82 Days of Retirement

This will be the last of these for a while. The blog, I mean. When we moved into the new home a couple of nights ago, we completed the first leg of this journey called retirement.

What began euphorically with a great send-off from students and colleagues, quickly turned hard with the death of our friend Williance; then came unexpected challenges of having to reconfigure finances and schedule to fit my new life; then past emotional baggage showed up (as it seems to when life turns hard).

And did I mention we were building a new house?

The dream sustained me. That and friends like you.

And, like any English teacher, I researched the subject to death. Francis Bacon was right. Knowledge really is power, and there’s a bunch of info out there for a retirement newbie like me.

Only problem is most of the books are depressing. They’re mostly about money, and, even then, for the 5% of baby boomers who have socked away a million or more for the occasion.

That’s why there’s probably a book on the subject in my future, as well as more blogs. They just won’t be as regular.

So thanks for reading my stuff. I’ve learned from you as I hope you have from me.

P.S. I know you want to see pics of the house, and I’ll post some to Facebook later. Out of respect for neighbors on our quiet, country cul-de-sac, I’ve held off until now.

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The We Generation

Have you noticed Hollywood’s recent movies about wise, older types who mentor younger people in need of guidance? Think of Sylvester Stallone in “Creed” or Harrison Ford in “The Force Awakens,” or Robert DeNiro as “The Intern.”

Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Encore.org, says it’s a case of “art imitating life.” He points to his own organization, which places older, experienced folks (mostly baby boomers retired from their primary careers) in non-profits who then “provide a healthy dose of mentoring to younger leaders.”

Freedman’s article reminds me of one I wrote in the 90s in response to the Billy Chrystal movie “City Slickers.” I called them do-over movies, which is what baby boomers aspired to do in midlife.

Only then it was more of a personal thing, and now it seems to be about making the world a better place.

Looks like the Me Generation is becoming the We Generation.

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Happiness Is a Choice

Retirement Myth #9: Our happiest years are behind us.

Not so, says Neilsen, the folks who rate TV viewership. “There is scientific evidence that people get happier as they get older.”

The marketing data company points to a May 2016 survey, which measured self-reported wellbeing among American adults. On a scale of 1 to 10, the average 18-year-old rated his or her wellbeing at 6.7.

From there the number trended downward, reaching a low of 6.2 for 52-year-olds. But then, it climbed dramatically, matching the 18-year-old average by 67 and moving to nearly 7.0 by age 83.

Well, it’s only a poll and a self-reported one at that. But it does destroy the myth that happiness decreases with age.

Which makes me think of the old Meier-Minirth book, written in 1978 and revised a couple of years ago. These psychiatrists say that, at any age, “happiness is a choice.”

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The Joy of Creating

Seems most of my life I’ve been the recipient of others’ creativity: an inspiring book, a beautiful painting, a piece of music, and things God has made—a cascading waterfall or multicolored sunrise.

Building this house has made me think of the joy of the creator. Did God smile when he saw the first man observe his first sunrise?

Yesterday evening I looked out over our front yard—now just scraped dirt with ditches left by the sprinkler installers. In a lush meadow, across the way, a doe watched her twin fawns play—a version of tag-you’re-it and ring-around-the-roses.

Couldn’t help but wonder—in a couple of years, will one of those fawns bring her own offspring to romp in our beautiful yard?

I’m still smiling.

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To My Amarillo College Family

I will miss you today. I know, no one misses teachers’ meetings. I can hear you teasing about it.

“Oh, I just love teachers’ meetings,” said no teacher EVER.

I’ll miss your jokes.

And I’ll miss the contagious enthusiasm in your voices. A new semester brings it out. Despite the complaints and denials, you have a passion for students and a zest for learning.

It’s why you chose the job. Or why the job chose you.

I may be on a golf course today, but I’ll envy you. You work at a great school with great colleagues and you serve the greatest students ever.

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Wide Open Spaces

Looking north on Texas Highway 207

Hiked in Palo Duro again today. It’s one of my retirement perks—to experience regularly pleasures once available only sporadically.

Anyway, looking northeast where Highway 207 crosses the canyon at its widest, I was reminded how much I love wide open spaces (no, this blog is not about the Dixie Chicks).

Not sure why. Maybe it’s inherited from frontier ancestors who saw in them wide possibilities, wide opportunities, maybe a wideness to hope itself.

I hope they do that for me.

And, whether in the canyon-lands of northwest Texas or the San Juan Range in southwestern Colorado, wide open spaces call me to explore and discover, to make my life wider not narrower.

I need to see them often.

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Kinder Test, Part II: Dreams Are Powerful Things

Kinder’s questions (I hope you did the exercise yourself) are designed to find out the core values and dreams of his clients, which he sees as the first step in helping them come up with a financial plan.

My responses told me two things.

First, if had unlimited money (question #1), I would still do the things I plan to do now, only more extravagantly. Instead of hiking in the Rockies (one of my goals), I might frequent the Alps or Andes.

And second, the things I would miss if I died tonight (question #3) are things on my immediate to-do list—like enjoying friends and family in our new house and writing more blogs and books.

That hasn’t always been the case. There was a time (not that long ago) when dreams for this period of my life were so undefined and faraway as to be unmotivating and unlikely to be realized.

I’m still not sure how that changed, but I know I wouldn’t be where I am now if it hadn’t.

Dreams are powerful things.

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The Kinder Test: Part I

Financial planner George Kinder (“Life Planning for You: How to Design & Deliver the Life of Your Dreams”) has his clients answer the following three questions (I’ve paraphrased for brevity):

1. If you had all the money you wanted—for now and in the future—how would you live your life?

2. If you had only 5-10 years to live—and your finances were the same as now—would you change anything?

3. If your life ended today, what would you wish you had done or become?

Yesterday, I took a couple of hours to do the exercise. In tomorrow’s blog, I’ll tell you what I learned.

Meanwhile, you might try it yourself. Then, we can talk.

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A Great Time To Be Alive

In “The Evolution of Retirement, 1880-1990,” Dora Costa argues that increased income and poor health are no longer the reasons why American men retire.

They used to be. Costa traces the beginning of large-scale retirement in the U.S. to Union Army veterans, who were given pensions by a nation grateful for their sacrifices in the Civil War (Confederate soldiers received no assistance).

And while the annual amount for that pensioner seems low by modern standards ($135 per year), it amounted to over half the annual income of farm workers of the era.

But, according to Costa, rising income is no longer the reason most people retire. “Increasing numbers of retirees are citing a preference for leisure as their main motivation of leaving the labor force.”

Costa says today’s retirees have more options (everything from golf to watching movies) at increasingly low prices (both golf and theatre were once perks for the rich and even yesterday’s very rich could not experience the cruises of today).

And modern retirees have the health to enjoy this leisure for a substantially longer period (20 to 30 years for some).

So it’s a great time to be alive. Any one of those Union vets would have changed places with any one of us in a heartbeat.

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Missing Four-legged Friends

Hiking the canyon road at Hidden Falls Ranch today, I thought of old friends. Not the two-legged kind.

I’ve been a program director and executive director at my favorite camp, but my best job there was the first one—wrangler.

HFR doesn’t allow trail rides in the Palo Duro anymore. Hasn’t for years. There’s a reason. On the way to the old tabernacle and Aunt Betty’s fortress, we would lead mounted campers past Surfer Boy’s slide and Simba’s roll (for the record, horses and riders came out OK).

Today, I thought of Surfer Boy (named for his bleach-blond mane)—and King.

Zan’s King McCue, this palomino Quarter Horse was my graduation gift from Dad in 1967 and my best friend until supplanted by a cute, two-legged one whom I married in 1968.

Also, thought of Smokey today. A shaggy, albino gelding, Smokey was the best canyon horse I’ve known, meaning he was as agile on rugged, steep trails as the nimble Mule Deer and sure-footed Aoudad Sheep that frequent the area.

In search of some runaways, I once rode Smokey up the Goodnight Cabin trail on a moonless night. I turned off the flashlight when I realized we both didn’t need it—Smokey because he could see fine in the dark and me because what it showed only scared me more.

I miss Smokey and Surfer Boy and King.

C.S. Lewis thought that our pets join us in Heaven. If so, I’m looking forward to some amazing rides.

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