Friday, April 29, 2016

Guess What We're Doing

     We've been talking about it for a few years now, B and I, ever since the last of the kids left home -- a year-and-a-half after her older son graduated from college and finally got a job and then an apartment.

     The house is too big for us. Four bedrooms. Three of them are empty. A big basement with a ping pong table we no longer use, shelves of old college books and high-school projects, piles of kids' sports equipment, and a room full of tools that I don't remember how to use.

     Then there's the yard. Almost an acre. I took care of it until the middle of last summer when I finally gave up and hired a company to spray and fertilize and a local guy to cut the grass. All that gets expensive. Honestly, we have paid off our mortgage (yes, we've been homeowners for over 30 years!). But there are the real-estate taxes. Of course I want to support education, our community and the development of our kids. But it gives me heart palpitations to write the check for the school tax. That bill alone slices off more than 10 percent of our annual income.

Not our house; our shed
     So we finally did it. We put our house on the market. We're going to move away from the area where I've lived for most of my life, the town where I've lived for the past nine years, where B has raised her kids and lived for over 25 years.

     Theoretically, we could probably afford to live in our old house for the rest of our lives. We could certainly continue to live here in town if we downsized to a smaller house, or relocated over to the big age-restricted development where people go from all around the county.

     We know a few people who live there. A couple of them are younger than we are. But we got talking to a woman at B's church last week. She told us how she had moved there with her husband after their kids left for college. They bought a condo, lived there for about three years, then got divorced and she moved to another condo in the next town over. She said she hated living in the age-restricted community. Yes, there were a few younger people there, even some kids, but the people she saw routinely walking along the sidewalks, or sitting in the dining room, were frail old women using walkers, sometimes dragging along even older, more debilitated men. It was all so depressing, she said. She had to move (and we wondered if it had something to do with her divorce).

    So no age-restricted community for us, at least not for now. If only we knew where we wanted to go.

     B and I have four kids between us, and they live in four different states. We have no grandchildren. So it's up to up to us to decide where we want to be. B wants to live somewhere near her favorite sister who is firmly settled in southeastern Pennsylvania (Amish country, although she's not Amish.) But her son who lives in South Carolina wants her to move down south. I'm leaning in that direction myself. I prefer warmer winters, which is why I go to Florida for a couple of weeks each January. But B is resistant. She claims she actually likes the cold weather and long winter days in the north. She doesn't like to drive in the snow. But she doesn't mind shoveling snow, and she likes how it gets dark early so you can go home and curl up in front of a fire, drinking hot tea and reading a book.

     She also likes the idea of living in a real town, where you can walk to the stores and the coffee shops. But every place in the South seems to involve driving around through traffic on four-lane roads. Besides, what would we have in common with someone from South Carolina? They like football, car racing and guns. We like libraries and theater and ... okay, B likes church and there are plenty of churches in South Carolina, and I like golf, and there are plenty of golf course in South Carolina. But still, would we fit in?

     So our latest idea? We're going to take a gap year -- like the kids do before college, or after college before they take their first real job. We're going to rent an apartment and travel around doing some touristy things and looking for our next place to settle.

     But the fact is, we've been coming up with new ideas about every ten minutes. So what we'll be thinking tomorrow is anyone's guess. Meanwhile, the back liftgate on our less-than-two-year-old Subaru Forester broke on us, and our local dealer is trying to welsh on the warranty, so we have something else to worry about . . . but that's another story.

     We know plenty of people who have bigger problems than we do. So save your sympathy and support for them. But still, could you take just a moment and wish us bit of luck for the next year?  Thanks!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Spring Into Some Boomer Blogs

     Spring has arrived in earnest here in the Northeast as well as most other regions in the U. S., except for those places in the very highest latitudes and very highest elevations. We celebrate the coming of spring with Earth Day, held last Friday, as well as May Day, coming up next Sunday. People around the world have been commemorating the arrival of spring ever since pre-Roman times with dancing, singing and in some places gathering around the Maypole.

     In the spirit of the season, Rita R. Robison on The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide offers some energy saving tips to help us do our little part in saving the earth, the only planet we currently have at our disposal. For example, you can install solar-powered yard lights, use energy efficient light bulbs, install water-saving aerators for kitchen and bathroom sinks. And with today's dishwashers (as the pot scrubber in our house I particularly endorse this one), you can also skip pre-washing the dishes and put those grimy plates directly into the dishwasher. For more ideas check out Evaluate Your Energy Use on Earth Day.

Pueblo-style homes face south for warmth
     Meanwhile, Laura Lee Carter has been enjoying the PBS series "10 Houses That Changed America." In her Home Designs post she shows how the TV program relates to her own choice to build a solar-oriented house in one of the higher elevations in the Colorado foothills -- and pays tribute to her husband who knows so much about creating an energy efficient home.

     Things are a little different over at Carol Cassara's blog, Heart-Mind-Soul. She focuses on our fears, not of destroying our planet, but of looking within our own selves. Most of us have experience with some dread disease that appears out of nowhere and strikes a loved one, and we often fear that the same thing can happen to us. In Hypochondriac's Nightmare she talks about the fear she feels (that we all feel) when making a doctor's appointment. Then in Don't Be Afraid, she goes on to examine the flip side of the fear coin -- how we sometimes hesitate to look within ourselves for fear of what we'll find, and how the answers to most questions lie not in the heavens, but within ourselves.

     As for Meryl Baer, she has no fear at all ... for how else can you characterize someone who's willing to fly Spirit Airlines? Okay, maybe that's unfair, but take wing over to On the Road and in the Air Again to alight on her amusing tale of how she enjoys traveling on the cheap in 21st century America.

     Finally, Kathy Gottberg at Smart Thoughts About Birthdays, Blogging and BFFS reports on traveling to Las Vegas and attending her first blogging conference. It was a birthday gift to herself (the end of April marks the 5th anniversary of her SMART Living 365 blog), and as a result she discovered how we can all learn and grow when we open our minds and hearts to new experiences. She offers a few things she learned at the conference -- Bloggers at Midlife, or #BAMC16 -- and advises us to find our own blogging niche, to develop blogging relationships, to occasionally get out of our comfort zone ... and most of all, to go have some fun!


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Voted Today

     I just came back from my local church where I voted in the New York primary. I voted for Hillary Clinton.

     Not that she doesn't have her problems. But I'm a moderate. If I was Republican, I'd vote for John Kasich.

     I'm a moderate because I am cursed with seeing both sides of an argument. For example, I am a completely nonviolent person. The last fistfight I had was in 7th grade. I managed to defer myself out of the Vietnam war. But what are you gonna do if someone punches you in the face, whether it's Japan in 1941 or terrorists in 2001?

     In general I believe people should reap what they sow, and be responsible for their own actions. But I also believe as human beings we have an obligation to help take care of those who can't help themselves. However, I don't believe we should be helping out those who know how to work the system, whether they're corporate executives packing their own boardrooms to give themselves outlandish pay packages, or regular people cheating (everybody does it!) on their taxes, lying to qualify for a mortgage, or exaggerating injuries to bilk money out of the legal system or the disability program.

     Well, on this blog I try to stay out of politics, because except for Social Security (if Bernie Sanders is so interested in saving or expanding Social Security how come he sat around in the U. S. Congress for 25 years and did nothing about it?) I don't think politics is much related to age. Besides, if you asked me to put away my own self-interest, I'd have to admit that I think we should provide more money and more programs for poor children of color, not more money for old white people.

     But I'd better get off my high horse before I fall off and hurt myself. I guess what I really think is that nobody has a monopoly on the truth, and above all, we should respect other people's opinions and not call them nasty names or make vicious fun of them. And all get out to vote this year.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

How Could I Be Hungry?

     A picture is worth a thousand words. We recently went to Costco. We were in the checkout line and, well, this just struck me as funny ...

Monday, April 11, 2016

Why Is Everyone So Grumpy?

     I heard some good news recently. Actually, it's not news. Anyone who knows psychology would know about the Flynn Effect. But I only just heard about it.

     Apparently tests have shown that people are getting smarter. The average I.Q. score is 100. But over the years the tests have had to be made more and more difficult in order to keep the average at 100. If the average teenager of today with an I.Q. of 100 could take the I.Q. test of 30 years ago, the teenager would score an I.Q. of 120.

     This is especially good news when you consider that today's economy demands higher skill levels; and so the smarter people are, the better they will fare in the economy of the future.

     It also proves what I long suspected: I am smarter than my parents. Of course, it also proves the claims of my kids -- that they are smarter than I am.

     No one knows for sure why people are getting smarter. The experts suggest better nutrition, better health care, better education, better parenting. Perhaps some of these factors are arguable, but it's undeniable that many things are getting better over time. We have lower crime rates and higher educational levels. And, for sure, we have better health care, which leads to longer and healthier lives. The figures prove it: A person born in 1920 had a life expectancy of about 54 years. A person born in 1950 had a life expectancy more like 68 years. And for those us us still alive, in our 60s, we can expect to live well into our 80s.

       Yet, according to Real Clear Politics, some 66 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction, while less than 30 percent believe we're headed in the right direction.

     Steve McCann in the conservative-leaning American Thinker says we realize we're in trouble for several reasons. The national debt has ballooned to almost $20 trillion. While the economy has produced almost 6 million jobs since 2008, the working age population has increased by 18 million people, which means fewer people of working age are actually employed. Also, whether you love immigrants or hate them, the sheer number of immigrants over the past quarter century has put pressure not only on the job market but on schools, housing, roads and social services. According to McCann, in 1988 there were 16 million immigrants living in the United States. Today there are 42 million immigrants, including some 12 million who are ... either "illegal" or "undocumented" depending on your political persuasion.

     All this has contributed to the unequal distribution of income which has upset the treasured American notion of a classless society. According to McCann, since 1988 the inflation-adjusted income of the top 5% of Americans has risen about 40% while the income of the bottom 50% has fallen by about 2%.

     And while younger Americans may be smarter than their grandparents, Americans have actually fallen behind on a relative basis -- we have not progressed as fast as our European or Asian counterparts. In 1990 American teenagers scored in the top 10 among industrialized countries for their proficiency in math, reading and science, but today our teenagers are ranked down in the 20s.

     McCann concludes, with an eye on the current presidential election, "A vast majority of American people sense that the future of the nation is in serious jeopardy ... and one of the most troubling aspects of the current unease is what this portends: when anger and frustration evolve into deep-seated passion, reason is too often a casualty."

     McCann has plenty of company in believing the U. S. has seen its best days. As one person wrote, reflecting the sentiment of the Real Clear Politics poll:  "It seems we're grasping for anything that will stop this decline of our country, this feeling we have that America is on the fast track to becoming a Third World Country with all the wealth at the top, this feeling that we've lost our individual liberty and freedom."

     On the other hand, James Fallows says that the narrative of America going to hell is a constant throughout American history, especially in presidential election years. He recounts in The Atlantic how he traveled through the country and found that, despite what you hear about American decay and the unraveling of the nation, there are many examples of rapidly progressing civil and individual reinvention in towns and cities across the nation, from Fresno, CA, to Ajo, AZ, to Duluth, MN and Pittsburgh, PA.

     Personally, I think it's easy to focus on the negatives -- there are certainly plenty of them around -- but I take heart in knowing that Americans are getting smarter. And I'll choose to believe what a man smarter than I am believes, for it was Warren Buffett who recently wrote:

     “It’s an election year, and candidates can’t stop speaking about our country’s problems (which, of course, only they can solve). As a result of this negative drumbeat, many Americans now believe that their children will not live as well as they themselves do. That view is dead wrong: The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history ... America’s economic magic remains alive and well."