August 28, 2020

RV Travel: What Did We Learn?

Now, with many of us trying to figure out safe ways to vacation and explore, there has been a strong surge in interest in RV travel. Just try to rent one, or even buy a moderately priced unit without a lot of leg work, and you will agree. Any type of recreational vehicle is a sought after item.

This article was first published over seven years ago, I know there are mostly new readers since then. RV travel and our trips always generated lots of interest, so it seemed logical to post this one more time. I have left it unchanged, so just remember there are a lot of miles under our tires since 2013 (Betty looks the same, but Bailey and I are older!)

Betty and I are spoiled. Living in Scottsdale has lots of advantages. OK, there are a few not so good parts like high costs and searing summer heat. But, one thing we take for granted is warm, sunny weather in April. We rarely have windy conditions any worse than a gust high enough to make me crank down the backyard umbrella.

So, the last 14 days on our RV trip have been eye-opening. The winds have blown pretty much without ceasing since we drove through Southern Arizona, traveled across southern New Mexico, and have spent the last 11 days in Texas. In Fredericksburg, there were two days when the wind was under 20 miles per hour most of the time. We celebrated the relative calm. At home, those days would have been considered a gale!

Driving a 12,000 pound RV through wind gusts of 35 or 40 miles per hour and steady breezes of 15-30 mph has tested my driving skills and patience. But, after getting used to how RT reacts in the wind, we have simply accepted this as usual. Santa Rosa, New Mexico, has had afternoon winds over 40 miles per hour as I write this.  

It has been cold, too. In fact, the area around Amarillo had two nights of a hard freeze, with overnight lows in the '20s. Looking ahead to the next several stops, Santa Fe and Flagstaff have had lows in the teens! If things don't warm up, we may decide on a different route home. An RV is poorly insulated, to begin with, but in temperatures below freezing, there are concerns of frozen or burst water pipes and plumbing. The propane furnace does a decent job of keeping the living space comfortable, but not being able to go outside much does make the small space close in a bit.

I have learned that April in Scottsdale does not represent April in many other parts of the country. Future trips will involve a bit more research into weather and wind averages!

Since we left Fredericksburg, we have spent nights in Big Spring and Amarillo, Texas, and are now in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. At the end of the trip, I'll post a list of all the parks where we have spent time, along with some feedback, just in case you ever find yourself passing through in your RV or tent.

I have already shared the dodgy nature of Wifi availability. I will add that the pictures of an RV park on their web sites and in directories usually involves a few liberties with reality. They are never quite as lovely as described or photographed. So far, we have not stayed at any place that made us uncomfortable. But, as a general rule, bathrooms, and showers are usually in need of some repairs and upgrades, swimming pools don't really belong in RV parks, and those who live in these parks for months at a time aren't really focused on keeping their site neat.

Even with these glitches, the trip remains a real joy. Bailey, our cocker, is becoming less nervous with the travel and different accommodations most nights. The number of meals Betty prepared and froze ahead of time will run out the night before we get home...right on schedule. How did she do that? I give her full credit for such excellent planning. 

We are actually under budget, even with $125 gas bills every time I pull into a service station. We are eating most of our meals from our supplies. A dinner out once every 5 or 6 days and a lunch from a fast food place (usually Subway) every 4th or 5th day gives us enough of a break to not get tired of what is in the refrigerator or pantry. The RV parks have averaged $35 a night, after an RV travel club 10% discount. There may be enough left over at the end of the trip to allow us to buy two urban bikes and hitch for the next trip.

A few nights ago, after dinner, we were playing a board game, and I asked if Betty felt the trip was too long, too short, or just about right. Like me, she thinks this three-week adventure has been the right length and sees us tackling longer trips in the future with no problem. 

Betty will not leave the RV without her camera. I have lost track, but I think she is already close to 2,000 pictures with 6 days still to go. Here is a tiny sample of more photos from the trip so far.

LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson 

Holding onto the door to keep from being blown away in Amarillo

Oh, by the way, we have discovered that every town in Texas with a population larger than 1,800 has a DQ restaurant. Betty likes their dipped cones, so she is pretty much in dessert heaven! Who knew?

August 24, 2020

What Does It Really Mean To Be Frugal?

I have not met many spendthrifts in my life. That word, spendthrift, can be confusing. It sounds like a good thing: Thrifty in your spending. But, no, it actually means the opposite. Wikipedia defines this as "a person who spends money in an extravagant, irresponsible way." I have known a few of these fine folks who spend more on cars or clothing or meals out than I can fathom. Luckily, for my sanity, they are the exception,

So, what does that make most people I know and me? Thrifty (without the spend suffix)? Budget-conscious? Cheap? Tight?

I am not a big fan of describing something as complex as a human with a simple label. See this post for more. But, if I must, in this context, I will go with frugal. Again, turning to my handy dictionary, this word means "sparing or economical with regard to money or food."

Add housing, clothing, transportation, vacations, and investments to that definition; I can live with that. OK, so frugal it is.

In my mind, I expand that precise definition with a few more descriptors:

I value my time. With a resource that is limited and never-to-be-replaced, unable to be purchased or inherited, frugality in its expenditure is critical. Waste my time, and I am wasting a part of my finite life. Misspend it or use it without forethought should not happen.

I know what makes me happy. Admittedly, this is a work in progress. In breaking rule #1 above, I am a spendthrift when I do something, or allow something to happen to me, that does not make me happy or satisfied. 

Of course, there are times in life when I cannot just do what puts a smile on my face or a warm glow in my gut. Paying quarterly taxes comes to mind. Colonoscopies qualify. My frugal self looks to minimize these occurrences to things that must be taken care of. 

I will pay for quality. Most of my Covid days are spent in T-shirts and shorts; shoes are optional. In this case, quality isn't really an issue. Is my body covered to socially-acceptable standards? Then, I am fine. A coffee maker? I don't need something that needs to be programmed like a space launch. Heat the water, force it through ground coffee, and shut off after two hours...perfect.

Quality does become a factor when something that will make me happy (see above) for an extended period of time is purchased. That could be something like a new computer, or smartphone. Certainly, a TV or furniture that will be looked at and used for years.  A new mattress? Yessir. 

Skimping on high use, long term, often more expensive items is not frugal. It is cheap and counterproductive. After all, how much fun is it to go to a mattress store? How often do you want to reprogram a new computer? Point made.

I will spend more in certain areas. Taking the whole family to Disney World for ten days of fun and memories. Renting a house in Flagstaff for a Christmas celebration. A trip overseas to experience things that cannot be replicated at home. 

Are these fugal choices for me? Time spent with family, my wife, and making memories is the best possible use of my time. These activities make me happy. They are quality experiences. So, check, check, and check. They fit all three criteria listed above.

One more personal quirk that fits my definition of frugal: I overtip. Years ago, both my daughters worked as waitresses or hostesses. Very quickly, I learned about the importance of good tipping. These front-line workers are usually badly underpaid. They can survive only if customers leave an appropriately sized tip.

Few things get under my skin more than seeing a group of people leave a table and stiff the server by leaving no tip, or even worse, a token amount, like a dime. That is a slap in the face, a mark of disrespect that has no place in public. 

I will overtip every time because I know how much more that person needs those few dollars than I. If the service is exceptional, or the server makes an extra effort over some part of the experience, my tip will double. The satisfaction of bringing joy to someone else is worth the cost.

Honestly, even if the service leaves much to be desired, a decent tip is still left. That person has issues and problems I don't know about. The kitchen staff may be to blame. The number of tables to be served may be overwhelming. I don't know. But, it is not right to take it out on someone who is just like me: trying to make it through the day. 

Now, with Covid pretty much destroying the livelihood of these folks, I will look for ways to help them. Overtipping on delivery and tipping well even when I pick up a takeout meal is a concrete action I can take to help.

This tipping example is not meant to win a pat on the back from anyone. Rather, it is an example of how being a frugal person doesn't mean being cheap. 

Too often frugality equates to cheap. Example? When I searched for a picture that would convey frugality in a positive light, this photo popped up. No, squeezing every dollar is not being frugal. In fact, with a focus on quality, it is just the opposite.

Being frugal is a state of mind as much as it is an action. It is a lifestyle choice that is satisfying to me.

This young man does a good job of describing the differences between cheap and frugal. If interested, feel free to click the play button in the middle of the video. 

August 20, 2020

The Teams Are Set: Let The Mayhem Begin

Democratic Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, picked his Vice Presidential Candidate last week. Not a tremendous surprise, Kamala Harris has joined Mr. Biden in his bid to defeat Donald Trump and Mike Pence on November 3.

I am not going to detail the pros and cons of each pair. Your mind is likely beyond changing. After nearly four years, the Trump supporters and Never Trumpers have staked out their position. In his third run for the job, Mr. Biden is promoting his record of a lifetime of service. Ms. Harris's positions on some key issues are more of an unknown.

What I want to address is what lies ahead of us in the next 70-some days.

A) The U.S. Postal Service. Since the decision to provide mail service to the colonies (and then the country) in July 1775, the U.S. Postal Service has been a part of our lives. The blue box on the corner and the door-to-door delivery linked us together. Long before other forms of communication, a letter was how we stayed connected to others, received and paid bills, got advertising circulars, and sent packages both big and small. 

Under the assault of texting, emails, and other options, the postal service has been hemorrhaging money. Even so, all sorts of us depend on regular, secure mail delivery. Like any essential public service, the funds to provide universal coverage must be provided. Adjustments to accommodate a world where first-class mail is much less relevant? Sure, but allowing the service to degenerate into an undependable state is a grave mistake. Privatizing, it would be a disaster.

Now, the postal service finds itself in a mess. A new postmaster general is determined to cut staff and expenses. Under a pretense of saving money, he has decided to slow down delivery. That he is making these moves before a general election that will require a robust, secure system for mail-in ballots is not a coincidence. Just a few days ago, after rather intense scrutiny, he has stated he will delay any cuts and slowdowns until after the election. If true, that is good news for everyone.

What happens to our mail service over the next few months will be a critical factor in the outcome, believability, and aftermath of November 3.

B) Poll Workers. Reports are consistent: tens of thousands of poll workers are missing. Even with mail-in ballots a significant factor this year, there remains the need for trained people to be available for in-person voting all across the country. Because of the virus and fear of being in public spaces, volunteers are canceling their commitment to help. 

In our partisan world, a shortage of qualified people will invariably generate conspiracy theories about fraud at the polls. People voting multiple times, those not eligible to cast a ballot lining up to overwhelm the workers with their presence, maybe electronic malfeasance as machines are hacked are likely charges to be leveled.

Expect a powerful push to recruit people willing to risk public exposure to help manage this vital part of the election process.

C) No-holds barred political advertising; no claim too ridiculous to air. At least in Arizona, this started several months ago in the senate race between Martha McSally and Mark Kelly. If it weren't so serious, some of the charges and advertising messages would be laughable in their absurdity. 

Now, we are being flooded with political ads for the presidential race. No charge is too extreme, no video or audio track of a candidate is free from artful editing and manipulation. 

I always wonder what the millions of dollars being spent in this arena is meant to accomplish. Nothing is going to change the mind of someone committed to one candidate or the others. I guess there are hopes of convincing a Republican to support a Democrat or vice versa. There are still some independent voters left to sway. And, we are a society influenced by sound bites and "gotcha" moments. 

Still, at least to me, the advertising doesn't inform me about anyone or anything. It just hardens my resolve. 

D) Polls, Polls, Polls. Do you want to start a new career, get involved in a growth industry? Start a polling company. There are dozens of different polling organizations; it is easy to find results that support your preconceived notion of reality. Declared fake, biased, or simply wrong, asking someone what they will do months in the future is not much better than tossing a coin. Ask Hillary Clinton.

Part of my career was spent conducting market research. I know that many of us have no concrete idea of why we do what we do or why we pick who or what we choose. Peer pressure, what is expected from someone like us, which is the winning side at the moment...these are primary motivators in answering research questions. 

Polls make one set of people feel good for a brief moment, until the next survey. The only caution I can offer is to read them with not just a grain of salt, but a bucketful. They are a flawed, limited snapshot of the past as perceived by a specific group of people. Not so sure? Ask President Dewey about Harry Truman.

E) November 3 is not the end. We are used to TV networks and cable services declaring winners before we totter off to bed on election night. Often, results are projected when less than half the votes are tallied.

Do not expect that this year. With mail-in ballots, overwhelmed poll workers (see B above), and inevitable legal challenges, whatever seems to be happening will only be a glimpse of what will be the final outcome. 

Unless the results are an absolute landslide for one candidate, I predict we will not have an apparent winner declared for several days. The official decision could be weeks past election day. If things appear to be close, expect courts to get involved that could drag this into December.

The only end date that ultimately matters is in the Constitution: On January 20, 2021, the term of the current president and vice president is over. If there is no declared successor, the Speaker of the House is president until courts or whoever comes to an ultimate decision. 

Buckle up. The most consequential and least traditional election of my lifetime is straight ahead. Is that a light at the end of the tunnel...or a train? We are about to find out.

August 16, 2020

Retiring to Instead of Retiring From

In June of 2001, my business was in its final death throes. After 36 years, the path had started at fifteen was reaching its conclusion. The finish was not what I expected; the quick fade into irrelevance was not what I had envisioned. 

Three months later, the events of 9/11 shook our self-enclosed world to its core. We were only not safe, but amazingly, shockingly, vulnerable. What millions of others around the globe experienced as a regular part of life, in one blink of an eye, became ours, too. 

I was instantly aware that my business would never have survived the changes 9/11 forced on us, so leaving when I did was fortunate. But, I realized that the world into which I was retiring was not the one I thought I was about to enter.

Retirement is retirement from something, usually a paying job. I guess you could say you are retiring from raising children or caring for an aging parent. You could retire from volunteer work, or serving on the board of a local charity. You could even think of retiring from your previous life and retire to an island off the coast of England. But, nine times out of ten to retire is stopping some form of employment.

Well, it took me several years to understand that type of retirement really doesn't work. If you retire from something, then what? All you have known stops. Many of your friends are connected by work; that link is severed. The way you spend your time, plan your day, use the weekend changes completely. Actually, when you retire, you are only halfway to a satisfying retirement. There is a key part of the puzzle still missing.

For several years I struggled to find what came next. Prison ministry, ham radio, becoming a lay minister: each seemed to offer a fulfilling next thing. For a time, each gave me something to look forward to, to plan my weeks around, to interact with others. Eventually, though, each ended, leaving me to wonder what was next. I hadn't yet found what I was retiring to.

Ten years ago. I stumbled into blogging. It wasn't anything I planned. I have always enjoyed writing; my favorite class in High School was creative writing. Blogging, though, is different from writing fiction, like a great whodunit. It is more personal. You are placing parts of yourself out there for others to see. Hiding is not really an option.

Ten years of writing this blog had made me a different person than the one I was when I started. A decade of purposely airing my thoughts on a variety of topics has forced me to reevaluate decisions and choices. Publicly putting myself in front of others has left me hardened in some ways, and softened in others.

Writing is tough work, regardless of the form. Have you ever tried to compose a letter to a loved one you hurt through some selfish act? Have you ever wanted to capture the beauty of a sunset in a poem? Have you decided it is essential to pass on life lessons to a grandchild but couldn't quite find the right words or tone? 

Blogging is kind of like that. Every few days, there is a need to say something worth someone else's time to read it. To simply produce sentences and paragraphs, anything, to fill a page and hit publish is unfair to the reader. That person has many ways of spending his or her time. They are owed your best effort in making the few minutes at your site worth their investment.

I will be the first to admit that some of what I have written over the years has missed...badly. Few people bothered to read something I posted, and even fewer left a comment. However, I have gained an appreciation for the instant judgment of the marketplace.

Something that hits a cord, is engaging on some level and provokes a response, quickly becomes evident. Likewise, a topic or approach that lays on the page, flat, and uninteresting, makes itself known, too. When I write something,  my challenge is to express something that provokes the former, and learn from the space fillers like the latter. 

So, this was what I was looking for: something to retire to. This is truly the magical part. When you find something that fulfills the piece of you that needs attention, it seems to open up new areas that have always been there, but simply remained unnoticed.

Playing guitar, trying to oil paint, picking up a charcoal pencil to sketch something in the kitchen or backyard...I believe creative activities that I never knew had any real appeal to me have surfaced because I was not stuck in the "from" part of retirement, but, had transitioned into "to" something.  Once that happened, I became free to let other things develop. 

So, the important takeaway from these thoughts: have you retired to something, or just from something?

August 12, 2020

What Is a Conservative? Why the Label?

When I was growing up, being considered a conservative person seemed straight-forward.  Violence on TV or nudity in movies was forbidden. Curse words like damn or hell were only muttered in private. Sex before marriage? That was a no-no (or not talked about). Children respected their parents. The government was essential to parts of daily life, but best if invisible most of the time. Spending more than you took in was to be discouraged. Trust in institutions was a given.

The suburbs where I grew up were almost all white, middle-class, and content. Problems existed, but they were abstract; they happened in other places to other people (or were kept in the shadows). Conformity was good.

Leaders that would tell the truth were expected. Decency and courtesy were the norms. America was exceptional, a world leader, and envied by everyone who didn't live here.

Now, Conservative seems to be one of those words that have been hijacked, or at the very least, is more emotionally charged than during my youth. To be thought of as conservative in 2020 carries with it all sorts of meanings.

Evangelical Christian? Probably. Belief in smaller government and a tightened social safety net? Yep. A strong military presence to keep others in line? Certainly. A growing sense of nationalism that urges us to tighten borders and pull back from contact with the rest of the world when it doesn't benefit us? Seems that way.

Obviously, words and labels and their meanings change over time. For most, conservative now seems to be a powerful, life-defining, us versus them, category. Instead of merely a definition of a particular view on how to see life, it seems to have become almost a line drawn in the sand, for both those who call themselves conservative and those who occupy the liberal camp.

My problem is the pigeon-holed view of things, with conservatism being a prime example. I am liberal about some issues but conservative in others. Unfortunately,  saying I hold a traditional outlook about some things immediately puts me in the box with that label, implying that all my beliefs are in line with that philosophy. Yet, that is simply not true.

Example? I think a border that is not an open sieve is important. A country without boundaries is not really viable. At the same time, I am a firm advocate in the ability of those who want to improve their lives, to legally have a path to enter this country, a way that is straight-forward and doesn't seem punitive at every turn. We are built on immigration and are more robust with different cultures as part of our mix. I encourage controlled immigration, but nothing as barbaric as putting kids in cages or keeping families stuck in permanent limbo.

Another example? One of the government's primary functions is protecting the health and well-being of its citizens. I believe all of us deserve access to high quality, affordable health care. That means we should be given the option to choose a government-run program, like Medicare. Or, for reasons of our own, if we prefer a private system of health care, then that choice needs to be protected. 

Part one of that statement puts me in the liberal/progressive box. The second part labels me as a conservative.

I guess what I am rebelling against is the simplistic way we tend to see things. Live long enough, and you are quite aware life is not black or white. There are not just binary choices to be made. Shadings of meanings, conclusions, inferences, are part of being human. If true, then why are we so quick to look for the easy way out, the either/or option?

In doing so, we divide ourselves into warring factions, that are artificial in their rigidity. They create battles when points of disagreement are the natural order of things. 

We build barriers between ourselves and then get angry about the obstacles. Silly, right?

August 8, 2020

Trust - A Commodity In Short Supply

I suggest that a feeling of trust is essential to functioning in the world. You trust that the majority of cars will stop at a red light. You believe that every person walking past you on the street isn't carrying a gun intending to do you bodily harm (maybe not the best example). You trust that your dog will greet you warmly when you come home. 

Trust is really the linchpin of how we operate. But, recent events in the world and certain survey results have called that statement into question. I wonder if we are moving into a time where some of the assumptions we make are no longer quite as valid.

The fake news narrative, the constant barrage of outright lies, misstatements, or purposely misleading conclusions have had their effect. A 2019 Pew Center study tells us that only 17% of Americans trust the government to do the right thing all or most of the time. That is the lowest figure in the last half-century. 

During the Watergate scandal, the era near the end of our involvement in Vietnam, and the period during the financial and economic collapse of 2008-2009 distressingly low scores occurred. But the "trust in government" percentage has been on a steady decline since 2003.

Trust in various institutions is no better. Many folks don't expect banks, financial institutions, or the segment of society commonly known as Wall Street to play by the same rules as the rest of us. Few people think health insurance companies or drug manufacturers are bastions of honest dealings.

With the divorce rate among Baby Boomers growing more rapidly than any other age group, trust is an endangered commodity in relationships, too. A long term relationship, whether married or committed, does not last long after trust is called into question. The number of smartphone apps that can track someone else's whereabouts has increased dramatically. 

Not only do parents want to know where junior is, but spouses or partners want to keep tabs on their significant other. Though supposedly requiring the permission of both parties in such an arrangement, hiding an app on a smartphone is quite easy. Divorce attorneys report a dramatic increase in the use of such apps in messy relationship breakups. Doesn't speak to much trust, does it?

If all this is accurate, what is there to do about it? Do we simply adapt to a world where trust is conditional and in short supply? Do we approach all interactions with a jaundiced eye? Do we assume everyone is not to be trusted until proven otherwise?

Writing about trust and the common good is especially tricky during the political season. The more outrageous the pronouncements and more provocative the claims, the better according to polls and media coverage. The bigger the lie, the more constant the coverage. Truth becomes disconnected from facts. Trust is a non-factor. The past several months have proven this point distressingly well. 

Even so, I certainly hope that isn't our fate. I would not do well in a world where I had to distrust most everybody and everything. Even retreating behind a locked front door wouldn't stop the damage, since everything I do is connected to others in some way,  even during a pandemic.

Trust is the foundation of my 44-year marriage. It is how I function with everyone from my investment advisers to the grocery store I frequent. I assume the gas station is selling me a gallon of gas for a gallon's price. I depend on the power company to read my meter correctly when determining my monthly bill. I "know" my daughters would never do anything to hurt or cheat me. 

So, I guess my question is, what can any of us do to reverse this climate of distrust that seems to be much too prevalent? Or, is this a period of man's time on earth that is based on the "only the strong survive" model?

I certainly hope not, especially after we emerge from the pandemic and crushed economy. We will need each other more than ever before.

August 4, 2020

Grumpy Old People: A Stereotype or a Myth?

We are familiar with this personality type: the cranky old man. He is a stock character in movies, cartoons, and TV shows.  He seems to dislike everybody and everything. Step on his lawn or get in his way at the store, and you will know it. Make a mistake to ask him about the government or taxes, and your ears will burn for a week. Not wearing a face mask? I'm not saying anything to him. British author Carol Wyer has a name for it: "irritable male syndrome." He is not living a very satisfying retirement.

The reasons behind this phenomenon have been raised more than once by readers. Here is how one contributor posed the question that gets to the heart of the issue:

"Why it does it seem like so many “old” people become bitter and negative, and then you have those “rare” old people who are enthusiastic about life, stay positive and keep fit. Is that something the positive-minded person has to really work hard at? Did they make a deliberate decision to not complain about their aches and pains, and to see the world as a beautiful place? Or is this how they were all their life?"

Importantly, this question was not asked by someone in his or her 20's or 30's. This came from someone in their 50's or 60's, and therefore I assume it is a concern in his or her own life. Do we all end up inflexible and intolerant?  Does the prospect of losing the ability to drive, or to stay in one's home propel most of us to put a scowl on our face?

I am sure there are all sorts of research studies and physiological reasons why this "grumpy old man" attitude strikes. Medical causes may include a steady decline in testosterone levels that can produce this harmful mood effect.

It is fair to give everyone a bit of a pass on grumpiness now; a pandemic would make even Mister Rogers frown and snap at Danial Striped Tiger. It is hard to not lash out at something after the roller coaster ride we have been on since March.

Let me speculate on some possible triggers. Retirement can send many a man over the edge. With fewer friends than women, men can have little social interaction after work and become isolated and depressed. Certainly, the loss of a spouse could turn someone into a genuinely unhappy person. The loss of physical or mental capabilities has the potential to leave us bitter. We may remember the "good old days" as a time when the government seemed to work more smoothly, young people were more respectful, and doctors made house calls.

Oh, and before you accuse me of sexism, there are grumpy old women, too. I have met plenty in my time. Even my charm has no effect. Many of the factors that may affect a man, fit the female profile, too. Grumpiness does not play favorites.

As the reader's question implies, is the crankiness due more to attitude than reality? Are unhappy seniors just an older version of how they were when younger? Can people make a conscious effort to not fall into the complaint trap as they age? If there is a medical cause, will that person seek some help?

My personal opinion is the cause is a combination of factors. The declining levels of testosterone or estrogen after 50 are real. The effects are well documented. Overall, health and relationship issues must contribute to the potential for a less-then-sunny mood. The awareness of one's own mortality can be a rude awakening for anyone.

At the same time, I believe attitude can be a significant factor in preventing a full slippage into grumpiness. I don't mean the type of "everything is great, the glass is always at least half full" attitude. Denying what is happening in your life isn't the answer.

Maybe acceptance is a better word. No one gets out of here alive. Virtually all of us will suffer from some of the unpleasant realities of the aging process. To be grumpy and rude really says that a person is too self-absorbed. We all have aches and pains, we all lose family and friends, we all face the loss of our ability to drive.

To make everyone around you uncomfortable or unhappy is really saying, "It is all about me. My problems are worse than yours, and that gives me the right to lash out."

Actually, it doesn't.

August 1, 2020

I'm Still Standing

Since the first of the year, I have written about some subjects that aren't strictly retirement oriented: climate change, gun control, impeachment, and spirituality among others. For the last several months, Covid-19 has been the topic more often than not.

When I decided to expand from my "safe" zone of topics, there was an acceptance of the chance I was taking. There would be occasional topics that can provoke strong emotions. There was a real possibility that regular readers would go somewhere else to find their retirement fix.

Well, that hasn't happened. While the overall readership on a month-to-month basis is down a bit from last year, there has been no mass exodus. A few disgruntled readers have canceled subscriptions. Surprisingly, the posts on climate change, impeachment, food waste, and being on the wrong side of history had a higher-than-usual readership. My thoughts on gun control did not result in calls for my being run out of town on a rail. How my religious views have evolved were well accepted. 

So, I would judge the gamble has been worth any blowback the blog has endured. There have been very few comments that I have had to delete. Some people who have never left comments before have appeared on these pages. I have discovered some seriously scary web sites run by people whose comments never saw the light of day but have given me a glimpse into their alternative world.

The response to the variety of topics has proven that once someone retires, all they care about is their money, where to go on vacation, or how to make a house safer, is not even remotely true. Those are vital subjects for posts that have been covered in the past and will continue to make their way onto these pages.

But, we are a much more complicated group of people than that. We remain committed to interacting with the world, in all its mystery, silliness, and danger. Always searching for ways to use our talents and skills, we want to improve our lives, and of those we love. Importantly, the pandemic has shown us to be a group that cares about others and is not afraid to call out those who are working against the common good.

We have shown we are adaptable. The cruise vacation can't happen? We find another way to interact with different people and ideas. Planes are a no-go danger zone for now. Guess what? Road trips and RV rentals are excellent replacements.

Will we actively reengage with the rest of the world when it is safe to do so? Maybe. Maybe not. We may have readjusted our goals and aspirations. 

Retirement is not the time of life to retreat, close down our minds and experiences. It is not when we should decide to simply build walls and protect what is ours. 

Hopefully, Satisfying Retirement in A Changing World is one of the voices that supports the new way of retiring and living. Thank you for being part of the family.