Tag Archives: Blogs

I Meet My Match

Many years ago, we lived in the mountains of western North Carolina. A long ridge rose up on the outskirts of the small town in which we resided. From where it began, the rise to its highest point was around 3 miles in length. There, the ridge abruptly ended with a rocky outcropping, rapidly dropping away several hundred feet to the valley below. Along the ridge, a meandering and relatively steep two lane road led to the top of the ridge.

It goes without saying that any self-respecting town in which such a geophysical feature is found is also the home of a legend relating the sad tale of a young maiden whose true love had gone off to war, or to sea, or on some such quest.

You probably know the rest of the story. When fate, in one form or another kept her true love from returning, the young maiden, overcome with remorse, met her demise by flinging herself headlong off of said geophysical feature.

The ridge in our town was known as Jump Off Rock and the maiden in the legend associated with it; a Cherokee Indian whose warrior soulmate never returned from battle.

It’s interesting to note that over the last few generations, your average young maiden appears to have been made of tougher stuff or to have come up with more constructive strategies for handling any remorse they may feel in relation to absentee true loves. That’s probably a good thing.

That aside, I had taken up cycling as a means of keeping myself fit. I’d been a jogger for several years, but a hip injury had caused me to cut back on running. When I discovered that pedaling a bike didn’t negatively impact my hip, I hung up my running shorts and replaced them with a pair of black spandex cycling pants and away I went.

The ride up to the top of Jump of Rock became one of my favorite cycling routes. From my home, the round trip to the top of the ridge and back was about 15 miles. The climb up to the rocky outcropping wasn’t comparable to climbing the Pyrenees Mountains in the Tour de France, but I’m not ashamed to admit that it would cause one’s thighs to burn before the top was reached.

One spring afternoon, I completed the climb to the top, pulled my bike over to a grassy area near the outcropping, and was sitting there basking in the internal glow of having once again made the 3-mile assault to the top without having to stop anywhere along the route to catch my breath.

It was then that I noticed an old man hobbling toward me from the other side of the road. He was 85 years old, if he was a day, and was relying heavily on a weathered wooden cane which looked like it had been handmade from a crooked tree limb.

He slowly walked over to where I was relaxing in the grass. For some time he stood there silently gazing at my bike as it lay in the grass between us.

Abruptly, he reached out and began hitting the derailleur on the back wheel of my bike with his gnarly wooden cane. For the uninitiated, the derailleur is the device that allows for the multiple gear changes typically found on modern road bikes. For the record, my bike had 12 gears.

Then in a heavy, guttural German accent he shouted, “What’s that? What’s that!

That’s the derailleur. It allows me to change gears on the bike which makes it easier to pedal when riding up steep slopes like this one.” I explained.

He paused for a moment, shook his head slightly from side to side, and shouted, “One gear! One gear! When I was a boy, my schoolmates and I rode our bicycles from Zurich to Lyon, over the Alps, with only one gear!”

He paused momentarily to catch his breath and clear his throat before adding, “One gear!

Believing that he had sufficiently made his point, the old man silently limped back across the road to his car and drove away; all the while shaking his head.

I sat there for a few moments pondering whether or not I should go over to the rocky outcropping and hurl my bike, myself, or both my bike and myself over the edge.

But realizing that I didn’t want to be found laying at the bottom of the cliff in those spandex biker shorts, I got back on my bike and rode home; a more humble man than the one who had just ascended Jump Off Rock.

Technology is my Friend

A couple of nights back, my wife and I were watching a show on the TV when she made a comment about my aging Apple iPad Mini 2 which happened to be laying on an end table between us. I can’t remember what inspired that topic of conversation, maybe it was a commercial, but to my surprise, she said something along the line of, “You know, maybe it’s time for you to upgrade to a better iPad and then I can have the Mini 2?” She even suggested that I should get one like that which our youngest son had recently acquired.

To be honest, I had been feeling a bit constrained by my iPad Mini 2’s somewhat minuscule 16GB of storage. So it didn’t take a lot of persuasion for me to pursue that line of reasoning. You might say that my reaction was similar to that of the old firehouse horse who, on hearing any alarm, immediately springs into action!

To make a very brief story even shorter, in less than 36 hours, I had in my possession a shiny new iPad Pro with 256GB of storage. I’m still trying to figure out what I did to have been granted such amazing good fortune. If I ever do, I’m going to bottle it and save it for use sometime in the future.

I became a techno-geek years before that terminology was even imagined, so it’ll come as no surprise that I keep up with the latest advancements in computer/tablet technology. I also knew that my son had indicated that since acquiring his, he was now securely joined at the hip to the iPad Pro.

As soon as I opened the box and extracted my copy of this amazing device, I immediately felt it interfacing with my hip as well. I’m fairly confident that I also heard a monotone voice whispering, “Resistence is futile. You have been assimilated.

By itself, going from 16GB of storage to 256GB is a life changing event. It put an end to the revolving door of apps coming and going on my Mini 2 as I came across new, untried applications and uses for that device. With the iPad Pro, I’m now able to install and utilize apps with impunity. But that’s merely scratching the surface of its capabilities.

Some reviewers have indicated that the iPad Pro, along with a Bluetooth or Smart keyboard, can replace the need for a laptop computer. I’m not sure that I’d go that far, but it is a computing powerhouse. For those so inclined, countless reviews of the iPad Pro can be found on YouTube.

Suffice it to say, that I’m thoroughly enjoying the process of getting mine configured for my usage and learning about all that it can do.

Once again, I find myself in techno-geek heaven!

Retirement = Free time …. not necessarily

Before I retired, I never really gave much thought to what I’d be doing with all of the “free time” which retirement was supposed to place at my disposal.  Based on the number of hobbies and pursuits that I have: such as ham radio, reading, photography, writing, etc., I suppose I assumed that I would occupy most of my time in the pursuit of those activities.

After nearly six months of retirement, that’s not been the case.  Bummer? Well, maybe.

raquel-martinez-96648-unsplWe all know that those two evil twins, Accountability and Responsibility, will raise their ugly heads when and where you least expect them!  Paying bills, balancing the checkbook, buying groceries, doing laundry, cutting the grass, running errands around town, and other mundane, yet very necessary tasks, fill as much of my “free time” as those aforementioned hobbies and pursuits.

Quite frankly, I believe that’s the way it should be.

It turns out that retirement is not like being set free on a giant playground with no responsibilities and no time constraints.

That said, I’ve recognized that retirement grants you, and you alone, a great deal of freedom in determining when and how you choose to address those things which still demand your attention and for which you are still responsible.  It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.

It took a while, but over the past few months I’ve come to the conclusion that the greatest reward of retirement is simply having:

           Freedom of choice when it comes to the deciding when to do those
           tasks you need to do versus those activities you want to do.

toa-heftiba-362237-unsplashIf you manage that freedom properly, it’s still possible to find yourself with an abundance of free time to do whatever it might be that you want to do each day; or conversely, to elect to do nothing at all!

And what a joy that last option can be!

I’ve come to believe that success in having an enjoyable and rewarding retirement will be determined by how well individuals balance this new found freedom with their on-going responsibilities.

In retirement, you really do become your own boss and take it from me, that’s real freedom!

That’s why, when others ask how I’m enjoying retirement, I tell them that I feel as if I’m residing in a very pleasant Alternate Universe from the one in which I existed during my working life.

And make no mistake, it’s a very satisfactory universe at that.

Photos by Toa Heftiba and Raquel Martinez on Unsplash

Residing in an Alternate Universe

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I retired recently after being continuously employed for something like 42 years.  I recognize now that while I was actively working, I really didn’t expend much effort in considering the passage of time.

timeDuring those years, management of the here and now aspects of time was a much more immediate concern.  Time was a tool which I carried on my left wrist.  It reminded me that I needed to get to work every day by a certain time.  That I needed to arrive on time for meetings, to find time for lunch each day, to ensure that results were delivered prior to deadlines.

You know the drill; like sands through an hour glass time marches on and there’s no rest for the weary.

There were only a few periods during my career when I felt like those 42 years would never end.  I guess I just didn’t have time for such contemplative, non-value adding musings.

Now that I’m retired, all of those working years seem to have gone by in a flash.  Clearly the perception of time is based on where one is standing as they are considering its passing.

Looking back at my working years, time was very rigid taskmaster populated with a maze of ever expanding benchmarks, most of which were very securely set and which demanded strict adherence.

Now that I’m retired, time has become very fluid, extremely malleable, and only occasionally demanding – and then in a most friendly and wonderfully passive manner. These days I no longer think of time as being carved in stone.  It’s more like having an amiable Pillsbury Dough Boy who looks after my schedule.

I still have things that I plan to do each day, but I hesitate referring to those events as being “on my calendar“.  That implies far too much structure in how I manage my days.

If I want to go to the gym later in the day rather than first thing in the morning, so be it.  I can just as readily sweat at 11:00 am as I can at 7:30 am.  The stamps on those envelopes that I need to mail won’t expire if I wait until tomorrow to go by the Post Office.  And since the local grocery store no longer gives the Senior Citizen discount on Wednesdays (how dare they), I can just as easily restock the pantry on any day of the week!

I’m slowly recognizing that I’ve become a resident in an alternate universe where I control time, rather than it controlling me.  And it’s really quite a nice place to be.

I haven’t broken contact completely with that other universe in which I used to reside, but I find that I’m merely an observer of it, rather than an active participant.

traffic-jamAs I drive around town, particularly during the morning and afternoon rush hours, I realize that I’m awash in a sea of folks dressed in the now standard business casual attire and tightly gripping their steering wheels as they frantically search for any opportunity to gain just one spot ahead of where they find themselves in the endless lines of traffic.  No doubt their minds are swamped with the plethora of reports, meetings, and tasks that are dictating their schedule for the rest of today, tomorrow, and next week.

I suppose that once in a great while one of the residents of that other universe may glance over at me and momentarily wonder, “Why does that old codger look so relaxed and content?”  Apparently, they can’t see the Pillsbury Dough Boy sitting in the passenger seat whimsically wondering what we’re going to do with the rest of the day.

Photos by Rawpixel and Evgeny Tchebotarev on Unsplash

Give ’em an inch…..

redlightI’m old enough to remember when drivers did not have the freedom to pull up to a traffic light which happened to be red and then make a right turn after coming to a complete stop.

Generally known as “Right on Red”, this rule of the road was legalized in all 50 U.S. states way back in 1980.

I’m curious.  Is there any state in which drivers still routinely come to a complete stop before exercising their prerogative to turn right on red?  I didn’t think so.

It appears that most drivers currently interpret “Right on Red” to mean that it’s totally acceptable for them to cruise, drift, meander, careen, or roll through red traffic lights as long as they meet the minimum requirement of executing a right turn in the process.

stop-signAbout now, someone is probably thinking, “What’s the big deal?”  Admittedly, this may seem like a very minor bending of the “Right on Red” statue.  Except for the fact that many drivers, at least where I live, are now also applying the assumed freedom to cruise, drift, meander, careen, or roll to the act of making right turns at Stop signs.

From there, it’s a very short step to assuming that if one can make right turns when the traffic light is red, why isn’t it also permissible to cruise, drift, meander, careen, or roll straight through red traffic lights as well?  Assuming of course, there are no other cars attempting to make it through the same intersection at the same time under the auspices of a green light.

Based on my own casual observations while driving locally, it appears that most drivers have long ago deemed the yellow caution traffic lights to be a nothing more than a nuisance and the need to pay attention to them to be completely optional.  Gradually, that same mindset is being applied to red lights.

Just the other day, I observed three cars driving back-to-back through the red light at a very busy intersection near my home.  To be clear, they were not attempting to sneak through the yellow light only to be a bit late in doing so.  No, all three cars drove straight through the traffic light clearly after it had already changed from yellow to red.

Seeing one car zip through a red light has unfortunately become commonplace, but to witness three at the same time left me utterly dumbfounded.  It’s one thing to care so little for your own safety and well-being, but to rashly jeopardize that of other people is totally unacceptable.

I’ll complete the well known axiom that I used in the title of this post, “Give ’em an inch, and they’ll take a mile.”  Or maybe it’s two.

Human nature is alive and well and, often to our detriment, being generously applied in the interpretation of the rules of the road.

Be safe out there and remember to drive defensively!

Boomers R Us

I can’t figure out how to turn that “R” around in the title of this post or I would.  Then again, it’s probably for the best that I don’t, if for no other reason than to avoid unwanted conflicts of interests with the other more well known users of that reversed letter.

I’m a Baby Boomer.  I’ve known that for over 6 decades, but I’ve never really thought about what the definition of a baby boomer is until today.  So I looked it up.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines baby boomers as those who were born between the years of 1946 and 1964.  I was surprised to learn that the “boom” didn’t last longer than 1964, but there you have it.  I found it on the internet, so it must be true.

Wikipedia adds an additional distinction, stating that those who were born between 1946 and 1955 are classified as Leading Edge Baby Boomers.  I had no idea, but it’s nice to learn that I’m finally on the leading edge of something!

I guess that also means that I’m on the front end of that much anticipated bubble of baby boomers who are already retired or who are in the process of planning to retire within the next few years.

retirementI retired a little over six months ago and have found retirement to be a state of being for which I may be uniquely qualified and certainly one which I am finding to be very enjoyable and rewarding.

The process of transitioning from full time employment to full time retirement is a subject which is deserving of its own blog post, so I’ll save that topic for another day.

What’s really on my mind as I write this installment is the subject of what it takes in terms of available assets to be financially able to retire.

In the process of meeting with my financial advisor prior to reaching the decision to retire, I was very surprised to learn from him that studies indicate that roughly 60% of all baby boomers are currently not financially able to afford retirement.

This immediately reminded me of several commercials I’ve seen on TV recently in which people (actors) are asked to project how much money they believe they’ll need to retire comfortably for the remainder of their lives.  They are then shocked when they see the projections which indicate that those funds will be totally depleted after just a few short years.

I remember a good friend telling me that if she and her husband could only get their savings up to $200,000.00, they would be in good shape for retirement.

Financial-analysisDetermining what it will take to be financially able to retire involves a very thorough understanding of one’s current assets, current liabilities, current income, as well as projecting what one’s liabilities and income will be during retirement, projecting the costs involved with the activities one wants to do while they are retired, and just how long one expects that they will be retired (the somewhat touchy subject of one’s life expectancy).

It’s extremely unlikely that there are many healthy baby boomers out there who will be able to afford to retire for any length of time with as little as $200,000.00 socked away in their cookie jar.

Interestingly, the Merriam-Webster dictionary adds this caveat to their section defining baby boomers:

Industry experts predict that reverse mortgages will play an increasingly important role in the coming years as some 70 million baby boomers hit their 60s—often with a lot less saved than they’d hoped.

I’m confident that this will be true, but I can’t see how reverse mortgages will even come close to bridging the gap between the assets required to fund retirement and the assets that are actually available.

In this regard, the next 20 or so years are going to be very interesting; politically, economically, and culturally.

 

 

 

Vehicular Graffiti

While driving across town running an errand this morning, I pulled up behind this truck at a traffic light.  I was so taken by the truth of the sentiment being expressed on the back of the truck that I threw caution to the wind, whipped out the trusty iPhone, and fired off a shot with it’s camera.

12EAD653-3001-4646-AEDF-AC26D34747A2

I’m equally impressed with what must have been the steadiness of the anonymous scribe’s hand as he was applying his message with a can of spray paint.

The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls….

Simon and Garfunkel
The Sounds of Silence

…. and also on pickup truck tailgates.