Tag Archives: retirement

Happy Trails, Part 189: Recalling a glorious Christmas

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The structure you see here is the house my wife and I called home for more than two decades. I snapped this picture about four years ago, but the real story of this house commenced 24 years ago this week.

On Dec. 22, 1996, we closed on the purchase of this house. We had lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Amarillo for nearly two years. We decided it was time to sink our roots deeply into the Caprock. So we set out looking for some property on which we would build our house.

We found a lot in the far southwest corner of Amarillo. We had selected a floor plan that caught my wife’s attention. We met with the builder and in October 1996 his crews commenced work. Two months later, the house was finished.

We signed the papers. Then we moved in.

Why mention it here? Because our Christmas in 1996 turned out to be one of the more memorable holidays in our long and glorious life together.

We moved in three days before Christmas. We had boxes scattered in every room of our house. Our big stuff had been delivered: furniture, appliances, those kinds of things. Just seeing our belongings again after they had been stored away for nearly two years was in itself a Christmas blessing for us.

We opened boxes and found trinkets and assorted possessions we hadn’t seen while they were packed away and kept in storage. Every box we opened reacquainted us with our belongings.

Oh, what about a Christmas tree? Yes, we had one. It was a Norfolk pine that we had moved from Beaumont to Amarillo. It was a potted tree and was very much alive.

My wife found some Christmas lights and some ornaments among the boxes we opened. We strung the lights around the 4-foot tree along with a few ornaments. We then were able to place a few gifts around the base of the tree.

Christmas morning 1996 dawned like many others in our house. Our sons were there. We had a nice Christmas breakfast, opened our gifts and enjoyed ogling our new digs, which we had watched being built from the ground up.

It was home for a long time. Then came the moment we knew would occur when our granddaughter arrived in 2013. It was time to move closer to her in the Metroplex.

We made the move and bid goodbye to this special place that became all the more special because of a fabulous Christmas memory it provided for us.

Happy Trails, Part 188: Success at the end of an RV outing


By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Retirement has allowed me to count my blessings, which I do every day and occasionally boast when I score even the mildest of victories.

Here comes the boast.

My wife and I returned today from a 10-day sojourn through Far West Texas. It started in Abilene, where we caught up with a good friend and her husband; we moved on to Monahans and then to the Davis Mountains. We headed back northeast toward Princeton; we spent a night in Mason and then at Meridian State Park.

We arrived in front of our house around noon today. We emptied our RV, had a bite of lunch and then took our fifth wheel back to the storage lot where it “sleeps” between outings.

Then came the moment of triumph.

We rolled onto the parking lot, wheeled the RV around to line it up with our covered stall … and then backed it straight into the storage space — on the first pass! There was no back and forth, no second, third or fourth attempt to line it up.

Is that a big deal? Yeah! It is! It’s a big deal because I have not yet mastered the backup technique required at times when we haul our fifth wheel on an outing. Indeed, we had a back-in site at Davis Mountains State Park. It was awkwardly configured, so I had a bit of a struggle backing it into the site; but we got it parked.

I know that none of this rises to the level of monumental achievement. Except that in the grand scheme of the retirement journey on which my wife and I embarked, it does look significant from my standpoint.

We have had to learn a few lessons hauling our fifth wheel hither and yon. We have made some mistakes; a couple of them have been a bit costly.

Thus, when I score a “win” simply by being able to back our fifth wheel into a spot on a single pass I consider it worth a bit of self-congratulation.

I am hoping for more victories along our journey.

Oh, the Internet!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I am receiving a real-time lesson on how dependent I have become to the Internet.

Our RV campsite is in the middle of the Davis Mountains of Far West Texas. Cell phone reception is gone, pfftt … nothing, man! That doesn’t bother me so much.

What drives me batty is my (lack of ) Internet connection. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, which runs the magnificent state park where we are holed up, has Wi-Fi service, but it’s lousy. I cannot sign onto the TP&W site. I can, however, sign onto Word Press, which is the platform that contains this entry. When I am finished I will post it to Word Press, but not onto the other social media platforms I use to distribute this blog.

Therefore, this entry will go to relatively few folks who normally would read these words.

I am expressing a frustration.

We’re able to go into town, where the cell service is a zillion times better. Thus, so is the Internet service.

I’ll just have to wait until our next foray into Fort Davis to reconnect with what we used to refer to in Vietnam as “The World.”

Bear with me. Please.

Happy Trails, Part 187: Yep, they were tough

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

ABILENE, Texas — Our retirement journey brought us to a community that is proud as the dickens of its cowboy/Wild West heritage.

Show the city shows it off with a museum called Frontier Texas. We visited it and came away with a keen appreciation of just how tough the folks were who settled in this region. Not only that, we came away understanding a little better the nature of the Native Americans who were here long before the Anglos arrived.

What did we learn? Let’s see …

We learned about a woman who married four or five times after each of her husbands met untimely and gruesome deaths at the hands of outlaws and of Native Americans. I found myself wondering: Why did she keep seeking love when she had encountered such tragedy? Oh, and her daughter and granddaughter died prematurely and violently, too!

Then there were the bison that were hunted to near extinction by “buffalo hunters,” which is how the museum identified them. “Buffalo killers” would have been a much more apt description.

There is a brief reference to the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon between the Army and the Comanche warriors. The museum mentions that the Army captured 1,400 Comanche horses and then “slaughtered” them. It doesn’t tell you that the soldiers stampeded the animals off the canyon rim.

I have long resisted trying to imagine whether I could live in that era. We cannot control the time we come into this world. I was born in 1949 and I am glad I entered the world at that time. Had I been born, say, in 1849, well, I would have coped with life in that time.

Still, as I look back at the folks who lived in this part of Texas and coped with life and death, I come away amazed and astonished at the grit and courage they exhibited.

It’s just yet another discovery we have made on our journey through retirement. I am quite certain there are many more to find in this big ol’ world.

Duty overtakes blogging

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

For those of you who might be waiting for a full-scale, full-throated, front-on return of this blog, I am making an announcement.

It will return in full and frequent force just as soon as I clean up our house.

You see, household duty has pulled High Plains Blogger away from the usual frequent fare of commentary on this and that. I have climbing up and down ladders, step ladders and step stools for the past few days as we paint the interior of our home.

We just completed the first phase. We’re going to take break, collect our thoughts and decide what color we want to plaster on the remainder of our walls.

Now I get to return to something I love doing, which is offering commentary on issues of the day.

Hmm. Let’s see. I think we have a few topics to discuss.

Puppy Tales, Part 87: Earning his spurs

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

TYLER STATE PARK, Texas — You know by now that Toby the Puppy is nearly perfect … if not actually perfect.

One of the aspects of his perfection is that he barks only for a reason. He doesn’t just yip and yap at nothing or nobody. Hardly. He barks when people approach our RV, or our house when we’re at home. He knows when one of us is away from the house and when we return that he doesn’t need to bark; Toby the Puppy simply assumes it’s either his Mother or me.

OK, that all laid out there, here’s a tale of how he put his bigger than expected bark to good use.

We were parked at Tyler State Park. We noticed a raccoon walking through our area. We watched as the ‘coon walked up to an RV a few spaces away from ours. This all happened just before dusk.

Then the sun went down and, without warning — and it was startling to hear — Toby the Puppy went absolutely ballistic. He barked, he snarled, he made noises that we had never heard him make. He was looking out the door of our RV into the dark.

I grabbed a flashlight and looked everywhere in our camp site at what might have caused Toby to go berserk. I found nothing. Then it occurred to me: Toby the Puppy scared that raccoon away!

I cannot prove that the raccoon ventured into our site that evening. I am left only with circumstantial evidence. We saw with our own eyes the raccoon snooping around our neighbor’s rig. Then it got dark and our pooch began snarling at a mystery object outside.

Two plus two does equal four, yes?

There you have it. Toby the Puppy has earned his keep as a supreme watchdog.

Puppy Tales, Part 86: Reading lips? Really?



TYLER STATE PARK, Texas — Spare me the derisive laughter when I reveal the latest wonderment involving Toby the Puppy.

I was sitting in our recreational vehicle; the air conditioner was blasting cool air throughout the RV. It was making a lot of noise.

Toby was lying on the floor next to the bed in our bedroom. He and I made eye contact. Then I turned to my wife and I whispered to her: Do you think we should take Puppy for a walk?

As the Almighty is my witness, the moment I said the word “walk,” Toby jumped up and ran toward us. His tail was wagging. He wanted to go on a walk through the Tyler State Park campground.

My wife offered a potentially plausible explanation for what we both witnessed, which was that Toby is blessed with exceptional hearing. I won’t accept her rational thinking … just yet.

I want to make it abundantly clear that I spoke to my wife in that moment in a voice that couldn’t possibly be heard above the roar of the A/C. Yet our puppy responded immediately after watching me say the operative word.

Not long after Toby the Puppy joined our family, my wife and I learned to avoid saying certain words in his presence unless we were prepared to act on what we had just said. In other words we didn’t say the word “walk” unless we intended to it in the moment.

It’s a good think we could act on it when I mouthed the word “walk.”

I will take greater care from this day forward.

What’s next, post-Trump?



Yes, I do think at times of matters that take my brain into outer space.

One of them has popped into my noggin and it has to do, not surprisingly, with Donald John Trump.

I have spent a lot of emotional energy on High Plains Blogger commenting on the foibles of Trump and the presidency he inherited. What will happen to this blog once Donald Trump exits the White House? You probably haven’t thought about it, as you have many other things to occupy your mind. Truth be told, so do I, but I still have time to ponder things such as this.

I am supremely confident that this blog will continue. For all I know it might even flourish.

The world is huge. We have this pandemic that is likely to stay with us well past Trump’s time as president, which I hope ends in January 2021. We have many existential threats facing us: climate change, race relations/civil unrest, war and peace, terror threats.

There also will be plenty of wreckage left behind by Donald Trump that the next president — and I want it badly to be Joe Biden — will have to clean off the deck.

You see, all of this will require my attention. I intend to attend to all of it in due course as we move past the Donald Trump Era of Political Malfeasance.

I also have other matters to ponder, the “life experience” stuff that occasionally gets my attention. I want to continue chronicling the joy of being parents to Toby the Puppy; we have this eternal retirement journey on which we have embarked and I will discuss that as well with you.

Donald Trump may think he’s bigger than the presidency. He isn’t. The office will recover once he is gone. Trump damn sure isn’t bigger than High Plains Blogger. It, too, will go on.

Happy Trails, Part 186: Not missing the land line

When you retire from the working world, I have found that you embark on a series of new customs. You at times forsake the old way for the new way and then hope the new way feels as comfortable as what you had all those years ago.

So it has been with my phone service.

My wife and I disconnected our land line several months before we moved from Amarillo to the Metroplex. We moved into our fifth wheel and lived in it while we prepared our house for sale.

We both had been tethered to the land line since we were children. My parents had no choice, naturally; neither did hers. We found ourselves with that kind of choice our parents never had.

So we disconnected our land line. We rely exclusively these days on our cell phones.

Let me stipulate that I do not use my cell phone for many tasks other than speaking to people. I do take pictures with it. I use a number of apps on the device, such as the Google app that guides me to unfamiliar locations. There are some others as well.

What I find myself doing, though, is leaving my cell phone at home if I take off to run a local errand. I look at the device this way: If someone wants to talk to me, they can call my cell phone, leave a message and I’ll answer it when I return from my errand. Hey, it’s like the old days! Except that the phone isn’t hooked up to a wire coming out of the wall.

So I am able to pretend I have a land line when I don’t. It works out well for me. Even when I have the cell phone with me, I am able to say with a clear conscience that I do not miss the land line.

Adaptability is all it’s cracked up to be.

Happy Trails, Part 185: Comfy in my own skin

The farther my wife and I travel down the road on our retirement journey, the more comfortable I become in my own skin.

I never felt discomfort in who I am, or what I did for a living. I was a proud practitioner of my craft as a print journalist. I believe I enjoyed some modest success along a 37-year ride through four newspapers in two states.

It ended less than happily nearly eight years ago.

Retirement was thrust upon my wife and me. What I find interesting now that I have traveled down the retirement road is my total comfort in going about my business each day as a retired individual.

There actually was a time not long after I retired that I felt a bit strange telling strangers that I am retired. I say “strange” only because I had been a working guy since I was 16 years of age. So, the word “retired” didn’t flow out of my mouth with quite the comfort it does today, at this moment in my life.

To be clear, I am working part time … on my own terms as a freelance reporter for a weekly newspaper in Collin County. It’s a blast, man. I get to cover a city council and write the occasional feature story to which I get get assigned by my bosses. The gig keeps me fresh and keeps me enjoying a part of the career I cherished pursuing.

Maybe it’s a natural progression for those who move from working life to retired life. Given that I have no prior experience, I only can offer conjecture to what I am experiencing.

To be frank, I rather like the feel of my own skin these days.

Retirement feels more right than ever.