There are lots of things to think about.

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Good reads: airline travel, and mystery.

Right now I am reading a book about airline service and safety (or lack of service and safety).  It is called Attention All Passengers,by William J McGee.  Once I finish it I will discuss my thoughts about it.  For now, I will just say that I recommend it, but it is sad to explore the deterioration of what was once such an enjoyable and exciting experience.  Full  disclosure:  my son is a pilot, so problems in the industry hit home.

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am also reading a fun book, an early novel by Agatha Christie.  I read many of her books long ago when I was much younger.  Then I believe I missed what is evident now:  Her writing is very funny.  she has a delightful way of mocking upper classes, foreigners, self important people.  There is a lot of prejudice which was characteristic of her time and sad to see today.  However, we all come in for some ribbing, so that helps to keep things in perspective.  Was there once a time when villains were all brutish looking with fat, squat noses?  Well check out Agatha, she will let you know.

I am also reading the New Yorker magazine:  that keeps any reader very very busy, and well informed.  I highly recommend it to anyone who loves variety and who loves reading.

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Easy, lazy retirement: second three months.

I want to talk today about the second quarter of retirement, and how that went.  It was a continuation of the first three months, obviously, and things went into effect pretty smoothly.  By that I mean arranging for a regular income (in my case from dividends) to supplement my social security and tiny pension.

The other important task was establishing my medicare backup insurance, and that went smoothly.  One mistake I made was not being careful enough about dental insurance: I thought is had bought a full insurance product and it turned out that I only have coverage for preventive care.  Lesson learned (as you will see later).

The positives:  The free time can be and was used to explore different experiences and fields that I am interested in.  I have a wide ranging reading program, I continued to study Spanish, and I could explore museums, plays and concerts without feeling tired (if they were at night) or dealing with crowds.  The exploration without pressure is wonderful.  I just have to keep reminding myself  that there is no rush.  There is time to explore lots of different interests and I don’t have to get committed for any long term process.

I explored copywriting, (this is writing for advertising), and now I am exploring the use of a web site to present information to the world and to eventually make money from that.  This is an exploration that has just started. I will let you know when I have something up and something to share.

Negatives:  There have been some unpleasant surprises, some expected expenses.  My car needed to have its catalytic converter replaced one month, and I needed a root canal the next month.  The first was expected, the second led to the realization that my dental insurance was inadequate.  Well, lesson learned.  That will be corrected next year.

There were other things that I hadn’t thought about.  Most of my friends are still working, and are only available for fun on weekends.  Also, most activities are at night.  This makes sense, it just changes your thoughts about all of those programs and meetings that you thought would fill up your day.

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First year, second quarter

I have finished the second quarter of retirement, and I am now in the third.  What is happening now is the desire to be a little more structured, but the challenge is to decide what I want to do.  (Am I really asking what I want to be when I grow up?)

This is quite a quest.  So far I have taken and completed a course on copywriting.  I have started the process of a medical procedure that is designed to improve immunity.  This is through the Dzugen Physiologic company, and it will involve blood tests, a history, and taking supplements and hormones to restore a healthy functional balance.  Since our hormonal levels drop after the age of 35, by the time we are in retirement age we may be facing many of the diseases of aging, which are related to unbalanced hormonal levels or low hormonal levels.  The Dzugen Physiologic program is designed to repair those changes and restore an optimal balance.

I am also taking a website course, and the goal of the course is to develop a website that will generate income.  This can be a challenge, because I have a lot of interests.  I love reading, both fiction and nonfiction, I love the prospect of travel, I am interested in good investments, and right now I have been doing dividend investing. I am interested in some political issues, sustainable environments, and language, as well as mind body issues, such as stress management and meditation.

My challenge at the moment is to come up with a topic for a website.

I will add more on this tomorrow.

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Meditation for stress reduction

One of the best things about being retired is that you have the time to do things that are good for you.  In keeping with the theme of being lazy and happy while retired, I am going to talk about some of the very simple things we can do to help reduce the stress that we are dealing with.

First of all, I want to acknowledge that all of life is stressful.  Stress is something that goes along with the challenges of everyday living, not just something that happens when there is a large problem or a tragedy.  Normal life includes cars that won’t start, missed trains and planes, unexpected expenses.  Normal stress is sometimes the thing that pushes us over the edge, makes us think that we can’t cope, that we can’t talk any more.


You may have heard that one way to reduce the experience of stress is to breathe.  This is both simple and difficult when you are feeling “stressed out” or overwhelmed.  Prolonged stress may have the effect of interfering with appetite (increasing or decreasing), sleep, problem solving, and communication.  In the middle of a stressful situation we may not ever think that we should take a few moments, and breathe.

Because we don’t think about breathing when we are upset, it is important to practice a short breathing meditation on a daily basis, when we are not upset.  Then when we are under unusual (or usual) stress we will have the skill right there, ready to use.

In addition, many of us, when we are tense, will hold our breath, will stop breathing.  Once, when a friend was teaching me how to play poker, he could always tell when I was bluffing.  How?  He told me I was holding my breath.

How to breathe.

Sit in a comfortable place, sitting straight, your hands quiet, possibly in your lap.  You can set a timer for about 10 minutes perhaps less to start.  Then start breathing.  Don’t worry about how deep your breathing is, just make it soft and regular. While you are breathing, focus your attention on the air going in and then out of your lungs.  No pressure, when your mind wanders, just bring it back to your breathing.  When other thoughts or worries come into your head, let them go, just let them waft away.  Bring your mind back to your breath.  It doesn’t matter how often you bring your mind back, there is no winners circle to breathing.

After 10 minutes (or however long you do this), briefly stretch, and continue to go about your day.

Why does this work?

There are a few reasons why this works and why it is a good thing to do.  It looks lazy. Good.  Over time you will be happy. Actual physical changes take place in the brain as you practice meditation.  These changes in the Dorsal-lateral frontal lobes are associated with a sense of calm and contentment.

Second, when you are paying attention to your breathing, your mind is staying in the present.  Paying attention to the present moment is one of the best antidotes to anxiety.  There are few things more here and now than breathing.

Third, you are quiet,  your mind and your body are learning to relax.  This may lead to better problem solving, more endurance, and better sleep.

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Living with a mentally ill family member

I also finished reading the book The Cranes Dance, by Meg Howrey.  This is a book about a young woman, a successful dancer at the New York City Ballet, who has a younger sister, who also made it into the company, and who was supremely talented.  However, her sister is mentally ill, could not handle the stress of being away for home, and the pressure of being in such a high powered company.  While her dancing didn’t suffer, her ability to survive as a person did.  Kate, the older sister found herself drawn more and more into taking responsibility for her sister’s well being, serving her delusions and obsession at the same time that she was covering up the severity of her sister’s illness.

The book tells the story of the difficulty that Kate had in separating her own life, and her own being from that of her sister, and how she finally resolves that conflict.  This story really hit home for me because I also have a mentally ill sister, and the mixture of love, angIer, responsibility, and concern were familiar.

In the end, as I said, Kate was able to resolve the conflict and to find herself as a separate person.  And she did this when she was in her 20’s!  Good for her.  She was freed, as I was (although much later than my 20’s) from the smothering responsibility to a recognition that she was not responsible for her sister’s illness, that she could not stop it or control it.  Then she was free to genuinely care for her, to provide the help and support that she genuinely could give.

It’s a good book, especially for anyone who loves ballet, and wonders about the reality of that life at the top (a very tough one), and anyone who has struggled with the reality of a mentally ill family member.  It’s a good read for anyone actually, let me know what you think.

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Dairy free living

Hooray for Mark Bittman!! Mark Bittman writes food columns and blogs for New York Times.  He is also the author of two important cookbooks, maybe more.  The biggies are How To Cook Everything, and How To Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Two weeks ago he wrote a column about the problems with milk and dairy, describing his life long problems with the upset stomach, and GERD (a now favorite diagnosis, treated with both prescription and over the counter medications).  I remember also hating milk as a child and problems with allergies, breathing, upset stomachs, and intestinal problems.

Now I identify lactose intolerance as the problem and I can avoid dairy, and stay healthy.  In today’s column Mark Bittman described the results of sudden health that a lot of people experienced once they stopped the dairy consumption.  This is not something that your family doctor will tell  you, you have to find it out on your own.  It is worth a try for anyone with digestive problems, or problems with allergies:  avoid dairy for a week or two, and see if it makes a difference.

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The Big R (retirement): Getting started

Well I have been retired for one month, and what are my impressions? First of all I notice no sense of pressure or fatigue. I think the lack of tiredness was the biggest change. I noticed first on a Friday night, when I realized while I was going home that I wasn’t exhausted. Before retirement, I experienced that fatigue a lot.

Another thing that I noticed that was a surprise, was that I was in bed later than I expected to be. I always thought of myself as a morning person, morning meaning that I would be up at 7:00. However, I found myself sleeping and dozing until 7:30 and 8 or even 8:30. At first I went to bed early: 9 or 9:30, but I found that I woke up for a few hours in the middle of the night, and still stayed in bed late in the morning. Now I am going to bed later, but I need to find a way to make the evenings more productive. I am curious to see how this will change as the light changes. This will become noticeable in a few more weeks.

I find that it is easier to keep the house clean, something that I have always avoided, but I think the difference is that if I take time to clean something up now it doesn’t feel like I will have little time to do something else, more attractive. That goes back to the availability of time.

Bigger cleaning tasks still have to be done, and probably one thing to do is to schedule one day or two days a week to accomplish one closet or cupboard. We will see what works out.

I find that it is important to get out of the house every day, there have been very few days when the weather was bad enough to make it smarter to stay in the house. This can be as simple as running an errand or more elaborate, going out with friends to dinner and or a concert, going to a museum. My friends of course are mostly working, so I have to plan some time to spend on entertainment myself and I have made up a list.

There are lots of things to do at home to keep me busy: I need to do some exercise, so doing some routines at home is important, also I am studying Rosetta Stone Spanish and I like to plan an hour a day doing that. I received a new computer, a MaxPro from Matt, my son, and his wife Jill so I have been getting used to that. I finally realized that I needed to watch Apple’s instructional videos, and since I started to spend time on that I have enjoyed using the computer even more. A lot of time was spent on importing my music, and now I am listening to that a lot. Of course I am still reading a lot, and one frustration is that by the end of the day (the time that I want to make more productive) my eyes are tired. Oh well something else to figure out.

I have to admit that I like to have disposable money so I have looked into some Internet research programs, and I started to learn one of them. I also looked into a writing program, so that will be my next step. Lots to learn. I want to travel and I belong to International Living, so I want to study the options from that group. There are lots of travel opportunities, and I want to be able to take advantage of actually living in a country for a few months at a time, rather than just being a brief tourist.

People told me that I would be so busy that I would not know how I ever found time to work. They were so right! To tell the truth, I knew beforehand that I didn’t have time to work, and now I am proving it. One of the nicest things is to think about what I want to do today, or this week, or when and how. The time feels wonderful.

I will continue these impressions a few times a week. It will be a good way to keep things in perspective.