Tag Archives: retirement

Happy Trails, Part 134: Yep, grandkids change everything

I’ve heard it said more times than I can count that “grandchildren change everything.”

My wife and I are living testaments to the truth of that notion. I think of it whenever someone says it.

You see, the primary reason my wife and I uprooted ourselves from the home we owned outright in Amarillo, Texas, and moved to the Metroplex was the birth of a little girl in March 2013.

She came along and, yes, changed everything for us. Little Emma became the focus of our lives.

She is why we moved everything, all of ur remaining possessions, to a new community. We are getting ourselves acclimated to our new digs, our new surroundings.

I feel the need to stipulate that we are immensely proud of the sons we brought into this world more than four decades ago. They both have grown into fine men. They are successful in their respective careers. They are respectful, polite, socially gracious, funny, articulate and they both know how to communicate well through the written word.

To suggest or imply, though, that they aren’t the reason we chose to relocate ourselves to a new community is not to denigrate or disparage them. One of them is Emma’s father. The other one still lives in Amarillo.

To say that we would have stayed put without a grandchild is not to disrespect our son who lives in a Dallas suburb. To say that we have moved because of our grandchild does not mean we disrespect our son who lives in the Texas Panhandle.

All it means is that we are intent on being a part of our granddaughter’s life. Emma’s arrival into this world of ours changed everything. 

She has injected an entirely new meaning into the world of retirement. It’s life, man . . . and it’s a good life, indeed.

Time of My Life: a look back

I have shared with you already my thoughts about my annoying penchant of stressing the negative and pushing aside the positive aspects of a career I enjoyed for 37 years.

I vowed in an earlier blog post that I would seek to look with fondness at a career in daily journalism that gave me much more joy than sadness. Yeah, the sadness at the end of that career stung, but it’s over now. I am a happy fellow, enjoying retirement with my wife and our puppy named Toby.

So, with that I want to announce the start of a recurring feature on this blog. I want to share with you some of the particular events I was privileged to see up close, some of the remarkable things I was able to do, and some of the amazing individuals with whom I had contact during my modestly successful career.

It won’t be an overly frequent feature, but I’ll bring some of these things up when the spirit moves me, or when I lack more topical subjects on which to comment.

I’ve already introduced a couple of such recurring features: Puppy Tales and Happy Trails. You know what they cover. This one I’ll call Time of My Life.

I will ask only thing of you: Understand that I never once saw myself as anyone’s “enemy,” certainly not an “enemy of the American people.” I was just one of many young people who came of age in the early 1970s seeking to make a difference in the community we called home. I clashed a time or two with elected public officials, but in the end they all seemed to understand that I was just doing my job, just as they were doing theirs.

I am likely to share some of those clashes with you. I do not intend to portray myself as the “good guy” and the person with whom I butted heads as the “bad guy.” That’s just one element of this series.

The rest of it will seek to relay to you how much dadgum fun I had pursuing a craft that at times seemed to define me. The fun started in Oregon, my home state and continued through two communities in Texas, in Beaumont and then in Amarillo.

I was fond of telling people after I became an editorial writer, editor and columnist that I had the “best job in the world.” Why? Because I was allowed to foist my opinions on thousands of people every day.

Can it be any more fun than that?

Happy Trails, Part 133: Free room and board?

LAMESA, Texas — I am about to let you in on a little secret, although it’s likely not a secret to veteran RV travelers.

If you want to park your recreational vehicle free of charge, just look for those “public parks” in your RV directory.

We rolled into this West Texas town with a population of about 9,400 residents. We had called ahead when we saw a listing in our RV directory that caught our attention. It was a “public park.” So I called. It turns out the RV park is part of the municipal park system.

The lady at City Hall told me we could stay here for free for a maximum of four nights. It has water and electric hookups; no sewer, but . . . we can take our waste water with us to the next location.

We have found some of these public parks on our travels over the past three or four years. We stayed at one of them in Sayre, Okla.; if memory serves, the nightly rate there was $10, which we considered a heck of a bargain.

While traveling in Texas, we prefer to stay at state-run RV parks. Given that we’re big fans of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, we like supporting the state park system. The parks where we’ve stayed over the years have been well-manicured, well-appointed and generally quite gorgeous.

We buy a state park entrance pass once a year to waive our entrance fees. Since we’ve made ample use of the state parks, the pass is worth the investment.

But tonight we’re getting some free room and board at a city park. Keep this kind of thing in mind if you’re like my wife and me and enjoy the open road in your RV.

If you venture to Lamesa, here’s a tip: The locals pronounce the town name La-MEE-sa, not La-MAY-sa.

It must be a Texas thing.

Happy Trails, Part 132: Feeling more like ‘home’

I took Toby the Puppy for a walk this afternoon. Then it dawned on me as I looked at our surroundings.

Collin County is feeling more like “home” to me. I believe it is for my wife, too. Toby the Puppy? He’s fine no matter where he is, as long as we’re with him.

It’s more of a sense than anything else. You know already that we’re getting more comfortable navigating our way around the Metroplex. The sense today is that our neighborhood is feeling more like we belong here.

Now, we aren’t likely to stay in our particular neighborhood forever. My wife and I are moving toward purchasing a new home; at the moment, we are renting an apartment. We like our residence just fine, but we have this desire to sink our roots a little more deeply into our new surroundings.

It helps satisfy my own sense of belonging to feel more acclimated to our new surroundings.

I discovered in 1984 that I am a highly adaptable creature. We moved from Oregon to the Texas Gulf Coast that spring. I had spent my entire life in Portland — except for two years in the Army, which took me to the East Coast and eventually to Southeast Asia.

Oregon was “home” for me. Then opportunity called and we settled in Southeast Texas. That was our home for nearly 11 years. More opportunity called and we pulled up stakes and settled in Amarillo, which became our home for more than 23 years.

Our life in Beaumont became the new normal. Then it shifted to the Texas Panhandle.

Now it is reconstituting in Collin County, just a bit north of Dallas. Most importantly, we’re now just a few minutes away from our precious granddaughter.

As I look around our new digs, though, my comfort level is more satisfied believing that I am feeling at home.

Happy Trails, Part 131: Recalling the good times

I admitted something to friends that I want to share with you here.

The admission was that I tend to wallow too much with the negative aspects of my departure from a career I enjoyed and I devote too little conscious attention to all the good times, the fun and the rewards that the career bestowed on me … and my precious family.

I’ve share with you already on this blog about the sudden end of my career. I was a victim of the changes that are overtaking — and overwhelming, in some instances — print journalism. I was angry at the publisher to whom I reported and to the corporate execs who have bungled the transition from traditional print journalism to something called a “digital presence.”

I have tended to look too much at that sequence and looking too little at the preceding joy I had pursuing the craft of journalism.

I have counted my blessings to be sure. This career I pursued for 37 years sent me around the world: to Europe, Asia, Latin America. It allowed me to visit my ancestral homeland in southern Europe and enabled me to return to where I served in the Army in Vietnam.

My craft put me in front of some of the most interesting, compelling and powerful people on Earth. I got to interview Vice President Dan Quayle; a former U.S. president, George W. Bush; one of the country’s most dynamic business tycoons, H. Ross Perot; U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives; two Texas governors; a sitting U.S. senator from Oregon.

My career allowed me to attend two presidential nominating conventions, giving me the chance to experience up close the unique and occasionally strange process of selecting individuals who would campaign for the world’s most significant and powerful public office.

I took an extraordinary plane ride over the summit of an erupting volcano, Mount St. Helens. I stood in the same room, about 50 feet away, with Nelson Mandela, one of history’s most dynamic individuals.

My career journey enabled me to chronicle the stories affecting communities in suburban Portland, Ore., along the Texas Gulf Coast and in the Texas Panhandle.

I learned how to work in a darkroom. I chased sheriff’s deputies on a high-speed response to a serious motor vehicle accident in Clackamas County, Ore. I reported on an Oregon judge whose judicial temperament came into question.

And all along the way, I made lasting friendships with dedicated professional photo and print journalists who taught me about life and offered lessons on how to do my job better. We shared laughs and sorrow together. I will never forget those with whom I had the honor of knowing.

My intent from this day forward is to think more of the ups and think far less of the downers. I want to share these blessings today on the week we prepare to give thanks for our blessings.

Man, I’ve got a lifetime of them.

Happy Trails, Part 130: Reaping the reward

Grandparents who read this blog will know what I’m talking about, but some of them might be likely to say, “So what’s the big deal?”

You’ve known for some time that my wife and I relocated from the Texas Panhandle to the Metroplex essentially for a single reason: We want to live near our granddaughter, who’s now 5. We want to be a significant part of her life.

Today we reaped part of that reward. Yeah, I know it’s not a huge deal to grandparents who’ve had countless exposures to this kind of joy. It’s still fairly new to us. So, I want to take just a moment to share it here.

We took Emma to a children’s fair at the Fairview Town Center. They had rides, various exhibits and activities for children. It was inexpensive. The weather was lovely. Emma had spent the night with us, so we walked with her this morning to an event we were told had been planned for Halloween, but the weather rained them out.

Emma got her face painted; she played with animals at the petting zoo; she rode a pony; she got to climb one of those bouncy-house contraptions and then slide down the other side.

She couldn’t get enough of it.

This event today reminded my wife (Grandma) and me of the wisdom of our move from way up yonder to this community. It is to bond more tightly with our precious little one.

We are acutely aware she won’t stay this age for long; we did rear two sons into adulthood, so we’ve been through the rapid-rate time travel associated with watching children grow into adulthood. We just felt the urge some time ago to get here and enjoy as many experiences like this as we can.

Time surely will bring changes to all of us … eventually. For now and for as long as is humanly possible, we are going for the grandparenthood gusto.

Happy Trails, Part 129: Those stress wrinkles are gone!

I don’t spend a lot of time looking at my face in the mirror, but of late I have noticed something that’s missing from my homely mug.

It’s what I guess I should call “stress wrinkles.”

My late Aunt Verna used to tease me about a crease between my eyebrows that I never could seem to hide when I was working for a living. Other members of my family had noticed it, too. They rarely said anything. Aunt Verna, though, was unafraid to speak her mind.

I notice their absence when I get up in the morning and then through the day when I have occasion to wash my hands or splash water on my face.

Yep, work had this way of making me scrunch up my face as I stressed out over deadlines, or an irate reader of an editorial or a column I wrote for one of the newspapers where I worked.

I guess I brought it home with me at the end of a long and occasionally stressful day. My wife would notice that crease in my forehead. She might say something about my day or … she might just leave well enough alone.

That goofy stress wrinkle was the only tangible/visible result of the craft I pursued for 37 years. My blood pressure hasn’t risen terribly, unlike what has happened to friends of mine.

One dear friend of ours once worked for an organization in Amarillo, during which time she suffered from acute hypertension. She was so worried about the terrible spike in her blood pressure, she was prescribed some high-potency antidote for it.

Then she quit her job. The result? Her blood pressure returned to normal … immediately! Our friend ditched the high-powered meds and has lived happily ever after since.

When we have returned to Amarillo, one of the common greetings my wife and I hear is how “relaxed” we look, how “happy” we appear to be and how free we seem to be of the stress of working.

No kidding? Yep. Retirement is, shall we say, OK in my book.

You can see it in my face.

Puppy Tales, Part 60: Yes, we’re a trio

Toby the Puppy is out of sorts.

He’s been moping around the house. His “team” has been separated.

You see, my wife — aka Toby’s mother — has been out of town the past few days. It’s just been the Puppy and me at home. He does all the things he normally does with me: He awakens every morning around the same time; we eats breakfast, we goes outside for his morning, um, potty walk; we play fetch with one of his squeaky toys for a good part of the day; he eats dinner and then we turn in for the night.

However, he does none of it with quite the same gusto and joy that he displays when all three of us are together.

My wife tells me that when she takes Toby for walks that he is anxious to return home to see “Daddy.” Since I cannot verify that with my own eyes (if you get my drift), I rely on my wife’s testimony. Given that I married the most honest woman on Earth more than 47 years ago, I have no reason to doubt that she’s telling me the unvarnished truth.

And she informs me routinely that Toby loves yours truly, but he loves “he just loves me more.”

Toby the Puppy considers us to be a trio. He loves it when we’re all together. He’s in his element. He is safe and sound and he gets all the attention he deserves … which happens to be every ounce of it we can spare.

OK, so he’s a bit out of sorts. He’s a little under the emotional weather at the moment. I keep telling him that Mommy is coming home soon, which seems to perk him up.

It’s just not soon enough.

In the meantime, Toby the Puppy has just me.

Blogging streak hits a milestone

Congratulations to me!

High Plains Blogger has just reached a milestone of sorts. Today represents the 730th consecutive day of posts on this blog.

That means for two years I haven’t missed a day posting some sort of musing — or spewage, depending on your point of view — on High Plains Blogger.

I have no intention of slowing down. Now that I’ve hit the two-year mark, I am drawing a bead on Year No. 3 — and beyond.

Thanks so much for reading and sharing these posts. It means a lot to me to continue this pursuit.

Happy Trails, Part 127: Just wait, it’ll get here soon enough

I guess I can count as many non-retirees among my friends as those who’ve called it a career and are retirees … just like my wife and me.

I talked today in Amarillo with one of my non-retired friends. She was asking me how I “liked retirement.” She wondered if we were doing a “lot of traveling.” She added, “It must be nice, being retired.”

Well, yes it is. Then I reminded her of two things: First, she is a long way from retirement; second, it’ll get here before she knows it.

“I hope so,” she said, acknowledging that retirement today seems like a distant vision, adding immediately afterward that “I do still like working, though.” I’m glad to hear that, because she is good at what she does.

However, I have told many working men and women the same thing. The time will arrive; you’ll at yourself in the mirror and you’ll decide it’s time to call it all good. It’s time to retire. Then you’ll sit back for a moment or two — maybe three — and then wonder: When did I get so old? How did it happen so quickly? Where in the world did the time go?

Yep. That’s how it happens. It sneaks up on you. None of us realizes it in real time, but when the time arrives to retire, you almost always wonder the same thing about how it all slipped away so quickly.

We all can tell each other to prepare for retirement, do what we can to ensure financial security. Get all your affairs in order.

You’ll just have to take my word for it, that time has this way of speeding by when we least expect it. We might wish for it to do so in real time.

My mother always told me, though, about the hazards of “wishing your life away.” Don’t wish for retirement to arrive. It’ll get here in no time … none at all.