an event, holiday, or special occasion ends, the joy of being with loved ones continues. The feeling that your life is unfolding the way it is meant to, that you are strong enough to face what may come, is joy. The peace that a spiritual awareness brings is joy. 

The pursuit of happiness and joy. One is temporary, one is more long lasting and life-centered. Both are worth pursuing. How is your journey going?

November 5, 2018

Vote on Tuesday

Tuesday, you have one job.

Democracy dies when its citizens can't be bothered to vote. In recent years, only 40% made decisions that affect 100% of us.

Please, don't be part of that 60% who can't be bothered. 

If you haven't already, Vote on November 6th.

November 2, 2018

Retirement and Volunteering: What Do I Need To Know?

Volunteering is at the top of many retirees to-do list after leaving work. Studies make it clear that the desire to give back something to others and the community is a powerful force that brings all sorts of benefits to both the volunteers and the object of their help.

Over the 17 years of my retirement I have been deeply involved in prison ministry, the United Way, Junior Achievement teaching, lay ministry, and serving on the board of directors for the friends of the library organization in our town. Each has allowed me to use different skills or personality traits. Each has left a meaningful and lasting impression on me, and I hope, others.

Of course, many seniors cannot perform any type of physical volunteer work due to health limitations. If you are caring full time for a grandchild or two, enough free time may not be available. Volunteering is a gift we can give to others, but not one that need put ourselves in harm's way. There is absolutely no reason to feel guilty if active volunteering doesn't fit with your abilities or lifestyle. There are many other ways to give back to the community that could form the basis of a future post.

If you are able and motivated, volunteering brings some risks, or unintended consequences, that should be considered before raising your hand. One of the most common "mistakes" newly retired folks make is overcommitment. It is very easy to say "yes" too many times and find yourself as harried and pressed for time as you were before retirement. When you realize you bit off more than you can chew, you might experience a feeling of guilt for having to back away from something you agreed to do.

So, what are other some guidelines to consider before you join the ranks of retired volunteers?

1) Will a particular opportunity allow you to help a cause or organization you care deeply about? To volunteer just to do so usually doesn't work. There has to be a good fit between you and the organization you have agreed to help. If you have good feelings about the group's mission, if it pulls on your heartstrings,  you are much more likely to be satisfied by your donation of time and energy.

2) Will the time you are donating affect your life in a negative way? I don't mean in terms of less time available for television or reading or other leisure activities. Rather, if you are agreeing to give up several hours a week, or per day, will any important part of your life suffer? That could include key relationships or taking care of your health. It could leave you too tired to do other things that are important to you. Remember that some volunteer positions require training. That becomes part of your time donation, too.

3) Instead of a long term arrangement are you more comfortable with a series of one time activities? Over the years I have found several opportunities to help distribute registration kits for a 5k run, or help monitor the course of a fun run my grandson was part of. Each involved no more than 2 hours. I was able to help out on those one time events without a major commitment. 

4) Do you have the necessary skills to help both the organization and feel satisfied yourself? An example: I think the work that Habitat for Humanity does is tremendous. But, my skill set doesn't include building or remodeling homes. I have helped HFH a few times, but only on the end-of-project cleanup stage. I know my limitations. Know what you are singing up for before agreeing to help.

5) Following the previous point, will you be able to take a "trial run?" Can you attend a session, sit in on a class, or watch the work being done at the Food Bank before you agree to volunteer? I was set to help teach English to recent immigrants. After monitoring one class I decided not to proceed. Why? It was obvious that to truly help these folks I would have be very comfortable listening and responding in Spanish. I was disappointed but knew I would not be able to serve to these folks the way they deserved to be helped.

Share you stories of volunteering, both the ones that worked out well, and those that didn't. We learn from each other.

November 1, 2018

Some Things You May Not 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. Occasionally, like the previous post, it opens up about fears and insecurities A blogger must be honest 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 got me to think about some other parts of my life that may give a reader 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.

16 years old: first job on radio
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. A year and a half later that opened 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 career 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 then 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 over 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 42nd wedding anniversary in June. 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!