Thursday, February 24, 2011

Runaway Boomer is 2

This Runaway Boomer posting today is my 104th. You know what that means – a 2 year milestone. I have managed to write once a week, every week for two years. Somehow it has become important to me to consistently meet my self-imposed Thursday morning deadline.

In the beginning, at the request of friends, I wrote a number of posts about the steps we used to plan for our early retirement. Then I expressed more about what our life has been like after leaving our corporate jobs, including enjoying our homes in Chicago and Prescott, travel, and our newfound love of golf. The biggest surprises for me have been a few odd posts that have sort of written themselves – like my (bad) poetry. There were words and phrases in my head that wouldn’t be ignored, and just had to come out on paper. One poem I swear I composed in my sleep – I just had to get up and write it down before it was forgotten.

Friends; I sincerely thank all of you who have read my blog and reached out to me. Your comments and encouragement inspire me to act on my desire to write, and continue to “spill my guts”. Some have told me they are living vicariously through my experiences. I hope you are actually dreaming and making your own plans for personal freedom. The first big step toward living your dream is being able to visualize it. I wish that for you all.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Don't Forget to Look Back

Last night, sated by a prime rib dinner at Talking Rock Club, Ron looked around our home and said, “I never could have guessed we would be here”. He was recalling the years of hard work and good fortune that allowed us to retire early. That led us both to think further back…

Ron’s paternal grandfather worked as a carpenter for a coal mine in southern Illinois. Later, health issues forced a job change. He became a janitor for the local school system. Ron’s father, Jim, left at 17 to join the Navy, get an education, and make a better life for himself. After the Navy, with the help of the GI Bill, Jim earned an engineering degree from the University of Illinois and became an electrical engineer. He married Barbara, a true farmer’s daughter, college graduate, and teacher. They raised 5 children. When the family would go to see Jim’s parents, they visited a home that was little more than a shack, with no indoor bathroom. But Ron and all of his siblings went to college. It’s humbling to remember that there is just one generation between us and an outhouse, or a hard life of farming that included walking the beans and slopping the hogs.

My own paternal grandfather emigrated from Greece. My papou (grandfather in Greek) was a furrier – a good living that allowed him to send John, his son/my father to Northwestern University to earn a degree in electrical engineering. Mom and Dad raised 4 kids, and sent us all to college. Early on, we lived in modest homes and pinched pennies. Vacations were taken once a year, via a packed station wagon, to visit family in New Hampshire. My idea of comfort food was derived from dishes like Creamed Tuna on Toast, which stretched a can of tuna fish to feed a family of 6, served with a salad. The occasional dinner out as a family was burgers and milkshakes at the Ho-Jo’s drive-in.

Ron and I both made the most of good public education and, later, advanced schooling paid for by our parents. Neither Ron nor I were provided with a car when we turned 16. We both worked real jobs for pocket money and our own savings, from our mid-teens on. When we graduated college, we moved out of our parents homes and started our own independent lives and careers. As a young couple, I remember visiting friends who had just moved into a lovely $100K home in Plano, TX and thinking, “We’ll never be able to afford a house like this.”

Fast forward to 2011. Retired now, we (temporarily) own two nice homes – a condo in the city and a ranch cottage on a golf course with mountain views. We eat out several times a week. Our next vehicle will be an electric golf cart. Good friends and family enrich our lives, which couldn’t be better. In April, we will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and once again we will count our blessings and say,

“We never could have guessed we would be here.”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

No More Mulligans for Me

If you’ve been following my blog, you already know that I am golfing. I love the physical challenge, the competition (with myself), and being out on a beautiful course in the fresh air. All that walking and flailing around with a club is good exercise. An added bonus is my new circle of golf buddies – the ladies I see at least once a week for our “Nine and Wine” gathering. But, it’s time to kick it all up a notch!

I am working on my golf handicap. Turns out that I need one to play on Ladies Day and in any club tournaments. My goal for this year is to participate in Talking Rock’s “Spirit Cup” tournament in late August. The tournament is several days of golf, female camaraderie, food, drink, and fun. I don’t want to be left out this year.

The purpose of establishing a handicap is to allow amateur golfers of disparate skill levels to play together competitively. My club has set me up online with the Arizona Women’s Golf Association, and I now log my scores. Once I have completed a certain number of rounds, a calculation will be made based on my scores and the difficulty of the courses I have played, and a handicap established. Assuming I continue to submit my scores, the handicap will be adjusted over time, if I get better (or, God forbid, worse).

Let’s say I am assigned a handicap of 20. If I then actually score a 120 on 18 holes, my handicap would be subtracted from my score, and my score would become 100 for competitive purposes. At this point, I expect my handicap to be pretty high – but I have to start somewhere, right?

The pursuit of a handicap is having some interesting side effects on my golf game. First – I can no longer be casual with the official rules. Until now, if I flubbed a drive, I would take a mulligan and try again (without counting the extra stroke on my score). Second – I find that I am much more focused on making a good shot, because one more stroke here and another there makes a difference. Now that I submit my scores, I would like to avoid unnecessary embarrassment. I think this focus will help me improve my game.

This could be a humbling experience, but it’s necessary if I want to become a serious golfer. Stay tuned for updates.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Spending January and February in Prescott was a premeditated plan to avoid the worst of winter in Chicago. I didn’t count on missing the third biggest blizzard on record, which occurred earlier this week. The city and some its outlying areas got 20+ inches of snow, blasted in by hurricane-force gusts and impressive sustained winds. Officials closed Lake Shore Drive, and snow drifts stranded hundreds of motorists. Some were rescued by paramedics on snowmobiles! St Joseph’s Hospital became an overnight refuge for over a hundred commuters who couldn’t make it home.

Our relatives in the northern suburb of Wadsworth lost power for 6 hours overnight. They couldn’t make it to work in the morning, and spent three hours with a snow blower, clearing their driveway. Of course, the streets are still blocked by 4-foot drifts, but hopefully the snow plows have made it there by now. (Ron’s brother, Ken, in his driveway pictured below.)

Photo by Joy Bailey

We missed all the excitement! It would have been fun to hole up in our cozy condo with a hot toddy, watching the snow rage sideways down our street, and eating comfort food. Our building is a 1920’s-era fortress, and we have a gas fireplace, so we would have been safe and warm. The association has a contract with a service that shovels our walks and stairs, so we wouldn’t even have had to worry about that. And now I can’t brag that I survived Chicago’s Blizzard of 2011, AKA, “Bizzaster”, “Snowmageddon”, “Snowcopalypse”, etc.

It was fun to see the photos people posted on Facebook, and we were glad to get the messages that our friends and family members were safe. We got some effect from that same weather front in Prescott. Yesterday was nasty; a cold and windy day. But by the end of the week, we should be able to golf. That day is distant in Chicago.