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.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Young @ Heart

Ever since I watched Young @Heart (for the second time) on PBS last week, the lyrics to one of their songs "stuck in reverse" has been rattling around in my brain.  Someone posted on Facebook how challenging his New Year had been so far, and that has been the same feeling I've had - things seem just stalled, or worse. 

I worked "relief shifts" thru the holidays for a very nice woman with a lot of dementia, and started the first Monday of January wtih a new agency and a new client.  The agency was not responsive when I brought a situation to their attention - the client's constant irritability indicated to me that she was suffering from anxiety/depression, and I felt she needed a professaional evaluation.  The agency did not contact my case manager colleague/friend and I declined to continue.  I felt sorry for this woman but I was not willing to be chewed out for putting a glass on the wrong shelf etc.  So back to Craigslist, networking and the constant effort to keep the proverbial wolf away from my door.  I even ran an ad in a local freebie newspaper, hoping to get a private client or two.  A person advertising as a caregiver is just a name and a phone number - I remember back when I  was hiring, that didn't mean much.  People are brainwashed by agencies about problems with theft and people tend to put (sometimes too much) faith in agencies where background checking is concerned.  Agencies spend a great deal on advertising and recruitment, background checking can be quite cursory.

This year, I am reinventing my blog - I debated deleting my old posts but decided to let them languish at the bottom of the archives.  I started Aging Hippies Guide to Aging back when a blog was (at least to me) an online journal, so I just rambled on.  Now, the blogosphere rocks with special interests, Twitter, Facebook and much so much Web 2.0 interaction that I knew nothing about back in 2005/6 when I started.  I'm still pretty much a novice with serious blogging.  So anyone who reads thru my old stuff, apologies in advance for my lack of focus.  Focus is not my long suit anyway.  I will attempt to set up a blogroll, links, respond to comments and do some self promotion, although Arianna Huffington I will never be.  I am amazed how many blogs I've discovered recently on aging.  Having "competition" is a very good thing!  Issues of aging tend to be swept under the carpet, and it will be helpful for the elders of today and for ourselves, the elders of tomorrow, to have light shed on these many topics.

I have gotten a bit more active on Facebook and LinkedIn. I especailly like LinkedIn - most of my posts are not "social" in nature since through the years of family caregiving, my social life disappeared and I have not sufficiently revived it to date.  Hermit is the word I'm looking for!   Been busy and preoccupied keeping my head above water financially - the whole life reinvention challenge has been kind of all consuming last couple years.  I live a simple life, still revolving around my home and my pets.  I keep threatening to make a bold move, but here I sit, maintaining the status quo.  But the year is young!  If the world economic news would just pick up a tad, I'd perhaps be feeling bolder.

So begins another New Year - what to leave in, what to leave out, lyrics from another song.  As in prior years, the challenge of balancing control and surrender is in the front of my mind.   Shift happens.