There are lots of things to think about.

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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.


Great Book: Where’d you go Bernadette?

Español: Hermosa vista de Bahia Paraíso en la ...

Where’d You Go Bernadette is a great read by Maria Semple.  Maria has written other books including one other fictional book: This One Is Mine.  She has also written for TV shows including Arrested Development, Ellen and Mad About You.  I saw part of the first episode of Arrested Development and I have decided that it will be the next sitcom that I catch up on, once I have run out of one of the 6 that I am watching now. Admittedly I am on my second run through of Boston Legal, but to be fair, it only ran for 5 seasons.  I am on season 5 of Mad Men and I am hoping that some of season 6 will be available before I have run out of season five.  If not: well here comes Arrested Development.  I thought Arrested Development was a very funny somewhat wacky satire, with a mix of unlikely, yet winning characters.  somewhat like the characters in Pride and Prejudice and Boston Legal, and Niles Crane in Frasier.  They are somewhat exaggerated, but not too far out, and in an odd way extremely likable.  That combination makes great satire.

And Where’d You Go Bernadette is very much like that.  Very funny, odd situations, but recognizable.

I am not sure that Bernadette is the main character, perhaps it is Bee, her brilliant and very giving, kind daughter.  Bernadette was an acclaimed architect, a professional who could not follow the traditional rules, and was able for a while to make her own.  She left the traditional architecture firms to do her work her own way, and created such unusual buildings that she won a McArthur grant.  However, her personality was so hypersensitive, that she had to retreat into unlikely places.

Her marriage was surprisingly traditional except for her choice of a living space.  The family consists of Bernadette, her husband, Elgin, who works at Microsoft, and Bee, their daughter who attends a local private school.

By the way the book provides some really fun insights about work at Microsoft.  True or not, they are amusing and enviable.

Bernadette finds life to be overwhelming.  She retreats from normal work by taking on projects such as her housing that is falling apart.  She retreats from interactions with Bee’s school by removing herself from their email list.  She retreats from normal interactions with the business world by hiring an “assistant” from India to manage daily transactions and bill paying.

When her husband and others who are concerned about her believe her to be mentally ill, Bernadette withdraws again, but this time to Antarctica.  The rest of the story is about Bee’s determination to find her mother.

Because Bee’s experience was that her mother was there.  In the hospital while she underwent many heart surgeries, at her meals at night, at her school, to pick her up, always there for Bee in spirit and in interest, even when Bee wanted some withdrawal of her own.

So when Bernadette finds the reality overwhelming, and really leaves, Bee is horrified, sad, lonely, and frantic to find her mother.  The story explores the varieties and tragedies of mother love and father love, from the child’s perspective as well as from the adult perspective. And it does this in Antarctica, with its brilliant light, piercing cold, and otherworldly ambience.  And does this while being extremely funny, very sad, and so real.  This combination doesn’t seem to be possible, but gosh, it is.

Read this book:  “Where’d you go Bernadette” **** (The four stars reflect the quality of the book.  I just finished Ruth Reichl’s book “Garlic and Sapphires” about her expereinces as a food critic for the New York Times.  that was another good read, but can wait for another post.

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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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What is your brand?

Last weekend, I was at a graduation ceremony for my niece who received her MBA.  This was a really good event, with a respectful admiration for all of their graduates.  I was interested in the comments of the commencement speaker, Mr. Harry Campbell.  Mr Campbell has worked for years as a brand manager for Proctor and Gamble among other executive positions.  He has recently published a book called Get-Real Leadership.

At the graduation, Mr. Campbell spoke about Self branding.  He raised the issue of what it means to be a brand, and asked us to identify our own brand.

What does a brand mean?  A brand is a product with a strong identification.  When a brand is seen we know what it is.  When we buy Kleenex, we know what we are getting.   A brand is reliable: Kleenex is Kleenex, it doesn’t change from one box to the next, although the packaging may change.  A good brand builds confidence.  A good brand stands behind its name.

So, the challenge that Harry Campbell gave to the graduates and to the audience was: “What is your brand?”  Can you describe your brand, your identity, what it is that makes you you day after day?  When people see you or know you, what are they getting?  Who are you?  in 7 words.

Yes, describe yourself in seven words.  What is your brand?

I found this challenge to be instantly interesting.  We move around through our lives, thinking we are reacting to the many things that happen to us, and responding to the people and animals and other things that we encounter, but how often do we take the time to decide who we are, and to simplify that identification so that we can describe ourselves with seven strong words?  How do we choose seven strong words that describe our brand?

This will take some thought, lots of ideas will come to mind, many will be discarded.  100 words to describe me would be easy.  But 7?  Which 7 are the best?  Mr. Campbell suggested that we think this through ourselves, then ask some of the people who know us well to identify our brand.  He did warn us that when we get the results from other people there will be one work that we will hate, and one word that we will want to deny.  “That’s not me!  That person doesn’t know what he/she is talking about!  Where did that idea even come from? OMG!!”  

So to the challenge.  Once a student was taking a make up exam and she took it in my home, in the dining room.  She looked around and stated that I was about information.  It immediately sounded right to me and since then I have always identified myself as a person who is about information.  So that is one part of my brand.  I am an introvert and that may be part of my brand as well.  I like variety and I include variety in my reading, and my music, and my activities.

I don’t think I have gone very far, I need to do a lot more work on this.  But it is a good challenge.  Let me know if any of you are working on something like this yourselves.