There are lots of things to think about.

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Politics, Corruption, and (In spite of that) Happiness

Thoughts about politics

I have had a lot of thoughts about the changes in the United States Congress.  I have to admit that the Democrats who ran for election or re-election deserved the loss that they experienced.  When they refused to defend the Affordable Care Act, the stimulus to the economy, and the need for more help for the middle class (like an increase in the minimum wage) they abandoned the record that the Democratic Party stands for and needs to continue.

Enough said.  I hope the Democrats that are left will find a way to be articulate and proud.

Thoughts about Corruption

Read an article in The New Yorker Magazine: January 19, 2015 issue.The Article is “Corruption and Revolt” by Patrick Radden Keefe.  In this article he describes some of the rampant corruption that runs through the government of Afghanistan.  The Karzai family runs a remarkable drug program that is aided and abetted by the CIA.  If you feel startled and discouraged by this statement, read the article.  (Warning:  You won’t feel better after you read it.)

Sorry, this doesn’t sound very happy.

Thoughts about being happy

So on to happy:  I have been babysitting my one year old grandson twice a week for a year now.  He is cute, sweet, and a real mover.  I spent two weeks in Cancun and Playa Del Carmen in December, and I am planning a return trip in April.  I moved from one small suburb of St. Paul to another suburb of Minneapolis in the Fall of 2014.  Now I am closer to the action of Minneapolis, and I am very happy about that.  I have continued to volunteer at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts.  If you are in the Minneapolis area check it out.

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If you want to live long and happy, read this, then watch “Slomo.”

What is better, Material wealth and “goodies” or the Freedom to do what you want?

Dr. John Kitchin appeared to have it all. He had a successful career as a neurologist, with a large beautiful home, a Ferrari in the garage, and esteem from his colleagues.

As he was entering his 30’s and starting this successful career, he noticed an older man choosing a variety of food in the cafeteria. He appeared to be energetic and in good health. Dr. Kitchen asked this gentleman what advice he would give to a young man starting out in a career who would like to reach a healthy old age just like him. The man said “Do what you want to do!”

Dr. Kitchin went on to build his successful career, but realized that he was doing the work that gave him more and more material goodies, but perhaps not daily joy and pleasure. He had the guts to leave his practice, consolidate his wealth, buy a studio apartment on the Pacific Coast Beach in California.

He now spends his days slowly rollarblading along the boardwalk, balancing and maneuvering from side to side to produce the optimal neurological benefits. (He was a neurologist, remember, so he knew what he was doing.) Most people seeing him would assume he was a beach bum, or perhaps had inherited wealth. but he is really a skilled professional man, doing what he wants to do.

For your retirement, What do you want to do? This is your chance.  Challenge:  Write down five to ten things that you want to do.  Choose one to start.  Don’t ask “When can you do it?” ask “How can you do it?”

(You can get more information about the documentary Slomo produced by Josh Izenberg at It was discussed in the March 31, 2014 Opinion Pages in the New York Times.

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Leather handbags

I picked up the WordPress Daily prompt and googled the word “Handbag.”  The prompt was to choose the 11th picture and to write a blog post about that picture.  The 11th picture was of an “Amerileather ” “Tutu” top-grain lambskin leather handbag.  See it on, shoulder bags, Item #: 12882081

This is neat for me because I was thinking that finding really good soft Italian leather handbags and selling them would be a fun way to make money.  Why Italian, why leather, why handbags?

First memories.  Picture being on the Ponte Veccio in Florence, at the end of it.  We have just passed all of the shops that are filled with the glorious gold.  At

Ponte Veccio - Florencia

Ponte Veccio – Florencia (Photo credit: José Rodríguez)

the far end are a variety of small shops, one of which sells handbags.  Sue picks up one and strokes it, asking us to feel the softness, the luxury of the leather.  Wow!  That moment turned me on to my love of luxury.

Another picture.  I have just been to a movie with some friends, and one (actually it was Sue, same woman) asks if my handbag is new.  Well it isn’t, but I do have a lot now and I confess that I have enough that I change them monthly.  While the others laugh at me (I am not wealthy, it isn’t that I can get anything that I want), I recognize that I love the variety (this is part of my brand, see posts dated 8-17-2012 and 8-23-2012). So there is always the opportunity to have one handbag that might be an old friend, or relatively new, one that I haven’t used for a long time.

So back to the handbag from Overstock dot com:  This isn’t a handbag that I particularly like, I wouldn’t buy it.  I don’t care for all of the fringy frou frou.  But the appealing part is the description of top-grain lambskin leather and the word ‘tutu’ with its association with a pretty, graceful ballerina. That part is yummy.

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More on My brand as I retire, happily.

My brand:  I have three words so far:  information, introvert, variety.  One thing that I realize  as I continue to explore retirement is that I search for more self knowledge.

The word "brand"

The word “brand” (Photo credit: robgiampietro)

This search for self knowledge is my first step for this first year of my retirement.  I haven’t jumped in to a lot of travel, something that I want to do in the future.

What is my Vision of travel, next year or the year after? I see myself sitting in a cafe, or on a plaza near a cafe.  It is out of doors.  I am reading and sipping wine or more likely coffee.  (Wine sounds better, but lets face it, I want to be awake for this experience.)

So I am sipping coffee, perhaps in Santiago Chile, perhaps in a town in France (it could be Chartres or maybe some place in Provence). It is sunny and comfortable.  I have public transportation available.

Hey!  I think I found my next brand word (see my post What is your Brand?).  It would be Urban.

To me Urban means a city, a lot of cultural opportunities (museums, concerts, book stores, little use of cars, lots of public transportation).  I realize that being urban has been a really driving force for me all of my life.  I haven’t often lived in the center of a city, but I have always wanted to do that, and I usually lived close enough to a city that I could get there without too much trouble.  So I am an Urban soul.

One thing I have been doing is watching the series Mad Men either through DVDs, or on my computer. (These are available through Amazon for instant viewing or buying.)  I have had a lot of catching up to do since I did not watch much television when I was working,

Now I am at the beginning of Season 5.  In one of the early episodes, Pete Campbell and his wife are attending a party given in an apartment in Manhattan.  The Campbells have recently moved to the suburbs, requiring a long train commute for Pete.  He has said in a past episode that he loves being in the city on a holiday weekend, when he has all of the possibilities open to him and no interference.

At the party his wife remarked that she could hear the street noise even in the apartment.  I watched this happy, dreamy longing look come over Pete Campbell’s face at the thought of the noise and the action in the city.  I know how he felt!  I feel the same way.  To be in the middle of things, to have the possibility to have the best available:  that is what the city means to me.  (I hope you get back to it, Pete.)

I know why I am an urban person, and why my dreams of my future travel are usually to cities, or to towns close to cities.  I was raised in New York City, although most of my childhood was spent in Staten Island, part of the city, but certainly not in the middle of things.  Plusses: easy and plentiful adn frequent public transportation. Negatives: distance to Manhattan.

Staten Island Ferry terminal, Lower Manhattan ...

Staten Island Ferry terminal, Lower Manhattan Français : Terminal du ferry de Staten Island, à Lower Manhattan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went to Manhattan as often as I could, and I loved the museums, especially the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the big Public Library, and the Metropolitan Museum. The stores were all large and plentiful, and in parts of New York, unusual.  (My third Brand Word is Variety).  I think living in New York reinforced for me that the world had so many possibilities.

Now I live in a suburb of St. Paul, MN.  I don’t have good public transportation into the cities of St. Paul or Minneapolis, but it is improving. Both cities are easy to get to, and it is easy to find parking.  These are wonderful cities for the culture, restaurants, variety, and good quality.  So in many ways my brand is being honored.

To catch up on other posts:  I have finished the book Quiet by Susan Cain and I will say more about that in another post.  I recommend it, especially for anyone who is an introvert (more people than we think), or who lives with and/or loves an introvert.  I am also reading a book on water issues, very good.  And Agatha Christie continues to keep me entertained, with the first Miss Marple book:  Murder At the Vicarage. Agatha continues to have that wry sense of humor while she has a straight face and gently pokes fun at the self importance of her characters.

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A happy introvert

Good morning,  I have kept busy with reading, walking, going to some movies, and music.

More thoughts on self discovery:  I am reading a book called Quiet The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.  This is a book which considers the role of introverted persons in various roles in our lives.  This has struck a chord in me because I have always been an introvert and admittedly a somewhat extreme one, and especially when I was younger, a shy introvert.

Reading a book

Reading a book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since we live in a society which supports and celebrates a lot of socialization and busyness, introverts can have a hard time fitting in. I have recently accepted the comfort of my own personality, and I have enjoyed it.  Those of you who are readers and writers may also have experienced this same struggle:  Am I OK?  Why can’t I just read a book this afternoon? Why does everyone go to parties?  and I don’t really want to.  I think amusement parks are tedious  and noisy.  I was a mystery to my parents, who liked my good marks in school, but also wanted me to be more social and especially, to have more boy friends.

So it is a good feeling to read a book which 1: validates the experience of not fitting in, and second: celebrates the real contributions and strengths of introverts.

Today I have been reading the section where Susan discusses the difficulty that introverts have in very social religious practices, such as the very successful evangelical church, the Saddleback Church.  She discusses the work of a man named Adam McHugh, an evangelical minister, who struggles with the sense of being “not right” and wonders if God is pleased with him as he is.  He is now accepting himself as a religious introvert, and is speaking up about the need for more solitude and contemplation in religious practice.  His book is called Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture.  I haven’t read the book, if you have read it or if you do read it, I would love to receive a comment on it.

I don’t want you to think that I only read serious books.  I have almost finished Agatha Christie‘s book “The Secret of Chimneys.”  Lots of fun.  I am trying to read Christie in order, alternating her books with other fiction.

(OK, I admit it I am a little obsessive, as well.)

I also have gone to some good movies, not usually the blockbuster types.  I recommend Moonrise Kingdom which has had excellent reviews but is not widely released, and Woody Allen‘s  latest movie: To Rome With Love.

This was not well reviewed, and not well liked, but was a really funny spoof of a lot of social relationships like success, hollywood relationships, and even opera. Have fun with these.

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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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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.


Retirement can be easy and happy

About myself

Hello, my name is Laraine.

I am recently retired, looking forward to an easy happy retirement.  What do I like most about being retired?  The free time, the lack of pressure, the lack of rush.  I can be myself, and a lot of people are hungry for that.

I heard from a lot of people when i was about to retire not to commit to anything for the first three months at least.  Others have said to wait one year before doing anything that is a regular commitment.

I agree most with the second suggestion.  I am nearing the end of my second quarter, and I have moved into a pattern of exploration, which is very open ended and has only the structure that I choose to put on myself.

I have a list of the things that I like about getting old, and I will put these up in a later post, but needless to say one of my favorite things about getting older is the possibility of retirement.

So retirement that is easy, lazy, and happy:  what does that mean?  I will explore that  here and I encourage others to add other reflections, recommendations and experiences of their own.  This is a very nice part of life, yet it is a part of life that many people dread, believing that their “useful life” has ended.  It certainly has not ended, and we can all search for the ways to be relaxed, open, and creative in a way that suits us.

Easy:  I don’t have as much money as I would like to have, but I have a place to live and food, friends and family.

Lazy:  I can get up in the morning when I am ready, eat when I want, and spend my time as I wish.  Some days I am busy, some days I am relaxed and accomplish relatively little.

Happy:  I am finding that I can take the time to pursue new interests, and develop new friendships and hobbies.  This includes improving my Spanish language fluency, spending time in art museums, and going out with friends.  I no longer have to make so many choices about how I will spend my time.  I am free to explore to see what is out there that I would like.