Monday, June 19, 2017

Sheila Said "Yes!"

Sheila and I were in Oregon a few weeks ago for one of her business audits. I have previously posted in this blog about some of our Great NW exploits (ticking off multiple hipsters in the process after besmirching the character of the Portland/Vancouver region … oh, well …) but never really finished the discussion. On June 3rd, the Saturday after Sheila finished her audit, we were exploring some of the absolutely beautiful areas east of Portland and while in Hood River, Oregon, I asked Sheila to marry me and she said yes!

We have been talking about getting married recently, since it was clear to both of us that our now nearly 1 year old relationship had blossomed into a true love for each other, but hadn’t actually made any real decisions. While strolling in Hood River we visited a jewelry shop (Hood River Jewelers, beautiful unique custom jewelry) and Sheila fell in love with a ring. It was my intention to buy that ring discretely, have it shipped here to Georgia, and then ask Sheila to marry me on July 3rd, 1 year to the day we met. But we also visited another jewelry shop and Sheila also loved a ring she saw in there!

Remember, it’s me were talking about here … 
My usual state of confusion look
I was now completely perplexed. Two rings? I figured I would talk to Laura when we got home, send her pics of the two rings and ask her which one I should get. (yes, yes … I understand the folly of taking that approach; never ask one woman to choose jewelry for another woman, even if they are your life love and your daughter) Fortunately, while we were walking after visiting store #2, Sheila said “You know, either of those two rings would be a nice engagement ring”.

Although not exactly the romantic scene I had pictured in my head, while standing in the middle of the sidewalk, in the middle of Hood River OR, holding hands and looking at each other, I formally asked Sheila to marry me and she said “Yes”! Passers-by must have looked at us and thought, “Look at those old people kissing in the middle of the street! What’s wrong with them?” But there were also many people who looked at us and smiled, as if they knew we had just changed our lives for the better.
We visited both jewelers again and Sheila decided on the Hood River Jewelers ring. To memorialize our day, we had a younger teen boy and his mother take our picture, letting them know why we asked for help with the pic and accepting their congratulations proudly.
The day Sheila lost her mind
  We have since decided to get married in Destin Florida this coming September. Destin has been a family vacation spot for Sheila for many years, renting a unit right on Miramar Beach with some of the cleanest, most beautiful sand and water I have ever seen. The sunrises/sunsets are extraordinary, and we’ve chosen to be married on the beach at sunset with a small ceremony and just family in attendance. It will be simple and easy, but at the same time very meaningful to both Sheila and I after an intense past two years as our lives were turned upside down.
 I am thrilled that this beautiful soul has agreed to marry me and we both are totally grateful for the blessings we have received in meeting each other. And, now that I have a chance to reflect on it, the proposal was actually pretty darn romantic!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

About This "Retirement" Thing

Have you noticed how frequently the symbolism of two lone chairs is used to depict an aging couple? Usually for retirement, occasionally for "active adult living", even for old-people-intimacy concerns (although that is usually two old people sitting in two bathtubs that are side-by-side in a field, for some reason) (if you're going to be intimate, wouldn't you both be in the same tub?) (and why are the tubs in a field of wheat???)

"What in the world are you doing?" "Aren’t you too young to be retired?" "Won’t you run out of money?" "What happens if you live to be 95 years old?" "Don’t you get tired of doing nothing?"

These queries, and oh so many others like them, come flying at me at the oddest times. I’m not sure why they get asked, but they do. I’m also not sure what the motivation is behind the questions … Curiosity? Jealousy? Anger? Concern? Maybe all of these things?
I’m rapidly approaching 66 years old, just a few short weeks away. If I’ve learned only one thing over the past weird year, it’s this: Life really, truly is very short and things can change in the blink of an eye. A lot of that “I’ll do it when I get the time” stuff on your bucket-or-whatever list stands a good chance of dry rotting if your life path gets derailed. I know many people understand this, because they have seen their life go wonky on them. I know I certainly fully understand this fact, having experienced it when my son committed suicide at the age of 30 and when my wife of nearly 35 years finally couldn’t fight the cancer any longer.

I have also seen it, indirectly, through Sheila, my significant other (for those who don’t follow my blog postings), whose son also suddenly passed at a far too young age and whose husband died just a few weeks after my wife. Sheila had life plans, too, that were stopped dead in their tracks. I have a few years on Sheila, but just a few. Among the many commonalities we have is this complete understanding that time can run out on you very fast, and neither one of us wants to see that happen.

Being really truthful, retirement has some challenges. Speaking only for me, the stresses of a fairly intense day gig are gone, but so are many of the achievements realized, along with the satisfaction of knowing you “did good”. While the stress is less, so is the feeling of reward for a completed project. Perhaps this would not be significant to many, but it is to me. I have worked just about my whole life, since the time I was 12 years old, so to find myself suddenly “free” every day is a bit odd.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to be in the position I’m in. No commute, especially in this nightmare Greater ATL traffic. No sleepless nights worrying about the status of a job, or contract, or report. No arguing, no fighting, no more cussing, no more ulcer pain … there is a lot to be said for being retired.

No more paycheck. That took some adjustment, since I’m being forthright here. I’m beyond blessed to be in a financial position where I don’t NEED to work, since years of cautious planning, a steady dependable job, sensible living and very good luck resulted in savings being possible. But, when you are used to a steady injection of funds hitting your bank account, and that injection disappears and withdrawal takes place instead, it does give you pause.

I will begin to receive Social Security benefits within the next month, and while it won’t replace the previous income, it likely will feel a little bit more natural to see a deposit instead of all transfers/withdrawals. And as the music starts to stabilize somewhat, income will be realized from that as well. So, don’t cry for me, I’ll be fine. Just be aware, for those about to embark on this retirement path, it will likely take you a moment or two to get your head wrapped around the “no job” thing.

As stated above, Sheila is just a few years behind me, so she is watching to see if the top of my head explodes as I settle into this situation. We have had many talks about the future, with both of us anxious to spend the maximum time possible together, and what we will do with that time. Travel? (somewhat, we hope).  Create? (we already do this, perhaps we can venture further into our talents).  Enjoy the arts? (we sort of do this already).  Sleep? (nah, we both get up at the crack of dark).  But whatever we do, we want to do it together for as long as we possibly can.

Like me, Sheila has been fortunate, as well, with sensible living, hard work and good luck giving a cushion for her retirement. I suspect she, too, will feel the “uh oh, no more paycheck” thing when it comes around, but I’m not worried about her ability to rationalize that, at all. She’s very bright and generally level headed (just don’t ask her where her keys or sunglasses are), I’m positive she’ll adapt nicely.

Sheila insists that I get some kind of perverse pleasure in having my sig other go off to work each day, though. But nothing could be further from the truth … seriously. I look forward to the day when we can be “retired” together and do the things we feel like doing. I hope we live to be very old, together.

For those contemplating retirement, or those who think it can’t be done, have the faith. If I can do it, and be successful at it, so can you. Take a moment to clear the noise from your head and hopefully you’ll see that there is a path to enjoying life in our senior years …

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Great NorthWest??

I’ll admit it, I just don’t get it! What is the big deal about Portland/Vancouver? With all due respect to those who live in that area and love it, I seem to be missing the point. I mean, if I want urban blight and congestion and artificially inflated prices I’ll go to NYC, at least they know how to properly screw over the common man. And I won’t need to deal with a bunch of hipsters while getting humped.

Just ... don't ... nope ...
man bun, ears gauged, white sunglass frame
hipster beard, obscure neck tattoo
Just ... no
Case in point: 

I’m here in Vancouver WA with Sheila on one of her business trips. She chewed up a bunch of Delta miles points so I could join her (that meant we had to fly coach class this time … more on THAT topic a little later). I like being with her (well, all the time) when she travels so I can make stuff a little easier for her (driving the car, carrying her luggage, getting her coffee in the morning) and we usually make some contacts with old friends while we’re in town, so it’s been a good deal.

We have been using these trips to do some donut comparison shopping. Sheila & I like to see what’s available in these various regions and every now and then we get a great surprise, i.e., Gibson’s Donuts in Memphis TN (just extraordinary!). Of course, our shining star comparison is The Donut Hole in Destin FL (so far the clear winner). We have recently retained a donut tasting expert, Hudson, (aka Huddy, aka bigbuddyhuddy) to weed out the imposters, so you know this comparison thing is serious.

The “big deal” donut place here in Portland area is VooDoo Donuts, but the inside track says that the hype is all hipster driven and that there were better places to go. So, using our slick donut research skills we found two shops that could complete with the hipster-loving VooDoo … Blue Star Donuts in Portland and Tonallis Donuts & Cream in Vancouver.

My first question for both of these places is this; If you are a donut shop, isn’t it logical to have some #@*!%+_&(*#! donuts on your shelves?? It’s Friday Morning at 9:45 am and neither of these two joints has any kind of donut variety available. “Wow, they’re sold out of almost everything”, hipsters intone while tugging on their abnormally large Paul-Bunyon-esque beards, angst-ridden foreheads furrowed as they attempt to understand the situation with which they find themselves confronted. 

Hey, donut shop people!! I have an idea … how about you make some friggin’ donuts so people will give you money?? How about that for a business plan?? I guarantee that, no matter what time you go into the previously mentioned Donut Hole or Gibson’s, they will have DONUTS!!  But here in the Great North-West? Nope, both of these supposed donut shops had, maybe, a total of two dozen donuts on display between them, with only 4 different types of donuts to choose from. 
Tonelli's   boring + boring = Boring
Blue Star   $4.00 each ... that's right, $4.00
Now, the hipsters were stroking their logger-man beards and pondering which of the FOUR donut types they might wish to purchase. Hey, hipsters! How about you buy one of each and get out of the way? It’s not like you have any good choices … clearly the popular donut types sold out somewhere between 6:30 am and (now) 10:00 am, so let’s cut the melodrama and either buy something or get the heck out of the way …  

And that little donut scenario summary is kind of what Portland/Vancouver is like. Much ado about nothing, IMO. However, the surrounding, somewhat more rural, areas are simply beautiful. The scenery is amazing, the air crisp and clean, roads essentially uncongested. The over-sized beards, however, are still in abundance, but in the rural area cases these guys might actually cut down trees …

Flying to Portland from the ATL, in coach, was an endurance test. Sheila used some mileage points for a companion ticket so I could join her without having to pay for a ticket to an area that neither of us ever thought would be worth the price of admission. But there were several nice surprises in Washington/Oregon for us, surprises we wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t gone with Sheila.
View from coach class ... nothing but butts

That said, O-M-G with these coach seat sizes! I’m 6’5”, Sheila is 6’, so we need some leg room. To be fair, because this flight was coast-to-coast there are maybe an extra 3” between the rows. That’s just enough to pull a leg out of the way using a contortionist move, keeping your knee cap from being crushed by the seat in front of you. I’ve noticed that short people are always the very first to recline their seats … always … while the tall folks try to have mercy on their fellow passengers and try not to just slam the seat into the recline position.

I usually fly 1st class because; #1, I’m 6’5” and, #2, the fare is not that much more expensive on the shorter flights (like Newark to ATL). At least in 1st class, when the shorty in front of you slams the seat back you still have ample leg room. In 1st class you get to sit down ahead of almost everyone (physically challenged and families with kids are the exceptions), and then you get to drink the complimentary beverages while the coach class losers straggle in to find their seats. You can just see the look of jealousy as they eyeball your drink (scotch for me, Bailey’s & coffee for Sheila) and look longingly at your pillow and blanket.

But not this time, coach it was. And to add to the ultimate shame of being in coach, Sheila kicked-my-butt BIG time at the trivia games on the plane entertainment screen. It was disgraceful, not even close … I knew she was way smarter than me, but that was just horrible. I really need to find something that I’m better at than Sheila just so I can try to save face a bit … 

My score on top, sadly ... Sheila beat me, soundly

We did get a chance to meet up with old friends of Sheila who now live in Washington state. Cindy & Jeff were in Sheila's country waltz dance class about 1 million years ago when they all lived in LA County CA. This was my first chance to meet them and they were really cool ... 
Cindy, Jeff & Sheila - Castle Rock WA
On Saturday Sheila and I went to the general Mt Hood area of Oregon, visiting Hood River, Multnomah Falls, Bonneville Fish Hatchery (coolio sturgeon), and ended the day in McMenamins Edgefield Hotel in Troutdale before getting back to the airport for the return red-eye to ATL (yes, yes, yes ... in coach again!). Loved all of those places, an excellent balance to the (yawn) blandness of Portland/Vancouver, plus a much lower % of hipsters. 
Multnomah Falls
We went to the strangest Goodwill I've ever seen while we were in Hood River ... it was set up like a boutique but with thrift store pricing. I think Laura and her vintage clothing resale biz (check her out online - or is starting to have an impact on Sheila's already vintage mindset ...
Sheila at the Hood River OR Goodwill Boutique
Okay, running out of space this week ... Overall, the trip worked out wonderfully, and I’ll have more on that in an upcoming blog. Lot's of exciting news!

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