October 5, 2015

175 Channels and A Tiger

Regular readers know I dropped cable TV several years ago. I just couldn't justify the monthly charge for so many channels we never watched. The number of commercials in a typical network or cable show has become overwhelming and most of what is presented as entertainment, isn't. Both Betty and I felt we were wasting too many hours watching marginal material. So, we became an early cord cutter.

Confession: it is just as easy to get sucked into too many hours in front of the set with only Netflix and Amazon Prime. At a monthly cost that is a fraction of what the local cable monopoly wanted, we have access to movies, TV shows, and original programming - and we indulge ourselves. It is a constant battle to keep the binge viewing under control. 

In a move that defies common sense I have recently committed to satellite TV for a two year deal. Now, I have about 175 channels, again the vast majority of which I could care less about. How many jewelry channels does someone need? But, there is a very definite purpose behind this odd move for someone trying to control time in front of the television: increased family time. 

Proudly displaying the Bengals logo
My son-in-law, and therefore his son (my grandson) are huge fans of the Cincinnati Bengals. Oddly, neither the son-in-law or any of his family have ever lived in this city. In fact, no one has ever been there. 

The attraction is one of those fascinating stories that makes life so interesting: while growing up Keith was captivated by anything to do with tigers. Since the Cincinnati team's logo is a Bengal tiger he became enthralled with the team, and has carried that interest into adulthood.  

Keith's home is like ours: no cable TV. The only way to see his favorite team play is on Direct TV's NFL Ticket channels. So, Betty and I decided to give the family a perfect reason to gather at our house throughout the fall: add satellite TV so we all can watch the Bengals, eat and play together, and spend quality time as a family enjoying each others' company.

Since the Bengals' games usually start early in our time zone, I added a DVR to our package so I can record the game while we are all at church. By the time we actually start to watch the game in real time it is already over. So, we are very careful not to look at anything that might spoil the experience by revealing the ending before we see it. On the plus side, we fast forward through all the commercials so a full game can be seen in under two hours!

Often we will add a family game or movie everyone enjoys after the football game. As the weather cools down I imagine games of croquet and lawn darts in our backyard will keep us occupied. With a large dining table on the back patio and a handy grill, dinner will become a festive family affair.

Satellite TV is an expense that would normally never be part of our lifestyle. But, in this case it is the perfect use of part of our budget and our satisfying journey through retirement. 

Family time makes it all worth while. Oh, and at the time of this writing the Bengals are undefeated with a very solid 4-0 start to this NFL season. 

October 2, 2015

The Health Concerns That Keep Us Awake at Night

I wrote this post almost four years ago. Being more attuned to my health and how I am going to navigate the waters ahead for me and Betty, these thoughts and clicks to web pages seemed worth a repeat. I have updated a few of the links.

As you are well aware, right behind financial concerns and questions, health is something that all of us think about as we attempt to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of a satisfying journey. 

While a cliché, the statement, "if you don't have your health you don't have anything," is absolutely true. By health I'm not talking about maintaining the energy and flexibility, eye sight and strength that you had at 30 or 40. Rather, in our context being healthy means being able to care for ourselves, enjoy friends and family, engage in physical activities appropriate to our age, and learn to manage the pains and limitations that are part of aging.

Because I am not a doctor (if I were I would have better health care!)  I am not prepared to suggest how you can live well as long as possible. What I am good at is locating web sites that will give you additional information or ways to learn more, if that disease and infirmity is one you want to know more about.

I have found lists of the major health concerns of older folks. They are remarkably similar so I trust they have captured the top-of-mind topics that might be important to you. After each, I will provide some links to web sites that can give more more information. At the end, I will provide some links to previous articles I have written that you may have missed.

I wish God had decided to design our bodies so we stay fit and healthy until the second we drop dead. But, that isn't how it works, so here are our top health worries:

#1 on all lists is heart health. The most common condition for those over 65 is some type of heart problem. We know about the negative effects of smoking, lack of exercise, or being over weight. But, what are some of the signals of problems and what can we do? (You can bet I rechecked all of these resources)

Next on the list of concerns is a stroke. According to the National Stroke Association, "A stroke or "brain attack" occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery (a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body) or a blood vessel (a tube through which the blood moves through the body) breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. When either of these things happen, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost. There are different severities of strokes, some leaving no permanent damage, others just some weakness, while major strokes affect one's ability to speak or move.

Cancer is a disease virtually all of us have some personal contact with, either because of family or friends. In particular, female breast cancer is a high profile concern, while males die way too often from prostate cancer. The number of sites that deal with cancer in all its various forms number in the millions. Here are just a few to help you get started in your own investigation.

Pneumonia and Flu are certainly not restricted to older folks. But, the consequences tend to be  more severe. In fact, pneumonia is the fifth highest killer of those over 65. Since seniors tend to have more lung problems it is often hard to diagnose pneumonia until it is advanced.

Falls and accidents around the home. Simple falls or accidents that would have no long term effect on a younger person can prove fatal to someone older. Not only does it take longer for an injury to heal, but too often other complications like pneumonia occur because of the extended time spent lying in a bed. Osteoporosis creates brittle bones that may never heal properly.

Eye issues, like macular degeneration and cataracts. This is an area of health concerns that strikes a real chord with me. My mom began to lose her sight to wet MD about 3 years before her death. Aggressive treatments with shots did not help. Within 18 months she could only tell light from dark.  As a life-long teacher and reader, losing her sight was very difficult for her. It directly contributed to her falling, breaking her leg, and forcing her to spend the last year and a half of her life in a hospital and nursing care center. Personally, I believe Macular Degeneration shortened her life by several years and destroyed the quality of the time she had left.

Unfortunately, I have only begun to scratch the surface of  health issues that affect us. These are not cherry subjects nor ones that most of us want to spend much time with. That is part of the problem. Education and awareness helps both the senior having issues and the caregivers trying to protect that person's quality of life as much as possible.

Borrowing a phrase from Star Trek, may you live long and prosper.

September 28, 2015

Looking Ahead To Next Year's Travel

Most of the travel plans Betty and I had for this year ended up being abandoned. With a move to our new home, a decision to cancel a summer-long RV trip, and the need to stay close to home for awhile after my heart problems, several anticipated getaways never happened. 

We did manage to fly to Portland for a week to see friends, but that was short circuited  with a hospital stay. Our just completed time with family at Disneyland and California Adventure was memorable and special. And, we will take the RV up to the White Mountains later this week for a four day stay in the cool pines by a pretty lake. But, overall, this was a year we spent pretty close to home.

Betty and I will celebrate our 40th anniversary in June, so we would like to make 2016 very special. After the year that is quickly coming to a close, we are ready for some serious self-pampering.

Right after the first of the year we are off to join Mike and Tamara Reddy for a week at the Palm Springs Film Festival. This past January was our first visit to the annual gathering of thousands of film fans, along with the famous and nearly famous folks who appear in those movies. With well over 1,000 movies to choose from, the toughest part is deciding which ones to see. During the eight days we will be in town we will see six films, enjoy excellent meals together, do some hiking and shopping, and enjoy each others' company. 

In early June we will fly to Seattle and board a cruise ship for a week enjoying the inner passage of Alaska. This trip has been on our must-do list for several years; 2016 is when we finally make it reality. How can you not enjoy something that involves too much food, being pampered by a crew of hundreds, and visiting places with names like Skagway and Ketchikan? 

After returning to Seattle we may take a boat back to Victoria for a day. The cruise ship stops there for only a few hours, not long enough to explore Butchart Gardens and the thoroughly British feel of the small downtown near the dock. We were last there twenty years ago and still have vivid memories of the area.

In early November we are discussing a trip that would be truly special: Hawaii and then two weeks in New Zealand. For the first time, I would be turning over all planning and transportation to a tour company. Typically, I plan a trip, book all the hotels, arrange for the airplane flights and rental car, and then plow through an intense itinerary that leaves me frazzled and unable to see much since I must focus on driving.

In all honesty I must say that the idea of being on a structured tour with someone telling us where and when to be someplace is a little scary. The lack of control and the need to be with a group of people for two weeks will be different. I will have to practice my patience and people skills, and give up my need to manage everything.

On the plus side, I will have the opportunity to actually see the countryside, learn about the history and importance of places we visit, and not worry about driving on the left side of the road! We would spend time on both islands, enjoying the stunning countryside and sights. One required stop is Hobbiton, where parts of the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed. 

The flight to Auckland is 14 hours from L.A. That is more time stuck in a tight airplane seat than I am willing to endure. So, we would fly from Phoenix to Honolulu and spent 3 nights enjoying one of our favorite places on earth. That leaves "only" a nine hour flight to New Zealand-much more doable. On the way back we would stop off in Hawaii for two nights to help with jet lag and another too-long time in a metal tube before continuing home. 

The cost of that trip is giving us pause. To spend so much on just a vacation strikes us as questionable. But, it is a major milestone in our marriage. Stay tuned for a final decision.

A few long weekend trips in the RV to Flagstaff and Arizona Wine Country should help us make up for a disappointing travel year in 2015.

Quite literally, 2016 should be a truly Satisfying Journey with experiences and memories to last the rest of our lives.

Now, if we can just stay healthy.......

September 24, 2015

A Magic Time At The Magic Kingdom

Is it possible to have a bad time at Disneyland? Maybe, but you won't hear that from me. Betty and I are just back from our second trip to "The Happiest Place on Earth" in the past 10 months. With the grand kids, two daughters, son-in-law, and both of Keith's parents we formed quite a troop - 10 fun-seekers.

Armed with three day park hopper passes we managed to thoroughly cover both Disneyland and California Adventure. A mix of hot and sunny weather with some drenching downpours left us alternately steamy and soaked. We loved every minute of it. I kept a close eye on my heart rate and had no problems, thank goodness.

There is something very special about experiencing the parks through the eyes of youngsters. As an adult I would not normally decide that a 60 minute wait for a 60 second ride makes much sense. But, when a grandchild has a firm grip on your hand and makes it clear he (or she) wants to ride with you time isn't really an issue.

The drive to and from L.A. reminds me how thankful I am to not experience that type of freeway traffic very often. But, being less than seven hours away does make the trip an easy one and an important part of my satisfying journey.

Betty snapped thousands of photos to add our stock of memories. Enjoy some of her pictures taken during Disney's 60th anniversary celebration and our time together.

Reaching for Grandad's hand - priceless

What is the wait time on the next ride?

Always look for the orange cap if we ever get separated!

Loving my ice cream

Me, too

Anyone have a wipe?

The girls and their beloved aunt

Rain doesn't slow us down

Is Betty tall enough for this ride?

Mary and Tom (Keith's parents)
Our daughters

And, the satisfying journey through retirement continues.