Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Lizards and Lollipops!

 



"Lizards and Lollipops!" or, the "Joy of Grandchildren" is the topic of today's post. My wife and I have been keeping our three granddaughters on a daily basis through the work week, a 3 year old girl and twin 6 month old girls. The 3 year old has been going with me on errands and short shopping trips and seems to really enjoy getting out. Everything is new to her and she constantly asks "What is that?" or "What is that called?". She learns something every time we go out. Last week we made a trip to our local Ace Hardware store to make an exchange of a plumbing part I needed to change out. Two seconds inside the door she spots the toy area at the front of the store and grabs a metal toy car. Then she spots a dinosaur and puts the car back. Next she sees a lizard like the one above and I tell her she can get it. She is giddy with excitement about her new lizard! Those slick Ace Hardware marketing people know what they are doing. I guarantee you that they sell more $7.99 lizards than $7.99 toilet parts!

This week the 3 year old went with me one day to the post office, the pool store, the AT&T store and the grocery store. Later that day I remembered I needed to replace a sprinkler head and we headed to Lowes. She asked if they had toys and I replied that they did not. At the checkout line, another marketing genius had placed a huge display of lollipops. Who does that at a hardware store! She politely asked to get one and of course Pawpaw said "yes". She picked out a large pink, bubble gum flavored beauty. I asked the cashier how much it was, thinking it was some outrageous price of $4.99 or something. I was surprised when it rang up at $1.08. We got in my truck and I buckled her into her car seat in the back and unwrapped her lollipop for her while trying to sing the old Lollipop song even though I only knew the tune and a few words of "Lollipop, Lollipop, oh little Lollipop". She laughed at me and began to sing something similar. 

On our way home I hear her say "Oh no!" and I say "What's wrong?" at about the same time I turn around and see her lollipop covered in tissue paper while she tried to pick tiny bits off of it. I told her to not lick it and I'd fix it at home. After rinsing it off at the house and restoring the lollipop to it's edible glory, I looked up the Lollipop song and played it for her. She broke out into the cutest dance and melted my heart just watching her enjoy herself so much. That $1.08 was so worth it! These small moments are great treasures to be experienced! Of course, I texted her parents and said "Look at what your genius child did!" Google the song and play it, you can't help but enjoy it!




In retirement or any time, grandchildren can bring great joy to us. Our 3 grandchildren can wear you out at times, but those precious moments when they bring a smile to our face can't be beat. I know these moments are to be savored and they will grow up fast. I see many more lizards and lollipops in the near future!

Do you have any fun stories or memories from you grandchildren? Anyone else guilty of saying yes to lizards and lollipops?

Well, it's 7:30 pm and I've got to get to bed because they are all coming over again tomorrow! Pawpaw and Nanna need to recharge. 


Thursday, June 23, 2022

Making Decisions


 I recently ran across a quote that really makes you think about decision making. The quote is "Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion". What great advice! However, our emotions often take charge at times in our life and make our decision making spontaneous. 

During the 1970's, psychologist Paul Eckman identified six basic emotions that were universally experienced in all human culture. The emotions he identified were happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise and anger. He later expanded his list to include pride, shame, embarrassment and excitement. 

When you apply these basic emotions to the quote you can see where people get into trouble making a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion. I would also argue that "emotion" could be changed to "situation" and would make equal sense. 

We see on the nightly news emotions of fear and anger cause a permanent decision to be made that is not the best decision. Anger causes some to make the permanent decision to hurt or kill another human when they might have never done so in their normal daily living. A good example is road rage in which an angry person shoots at a car or rams a car and causes death or injury from that split second decision. That decision could result in permanent injury or death to the victim and a life sentence for the aggressor. None are good outcomes for a temporary emotion or situation. Much better to throw a few curse words around in your car and have your blood pressure elevated for a short period and then get past the temporary situation to live another day. 

The worst permanent decision based on a temporary emotion that I can think of is suicide. Too many people have taken their own life due to temporary emotions of sadness, disgust, anger, shame or embarrassment. How many young people would be alive today if they could only picture themselves making it through bullying or a romantic breakup if they could only look into the future and see the fun times ahead. As you get older, the past gets less important and you realize the important things in life are not the same as you thought in your younger years. 

In today's world a temporary decision based on emotion might include selling out of the stock market as it is declining or at the bottom due to fear. You may later realize it was a permanent decision if the market recovers, which it always does, and you lose some of you retirement nest egg for the long run. Financial news often discusses the mistake of selling in a dropping market and then buying again at a higher rate. It is the exact opposite of the buy low, sell high mantra you hear. But once the emotion of fear gets involved, the reckless decisions may soon follow.

In retirement, another permanent decision base on a temporary emotion may include moving across country because you were happy and excited for the one or two week visit you made. Often, once you move you find out the place is kind of normal and life goes on similar to your previous location and then you realize it wasn't such a good idea after all. Retirement news articles are full of stories of people who have picked up and moved without doing enough research before they did so.

Other permanent or semi permanent decisions may be making an expensive purchase based on happiness and excitement. You get excited about driving a new car and Bam! you walk out with a 6 year loan with payments only to regret it in a day or two. You get excited and happy about the tour you just did at a vacation time share and Bam! you walk away with a lifetime commitment of payments and maintenance fees. Emotions drive many of our decisions, that is why the marketing people focus so much on showing us how happy we will be when we purchase and own their products! Some marketing is even based on sadness when you think about it. When you watch a commercial with sad dogs and cats in a shelter, you get sad and want to do something about it so you write a check to the charity that just showed you the video. All emotions are in play in marketing and all designed to get us to make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.

Have you ever made a permanent decision on a temporary emotion? I have bought a new car or two from excitement. Have you bought things you wished you hadn't? Did you make other permanent decisions such as a divorce or damage a relationship out of anger that you later regretted? How about financially with your retirement? Have you sold at the bottom of a market and bought at the top or even sat out the market all together out of fear?

 

Friday, June 17, 2022

New Things in 2022!


 As an update to my last year's quest to do 101 new things, here is 10 more new things I have recorded for this year. I have been trying to squeeze a new experience in when I can. It is always fun to see or experience something I have never seen before. 

I've always been interested in history and ancient Egypt always fascinates me. Visiting the pyramids and other ancient sites is on my bucket list. In January, my wife and I visited a Ramses the Great exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences for new thing number 1. It was amazing to get up and close to items that are thousands of years old!

Next on the list, and history related, was a trip to Beaumont, TX for a visit to the Texas Energy Museum and Spindletop for a little oil history as number 2 and 3. I had recently read a book, The Big Rich, about some of the first Texas oilmen. The museum visit really brought the book to life.

Number 4 was a trip to the Golden Nugget casino in Lake Charles, LA. Nothing really new, the casino was like most others I have seen and I left them a little money to help with the electric bill and headed back home!

Number 5 was Art Cars in the Park in Houston. I had never heard of an art car and saw an ad for the display of art cars and a parade. We made it to the display of 30-40 cars and saw some really interesting cars decorated like nothing you have ever seen. We had a great time but felt we had seen a pretty good representation of the art car world and we skipped the parade the next Saturday. Houston has the biggest art car parade with about 250 cars entered this year. 




Number 6 was a quick trip to the Water Wall in Houston. A huge man made waterfall display. It was awesome to see and feel the mist coming off the various waterfalls.



Number 7 was a visit to the National Funeral Museum in Houston. This was one of those "you never know 'til you go" moments. It was a very interesting museum and I learned a little about the history of the funeral business. 




Number 8 was a visit to Washington on the Brazos and Texas museum. This was the place where Texas declared it's independence from Mexico.

Number 9 was a Brenham, TX. Brenham is a quaint little town with shops and dining spots and is home to Blue Bell ice cream. Unfortunately the Blue Bell observation area and gift store were closed the day we were there. 

Number 10 was a ride in a Tesla. I have always admired the Tesla cars and there were a lot of them running the streets of Houston. I met a man who owned one and asked for a ride. I was impressed with the all electric car. It was sleek inside with a touch screen that handled all the specifics of the car. The acceleration was incredible and instant. I see a Tesla in my future!

Of all these new things, I most enjoyed the Egypt exhibit and the art cars. If you ever get a chance to see either, I highly recommend it. 

Keep your eyes open to new opportunities to see and do new things. You never know what you might really enjoy. And if you do something you don't enjoy at least you can say "I tried that one time". 

Have you tried anything new lately? Any great new discoveries or experiences? Any experience that wasn't so great but you are glad you gave it a try anyway? And, I will really go out on a limb on this one, has anyone ever been to the National Funeral Museum?


Sunday, June 12, 2022

Another Mom Quote


                          
                              Big Grandma's Homemade Quilt

                         
                             Mom's Homemade Quilt


Not long ago I wrote a post about a quote that my mother had jotted down on the inside of a memo book about wasted time. Now I'd like to share another quote she had written down on that same inside memo book cover.

"The best kind of sleep beneath Heaven above is under a quilt handmade with love."

I remember as a child going to big grandma's house for a visit about once a year. She was an old time quilter. She quilted by hand and usually had a quilt on her quilt stand all the time. Her quilts were beautiful and well constructed. Her hand stitching added so much character and quality to them. I have many memories of going to her and granddad's house. It was a small farm and granddad usually had potatoes, berries and other things growing in the fields. I remember helping pick up potatoes after he plowed and remember picking strawberries and blackberries during the heat of summer. He also had a decorative pond in the front yard which consisted of a clawfoot bathtub buried in the yard and filled with water. It was an awesome water feature to a young child. They also had an old metal pedal tractor as about the only toy to play with at the place.

Inside the house was a cuckoo clock on the wall and the little cuckoo bird would come out every hour. My grandma usually had a pot of red beans cooking on the stove, one of granddads favorites. In the winter, the house was always cold and drafty. One of my fondest memories of that house was going to bed in their guest bedroom. My parents would put me and my two sisters in a large bed covered in grandma's quilts. They would pull the stack of quilts back and we would crawl in and then they would fold the stack of quilts back over us. There must have been at least 6 to 10 heavy quilts on that bed. They were so heavy we could barely move. It was like getting a giant hug from that stack of quilts. That was some of the best sleep I had as a kid. I would lie there, warm and snug with the sound of the cuckoo clock in the distant living room. That experience fits the above quote perfectly. Those handmade quilts were awesome. 

My grandma gave us one of her handmade quilts many years ago as a wedding gift and I cherish it to this day. My mother also did a little quilting. She didn't put as much work into her quilts as grandma did. My mother didn't do as much hand stitching and did more tacking and machine sewing. Regardless of her method, she also made some beautiful quilts. One of her quilts sits on our bed right now. I often tease my wife when I wrap up in it saying "I'm under the quilt my mother made me with love!". It is another example of the truthfulness of the quote above. 

Sometime simple things bring us great comfort and joy. As I've said before, just seeing this sheet of mom's handwritten quotes brings a smile to my face. 

Do you have a handmade quilt that has been passed to you from someone? Do you make quilts yourself and share them with others? What other handmade items bring you great joy?


Monday, June 6, 2022

Inflation!

 


Many financial retirement articles include the mention of inflation. Many talk about how inflation can eat away at your retirement nest egg if you are not careful. If you are withdrawing the recommended 3-4% per year from your savings you will most likely be fine unless inflation takes a nasty turn for the worst. Today's inflation of 8.3% or so is high compared to recent history. We have enjoyed inflation rates of 3% or less for years and years. Now, this jump in inflation is alarming to all! The cost of everything is rising. We hear nightly about the rise in gas prices. Just this morning, the Today show was reporting to expect an average of $6 per gallon by Labor Day! But, I'm seeing pretty big increases at the grocery store also. The last time we bought groceries, I was shocked at how much I paid for a few sacks of groceries. Everything had gone up. Bacon was high as well as everything else we put in our shopping cart. My wife was shocked that a bag of Fritos was over $5! We have also noticed that even if the prices haven't changed, the amount you receive of the product has decreased.

A side affect of the inflation is the Feds increasing interest rates to fight the problem. On top of inflation, the higher rates make it costlier if you finance anything. This increase has already had an impact on mortgage rates and the slowing down of the housing market. I heard the other day that you have to pay sticker or over sticker price on new vehicles due to the shortages. Now, you have to add on a higher interest rate if you finance it. The interest rates don't affect a lot of retirees, as you tend to borrow less and you have may have been settled into your house and interest rate for awhile.

As prices increase, the income of a retired person may very well not increase to match. That is a problem. I remember in my working days, a little inflation was balanced by a cost of living increase in my salary. I'm not so sure that equals out as well in my retirement years. Any cost of living increase from my 401K withdrawal must be given by myself. As the stock market has stumbled, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with giving myself an 8% cost of living raise. I have seen inflation in two spots, gas and groceries. I've also noticed a little increase in prices at restaurants. Where are you seeing the inflation raise it's head? 

We all have seen the gas prices increase and feel the pinch. Have you seen other everyday items increase?  How are you dealing with inflation in your household? Are you giving yourself a raise to match prices? Or, are you cutting expenses to deal with the increase in the cost of everyday items?


Friday, May 27, 2022

Miracle Cures!

 



As a kid I was not politically correct with the naming of my grandmothers but my sisters and I were so very young when this naming started. My sisters and I called our grandmothers Big Grandma and Little Grandma. We never thought anything about it and we didn't mean any disrespect with it, it was just a young person's description of their grandmother. My dad's mother, Big Grandma was a large woman the entire time I knew her and my mother's mother, Little Grandma, probably weighed 100 pounds. Big Grandma was a lot taller than Little Grandma and so the names just fit and stuck. If I remember right, the reference to Big Grandma and Little Grandma was mainly between us kids and our parents and when we were actually in their presence we just simply called them Grandma. 

Big Grandma believed in a miracle cure that would cure anything that ailed you. She kept several bottles around the house and would dab it on any type of wound. She swore that if you cut off a finger you could soak it in her miracle cure and a new one would grow back! Her miracle cure.....green alcohol! It smelled awful and looked terrible in it's milky white bottle up on the shelf. I avoided her putting any of it on me. Google says it may have a cleansing effect on minor cuts and scrapes. I would imagine that would burn like everything! I picture in my mind the old west shows where they would pour alcohol on a gunshot wound and the gunshot victim would scream like the alcohol was worse than the actual gunshot. Grandma, no thanks!

My dad had his own miracle cure. He also thought his cure could grow a new finger. His cure......Mercurochrome! Every time we got a cut, scrape or bite we would break out the bottle of Mercurochrome and use the stiff plastic applicator attached to the screw on lid to dab the red stuff on our wound. It would sting and it would dye your skin red. I think it had a nickname of "Monkey blood". Google says it was used as a mild antiseptic. Google also says it is not longer available in the US. The FDA decided there were two issues with it. One was that it contained Mercury which is no good for our body. The second issue was that it dyed your skin red and could mask an infection. I had a few doses of this stuff in my childhood. Thanks dad! I should have switched to grandma's miracle cure!

Another medicine we used the same a Mercurochrome was Campho-phenique. It was in a tiny green bottle and we used it mainly on mosquito and other insect bites. Thank goodness, there is no FDA issue with Campho-phenique.  

Do you remember any cures that your parents or grandparents swore by? Do you have any today that you tout as having healing powers? Just thinking about all this brings back memories of the cuts, scrapes and bruises that I had as a kid and all the awesome experiences that I had while obtaining said blemishes. 





Sunday, May 22, 2022

Superheroes!



I attended the birthday party of my three year old granddaughter yesterday. She has been all into watching Spidey and Friends as one of her new favorite cartoons. Her party was Spidey themed and Spiderman himself made an appearance. Spiderman, an orphan boy bit by a radioactive spider who then becomes a superhero with super human strength and spider senses. My granddaughter loved her party and loved seeing Spiderman in real life. 

Superman, Spiderman, Batman, The Hulk and other super heroes have been with us since the 1930's. Superheroes bring wonder and a sense of hope to the world in difficult times. They first came on the scene after the Great Depression had begun. Captain America debuted in 1941 at the start of World War II with the first cover of the Captain America comic showing him giving a left hook to Hitler. Captain America was designed to give hope to the U.S. as it entered the war. Superheroes give people something to look up to as they go about their days battling the evil villains and upholding truth and justice. 

Today, superheroes are big business. Superhero movies have made billions of dollars at the box office. Marvel has cashed in over the last decade with numerous movies involving their superhero line of characters. America and the world love their Superman, Batman, Spiderman and other series of movies. I enjoy some of these movies and the on screen action that they bring. Kids of all ages love dressing as a superhero at Halloween and birthday parties. My son-in-law seemed to enjoy being Spiderman yesterday! I'm sure he felt a little "super" and powerful dressed in his red outfit.

As a kid, I was never into superheroes as much as some. I enjoyed the comics and I liked them pretty well, I just was not infatuated with them. My superhero, as I have said before, was Evil Knievel who could leap over cars and buses in a single bound. I had the Evil Knievel lunch box rather than a Superman lunch box. 

My real life superhero was my dad. I always thought he had super human strength and was the strongest man I knew. He could always loosen the tightest bolts on a car engine and could always open the jar of pickles or jam. He could lift and maneuver all manner of things. He could do anything he set his mind to. He could fix anything and make anything. I always felt protected and safe when he was around, much like having Superman looking after me. 

Real life superheroes for most of us are evident by the network programming you see on TV or on streaming platforms. The most popular programming includes fire and emergency shows, police shows and medical shows. The firemen, policemen and doctors are the real life superheroes out there! I remember watching  Adam-12,  Emergency and Kojak among others back in the 70's. Today's lineup include numerous shows including the Chicago Police, Fire and Med trio. 

My most recent brush with real life superheroes was during our time in Houston while my wife was treated for cancer. The doctors, nurses and other medical personnel were outstanding and their dedication to their job and care for their patients was something else. It is real life superheroes like them that give real hope to the world. 

Maybe you are a superhero! You may have saved a life or rescued someone. You may be a parental figure to someone who didn't have the real deal. When my kids were young I often felt like a superhero when I picked them up after a fall or fixed a broken toy. I remember my daughter saying "You saved my life" when I rescued her from the top of her swing set slide after she climbed the ladder to get away from a bug on the ground. Super Dad to the rescue! Recently I felt like a superhero when my granddaughter said her dad broke the toilet, but Pawpaw fixed it! A chain on the flapper had come loose and I reattached it and she thought I had saved the day! I'll revel in the superhero moment no matter how small.

Who is your real life superhero? Is your hero a parent, grandparent or other friend or relative? Is your hero someone who rescued you in an emergency or gave you a kidney? What fictional heroes did you enjoy when you were young and today? Have you been the hero? And most importantly, did you have a cool, metal, superhero lunch box?