Tag Archives: retirement

Feeling an enhanced sense of outrage over this crime

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — I am nearly overcome with a level of outrage over a crime that all by itself should elicit this kind of response.

But we’ve been parked in our RV just outside of Denver and the local news media are reporting a hideous crime involving a man accused of killing his pregnant wife and their two young daughters.

Chris Watts reportedly has confessed to killing his wife Shanann, who was 15 weeks pregnant with the couple’s third child; he also allegedly strangled his two daughters.

We’ll be leaving this community very soon, heading north and eventually west. However, the images we’ve watched the past two days on Denver-area news TV of the beautiful victims and the man accused of killing them are going to stay with me for a long time.

Forensic psychologists already have begun dissecting Chris Watts’s body language as he has told the media and police to find his then-missing wife and children. They noted the way he stood, arms crossed, with no apparent outward emotion. The observation reminds me of how the Union County, S.C., sheriff began to suspect Susan Smith was culpable in that heinous murder of her two sons when they drowned in a car that had been pushed into the water. Smith “cried” but didn’t shed a tear.

So it is with Chris Watts.

The crime occurred in Frederick, which is northeast of Denver in Weld County. The media here are all over the story. I am getting the strong sense watching the reporters and anchors talking to viewers about what they know so far that they, too, are moved beyond measure while trying to understand how such a crime could occur.

I pray that justice will be delivered hard to the individual responsible for this dastardly deed.

Happy Trails, Part 120: Lawyers sing universal song

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — Our retirement journey brought us to this suburban Denver community, and an RV park where we’ve spent the past couple of nights.

We watch TV on our trips across the country. We scan in available channels and then, lo and behold, we get treated to an endless barrage of ads from personal injury lawyers looking for more clients to represent.

They all say the same thing: Hire me and I’ll get you lots of money. They talk about so-and-so getting hurt in a car wreck; he or she suffered a serious injury; the lawyer fought the client and raked in a six-figure amount.

I kind of hoping we had left that kind of incessant advertising when we started this trip. Silly me. It ain’t going to happen.

We’ll head for Casper, Wyo., next. We’ll get set up. We’ll scan in the channels there. No doubt we’ll hear that Casper has a “Strong Arm” lawyer who’ll say the same thing the Amarillo, Dallas/Fort Worth and Denver “Strong Arm(s)” have said as well.

There’s no escape! None! Help me!

What do I miss? The weather!

AMARILLO, Texas — Yep. we’re back where we lived for about a third of our lives on Earth.

Tonight I think I have discovered what I miss the most (sort of) about the Texas Panhandle.

I’ll stipulate up front that we made many friends here before departing for the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex earlier this year. I miss them terribly already.

The next thing? Man, it’s gotta be the weather.

We’ve been getting re-accustomed to downstate humidity while we have settled into our new digs in Fairview. It hasn’t been narly the struggle it was when we first moved to Texas in the spring of 1984; we left Oregon for — gulp! — Beaumont, in the Golden Triangle, or, as I like to call it, The Swamp.

Then we moved to Amarillo in 1995. It was in January. My blood had thinned out (if that’s possible) during our years way down yonder, so getting used to the Panhandle winter was a project. But we did.

We have returned for a few days while we prepare to depart for Yellowstone National Park and Grand Coulee, Wash.

We’ve had a hot, humid, sticky summer in Fairview. We parked our fifth wheel tonight at an RV park and have enjoyed the cool breeze wafting through our vehicle.

Ahh, yes! The weather. We likely are going to miss the Texas Panhandle’s version of the four seasons.

Happy Trails, Part 119: Smiles reveal relaxed attitude

A recently retired friend of mine posted a picture of himself on social media. My first thought when I saw the picture was: Man, he looks mighty relaxed.

I sent him a message that “retirement suits” him.

So it is with many of my friends who now are retired from varied careers. It seems to me that no matter what they did when they were working for a living, they all seem so much more “relaxed” now that they are free to come and go as they please.

I know that makes me sound like Captain Obvious. It might not seem that way to my younger friends who are still hard at it, still working for The Man, still waiting for the next paycheck.

So maybe this message is for them.

I “retired” from daily journalism on someone else’s terms. I wasn’t able to walk away on my own terms. Still, even though my career ended suddenly and quite unhappily in the manner that it did, I discovered something rapidly as I began transitioning into full-time retirement: I didn’t actually miss working nearly as much as I thought I would.

Indeed, I had many acquaintances tell me as we encountered each other that I was “looking really relaxed.” Some would comment that my face revealed a new outlook on life. They suggested I was smiling more broadly, that I actually had a bit of a spring in my step. My wife was one of those who said I became a different — and more pleasant — person once I stopped reporting for work.

I used to have this crease in the middle of my forehead that seemed almost permanent. When I was working full time, I found myself scowling even when I was relatively calm.

That forehead crease has all but disappeared.

It’s been nearly six years since I walked away from my last full-time job. I’ll admit there were times, especially in the months immediately after it came to a close, that I did look back. I would wonder: What the hell happened back there?

Those days are long gone. I, too, am relaxed.

I feel as relaxed as my newly retired friend who seems to have adjusted immediately to the good life.

Happy Trails, Part 118: Packing warm clothes

A young woman at an RV park in central Wyoming delivered a message that was music to my ears.

I made an overnight reservation there and then asked about the temperature. “It’s been hot here the past week,” she said. I then asked about Yellowstone National Park, where my wife, Toby and Puppy and I are heading.

“Oh, be sure to bring warm clothes there,” she said. “I hear it’s cooling off nicely.”

Man, I hope she heard it correctly.

This is our first trip in a few months; it is the first since we moved from Amarillo to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

We have had a toasty summer so far in the Metroplex, although it’s been more,  um, tolerable the past few days. We had quite a few consecutive days of 100-degree-plus weather. That, and the humidity, does take the starch out of you.

However, very soon we’re packing up our RV and heading north and west toward Yellowstone. We’ll spend four nights there before heading ever farther north and west, where we’ll spend three nights near Grand Coulee Dam, Wash. I grew up in Portland, Ore., which isn’t all that far away, and have never been to Grand Coulee Dam. So, this is kind of a bucket-list destination for me.

I am not expecting frigid temps on this road trip. I do expect to layer up my attire while we’re visiting Old Faithful and gawking at the wildlife that runs around the nation’s oldest national park.

I do hope the young woman on the phone today knew what she was talking about.

I’ll keep you posted.

Happy Trails, Part 117: Technology comes in handy

Now that I am a 21st-century man — more or less — I can report that we are relying on state-of-the-art navigational technology to help us get from place to place in our new community.

We live in Fairview, Texas — which is tucked between Allen and McKinney in Collin County. We live about 20-something miles north of Dallas.

Oh, but more importantly, it takes us about 12 minutes to drive to where our granddaughter lives.

We have some technological devices are our disposal to help us stumble and bumble our way around. They all work pretty well.

We have Google apps on our cell phones. The smart phones are pretty damn smart, if you know what I mean — and I know that you do. Hey, we don’t even have to provide a physical address to these devices; we just type in the place where we’re wanting to go and the phone gives us detailed directions.

Then we have the GPS system in our 3/4-ton pickup we have named Big Jake. That system works quite well … as long as the route we intend to travel is an established one that’s been there a while. The Metroplex is full of newly built highways, tollways, turnpikes and parkways. Big Jake’s guidance system, therefore, is a bit of a crap shoot.

And then … we have the Garmin GPS we store in our Prius. Same problem with the Garmin as with the truck’s built-in GPS system.

The bottom line? We’re going to rely primarily on our phones’ guidance systems until we feel comfortable enough getting around without any telecommunications assistance.

It’s going to be some time before that occurs. The Metroplex is hu–u-u-u-ge, sprawling urban center. Dallas/Fort Worth comprises about 7.5 million residents living in the nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan area. You get my drift, right?

But we’ll find our way. Meantime, a prayer or two would be much appreciated.

One more thing. We had no trouble learning the way to and from our granddaughter’s house.

Happy Trails, Part 116: Puppy now knows Emma

I was torn between filing this blog item under a Happy Trails installment or a Puppy Tales episode. I settled on the Happy Trails route, as it helps explain another milestone that our retirement journey has passed.

It actually arrived some time ago, but I noticed again today.

Our granddaughter visited us briefly this morning at our place prior to taking her downtown to see the Dallas World Aquarium. When she walked through the front door, Toby the Puppy greeted her precisely the way he greets my wife and me whenever we’re away for more than 10 minutes: tail wags, licks and running around vigorously in circles.

This is the kind of greeting Emma can expect whenever she sees Toby. It’s also the greeting she’ll get with increasing frequency now that her Grandma and I have moved to our new digs in Collin County.

She’s used to enthusiastic greetings from dogs. She has one of her own. Madden is much larger than Toby. He also is just as cheerful and affectionate when he sees Emma. For that matter, he greets Toby the same way; Toby is more than happy to return the affection to his much larger family relative. I hasten to add that Madden greets my wife and me with plenty of licks and tail wags, too.

This is one of those transitions we expected to occur once we resettled in North Texas. I enjoy watching it every time it occurs.

Today was no exception. I am so looking forward to many more of these greetings.

I should add that Emma loves Toby as much as he loves her.

Happy Trails, Part 115: First house guest arrives

I am happy to report that our first house guest arrived, spent the night and then departed for points north.

Why is this a big deal? Because it occurred in our new home.

Our dear friend lives in Roanoke, Va. He was visiting his mother-in-law in East Texas. His wife, another dear friend, had stayed behind to spend more time with her mother.

I’ll stipulate that we’ve actually had another person spend the night with us prior to our friend. That other person, though, is our granddaughter and, given that she is family, I won’t count her as a “first house guest.” Emma isn’t a “guest” in our home, if you know what I mean.

This is a big deal because of the hard work my wife — aka Wonder Woman — has done to assemble our new digs in Fairview, making them livable and comfortable not just for us, but for those who choose to visit.

I know there will be others who’ll come to see us. We will welcome them.

Just not all at once. Our new place isn’t that big. It is, however, big enough for us, for our granddaughter, for Toby the Puppy and those who want to share some time with us.

I’m just thrilled to have spent some fellowship in our new dwelling with someone who came from far away.

Happy Trails, Part 113: Adult supervision anyone?

I don’t normally like discussing adult supervision in this blog, but since my High Plains Blogger profile talks about “life experience,” I want to offer a brief glimpse of what my wife and I witnessed on a quick trip back to Amarillo, Texas.

We saw first hand how adults should and should not handle minors under their supervision.

First, the “should not” example.

We were parked for three nights at an RV park in far west Amarillo. One afternoon, some kids walked by our fifth wheel and one of them pounded on the door. The noise upset Toby the Puppy. My wife and I went outside and confronted one of the boys and told him to quit doing that.

The boy kind of smirked back at me and said the culprit was a friend of his, who was nowhere to be seen. Fine. Then I said, “Just knock it off.”

Late that night, we turned in around 11 p.m. All three of us had gone to bed. Then came another knock on the door. The Puppy got upset again. We went outside. No sign of the kids.

Ah, but then we noticed an RV parked across the road from ours. We believed it belonged to the coach/dad who was accompanying the boys, who were part of a baseball team that was in Amarillo to play in a tournament; the visitors are from western Oklahoma.

We knocked on his door. Coach/Dad answered. “Are you the coach of the boys here?” my wife asked. “Yes.” Then we told him about what had just happened. He was mortified. One of those kids is his son, he said. He grabbed his cell phone and called his son. “Get back to the trailer — right now!” he said.

The kids returned. We went back to our RV. We watched the kids enter their trailer. We’ll presume Coach/Dad gave them a serious tongue-lashing.

Two quick points I want to make here: One is that the boys had no good reason to be out wandering through an RV park at 11 p.m. The adults should have reeled them in much earlier. The kids also should have been made to apologize for disturbing us; they didn’t do it.

Shame on Coach/Dad.

This morning we had breakfast at a restaurant near our Amarillo RV park. We ate our meal with our son. Then we finished, got up and walked toward the door. We noticed a group of Boy Scouts sitting quietly. They were eating their meal, too. We hardly knew they were in the room.

Those boys were exhibiting discipline, decorum and good manners.

Good job to their scoutmaster.

There. Rant over. We’re back home in Fairview. I’m quite certain no one is going to beat on our door in the wee hours.

Happy Trails, Part 112: Back to the beginning

Not quite 47 years ago, my wife and I recited our sacred marriage vow — in the quickest 22-minute ceremony of my life — spent a glorious honeymoon in the Cascade Range of Central Oregon and returned to start our life in a two-bedroom apartment in southeast Portland.

Our monthly rent in 1971 was — get a load of this — $135.

Many years later — after owning four homes in Oregon and in Texas — we have returned to our “roots,” more or less.

We have decided to return to apartment living.

I must stipulate the obvious. Our rent today is nowhere close to what we paid when we began our life together. You don’t need to know what we’re paying these days; just know that it is many times more than what we paid back in the day.

We are thrilled with this turn our life has taken.

After we sold our Amarillo house we decided quickly to forgo the search for a new house to buy, to take on another mortgage that we likely wouldn’t be able to outlive, to be saddled with house repairs as they occurred.

We decided to rent. Yes, our intent was to “downsize” significantly from the house we owned in Amarillo. We did unload many of our possessions, but not enough of them. We have managed to stuff our remaining belongings into this apartment in Fairview, although it doesn’t look as though it’s stuffed.

Fairview is a lovely community tucked between Allen and McKinney in Collin County. The sign at the city limit says the population is around 7,200 residents, although I am absolutely certain it’s much larger than that today.

Our grand scheme goes something like this:

We’ll use the apartment as a jumping-off place for the travel we intend to pursue in our retirement years. We own a 28-foot fifth wheel that we hitch to the back of our pickup. It served as our home for several months while we prepared to sell our house and then put our dwelling on the market. Our fifth wheel served us well in that capacity.

Now it’s being returned to its original mission, as a recreational travel vehicle. We will use it frequently, weather permitting, as we hit the road across North America.

We already have returned to the Cascade Range. We’ve taken our RV to all three coasts and to the Great Lakes region. There’s plenty more to see and enjoy.

We will return home to our apartment, just as we did when we began this marvelous journey together. It’s been a great ride so far.

However, we aren’t nearly finished.