August 30, 2013

Goodbye to Oregon For Now

Betty and I are back home after a tremendous 3 week stay with friends, old and new, and city that is quickly beginning to feel like a second home. Frankly, it was hard to leave 78 degrees for 102, but we will survive. After all, the cooler weather in Phoenix is only a month (or two) away.

More difficult was leaving our dear friends who have become such an important part of our life. I don't know when we will be back, but there is no doubt we will return. Betty and I love them and care for them deeply.

Since the Retirement Lifestyle and Oregon in Pictures post last week, we added a few more exciting memories to our trip, and hundreds of new pictures to our hard drive that I'd love to share with you.

The Columbia River Gorge stretches 80 miles from the far eastern edge of the Portland metropolitan area along the Columbia River. It forms a boundary between Oregon and Washington and contains some of the most dramatic scenery of our trip. 

Overlooks nearly 800 feet above the river, numerous waterfalls, and hiking trails though beautiful forests kept us enthralled for a full day. Here are just a few of the photos Betty took on that special day.

Occasionally the fog won!

90 minutes from Portland in the opposite direction, Cannon Beach is a lively and pretty tourist town on the Oregon coast. Best known as the home of Haystack Rock (see below), it has all sorts of art galleries, restaurants, and gift shops to keep the hidden shopper in anyone very happy. There are probably as many dogs as people, but all are well behaved; I didn't hear a single dog bark in over four hours in town and saw no doggie accidents.

The weather was cool with enough sun and clouds to make a day perfect for exploring and photographing.

Earl and Barbara Torris looking happy in Cannon Beach

Blogging friend Tamara Reddy and husband Mike just happened to be in Portland during our visit. They were in the midst of a 52 day RV trip through the Pacific Northwest that you can read all about on Tamara's blog. 

We arranged to have dinner together to turn virtual friends into real ones. Several hours later, after a meal and conversation around a fire pit we all felt like we had known each other for years.

The three weeks just flew by. We already miss our friends, the cool weather, green trees, and exciting city of Portland. It was a tremendously satisfying retirement vacation that cemented our growing love for Portland and Oregon. A special thanks to Retire in Style blogging buddy Barb Torris and hubby Earl, Galen Pearl for not just writing about her 10 Steps To Finding Your Happy Place but living it every moment we are with her, and, of course, to the Human Dynamos, Mike and Tamara Reddy.
Now it is time to get geared up for our next RV trip: the California wine country around Paso Robles, the beaches near Pismo Beach, and the desert beauty near Palm Springs. 

Goodbye Pacific Northwest - Hello California. 

August 28, 2013

How To Get the Most out of Satisfying Retirement Blog

Really? Are things around here so complicated that you need a tutorial to use this blog? Gee, I hope not. I spend a fair amount of time trying to write a post with a clear point or two. I keep the clutter on the sidebars under control (I think).

At the same time there are always new folks finding Satisfying Retirement. A  mention in Google+ or or on Facebook might peak someone's interest enough to click over to read that article. But, like anything new, that visitor might not know what he or she can do next.

Even long time readers might not realize all that this blog has to offer. So, how about a quick tour around my blogging home.

The key to readership is the three times a week post. It sits dead center on the page and is hard to miss. Below that are the four most recent posts. So, if you keep scrolling down you might find something else that you want to read. On the right side (called the right sidebar) are two important sections. The things I have written over the past three plus years that have been clicked and read most often are under the Most Read heading. They are actually arranged in order, with the #1 read post first, all the way down to #10. If you have never read one of them, you can click on the title to see what others have deemed some of my best content. Even though a particular post may be a year or two old, feel free to leave comment. I respond to all comments and new readers are checking out posts and comments every day.

Next is a Google+ link. If you haven't joined me yet on this important social media please consider clicking the link so we can communicate more directly.

Just below that are the Blog Archives. Here are links to every post that has ever appeared on the blog. The current year shows the total number of posts appearing so far this year. Under that is a listing of the most recent posts for the current month. If you missed one, click on it to be taken directly to that post. Then you see the other months and years that can be expanded by clicking the arrows.

Ways to subscribe to e-mail or reader updates to the blog follow the archives. If you'd rather find the latest post in your e-mailbox or on your reader instead of having to navigate to this web site, click your preference and sign up. 

Note: I do not attempt to sell anything using with my e-mail subscriber list, or allow others to do so. if you sign up you will receive the blog and that is all you will receive from me.

Further down the right sidebar is an ever-changing list of blogs I enjoy and read on a regular basis. You can visit any of them simply by clicking that blog's name.

Looking at the left side of the blog page, you will find a direct link to my latest book. If you are in the market for an excellent overview of how to build your own satisfying retirement, click the advertisement.

Just below that is a link to my Facebook page for this blog. If you have a Facebook account I would sincerely appreciate a "like" on that page. You will find the latest blog post and other information I think you may find interesting and helpful.

A little further down the left sidebar is the g+ "voting" button. Since Google is critical to this blog's readership and influence, if you simply click that button you help me. Thanks!
  To keep things from looking cluttered, I have very little advertising on Satisfying Retirement. If you plan on buying anything from Amazon, click the ad on the left side. You don't have to buy one of the listed products. Use the search box on the Amazon page to search for anything. If you end up ordering something, Amazon sends me a few pennies. Over time it adds up to enough to pay the Internet charges for this blog. 

There is a link that says "Annuity Information" on the right sidebar. That is a paid advertisement. If you are in the market for annuity information I'd appreciate you clicking that link and see what those folks have to offer.

So, that's it: a simple user guide. Even if you have been a long time reader (bless you!) I hope there is something in the explanation that helps you make the most of the time you spend here. 

A final request: is there anything I don't have on the blog that you'd wish I would add? Is there something I could do that would improve your retirement lifestyle? If so, leave a comment below or drop me an email.

August 26, 2013

Brain Food: The Great Courses Are Great Fun

One of the ways I keep my satisfying retirement interesting is to look for ways to keep my mind active. Besides research that indicates an active mind is less likely to suffer dementia, it is just plain fun to learn something new.

I like to study a subject I don't know a lot about. And, one of the best ways for me to do that is to use the materials offered through The Great Courses. Offered in audio format (either CD or download) or as a DVD (video or download), the company behind these courses have literally hundreds to choose from in virtually every subject imaginable.

Usually, they are priced at a ridiculously high amount. No one I know is going to pay almost $400 for a stack of CDS. Recently, though, the company has apparently realized that they can sell these courses for a substantial discount and move more of the product off the shelf. Now, they have my interest, and my money.

To date I have purchased five courses. I have been extremely pleased with four of them. The fifth turned out to be too detailed for my purposes, though I still learned a lot and it opened another door for me. I thought you might find it interesting to see what I have paid my precious retirement dollars for.

How to Listen to and Understand and Great Music. Taught by Robert Greenberg, this is a fascinating look at the history and structure of music since plain chant all the way to 20th century jazz and symphonies. In addition to being remarkably well versed in the subject,  Mr. Greenberg is also a character. His lectures are anything but dull. The 48 lectures of this course seemed to fly by.

More than just a sampling of famous musical pieces for the past 1,000 years, this course puts everything into an historical context to explain why music of a certain era sounds the way it does. As Professor Greenberg notes in his introduction, "Western music has always been a mirror of the social, political, and religious events and aesthetic ideals of its time."  Grade = A+

Turning Points in Modern History. This course tracks key social, political, and scientific events from 1433 to the rise of social media. The 24 events that each rate a lecture are chosen because they "sparked profound changes in how humans viewed the world."  Professor Vejas Liulevicius presents the material in an easy-to-understand style. Though nothing like Robert Greenberg, Vejas injects enough humor and energy into his presentation to make things interesting.

Many of the turning points are obvious, like the invention of the printing press, the French Revolution, Kitty Hawk, and the Atomic Bomb. Even so, the lectures gave me an insight into the wider effect each had in the world. Less familiar, were segments on the Chinese Opium War, The Russo Japanese War, or the Treaty of Westphalia. Each spurred me to dig deeper by finding library books that dealt with each.  Grade = A

The Symphonies of Beethoven. After thoroughly enjoying Robert Greenberg's course on Great Music I bought this one to learn more about Beethoven. I had always thought of Mozart as the composer I'd want to know the most about. But, instead I discovered Beethoven was a tremendously exciting composer and one I wanted to explore more deeply.

Unfortunately, this course disappointed me, but not through any flaw in the lectures. It was simply too detailed. This course makes more sense for someone who is a serious music student or studying for a degree at a university. I was overwhelmed by the depth of the analysis of every movement of all nine Beethoven symphonies through the 32 lectures.

There was a very positive outcome, however. I did discover I really enjoyed Beethoven's music. So, I purchased a complete package of all 9 of his symphonies, directed by Leonard Bernstein. Beethoven's music is powerful and complex. Even though Professor's Greenberg's course was way too "deep" for me, he did open my eyes to an amazing musician. Grade = B-

Francis of Assisi. This is a course I just started before we left for our Oregon vacation so I don't have a real feel for it yet. But, the first few lectures have whet my appetite for more. What I know about St. Francis of Assisi is what most people know: a man who wandered around Italy hundreds of years ago, talking about humility and poverty.

The first several lectures basically have set the stage by describing the world at the time of Francis's life and what lasting impact his message has had on the world. When I return home I am looking forward to sections on his messages of  compassion, simplicity, and poverty. Like all of the courses I have purchased so far, I am sure the lectures will include solid information on how the views and life of Francis continue to impact people today. Grade = B+ (tentative grade)

The Everyday Guide to Wines of Southern California (DVD). This is the only course I have bought that is a DVD rather than a CD. But, for something  about wines I figured seeing the wine bottles and vineyards would make sense. While Betty and I are not wine experts by any stretch of the imagination, this course sounded fun prior to our October trip to one of the wine areas in California.

Master of Wine, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan is attractive with a friendly style. If we are serious about getting the most out of this course we will have to adjust our food budget a bit to accommodate several bottles of more expensive wine than we normally consume. But, if that's the cost of our education.....oh well.
Grade = B  (tentative grade since just started)

Lifelong learning is something I have made a part of my satisfying retirement lifestyle. It keeps my mind fresh and teaches me, almost daily, that what I know is far outweighed by what I don't.

Note: unfortunately, I am not receiving any compensation from the folks who produce the Great Courses. I just happen to be a satisfied customer.

August 23, 2013

My Social Media Questions Answered

Two weeks ago I posed a question: which social media outlet should I put the majority of my time and effort behind? With the goal of expanding Satisfying Retirement blog's readership and influence I noted that Twitter no longer seemed to produce the results for me that it once did. 

With only so many hours each day to dedicate to this blog and its healthy growth, there is no way I could make an adequate commitment to Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Before leaving on my three week vacation in Portland, i stocked up on books about each of the major social media choices. I did lots of on-line research. I wrote that post and asked for your feedback. 

The comments were overwhelmingly in favor of Facebook. Google+ had a strong contingent of supporters. Several folks suggested Betty should put her photographs on Pinterest, while one or two thought I could benefit from this visual service. A few LinkedIn mentions and a suggestion or two to not give up on Twitter rounded out the responses. So, what did I decide? 

Facebook seems to be the best match for my needs. The ability to make a special page just for Satisfying Retirement is what helps tip the scale in Facebook's favor. In fact, if you have a Facebook account and haven't done so yet, I would very much appreciate your clicking Like and giving the page your approval by clicking the Like thumbs Up symbol. 

It is very easy to add people and interact with them through comments and pictures. It is easy to put each blog post on the Satisfying Retirement page for those who prefer to read whatever I have written through Facebook. 

Already, I have noticed new names appearing in the comment section and quite a bit of fresh readership of older posts. So far, Facebook is performing as expected.

At least for now I am not prepared to put all my social media eggs in Facebook's basket. Google is the biggest dog in the search engine kennel at the moment. Google+ may be a bit slow out of the gate and not nearly as powerful as Facebook, but it does have the magic name. 

It is quite easy to integrate several Internet functions with Google+. Readers can +google on posts and the blog if something strikes their fancy. 

Unlike Facebook, I can add someone to my "circle" without waiting for them to accept my invitation. In that way I have the chance to read what others are saying and comment. If that person finds what I say to be interesting, he or she can add me into their circle of contacts.

Even so, I am not seeing a direct impact of what I have done with Google+ so far. I am going to maintain my presence there for the time being.

Pinterest is just not appropriate for my needs. I hope that Betty decides to start posting her photos here, but Satisfying Retirement has nothing to add to the Pinterest community.
Likewise, LinkedIn is excellent for those establishing a work-related profile, those searching for a job, or for a company that wants to image itself before decision makers. The target here is not retired or soon to be retired people. 

I will not shut down my Twitter account and will continue to post links to new blog posts. But, the time spent to add 5 or 6 new tweets a day will cease. The immediate nature of Twitter and the change away from follower interactions means I must shift my attention elsewhere. 

Twitter will remain a major player in social media, just not for me.

It has been an interesting time of experimentation and exploration. Without the extra free time that a vacation brings I doubt I could have been this thoughtful about this progress.

Of course, as a reader of Satisfying Retirement your main concern is that you continue to find something here of interest or help. I have no intention of changing that.

August 20, 2013

Retirement Lifestyle and Oregon in Pictures

Our three week stay in Oregon has one week to go. Next Wednesday we fly home with a camera full of photos, and memories of great times with special friends, both old and new. The sad truth is we don't know when we will be back. There are family factors that might prevent an extended stay for the foreseeable future. But, I'd rather concentrate on what a special time this vacation has been.

Last week's post, Our Oregon Vacation Update: Loving it!, detailed the first part of the trip. This time around I am going to let Betty's pictures carry most of the load, with a few location explanations by me.

Hoyt Arboretum and Washington Park are city parks that feel a million miles away from the freeways and cars, yet are less than 10 minutes from downtown. Washington Park is home to the Rose Gardens and the amazing Japanese Gardens.

We are staying in a friend's condo in Hillsboro, a city about 20 minutes west of Portland. Every Tuesday during the summer months, several downtown streets are closed off and turned into a gigantic farmer's market and classic car show.

Betty and Earl Torris (see the Hops T-Shirt)

Barbara Torris and me (looking a bit relaxed)

Hillsboro is also home to a Class A minor league team, affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks. They have a beautiful new stadium for their brand new team. Good friends Barbara and Earl Torris took us to game last week for a perfect night at the ball game.

No, this isn't an upside down artichoke - it is the team mascot of the Hillsboro Hops
Blogging buddy and dear friend, Galen Pearl, accompanied us to Oregon wine country, about an hour south of Hillsboro. Last year Betty and I visited Red Ridge Farms winery and Olive Mill but Galen couldn't make the trip. This time we had the pleasure of her company.

The Columbia River Gorge, Cannon Beach, and meeting Mike and Tamara Reddy are still to come. That will make a perfect post next week.

Now, we are off to walk through Dawson Creek park, with a few miles of trails, seven ponds, gorgeous planting, and hundreds of ducks.

See ya!