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Archive for August, 2008

Allergic to Exercise

August 29th, 2008 at 02:53 pm

I hate exercise! Always have, although when I was younger I loved to ice skate and bike ride. These seemed more like fun and not so much like a chore… I guess what bothers me about machines is the monotony, but I know that I have to do something to improve my health. Reducing stress is only the beginning. I need to lose at least 20 pounds to get my BMI back under 25. And, DH is seriously talking about a trip to Machu Picchu in the next year or two, so unless I build up stamina, he’ll be hiking the Inca trail alone. Although I enjoy walks around our complex, this doesn’t provide the strength training and aerobic exercise that will help me develop my lung capacity and a stronger heart.

DH goes to the gym about 5 days a week for an hour and he loves it. I, on the other hand, hate anything that makes me feel sweaty. I’ve belonged to Curves twice before but for me it was a waste of money. It always seemed that I was too tired, too busy, or the place was closed when I finally mustered up the energy or had the time to go. And, I am simply not disciplined enough to exercise at home in front of the TV, although I have plenty of exercise tapes. The only one who uses the Ab Lounger that DH bought me last year is TC… it’s her new favorite place to take her catnaps.

DH’s gym is having a special… $49 to join and $10 a month for a year. Maybe I will give it a try. Now that I’m retired I will have more time, so I can’t use that as an excuse any more. The gym is about 5 minutes from the house so it’s definitely convenient… and it opens early and closes late, so there goes another excuse. My goal: to go at least 3 times a week and stay for 30 minutes (and exercise the whole time, of course). Doable, definitely affordable, and the facility is very clean and well-equipped. Does anyone @SA have tips for making going to the gym bearable/fun/exciting/successful?

DH is always trying to get me motivated.


What I Learned from a Bottle of Marilyn Merlot

August 28th, 2008 at 06:41 pm

In 1992, a friend gave me a bottle of Marilyn Merlot, vintage 1988. I decided this wine would be worthy of consuming only for a very special occasion, like celebrating my retirement. Through the years, and through two moves, I stored it carefully, always monitoring the temperature. Then, one day in May of 2007, I drank it and for no special reason. Why?

A close friend had died the month before, suddenly and unexpectedly at age 55 while on vacation. He and I had talked frequently about retirement and all things we would do and the fun we would have when the day finally arrived. For my DF, that day never came, and his death made me take stock of my life and acknowledge how uncertain our future can be no matter how well we plan.

So, I finally opened that bottle of 1988 Marilyn Merlot and toasted my DF. The wine was exquisite... it exceeded my expectations. Over the course of a week, I finished the bottle. (DH was in Central America or I would have shared it with him.) Later, wanting more of this great vintage, I decided to buy another bottle to share with DH. To my utter amazement, when I got on the Marilyn Merlot website, I saw that a bottle of 1988 Marilyn Merlot sells for $2,000! I was astounded and my first thought was... I would never have opened it if I had known it was that expensive. (Gee, I could have sold it on eBay!!)

Then, I reflected about how easy it is to put off living in the moment and enjoying the simple things in our lives, waiting for some vague "special time" that may never materialize. Now, if someone gives me a nice bottle of wine "for a special occasion," I enjoy it sooner than later... just because. No more waiting... Carpe diem! Make your own special moments every day. BTW, I never did buy another bottle of the 1988 vintage, but when I retired, a friend gave me a bottle of 2004 Marilyn Merlot... and it's gone.

Where Do You Hide Your Money?

August 27th, 2008 at 04:12 pm

My favorite local radio station asks listeners a “call-in” question every morning. Today it was: “Where do you hide your money?” One caller said he had hidden $1,000 in a DVD to surprise his wife for a Disney trip… but she sold the DVD at their garage sale before he could surprise her! Another fellow called and identified himself as a “senior citizen.” He said he hides money in different places and for a variety of reasons… only problem is he can’t REMEMBER where. What was the most he’d ever hidden? He said it was $2,000 he’d stashed in a shoe for a home remodeling project.

The DJ nicely said, “Hey, it doesn’t just happen to senior citizens!” Well, at 58, I do not think I’ll call myself a senior citizen for at least 15-20 years (unless I can get an “over 55” discount somewhere for it), but I can sure identify with stashing money so safely I never find it again. The other day I found $60 in an old wallet I took out to put in the Goodwill box. I got the same rush as I did last summer when I won $7 on the penny slots in Vegas. Yeah!

Actually, I mostly use the bank for keeping my money, so when I “find” money, it is more about having forgotten it was there to begin with. One thing I have done for the last 20 + years: I keep a $100 bill folded behind my driver’s license in my wallet. This is my DIRE and IMMEDIATE emergency money. I’ve had to break it out only three or four times over the years… and it gets replaced if I use it.

Each time I’ve had to use it, I’ve been somewhere that takes only cash but I didn’t pay attention until it was too late. Out of the blue, my pedicure place stopped taking CCs and had just placed a tiny sign by the cash register. Another time, DH and I had taken my DSS to a Basque restaurant for his birthday and while we sat enjoying our meal, I spotted a sign on the door that said “Cash Only.” The restaurant was out in the boon-docks, with no ATM or bank open. The look of horror on DH’s face told me he only had his usual $40-80 on him. It was great to say, “Don’t worry, I have some cash.”

Well, I will add the $60 I found to my $20 Challenge:

Balance Forward = $155.43

8/25
NSD = $3
NDD = $4

Forgotten but Found $$ = $60

New Balance = $222.43

My goal by December 31, 2008: $2,500

Day 6 of Retirement

August 27th, 2008 at 06:52 am

A friend from work called me tonight to see how I was doing. “How are you enjoying your retirement?” she asked. “Well, so far, I’ve been very busy,” I said. She wanted me to know that school opened as planned and all went fairly well, almost as well “as if you’d been here!” Well, surprise! The world didn’t end because I left. One thing I know and have known for quite a while: we are all replaceable and life goes on, as it should. But my life goes on, too, and it is evolving, and growing, and getting better.

My friend said, “We all miss you so much!! It’s just not the same!” “Oh, I miss you guys, too!” I say to be polite. The truth: I didn’t miss being there AT ALL, although this does not mean I don’t care about the people I worked with. I do care, but there is so much I do not miss and will not miss. Yet, I cannot say this without hurting feelings, so I am careful with my words.

I will not tell her that on Monday, the opening day of school, I woke up at 7:15 a.m., a time I normally would have been at school. I made a delicious pot of coffee and leisurely enjoyed it on the patio while I read. The morning air was clean and crisp, the birds at the feeder were flittering and chirping, and I reveled in the moment…. not having to be anywhere or do anything until I decide differently.

Not Just for Kids

August 25th, 2008 at 03:36 am

Last week DH and I were watching TV and an ad came on for the circus that was going to be in town for four days. DH asked me if I’d ever been to one. I commented that yes, I had taken my DDs to the circus several times when they were younger. Since I was certain I detected yearning in his voice when DH said he’d never been, I immediately went online and bought tickets for the Sunday matinee.

So, this afternoon, we went to The Greatest Show on Earth. We were surrounded by thousands of children, parents, and grandparents, all of them having great fun. The one thing I realize though, is how very expensive it is for parents to do this type if activity with their kids. We paid $35 each for our tickets, $10 for parking, and $3.50 for popcorn. (It would have been more but I took water from home because it kills me to pay $3.75 for a small bottle of water).

For parents, like the ones with three kids in front of us, it was much pricier: in addition to tickets and parking, I saw them shell out $12 for cotton candy, $15 for snow cones in an elephant cup, $22 for light wands, $15 for a program. Ouch! Glad I didn’t have to buy any of this stuff for my kid (DH).

The program was spectacular, especially the trapeze artists and the acrobats. The only thing that bothered me in a way I can’t really explain was to see the elephants, tigers, and horses performing. It seems unnatural, but the animals looked beautifully cared for and definitely not in any kind of distress. I guess this is just what a circus is about. The best part is that my 62 year old DH finally got to go to the circus and we had a blast.

First Day of Retirement

August 20th, 2008 at 03:14 pm

Yesterday was my first official day of retirement and it feels a little weird to not have a million problems to solve, meetings to attend, and tasks to complete… but it was a great day. In the morning, I spent two hours at a local spa, getting pampered. One great massage and deluxe pedicure later, I met DH for a romantic lunch at an Italian restaurant that we love. The best part is that I used gift cards that were given to me as retirement gifts, so I did not spend any money.

Today, I am looking forward to having lunch with a friend whom I’ve not been able to see for a while. She’s been asking to take me to lunch or dinner in honor of my retirement. Well, now that my “retirement” is finally here, I think the best part is that I have choices. I’ve heard said that change is hard, especially if like me, one is retiring from a position of great responsibility (I was the administrator at a large urban school with over 800 students and 75 employees).

For me the key will be to continue to be productive and to have a purpose greater than just “playing” all day long, although I do have to get better at playing, too. For so many years, my job took prominence in my life until I realized I did not have balance and my health was affected. All work, no play. So, in retirement I will strive to enjoy a life with more balance, a life that is simple but at the same time, rewarding. Next week I will begin to research volunteer opportunities.

To help me “transition” to retirement, and to give me the opportunity to continue working in my field, I have accepted a part-time job working at the local university (same one where DH works). My job will require working about 1 day a week, and on certain weeks, it will be about 1 ½ days if I have a meeting or training to attend. My PT job begins Thursday, but I am looking forward to it. I began my career in education as a teacher, and now I am back to being a teacher… a role that gives me great satisfaction.

Planning for DH's Retirement

August 12th, 2008 at 09:09 pm

Today DH and I went to a class offered by the public employee's retirement system he belongs to. It was very informative. One good thing we learned was that he can increase his pension by buying service time for the two years he served in the military during the Vietnam War. We are looking into how much it would cost and then we'll determine if it is financially sound to buy this extra service credit. We also found out that his employer will pay for our health benefits after he retires. This is a great benefit considering the high cost of health care today. DH is thinking about retiring at the end of the academic year in 2009 or 2010.

How Safe is Your Money?

August 10th, 2008 at 05:00 am

Have you ever taken one of the Kiplinger quizzes? These are interesting and very short (less than 5 minutes to take one). There are about 20 different quizzes on a variety of topics, most of them financial. Today I took two: “How Safe is Your Money?” and “How Far Can You Stretch Your Travel Dollar?” I did pretty well, although I didn't get perfect scores. It goes to show that for me, there is always something new to learn. Here’s the link in case anyone’s interested:

http://www.kiplinger.com/quiz/archives.html

Healthy and Inexpensive Dinners

August 7th, 2008 at 05:12 pm

After a trip to the local Farmer’s Market yesterday, I used the following fresh ingredients to make a stir-fry for dinner: crushed garlic, chopped zucchini (three kinds), thinly sliced red peppers and California peppers, sliced mushrooms, and a small amount of cabbage. For protein, I added a skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces, and flavored the stir-fry with a salt-free spice mix and a pinch of red pepper flakes. I like to use EV olive oil when I stir-fry, and I served it with instant brown rice.

It was yummy and very pretty, too! The cost was approx. $1.29 per serving (6 servings), including the rice. Oh, and we had leftovers.

**************
Tonight, we will have fresh corn, green salad, and grilled wild salmon. DH loves salmon, but I only buy it if it’s wild because I do not eat farmed salmon. The salmon was $12.18 and will be enough for two dinners (4 servings), so tonight’s dinner will cost under $4 per serving (everything included). Still, not too expensive, and very healthy.

Great Laptop Deal and Free iPod Touch

August 6th, 2008 at 11:15 pm

Since I am retiring later this month, yesterday I bought a new laptop for my personal use. The laptop I’ve been using for the last two years is very nice but it belongs to my employer and I will be returning it. My employer gives all administrators a new laptop about every three years and mine has gotten very heavy use. I knew the replacement laptop would have to be a Mac because it has been my preferred platform since 1986. The downside is that Macs tend to be pricier than many PCs, but my computer is one of my most important tools I use and I wanted one I know how to use well.

My new laptop is the same model as my old one… a MacBook Pro. It has an Intel Core 2 Duo Processor (it’s fast!!), and more memory than the old one (2 GB RAM and a HD w/ 200 GB). I can really tell the difference in how quickly it processes. The best deal I found was at the bookstore of DH’s university. They gave us an educator’s discount ($250 off the price), a free iPod Touch ($299), a free printer ($185), and 3 years of Apple Care for $183 (regular $349). I also bought the right to use MS Office for $25, so I am all set.

I had budgeted $2500 for the new laptop and came in well under... and I also now have a free printer and iPod. The iPod is going to be given to my DSS and the printer will be donated to my previous school as we do not need another one.

On another note, I am accepting a part-time job working for the university one day a week, just enough to keep me out of trouble. My job will be to supervise student teachers and I am delighted that I’ll stay connected to my field (education). The position is temporary, for the fall semester and possibly the spring. As long as DH continues to teach, it means we will have the same calendar so we will be able to coordinate all our days off.

Catch Up Day

August 4th, 2008 at 12:14 am

Because of family commitments and out-of-town visitors since last Thursday, I had not paid my August bills until this morning. I love the ease of using my computer while enjoying a good cup of coffee. I did the following online in less than 30 minutes:

~ scheduled utility bill payment ($83.42) on CC1, next cycle
~ scheduled phone bill payment (Internet, cell, and land-line, $183.45) on CC1, next cycle
~ paid CC1 ($2459.11) due 8/10
~ paid CC2 ($2286.57) due 8/12
~ paid auto license renewal for my car ($258) due 8/20
~ purchased two air fare tickets for March ’09 San Antonio trip ($20, using partner miles)
~ transferred $500 to Household Reserve account
~ transferred $100 to Rental Reserve account
~ transferred $500 to ID Household Reserve account
~ transferred $50 to ING
~ transferred $1,100 to regular savings

Both CC1 and CC2 are always paid in full each month, but were higher than usual.
CC1 had a large auto insurance payment on it, and also the last of the vet bills for MC, who passed away in late June and was cremated. I also had purchased gifts for several events (a graduation, 2 birthdays).

Extra expenses on CC2 included gas for a 1400 miles road trip to ID, and NYC vacation expenses. This is also the CC I use for groceries.

The reserve accounts collect funds to be used for period expenses as they come up (e.g., taxes, insurance, etc.).

The mortgage payment, water bill, Direct TV, and HOA fees are on auto payment, so I don’t have to schedule payments for them.

It is great to be able to do most of my household business online. The only check I write on a regular monthly basis is the one for the house cleaner who comes twice a month. At $150, it is my favorite splurge and worth it because I am very allergic to dust.

This afternoon, we went to see The Mummy... it was just OK; I liked the first two better. Well, now I guess I'll go catch up on the laundry.

Back from Sedona, AZ

August 2nd, 2008 at 04:55 am

We have returned from a great week in Arizona, via two nights in Las Vegas. Our home base was Sedona, where we stayed in a beautiful, one-bedroom suite with an amazing view, a fully stocked kitchen, and a large bathroom with a huge tiled shower and a Jacuzzi tub. My DS and BIL traveled with us, and they slept on the sofa sleeper in the living room. We shared expenses for gas and food. The four of us agreed to sit through a 90-minute timeshare presentation in exchange for $200 worth of gift certificates that we used at local restaurants. The timeshare presentation was low-key and of course, we declined to purchase.

DH and I already own two timeshares that we’ve had for years. Some people feel that timeshares are not a good investment, but for us, they work because I have learned to leverage them to our best advantage. However, it does take time to plan in advance. We bought our timeshares at a very low price and the maintenance fees are reasonable. Our suite in Sedona would rent for $499 a night if we had not paid with points. I have calculated that we pay under $100 per night, including reservation fees and annual maintenance fees. Not bad for being able to stay in such luxurious accommodations.

Here is the view from our suite in Sedona.


We took a day trip to the Grand Canyon because my DS and BIL had never been there. Typical of those who see it for the first time, they were awe-struck by the beautiful expanse of the canyon. As you look out onto the canyon, it does seem as if the sky and the canyon are actually painted on a backdrop. It is so exquisite.



It normally costs $25 to get into the Grand Canyon, but since DH is 62, we were able to buy a $10 lifetime senior pass to all the national parks. What a great deal!