Rural Retirement

I hear a lot of people talk about moving when they retire. They want to head to a third world country to get the biggest bang for their buck. Or they talk about moving way out in the boonies, where housing prices are lower and the cost of living, in general, isn’t as costly. These ideas make sense, but there are several factors to consider.

First and foremost, to my mind, is healthcare. The older you get, the more prone you are to catastrophic health issues. Do you have quick access to a hospital if you have a heart attack or stroke? More importantly, is it a hospital you feel you can trust to give you the best care? It’s all well and good to live in a shack on an island in the middle of the south Pacific, but it would be unfortunate to have to fly 3,000 miles to cope with an unexpected allergic reaction to coconuts.

Another thing to consider is the isolation factor. The older you get, the more isolated you become. Younger people get impatient with your slower pace and your antiquated opinions and your oft-repeated stories. That seems to be a part of the circle of life. But do you want to isolate yourself even further by putting miles between yourself and your family and friends? Sure, Skype exists, but it doesn’t feel as good as a hug.

Also, it’s important to remember that rural locations don’t have as much ready access to the services you might well need. Counseling. Grief support. Adult Protective Services. Home health aids. Tow trucks. Public transportation. Grocery stores. Maids. Airports. Libraries. Pizza delivery. While it’s possible to get by without these things, it’s a lot less pleasant.

The thing that would drive me the most crazy would be the boredom. And boredom, combined with isolation, can lead to depression. I never thought I’d say this, but you can only read so many books, especially if your eyesight is failing. You can only play so many games of solitaire, or watch so much TV.

I’d miss being able to go to restaurants and concerts and movies and festivals. I’d miss having options. I don’t want to bury myself in a casket before my time. I will want to continue doing things when the mood strikes, even if it doesn’t strike as often as it once did.

Yes, it’s a great idea to stretch your retirement dollar, but look before you leap. The sacrifice you make may be more extreme than you intended. You get what you pay for. Find a healthy balance.

Rural Retirement

A book about gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

March of the Waddling Grey Penguins

On our cruise to Alaska, we were some of the youngest passengers aboard, by decades. I get it. It’s an expensive trip. It’s the trip of a lifetime. But there’s something to be said about doing your major trips while you’re still able-minded and able-bodied.

We often shared a dinner table with strangers, as is often the case on cruise ships. Some were a delight. But most were complaining about being in pain. Or about not liking the food. Or about the ship rocking. Or about their ungrateful grandchildren. Or about feeling trapped. Or about the cost of things. You name it, they complained about it.

We were having a wonderful time, so listening to these people grouse was, to be honest, annoying. It did make us grateful that we are not yet in pain, or plagued with digestive issues or the like. It made us try harder to be patient when caught in the middle of the migration of these waddling grey penguins. Our time will come soon enough.

But jeez. Why take a trip if you know it’s going to make you miserable? Eat your salad during your salad days. Or, if this is your only chance to travel, at the very least, don’t rain on everyone else’s parade.

Okay, so I guess this is me complaining. But you get the point.

Falkland_Islands_Penguins_36

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

12 Things to Discuss before Getting Married

I’m getting married for the first time at age 53, so I’m hardly an expert on the subject. But I’d like to think that my age is a plus. I’m not impulsive. I believe in doing my homework. I am all about looking before I leap.

Lord knows I’ve seen enough marriages fail to get a strong sense of what kills them off. It’s really important to have all the hard conversations beforehand so that you know what you’re getting yourself into. It also helps to know the other person’s hopes, dreams, and expectations in advance, and decide whether you’d be willing to help them achieve them.

Here are a few things you may wish to consider talking about ahead of your big day:

Money. This one is huge. Is one partner bringing a mountain of debt into the union? It’s only fair to bring this out in the open. How will you handle finances? How much credit card debt can you tolerate? What level of discretionary spending are you comfortable with? What are your plans, if any, for retirement? What are your expenses? How will you cope with financial emergencies? What are your long term financial goals, and how do you plan to reach them?

Children. Do you both want them? How many? Do you already have some? Who has custody? What is your philosophy regarding discipline, and child-rearing in general?

What goals do you have for your future? Do they align? If you want to travel and your partner simply wants to retire and watch Jerry Springer all day long, that’s a problem. What do you consider to be a successful life? What is most important to you in terms of a future? Where do you want to live? What kind of home do you want to have? What types of vacations do you like to take? What are your priorities? What are your expectations?

Sex, Intimacy and Fidelity. It’s okay to be who you are. But it’s only fair that you spell it out. If one person is asexual, and the other expects a high degree of intimacy, that’s a problem waiting to happen. If your philosophies regarding fidelity don’t align, it’s a recipe for disaster. If one person hates public displays of affection, and the other feels rejected if her partner won’t hold her hand, this is the tip of a much larger iceberg. Is pornography a big part of your life or do you have any sexual habits that your partner might find unusual? Discuss what you need to feel loved and sexually satisfied now, or your marital ship will sink like a stone.

Individuality. You don’t have to be joined at the hip. You don’t always have to like all the same things that your partner likes. You don’t even have to have all of the same friends. Becoming a football widow isn’t a big deal if you have interests of your own. Are you both comfortable doing things alone? If you have different expectations in terms of togetherness and attention, it’s best to work that out now.

Vices. If you smoke and your partner does not, you should find out if that will become a deal-breaker. If you have a drug addiction, your partner has a right to know. How much do you drink alcohol? How much is too much? You should even put your quirky habits out there. One person’s quirk might be another person’s intolerable oddity.

Health. Does your partner take health as seriously as you do? Are there any ticking time bombs with regard to family health history that you need to be aware of? How will you cope with a medical catastrophe?

Religion. What are your spiritual philosophies? Atheists and Fundamentalists can marry, of course, but they’d have to be extremely tolerant of their differences. If one is expecting the other to make a dramatic, very basic shift, and the other person isn’t willing to do so, then that will be a problem. Also, what holidays are important to you, and how do you celebrate them?

Politics. I’ve seen couples thrive in spite of political differences, but if politics is a huge part of your life, it rapidly becomes a definer of the content of one’s character. And in this current atmosphere of division, it’s not like you can ignore the elephant (or donkey) in the room. Will you be willing to agree to disagree on the issues? It’s never a good idea to go into a relationship with expectations that your partner will change and come to his or her senses.

Family. Unfortunately (or luckily, as the case may be), when you marry someone, you marry that person’s family, too. Everyone has a few nuts in the family tree. Having insane in-laws is not necessarily a problem unless you discover, to your horror, that your spouse expects said crazy relative to live with you in his or her dotage. Will you be okay with that? What does family obligation mean to you? Best to figure that out in advance.

Communication and Conflict Resolution. How do your resolve disagreements? If one is a shouter and the other tends to withdraw, you’ll never be able to meet in the middle. It’s all about respect. Talk about issues before they get out of control. Listen to what your partner is saying. Nip things in the bud as often as you can. Don’t stuff things. Don’t get hostile. Don’t just hope things will go away on their own. Take the initiative. How do you plan to talk things out?

Cleanliness. Can you tolerate your partner’s level of clutter? Can your partner stand your obsessive compulsive need for a spotless home? And how will the cleaning tasks be divided? This is 2018. You can’t assume that both of you are on the same page regarding basic chores. Talk about it.

Communication about all of the above is key. It’s important to know as much as possible about the foundation on which you are building your relationship. A solid foundation leads to a long-lasting home.

Are there any other topics that I’ve overlooked? Please share them in the comments below!

marriage

Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Dodo Bird Jobs

This isn’t the first time engineers have looked into automating one of my drawbridges, and it won’t be the last. People don’t like the idea of paying bridgetenders when they spend the bulk of their time “doing nothing.” These automation ideas generally do not come to fruition, because it’s very easy to get killed on a drawbridge. You want someone with independent judgment at the controls, so as not to crush the life out of passersby. Crunching million-dollar yachts tends to piss off the public as well.

But these recurring threats have made me very sensitive to jobs that are going the way of the dodo bird. For example, take the plight of Hamilton Beale. He’s been working as an elevator operator at Seattle’s gorgeous historic Smith Tower for 18 years. He’s 76 years old, and has kind of become part of the Smith Tower experience. And he’s about to get automated out of a job.

I can well imagine how sad his last day of work will be for him. When you have a unique job that people are curious about, trust me, it becomes a big part of your identity. You take pride in it. I’m sure he loves his elevator as much as I love my bridge. I’m also sure that Seattle will be losing something special when he is no longer on the job.

I’m thrilled to see that someone has decided to create a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to supplement Mr. Beale’s retirement. I hope you’ll spread the word and consider making a contribution, as I have. Do it for the dodos of the world.

Hamilton Beale

Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

An Open Letter to White Supremacists

First, let me give you my “bonafides”. According to Ancestry DNA, I’m about as white as a human being can be. That always has, and probably always will give me a leg up in society. I won’t even try to deny it. I also won’t deny that I’ve done little or nothing to earn this leg up. I was born into it, and oh, do I ever take advantage of it.

I can go weeks, months, even years not having to think about pesky racial issues if I so choose. I can live in a white bubble and have absolutely no contact with any minority for days on end. I don’t have to watch “them” on TV, or listen to “them” on the radio if I don’t want to. I can simply close my eyes and clutch my pearls. If I so desire, I can shop exclusively at white-owned stores without putting forth much effort at all. I probably do without even realizing it. I have the luxury of not having to care one way or the other.

People assume I’m law-abiding and honest. People assume I’m non-violent. People assume that I’m supposed to be wherever I happen to be, any time of the day or night. I’m a harmless fat old white woman. I’m as likely to get shot as I am to be struck by lightning. Most people don’t even look at me. I can become invisible. I often feel invisible. It’s lonely, but it has its advantages.

No, I’m not rich. I’m barely middle class, and I’ve only clawed my way up to this precarious and ever-shrinking perch in the past 3 years. I know what it’s like to be down there in that bucket of crabs, where everyone is scrabbling to get out, and just when you think you’ve made it, the other crabs pull you back down. I was there for 50 years. It’s frustrating. It’s heartbreaking. I understand that despair.

But here’s where you and I part company: I don’t assume that all the crabs that have been pulling me down are non-white. I don’t even bother to blame the other crabs regardless of their color. If you’re caught in a crowded, desperate bucket, it’s only natural to want to get your crabby butt out of there. It’s not the other crabs, guys. It’s the freakin’ bucket. There shouldn’t be a bucket.

That bucket was made by rich white people.  It’s the corporations and the politicians and the institutions that are your biggest threat. It’s the military-industrial complex that is using you as cannon fodder and replaceable cogs in the machine.

Railing at your crab-mates is a mere distraction. Glorifying Confederates, who lost for good reason, and Nazis, who lost for good reason, makes you look like fools. Being violent because you’re angry does not further your cause. It will never bring you respect or support or dignity. It won’t get you out of the bucket. Fascism has never benefited the masses, and like it or not, we are part of the masses.

I know it sucks that we’ll never have a delightful and stress-free retirement. I know it’s scary that things are getting more crowded and therefore more competitive. It’s high time you realize that automation is a much bigger threat to your job than other humans are. And most of those machines, by the way, are owned by white people.

If you honestly think for one minute that your crab-mates are out to destroy you or your way of life, ask yourself this: why are all of us striving for the same things? We all want a decent, safe, secure life. A way to feed our children. A roof over our heads. Peace. We have a lot more in common than you seem to think.

Don’t you get it? We are all in this together. And together we are stronger. The very fact that we are a mass is the one thing we have that those bucket manufacturers do not.

The reason you have the day off today is thanks to the labor movement, a movement of the masses. We can do great things if we stand shoulder to shoulder rather than turning our back on each other, or even worse, locking ourselves into mortal combat with each other while the bucket manufacturers gleefully watch from a distance.

Turning on each other is the last thing, the absolute last thing, we should be doing. Don’t be a pawn.

crabs

Like this blog? Then you’ll LOVE this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Timing

For the first time in my life I have a job with a decent retirement plan. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the job until age 50, so I’m still going to have to work until I drop dead. Timing. It’s all about timing.

I think about timing quite a bit. Some people are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. They buy low and sell high. They start young. They remain committed. They make good choices.

A lot of this seems to be less about good planning and more about dumb luck. And who you’re connected to. I am only speculating, though, because for the most part luck has eluded me, and I don’t really know anyone of influence.

Then again, it’s possible that I’m luckiest person on earth. It may be that I was supposed to step off that curb 30 seconds earlier and get run down by a bus. I may have been one squirt of pesticide away from dying from some horrible disease. Who knows? Life is a big bell curve, and no one can be sure exactly where one is located on that spectrum. Things could always be a lot worse, or a lot better.

Often I’ll meet men whom I strongly suspect I could have had a fantastic life with. But they’re already taken. Or they’ve been hurt so much they’re not willing to try. Or they’re about to move to another state. Or there’s so much going on in their life at the moment that they don’t even see me for the perfect mate I would be. Or their very life gets tragically cut short.

That’s why I really love string theory. I can look around, see all the possibilities that are not bearing fruit in my world, but get comfort from the idea that somewhere, somehow, I am actually living all of them out.

Timing.

[Image credit: fooyoh.com]
[Image credit: fooyoh.com]

One Crabby Family

During one of my recent “weekends” (Oh, to actually have it fall on a weekend, for once, but nooooo…) I went with my first Seattle friend to visit her parents in Port Townsend, Washington. What a gorgeous place! I’ll write about it tomorrow.

For today, I want to write more about what interested me the most about the visit: the family itself. It occurred to me during this trip that it’s a rare and special treat to experience the dynamics of a family other than my own. It was fascinating to sit back and observe how this family unit worked for two days. It was kind of like a sociological experiment, but one that left me feeling delighted.

My friend is a free spirit. She refuses to be defined. All I can say is that she’s a yoga-teaching, dog-walking, child-loving force of nature. I wish I was like her at her age. I’d like to think I’m slowly becoming like that at age 50 in my own way, but at 36 she’s already there, and I find that so admirable I can’t even put it into words.

But once I met her parents, I understood how she was able to grow so solidly into her own person. Her parents are their own people too. Retired, they recently had this stunning house built in this splendid community, and they don’t seem to have slowed down in the slightest.

Her father rides his bike 8 miles a day, and walks the dog, and is landscaping their entire yard from scratch. I have to say he’s doing a magnificent job. He also volunteers at various events, and will soon be doing a weekly Jazz radio show. Jazz is definitely his thing.

Her mother is, to sum her up, quite a pistol. She is irreverent, hilarious, and a fantastic cook. And she goes crabbing 5 days a week. I swear to God. This woman is out pulling crab traps into a tiny boat every day, and when she gets home, she bashes their little brains out and makes the most satisfying, delicious meals I’ve ever eaten. Honestly, how cool is that? She also seems to be the glue that holds the whole family together.

My friend’s sister wasn’t there during my stay, but she felt like a solid presence, as she was talked about often with great affection.

All three of them made me feel quite at home. Quite comfortable. They even allowed me to bring my dogs, which was extremely generous given the fact that one of them acted the fool the entire time by growling at their sweet old dog and pooping in their living room. That was the only time I felt mortified during my stay.

And what a loving family it is. They all know each other’s quirks and foibles, and for the most part they find each other amusing. Sure, they bicker and gripe from time to time, but in the end, the main thing is the love.

I watched my friend poke her mom as she snored though a movie we were watching. (I wouldn’t mention that except that she has one of my favorite qualities: she doesn’t care what people think.) I also listened to them all debate about whether a water filter should or should not be changed or the music should be turned up or down. All of this nearly brought tears to my eyes.

I would love to still have my mother around to poke. I’d love to have family members to irritate me. I’d love to have a gorgeous, active retirement (or any retirement at all, for that matter, but those are not the cards I have been dealt). I’d love to have a solid family unit and know without a doubt that people had my back. What a gift. What a treasure.

What an amazing family. It was wonderful to be a part of it, if only for a day or two. I was grateful for the opportunity to sit around a table eating crab with this deliciously crabby family! I will forever savor the memory of it.

[Image credit: cannonfish.com]
[Image credit: cannonfish.com]

Hell Hath its Benefits

When I listen to my coworkers complain about this job, I have to inwardly giggle. They think this job is bad. They think they’re being mistreated.

For 13 years I was in a horrible job situation. I worked graveyard shifts and got a one dollar raise every 6 years, and they tried to find ways to deny us even that. I had no health insurance to speak of. We got $3000 dollars a year to spend on our health, including prescriptions. After that, we were on our own. I was usually on my own by about the end of February. Forget about dental or vision or retirement. It was a right to work state, so we could be fired without cause. Racism and sexism were blatant and they made neither apologies nor excuses for them.

That’s what happens when you don’t have a union. Do you honestly believe that employers will treat you decently of their own free will? Trust me when I say that doesn’t happen. I’ve lived it.

So when I got this union job, which pays 2 ½ times as much for the same work, and has health insurance, vision, dental, retirement, deferred compensation, and more paid vacation time than I know what to do with, I felt as though l had died and gone to heaven. What’s to complain about?

That’s something you never think about when times are tough. Having lived in hell, you will always be grateful for and fully aware of those moments when you are no longer there. That’s something that my coworkers don’t have: the pure and bitter glory of perspective. What a gift. Seriously. What a gift.

the-war-between-heaven-and-hell

[Image credit: imgkid.com]

Time on my Hands

Many people spend the bulk of their lives looking forward to a retirement that they may or may not be able to have. I’ve always assumed I’d have to work until I drop dead, but even I often imagine what it would be like to be the master of my own itinerary. All the time.

Here’s the thing, though (Yes, yes, there’s always a thing.): Spare time is usually not a very good thing to have. It gets you into trouble, or it causes boredom or depression, sloth, laziness, weight gain, or lethargy. It takes a highly disciplined individual (in other words, not someone like me) to fill up his or her spare time with positive pursuits.

I like to imagine myself in my dotage making cheese, sewing quilts, keeping bees, attending book clubs, volunteering and regularly exercising. But I know me. Right now when I have spare time I generally fill it with sleep and Youtube. What in my experience leads me to believe that if I had even more time I wouldn’t do even more of the same? The thought of years upon years of nothing but sleep and Youtube is a dreary concept.

While all these time-saving devices we now depend on seem like quite the luxury, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they were the main source of our increasing societal angst. When people spent days on end chopping wood and doing the laundry by hand, they didn’t have as much time to think about their contentment or lack thereof. I think there’s something to be said for that.

Yes, it would be nice to have a bit more flexibility in my schedule. It would be even nicer not to have to answer to anyone. But give me routine any day, as opposed to the vast open spaces of nothing at all to do.

listless

It’s much better to have a list than to be listless.

[Image credit: sodahead.com]

Union Dues

For the first time in my life I’m a member of an effective union, and holy crap, what a difference it’s making in my life! I’ve actually got a living wage and can look forward to raises. I have decent health insurance for the first time in well over a decade. I have retirement. Retirement! I can’t even imagine. And believe me, that’s just the tip of the benefit iceberg.

I actually know several people who have bought into the whole Republican propaganda machine and therefore resent unions. That always kind of amuses me, because they would be the first people to squawk if they had to work more than 40 hours a week, 8 hours a day, or if child labor came back, or if they were in sweat shops. They have unions to thank for their excellent working conditions, and yet they disapprove of them.

I’m assuming these people think that employers are going to treat their employees decently as a matter of principle. Unfortunately, this has never been demonstrated to me. I’ve been working since I was 10 years old, and I’ve held 23 different jobs. What this has taught me is that greed will always prevail. Power always corrupts.

Yes, unions can take advantage of their power as well. Some of their benefits are a bit over the top. Yesterday I worked 12 straight hours, and because of that I was entitled to have my dinner reimbursed. I felt a little guilty as I turned in my receipt for coconut crusted prawns, top sirloin with mashed potatoes and broccoli, and salted caramel vanilla crunch cake. But you know what? I guarantee you that there isn’t a member of a board of directors anywhere in this country who hasn’t eaten even better, and I know I work harder than they do.

So unless you can wave your magic wand and come up with some way of making everyone behave fairly, I’ll continue to pay my dues and eat my prawns, thank you very much.

union