Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I'm Getting Afraid to Answer the Phone

Have you ever experienced a time when seemingly everyone around you is:

  • Sick
  • Unemployed or short of money
  • Experiencing personal traumas
  • One foot in the grave
  • Depressed (often for good reasons - situational, not endemic)
  • And otherwise not in a good place?
That's my situation right now. In my own family, both my brother and sister are not well (my brother is in the hospital), and my husband is slowly recovering from an antibiotic-resistant infection and pneumonia. In my husband's family, most have a variety of long-term illnesses, including the brother nearest in age with congestive heart failure.

My eldest is also experiencing a large number of sick or troubled people in her life, and my youngest grandchild is sick with a virus.

I'm getting afraid to answer the phone, for fear that it will be more bad news.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

My New Schedule for Posts

I've been doing some scheduling for future posts. Rather than just churn out stuff whenever it occurs to me, I've been making a conscious effort to space out my posts on an approximately 2-3 times a week schedule.

I would appreciate your spreading the word about this blog on social media. It's my hope that others might benefit from reading my story of retirement prep, and my experiences once I finally do retire.

I've been discussing this with my husband, and I'm leaning toward plugging the plug at the end of May. I may see if I can set up a part-time gig with a college for extra money. This should leave me relatively free for some travel and kicking back - as well as writing and pursuing my hobbies.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

All That We "Knew" About Aging and Health May be WRONG

Coffee - Bad?

Apparently, NOT.

This process has been going on for many years:

  • Some medical study is made about health.
  • Popularizers exaggerate the effects shown in the study, and inflate the core results into a program to improve/extend healthy lives.
  • Eventually, the government gets on board, and mandates changes to diet, exercise, medication regimens, or medical procedures.
  • After years of pushing the system on the general public, an honest re-evaluation of the effects is made, and - guess what? The advice is found to be completely wrong.
  • Repeat
  • Repeat
  • Repeat
Diet advice has gone from:
  • Calorie reduction
  • Exercise
  • Low-fat
  • High-carb
  • Low-carb
At the present, the low-carb forces appear to be on top. Never fear, they'll find out eventually that positive effects have been exaggerated, and the negatives minimized.

Same with exercise. I'm not against regular movement and activity. What I'm against is mandating the same thing for everyone. The down sides include:
  • Strain on joints - The Aerobic workouts were infamous for promoting injuries, using the words, "No Gain Without Pain".
  • Sudden heart attacks in the middle of exercising
  • Body image issues - for women, unhealthy thinness; for men, steroid abuse
  • Failure to modify exercise for difference in body type, physical condition, or disability
During this same time that the federal government has jumped into the Health Promotion Bandwagon, the American population has gone from a relatively healthy condition to overweight, sedentary, and abusing drugs at an ever-increasing rate.

Doesn't seem as though we need the Feds involved. We might do better on our own.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Medicare: Proposed Changes - Part Two

Hoo-Boy! This issue has been called the Third Rail of American Politics, and it surely has that potential to kill political careers.

A large part of the problem is the scare tactics being used by activists. They are playing on the natural desire not to lose a benefit, or to treat any change in a benefit as a personal attack on the individuals who are receiving it.

In the article linked above, the seniors are furious at the idea that the program won't be available, just exactly as it has been in the past. They consider the benefits theirs, by right, and any change as taking away something that is THEIRS.

They don't seem to have heard that old country saying, "Don't count your chickens until they're hatched."

The US Representative holding the meeting, Rosa DeLauro, fed into their fears.
DeLauro, who has a 97-year-old mother, said she's sensitive to cuts that affect seniors. Though she knows that the country needs to cut programs and bring down the deficit, she said she'd rather the country save money in other ways, such as ending subsidies for oil companies. DeLauro said the plan on the table "asks the deepest sacrifice of our seniors and those who have been working and saving in preparation for retirement." The proposed Medicare changes would drastically affect seniors' quality of life, she said, as the payment provided by the government through the plan likely wouldn't be enough to cover their health-care costs.
I do hate to spoil a good rant with the FACTS, but the CURRENT plan is not enough to cover their health-care costs. That's why politicians are trying to change it - because the enormous costs, although not sufficient to pay the providers what it costs to treat seniors, are threatening to take over the ENTIRE budget.

Currently, the Medicare portion of MANDATORY spending is about 23%. Although only 15% of the total budget, it's a part that cannot be reduced, unless the program itself is changed. Currently, Social Security and Medicare together are 37% of the budget.

That would take a LOT of oil company subsidies to make a dent in that number.  For comparison, ALL subsidies for fossil fuels were about 37 billion in 2015, less than 1% of the total budget. But, that number includes IRS rules that reduce taxes - something ALL companies take advantage of. Some of that 'subsidy' is to provide money to low income people for their heating costs - NOT something that the oil companies benefit from.

So, no, there is no magic pot of gold being hogged by the oil companies - or any other business - that would provide money to fix the Medicare problem. And, unless she is delusional, DeLauro knows it. Her words are simply demagoguery.

Another pie-in-the-sky Progressive, had one of the silliest responses to the problem:
Brad Plebani, deputy director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, based in Wallingford, spoke at the town meeting and decried the plan as "the worst I've ever encountered. It's designed to shift the costs (of health care) onto you, the Medicare beneficiaries, or your children or children's children."
Is that not who is supposed to pay for health care? The recipients? If they don't, the cost WILL fall on their children and grandchildren.

There really isn't any alternative, if the current system is to stay in place, other than the so-called Death Panels - as evidenced by the current Progressive Leadership:
The Obama administration plan would keep Medicare a government program, but give a panel of experts the power to force cuts if spending exceeded a certain target. His latest proposal would strengthen cost curbing mechanisms that are already in the new health-care overhaul.
 Those spending cuts mean that the 'experts' will decide that you really didn't need that expensive medicine, or the operation that would let you retain mobility. If you were over a certain age, you might be encouraged to take the 'voluntary' suicide option, thus freeing up resources for those younger.

I'll post more in Part 3.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

My Last Year Teaching

As I am winding down on the plan to retire in another year, I find that I am particularly excited about fully enjoying that time, and working to make it the Best Year Ever!

In that vein, I find myself writing down more of my process, including mapping out the units, with labs, and reflecting on how well (or not) it worked.

I have been working ruthlessly, both at home and at school, to weed out outdated curriculum, better organize the materials and equipment I have, and to prepare to leave with all things done.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Small Tech Assist For Memory

I've been using the Chrome extension OneTab for several days now, and it's been worth the installation.

What OneTab does is reside on the menubar, and - with a click of the button - move all of your tabs to a single location. That tab holds them, waiting for you to click on the tab you want. When you do, that tab - and ONLY that tab - starts loading. This speeds up the process that can get bogged down with multiple tabs sending the message to load.

This is a great feature, as often I find myself clicking on many links at a time. By using OneTab, I can do so, then, with a single step, hold those tabs in Limbo until I'm ready to look at them, one at a time.

Get OneTab here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Medicare: Proposed Changes to the Plan - Part One

Now, I know that some seniors are adamant:

NO CHANGES TO MEDICARE, EVER!

While it might be nice to stand, line in the dirt, opposed to ANY changes in Medicare, I'm afraid that is NOT a realistic scenario.

Medical care - particularly for seniors - is expensive. Insisting that doctors and other medical providers just suck it up, and take less money for services, has led to difficulty getting doctors to agree to see you. NO medical care is worse than pricey medical care.

It's the remedy of choice for politicians - there are fewer doctors than seniors, and seniors are the most reliable voting segment. Better to starve a doctor, than to tell a senior that he has to accept more expensive visits.

I've been investigating this for a few weeks. Like it or not, almost every senior will be affected by this issue.  I've read some of the available proposals, and have summarized a few below. I'll be posting more on this in the coming weeks; it's likely to be tackled early in the new administration's term, perhaps as early as this summer.
  • The AARP presentation lays out some of proposed changes, from the perspective of the Right (Heritage  Foundation) and Left (Brookings Institution), as well as from Avalere Health, a consulting firm on Health Issues. The presentation provides viewpoints from a variety of stakeholders, clearly identified.
  • Changes to Part D only - the ultimate cost of the Part D (medication part) of the Medicare plan was not known when the coverage was implemented by President GW Bush. This paper discusses ways of limiting costs to the providers.
    • Some limits on medication may be necessary. There are a few patients that will use meds that are quite expensive. Some of these are transplant patients; others are fighting chronic illnesses, such as AIDS, liver/kidney/heart disease, and may reasonably be expected to continue using those pricy meds for some time.
    • It may be necessary to adjust co-pays. Like it or not, most of us are sensitive to cost. If the cost of using a particular medication increases, we might be open to a generic or other substitute.
    • Lifetime limits might be a part of this equation. At some point, we might have to weigh the cost of staying alive against the cost of bankrupting ourselves and leaving nothing but bills to our estate.
  • Changes in Medicaid affect not only seniors, but other groups - Workers Comp, government workers, etc. Their plans shift when Medicare does. SOME of the 'concern' for retirees is really concern for their OWN plans.
  • Keep in mind just how much of the federal budget is affected by changes in Medicare.
    • " Taken together, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Programs are an estimated 21% of the federal budget while Social Security is approximately 20%" - emphasis mine.
    • Failure to reduce runaway costs may cause TAXES to increase - and, not just those that primarily affect wage-earners, but consumer costs, as well.
  • What is a "peverse incentive"?
That's all for now - I'll be updating this in Part Two later.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Why Men Drive Their Wives Crazy in Retirement

It's not what you'd think.

It is NOT a calculated effort to bring them to eye-rolling, babbling insanity.

It is because they previously had something to do all day. And, now, they don't.

That's a lot of energy with no place to go. Except to try to find helpful things to do at home.

In many families, the husband ceded control of the household to his wife. She had sole right to:

  • Plan meals
  • Buy food
  • Decorate
  • Organize the house
  • Do chores on HER schedule
  • Pay bills
Now, she finds another adult with time to kill, and a deep-seated desire to be useful. So, that adult wants to take on some of her job.

Now, some women can look at this as an opportunity to 'retire'. To let go of part of her previous job. To free up some time for hobbies, socialization, FUN!

Others, not.

For that second group, this is THEIR stuff. And, if someone tries to assist them with THEIR stuff, they BETTER do it the way she says.

Or else.

It's a control issue. Some people are better at re-drawing boundaries than others.

How to manage this situation?

HELP him find his niche:
  • Work to help him create, and grow, non-work friendships. Many men find this difficult - in the past, their work or neighborhood provided male companionship. It did not require them to make an effort.
  • BOTH should look for volunteer activities. It's a chance to do something useful, enjoy the status of being in charge of something, and truly help out a community that needs the assistance of adults, but hasn't sufficient people without family or work responsibilities to do those jobs.
  • Exercise - this can be together, or separately. Walk with a friend, join a gym, do WiFit or televised programs. Aim for both to have as active a life as possible.
  • Make a list of household responsibilities, and split them up. Decide that the owner of that job will be the one to set the standard for that job (MANY women will have trouble with this. They are fine with husbands doing the job, but super-critical of HOW they do it. Many will find that they go around after the job is done, re-doing it - STOP that. Truly give up that responsibility).
  • Make some time for togetherness. Have a Date Night. Plan vacations. Make the holidays special. And make sure he can point to some part of all of that as HIS contribution.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Neat Ideas for Seniors - Or Anyone, Really

I liked many of these Life Hacks. The one about using a spring on tech cords is genius.

One project that most of my senior friends talk about it getting rid of clutter. Over the years, most of us have accumulated WAY too much, and it's making us feel overwhelmed.

I'll admit that I'm bad, and my husband is, as well. We have more things than we can reasonably use in one lifetime - which, by the way, is getting shorter (well, it is, even for younger people).

So, over the next couple of months, I'm going to post about my progress here, with pictures.

Feel free to use the comments to add any ideas of your own, or to brag about your own progress in Taming The Clutter Monster!

Current plans:

I'll be out most of the day, shopping for various things. Den and I decided to make a day of it, perhaps going to Gastonia or elsewhere to shop, eat, and generally relax.

One of the things we did this morning is something we should be doing more often - PLANNING our trip, to maximize our efforts, and reduce both the time and expense of the trip.

We made a list of things we wanted to check out at the Container Store, and are going to measure the spaces we might want to get changed. The pantry is on the list for changes.

I'm going to dedicate some time this weekend (perhaps 1 hour on each of the 3 days of this weekend?) to clear out clutter. If I don't need records, I'm going to scan/take a picture, and toss it out. My goal is to clear off flat spaces in the home office, and empty some files/storage areas.

It's ambitious, I'll admit, but I'm going to work on it. I'll start by photographing the Before, and, after clearing off, the After.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Handling Chronic Pain

This is likely to be a sleeper issue - one that will simmer for a long time, without hitting the headlines.

The issue of opiate abuse is, of course, a perennial favorite for the media, legislatures, and various advocates (for the addicted, for law & order, for morality police, etc.). That abuse usually centers on those individuals whose addiction makes them incapable of employment, care of minor children, or full participation in American Life.

Elder addiction?

Eh, not so important.

But, in fact, many of the elderly do become addicted to various painkillers, not just for diseases such as cancer, but also for back pain, joint pain, and other ills that disproportionately affect older Americans.

I generally try to avoid medicated pain relief. I do so not just because of the possibility of addiction, but also because of the high risk of liver damage - even for such meds as Ibuprofen, Aspirin, and Tylenol.

One med that I've been using on a daily basis is Mobic, or Melexicam. It's for the joint issues I have - meniscus damage, arthritis in toe, knee, and hip. With it, I function with very little impairment. Without it, I am in pain, and my mobility is severely limited.

On occasion, more is needed. In small doses, for a a short time, I have used Naproxen. If more is needed, that's when I turn to my TENS unit.

TENS units are designed to provide electrical stimulation to aching areas, and, by doing so, interrupt the pain signals that are over-active. These units can range from the one that Shaq promotes in TV ads - Smart Relief.

These units are relatively small, and deliver a mild stimulation - not enough for serious pain. What you might want to do is use them to test out whether the method of pain relief works for you before committing to a more expensive unit. Cost is about $30, depending where you buy it.

The one I use is the Hidow AcuXPD-S - cost ranges from $250-500. Believe me, it's worth it. Today, I woke up with an aching shoulder. I put on the unit, and I am good to go.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Retirement Prep

We've been talking a lot lately, and we are beginning to plan our purchases more prudently - with an eye to what might be useful in retirement, but, also, what would fit into a reduced budget.
An example of this is a wish Dennis had before Christmas - he's long wanted a good camera, and he found one at a good price - $400, one that had been more originally.
My first impulse was to say, fine, that can be your Christmas gift. Den was actually the one to hesitate in buying. He decided to think about it for awhile.
Now, we will have some room in our budget for indulgences like that - not everyday, but certainly, annually. The change we will have to make is to plan for these financial outlays.

[POST-CHRISTMAS]

We're back at work today - Den had kids yesterday, mine come for the first time today. I have 3 preps - it may be difficult, at first, but I'm looking forward to the change.

I signed my letter of intent for next year - the last time I should be doing that. I'm hoping to make it to the end of the school year (May, 2018), but, there is an outside chance that I will be leaving after 1st semester. My intent is to stay the entire year, but that will depend on my health and ability to do the job.

  • It's physically harder - when I get a cold (as it is difficult to avoid when you're around young people), I take a lot longer to recover. 
  • I don't have the time to exercise as regularly as I want to. By the time I get home, I'm pooped!
  • Meetings are draining, and I find my attention wandering.
  • I'm still sharp, but I do find that mental processing takes just a smidge longer.
  • I'm less patient with antics of misbehaving students.
  • I'm less patient with whining - of both students AND staff.
  • Some days, I'd just like to start the day in slo-mo, rather than jump out of bed at 4:45 am.
  • I want to see the grandkids more often. Vacations have to be planned around the school year.
For these, and other reasons, I'm about ready to retire. Getting our ducks in a row is what I'm focused on at the present:
  • Paying off bills - should be easier to do once our house is finally sold - cross your fingers, it should be one week from now!
  • Getting the paperwork in to transfer the NC retirement money to SC.
  • Investigating the Medicare options.
  • Taking care of any big medical expenses this year - while we have our insurance, and to take maximum advantage of the deductible.
  • Looking into part-time opportunities - with colleges, schools, and businesses.
  • Finishing my first book.
A large part of that process is to engage in conversations that allow us to consolidate on a master plan that we can both live with. That will require consensus about:
  • What our living arrangements will be - in place in SC, in another home, somewhere else, in a rental, an RV, or temporarily migrant with friends and family?
  • How we should spend our time?
  • How we should spend our money?
We're not there yet. We have differences in our expectations. It will require some effort to reach agreement on all of these things.

UPDATE: I met with my students - they are generally nice kids. They were shocked that they had homework this week, however, and a quiz, too. They'll adjust.