Sunday, August 31, 2014

House Sitting in California

Ron and I are trying an experiment:house and pet sitting for a couple in Shingle Springs, California.  They are interesting, well-travelled folks who have a house on the beach in Costa Rica and they are headed there for a month.  So we are getting out of the heat in Phoenix and spending this time in the gold rush country.  There are other creative ways retirees are using their time to travel and experience new places.  This article from the NY Times is chock full of ideas.

Increasingly, Retirees Dump Their Possessions and Hit the Road
By DAVID WALLISAUG. 29, 2014

SOME call themselves “senior gypsies.” Others prefer “international nomad.” David Law, 74, a retired executive recruiter who has primarily slept in tents in several countries in the last two years, likes the ring of “American Bedouin.”

They are American retirees who have downsized to the extreme, choosing a life of travel over a life of tending to possessions. And their numbers are rising.

Mr. Law and his wife, Bonnie Carleton, 69, who are selling their house in Santa Fe, N.M., spoke recently by phone from a campground in Stoupa, Greece, a village on the southern coast of the Peloponnese. He explained that they roam the world to “get the broadest and most radical experience that we can get.”

They recently decided to fold their tent. “Hey, we’re getting to be too old for this,” said Mr. Law about camping out. But they intend to continue what he termed their “endless holiday” in a more comfortable and spacious recreational vehicle.

Between 1993 and 2012, the percentage of all retirees traveling abroad rose to 13 percent from 9.7 percent, according to the Commerce Department.

About 360,000 Americans received Social Security benefits at foreign addresses in 2013, about 48 percent more than 10 years earlier. An informal survey of insurance brokers found greater demand by older clients for travel medical policies. (Medicare, with a few exceptions, does not cover expenses outside the United States). While many retirees ultimately return home or become expatriates, some live like vagabonds.

Lynne Martin, 73, a retired publicist and the author of “Home Sweet Anywhere: How We Sold Our House, Created a New Life, and Saw the World,” is one. Three years ago, she and her husband, Tim, 68, sold their three-bedroom house in Paso Robles, Calif., gave away most of their possessions, found a home for their Jack Russell terrier, Sparky, and now live in short-term vacation rentals they usually find through HomeAway.com.

The Martins have not tapped their savings during their travels, alternating visits to expensive cities like London with more reasonable destinations like Lisbon. “We simply traded the money we were spending for overhead on a house and garden in California for a life in much smaller but comfortable HomeAway rentals in more interesting places,” Ms. Martin said by email from Paris.

On her blog, Barefoot Lovey, Stacy Monday, 50, a former paralegal and mediator who lived in Knoxville, Tenn., wrote: “I used to dream about all the places I would go as soon as I was old enough to get away. But then ... life happened.” On May 1, 2010 — like many itinerant baby boomers Ms. Monday can quickly recall the date her journey started — she embarked on her dream trip. She “crisscrossed the U.S. three times” and visited Mexico, Ireland, France, Italy, Morocco, Spain and many other countries.

“I sold everything I had,” Ms. Monday recalled earlier this summer from San Francisco before she headed to Las Vegas, Dallas, Memphis and Knoxville. “I paid off all of my debt. I have no bills and no money.” She estimates that she now spends $150 a month — sometimes less if she is saving up for a flight — and earns a modest income through “odds-and-ends jobs,” as well as the tip jar on her blog.

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To stick to her tight budget, Ms. Monday volunteers for nonprofits and organic farms in exchange for room and board or finds free places to stay through Couchsurfing.org. The company puts its membership of people 50 and older at about 250,000.

Ms. Monday monitors ride-share boards at Couchsurfing and Craigslist for free or inexpensive transportation, and she travels light. “I get away with a couple pairs of jeans, a pair of shorts, a skirt and four or five shirts and a pair of pajamas,” she said.

When she answers the ubiquitous question, What do you do? Ms. Monday notices that most women respond with encouragement, while many men are less supportive. “They say: ‘You should be home. That’s not safe. You are old.’ I get that from a lot of the men,” she said.

Hal E. Hershfield, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of California, Los Angeles who studies the influence of time on consumer behavior, observes that many “pre-retirees” still assume retirement is a “decrepit, sitting on a porch, maybe playing golf, ice-tea type of life.”

But current retirees are “changing the way they think,” he said, “because they are still healthy and sort of young at heart.” In the last 50 years, retirement “wasn’t this period that we spent years and years in,” Mr. Hershfield continues. “It really, truly was the end of life.”

Galit Nimrod, a research fellow at the Center for Multidisciplinary Research in Aging at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, says an extended postretirement trip can assuage a sense of loss from ending a career. Travel can “act as a neutral, transitional zone between voluntary or imposed endings and new beginnings” and “serve as a healthy coping mechanism,” Dr. Nimrod said by email.

Gary D. Norton, 69, acknowledges that he felt “afraid of retirement” when he left his job of 34 years as a science professor at a South Dakota community college.

In 2002, he and his wife, Avis M. Norton, 67, a retired farmer, sold their house, bought an R.V. and started volunteering full time for two nonprofits: Nomads on a Mission Active in Divine Service, orNomads, and RV Care-A-Vanners, an initiative of Habitat for Humanity.

The couple typically rebuilds houses damaged by natural disasters, projects that usually last several weeks. Mr. Norton, who now specializes in drywall finishing, and his wife, who studied carpentry, say they cherish the chance to give back to society while seeing the country. “Now what we’re doing is so satisfying and fulfilling, even though we have some health issues, we say we don’t want to quit,” said Mr. Norton, who estimated that he and his wife had repaired damaged homes in 28 states.

The chance to volunteer on international conservation projects and the opportunity to live like a local inspired Danila Mansfield, 58, and her husband, Chris Gill, 64, to sell their house in San Jose, Calif., last year. They got rid of nearly everything they owned — the exceptions being two suitcases, clothing and a pair of guitars (Mr. Gill’s prized Gibson ES-335 electric guitar is stowed at a friend’s house, but he totes around a travel guitar) — and do not even rent a storage space.

The purge of possessions was “a little nerve-racking” at first, but ultimately “hugely liberating,” said Ms. Mansfield, who is currently in South Africa. She and her husband plan to volunteer on game reserves to protect endangered species and then study great white sharks.

So far, their travels have surpassed expectations. They drove from San Jose to Florida over five months, before cruising to Europe. High points included meeting a judge at a bar in Amarillo, Tex., who invited them to visit his drug court, catching crawfish with locals in Louisiana’s bayou country and making new friends in Austin, Tex., who invited the couple to stay with them in South Africa.

But Ms. Mansfield has also hit bumps in the road. In Galveston, Tex., and New Orleans, an acute respiratory illness required three visits to urgent care centers. “It was really dragging me down,” she recalled. At one point she cried for home, but then managed to brighten her mood. “I kept telling myself, ‘This is home,’ ” Ms. Mansfield said. “Where I am is home.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Call Target and tell them you don't want to be one!

I just called Target headquarters and asked them, politely, to adopt sensible gun policies.  I don't want to take my grandchildren into a store where guns are allowed.  Tomorrow is Target's shareholder's meeting.  Let's see if they take action, and if not, then refuse to shop there.  The most effective way to effect change is through their profits.  If they do nothing tomorrow, I urge everyone to dump their Target stock.


Saturday, June 07, 2014

NOT ONE MORE

FYI

There are bumper stickers on both Zazzle and Cafe Press that simply say, "Not One More."  Buy it here:

Richard Martinez pleaded with a do-nothing Congress to act so that "Not One More" person is suddenly taken away by a gunshot.

Mr. Martinez, Gabby Giffords, Moms Demand Action, and others, like Jon Stewart, who are simply fed up with the daily shootings in this country, should make their voices heard in every way they can.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Is There a Right to Life? And I'm Not Talking About Abortion


Guns and Mental Illness
Editorial Page New York Times
Joe Nocera 


It is difficult to read stories about Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old man who went on a murderous spree in Isla Vista, Calif., last month, without feeling some empathy for his parents.

We know that his mother, alarmed by some of his misogynistic YouTube videos, made a call that resulted in the police visiting Rodger. The headline from that meeting was that Rodger, seemingly calm and collected, easily deflected the police’s attention. But there was surely a subtext: How worried — how desperate, really — must a mother be to believe the police should be called on her own son?

We also learned that on the day of his murderous rampage, his mother, having read the first few lines of his “manifesto,” had phoned his father, from whom she was divorced. In separate cars, they raced from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara hoping to stop what they feared was about to happen.

And then, on Monday, in a remarkably detailed article in The New York Times, we learned the rest of it. How Rodger was clearly a troubled soul before he even turned 8 years old. How his parents’ concern about his mental health was like a “shadow that hung over this Los Angeles family nearly every day of Elliot’s life.”

Constantly bullied and unable to fit in, he went through three high schools. In college, he tried to throw a girl off a ledge at a party — and was beaten up. (“I’m going to kill them,” he said to a neighbor afterward.) He finally retreated to some Internet sites that “drew sexually frustrated young men,” according to The Times.

Throughout, said one person who knew Rodger, “his mom did everything she could to help Elliot.” But what his parents never did was the one thing that might have prevented him from buying a gun: have him committed to a psychiatric facility. California’s tough gun laws notwithstanding, a background check would have caught him only if he had had in-patient mental health treatment, made a serious threat to an identifiable victim in the presence of a therapist, or had a criminal record. He had none of the above.

Should his parents have taken more steps to have him treated? Could they have? It is awfully hard to say, even in retrospect. On the one hand, there were plainly people who knew him who feared that he might someday harm others. On the other hand, those people weren’t psychiatrists. He was a loner, a misfit, whose parents were more fearful of how the world would treat their son than how their son would treat the world. And his mother, after all, did reach out for help, and the police responded and decided they had no cause to arrest him or even search his room, where his guns were hidden.

Once again, a mass killing has triggered calls for doing something to keep guns away from the mentally ill. And, once again, the realities of the situation convey how difficult a task that is. There are, after all, plenty of young, male, alienated loners — the now-standard description of mass shooters — but very few of them become killers.

And you can’t go around committing them all because a tiny handful might turn out to be killers. Indeed, the law is very clear on this point. In 1975,the Supreme Court ruled that nondangerous mentally ill people can’t be confined against their will if they can function without confinement. “In California, the bar is very high for people like Elliot,” said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, who founded the Treatment Advocacy Center. In a sense, California’s commitment to freedom for the mentally ill conflicts with its background-check law.

Torrey believes that the country should involuntarily commit more mentally ill people, not only because they can sometimes commit acts of violence but because there are far more people who can’t function in the world than the mental health community likes to acknowledge.

In this, however, he is an outlier. The mainstream sentiment among mental health professionals is that there is no going back to the bad-old days when people who were capable of living on their own were locked up for years in mental hospitals. The truth is, the kind of symptoms Elliot Rodger showed were unlikely to get him confined in any case. And without a history of confinement, he had every legal right to buy a gun.

You read the stories about Elliot Rodger and it is easy to think: If this guy, with all his obvious problems, can slip through the cracks, then what hope is there of ever stopping mass shootings?
But, of course, there is another way of thinking about this. Instead of focusing on making it harder for the mentally ill to get guns, maybe we should be making it harder to get guns, period. Something to consider before the next mass shooting.