"To be too certain of anything is the beginning of bigotry." -- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Going Home

     I've moved to a strange place, in a way. B and I come from the New York suburbs. When we were kids, back in the 1970s, it seemed that everyone left home as soon as they could and headed somewhere else -- Boston or Washington or at least New York City. B and I are almost unusual in that, though we both did live in New York City for a while, we moved back to the suburbs.

     Some 30 or 35 years later our kids and their friends all graduated from high school and also went off somewhere else -- first to college, then to look for opportunities in New York City, Boston, Atlanta, California, or somewhere in between. Hardly anyone stayed in their suburban hometown.

     And now, most of us parents, when we get ready to retire, start looking around for a place to relocate -- Florida, the Carolinas, sometimes Arizona, Oregon or Washington, or even overseas.

     When B and I decided to retire to Pennsylvania, I thought: Who retires to Pennsylvania?!? I even wondered if we'd ever meet any retired people. I figured they'd all left and gone to the Sunbelt.

     Boy, was I wrong. There are retired folk all over the place in Pennsylvania -- as well as the resources to cater to them. My town has a senior center. It has a Center for Learning in Retirement at the local university. There are plenty of cultural events catering to older people -- an independent movie theater, lots of mid-level restaurants, lots of churches, flower shows, a museum, an arts fair, a chapter of the senior women's social group Encore. And there's a hospital much larger than you'd expect for a town our size, along with literally hundreds of doctors doing a land-office business in colonoscopies, knee replacements and cataract surgeries.

     In turns out, according a January 2019 WalletHub report, that Pennsylvania in the 9th best state to retire in, behind Florida and Colorado but ahead of other retirement meccas like Arizona and the Carolinas.

     So we've found that the people around Philadelphia behave nothing like the people around New York (even though they are only an hour-and-a-half away from each other by train or car.) They do not leave home when they retire. And their kids don't leave either. They stay close to home, in Philadelphia, working in the city or the suburbs or across the river on Pill Alley in New Jersey (a stretch that houses a number of drug companies such as Merck and Johnson & Johnson).

     When we meet people who tell us they've moved in from New Hampshire, Chicago, California, North Carolina -- as we do -- then we find out later that they've lived and worked in Chicago or California for 20 or 30 years, but they grew up in the Philadelphia area. They wanted to come back, mostly because they still have family here.

     But where we come from in New York? Nobody goes back. Maybe because it's too expensive to live there on a fixed income. Maybe because our kids aren't there anymore. Or maybe it's because the ex-New Yorkers have established lives in their new homes and don't want to leave.

     So I wonder, is your town or city more like New York, or more like Philadelphia. Do people leave, or do they stay?

Katonah, NY
     Anyway, we finally left New York, and moved to the Philadelphia area. But now we are going back for a visit. We got an airbnb in Katonah, a typical suburban town near where we used to live. The occasion is the annual rummage sale at B's old church. She will spend three days helping to organize, arrange and sell old clothes, toys, sports equipment; furniture, kitchenware and assorted other housewares.

     B likes to volunteer and be helpful. But the real draw for B is that she gets to stand around, fold clothes, and chat with all her old friends, catching up with their kids, their spouses, their activities and comings and goings.

     Meanwhile, we'll have dinner with our old neighbors (who are both still working), and another dinner with an old friend of mine (his wife is still working). I've persuaded my son to come out from Brooklyn to have lunch. I will also play golf with three old friends at a familiar public course. The last time I played there was in August 2017, the day after we attended the funeral of a friend of ours.

     I plan to take a drive past my old homes, and maybe take a pass by the school where my kids went to high school, and the old office building where I worked for 25 years.

     It's only been two years since we left. I wonder if everything will look the same?

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Goodbye Sophie

     We didn't have too much trouble getting Sophie, our 13-year-old mixed breed dog, into the back of the car -- she just needed a little help with her back legs. She's done this many times, making trips to the vet and the dog park, and going on vacation with us. But this trip was a little different.

     When she was a puppy Sophie hated to go in the car. It would make her anxious to the point that she would begin shaking and slobbering. We'd have to lay newspaper down on the car floor just to drive her a few miles to the vet. But eventually she got used to the idea of traveling, and we once even took her with us as far as our beach vacation.

     I like to think that beach vacation was one of the highlights of her life. She took walks on the sand, and loved sitting on the deck of the beach house, basking in the sun and watching people walk and bike and drive down the beach road.

     We got Sophie when B's older son went away to college. She came as a rescue dog from the North Shore Animal League, a no-kill rescue and adoption organization. Her younger son wanted a dog to keep him company while his brother was away at school and his mother went back to work.

     Her son bonded with the dog, played with her and fell in love with her -- despite the fact that she wasn't too active, or too bright. The truth is, Sophie was the laziest dog I've ever seen. She didn't play with doggie toys; she didn't chase balls or sticks; she didn't even eat that much. Mostly, she liked to lie around and sleep, or watch us with her soulful eyes, and then ask to be petted. She loved to be petted.

On the bathroom floor
     They took her to a series of training lessons. She learned how to sit, but not much else. She refused to come. She didn't lie down or shake. She never understood the concept of heel. In fact, she didn't even like going for a walk. We had to coax her out the door, then pull her along when we walked around the block. But as soon as we turned for home, she'd suddenly move out front, now leading the way, anxious to get back to her favorite activity, which was lying on the floor, keeping watch around the house.

     Despite her poor performance at doggie school, Sophie was a well-behaved pet. She never climbed on the furniture. At night she kept watch outside our bedroom door, in the hallway or the bathroom. When a thunderstorm came, her anxiety would hit, and she'd climb into the bathtub. That seemed to give her a sense of security and comfort.

     She almost always waited until we woke up before she barked to go out. It was only in her later years, when she had some urinary issues, that she got impatient and would yelp a few times around 6 a.m.

     B's son went off to college, and then a career, but Sophie stayed at home. She was always there to greet us in the morning, and was deliriously happy whenever we came home after we'd been out ... even if only for a few minutes. She became a passable guard dog. She'd bark when anyone came to the door. But no matter who it was, after a couple of barks she would sit down and nuzzle the person's leg and ask to be petted.

     She was pretty good with other dogs, and I like to think she developed a friendship with my daughter's dog. Whenever we arrived at her house the two dogs would sniff each other and go out in the backyard together. After that Sophie would curl up in my daughter's dog's bed -- and her dog seemed okay with that, satisfied with finding a spot on the rug instead. But it was at my daughter's house that Sophie learned to eat her dinner, only because if she didn't eat right away my daughter's dog would steal her food.

     As Sophie got older she developed arthritis, like a lot of dogs do, and now for the past few weeks she couldn't get up the stairs at night. Her back legs had become too weak. But we were in for a surprise a few days ago. We had a thunderstorm during the night. In the morning we couldn't find Sophie. Finally, we looked behind the shower curtain in the upstairs bathroom, and there she was, looking at us with her soulful eyes. We helped her out of the tub and she gingerly make her way down to the first floor. That proved to be the last time she was upstairs.

     It was last fall when we noticed that she seemed to be drinking more water and peeing a lot, and maybe having a little more trouble than usual with her back legs. Her squatting looked a little awkward.

     We took her to the vet, and he thought she might have Cushing's disease, an endocrine disorder common in older dogs that would explain her thirst. He gave us some pills and suggested we come back in a few weeks.

     She did seem to get a little better, but when we went back to the vet, and after he poked and prodded her, he said we should get an ultrasound. Sophie might have a tumor. If she did, he told us reassuringly, it was likely benign, or if not, probably slow growing.

     We went to get the ultrasound, and then later another one. She did have a tumor. The vet explained that the protocol was surgery, followed by chemotherapy, but it wasn't worth it, not for a 12-year-old dog. The tumor seemed to be small and non-invasive, and we could hope that she had plenty of time left -- as much time as any 12-year-old dog.

     When we went to the Carolinas this winter, we left Sophie with my daughter, and she did okay. After we got home we took her back to the vet for a checkup. He could feel some tumor activity, he acknowledged. But she hadn't lost any weight. Was she still eating? Yes. Were there any elimination problems? No.

     So we went home, knowing that her time was limited. But then her decline began to accelerate. It soon became hard for her to stand up. When she walked into the kitchen, her legs splayed out on the slippery tile floor. We started to bring her water and food dish into the TV room so she didn't have to get up. Before long, we were feeding her out of our hand.

     B finally made the call. She told me, through watery eyes, that she'd made an appointment at the vet for the next morning.

     That night we took Sophie out for her usual evening walk. She tripped out the front door and lumbered down our short driveway and then just seemed to stand there, looking out on the street. Finally she hobbled across the street, did her business, and slowly made her way back to the house. Several times she just stopped, as if unable to go on. We coaxed her along and back into the house, where she settled on the TV room rug and went to sleep.

     And so the next morning we got her into the car. The vet had us come in the side door, where there were no steps. She made her way inside and sniffed around the floor of the office. Then we lifted her onto the table. We stroked her and petted her while the vet prepared a shot. The first one would just put her to sleep -- she'd barely feel the stick. The vet explained that a second shot would stop her heart. B and I would stay for the first shot, but not for the second.

     The vet was very supportive and made some light conversation, then pointed out that Sophie's legs were swollen -- a sign of kidney failure. We were doing the right thing.

     Sophie barely flinched when the vet stuck her back leg. She kept looking at us with her soulful eyes, suspecting nothing, I think, but we'll never be sure. We continued to pet her as her eyelids drooped and her stare became vacant.

     She's asleep, the vet told us.

     But her eyes aren't totally closed, I protested.

     I petted her some more. There was no reaction. She was clearly unconscious. And so we paid the bill and arranged to have her ashes brought back to us. It would take about a week.

     B and I drove home in silence. She called her son, who now lives in South Carolina with two dogs of his own, along with a wife and two kids. He knew it was coming. We all knew it was coming. Still, it's hard to say goodbye to a dog.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Inside Stories

     Bloggers are writers, and a number of us have published books covering some aspect of our lives, our retirements, our prescriptions for happiness. The special benefit? These are inside stories from people who have actually lived the experience.

     I wrote my own book You Only Retire Once which came out ... yikes, it's almost four years ago now, in 2015. Kathy Gottberg has published several books, most recently 2017's Positive Aging: A SMART Living 365 Guide to Thriving and Wellbeing. And Laura Lee Carter has her 2016 memoir From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado.

     Bob Lowry offers an inside perspective on his blog Satisfying Retirement. He currently has three books focusing on different aspects of retirement. They are all short, useful guides that offer basic, common-sense advice on how to make the most of this stage of life. I'd recommend them to anyone who is thinking about retirement, just starting out in retirement, or who needs a refresher course in what they should be doing, both financially and otherwise, during these most promising years.

     More recently, in January of this year, Patricia West Doyle of the blog retirementtransition published Retirement Transition: An Innovation Approach (149 pgs.). In this book the author not only tells us what we should do, but she lays out a program to lead us through the process of how to actually do it.

     During her career Doyle worked in consumer product and brand innovation. So it shouldn't surprise us that she's taken a corporate-style look at retirement. But don't be put off by this. In fact, she barely mentions the financial side of life. She focuses more on helping us define who we will be in retirement, where we are going and what we will do.

     She offers a system that first, using "How-to Cool Tools," helps us figure out what our true interests are, what values we believe are important, and what truly motivates us (as opposed to being motivated by the needs of our boss, our children, our parents). I found it helpful, in reading the book, to stop and do her exercises and answer the questions. It helps us create a real vision for our retirement -- she urges us to think of this vision almost as a brand for ourselves -- instead of just some vague notion of our future lives.

     She makes an important point. Some people know what their passion is, and they can't wait for retirement to pursue it. But a lot of us struggle to figure out "what we always wanted to do." That's okay, she says. We don't have to have a singular passion to start a rock band or save the animals or sail the South Pacific. We just have to live life according to our values, use our skills and talents, and hopefully leave the world (meaning, for most of us, our friends and family) a little better place for our being here.

     I won't summarize the whole book for you. She goes on to look at various aspects of retirement and breaks them down into relevant questions and useful details that we can apply to our own lives in a practical way. The book is a lot more in-depth than the Lowry books, for people who are ready to do the work to analyze their lives and create their future.

     Finally, Barbara Hammond of the blog Zero to Sixty & Beyond offers us Daddy Du Jour, (174 pgs.), published last month, which is not a retirement book at all. It's a memoir.

     Hammond was born in Ohio in the early '50s and grew up in a dysfunctional  family. Her father was gone. Her mother was a bi-polar, alcoholic narcissist who married six times -- although (according to the mother) none of the break-ups were her fault.

     There are a lot of characters in the book, so it might help to take notes. But it is an honest, genuine look at a troubled childhood, and Hammond offers us some great anecdotes, sometimes in her engagingly sarcastic voice -- about some creepy and sometimes violent men, about a spanking she never got, going to a Southern Baptist church, taking a strange pill.

     Despite her chaotic youth, she eventually managed to meet an honest man . . . and there is a happy ending. Who could ask for more?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Fuzzies and Techies

     In general I resist dividing the world into two distinct and opposite parts -- the rich and poor, the black and white, even the male and female -- because for the most part it's simply not true. Most of the world does not live in rich or poor countries; they live in middle-income countries. Many people, perhaps even most people, are mixed race. And as we've learned in the past couple of decades, the behavior and instincts of men and women are more similar than we once thought, and overlap more than they differ.

     Nevertheless, I do believe in one distinction. The world is indeed divided into "fuzzy" and "techie." Fuzzy people study the humanities and social sciences and they read books and go to the theater. Techies pursue math and the physical sciences, and they love numbers and tinker with machines and other hard bits.

     Today in the land of blog we have both fuzzies and techies.

     On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, crunches numbers on the latest airline quality ratings. For 2018, she reports, Delta Airlines is No. 1, and JetBlue is No. 2. Delta improved on several metrics: involuntary denied boardings, mishandled bags and consumer complaints. Airlines whose scores declined in 2018 were Alaska, American and Frontier.

     As a side note: I just booked a flight on American, only because if you want to fly from Philadelphia out west, you pretty much have to go American. Wish me luck!

     Getting even more geeky, Jennifer on Unfold and Begin wrote a post for Wordpress bloggers who are dreading the changeover to the new Gutenberg platform. In Ack! I'm Using the New WP Editor Jennifer shares how she decided to turn off the Classic Editor plug-in and learn something new. Her entire post was written using the Gutenberg Editor and she learned as she went, much like the first time she ever wrote a blog post.

     And so, as a "fuzzy" myself, can anybody tell me why they use the more complicated WordPress instead of Google's simple, easy-to-use Blogger? I don't get it.

     Meanwhile, Meryl Baer reminds us that if flying and dealing with blogging mechanics can be numbing experiences, so can driving -- whether as a driver or passenger. So the experienced traveler who blogs at Six Decades and Counting says she sometimes passes time on the road by staring out the window. In A Skyscraper Catches My Eye she couldn't help but notice a new building soaring skyward in Philadelphia.

     Laura Lee Carter is going in the opposite direction. She just returned from a birthday bash "up north," and now she shares a few observations in A Trip Up North to the Land of Cities from one who has lived in cities, but now lives in the Colorado countryside.

     Carol Cassara reminds us that emotions are infinitely more important than infrastructure. One truth is that grief is universal. We all experience it, eventually, and how it manifests itself is different for everyone. Many who experience loss find it difficult territory and seek resources to help lend perspective to their feelings. And so on A Healing Spirit she offers a list of books that help guide you through grief.

     In Malibu Seafood Rebecca Olkowski with Babyboomer.com escaped to the beach this week to cleanse away her allergies. On a Thursday afternoon she had lunch at a seafood market in Malibu across the street from the Pacific ocean. Just one of the fun things you can do, she points out, when you're retired or working for yourself.

     Finally, to put it all in perspective, we have Kathy Gottberg who reminds us in Redefining Success and Happiness in the 21st Century. that we should never be afraid to scrutinize our habits and make changes when necessary. If we aren't mindful of our own thoughts, we too often become comfortably numb to the routines that make up our lives. Central to the thought is that we can't think of success as something that can be easily measured by who or what makes the most money, gets the most "likes" on Facebook, or is most popular.

     So what is true success. What makes us happy in retirement? It's not something that can be put into numbers, or ranked in a top 10 list. It's following our own path, whether it leads us to the city or the country, the mountains or the beach . . . down the road of fuzzies or techies, or perhaps a little bit of both.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Boring but Important

     Some things in life are no fun, but you just gotta do them. Going to the dentist. Getting a colonoscopy. Making the phone call that you dread. Paying taxes. (The deadline is Monday, April 15.)

     So today I'm talking about taxes, which in my opinion are the second most boring subject on earth, behind life insurance. But like life insurance, taxes may be boring, but they are important.

     Most of us have taxes withdrawn directly from our paycheck or Social Security benefit, so we never see the money. Somehow it seems less painful that way. And then if we get a refund ... why that's a bonus! (Even though, of course, it's not ... we've just been giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan for the past year).

     It's all in how you frame things. I like the way our town does our real-estate taxes. You receive a bill in March. Instead of saying it's due on April 30, and if you're late you get a penalty, it says it's due on June 30 -- but if you pay early, by April 30, you get a discount!

     It's the same thing. But it makes you feel better. Of course, in the fine print it says "liens will be filed after 12/31" which is telling us that we don't really own the property at all. We're renting it from the local government, and if we don't pay up they will take it away from us.

     For the most part I don't mind paying taxes. It's the price of living in a civilized society. We pay real-estate taxes to educate our children. We pay Social Security taxes to finance our old age. We pay income taxes to buy tanks and guns and ... help the poor and build up our infrastructure. According to some people, we need more federal taxes to pay off the political hacks in Wash ... pay off the debt, or to pay for more infrastructure, or pay for medical care or higher education.

     So there are a few types of taxes that have been in the news recently -- mostly proposals to raise taxes -- and I just want to point out a few consequences.

     The flat tax. This would make everyone pay the same percentage of their income -- say 20% -- in taxes. Yes, the rich would pay more. But this tax is not progressive, so the rich would not pay proportionally more. Most people agree this is not fair since as you go up the income scale you can afford to pay more ... and remember, people are only paying the increased amount on the higher income. So if Ms. Moneybags makes, say, $1 million a year, she still only pays 10% on her first $9,525 of taxable income. She only pays the higher 37% on the amount above $500,000.

     Actually, the flat seems to be a way to lower taxes, and collect less money for the government, because let's face it, if you want to raise money, you have to go after the people who actually have money. You can only squeeze so much out of the middle class.

     The value added tax, or VAT. In this scheme, which you may have heard about, taxes are not collected on income. They're collected when people buy something. It's like a national sales tax. This is essentially a flat tax -- as are all sales taxes -- and so in a sense it is regressive, in that the richer you are, the less tax you pay as a proportion of your income.

     Plus, anyone who has any savings would suffer an immediate cut in their purchasing power, since that money was already taxed as income, and now it will be taxed again when it's spent. In other words, it would penalize retirees who have saved up any money outside a traditional IRA.

     Capital gains tax. Currently, capital gains on investments are taxed at a lower rate than the income people earn from working. The lower rate also applies to the qualified dividends people receive from stocks and mutual funds. Some people want to even out these rates. And honestly, I think they have a good argument. Why should working for money be penalized compared to investing for money?

     But make no mistake. While this tax would penalize the wealthy, for sure, it would also penalize retirees. Anyone who has savings in an investment outside of a traditional IRA would pay a higher tax when they cash in their stock or mutual fund, or when they receive a quarterly dividend. Unfortunately, retired people are often lumped in with wealthy people -- because we're the ones who have saved and invested some money.

     The wealth tax. Presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren has proposed a tax of 2% a year on all wealth above $50 million, rising to 3% for fortunes over $1 billion. This is a new idea. One might wonder how to collect this tax -- how does the IRS value the real estate, the art, the farming or the business interests that people own? But, really, most of us probably don't mind this tax, since no matter how anyone counts it, we don't have anywhere near $50 million.

     A higher personal income tax rate.  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is proposing a 70% income tax rate on income over $10 million a year. There's nothing novel about this. Taxes have been higher in the past. Again, most of us probably don't care, because we can't even imagine making $10 million in a year (or at all!) But you may want to look more carefully at her idea, since as long as a tax is graduated it implies a higher income tax on people with lower incomes as well.

     Which brings up a caveat. In 1983 when Social Security was reformed, an income tax was initiated on anyone receiving Social Security benefits if their income reached $25,000 as a single and $32,000 as a couple. Back in 1983 this was a reasonably decent income -- and so one could argue it was fair to start taxing away Social Security income over those amounts.

     But fast forward to today. Social Security still taxes any income over $25,000 as a single and $32,000 as a couple. But let's face it, that's not a lot of money anymore. If those limits were adjusted for inflation, they would today be more like $64,000 for singles and $82,000 for married couples. The 1983 reform was designed to tax beneficiaries who were pretty well off. Today the consequence of the "reform" is to hit retirees of very modest means. (By the way, 13 states, from Connecticut to Colorado, also impose their own income tax on Social Security benefits.)

     So beware those income levels. If they're not adjusted for inflation, what seems "wealthy" today may not seem so flush a few years from now.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

If You're Alone . . .

     Even though I'm married, there are times when I go places by myself. The store, the coffee shop, the library. Last night B was doing volunteer work at her church, so I decided to go to the movies. I do this occasionally when there's a movie I want to see that usually involves gore or violence or other disgusting things that she doesn't want to see on the screen any more than she wants to see in real life. (In this case a slasher film called Us which I do not recommend despite its 94% score on rotten tomatoes.)

     I've had a running dispute with my daughter for years. She thinks going to the movies by yourself is for losers. I say going to the movies by yourself is the perfect thing to do, because all you do is sit there and watch the screen. What's the big deal about going with someone else if you're not even allowed to talk to them?

     This is all preamble to a blog post I saw on Going Gently. What impresses me is that John, the author, and I are different on the surface. He is a single, gay British man. I am a married, heterosexual American man. Yet his advice seems relevant to my life and resonates on my emotional wavelength -- proving once again, doesn't it, that underneath we are all the same?

      I asked him if I could pass on his wisdom to my American colleagues, and he said yes. The advice is important for people who are by themselves. But it's also relevant for those of us who have recently moved to a new location, who are looking for some new friends, who are finding that we're spending too much time at home.

     So here it is, and as he says, "I hope this helps."

     Yesterday Sue in Suffolk talked of her reticence about going to the cinema on her own. I wanted to share a few thoughts to singles ... add to the list please.

     This past year I have done so many things alone. Things I used to do as part of a couple. Sometimes it's hard. And sometimes it's not.

     I've always enjoyed going to the cinema on my own. I'm lucky in that respect, but everything else can be a trial, especially as you can be judged somewhat as being a singleton. Only last night I witnessed such a prejudice. 

     I had gone to see the stage production of Rain Man, which was okay, but not sparkling okay, and directly in front of me was another singleton like me, a man in his 60s. As he waited for the production to start he occupied his time reading a book, and the woman next to me noticed this and nudged her husband as if it was the oddest thing she ever saw.

     I glared at her. She noticed my disapproval.

     And so . . . just get out there and do it. And cinema is a great start as many singles go to the cinema, and cinema will lead to other activities, believe me. Here are a few helpful rules.

     1. If you go to a cafe or restaurant always take a book, an iPad, laptop or your phone with you. You can look busy and industrious and generally it stops pitying glances.

     2. Don't go to places you used to frequent with your hubby unless you are ready to do so. I still can't go to our fav Thai restaurant as it would be just too painful a journey even though I've been invited by friends. New places will provide you with a new strength.

     3. Have a leap of faith! My first night at choir started off as an incredibly stressful moment, but after one of my fellow basses, a friendly tenor, and the mustached choirmaster broke the ice, I felt a whole lot better.

     4.  Do the single thing in bursts onl
y. Buffer your "alone" nights out with friends and family. Things won't feel so hard to complete.

     5. Pick talks and lectures and art activities as one-offs. If they don't suit, you can walk away easily, but if you enjoy them, you can always go back for more.

     6. Plan things every week. Don't stay at home too much.

     7. Do something worthy. Volunteer your time to something.

     8. If someone asks you to do something, do it if you are up to it. Dave asked me to play badminton with him and initially I said no as I thought he was just being kind. He wasn't. And after I said yes, it was fun!

     9. Don't underestimate the company of a dog in public.

     10. Cry when you're upset and you need to. But try not to indulge . . .

     11. Things go toes up all the time and so many married people just don't understand. So try not to get pissed off by them (even though it's hard).

     12. Find a favorite place. I have Sheffield, Chester's Storyhouse, and Colwyn Bay Beach. Go there often.

     13. See your friends, even if it costs too much to do so. I am seeing my friend Nu next weekend . . . my touchstone, my rock.

     14. Even if you are like me, a slob . . . wash your face, wear your best Walking Dead t-shirt, and go out with your teeth brushed and hair combed. 

     I hope this helps.

     -- John  xxx