Aging Hippie's Guide to Aging

Youth is a gift of nature, age is a work of art...or not. This journal reflects on the many challenges we face on our journey of aging...

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Location: San Diego, California, United States

Baby boomer, wannabe writer, advocate for seniors...

Monday, February 20, 2012

LOL - Living on Less

I've spent a bunch of time in the last few days looking over my due bills and trying to figure out where I can cut down.  I hesitate to even write about this since I am so blessed - compared to so many people, I have so much to be grateful for.  I keep hearing stories of people who have lost so much over the past few years of this damn recession and I am so grateful that it has not been as harsh on me.

I saw a few minutes of a 60-Minutes segment last night and the subject was long term unemployment and its effect on a person's self-esteem.  It is sad but true that our purchasing power often dictates our self worth in our culture, but that is fodder for another post.

At 62, after a decade of one upheaval after another in my life, I do have my cash flow challenges to be sure.  I am becoming semi-obsessed with cutting costs. I'm of Scottish descent, a culture known for our "thriftiness".  This always seemed lame to me in better days, although never having been a big earner, I was not able to really afford a "lifestyle" similar to some of my Baby Boomer compadres.  I always managed to live within my means, mostly, and my Dad in years gone by, would help me out with major unexpected stuff like car repairs.  So I guess considering we Baby Boomers are the big spenders, I guess I do have that "thrifty" trait.  It's all relative, as my Dad used to say.

It is easy to find articles and blog posts on shopping at the dollar stores or thrift stores, both of which have been my habit for years.  I'm a lifelong thrift shopper - I used to go with my Mom and buy doll clothes, that's how little I was when I first started!  All through the years, I've been a collector of various things, and in every city I've lived I find thrift shopping very entertaining and very productive!  People give things away for many reasons and there are treasures to be had at a fraction of retail in all categories.

A friend and I have three categories of shopping - TS (thrift shop), GS (garage sale) and DS (dollar store).  I have not been to the mall in years.  But for my downwardly mobile semi-retirement life, I guess it doesn't matter.  I shared with a twenty-something acquaintance that I used to think older people looked so bad - bad clothes, bad hair, old cars - now I get it!  They're (we're) trying to get off the treadmill and hang on to what money we have.  So our store-bought image goes out the window, instead of the money to maintain it.

Consolidating errands to save gas is another no brainer.  My car is nine years old, and with the ever rising cost of gas, a new car with better gas mileage has great appeal.  But I don't want a payment and higher insurance costs, so I just live with the dorky old Accord.   I was thinking of eliminating the collision coverage but I better not go crazy with this thrifty thing.  It only has 51K miles on it!

For years, I've cut fun and entertainment to the bone - I rarely drive all over the county the way I used to, attending various events.  I do miss that.  My world has definitely gotten smaller and more virtual.  Perhaps that is age, perhaps it is a cultural trend.

I am on COBRA and medical insurance is one of my biggest monthly expenses.  I recently had the chance to lower my coverage level and I took the risk to do so.  It's not a big difference in routine coverage, but if I need to go to the hospital, I pay big time. I guess this kind of cost sharing is a good business model to encourage good health habits.  So I'm on board with Kaiser's hope that I stay out of the hospital.

Last year I 86'd my landline - I miss having fax capability but otherwise, I'm not a big phone person and I don't miss it.  I also left Verizon in favor of a no-contract provider.  Just this past weekend, I ordered a $20 CDMA no-contract phone so I could go with a lower service plan than they allow for my smartphone.  Right now, I'm in between clients, at home alot, and really don't need the unlimited everything on the higher service plan.

I stopped getting DVDs from Netflix and just get the minimum instant play subscription.  I do think they were cold to their loyal customers in raising their rates for DVDs, but they are in business to make money not cater to customers like me who have TVs from 1999 and a VCR/DVD player from 2006.  Would love to upgrade the TVs and get a new computer and printer, but while everything is still working fine, it stays, that's my rule lately.

I lowered the speed of my cable modem Internet connection, and cancelled my extended TV cable channels.   I have received two great gifts recently to help me with some of these video cutbacks - my new Kindle Fire is great for watching stuff on the very small screen! It's funny to have my cat on my lap when I'm watching something on the KF, for him, it's a perfect size screen!  I also have found some of my news shows that I miss on CNN on CNN radio which I get on the Kindle. The other wonderful gift is a Roku gadget that connects me to Netfilx instant play and other free and pay channels, on my ancient TV thru my wireless Internet connection. 

Again this year, I'm using TurboTax and hoping for the best.  I'm not smart enough to cook the books, if I make an honest mistake, the IRS can write me a letter.  This is my fourth year using TurboTax.  I'd much prefer to use a tax preparer, but the cost savings doing it myself is substantial, like $50 compared to $250 or more.  And at my (shockingly low) level of income, I figure I have the time to spend to DIY.

And then there's home repairs, and this subject causes me a ton of angst.  I have a long list of deferred maintenance on this old house, built in 1968, including needing a new roof.  Not making the repairs is only a temporary fix.  I've felt so stagnant here in this house - I've lived here ten years in March - longer than I've lived anywhere not counting my childhood.  The housing market is so anemic - I'm not underwater - yet - but making big financial decisions like buying and selling real estate is not my forte - I do better with the little daily purchasing decisions.

At least I have the little decisions somewhat under control in my world.  I am no math genius but I do get that cutting spending is only a tiny drop in the bucket, all things considered.  It really is about earning more, not just spending less.  I wish I got this message when I was 25 - I'm sure I was told, but I didn't "get it".  I had no concept of being prepared for retirement, until I was in my 50's and took care of my Dad, who was well prepared.   I've reflected on my options and my talents for a life reinvention at 62 - I note that most of what I'm good at doesn't pay...traditional "woman things". I've made my peace that being of service is my contribution in this life, but to date, the pay has not been good and the cost of living keeps going up!  So it is a struggle not only to keep the bank account balanced, but to keep my head and heart from plunging into despair.   Cutting monthly bills is easier than re-tooling my self-worth in a world gone mad.



Sunday, January 01, 2012

What are you doing on New Year's ...

New Year's eve is just a memory, and it for me was as blah as New Year's day is turning out to be.  It is a fabulous day here, 80+ degrees, clear and sunny, but I have not been out.  I have been trying to relax a little, and not bury myself in the usual chores and desk work that fill my days "off".  I am trying to stay off my feet, supposedly I have a slight fracture in my right foot, which has been bothering me for months.  Staying off my feet is a simple plan, but like many good intentions, not so easy to actually do.  The situation has not been readily (or definitely even yet) diagnosed, and I am hoping this lovely boot they sent me home with will do its job.

So it is just a regular Sunday for me I guess, maybe a slower than regular day.   I continue to feel uninspired, perhaps a little more so today, after reading and watching all the motivational articles and videos on New Year New You and Getting it Together and all that good stuff which I am always attracted to, yet lately it all just seems so overwhelming.  I try to counter the inevitable entropy of life - since it is the nature of things to so readily fall apart, I try to improve myself in as many ways as I can, just to stay on an even keel.

I have been remiss in taking time for myself in recent years, my spiritual and self development path has disappeared from my life.  I haven't done any writing in ages.  I seem to just chase cash flow in all its convoluted and time consuming forms.  Keeping the wolf away from the door could be considered a form of self care, but I am wearing down. I have not really been a person to define myself through my work through the years, so I am spending most of my energy on a portion of my life that is not all that gratifying.  Somewhat gratifying at times, but not what I would consider a calling or life purpose, not in present form.

The subject of underemployment crossed my mind this morning, I am very grateful to be working at all in this economy, yet the stress of the past few years has not been lost on me either.  Underemployment has dampened my enthusiasm for making plans and goals for the future, to say the least.  And at my age, staging a life reinvention is not so easy either.  Years gone by, I could make changes very easily, now I feel the quicksand of inertia under my feet. 

Not surprising I am having pain in my foot - Louise Hay in Heal Your Body says foot problems are an indication of "fear of the future and of not stepping forward in life".   I like her Beginnings and Endings post for the new year, but I am feeling lazy about setting any resolutions and directions.  I do have a mental list, but have not gone so far as to put it on paper or call the list "resolutions".  I feel sometimes as a woman I knew years ago once said, that she one day just walked out the door literally on her old life.  I fantasize about doing that, move to a new city (country?) starting over with a couple of suitcases and boxes as I've done many times years gone by.  But I am not young anymore, not sure how that would "fit" into my sixth decade of wandering around LOST on this planet.  I'm hooked on the creature comforts, and some of the trappings of midlife.

Well it is time to tackle some chores with what is left of this day.  Perhaps I will post more often in this old journal blog.  Used to do Morning Pages - maybe I should make a big list of things I used to do and call that list New Year's resolutions...

another year, another lame Christmas letter, another cat picture...

“Multitask, multitask, busy every day - Oh what fun it is to try to have a holiday!” - Well, you get the idea.  It’s an “Attention Deficit” holiday for me – not a lot of jingle in my bell.  This year my life has been about as stable as the stock market.  I’ve barely done a traditional holiday thing – I’m just distracted.   I put up a kitschy red tinsel peace symbol on my front door and sent a couple of cards, but for me, this holiday is about charitable donations not “stuff”.   I’ve enjoyed receiving some holiday cards and letters – I’ve read some fun stories, and some sad stories.  We all have our times of joy and sorrow to be sure.

Each year we are more deeply immersed in technology, which connects and isolates us.  I log too many hours of screen time, mea culpa.  I troll Craigslist and many job sites for work, read tons of news, and of course shop.  I am addicted to Redfin studying local real estate.  I have a website, two FaceBook pages, LinkedIn, a blog, plus the usual PC software, my calendar, Quicken, QuickBooks and smart phone.  Argh.   I am the proud owner of a Kindle Fire, an early birthday gift which has been a lot of fun.  And fun I need!

I’m self employed again, after having two receptionist jobs this year – one at a retirement facility and one at a skilled nursing facility.  I felt that I had better become my own boss again, or risk being wheeled in there myself on a gurney.  I turn 62 this year and I am very aware of the impact of constant stress on health.  I’m a hard worker, but I have no interest in drama or dysfunction - I want a peaceful life!

I applied for early “retirement” Social Security.  Not that I’m actually retiring, but my work as a freelance personal assistant is part time so I can maintain a healthy life balance.  The only benefit of self employment is that, yes, I can work in my pajamas with a cat on my lap!  It is surprisingly challenging work – my clients by nature are not good at the things I do.  If they were, they wouldn’t NEED me!  So there is plenty of opportunity for MY self development too - in terms of patience and communication skills. I am working now with three clients who need some type of office support, but I’ve also returned to senior companion care.  I enjoy working for seniors, and I have made several lasting friendships.  Friends becoming clients and clients becoming friends is another benefit! 

I’m volunteering as a driver with our local Rides & Smiles program and as a receptionist at a senior center, both as networking opportunities and community service.  I have joined a local political group also.  I joined a new gym about three minutes from home, and have actually been going!

My home life continues to be very quiet.  I have three BFF cats, all of whom are spoiled and demanding in their own way. No such thing as a low maintenance pet – that’s an oxymoron!  Have not done a thing to my house, it has been turning back in to the fixer that it was when we bought it in 2002.  I’ve held off moving due to concerns about housing prices and employment.  I continue to feel restless and ready for a change in many ways, but the crystal ball remains a bit hazy as my Dad used to say.   I have lived in this house for almost ten years.  For me, that is a long time.  So I’ve been practicing gratefulness for my comfortable, if not terribly exciting life, and counting my blessings and taking one day at a time.
 
 “Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we are only days away from the winter solstice, which celebrates the return of the light, and the promise that the days will once again grow long and warm. But until that time, perhaps our energy would be best spent aligning with nature, and like the trees, pulling our energy deep into our roots, in preparation for another year of growth.”


Monday, December 20, 2010

Fast away the old year passes

I've been procrastinating and not very inspired this year about composing any sort of Christmas greetings - preoccupied with work and looking for work.  "Looking for work is the new work" as the cynical saying goes and this rings true for me.   This article in AARP really hit home - we can easily forget that our personal situations are often experienced in the context of the circumstances of the larger world.  I think "perspective" would be the word I'm looking for.

This past year I've had several very nice senior clients through home care agencies, and a very hectic part time position as concierge in a local retirement facility.  I also do freelance administrative work from my home office, and I've served several clients.  I am grateful for all of these people, and the income derived from my various efforts.  The downside is trying to keep it all together and have some kind of routine and personal life while juggling all these commitments.  This aspect needs some work in 2011!

Despite the difficult job market, I have notified my retirement facility employer that after January 2nd I would not be available for the five evenings a week "short shift" that I've been working since July.  I would like to continue with them as "relief" concierge and work maybe once a week or as needed on call.  Coincidentally, I haven't exercised nearly enough since I started working there.  I now work at the front desk in my "exercise window" which is not good for this old gal.  I'm not eating right either, and this year I've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, which to me is clearly a lifestyle issue.  My 61st birthday is coming up later this week, and I am thankful to one of my clients who has given me some sage advice that our health is our greatest wealth - so I must get off the "hamster wheel" and pay more attention to wellness.  I plan to continue freelancing and working for home care agency clients when suitable clients come my way. 

Ironically my health insurance premium, which has gone up in November to $602 per month has been my biggest motivator to be on the hamster wheel to begin with.   So I am trying to sort through my conflicting priorities of income, cash flow and good health and sanity!  This is the dilemma we are all faced with for sure, but as I get older and try to deal with all these issues in the Great Recession, it seems to be more perplexing. 

I have one "outside the box" project that I've been working on for several months - I'm looking into buying a low priced "distress" condo in Oceanside.  It is the only coastal area I can afford to consider.  I am undecided if I will use it as a rental, or move into it and use my existing home as a rental.  I'm no math genius and investment property requires a good amount of analysis.  I have been doing my research online, and have seen a number of units over the past few months.  Whether or not I can swing it and replace my cash flow from a job with rental income remains to be seen.  But rents are high here, and although the stock market is doing well now, the future is unknown.   At least I can relate to real estate, I can drive by it, make repairs etc.   Having all my retirement funds invested in stocks, bonds etc. is intangible and also not my core competency, although improving my investing skills is also on my list for 2011.

When I free up some personal time I must deal with some needed home repairs including a new roof on my house and several smaller projects.  This has never been my favorite pastime, but if I'm going to get into investment property, I need to get back into the groove with these projects.  I've done a number of fixer type projects through the years, including this house when Dad and I first bought it in 2002.  I guess I've just been burned out on home projects.  I've been watching HGTV and getting more ambitious!

My three little adopted cats are fine, sort of. They are all "psycho" in their own special ways.  They're relatively young - 2, 3 and 4, so they have a lot of energy.  They are my little fur family, and it is nice to be greeted when I get home and nice to snuggle with them and feel them purr.  Makes all the extra work worth it!  I had a senior client who lived alone and she said to me that sometimes she didn't speak to anyone all day -- I said "get a pet!"  They are wonderful companions despite the extra work and expense, and as another client said about my three, I'd be lost without them.

My holiday will be a little quiet and a little busy.  I asked to be scheduled to work at the retirement facility, it's time and a half plus a free dinner on Christmas Day.  I like the residents very much and it is nice to share the holiday with them.  I was expecting a visitor this week to help celebrate my birthday but we're in a rainy pattern and he's been sick so we are rescheduling.  I think I will manage to fill my time!  I am usually ecstatic when I find myself with a free day!

I must get back to some non holiday and non creative pursuits.  I have a load of bookkeeping to catch up with on Quicken and QuickBooks, plus all the usual chores, errands and desk work.

Oh did I mention wanting to spend more time writing in 2011?  Seems that has been on my New Year's Resolution list forever.  This just may be the year!  Goodbye hamster wheel - hello semi retirement and passive income!  A girl can hope and pray for the best for us all through the holidays and in the New Year. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vector splatter v. my elusive one thing

I've always been a generalist, often adventurous, especially in my younger days.  I have tried many things over the course of my first 60 years on planet Earth - various kinds of educational programs, work and alternative lifestyles.   Since computers and technology have taken over our lives (what, 15 years maybe?) my multitasked attention deficit personality has been kicked into high gear.  Lately, I feel as if I am multitasking to the point of not getting anything done.  I guess the reality is that I get things done in such small fragments on various projects, it takes forever to have any sense of accomplishment on anything.  I've never been very patient with projects that are pending for many months or even years, although I admit I have several of those on my own list right now.

I guess age is a factor, as a friend said, "As we age, we get more busy, but with less interesting activities".  I agree - just errands, chores and life maintenance seem to take up way more of my time than they used to.  Or as another friend put it, "I don't get as much done in a day".  

I'm also conflicted on my life purpose - my dharma, my "kuleana" (Hawaiian term) - I've thought for many years that mine was to live a life of service.  As I look back, if I had to put the things I've done in a broad category, service to others would be it.  As I look ahead, and try to find a common thread among all my interests and talents, service of some sort also comes to mind.

While this is not a bad thing by any means, my personal bottom line tells me that I am not exactly prospering from this philosophy lately.  Surely this feeling is shared by many many souls in this lingering economic recession.  Since I have little discretionary income for a "real life" I spend probably too much time online.  I have been making a little study lately on some friends - virtual or IRL - and how *they* spend their time, how they dedicate their lives to a purpose.

I've concluded that people who are self centered do better, and that they concentrate on one thing basically.  Not that they can't walk across the room and chew gum, but they aren't generalists.  They are specialists.  And they concentrate on what *they* are doing, first and foremost, not what others' needs are.  They charge high rates for their services because they feel they are worth it.  (I've been discounting mine, due to temporary insanity I guess.)   It's a dog eat dog world, and I'm a cat person.  I need to get over whatever erroneous messages about money and work that still float around in my value system and refocus my professional efforts to my one -- profitable -- thing.  And that would be asap, before I get even less done in a day.

I saw a $4 refrigerator magnet that I didn't buy, but it magnetically stuck in my mind for free - "If you settle for less than you're worth -- you'll get even less than you settle for."  Hmmm.  I can sure buy into this intellectually and see the dynamic in my own life.

So how to push past this latest identity crisis and rebrand myself as a power player in this complicated Universe, not an underemployed part timer and freelancer helping everybody out with life's dreary responsibilities while they go out and live a life I can't afford.  Wearing too many hats lately, need to let the wind blow through my hair and clear my brain on this subject.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

What a revolting development...

I've always tried to have nice feet...probably this little vanity comes from living for 10 years in Hawaii and 27 in San Diego.  I've always done my own nails, manicures and pedicures.  Back in the nail polish days, I was pretty good at it, and always took pride in my nails.  This past week, I dealt with a painful ingrown toenail.  It had bothered me for about a week, just slightly.  So I tried to "fix it" with my nailfile which really screwed it up.  I couldn't put my weight on my foot for several days.  Or even wear slippers, anything with a closed toe was painful.  Argh!  What about all my chores and errands?  All require shoes and bearing weight on the afflicted paw! 

So I did a quick Google search on treating this little self inflicted wound, and launched into my first aid program.  Saw some shocking pictures of toenails I did not want to have, and got the main message - don't fool with it, just clear up the little skin infection.  I soaked my feet in a little dishpan of boric acid, I used peroxide, bacitracin and a bandaid.  I put the dishpan under my computer keyboard, to the endless fascination of my three cats!  I wore slipper sox with treads which I had from yoga classes in the winter.  And I stayed off my feet as much as possible.  THIS was the hardest part!  Mobility we take for granted - being unable to race around multitasking doing chores, etc. was sobering.  I of course had desk work to do, so I caught up a bit on things like bookkeeping and indulged in more Web surfing than usual.

After a couple days of sort of dragging my right foot around, I had a pretty big muscle pain in the right calf, from altering my gait.   This totally minor thing is having a noticable impact on my life.  Not to mention my to-do list.

Being a caregiver for elders, I am always cautioning my clients to be careful of falls, etc.  This week I reflected in a very personal way on how important mobility is in a person's life.  We never consider that accidents and setbacks can happen to US.  That person limping or using a cane, walker or wheelchair, is always someone else, not US!

I'm glad to report that by today, while not 100% perfect, my toe is feeling much better.  I'm still wearing sandals and pacing (instead of my normal racing) myself, but I was able to catch up on some errands and a couple of chores.  Today is a work day, and I'm not full speed, but I am grateful to be recovering from this minor mishap.

I'm also grateful for the reminder that good health is number one.   And grateful for mobility.  And cognizant of the reminder that things CAN happen to me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

99 and feeling fine

Today is my wonderful home care agency client's 99th birthday.  She has had a number of well wishers stop by already, and her house is filled with flowers, gifts and cards.   I had made a small pot roast for our dinner on Saturday and we had our leftovers last night. She likes to say grace before dinner and last night she started to cry – she said she was the luckiest person in the world. 

I told her what a special woman she is - she and her husband worked hard through the years to achieve financial security, they had three kids, two of whom live relatively close by and are attentive to her needs.  She is blessed with good genes and lives a health conscious lifestyle - healthy diet and regular exercise.  She likes to keep busy. 

She has a wonderfully sunny personality - possibly a gift from her midwestern upbringing.  Pictures of her throughout the home always show her smiling.  I wrote in her birthday card how much I've learned about life from her, and that she was my new role model!  It's true.  She makes the best of everything, says "whatever happens, happens" and that her motto for many years is not to worry about anything.  I could sure take a lesson from that! 

My pragmatic side tries to deconstruct some of the secrets of her success - having a long term marriage to a man who provided financial security is one of them, since she did not ever work outside the home.  A son manages her finances and household maintenance, freeing her from the dread "worry" about those things.  She's had her health challenges through the years, but she has a good support network which has helped to pull her through.   She still has many friends, and attracts people to her through her open heart, kindness and generosity of spirit. And this is decades before the philosophy of The Secret came out, promoting the laws of attraction. She's a natural!

But that positive attitude!  How does one cultivate that in midlife if one is not gifted with a naturally sunny disposition?  It is one thing to manage worry through planning, taking action, not procrastinating etc. but quite another to transform a serious nature into a cheerful one.   I have a feeling that this trait is one of her most powerful assets.  An intellectual knowledge of the destructive power of worry is one thing; to "exorcise" worry, cynicism and negative thinking is quite another.  Some would say to lean on faith and prayer.  Today, on her 99th birthday, to honor her I will more closely consider this "magic pill" of successful aging and report back.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kleenex in the pockets of my robe


This morning I am reminded of the many ways I feel like I am becoming an old lady.  I  slept poorly and woke up with a sinus headache.  The pocket in my robe is stuffed with kleenex and my hair is wild and my appearance is not a priority - NAP as a gal pal puts it.  I feel like I'm ready for a "What Not to Wear" makeover on TLC.  It's cold this morning, and my feet and my fingers, with some arthritis, are hurting.  Or some would say it's the crappy food I've been snacking on (Dollar Store movie collection, but I never made it to the movies...). Bummer dude, but I'm undeterred.  I did some exercises at home this week, and also managed a couple of walks.  I feel that the "holiday"treat food splurge is winding down and my sanity around wellness is being restored.  I am appreciating the subtle changes in day length, now once again I can still take my walk around 5 - during mid winter, I just couldn't get out early enough to beat the early darkness.

Unlike some old(er) ladies, I have been dealing with frustrating computer problems and some anxiety over upcoming possible work situations.  I need to do my work and personal bookkeeping and I've just installed a new Internet Security suite which is pretty much hanging up the computer - I can't even configure it, even the software itself hangs.  Must deal with tech support today, instead of getting to my actual work.   I guess I am becoming an old lady of my generation, geeky and obsessed with not running out of money before I run out of air.  I hoped that being older would be a little more laid back than it has turned out to be!  I seem to worry more now than ever.   Maybe when Social Security and MediCare kick in I can relax a bit.  Inner peace is an inside job and all that, but there is nothing like checking out your bank balance to crank up the angst.  Sure, I have faith that the Universe will support me, but the bills come in pretty consistently, and w/o consistent income, hard to stay in the peaceful zone.

I will upload a photo that a long time friend sent me - I think it was taken around 1978 in Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu.  (I'm in the middle.) Back in the day, I didn't worry about much!  Guess that's why I'm not so prepared for retirement!  Unlike some old(er) ladies, especially of past generations, I'm still thinking about what is out there on the horizon for work, business, and investment opportunties.   In some ways I am a slow learner and a late bloomer.  And at the pace I can keep up at 60, I must not be too hard on myself.  I'm doing what I need to do at this time, which sometimes feels like plodding through my life instead of enjoying it.  A different chapter for sure.