Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's spring somewhere!

Well here we are with another day of warmer temps. It is designed to fool us into thinking spring is here at last. This has been a long month already and it is only half over. Winter activities for retired people have grown a little thin. Some days I drink too much, and some days I think too much. The good days are when I say to hell with everything and watch a movie or two.

I can't get enough of Errol Flynn. Those were the days when heros were heros and they always stood for good and always got the girl in the end. The other day I sat down after lunch and watched Errol in Robin Hood. What a grand tale of good versus bad (Bush ruined the word evil) and loyalty. That was the theme that struck me the most. Robin was loyal to his friends, his country and to himself. He knew he was up against great odds but he also knew he was doing the right thing. So even if it meant death, he remained on his chosen path, loyal to a king who might never come back. And not just loyal to a king, but the king's ideals and what he stood for as a man. We are faced with similar trials every day we wake up whether we go out to work or stay home and tend the fire. We must decide who we are, what we stand for and who will lead us to that place in our hearts that warms us and helps us sleep at night.

Obviously you must first decide who you are as a person. Some are lucky enough to be born with that sense of who we are and what values we hold dear. But others of us think too much maybe or not enough and can't find ourselves without a little direction. I had two huge impacts on my early life that taught me good values but I never seemed to be able to put them all together until I stumbled across a copy of the "Desiderata". No one knows who wrote it and it really does not matter because it rings true as you read the text. It is short, which is good for me, but all encompassing for whatever one might face in life. I kept a copy by my bed for years and read it every day when I woke up. After a while when I was faced with difficulty in my life the words of wisdom from that short text helped me stay on track and be true to myself. The consequences were not as important as my belief that what I was doing was the right thing to do. And I knew it was right because I learned to pay attention to my "gut feelings". At least it was right for me. Everyone has a role in this life, some great and some small, but still important. There will always be people greater than us and less than us. We must learn to treat them equally without hesitation. We must learn to leave judging to God and let our caring heart lead the way.

So if you have a chance to watch a movie, try Robin Hood with Errol Flynn. It is one of his best. It has action, humor, love, compassion, loyalty, and treachery and I guarantee if you watch it with your heart AND your head, you will cry before it is over. I did. I can't wait to watch it again.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

strange day in my head

So today I wake up around 6:20 AM and think, " you should write about your philospohy of life" and then quickly delve into just what exactly that is all about. Before I can sit down and expound on that I get sidetracked on coffee making and CNN. During coffee with my wife I think again about my outlook on life but then get sidetracked on taking care of her 90 yr. old mother who also lives with us and has had a stroke so she needs lots of attention. Later I walk Maggie and think some more, but when I finally get home I sit down and read the paper and start to get melancholy until I'm hungry and feed myself. After lunch my wife goes to the quilt shop and I am finally alone (m-in-law is taking a nap). Now I feel semi blue and totally aimless. I need to gather some wood in and build a fire so I can watch the "big game". My thoughts (as I drink another beer) turn to what makes me happy (not much) and how simple minded people seem to find happiness so much easier. It is a beautiful day finally and some folks are out riding their motorcycle. They must be happy. Some folks are getting ready for the "big game" and they must be happy. I go in and build a fire in the fireplace. I am quite good at this and enjoy my ability to do so but it does not make me happy. I sit down and play skee ball on my ipod and drink a beer. It passes the time but I'm not really happy. I turn on sirious radio and listen to "garage rock" and play skee ball and drink another beer. I'm not happy but I'm feeling motivated enough to come jot down my thoughts. Maybe I'll have another beer and peel shrimp for supper. I know from past experience that staying busy is the best cure for these kind of days. Go Steelers!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Another long winter day

Tuesday it snowed 4-5 inches in the morning. Just as we were almost able to see the grass again. Then it sleeted on top of that. Later that night it warmed up to 37 degrees by morning so that it was now raining! Then it quit raining and the temperature went all the way up to 55 degrees! Yes we can see the grass again. Now it is 5pm on Wednesday, and 30 degrees with a stiff wind out of the northwest and lightly snowing. The grass is leaving.

January in West Virginia. This is what happens in a state that is technically a southern state but is the northern most of them. (Not to mention very mountainous). No wonder we are so confused about our position in this world. Not sure what our purpose is. And as if that were not bad enough, we are also the western most of the eastern states! How's that for mixed signals? We are all of these things and none of them at the same time. That must be why it is so easy to take advantage of us. We don't belong to anyone. We are the bastard child of America.

The problem with all this is that we have been blessed with a valuable "trust", and all our "friends" want it. Not just a piece of it. ALL of it. We would love to share it with them. We are not selfish or greedy. But our "friends" are. They won't stop until it's all gone. And when its' gone, it's gone. Forever. Does that matter to our "friends"? No. They can't see past the end of their nose. They can't see the forest for all the green they're making. We must remain as strong as the bond between a mother and child. This land is indeed OUR land. We must protect it as a mother bear would her young cub.

Which brings us back to winter in West Virginia. The bears are asleep. But not for long. We could learn a lot from a bear. Stay warm. Try not to be bored. Have a beer and think about it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


One of the best (worst) places to experience people working at their jobs is Wal-Mart. No matter how much I endeavor to avoid the place, I end up their at least once a week. Some weeks I have to go more often and I don't really fret about it because in my view Wal-Mart is the modern day 5 and 10 cent store. They have everything! But I will not discuss the merits or demerits of shopping at Wal-Mart for now. But their employees are fair game!

The first person you see when you go to Wally World is the "greeter" (not counting the "buggy-boys"). Now I think this is a pretty valuable position. After all, it's your first impression of the store. But is this person hired to greet you or inspect you as you come through the door? Most of the time they ignore you with a few exceptions. If you speak to them they just look at you or maybe nod their head in your direction. But if you walk in with a Wal-Mart bag, they're on you like smell on a turd. But they still don't greet you, they just pull out their ammo bag of red stickers and shoot one on your bag and send you on your way. So here's the real reason Wal-Mart uses "greeters": they designed their stores wrong. That's right! Because they put the service area in the middle of the store, they had to put someone at the store front to let the patron know that Wally knows, you walked in with a bag to return.

But that's still okay if you just hire people who can smile, say hello and shoot red stickers at the same time. That does not sound too hard, but I never like to criticize unless I have walked in the other guys shoes. Maybe they should hire only Jehovahs Witness greeters. I have seen many of them smile, say hello and hand out a "Watchtower" magazine while people were slamming doors in their face. The point is that greeters are fine if they really greet. If they aren't going to greet and make me feel welcome, then they are a waste of money. They also do very little to enhance my visit to Wally World. And believe me, I need all the enhancement I can get when I go there.

That's all for today. Stay tuned for next time when we examine the "associate" working in the different departments.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Why can't people just do their jobs?

Stay tuned for a new series all about getting your moneys' worth. This is not an economic lesson. This is about getting what you pay for. This is about people who are getting paid to serve you but could care less or just don't know what the word service means. They must be Republican first of all. But beyond that, whatever their denomination, if you are paying them money you deserve a certain level of satisfaction.
Maybe it's not their fault. They were hired to do a job they have no inkling how to do. You know some folks are threatened by just waking up in the morning. Well they should not have jobs that touch other folks directly. A receptionist for example is the first face people see of your company. They should at LEAST smile when you walk in or be pleasant on the phone. If you hired them because they look nice, then it's your fault! If you hired them because they know how to file or work on a computer, then let do that job and hire a NICE person to be your receptionist.
We will examine each day a new situation that you may have encountered or I have encountered and see who's at fault for your lousy service and dissatisfied feelings. We will be honest. Brutally so. Hey, none of us are perfect. That's the first thing you have to remember. See you tomorrow.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Well it was a pretty boring day today. Snowed overnight enough to cancel school so my wife stayed home. Whenever she's' home I get a late start to my day (she is not a morning person) and my whole routine (such as it is) goes out the door. We had a late breakfast and then after she did some meditation, we took the dog out. Actually I took the dog out. My wife walked over to school (diagonally across from our house) and got her laptop so she could do some school work. Teachers never get a day off! I took Maggie and headed for the snow. She is a two year old Golden Retriever and she loves the snow. She is also very curious about everything. The snowplow was cleaning off the school lot and she thought that was a very interesting contraption. So I did not get her to walk and play till it was done plowing. By then I was starting to get a little chilly ( it was 12'F and windy!) but we still went aand waded through the drifts that were up to my knees. For some reason she loves to walk in the deepest snow she can find. Then we came home and cleared the driveway (we got around 4" last night) and sidewalk to the house. Afterwards I fed the birds seed and suet and went in for hot chocolate and a sandwich. I read for a little while (great new book I got about the overthrow of Neville Chamberlaine), played Snood for a while and drank a beer for lunch. After lunch it was time to retreat to the basement and listen to some music and drink another beer. And blog! In comparison to work where I would still be if I wasn't retired. I worked outside with a crew of around 10 men. One of our responsibilities was snow removal and treating ice on over 50 miles of city streets. I don't miss that today! WHY? Because I planned. On days like this I really appreciate not working. I go out because I WANT to. I come in when I feel like it. Life is too good for some people, but exactly what I deserve! Well time for another beer and start thinking about supper preparation. Y'all stay warm, but most of all stay happy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Today we are taking a break from SERIOUSNESS! No planning chat or anything else to deep, just a brief overview of a typical day. I usually get up around 5:30 AM. It's an old habit I have yet to break. I make coffee and then retire to the television news. I drink one cup of java while gettting my fill of media crap and then around 6:00 AM I go upstairs and wake my wife. (by thee way, going up stairs everyday at a quick pace is my way of staying in shape) So then my wife and I have coffe and I tell her about the news and weather and then we talk about our plans for the day(easy for me). She is a teacher so she does most of the talking. After coffee she does yoga while I get her breakfast ready and let the dog (my Maggie) out to see if it is safe. She will yoga and shower and I will deliver breakfast and then I go to town to attend daily Mass. I don't make it every day, but I try and go most days because it gives me a chance to reflect and focus. Mass through the week is held at the local hospital chapel(the hospital was started by a Catholic order of nuns) and it is small and cozy for lack of a better description. Anyway, after Mass I go to a local restaurant owned by friends of mine and have breakfast. After that I either run some early morning errands or go home. Once I get home Maggie is ready for a walk. We usually go out into the surrounding countryside and walk for an hour. Sometimes we drive to town (about 4 miles) and walk at the walk trail by the river. When we get home I feed her and then get on the computer for some fun ( I love to play Snood) or to surf a little. By then it is close to lunch time and I may or may not eat. I am not a big fan of lunch. If I don't eat I will drink a beer or two. (I am a big fan of beer). After lunch I usually plan on a trip out either to town and visit someone, or go see my brother(he lives about 10 minutes away) or just to mosey through and then drive through the country on home. Once I'm home (depending on the time) I either listen to some music, play a game, watch a movie, read a book, or plan supper. At any rate I end up planning supper in a very relaxed atmosphere (glass of wine, good music) and preparing it so that supper is ready by 5:30 or 6:00PM. After dinner I clean up, get something to drink, and crash in front of the television until bedtime. Whew! I'm worn out just talking about it. See you tomorrow! If there is one.....

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The next day...

I had a great thought about my post for today but I've forgotten what it was. So I will continue with my somewhat random thoughts about getting ready to retire. Another major factor to consider in your planning is your mental state. Not whether or not you are insane but as it regards your job. If you have not retired yet then now is the time to consider how you feel about your job and your place in it. (this is what my idea for a post was about!) If you love your job, or identify with your job, or are just mysteriously eaten up with your job, then you need to start preparing your mental state for when you have NO job. Trust me on this. I don't care what you say now (you might be saying "I'm okay with new people doing my old job different" and you might even mean it, but you are just kidding yourself.) When you work somewhere for 20 or 30 years or more, that job is a part of your total make up. It is like deciding after 25 years to quit driving and let one of your kids do it for you! What an adjustment that would be for most all of us. Well retiring is kinda like that. All of a sudden you have 10 or 12 extra hours in your day. Thats hard enough alright. AND someone else is doing what you use to do and they don't need your help. Worse still, they don't even want your help. Here is what I told myself for 10 years before I retired. "Someone else did this job before I came along and someone else will do it after I leave. And like me, they will have their own ideas about how things should be done. It's no blight on my record. Besides, what if I died right now. Someone would jump right in to fill my shoes and I would be forgotten in 6 months tops." This was like a little prayer I used to say. Because let's face it. Everyone likes to think that their job would be lost without them. Nothing could be further from the truth. So start conquering this thought now. It takes time to drill it home. And if you are one of the fortunate few who truly does not care about their job after they leave, then you don't need to be reading this blog either. After I retired, it took me about 6 months to stop wondering about what was happening at work. Now I rarely think about work at all. And when I do, I put it in its place, and go on with my day. So plan to work on your mind and all the irritating little things it will observe. Retirement is the ultimate goal. Otherwise why have a retirement fund? And believe me, I don't care what anybody says, this is REALLY living. Till we meet again...

Monday, January 12, 2009

My first attempt

Well I've been retired now for 8 months and I think I have something to share about my experience. I retired as soon as I was eligible which in my case was age 55. But it was not a spur of the moment decision. If you want to retire early you have to plan for the occasion. I started when I was 45 yrs. old. I knew then I wanted to retire as soon as I was eligible. In order to do that the biggest decision to make of course was how much do I need to live on. After analyzing my situation it was obvious that having my house paid for was the first priority. So I upped my mortgage payment to an amount that would have my house paid off by the time I was 55. I know it's not that simple for everyone, but this blog is about my situation, how I got there, and how much I'm enjoying the results. This is just an example of the planning needed to arrive at the date when you can retire. Everyone's plan will be different. So first, plan! Second, don't listen to anyone but your spouse. Everyone has a different idea about how good or bad retirement life is to them. I had a lot of men tell me that they wish they had never retired. People told me I needed a hobby to retire. I have none. People told me I would be bored and looking for work in 6 months. I have turned down 2 jobs since I retired. But what about listening to your spouse? If you are married this affects you both. If she works she might be envious of your decision to retire if she's not able. She might wonder about health care. She might wonder how much you will have to curtail your lifestyle. She might even worry about you and what you will do with all your free time. These are all valid concerns and you should be ready to answer his or her questions and allay his or her fears or concerns. Planning takes time and THOUGHT. Not just about you but all those who depend on you. You need to be able to answer your spouse's questions not just for them but for yourself! What about health care? What will you do with your time? If he or she still has to work, what benefits can you point out that will make their job easier because you are home all day? Retirement takes a lot of planning and prayerful thought if it is to be successful. Now I know I used the word prayerful and some of you may be seeing red flags go up. Oh No! He's some kind of Christian nut. Well let me tell you right now that is not the case. I am a spiritual person yes, but not a "churchgoer" so to speak. I do believe that positive thoughts (another set of words for prayer or meditation) can create a positive outcome. That's what we all want right? A positive outcome. So positive contemplation will lead you toward that positive outcome. More about my beliefs later. Just don't get turned off by my use of the word prayerful. So anyway, think long and hard about retiring and what it will entail for you and yours. The end result will make it all worthwhile. More about that in my next post. Till then, Happy trails.