Tag Archives: retirement

Blog starting to get traction

Blogging has become something of an addiction for me.

No, I don’t need an intervention. It is a way for me to continue doing what I have loved doing for nearly 40 years, which is to string words into sentences, and sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into essays.

I do this because it makes me happy.

My daily journalism career ended in August 2012, but I’ve continued writing.

High Plains Blogger has been my release of sorts. I am happy to report some good news regarding this blog.

I have just set my sixth consecutive monthly record for page views and unique visitors. The previous record, incidentally, came in January — which has 31 days; February, of course, has just 28 days, but another record fell this month anyway. I feel like sharing that with those of you who follow the blog, are kind enough to read it and some of whom are kind enough — or angry enough — to provide responses to the opinions expressed on this blog.

Are my numbers great? I don’t consider them great. Some of my friends also have longstanding blogs and they report the number of daily “hits” that far exceed my relatively meager totals.

That’s the bad news. The good news? Well, my blog’s monthly totals have grown more than 200 percent since I moved the blog onto this Word Press server in July 2013. The way I figure it, if it grows another 200 percent of so in the next 18 months, then we’ll be talking about some serious numbers.

Several aspects about the blog’s growth intrigue me. The blog hits are coming from all around the globe. Readers from virtually all of Latin America have looked at the blog. Asia — from the Middle East to the Orient — is filled in with hits, along with Europe. And just recently, viewers in Africa have been looking at the blog.

Those who read the blog know that it’s mostly political, looking at issues from a center-left perspective. I seek to veer from the humdrum of politics on occasion to talk about family matters and to look ahead to the day my wife and I retire fully and we hit the road in our recreational vehicle.

The blog has given me joy in writing it. I don’t expect it to be a joyful experience for everyone who reads it, given that not everyone agrees with my world view. That’s all right, as long as folks remain engaged.

Thank you for reading High Plains Blogger. It’s been a hoot.

Much more is on its way.





Overseas travel awaits

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

You’ve heard about my plans to travel in a recreational vehicle with my wife throughout North America.

That’ll happen in due course. Some of it’s happening now as we take our fifth wheel out for long-weekend excursions. Retirement beckons. It’s coming closer every day and soon enough we’ll be free to hit the road.

However, we have some places we intend to see abroad as well.

My wife and I have compiled an official list of places we intend to visit once we decide we’re tired of working. More or less in order of preference, but not entirely so, here they are:

Australia: Neither of us has been close to the Down Under continent yet. I’ve been to Southeast Asia a time or three over the years. My wife has been to Taiwan twice with me. Australia is calling our name.

We have been communicating with a friend in Adelaide ever since we met this individual on another trip, in 2000, to Greece. We’ve indicated our desire to see him. He is receptive to our visiting him in the state of South Australia.

My fascination with Australia goes back to when I was about 13. My dad was entertaining a job opportunity in the coastal town of Rockhampton, between Sydney and Brisbane. I studied all I could then about Australia, anticipating a huge move. Dad didn’t pursue the opportunity. We stayed put. My interest in Australia, though, has remained high.

My wife has agreed that Australia should be at or near the top of our foreign destinations when the time arrives.

Greece: We’ve been there twice together already, in 2000 and 2001. I returned a third time in 2003. It is the land of my ancestors. My wife fell in love deeply with Greece almost from the moment we landed in Athens.

She has told me on more than one occasion: “Of all the places we’ve seen this is the one place I could return to again and again.”

It is magic. The scenic splendor is breathtaking. The antiquities are staggering. The people are charming.

We’re going back.

Israel: We’ve been there as well. We spent a week in the Holy Land after I had spent four weeks there leading a Rotary International Group Study Exchange. We stayed in Jerusalem and saw quite a few holy sites during our time together there.

We were unable to see a lot of other sites. We didn’t get to Galilee. We saw only a small part of Bethlehem. There were many other sites we left unseen. Time wouldn’t allow it.

Germany: Four years ago on a tour of Taiwan, I met a young journalist who lives in Bavaria, which I call “the pretty part of Germany.” He and I struck up an immediate friendship. We communicate regularly. He has invited us to visit him and his young family. Oh, how I want to see the mountainous region of southern Germany. We’ll get there.

Africa: I’ve long had a fascination with the wildlife of Africa. I want to shoot some of it — with a camera. The idea of a photo safari sounds like more fun than I deserve.

The Netherlands: The trip to Israel five years included my making some friends from The Netherlands. They traveled with our Rotary group. One of the Dutch group and I have remained in contact in the years since then and he, too, has extended the invitation for my wife and me to visit him there. How can I say “no” at the chance of seeing such a spectacular region of Europe?

We’re not yet ready to quit working. Indeed, I intend to keep writing for as long as I am drawing a breath.

It’s a big world out there and we’re excited about seeing more of it.

Weird feeling takes hold as milestone approaches

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

A strange feeling is beginning to settle in.

My 65th birthday is just a few days away. I’ve been enjoying telling folks my age, which I usually declare by saying something like, “I’m about to turn 65.” I haven’t been mentioning that I’m still just 64.

Why the weird feeling? Growing up, I always considered 65 to be the retirement year. That’s when you tell your boss, “You know, I think I’m going to call it a career. Here’s my letter of resignation. The ‘Golden Years’ await.”

Well, the landmark birthday is coming up, but I’m not yet ready to call it quits.

I can’t quite grasp the thrill I’m feeling, though, of passing through this portal.

I’ve lived longer than both of my parents; Dad died at 59, Mom at 61. That fact, by itself, is a bit of a mind-blower. One of my sisters has crossed that threshold, too. My other — much younger — sister will get there in due course and she’s just two years away from passing Dad’s length of time on this Earth.

At this age, I find myself counting my blessings. That’s natural, I guess, although I’ve never asked any of my elderly friends whether that’s what they do. I’ll assume that’s the case.

I’m blessed with excellent health; for that matter, so is my wife — and that makes impending retirement even more exciting, as we hope to take our healthy selves on the road all across North America.

Of course, I’m not naïve about one’s physical health. I understand fully that it can go south without warning, instantly. Yes, it happens at any age, but the frequency of that occurrence is more pronounced the older one gets.

Perhaps that’s a symptom of the weirdness I’m feeling these days. Am I afraid of growing more frail and susceptible to Father Time’s way of upsetting one’s life plans?

I’ll just set that fear aside. Perhaps the best approach is to follow the dictum set forth in the film “Dead Poets Society.” Robin Williams’s character told his young students to “seize the day” and to live every moment as if it’s your last.

Retirement is inching closer. I’ll be ready when it arrives.


The older I get, the more I sound like Dad

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

“I keep opening my mouth and my mother keeps coming out.”

I saw that saying once and laughed when I heard it. I never thought I’d be living it.

What do I mean? Well, my father had this habit of adding years to his life. It seems that whenever he celebrated a birthday he would start referencing his next birthday whenever the question of his age came up. The next-year reference wouldn’t start on the day of his birthday, but it would commence about a week or two, maybe a month later.

I’m not making this up.

Dad died just a bit past his 59th birthday, on Sept. 7, 1980.

I’ve since gone a good bit past that point in my own life. I’m 64, about to turn 65.

And what I’ve discovered myself doing is referencing my next birthday.

I don’t say that I’m 65. Instead, I usually say, “I am going to be 65 in December.” I’ve been saying that since, oh, this past June.

Why am I sounding a bit like my father? It might have something to do with the anticipation I’m feeling toward retirement.

I become eligible for Medicare benefits when I turn 65. I’ll start collecting a small pension from a previous employer effective on my 65th birthday. I’ll become fully vested in Social Security when I turn 66, so that date is looming quite large as well.

As for Medicare, I learned some time ago that my Veteran Administration health care enrollment makes it unnecessary for me to sign up for any of the supplemental coverage that Medicare offers — and I had that notion reaffirmed by a friend of mine who works extensively with elderly medical patients.

It’s not a bad thing that I’m sounding more like my father. He was a good man with a fairly compelling and outsized personality.

Perhaps I should take some advice that my mother offered many years ago. I’d say “I can’t wait” for something to happen, or “I wish it was the weekend.”

Her response: Don’t wish your life away.

The older I get and the closer I get to retirement, Mom’s advice is coming in loud and clear.

Keeping it simple with Medicare

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

I knew this day was coming. Finally, I took the leap.

Health insurance providers have been bombarding me with reminders that my date with Medicare destiny is approaching. I’d been setting those mailings aside. Today, however, I decided to do the inevitable.

I made my initial application for Medicare.

There’s good news to report. The website is surprisingly easy to navigate. I called up Medicare.gov and went to the link that connected me to the application process. I filled out several pages of questions. I previewed them. I printed them out. I received an email alert from Medicare telling me my application had been received. I was informed that I could get the “status” of my application after five business days.

I’ll do so at the end of the week.

I turn 65 in December. I’ll be qualified to receive the so-called “free” health coverage provided by the federal government. Of course, I don’t consider it a freebie. I consider it a prepaid benefit, just as my veterans benefit was paid by my service in the U.S. Army for two years from 1968 until 1970.

I’m trying like the dickens to keep it as simple as possible. I’m not yet sure how many “parts” I’ll sign up for. I’m not even sure I understand what all the parts — Part A, B, C, D … whatever — actually mean.

I was advised by someone in the know that since I had signed up with the Veterans Administration health care system, I likely might not need to enroll in many Medicare supplemental programs. I’ll try to keep it simple as this application process moves forward.

This is a curiously exciting time in my life. My wife and I are living a good life these days. We’re both free of much of the daily pressure of working full time every day. I’m working at two part-time jobs that give me plenty of time to spend on this blog, which I’m enjoying immensely.

Our sons are successful. Our health is good.

What’s more, I’ve now begun the process of joining a federal health program that once had as many critics as, say, the Affordable Care Act. It’s working well now.

Count me in.

Medicare info overflows from my mailbox

This is another in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

My 65th birthday looms just a few months down the road.

Someone must have ratted me out to every health insurance company on the planet. Nearly every single day our mail box contains something from someone telling me about my Medicare options when I hit that magic number.

Maybe I should send them all return slips telling them “Stop sending me these mailers.”

Would they heed my command? I doubt it. Strongly.

They’ll keep coming.

Here’s the latest on my Medicare sign-up planning: I have given it hardly a thought.

Medicare was that genius legislation cooked up during the Lyndon Johnson administration. President Johnson signed the Medicare bill into law in 1965. Unlike the hassling and haggling over the Affordable Care Act, there was little overt opposition to the then-new law when the president signed it.

Yes, they tweaked the provisions within the Medicare program once they figured out how to solve the problems. They didn’t toss it all out and start over, which is what many ACA critics keep insisting must be done now. To borrow a phrase from Col. Sherman T. Potter: buffalo bagels!

Medicare is still a seemingly complicated matter. My mother-in-law is on it and my intrepid wife is forced on occasion to sort out some kind of issue with it as it relates to her mother’s health care.

You’ve got parts A, B and D. I think that’s it. Whatever happened to Part C? Maybe it’s part of the pile of mailings I’ve gotten, but have just missed it.

Someone advised me once that my Veterans Administration health care coverage — which, of course, is prepaid — would be sufficient, that I wouldn’t need to mess with Medicare.

I’ll get to poring through the Medicare mailings eventually. Maybe I’ll decide on a plan to cover me in case I get sick.

It can wait. All these mailers make my head hurt.

Oh man, that's eatin'

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

The late singer and talk-show host Mike Douglas once offered a piece of wisdom that has stuck with me in the decades since I heard him say it.

He asked a guest on his afternoon talk show: “Why is it that a hot dog tastes like a filet mignon when you’re eating it at a baseball game?”

Why, indeed?

Well, my wife and I have discovered on our brief excursions in our fifth wheel that we can ask essentially the same question about any meal we eat inside our recreational vehicle: Why does our breakfast taste like a gourmet meal prepared at the finest restaurant on the planet?

OK, so maybe I’m being a bit hyperbolic. So what? I hope you get the point.

We prepared breakfast at a campsite at Lake Tawakoni State Park east of Dallas and, by golly, it tasted like something that came straight from Paul Prudhomme’s kitchen in New Orleans.

What was it? Turkey bacon, scrambled eggs and cantaloupe.

Hey, we aren’t gourmet chefs, but we do enjoy the taste of a meal in our recreational vehicle.

I trust others who read this blog – particularly those who also like to travel in their RVs – can understand what I’m saying here.

I totally understood Mike Douglas’s question about hot dogs at the ballpark. I’ve consumed more than my share of ‘em while watching a ballgame. He’s totally right about how they taste well, um, different in that context than they do around the dining room table at home.

The same can be said about eating in an RV.

We haven’t done enough of it – yet – to become expert commentators on it.

Maybe we’ll tire of the food cooked on our propane-fired oven once we hit the road more frequently and for longer period of time.

But I doubt that will happen.

Full-time work wears me out

This is another in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

Epiphanies arrive at the strangest times.

Such as when one is in the middle of a part-time job and the realization hits: I no longer have the energy to work full time.

That one hit me at some point this afternoon. Thus, I figure I’ve taken another important step toward retirement.

I no longer want a full-time job. I busted my backside for 40-plus years, most of that time toiling in daily print journalism.

These days, my work consists of essentially two-part time gigs — or maybe one part-time job and another “job” that involves my favorite hobby, which is writing on politics, public policy and other current events. The actual job is at an auto dealership in Amarillo. The fun job is the blog I write for Panhandle PBS, the public TV station based at Amarillo College. (Look up “A Public View” at panhandlepbs.org and you’ll see how much fun I’m having.)

I already have chronicled — a little bit, at least — the circumstances of my departure from daily journalism. The event occurred almost two years ago. I was more than a little unhappy over the circumstance that brought it about.

The bad news is that I went into mourning for a time after I cleared out my office and drove home that day. The good news is that I got over my grief fairly quickly and have been looking forward to the future ever since.

I suppose now I ought to thank my former employer for telling me at the end of August 2012 that someone else would be doing the job I’d been doing at the Amarillo Globe-News for more than 17 years. Maybe I will do so one day. I might thank him for sparing me the chaos I understand has gripped the place as it transitions from what it was to whatever it’s going to become.

I might do that. Just not yet.

Retirement is looking better all the time, although I likely won’t ever give up the writing part of what’s left of my working life. Why would I want to stop receiving the kind of enjoyment I get from prattling on about this and that?

Another retirement milestone reached

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

I love it when decisions make our paths a little clearer.

My wife and I made another key retirement decision the other day. It’s a tentative one, but we made it nonetheless.

I am reluctant to divulge the details of the decision, because circumstances might force us to change our plans. The decision involves when we plan to sell our home in Amarillo and move southeast, to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Why there? I believe I’ve mentioned our granddaughter, her two big brothers, our son and daughter-in-law, correct? Well, there you have it. They live there. We want to be nearby.

OK, why not spill the beans? I don’t want to go on record — just yet — on our intentions. Plans have a way of changing suddenly, depending on a lot of matters relating to health and finances — or a combination of both. We intend to inform certain family members of our plans upon request.

We’ve already decided when I’ll start drawing Social Security retirement. My wife already is drawing her Social Security income. I’m going to soon begin receiving a monthly pension from a newspaper company where I worked for nearly 11 years before coming to Amarillo. I’ve got these two part-time jobs, one of which I’ll be able to continue doing after we make our move.

The stars are lining up pretty well for us — at this time.

We’ve learned, though, never to take life for granted. Unforeseen things happen. Neither of us is clairvoyant, so we cannot know what the future — immediate or longer term — holds for us.

Suffice to say that if certain things remain stable, if we maintain our excellent health, if se are able to sell our home in a reasonable amount of time — and at a reasonable price — then we’re out of here.

Our baby granddaughter already is growing up too quickly.

Knowing, though, that another key decision is now — more or less — out of the way, we’re looking ever more happily toward the future.

No more 'Hump Day'

This is the latest in a series of occasional blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

Here is a brief conversation that occurred this morning as I was leaving the Amarillo Town Club after my regular morning workout.

ATC attendant: Have a good day, John; I’ll see you tomorrow.

Me: Sure will. See ya.

ATC attendant: Hey, tomorrow is Hump Day!

Me: I reckon.

Then it occurred to me as I walked toward my vehicle: Hey, I don’t have a “Hump Day” any longer.

My sister and I have joked for some time now about the absence of deadline pressure in retirement. She and her husband have been retired fully for a while now. She laughs when people say, “Have a good weekend.” Her response? Yeah, whatever. For them, they enjoy a continual “weekend.”

I’m now beginning to understand it all.

I do work a couple of part-time jobs, one of which I do mostly at home. Back when I was a full-time working stiff, though, I rarely uttered the term “Hump Day,” only because it sounded so … so cliché.

This morning, though, I realized I crossed another barrier en route to full retirement. It is the realization that I have taken nearly full possession of my time.

My wife and I have made several key decisions in recent months about our future. The latest decision was determining when I will start drawing my full Social Security, at which time I will join her as an SSI recipient.

Hump Day? It’s now a part of my past. My next step just might be to stop wearing a watch on my wrist. That, I admit, will take some serious soul-searching.