Thursday, June 28, 2012

Golf Gods, Mojo, and Karma

I play golf four to five times a week when the weather allows. Golf is good exercise, a fun way to socialize, and a good way to enjoy the outdoors. Some may think it would be boring to play the same course so frequently, but it’s not. There are many, many variables in every round.

The biggest wildcard is you. Do you have your mojo today?  Will your drives find the fairways and bounce straight and true? Will you be hitting your irons? How will your short game treat you? Can you avoid the dreaded three-putt? Will you best yesterday’s score? As your game improves, there are always surprises (good and bad). You can have an awful hole; then birdie the next one. The Golf Gods are fickle that way. They can be cruel, but they don’t actually ever want you to give up. That wouldn’t be any fun.

Mother Nature also provides variation. Granted, it’s often clear and sunny in Prescott. But the wind may howl and knock your ball out of the air, the temperature can be cold or hot, the sun gets in your eyes, and the summer monsoons provide pop-up thunderstorms that send you scurrying for cover. Once we played in a snow squall. Some conditions truly test your powers of concentration.

The course itself is a constant challenge. Think about it. You never hit the ball twice in exactly the same spot. Pin positions change from day to day. The fairway undulates. The sand in the bunkers could be dry as a bone or heavy and wet. An unlucky bounce leaves you in someone else’s divot. When your ball strays into the desert, you may be puzzling over whether or how you can punch your ball out from under a bush or from behind a rock – all while keeping an eye out for rattlesnakes. There are uphill lies, and downhill lies. Your may be forced to practice a “specialty shot” out of a tricky situation. And, just because your #3 hybrid got you over the chasm on 11 yesterday doesn’t mean it will today. Trust me on that one.

The first tee at Talking Rock
Golf is a great way to make friends and deepen relationships. (For that reason, I wish I had played when I was in the business world.) Golf requires confidence, honesty, and infinite grace. You must to follow the rules, celebrate successes with humility, suffer nobly through your own failures, and support your partner’s play. People’s true nature shines through on the course.

Every time I stand on the first tee I feel intense anticipation and excitement. I take a deep breath of clear mountain air, stretch my shoulders, tee up, wind up for my first drive, and hope for good karma! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Time to Smell the Roses

Many years of work, planning, and saving have led us to be in a place where we can settle and enjoy life to its fullest.  It’s taking a little time to realize that we have arrived at a long-term destination.  For so long, we focused intently on the next steps - leaving our corporate jobs, moving to Chicago, and then finding a home the Southwest.  Oddly, now that we have achieved our goals, it’s a little disorienting.

You know that feeling you get after a long road trip, when even after you get to your destination and get out of the car, it seems as though you are still moving?  I feel a bit like that right now. 

The current plan is to live in our community in Prescott for as long as we are able.  We love the area and our home and friends, and have plenty to see and do.  Other than enjoying all that, we don’t really know what’s next.  That’s mildly disconcerting for someone like me, who is a planner.

Eventually we’ll need to have discussions about how to prepare for a point in life where we need assistance.  As we and the huge population of Boomer compatriots age, there will likely be more and more options for appealing situations for our sunset years.  I know we have to figure that out; but not right now.

Right now, we will smell the roses, nurture our health, take care of each other, laugh with friends, breathe deeply of the high desert air, explore our interests, connect with others, and stay active.  We’ll know when it’s time to start planning again.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


The official start of summer is next week, but here at Talking Rock Ranch, we are already fully engaged in seasonal fun.

When I tell people I live in Arizona, they immediately think of Phoenix and the hot, hot, hot summer weather.  But in Prescott, we are 100 miles northwest of the Valley of the Sun, at almost a mile-high elevation.  Our temps are usually about 15 degrees lower than those in Phoenix.  For example, today’s forecast for Phoenix is for a high of 104 degrees.  Our local forecast is for 86 degrees. Evenings cool dramatically, dropping into the 50’s.  This weather is very conducive to spending time outdoors.

Summer sandals, shorts, golf shirts, and sundresses are de rigueur at Talking Rock.  Common dress could be described as “resort casual”; (a bit of a change for us, coming from Chicago).  At our weekly Happy Hour gathering Friday afternoons, many of the ladies up the ante a little by fussing more than normal with hair and makeup, and adding a little fun jewelry.  Our guys may trade in their polos for colorful Hawaiian shirts.

Fun at last year's Luau at the pool.

The atmosphere during summer is festive.  It feels a little like those treasured vacations from school when we were kids, when we pursued fun all day long, and well into the evenings.  Many Talking Rock residents are retired, and we know how to enjoy ourselves.  Club management, in cooperation with involved members, our hospitable neighbors, and the city of Prescott provides numerous opportunities to stay active and enjoy each other’s company.

This summer, we will be enjoying several golf tournaments, wine tastings and dinners, BBQ’s, VIP seating at the Prescott Rodeo, spontaneous gatherings on back patios, arts and music festivals, neighborhood parties, birthday celebrations, hikes, al fresco dining on the club’s Granite Mountain patio, tending plants in the community garden, taking a dip in the pool, practicing on the driving range, cooling off with an ice cream bar at Coops, or a little bit of pampering on a Spa Day at the club. 

Whew, the social calendar is getting full!  We’re loving every minute of it.  Retirement=Boredom?  Don’t be silly.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Without a Net

In my transition from Illinois to Arizona, I have lost my health insurance.  The insurance I had in Illinois after my COBRA expired was a high risk pool sponsored by the state.  Having been declined for individual health insurance, I was eligible to apply for this safety net provided to full-time residents of Illinois.  My coverage was through Blue Cross Blue Shield, and we paid about $560 a month for it.  For Ron’s individual policy, we paid another $325 per month.  Each of us had a $2500 annual deductable.  Do a little math and you can guess that health care has been a substantial percentage of our expenses in retirement. 

Thirty-five states have high risk pools – Arizona is not one of those.  Now full-time residents of Arizona, I just sent in the cancellation notice for my Illinois insurance.  I applied for individual coverage in Arizona, and have been declined.  So now what?

The Obama administration’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, AKA “Obamacare”, will be my safety net.  Although a very imperfect bill (yes, I read the whole dang thing), it will provide the option I need to secure health insurance in this long gap I am in before being eligible for Medicare.  Obamacare requires states without high risk pools to provide them to people who prove that they cannot otherwise obtain health insurance.

But…in order to be eligible for Arizona’s high risk pool, I have to be uninsured for six months.  This is a condition of entry into the plan that, frankly, I do not understand.  I prepared as well as I could for this period, by seeing my doctor and having a check-up, making sure my prescriptions are current, and having a colonoscopy.  All I need to do now is make it through six months without a major incident.  I am very scared that my situation has put me and Ron at great financial risk.

I’m writing about this for several reasons.  (1) If you have group health insurance through an employer – appreciate it.  You cannot be denied coverage, and most employers pay fifty percent or more of your actual health care costs.  (2) Your health is precious.  Any health issues become part of your history and until Obamacare is fully implemented in 2014, could result in you not being able to obtain insurance.  Finally, (3) You must consider and plan for your health insurance needs in retirement.  There are many resources available online that will clarify the situation and explain your options.

If the federal health care law is ruled as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, I may be without my safety net for much longer than six months.  It doesn’t seem right that I can’t obtain health insurance, even though I can afford to pay for it.  Health care reform outside of Obamacare probably wouldn’t come soon enough for me.

Wish me good health!