December 26, 2022

Taking a One Week Break


What will 2023 hold for us? We will find out together.

I will be back with a new post on January 2nd.

Have a safe and relaxing final week of this year. I will see you right here next Monday.


December 24, 2022

My Wish For You: The Happiest of Holidays


The very happiest of holidays to you and all your loved ones. 

Regardless of your faith or tradition, the tree and fireplace represent the love, compassion, and the best for all humankind that this season can reflect.

I will be taking a short end-of-year break. Look for a fresh post on January 2nd to start 2023.

In the meantime, peace to all and blessings to you.


December 20, 2022

Acceptance is The Real Test of Aging


Watching (and feeling) my body age is not much fun. Bags, sags, and wrinkles are what I see. A loss of muscle mass means the rear end seems to have left town and the area under the biceps wobbles more than is proper. Thank goodness someone else does the lawn cutting and landscape cleanup.

Even though I go to a gym three days a week, there is no halting the cosmic joke of decay that is my future. Certainly, the time spent in physical activity means that inevitable slippage is occurring a bit more slowly than in someone whose only exercise is using a TV remote. And, for folks with serious medical issues, my complaints seem petty.

But, my point is simple: I must make peace with what is happening. Obsessing about my aging body and erosion of capabilities only leads to frustration or, even worse, resignation. Even if I spent several hours a day on my physical conditioning I may slow the ticking clock a bit, but I am not going to stop it, and certainly not reverse it. 

Recently, Betty was at a physical therapy session. She was wondering if all the work she does with the trainer will have that big an impact. Will she be able to do at least some of what she once did?

I was pleasantly surprised when she reported what the trainer told her: make peace with new limitations and changes in functionality. The twice-a-week PT time plus exercises the other days of the week will not be a magic bullet. As we age we can manage our physical changes so they have less of an impact on our day-to-day. But, it is very important for mental health to accept what you can and cannot do.

That message resonated with both of us. Certainly not giving up, but acceptance of what is possible is one of the keys to aging. Bemoaning the gradual lack of energy and stamina does not help, Make the necessary adjustments and enjoy things as they are, not as you wish them to be. The honesty of the trainer's words were ones we had to hear. 

The amount of money Americans spends on trying to look young and deny reality is staggering. In 2022 Boomers are expected to spend over $170 billion dollars on anti-aging products and procedures.

We have all seen the older man with a comb-over that starts just above one ear, or the woman with so much plastic surgery her face is tight enough to bounce a quarter. We probably all spend some money on vitamins and supplements that most studies show are unnecessary if we have a decent diet and exercise regime. We join a gym, go for a few months, and then stop for a whole variety of excuses.

My hair is thinning and there is some serious scalp showing on the crown of my head (actually, more than just the top).  In fact, my eyebrows and ears show more aggressive hair growth than my head. This is what I am programmed to look like at this stage of my life, thinning hair and all.

Can I bench press my weight? No. Is there any reason I should aspire to? No.

Can I run a marathon? No. Do I want to run a marathon? No.

Is my pulse, heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood work and lung capacity all good? Yes.

Do I intend to continue to go to the gym for workouts? Yes. It gives me a boost of mid-afternoon energy.

I am learning to accept the reality of the limitations that an aging body imposes on me today. Hopefully, I will be smart enough to do the same as the calendar marches on. 

As Betty's trainer noted, acceptance of what is and modifying what you attempt is so important. Much like the previous post said, aligning expectations with reality is key.

Wise words.

Just walking the dog is often enough

December 16, 2022

The Secret O' Life

Photo by Betty

For a certain age group, if I mention the artist, "Sweet Baby James," there should be instant recognition. As the first artist signed by the Beatles to Apple Records,  Boston-born James Taylor has sold 100 million records, racked up nearly 50 Top 40 hits, and is an American institution. At 74, age is not slowing him down. He continues to tour the U.S. and around the world, in fact, he was in Phoenix this past summer, with tickets selling out within hours of becoming available.

Out of more songs than I can count, one, in particular,  has always resonated with me. The lyrics perfectly capture  how to build a satisfying life that continues to the very end. He tells us how to build a life of significance, joy, and understanding of how everything works together, all with just a touch of irony and tongue-in-cheek.

Released in 1977 on his album, JT, Secret O' Life was never released as a single. But it has become a staple of his, being performed at most of his concerts, included on other albums, and covered by a dozen other artists.

As I reviewed the lyrics, it was obvious that many of them fit this blog perfectly, our journey through life, and are part of my personal philosophy of life. Hoping that Mr. Taylor doesn't object, I am picking a few of his lines as a springboard to some comments. The full song is available on the Youtube link at the end of this post.

Here are the first two verses:

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
There ain't nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill
But since we're on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride

The secret of love is in opening up your heart
It's okay to feel afraid
But don't let that stand in your way
'Cause anyone knows that love is the only road
And since we're only here for a while
We might as well show some style

Particularly at this stage of life, we have figured out a few basic facts o' life: we have more behind us than in front of us. The ride up the hill is likely complete; now, our goal is the enjoy the way down the other side. 

We can't change the reality of that trip, but we can choose to treat it in one of two ways: as a scary destination that will dominate our thoughts and actions or as much a part of life as the trip up the hill with the same joys and disappointments, the highs and lows, and the uniqueness of our life on this planet. As Mr. Taylor, says, "we might as well show some style." 

Later, he sings,

Sliding down, I'll be gliding down.Try not to try too hardIt's just a lovely ride

His attitude is one that I aspire to live every day. I face challenges just like others. My life is not designed by Disney Imagineers. I ache and struggle to stand up at times. Now and then, I find a nap is better than most other options. 

Betty has had more struggles and hardships for the past 40 years than anyone should face, and no, our marriage isn't part of the problems!

To dwell on the downside of things solves nothing. I find it amplifies whatever is between me and peace. So, I find James' Secret of Life to be no secret at all; it is a way to continue "the lovely ride" that started 73 years ago.

Secret o’ Life lyrics © Country Road Music

December 12, 2022

Expectations and Reality: Are They The Same?

Do you remember when you believed the story about a fat man, in a red suit, in a giant sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, sliding down your chimney on Christmas Eve to leave presents under the perfectly decorated tree? Do you remember not worrying that you had no chimney, that he would find another way? Or, when times were economically tight, but your letter to the North Pole would work magic anyway? 

Then, can you still remember the shock when you were told that Santa wasn't real? That the idea of one guy leaving gifts for everyone all over the world just couldn't happen? That someone tried to explain that he was a metaphor for hope and dreams and childhood fantasies?

We have to deal with expectations and facts all our lives. The Santa - No Santa jolt was probably the first time you had to face facts that wishing doesn't necessarily make it so, but I am pretty sure it wasn't the last.

Your "friends" in High School suddenly dropped you from their clique for no discernable reason. Those straight-A grades ended with the reality that Chemistry wasn't your strong suit. Your first true love didn't love you back. Marriage isn't always like the movies. Being single is tough, but you actually kind of like the freedom, regardless of what your mother and friends say.

Your 20-year-old body did not follow you very far into the future. The calendar didn't care you weren't ready to become Middle Aged, and then almost overnight, a Senior.

The career you envisioned became a series of jobs; your various bosses never took a charm class or learned much about people skills. Your co-workers were just as likely to climb on your back as to offer you a helping hand. Being alive is a neverending course in having expectations tempered with reality.

Those who accept that and learn to adjust are the most satisfied. Knowing when to hold them and when to fold them was not only a lyric from a Kenny Rogers song but a rather straightforward guide for life. Striving for what you want is part of life. Continuously tilting against windmills is not.

I am confident in stating that most of us are doing the best we can. We take what we have been given, what we have learned, and what we want and try to mold all that into a life of significance. 

At the same time, we have certain expectations of what our one and only life on earth should be, what we should accomplish, and how to be happy and feel complete. And when we fall short of our own measuring stick, as we will certainly do,  there is a tendency to blame others, the world, or fate. 

Isn't it more healthy, productive, and realistic to reflect on our Santa Claus experience? What we have expected will happen probably will not. What our dreams are will often face a world of humans and nature that aren't required to make all that happen.

Do we strive too hard to bend the world to match our dreams? Do we stubbornly plow ahead even after it is clear that the path leads to a cliff? Or do we take our strengths, understanding, experience, and native intelligence to build a life that is both satisfying and accepting of limitations and restrictions?

We all anticipate that life will turn out the way we had planned. So, do we put pressure on ourselves that we wouldn't put on someone else? Do we live in fear of a failure of something that is really just an expectation that runs into reality?

Overall, I have lived a happy, contented life. But, there have been instances when my plans and future were in some doubt. I will admit I fought against the unfairness of it all; this isn't what I signed up for.

Yet, as soon as I stopped insisting something would be the way I wanted and started reacting to how it was, the way forward began to fall into place. I shifted, reconfigured, and dumped stuff that was no longer worth carrying. 

People tell us that life is hard, and I will agree it isn't always a walk in the park. But, I suggest we make it harder than necessary when we insist our way is THE way. The unexpected surprises that life can bring are so much brighter than the rocks in our path.

December 8, 2022

It's Not Just For Kids

Happy children and family memories come to mind when I mention Disneyland. Along with its companion park, California Adventure.  it is the self-proclaimed "Happiest Place on Earth." And for generations, it has been a magic place that defines summer vacations.

What if that image was modified a bit? What if the people in this story had no children, teens, or family members in tow? What if standing in long lines for rides was not a goal? What if the average age of this intrepid pair of visitors averaged over 70? Could the Magic Kingdom still generate magic?

Betty and I decided to find out. About ten days ago, we took the hour flight from home to southern California. We had three days to immerse ourselves in the adult version of a memory-maker. That meant no standing in long lines for rides. We'd go for it if something looked fun and we could experience it without more than 15 minutes of waiting. No extra expense of Genie+ or Lightening Lanes, nothing that prescribed we had to be at this place at this time.

Dining reservations made weeks in advance? Not this time. We could make do with browsing the carts and kiosks or an occasional fast-service option.  

If you are willing to go on only a few rides, skip the fancy sit-down restaurants, and avoid anything that requires standing in a long line, there is so much to experience and enjoy that three days was just enough.

The lights and decorations for the holiday season do transform a magic place into an absolute fairyland. Parades of Disney characters, whether during the day or after dark, absolutely sparkle with energy and goodwill. The "cast members" are trained to always look like they have never been happier than when you see them; not one of the thousands Betty and I saw broke that rule.  They were uniformly happy, in step, and spreading a manufactured but enjoyable aura.

If I mention "It's a Small World," you probably can't help but sing the song that accompanies this family-favorite ride. I have been on the California and Florida versions a dozen times and didn't feel the need to get into that boat and float through the ride again. But, as we passed by, the line was non-existent. We boarded immediately and figured we knew precisely what was about to happen. 

Wrong. Not only was every scene, every animated figure, and every nook and cranny decorated, but the music was re-imagined (pun intended). While still wholly familiar, the lyrics and music were the holiday version of that Small World tune. Sounding familiar and fresh at the same time, the ride was a new experience. 

The street performers were absolutely top-rate. We enjoyed old favorites, like the Dapper Dans, along with groups we had enjoyed before. Mostly Kosher, Jambalaya Jazz, Five and Dime, the Blue 13 Dance Company,  Dickens Yuletide Band, The Holiday Toy Drummers, The Disneyland Band, and the Mariachi Divas kept us captivated. Tale of The Lion King live stage show was 25 minutes of almost overwhelming energy, color, and costumes. Nighttime fireworks and light shows were as spectacular as one could hope for.

Surprisingly, just a few days after Thanksgiving, both parks were busy. Families with little kids and strollers, groups of teenagers looking for the best place for selfies, young couples, and some older visitors like us. In short, a typical Disney mix.

Betty and I are glad we had this opportunity to be part of Disney magic in a different way. Sometimes doing something differently opens up a new set of memories.


Part of the lobby of the California Grand

Yes, that is real gingerbread

Main Street all lit up for the holidays.

It's a Small World - Holiday Version

Tale of The Lion King stage show

Who doesn't love Woody?

Greetings from Disneyland

December 4, 2022

A Simple Checklist For Life After Retirement

 Successful Retirement

I have never met a retiree who is trying to "fail" at having a satisfying retirement. By fail, I mean spending time worrying instead of enjoying, stagnating instead of experiencing, and second-guessing major decisions. We expect retirement to be the payoff for years of working, commuting, saving, and delayed gratification. Does it always work that way? For too many of us, the answer is "No." 

I believe there are five definite traits and decisions that separate the truly "successful" retirees from the rest of us. While things would run more smoothly if we exhibited these attributes well before the end of our full time working life,   the good news is that any of us can improve the quality of our retirement journey by adopting them now.

1) See retirement as a beginning, not an ending.

For many of us, what we do for a living defines us. Our job or career controls how we think of and describe ourselves. "What do you do" is the first question virtually anyone asks of a stranger.

A successful retirement requires that we celebrate our working life, and are proud of what we contributed but see the future as a new and exciting stage of life. Retirement is the beginning of what can be the most creative, productive, and fulfilling part of life. It is not the end of our relevancy.

2) Believe retirement can be the best stage of life.

I will quickly qualify this sentence with my belief that a happy life means we think of each stage of life as the best. Each holds joys and experiences that are usually unique to that time in our lives. It should not be the case that we simply exist until retirement. But retirement brings with it a freedom to experiment, adjust, and focus on what makes us happy and satisfied. Those with this attitude will prosper.

3) Prepare financially and emotionally but don't overthink or second-guess decisions.

Think of it like skydiving. Once you leave the plane, it is a little late to worry if you rolled the chute correctly. As you fall at 120 miles per hour, wondering if your training was really complete isn't likely to cross your mind. Retirement isn't that dramatic, but the point is a valid one. 

Once you leave the working world behind, the preparation you completed beforehand should be sufficient. Adjust with change, yes. Second-guess everything you did to get where you are today, no. 

4) Believe attitude makes all the difference.

 "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." I agree with Winston Churchill. Our attitude determines how happy or unhappy we are, either for a moment or a lifetime. It is completely under our control. Even under the most trying of times, how we react to that stress determines its power over us. 

Abe Lincoln said something about how we either see the thorns on the rose bush or the blooms. A satisfying retirement tends to recognize the thorns but keeps its focus on the blooms.

5) Want to leave a legacy that empowers others.

My parents left me and my two brothers a financial cushion that has smoothed out some rough spots in our future, and for that, we are eternally grateful.

But, even more important was the example of a 63-year marriage, concern for others, and a desire to do no harm. One of the important choices we can make during our retirement journey is the legacy we are leaving behind. 

When all is said and done, we want to leave something behind. While a legacy might mean money for your family, I tend to think of it as warm memories, an example of a life well-lived, compassion for others, and a faith that nourishes and supports us and those we love. 

Those are the five items on my satisfying retirement checklist. What did I miss?

November 30, 2022

Predictability is Not in Fashion Anymore


Predictability is not very predictable anymore. The world, our country, our schools, our politics, what is up and what is down are in constant flux. Rules and social norms of even just a few years ago no longer necessarily apply. In many cases, we have become immune to the constant shifting of what we take for granted and what we believe to be true. The shift under your feet isn't just an earthquake, it is a societal shift. 

*Have you tried to find a cell phone recently whose primary function is a phone? Does it matter since texting has replaced real conversation? 

*Desktop computers are pretty much gone. Even laptops are giving way to tablets and smartphones. Oh, and e-mail is no longer used by many of us.

*The promise of a pension or 401k being there when you need it is not true anymore. We are mostly on our own.

*Health studies are produced every day that contradict what yesterday's said.  Now, coffee can help prevent heart attacks?

*The political climate is as unstable as the actual climate.

*Even something as commonplace as repairing your own car requires specialized computers. "Check engine" light? To the repair shop, you go.

*Network and cable television have lost the war to Internet streaming that has become as complicated as cable ever was. Who decided everything is now + ?

So, what should our response be to this onslaught?  Can we do anything to get a sense of control back? Simple living or voluntary simplicity is a lifestyle choice that has several attractions. Cutting back on possessions and avoiding much of the material society in which we live have benefits that I have detailed in earlier posts. But, it really has little to do with a response to a complicated and uncertain world. Here are some thoughts to get your own creative juices flowing:

Put more stock in you.  Gather all the opinions you want. Do all the research on any subject that helps you get a handle on the issue. But, when it is decision time, trust you. You should not doubt your own abilities. Learn to trust your gut and intuition. If something doesn't seem quite right to you, then it isn't. Will you make mistakes? Sure you will. But, guess what, you'll make mistakes even if you wait for others to tell you what you should do.

Personal responsibility must make a comeback. The time when we could safely outsource all our decisions to others has ended. Believing the experts almost brought down our economy not that long ago. It should be obvious by now that promises to you by corporations or government aren't always binding. You need to take on more of a load of managing and guiding your own life.

Decide what adds clutter to your life and reduce it. It could something as obvious as too much time on the computer or the Internet. It could be too many possessions to repair, maintain and insure. It might be a house that is much too big for your needs. Maybe a three-car garage doesn't need three cars. Over-commitment is a dangerous form of clutter. Are you the go-to volunteer for everyone? Determine what can be eliminated or cut back and do so.  Less clutter means less stress. Less stress means less complexity.

Learning and changing never stop; don't even tryIt is useless to dig in your heels and try to keep things the way they were (or are). Your life will probably be OK for a while without rushing out for the newest 5G phone. But, to refuse to consider change is a doomed strategy. Read, study, ponder. Try to understand how a change you've been reading or hearing about may affect you.

In summary, I believe there is one basic truth that gives us hope: the more we learn to handle complexity, the simpler it becomes.

Question: Am I overstating the problem of complexity and its effect on us? Have I missed a way to find more simplicity? I encourage your feedback.

November 26, 2022

At Least It Keeps Me Busy

Every once in a while I feel compelled to display what I have painted over the last few months. I show them to push myself to improve and tackle new subjects. If  I didn't have anyone other than me or Betty see what I am up to, I am not sure there would be much improvement, or I would find one thing that is decent and just reproduce the same scene again and again. There is power in accountability.

Also, I know my humble attempts to put brush to canvas have inspired a few others to pull out the long-dormant easel and paint to give it a go, or some other creative attempt that has been forgotten.

My granddaughter noticed months ago that I prefer landscapes to people or animals as my subject. She is correct. I have tried living things, particularly when sketching. But, the end result is more Halloweenish than I prefer, plus I  find landscapes more calming to paint and look at afterward.

So, what follows is a sampling of some of what has been finished. I am averaging a new painting about once a week; some survive and others get covered in white gesso, never to see the light of day until I try something new.

I have asked Betty to share some of her flow art, too. It is a technique that appears deceptively easy but is not. Pouring paint on a canvas and then blowing all the colors around with a straw and hairdryer takes a real artistic eye. I have found the freeform abstract approach isn't my thing.

And, here are some samples of Betty's flow art

I hope this leaves you inspired to follow your passions and interests wherever they lead you!