Here Today. Snow Tomorrow.

Yesterday we had temps as high as 78F and it was warm & sunny.

Today, we have temps in the low 20Fs and it’s snowing.

Go figure.

 

Much to my surprise, I am actually enjoying the snow. Maybe because I’m still warmed up from spending so much time in Florida. My body hasn’t really gotten cold. Yet! But I still have my Ugg boots. I still have my electric blanket. Down jacket. I still have my electric fireplace that oftentimes looks like a real fireplace AND keeps the home warm and off the very expensive propane (electricity here is way cheaper than propane up here) Propane was $1.29 when we left in September and when we came back propane rose to $2.69 in March. Ouch. We used to burn 1200 gallons of propane over the year, but have now gotten it down to just barely 600 gallons. It would have been 500 this winter but someone just had to comeback in January which upset my entire financial frugality plan.

Just sayin’.

Live well, my friend and prosper. Live well and prosper.

fire place

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A Summer Hike In Dead Of Winter

The temps in upstate New York, today, February 21, 2018 broke all records and clocked in at 74F degrees! Normally temps are in the sub-teens or mid-twenties….as they will be, tomorrow (and yes! it’s going to snow tomorrow!)

As for today, however, it was warm and blue. Much of the snow had melted. Much of the land is still brown and barren. Nonetheless, Nick and I went out for our first hike of the season to one of our most favorite trails along the Hudson River. Look close. Those little spots of white you see floating down the river are really miniature icebergs.

It was glorious.

Enjoy:

Home. To Tara.

Nick and I overstayed our welcome, so to speak, in Florida. It was time to go home. To our Tara. With its clean mountain air, beautiful mountain views, babbling stream, peace and quiet. It was a wonder we managed to stay away for as long as we did. I blame myself. I got caught up in the whirlwind of everything. Literally.

last of the snow
We managed to see the last of the snow!

There’s a reason why Nick and I chose this place to live, over seventeen years ago. We were done with the rat race, fast paced, disingenuous, lying, loudmouth world. Here, on Tara, in the middle of all our acres, surrounded by neighbors who have more acreage that they know what to do with, we have solace. No calendar appointments. No places to rush to, get to, adhere to………….our mountain retreat really is somewhere Nick and I have found our true happiness. How could I have missed this truth? The way we left it is the way we find it. No changes. No re-structure.

God’s perfect 3.5 acres.

 

Everything in our lives has a purpose. We just have to figure out what that purpose is. As wonderful as our mountain home is, survival there during the hard, brutal months of winter is a challenge. Most of our lives have been spent trying to find a warm refuge over the winter. Trust me, we’ve tried everything: staycations, vacations, hotels, motels, condos/smondoes, time shares, room sharing, RV’s, cabins, family couches, family homes……….I’ve even contemplated sleeping on the beach. Of all the things we have tried over the many, many decades of keeping warm over the winter solace, nothing has even come close to owning your own little piece of real estate. You get to cook in your own kitchen, eat your own good food, sleep in your own bed, shower and yes, poop! in your own bathroom. As Nick and I got older, we realized some things we considered a luxury was now a necessity. We needed our own place. We needed our own space.

During the brutal winter months (January, February and sometimes March) the only place in the 48 continuous states in the US, that stays warm is Florida. California is a close second. Hawaii would be Number 1, but we couldn’t drive there from here.

in the car:nose plugOne great thing about a road trip, is that it gives you ample time to sit and think. I used my time home this week to seriously give my retirement life a good thought and go over each and every single thing that not only I, but both if us are doing. Nick has a very serious heart condition that if not monitored, can be deadly. As you can see from this picture, that I still can’t believe I posted, I had to travel most of the way back home with my left nostril packed (otherwise it would start bleeding again). I look old, tired, overweight, in pain….in other words, I look like a complete mess. And that’s exactly how I felt. WTF am I doing?

As soon as we got back home, I had the plug removed. There has been no more bleeding. The color has returned to my face and I have stopped eating to reduce whatever pain it was that I was feeling. I made my usual round of nasty phone calls: I’m suing! I’m selling! I blame you! I hate you! And then, just like that, I found my Buddhist moment: asked myself what was the worst, what was the best, what am I screaming about, what makes me happy, what makes me sad, it’s not their fault. It’s mine.

The original decisions Nick and I made were perfect. It was ME who changed the rules. It was ME who demanded more, competed more, asked for more and in the end, it was ME who suffered the most.

Everything is fine. We humans often make the mistake by taking on or doing more, thinking that a solution, when it is doing less that is the magical solution for true peace and happiness. We think if we work more, buy more, get more we will solve more. But it is the step back, that we take, the action of doing less, that is the real and final answer to life’s questions and challenges. My calendar has been cleared. My social media has been erased of all notifications, pop ups or event notices. I am back with Mother Nature. I am back communing with the deer, the chipmunks, the squirrels, the racoons, the occasional coyote and bear and all the lovely little birds that have always come to my back screen door, just to say hello.

Goodness. How I have missed them all.

Oh, and lest I forget to tell you, both my daughters will be announcing soon that I will be expecting two more grandchildren on the way! This time around, I am going to be the best, best grandmother I can be AND the best, best mother to my two daughters that I can be.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

 

 

The Beach Boys: The Key To Unfading Youth

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we had center stage seats!

If you get the opportunity to hear (see) The Beach Boys in concert, it’s going to be the most near-spiritual event of your lifetime (IMHO). If you’re a Baby Boomer like me, you probably grew up on The Beach Boys music as you drove your daddy’s car, with the radio blasting while having fun, fun, fun cruising through the hamburger stand now. Like, who didn’t do those things back in high school?

 

When tickets for The Beach Boys concert go on sale around here, they usually sell out in no time. That is why I was so stoked when I scored 4 tix to see The Beach Boys in concert last night! The social club here on the property bought 50 tickets and I was almost the first person on line to buy! (the tickets came with a complimentary 30 minute bus ride to the venue, but hey, WTF? All that meant to me was the partying started in the bus!)

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Don’t worry about feeling old, or hanging on to a bygone era. You won’t feel any of those pangs. You’re gonna feel good! The Beach Boys music is timeless, ageless and guaranteed to get you dancing in the aisles in like nano-seconds. You can NOT be depressed, unhappy, in a bad mood or sulking when Mike Love belts out “Good Vibrations” (which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary!) Brian Wilson, who co-foundered The Beach Boys ended his career in 1998 but licensed ‘The Beach Boys’ and all its music to Mike Love, currently age 76, who is an original Beach Boy and Brian’s cousin. Mike Love is joined by another original Beach Boy, Grammy-award winning Bruce Johnston (joined The Beach Boys in 1965) and 8 more musicians who replicate The Beach Boys sound effortlessly.

john stamos 2015As a special treat, the band was joined by John Stamos, who has been playing with The Beach Boys, on tour, since 1983. Who knew? Ladies, I’m advising you….if you get the opportunity to see (hear) The Beach Boys in concert…..R.U.N.! Stamos, of Full House fame is a multi-talented actor AND musician/singer/songwriter. Stamos played guitar, drums, bongos and crooned out a few good Beach Boys tunes. And he is just so darn good looking!! Recently married, Mike Love officiated the ceremony (gosh, these guys are tight friends!) and is expecting his first child (yes! his pregnant wife, Caitlin was there ladies……calm down!) Stamos’ wife danced with Mike Love during one of the romantic Beach Boys tune.

stamos & beach boys
WHO KNEW JOHN STAMOS WAS A BEACH BOY????

The Beach Boys mean more than having fun in the sun.  The Beach Boys mean that the beach isn’t just a place where the surf comes to play. It’s where life is renewed and made whole again. My fave Beach Boy song is Kokomo, so much so that I named my condo after it: Kondo Kokomo. And that is precisely what I have found here.

I got here fast but I’m taking it slow.

Enjoy (and if you look very closely, you will see a very, very young John Stamos on bongos!) In addition, of course, to Tom Cruise………..

 

Back In The U.S. Back In The U.S. Back In The U.S. ER

For the fourth time in six weeks, I was rushed to the ER. Yet once again. Apparently the nose cauterization I had three weeks ago was obviously failing. About a week after the procedure, my nose started bleeding again. At first, just a few drops. And then prolonged frightening nose bleeds. Many of them come, at night, while I am sleeping. So, any physical cause has been ruled out. After all, I’m sleeping! What the heck can I be doing in my sleep to overexert myself causing my nose to bleed?

bloody noseAs instructed by Urgent Care (who preformed the cauterization) if my nose started to bleed again, I was to go directly to the local hospital ER center. Which I did. Thankfully, the doctors saw me right away. There was a concern that perhaps my blood, for whatever reason wasn’t clotting correctly. My nosebleeds were lasting more than 30 minutes. There was worry. The nurse drew my blood. Several tests were run. One of them, the clotting factor, came back off the charts. The doctor ordered it to be run again. So, for the second time, the nurse drew my blood. All the while I sat with nose clips on my nose, while blood still dripped out my left nostril below. UGH. What a horrible, horrible experience. I felt old. Very old, in fact. I felt tired, run down and yes….I felt like giving up. All these possible diseases were running through my brain (leukemia, cancer, anemia etc…..) and I was getting very, very depressed. I was at the start of my full-blown retirement and I was having nothing but bad news health problems.

I want to get on with my life! These health problems were getting in my way!

All the tests came back negative and marginal. As usual there is NOTHING wrong with me. I’m just going to have to contend with these nose bleeds. The doctor said that the pressure in my head, causing my nose to explode and bleed could be due to allergies and/or some sort of irritant affecting my nose. We discussed my fucking smoking neighbors (excuse my language, but I am starting to hate those people who live below me). It’s a possibility but one that the Smoke Eaters (air quality apparatus) might take care of. But this is allergy spring season right now in Florida, so it’s probably that. Doc told me to keep my a/c on and get back to sleeping with a humidifier running. Which I have and last night I slept very well, no nosebleeds, no headaches, no feelings like my brain was going to explode. There was also a concern that my blood pressure was too elevated so my cardiologist prescribed another med to keep my numbers in check.

Anyway, I’ll be heading back home soon to the great mountain air.

In the interim, that nose clip has become my new best friend. Once it’s on, I can walk, talk, have a cup of coffee and putter around while my nose bleeds. As I said, this is my retirement and no one or any thing is going to interfere with it! At my age, I just don’t give a rats ass anymore how I look or what is happening. I just want all these little “interferences” to go away!

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper!

Family Retirement Goals Conference

Every once in a while it’s good to sit down with your partner in retirement and discuss where you are, where you’ve been and where the two of you want to go. In other words, have a conference regarding your dual goals.

This past month, Nick and I were thrown into a tizzie when we realized we had a smoking neighbor problem (click here). We thought we could somehow solve the problem and when we realized the difficulty of it all, we decided to move. So DH and I went on this  wild goose chase, trying to find a single family home to replace our condo, when the two of us had something like a nervous breakdown.

WTF? What The F**k were we doing? Somehow along our pre-thought out retirement plan, we went off course. (mostly ME…..I blame myself for our recent discourse) We had NO intention of buying and living in a single family home here in Florida (or anywhere else for that matter)! And the proof of that was in our written Mission Statement, proudly displayed on this blog’s ‘About’ page (click here).

We summer in upstate New York on our 3.5 acre estate. We winter in our gorgeous 2 bdrm, 2bath condo in Sarasota, Florida. And in between all of that, we are traveling to as many National and State Parks in America that we possibly can in our 17ft(RB) Jayco Hummingbird travel trailer.

Duh? Where oh where did I write the word ‘retirement’ when I wrote that particular statement? Nick and I have NOT decided where our final retirement location is going to be (goal: one house, one car, one life!) So why the heck were we looking for a single family residence here in Florida? Florida, for us, was only good to stay warm in the winter. Technically, we really can’t live here all year long. The summers, as we found out, are just too brutal. You wind up staying indoors over the summer which is contradictory to our love of outdoor living. Which is the exact opposite of our living conditions in upstate New York in the winter. We wind up trapped inside our home during the winter months there. So the New York/Florida balance has worked for us for over 36 years.

Yes, every once in a while I let the full-time-retirement-Florida-living thought pass through my brain BUT once you investigate that type of living arrangement, the thought quickly evaporates. The reality of Florida is that over 1,000 (that’s one thousand!) people move into Florida EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. Do you have any idea what this has done to the economy here in Florida? It has made housing costs jump through the roof, the cost of living skyrocket AND it has made Florida a very crowded, congested place. Throw in Spring Break and you’re in stand-still land.

Somebody has to pay for all the new roads, highways, traffic and new schools (elementary, high school, college and career vocational schools) being built. Since Florida has NO income tax or retirement benefit taxation, the state has chosen to heavily tax homeowners! Good luck with that!

single family home
This basic, single family Florida new home (3 bdrms, 2 baths) starts at $283K. Basic land is $5K more. Want a fake man-made pond view? That’s $20K more. Want some custom features? You’re gonna pay for those! Closing costs for a cash purchase is $10K. Higher with a mortgage. Each house is built only 12 feet apart from your next-door neighbor. HOA fees here are $2340 annually (no CDD or social/golf memberships)  Oh, and your property taxes are $4500 a year! Do NOT believe the sales person that your taxes will only be 1.6% of assessed value. After a year or so, you’re taxes are on the rise between 5% and 8%!

I think the Florida boat for most anyone has passed. What used to be a very good retirement deal years ago, has now become a very expensive lesson in retirement planning. When we bought our condo in 2016, we bought at pre-construction prices. We paid $163K cash for our condo when barely the building structure was erected. We knew what we were getting into, on paper AND because we trusted the builder felt confident in our buying vs renting. Today, just barely two years after we bought our now-finished condo, the purchase price has risen to $225K. In just two short years, Nick and I have made a $62,000 profit (plus we got to live and enjoy the resort-like community) If we had to buy our condo today, we could barely afford it.

Here is our condo living room & lanai water view of a natural river water way. We did NOT pay extra for this view upon purchasing BUT we can now charge extra upon selling our unit.

If Nick and I get back to our core goals, that’s what property ownership had been for the two of us these past 36 years together. We have bought and sold properties AND that is how we have made (and lost) our money AND retired young! Where or where, or better yet, why oh why did we lose our way? Personally, I thought that cigarette smoke changed our brain waves. LOL! (simple solution: we installed a $900 smoke eater!)

Our condo is a resort-style, vacation home! It is NOT our final destination. It’s a place to come out of the brutal northeast winters and with a plethora of activities and ammenities, it is the perfect place to unwind, have fun and simply enjoy oneself! (10 har-tru tennis courts, 26 holes of golf, 9 heated pools, 2 hot tubs, pickle ball, spa-like restaurant, Tiki bar, planned activities, concerts, dancing, yoga, palates, yada, yada, yada….the choices are endless) If we were to rent a similar condo for the three brutal months of winter (January, February and March) our costs would have been $9,000 ($3000 per month) a $500 non-refundable pet fee, a $200 non-refundable property management fee and at least a $300 to $500 cleaning fee. Throw on top of all of that an $18% Florida rental tax and we were looking at a annual cost of $12,036. For only $8998 annual (property taxes, HOA fee and Social Club membership fee), we can vacation all year long (if need be) here in Florida PLUS earn approximately $30,000 in increased equity!

Side Note: we tried the RV living in Florida and realistically, we couldn’t live in an RV for weeks or even months at a time. Eventually you want a real kitchen, a real bed and space to walk around!

If Nick and I didn’t want to winter in Florida, for whatever reason, we could rent it out at the prices listed above. There is no shortage of renters nor buyers here. At 1,000 people relocating to Florida per day, recent sales here have been completed, from beginning (listing) to end (closing), within three to four weeks. Our Florida condo purchase is an ‘investment’. Once we re-aligned our thinking, everything fell into place.

After DH and I had our Family Retirement Goals Conference (to be honest, our meeting was more like a four hour screaming match while driving recklessly on Interstate I-75 when the reality of living full time in Florida was the realization we would be living a cookie-cutter life, on a cookie-cutter street, in a cookie-cutter home! So NOT for us! Technically, Nick and I had a nervous breakdown. More so him than me! LOL! We came to the conclusion that our original plan was still the best and was working out fine and dandy for the two of us. Everything was great. Everything was affordable.

We still are on the quest to find our perfect final retirement location(s). That’s why we have the RV. We have fallen in love with the mountains in the state of Tennessee and are scheduled to further check out other areas in TN, such as Nashville. We also like North Carolina for the beautiful beaches on its Outer Banks. Nick and I have always owned two homes because we could never settle on one place to live. We like the mountains. And we like the beach. And we hate and despise California which could give us both equally.

I still have visions of myself living out west on hundreds and hundreds of acres, in a homestead spread out to include a barn filled with horses, goats and sheep. Dogs. A few dogs. All property care and management is handled by a working family who live with us also, on the homestead, for free, in exchange for working the property, maintaining the home and cooking Nick and I three squares a day!

Hey! I can dream, can’t I?

wyoming-1678952_1280
Doesn’t this look nice? I Still have time to make THIS happen!

A Job Will Never Define Me

Most people in retirement express a tremendous sense of loss when they no longer have a job to report to. I find such thinking (or feeling) to be so contradictive to my own sense of retirement. Jobs never defined me. I defined myself. I never found any value in working for a living. Quite the contrary. I found jobs or working for the ‘man’ to be a hindrance to my own true sense of self.

Think about this for a minute: when you were a child, you were you. When the time came and you had to work for a living, ‘you’ became someone else. ‘You’ no longer could think for yourself because there was someone now telling ‘you’ what to do. ‘You’ could no longer express your true feelings for fear of losing your job or money flow. ‘You’ had to become like the ‘others’ in your work circle. ‘You’ had to dress differently, think differently, act differently, otherwise you’d find yourself eventually homeless, living somewhere on some unknown street, picking through garbage cans. Well, at least ‘you’ thought that’s what would happen to ‘you’ if ‘you’ didn’t comply to the powers that be in the working world.

People who work for a living, do so for decades and decades and decades. By the time they retire, they have totally forgotten who they really are/were/might have been. That’s because, in retirement, you’re back to your original ‘you’ and most people don’t know who that person is anymore.

I got my first job right after high school. I worked as a summertime bond clerk for Merrill Lynch on Wall Street, New York City. Sounds exciting for a seventeen year old, right? Wrong. There’s a dress code on Wall Street and I had to wear dresses AND stockings five days a week. Know what it is like to travel on a hot subway in the summer in New York City in stockings while dressed to the nines? Painful. Excruciatingly painful. Summers, to me, was a time to enjoy the beach and swim in the ocean. Summers were dressed in cut-offs and flip flops. NOT a time to hang onto a subway stap for two hours a day, and sweat!

Once on the office platform floor, I was told what to do, how to do it, what to think, what to say, how to act, how to behave and whatever else was necessary to please some corporate boss (who, in my opinion, was just another useless human being). My first, real, notable work revelation came one morning, when both a fellow co-worker and I walked in together at 9:05 AM. We were five minutes late for work. The ‘boss’ fired my fellow co-worker right there on the spot and sent him home. I was given a warning. The only reason why I was spared was because I had lied to my boss and told him I wasn’t going to college in September. I did this because the corporate company paid workers, who they thought would be staying on, more in hourly compensation than those simply employed for the summer. From the age of 17, I knew I was not going to be a dummy. I was in the workforce for me. NOT for them. Once September rolled around, I simply quit and happily banked all that extra summertime earning cash.

How, I asked myself, after tearfully saying goodbye to my now fired fellow co-worker, is a person supposed to manage their financial lives when they are working ‘for the man’ at his or her whim? I quickly realized that there was absolutely no security in working, so I had better devise a better way of living the remainder of my life, on my own and not at the pleasure of someone else. Besides, I absolutely hated work because each second I was ‘on the job’ was a second that kept me apart from being my true, authentic self.

I’ve never been an earner, despite having two college degrees. Back when I was working as a financial budget administrator (in the early 1990’s) I was only earning $28,000 a year. I wanted to make $30,000 and asked for a raise. When I was denied, I just quit (I worked for ‘them’ for 7 years!) The company had to replace me with a real CPA and wound up paying my replacement $60,000 a year. Their stupid loss. My gain. I became more enthusiastic about dropping out of the rat race/phony work force more than ever. My ticket out of working for a living was fine tuning my frugal skills. By learning to live well, but on less (much less!) I quit my day job for good (at 50) and have never looked back.

When people ask me what I do in retirement, I tell them I do ‘me’. I’m my true, original, authentic self (the 16 year old girl is back!) who lives her life on her own terms, with her own interests, likes and dislikes, who isn’t afraid to express her opinions or feelings for fear of retribution. Because I live my life debt free, I don’t have to put up with ‘the man’ to pay a mortgage, car loan, credit card bills, expensive vacations or 85 inch flat screen TVs. I don’t have to find things to amuse myself in retirement or occupy my time or keep me busy. I’m perfectly content to sit out on my backyards and stare at these ALL.DAY.LONG:

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This is my wintertime view from my lanai, from my condo on the 2nd floor
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this is my summerview from my deck, from my house on 3.5 acres

I never needed a job to tell me who I am, what I think, what to do, how to act, be with ‘friends’ (we all know co-workers come and go), have a social life, give my life meaning and purpose. To me, a job was simply a means to make money. Once I got it (money, that is) I made sure I used it wisely.

My main purpose to having a job was to make sure I never had a job ever again.

My purpose in life has always been to be ME. I live the way I want. I do the things that make ME happy. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. My time is my own. No one else owns it, wastes it or abuses it in any way. Time is the priceless commodity only I get to use. If you are in retirement and find yourself longing for your working days, my advice to ‘you’ is to stop such longing right here and now. Connect back to your childhood. Remember who ‘you’ used to be and then proceed from there. You will find a more happier, satisfied ‘you’ once you get there.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

 

 

Retirement Life’s A Beach

Nick and I are trying to get some more beach time in every week. Today we visited Manatee Beach on the Gulf Of Mexico along Florida’s Sun Coast area. The temps have been in the low 80’sF during the day (perfect beach weather). Mid 60’sF at night (perfect sleeping weather). The gulf, however, was a bit too cold for swimming.

I don’t bring my expensive Canon camera with me to the beach unless I will be shooting most of the day. Sand can do a lot of damage to the camera as well as the lenses. Instead, I rely on my iPhone 7s Plus, which is easy to carry, easy to store and easy to capture whatever the day unveils. We met a man on the beach who just caught (and later released) a hammerhead shark. Awesome.

We got to the beach early (9:30AM) where it was cool enough to sit and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee. Later on we had our packed lunches. The beaches in Florida are mostly free, as well as the parking. All in all, it was a very great day. Hope to have many, many more.

Enjoy:

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