Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Face of God

Had a conversation yesterday with an old man who has lived here for 50 years.  He told of working with a well driller back a few years who was a genius at finding water.  He was so good, in fact, that they would arrive at a site in the morning, he would decide where to drill, they would set up the rig, and have water by lunchtime.  A quick bite, a pee, maybe a smoke and then off to drill another well before dark.  


The old man said he had thought long and hard about God in his life, and had learned working with the driller that Water is the Face of God.  Nothing lives without water, Water is the trinity: vapor, liquid, solid.  We are composed of Water and a few other chemicals, everything you see outside your window contains Water.  He said he goes to church for the music and the food sometimes, but when he wants to feel the presence of God, he goes for a walk.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Get Your Act Together Before It's Too Late

An acquaintance back in New Jersey has been involved in a volatile, often abusive, relationship with one of those striking Italian brunettes that are native to the Jersey Shore.  He has threatened more than once to pack up his van and get out of Dodge (or Little Egg Harbor, in this case).  But, like in the Sopranos, every time he's almost out, "they pull me back in." And off he goes on the roller coaster again.

Recently, however, there was a new twist to the soap opera.  The Jersey girl was hospitalized with an aneurysm.  Her brain was swelling so that the doctors had to remove half her skull.  She has been in a coma for three weeks now.  Of course, Jersey Boy has been distraught, fearing that his sometime wish to have her out of his life might really be granted.

The feeling of helplessness he's experiencing has expressed itself in the decision to have her name tattooed down his arm from shoulder to wrist.  A friend who obviously knows the history of this on-again, off-again love affair posted on Facebook: "And nobody ever regretted a decision like that."  I wonder if Jersey Boy even got it.

I have walked around this planet with my eyes and ears open long enough to have learned a few things, and here is one of them.  You spend the first 18 years just growing up, going to school, rolling along to adulthood.  Then, you spend from 18 to about 30 figuring out who you are and learning what not to do.  This is also when you pair up with someone and pass on your genes to the next generation.  From 30 to 50, though, is when you actually get your shit together.  Your career is established, you accumulate assets, you realize your parents aren't going to live forever and you will step up to the plate, and you learn to take comfort in good friends, beautiful sunsets, and the fact that you have only put on an extra 15 pounds since your college days.

Now Jersey Boy is pushing 50, so it's beyond time to break the addiction to drama.

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.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
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.