Thursday, June 24, 2010

To Hell in a Handbasket

It’s official – I am becoming a 21st century version of my parents; looking at popular culture and today’s youth and rolling my eyes, tsk-tsk’ing, and muttering in disgust. The imperatives I was given as a youth have apparently been bypassed as trivial. Maybe they have been replaced by cautions required by more modern and sinister issues, but couldn’t there have been an “and all of the above” clause that covered some of these sensible, old-fashioned, and more genteel lessons?

FLIP FLOPS were meant to wear around the house and to the pool or beach – not everywhere. They aren’t proper protection, they don’t provide healthy support, and they lead to dirty feet. We are raising a generation of young people who are developing hammer toes. (Honest; I read an article about the problem.) Suggest to your college-bound children that they consider podiatry…they’ll make a great living.

I saw a feature on a TV morning show about “What to say when your child wants PLASTIC SURGERY.” Hell no! That’s what you say. As a teenager, you haven’t even grown into your face or body yet. Whatever happened to counseling your children to be confident and appreciative of their uniqueness? You don’t need your nose to look like everyone else’s, or your boobs to look like Pamela Anderson’s. Never mind that that money needs to go into your college fund, kid.

GUM CHEWING should be done discreetly and mostly in the privacy of your own home. Why should I be subjected to the disgusting bovine-like cud-chewing I see every day – everywhere? Vacant stares, open mouths, and snapping sounds that make me want to demand (as my parents did of us), “Chew with your mouth closed”. This is more a female issue than male. Don’t women and girls know it makes them look cheap and mindless? It’s also rude to those in the vicinity. Might as well clip your fingernails in public and pick your nose. Seriously.

BAD GRAMMAR is now consistently making it into popular culture. Your vs. you’re, I vs. me, irregardless (not a word, folks) vs. regardless, their vs. there, then vs. than, and on and on… The fundamental issue is now complicated by the rampant use of texting slang. I understand the appeal of slang; it’s clever and generational. But how will young people effectively switch back and forth when it counts, like for a job with a paycheck. I fully expect to land more and more consulting jobs that involve written communication, since fewer and fewer people can write an educated letter, memo, or report today.

I know that I am becoming a curmudgeon, but I think it came with my AARP membership. I’m entitled to my opinion that we’re going to Hell in a handbasket, one rude, stupid, crass, self-centered step at a time.

What's your curmudgeonly complaint?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Parceled Reality

It’s been over a month since we closed on the house in Prescott, and more than three weeks since we returned to Chicago. The fact that we own a home in Arizona has now become somewhat unreal, which feels weird. Unlike a traditional vacation home, we can’t just drive a couple of hours to spend the weekend. Our goal is to get there every six to eight weeks, and to stay at least two weeks each time. The next visit is still weeks away.

Chicago will continue to be our primary residence for approximately the next two years, and we have cautioned ourselves to avoid short-changing our urban experience by focusing too much on Prescott. For example, we do not intend to move furniture that we use and enjoy from the condo, until we relocate permanently. We can, however, move some clothing, a few kitchen items, and some artwork that will make the ranch cottage more functional and homey.

Our approach is to parcel our reality and live in the moment. When we are in Chicago, we should enjoy it fully, and make sure we consciously work the Chicago “Bucket List”. It’s hard to ignore the fact that the clock is now ticking on our residency here. Time moves quickly these days. When we go to Prescott we will take full advantage of all it has to offer. We do need to take care that we enjoy Prescott as residents - not vacationers. There is a difference in the mindset that has potential impact on our ongoing budget. (You know how it is…on vacation you eat out every day!)

This summer in Chicago, we will enjoy golf, lunch at sidewalk cafes, street festivals, evenings on the back porch, and walks by the Lake. Summer in Prescott offers gatherings at the club, outdoor cookouts, hanging by the pool, hiking, concerts on the courthouse square, and golf (the common denominator). We’ll have the best of both worlds. It’s all good!

I was thinking that Prescott is a virtual reality, but it’s more like a parceled reality. It’s every bit as real as Chicago; I just have to store it in an emotional cubbyhole when we are not physically there. I love both of our homes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Be Kind To Yourself

One thing I have discovered since quitting my job is that I have more time to be kind to myself. This is so important; yet when we are running from here to there and always thinking about what we SHOULD be doing, it often seems we don’t have time to take care of ourselves. With this thinking, we open the door to more stress, feelings of frustration and anger, and even poor health.

The first thing we need to learn is to forgive ourselves for not being able to do everything we think we should do. Enough with the self-flagellation for ignoring a dirty kitchen floor, running behind on the laundry, having to send a belated birthday card, etc. (And this doesn’t even address all the stresses of a job!) Sometimes you can only manage the things high on your list of priorities and scrabble intact from one day to the next. But you must occasionally put yourself at the top of the list.

Give yourself a break, and do something that makes you feel pampered. Be kinder to yourself. It will help you feel more like you are living than just surviving. Everyone has their own outlets. Here are some of mine:

  • Taking an afternoon nap
  • Treating myself to some flowers
  • Having a manicure/pedicure or facial
  • Playing! (golf, going to a museum, dominos, Wii)
  • Indulging a passion (playing my ukulele, making jewelry)
  • Enjoying a favorite food and drink
  • Connecting with a friend
  • Buying myself a present
  • Sinking into a bubble bath
  • Curling up with a good book
You have your own list of things you wish you had more time to do. I know you do! Carve out some time and be kind to yourself. It’s good for you, and you need it.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Big Expenses-Small Satisfaction

Sometimes you have to spend big money to protect investments you have already made in your home, automobile, or household durable goods. I accept that. But writing those big checks does not give me the same happy buzz that I get when I buy something more glamorous or fun!

Today we are having six replacement windows installed in the front room, for over $3800. Ouch. Granted, we will get a $1500 tax break that I will appreciate come next April. And I know they are better insulated, which will deliver improved comfort in the winter. Still, I just can’t get that excited about new windows. Oh well.

Tires are another big ticket purchase that leaves me cold. Yes, the car handles nicely with new tires, and I get slightly better gas mileage. Yes, I know I am less likely to be stranded somewhere with a flat tire. I appreciate all that. But they don’t make the car look better. They are just a necessity. Meh.

And what about taxes? I know that taxes are inevitable. When we cashed out and left Hilton, we paid a horrifying tax bill. It seems the IRS always knows how to hit us hardest, regardless of what phase of our financial lives we are in. We worked for more than 30 years, paying taxes all the way along, and have never been on the dole. Now that we are retired, we would like to see some government programs that actually benefit us instead of taking more from what we worked so hard to earn. Boo, hiss capital gains tax increases! C’mon, health care reform! We are not the “evil rich”; just a couple middle class kids who took advantage of a good education, worked hard, made sacrifices, and saved so we could enjoy the last third of our lives. Mess up my plans and I’m going to have to become politically active to try to protect myself. Don’t make me go there.

I’m sucking it up, and writing those checks. Phooey.