July 28, 2020

Moving: A Long and Winding Road

The average American moves 12 times during his life. Interestingly, the percentage of us who move has fallen every year since 2000. Why? Theories include an aging population. After 45, only two or three more moves are typical. With income remaining relatively flat for the past few decades moving is a significant expense not as many can undertake. And, with more two-income households, moving to benefit one half of a couple isn't economically feasible, either. But, whatever the reason, we are more likely to stay put, Covid or not.

That was not how I was raised. While growing up, I moved over twenty times before leaving for college. Between graduation from Syracuse University and getting married, I added another four addresses. Within the first several years of my marriage, Betty and I relocated six times. 

To give weight to one of the statistics noted above, as we got older and had two daughters that deserved more stability, we were in two homes for 20 years. Our last relocation was five years ago to be very close to the rest of the family. We are likely to be here for another eight or nine before a retirement community beckons.

I decided it might be fun to recall some of the places I have called home and what I remember most about those stops on the way to my satisfying retirement. Hopefully, it will trigger some memories for you, too.

I was born in the section of Philadelphia known as Upper Darby but moved to the suburbs within a few months. When I was 5 or 6, the family moved across the Delaware River into New Jersey and the town of Haddonfield. Our first home in that town said a lot about the times. We were less than two blocks from railroad tracks that carried high-speed commuter trains from southern New Jersey into Philadelphia.

I remember quite clearly that there were no fences or safety features to keep anyone from wandering around the tracks. In fact, to get to a nearby baseball diamond, I would simply cross the two sets of tracks to get to the park. My parents knew that was our route and simply cautioned us to look both ways. Every one of our friends did precisely the same thing.

The neighborhood boys would place pennies on the tracks and wait for trains to flatten them. Occasionally someone would be hit and killed by a train, but never any of the kids from the neighborhood. Oddly, it was always an adult who should know better.

Such accidents never prompted any safety measures. I'm sure it wasn't because parents in the '50s were less caring...there was just an overall belief that kids were smart enough to stay away from real danger, and one learned directly from life experiences. Today, can you imagine letting your children or grandkids play near the railroad tracks? I certainly can't!

Our own baseball diamond
 Another brief stop on the Lowry moving caravan was the small city of Cambridge, Ohio. For exactly one year, we lived in a huge old home, complete with a wrap-around porch, spiraling wooden staircase to the second floor, a full attic and basement, and a backyard large enough for a kid-size baseball diamond.

The house was across the street from the local YMCA, housed in an enormous brick mansion where weekly Friday night teen dances were held. This was also the town where I first caught the radio bug. I visited the local station one day with my mom, and the next 40 years of my life were determined.

Even though we lived in Cambridge for only one year, I remember the friendliest group of kids I encountered anywhere. We had parties at my home at least once a month and baseball games in the backyard almost daily. I had my first girlfriend experience with a cute girl named Joanne. I was heartbroken when we packed up after 12 months and moved to Massachusetts.

For the next seven years, we lived near Boston in the suburban town of Lynnfield. Being unable to completely stop what we were so good at (packing and unpacking), we did live in three different homes in Lynnfield during those seven years! But, to their credit, my parents did finally settle in the last house, living there for almost 20 years until moving to Arizona to be near Betty and me.

Lynnfield was a typical suburban town in the 1960s. A handful of stores clustered around the town square, complete with a colonial meeting hall and white-spired Congregational church. Kids rode bikes everywhere without fear. Of course, the whole town turned out for the 4th of July parade, Christmas tree lightings, and Easter egg hunts. I remember exactly where I was when JFK was shot (gym class) and walking the mile to our house in shock.

About 30 minutes from Lynnfield was the first radio station I became involved with. I managed to land a job as their janitor, mopping floors, and throwing out the trash twice a week. Since I was too young to drive, mom was conned into being my chauffeur. I have no idea what she did while I performed my duties and hung around the DJ and absorbed everything. But, she never complained for the year before I got my driving license.

Finally, with that ticket to freedom, I was able to take a job as a part-time DJ on weekends at age 16. The thrill I had first felt in Cambridge was finally satisfied at this little station in Beverly, Massachusetts.

There were brief family stops in places as far apart as Jacksonville, Florida, and Wayne, outside Philadelphia (again!). From our backyard, we could see Valley Forge just 2 miles away, where George Washington and the troops wintered in 1777. I remember there were train tracks there too just beyond our back fence. But I was never tempted to play near them. I had lost my kid's innocence and gained an adult's fear. By now, the train traffic was an annoyance, not a thrill.

As an adult, I moved from Syracuse to Nashua New Hampshire, and then to Morgantown, West Virginia, where I met and married my bride of 44 years. Subsequent moves to Cedar Rapids, Iowa (an apartment & 2 houses), Salt Lake City (twice), Tucson, and Phoenix/Scottsdale, and finally Chandler (4 different homes) have all seen my moving boxes.

Home, sweet home, for a month in Cedar Rapids
Betty reminded me I must mention our first dwelling in Cedar Rapids. Until our home was ready, we lived for about a month in an apartment over a sports liquidator & live bait shop.

With only one car, I would drive to my new job while Betty stayed above the bait shop, trying to remember why she agreed to move here after just 6 months of marriage.

It was during a brutal winter cold snap in Iowa, with temperatures well below zero 24 hours a day...certainly too cold for her to even leave the apartment to buy food. She remembers that the only thing that kept her sane was looking forward to the TV series, Roots, which was on every night.

For someone who has stayed within a stone's throw of where he or she was born, this constant change of address must seem as foreign as speaking a different language. But, in my case, it was merely the way it was.

I learned to adapt to new places rather quickly, but not really develop many friends because we were never in one place long enough. That is a deficiency that I feel more strongly as I age. I really have no link, or even much of a memory, of the people who were part of my childhood. At times I envy those who have all sorts of Facebook contacts from childhood or high school folks who were part of their life. 

How about your history...does it involve lots of address changes, or were you part of a family that put down roots and happily stayed in one spot?

July 25, 2020

I Am Pretty Well Hooked

I admit, I am hooked. It might be very difficult to break this habit. It is simply too easy, too convenient to ever give it up. When I try I am almost always disappointed. The good news: what I am hooked on is not illegal or dangerous to my health.

Online shopping has me hook, line, and sinker.

Of course, I could blame this behavior on our locked-down virus-avoiding lifestyle at the moment. Until now I have never used curbside pickup or delivery services for grocery and household products, and very rarely for meal delivery. After all, the whole point of eating out is to go out.

But, the virus situation has opened up a new world to me. The convenience, the increased safety of not mixing with others, and the ability to find (mostly) what I need (except for toilet paper and disinfectant wipes early on) has been a pleasant surprise. Not walking up and down the aisles means I can't make impulse purchases. I stick with what I need when placing an order online.

Of course, there is more to life than pantry items and paper towels. Thinking back to the good old days before lockdowns and social distancing, I figured it would take longer to accomplish so much online. Take clothes shopping, for example. I would like to see the actual color or fit of a new sweater or shirt. I feel better if I can try on a pair of shoes before buying. 

But, the physical stores never seem to have what I am looking for in my size, or color, or style. The display shelves looked like a tropical storm blew in the front doors tossing everything in a jumble. Clerks were on lunch break (regardless of the time of day) or didn't know because they worked in another department.

The place where large pants are supposed to be was just as likely to be where small or medium sizes end up. The shoes I want always are available in sizes smaller than my feet require.

Sometimes, I have been told by an employee that their particular company is putting most of its resources in developing and strengthening its online presence. That becomes obvious when a customer wanders the aisles. Of course, recently, that was a very smart decision. Retail outlets are living or dying based on their online presence. 

To complicate matters, Phoenix is caught in a weird shopping time warp: winter clothes start appearing in August. Summer weight shorts, shirts, or bathing suits are much harder to find by then. While some parts of the country are not that far from tugging on a sweatshirt, we have another two months of 100 degree days. Summer-appropriate clothing is still needed. My savior? Online stores, who manage to offer four seasons worth of clothing twelve months of the year. 

How about odorless paint thinner or particular paint colors for my hobby? Yes, I can buy what I need in various stores....if in stock. Too many times I have driven to a Michaels or someplace similar and found the paint thinner shelf bare or the color I need not available at that location. But, if I check online, another location does have what I need. They will pick it off the shelf and deliver my purchase to the trunk of my car in a few hours.

New blades for my electric shaver,  4 color Bic pens (I love these!), a new water filter for the refrigerator, specialized cables for various electronics? I could drive all over town to check on an item being in stock, but that is frustrating.

So, I use the power of the Internet to find what I need, in my size or color, made to fit my brand of whatever, and that odd cable needed to hook Betty's phone to an external hard drive. A new amplifier for my listening and dancing pleasure? It is available at Best Buy, but not for a week. Amazon wins that game with delivery in 24 hours.

I am quite aware of some of the issues with online shopping: the damage to the environment from all those trucks loaded with all those cardboard boxes, the poor working conditions inside the massive warehouses, and the low wages too many folks are cursed with. 

Of course, the brick and mortar stores have delivery trucks coming in from all across the country to deliver stuff probably made in other countries by workers who are lucky to make a dollar or two a day. Then there is the cost to heat and cool large retail spaces, light them up, and pave large parking lots. So, neither approach is damage-free. Plus, the instore workers have been risking their health for the past few months to keep those grocery shelves stocked.

I have taken advantage of Amazon's offer to group all my orders together and bring them on one day a week, instead of a package today, another in two days, and yet another on Sunday. That is a small step toward curtailing some of the waste. For a really small need, like repair parts for my sprinkler system, new furnace filters, a can of white paint, or something along those lines, I drive the ten minutes to a place I am sure will have what I need and is open. The Internet isn't best for everything.

But, if I am any indication of how many consumers act, I would not be investing in retail space right now. Shopping as a hobby turns some folks on; to me, shopping is a necessity, a chore, something to complete as quickly as possible. 

It is also an area of my life where my lack of a strong consumerism gene becomes obvious. I look to reduce what I own to just what I need. I don't buy something online because I am bored, or it looks flashy or inviting. I don't go crazy on Prime Day. I buy something because I need it for some reason. The last several months have strengthened that behavior. Shopping as a hobby or way to kill time might be another victim of the pandemic, at least for the foreseeable future.

Oh, there is one area of "regular" life that I am anxious to resume: dining out. Having dinner delivered, at inflated prices, doesn't do it for me. To help support a local restaurant I have done so a few times in the last five months. But, the experience of leaving the house and joining others in a restaurant environment is one that Internet shopping cannot replace. And, after Covid-19 lockdown, I want to see other people enjoying themselves over a meal.

Same for baseball games. The season started yesterday...in empty stadiums with none of the excitement that comes from 40,000 people. I want to go back to Chase Field. That is something online will never replicate. Museums, live plays, even movies feel different in person. Streaming has kept me sane, but I want the physical experience at some point.

What about you? Am I a little unusual? Do you like to physically touch, see, smell, or otherwise physically interact with something before plunking down your credit card? 

Or, will you and I cross paths someday in that great, always open, always well-stocked, Internet store in the sky (or cloud)? 

July 21, 2020

Re-engaging With The World: When Will You Feel Comfortable?

It has been five months since most of us found ourselves in a different world: one in which being with other people was severely restricted, tens of millions of us lost our jobs, going out to a restaurant or movie, gym or barbershop became impossible. The grandkids were home from school several months early. Most airplanes stopped flying; those that did were 95% empty. Travel plans were shattered. Battles, both literal and figurative, took place over face masks. 

We celebrated the 4th of July holiday in a very different environment from years past. Today, there is a push from many to slowly open back up in stages, a move that holds tremendous risks. Arizona, Florida, Texas....closing late and reopening too soon has earned them the dubious distinction of becoming global hotspots. In parts of the country people pack beaches, ignore social distancing and, flout face mask requirements. Forget worrying about the second wave of the virus: we can't escape the first round. Will Labor Day bring any substantial change?

So, the vital question arises: what will it take for you to feel comfortable enough to start re-engaging with the world? When will you decide it is safe enough to take a vacation, or even get on a plane again? Will a 4,000 passenger cruise ship ever be OK for you? How about a crowded restaurant or coffee house? Will you go back to your gym or exercise facility when it opens/reopens? 

How do you feel about your kids or grandkids attending school in a few weeks? Should colleges reopen their dorms, large classrooms, and football stadiums? Do you believe it will be safe for children to get on school buses at any point over the next few months?

There are two basic thoughts about all this. One says that enough immunity will begin to build up, that testing will identify and contain large outbreaks before they spiral out of control, and that all the extra cleaning will make being in public safer. The economic consequences of a prolonged shutdown are too dire. Life entails risk, this will be one of them.

The other view is to wait for the availability of a vaccine before stepping back into the flow. Best guesses for one to be adequately tested and ready are no sooner than the end of this year; most projections are for some time in 2021. How long it will take to mass-produce and make shots available to everyone is an unknown. Encouraging news over the last days says some medical people are on the right track, but mass availability is still way over the horizon.

Where are your heart and head, right now, today, almost a half a year into our shared experience? If I ask again in another three months, your answer may be very different. None of us can predict with any degree of certainty what is going to happen. 

But, for today, what will need to happen (or not happen) for you to feel alright about grabbing a bit of your former life? When will the fear lessen enough for you to feel comfortable stepping back into life, even if just with baby steps?

July 17, 2020

Parents & Adult Children Living Together

I consider this post a follow up on the one from a few weeks ago about moving into a CCRC. As some readers correctly noted, the costs of those specialized communities are quite high. An option? Living together. But, that comes with some of its own challenges. 

One of the consequences of the pandemic is an upsurge in the number of people who are struggling to pay their rent, mortgage, or other costs of living. While I could focus on almost any age group, this time around I'd like to look at what happens if parents must move in with an adult child.

Such an event comes with both benefits and risks. The arrangement can be enriching, a strong statement of love for parents from their grown children, and a lesson in responsibility. Of course, it also introduces new stresses and adjustments that could make such a blending difficult and uncomfortable.

Having an elderly parent move in with a grown child or family has far-reaching implications on every aspect of life, from financial impacts to changing family dynamics, from role reassignment to safety issues, from power struggles to eroding privacy. Whether you are the parent moving in, or the adult child hosting mom and dad, having plans and discussions ahead of time are very important.

Be Open:

Have a clear and open discussion with everyone involved: the family, siblings, spouse, kids, and parent(s), to decide if making the move is the right decision for all parties involved. Discuss:

  • The pros and cons
  • The different ways this move will affect the family
  • The ways each family member’s routines may be disrupted.
  • Expectations that may differ from “the way things have always been”
  • Any possible monetary issues that could arrive
  • Compromises that each family member will have to make

Medical Management: 

  • An elderly parent is apt to have a litany of doctor appointments, medication, and needs.
  • With the help of medical and geriatric care professionals, assess your parent’s (or your own) medical needs and gain a clear understanding of how those needs will affect you and the family.
  • Gather all possible medical resources, containing both specific people and organizations, to minimize frustrations as well as possible mistakes.
  • Use a support network to create and implement a plan as well as back-up ideas.

Moving Day:
  • Moving is stressful under any circumstance. Plan for every detail upfront to minimize the potential strife.
  • Ready yourself for possible volatile emotions and flaring tempers from all parties.
  • Use your utmost compassion and support when you decide what stays and what goes.
  • The move may not have been someone's first choice. Because of financial situations, it may be the only workable option. Avoid sweeping decisions, such as throwing away Grandma’s 50 year-old collection of National Geographics, without discussing it with her first.
  • Decide ahead of time on furniture placement.
  • Make a disbursement plan for those who get items that cannot fit into the house. (Storage, give away, other siblings.)

House Rules:

  • An adult is used to running the household with his/her own rules. Everyone must openly acknowledge that each family member must compromise to make the new living arrangement successful. It is important to create a plan that is respectful to all parties, so one side doesn’t feel slighted and uncomfortable as the “newcomer." You want to try to ensure that either the parent or adult child and family does not feel like an outsider. Decide on:
  • Chores
  • Who waters the plants and feeds the cat etc.
  • Who helps and who doesn’t help in the kitchen
  • How you like laundry done
  • Bathroom etiquette
  • What you make for dinner and what time
  • When are lights out, and television off

The economic reality is that you, or your parents, may not be able to afford a retirement home, continuing care community, or even a well-run nursing center. There will be changes in everyone's life that could last years. As the parent declines, nursing care will become more of a concern. This is not an issue with easy answers. But, it is certainly a good idea to work out as many details as possible ahead of time. There will be enough stress as it is.

I'd be quite interested in your comments, especially if you have had to face this problem, either as the adult child or the parent who moves in. Your experiences and feedback will be quite valuable to us all. If you'd feel more comfortable sharing anonymously, that is perfectly fine.

July 13, 2020

Retirement, Finances, & Covid-19

Watching the stock market for the past few months has helped strengthen my self-control. As I get the urge to call my financial advisor, I stop and remind myself whatever action I think I want to take, I will regret tomorrow. So, I put the phone back down and do nothing. The feeling passes.

Straight ahead will be a tremendous number of evictions because of missed rent payments. Small and medium businesses are struggling to hold on while others have likely closed for good. Travel remains risky or even impossible due to always-shifting restrictions from various states or cities. Who wants to fly somewhere only to be told you must spend 14 days in self-quarantine? Doesn't sitting next to anyone on a plane seem like a roll of the dice? Cruise ships...are you kidding?

While the economy remains royalty messed up, unemployment at recession-like levels, and coronavirus continuing to upend lives and the future, the investment numbers have rebounded from a disastrous drop in March to back within reach of the start of the year's mark. For a non-financial person like myself, this behavior seems counterintuitive; I would have expected the markets to tank right along with the overall mood in the country. But, apparently, the world, as seen through the eyes of Wall Street, is not all that bad. 

I know enough to grasp that financial markets often operate on emotion, anxiety, and what I will call future-sight. A day's bad news can hit them like a brick to the forehead....or be a financial non-event. I have been at this long enough to understand there is rarely a straight line between logic and the S&P 500.

So, that raises today's questions: how do we retired folks make financial plans for a future that is even more unpredictable and unknown than average? How bad do things have to get for us to make some serious moves of readjustment? Since interest rates barely break the surface anymore, how do we stay ahead of inflation? With governments using deficit spending as an everyday planning tool, how safe is anything? When the bill comes due, then what?

Do we make a connection between the inefficiency of the government to admit the seriousness of the situation and our financial stability? At what point does the overall market react to the short and long-term future in a way that harms our investments? 

And, if it does, then what? Personally, I don't have another 10 or 20 years to rebuild my financial foundation as it washes away. Natural up and downswings I handle; a Great Depression style scenario, not so much.

I am not looking for a hot tip, an easy answer, the throwing of a simple switch that calms the turbulent seas. I imagine I am asking questions that are more universal at the moment: what are we doing under the dual assault of Covid and an economy struggling to stay afloat? 

How have the events of the last five months affected your investments, your planning, your outlook? Have you started to think of cash stuffed in the mattress? Is a backyard about to become a large vegetable garden, with a few chickens thrown in to produce eggs and dinners?

Of, are you zen-like calm: "Been here before. It will sort itself out. Stay the course."

I am genuinely interested in whether the unique combination of events we find ourselves is affecting how you plan for your future. As the disease seems to be getting worse, we all could use a dose of neighborly help, sharing, and support right about now.

July 9, 2020

A Drawer Full of Rubber Bands

This post first appeared eight years ago. My mom had died two years earlier, and dad was in the process of moving from an independent living cottage to assisted living. The focus of this post was on getting control of our stuff, our clutter before others have to. It was about habit and change. So, these words still ring true today.

For the past two weeks, my wife and I have been going through the steps to move my dad from his home to an assisted living apartment. For various reasons, the time was right to make this move as well as sell his car and end his driving days. You can imagine it has not been the most relaxed few weeks, but as of Tuesday, he is safely in his new home. 

At 88 years of age, change in routine is difficult. In fact, one of Betty's greatest fears is he will go back to his old home by mistake and get befuddled when the key no longer works. In taking him from a doctor's appointment to his pharmacy last week, he became bewildered as to the location of the drug store he had driven to for years. Because we left from a place different than his long time house he couldn't tell me how to find it. I finally did,  but a simple turn left -turn right difference was too much for him.

While we sorted through his belongings to figure out what would fit into 500 sq. feet I received another lesson in downsizing and simple living. It is so easy to allow little things to build up over time. Out-of-sight-out of mind.

This photo is a great example. Dad saved rubber bands...apparently for years. He doesn't use them, but habit says to pull them off the newspaper and put them in a drawer. I couldn't say much: I got home and found...a drawer with hundreds of rubber bands! Like father, like son I guess.

In a hall closet, we found at least half a dozen different back braces. I assume that when my mom lost her sight and needed support for her lower back, dad just went to the store and bought one rather than check to see if there was already one in the house.

Guess what: home I go to discover four different knee braces, half a dozen elastic bandages, and two back supports. The excuse that they were in the back of a cabinet isn't good enough.

As we continued to work through his cottage, we found at least 3 years' worth of sheet music from his church choir and 15 paperback books from the library that hadn't been returned. Since he no longer sings in that organization or goes to that library branch, one full drawer became clean, and two organizations had a welcome surprise.

Another drawer held at least 10 years' worth of expense journals. Dad had maintained records of every utility bill, vacation expense, magazine subscription, and credit card charge. That kind of financial awareness is one of the most important lessons I learned from him. But, at some point, the written records can go. Monday was the day.

As we continued through the downsizing process, he decided his days of ironing are over.  The two rather battered and well-traveled suitcases will never be used again, either. Out they went. Since he will be eating two meals a day at one of the center's dining choices, the stacks of day-to-day plates, cups, and silverware could be reduced. All of the fancy serving platters in the dining room hutch would never be needed. In fact, all the dining room furniture could be sold.

After having him decide which pieces of furniture, wall hangings, paintings, and knick-knacks he'd like to keep, we made arrangements for someone to sell everything else or donate the leftovers to a local charity. He will be surrounded by what is important to him; the furniture that was just taking up space in the cottage will find a new home.

As we went through all of this, I was reminded again how little most of us need to feel comfortable. It is much too easy to have stuff pile up around us, even after it's importance and usefulness to us is over. I am reading Sonia Marsh's new (when I originally wrote this post)  book, Freeways to Flip-Flops. She relates the story of moving her family from a large home in Southern California to a hut in Belize. All of the "stuff" that filled their home and life in the U.S. was left behind. Instead, she and her family filled their life with memories and experiences.

Moving my dad from a cottage to an apartment won't be quite as dramatic. But, the lesson is still there: being surrounded by unused stuff doesn't add to the quality of one's life or happiness. After all, it is just stuff.

As a 2020 update: the move was finished without mishap. Dad did well in his new surroundings for three more years until his death. Though small by his previous standards, the apartment felt comforting to him, with just enough "stuff' to make him feel secure and happy.

When it is time for Betty and me to move from our home to a small independent house, I will reread this post to remind me that we will really need very little to feel at home. Memories are the glue that helps hold life together, and they don't require much space to do their magic.

July 6, 2020

Self-Induced Isolation

All of a sudden, America has become persona non grata to parts of the world. The slogan of Making America Great now must include a second phrase: Making America Great but do it alone.

A brief recap: One of the first moves by the current administration was to close America off from parts of the world. The travel ban, which was ordered just seven days into the new presidency, barred citizens from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days. After several years of court cases and revisions to the original order, the Supreme Court has allowed a modified version of the ban to remain in effect.

Likewise, the president's desire to erect a wall between Mexico and The United States has seen a similarly tortured development. Where do we stand today? Well, a few hundred miles of replacement and new barricades have been erected. Texas landowners along the Rio Grande are reporting visits from federal officials who are preparing to seize private land to build more miles of the project. Occasionally, judges say stop, while others allow some progress. And, just in case you forgot, Mexico is not paying for any of this, parts of the Pentagon budget are.

Tariffs? Yep. They seem to come and go, stronger or weaker, depending on a tweet. Hundreds of millions of tax dollars go to farmers, while significant disruption in trade has not produced a flood of jobs coming back from overseas, just higher expenses for most of us.

OK, so now, in a perfect example of karma, Americans are finding we are not welcome in certain parts of the world. Planning on a trip to Europe? Not so fast. At least for now, you can't go to any of the EU countries, which includes the ones most of us would want to visit. OK, how about we head north? Nope. Canada is a no-go for Americans. 

The reasons are not political or tariff-related. Instead, it is that the U.S. has become the world's hot spot for Covid-19. We are #1 in the world in deaths from the disease. New cases are occurring at more than 50,000 a day. Someone from our balmy shores who enters another country has been determined to be a serious risk to life and limb.

But, wait, we are not done with this unusual twist. Three northeast states have told citizens of sixteen other locales they are not welcome unless the visitors are willing to submit to a 14-day quarantine. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut bore the brunt of the initial outbreak of coronavirus. With over 50,000 deaths in just those three states, their government officials are not willing to put citizens through another round of infection and death. For those from states that believe this is all much to do about nothing, they are not permitted easy access. 

Update: As of July 7th New York State has expanded its list of states whose residents are not welcomed without a 2 week quarantine: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

Hawaii actually started the policy of required quarantines back in late March. Arrive on one of the islands after that date and spend 14 days in your hotel room or condo...no beach time, no shopping (even for food). Did it work? With less than 1,000 cases and only 18 fatalities, yes, it did.

As I was writing this post comes word that Chicago is taking the same steps: those inbound from states with rising infection rates must quarantine for 2 weeks if the Windy City is where you want to be.

Maybe my mind is a little fried from four months of all this, but a distressing thought occurred to me. What if the restriction on travel between states is seen as an excellent tool for all sorts of reasons. Could Republican-led states tell those from liberal, Democratic-controlled ones to stay away....and vice versa?

What if a state that relies on highly educated workers closed its borders to people with only a high school diploma? Or, if you don't have a particular net worth, stay away, so that state doesn't risk you needing welfare or housing help. Yes, these scenarios are far-fetched. But, much of the last few years would fit that definition.

Consider what these ad hoc decisions by states, and now cities, will do to our struggling economy. Business travel will become impossible if you happen to live in the wrong state. Airlines won't fly from the U.S. to Europe; the only people allowed on board are EU residents, or those willing to be quarantined for 14 days...longer than most vacations. 

Lest we forget our high school history, there is the 14th Amendment. It protects the freedom of interstate travel. However, in one rather important detail, the Federal Government cannot enforce this right. The Supreme Court has left that to the states to worry about. So, I assume that means the three states that are telling my fellow Arizonans and me to stay home or spend two weeks in a hotel room, have every right to do so.

Frankly, I support their choice. That part of the country has paid a very steep price to get a handle on the situation. Those from states that view mask-wearing or social distancing as an affront to their personal liberties are not welcome just now.

Likewise, parts of Europe have been severely harmed. While we went our merry way pretending it was a hoax, or would magically disappear, they did the hard work of getting the initial spread of coronavirus under control. Since the first reports of outbreaks, Canada has taken the steps necessary to keep the infection and death rates down.

In terms of travel, national isolation is something that I usually think of from a historical context: Eastern Europe during the Communist era, China during the Cultural Revolution, North Korea anytime, and Cuba.

At least for me, though, this is a first for our country, a first because we are close to last...in recognizing and diligently dealing with this pandemic. Will these isolation orders be lifted? Yes, in time. And, for now, I don't mind not traveling to some far off place.

But, I find it more than a little disturbing and embarrassing that this country's citizens are seen as a life-threatening risk to others because of an entirely preventable outcome. 

July 2, 2020

The Wave Theory of Retirement

"I just passed nineteen years of being away from the world of work. If there is one overriding lesson in the nearly two decades since June 2001, it is that this time of life is a series of waves, with both crests and troughs.

There are joyous periods when you feel so fully alive you wish for longer days. Your creativity is flowing, relationships feed your soul, and your health is not causing any problems worth mentioning, Your mind is full of good thoughts and new challenges.

Then, there are troughs. 2020 qualifies. Your world is rattled by things out of your control. You feel stagnant and unfulfilled, stale, and stuck in a rut. You are at a loss to see the best way forward. 
Then, just like the ocean, you are thrust upward onto the next crest of retirement. The bad stuff is behind you, and life is full.

My view of where we now, with all the problems we face, remains optimistic because I have seen enough crests to believe the next one isn't all that far away.

Sadly, there is no way to live with only the tops of the waves. But, I promise that the ocean is still moving, and you, along with a fresh perspective, are riding it."

This is a comment I left on Carie Risover's blog a few weeks ago in response to her post about retirement perspectives. It seems like a reasonable basis for a fresh look at retirement over time. 

A point that I have made many times is that retirement isn't all that different from life when you were receiving a paycheck. Many of the same responsibilities follow you into this stage of life. There are good days and bad. There are (occasionally) things like pandemics, economic reversals, relationship struggles, a leaking roof or broken furnace. The car needs new tires and then to be replaced. TV shows keep getting crasser, social media is out of control.....whatever the part of daily life you look at, there are similarities.

And, to use the simile of the waves (or is it a metaphor?), there are times when your life during retirement is a series of highs. Everything is going well, economically, creatively, relationally, health-wise. For now, you are on the crest of the wave. 

Which is a place you also found yourself while employed. For any number of reasons, you were hitting on all cylinders. You might not have been the king of the world, but you had no serious complaints. Life was good.

The big difference, the one that makes most of us look forward to the retired time of life, is the increase in freedom...freedom to decide how to spend your time, what activities or passions, volunteer work or business venture you are going to invest yourself. 

Personally, as I noted in the comment for Carie, it took me a while to figure out this "wave" thing. Even now, I must remind myself of its reality every so often, particularly in times like now.

It is distressingly easy to assume we are all stuck in a trough, a deep, deep, endless down cycle. Disease, protests, crappy economic conditions for tens of millions, racism, a country like a house divided.....I cannot see the crest. It is too far away. All I see is a wall of water looming up ahead of me.

Then, I metaphorically slap myself on the head and, in very forceful terms, remind myself of the endless cycle of the waves and life.