Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Thrift Stores

My wife and I love a great bargain. Growing up and then through my 20's and 30's, I never cared much for a trip to Goodwill. I didn't like the old clothes smell and didn't think I would ever find something that I would need. I don't remember any other thrift stores around back then other than Goodwill. Over the years, I think thrift stores have greatly increased in numbers and quality. In larger cities you will find many to choose from including Goodwill, Salvation Army and many other charities stores and private owned stores.  Now, my wife and I frequent about a half dozen of our favorite thrift stores on a regular basis and have a blast doing it. Plus, I don't think the thrift stores smell like the old Goodwill stores I remember. 

I have found things you wouldn't expect to find. Recently, I found granite cleaner and sealer for our granite countertops. This stuff is usually pretty expensive, so I scooped up the discounted pair of bottles when I found them. I've also found home a/c filters that would be 10 times the price at a hardware store. I've seen oil and air filters for cars, but have never been able to find the ones that fit my vehicles. I get 90% of my books from these stores. I now have a supply of great books that probably could last me 2-3 years. I have a problem leaving a bestselling book on the shelf when it will cost me less than $3 for one in like new condition. I can read a book or two in a week, then go thrifting that next Saturday and come home with 15 new books. I tell myself "no more books until I read 20" but then I see some great books for 49 cents and I just have to put them in the cart. Just the other day I bought a book, about the Comanche Nation, on Amazon for $10 thinking I would never find it in a thrift store. I kid you not, the very next Saturday I see that same book at a thrift store for $1.49. 

My wife and I have both scored some great, brand name clothes, new with tags at thrift stores. One of my favorite light jackets is a Cabela's jacket I picked up at a thrift store. I do metal detecting as a hobby and can wear out a pair of pants (in the knees) pretty fast. I buy all my detecting cargo pants at thrift stores for $1-$4 knowing I will get some good wear out of them and at a very good price. I have also bought some pretty nice jigsaw puzzles but will admit I've had a few that aggravated me when I got to the end and was missing a piece or two. I still had a great time putting them together though! Our table lamps in our living room came from a recent trip to a thrift store. They are beautiful glass lamps. We put on new shades and they look awesome for a fraction of the price of new ones.

In retirement and really anytime in life, smart shopping is smart living. You can save significant money on items purchased at such a great discount. I've saved hundreds of dollars just in books. For every book I purchase at a thrift store for $1.49, I could easily spend $15-$30 for the same book at a full fledged bookstore. I know you can save even more by using the library, but I like to have the books on hand and not have to worry about return deadlines or getting it back to the library after using it. I like to read them and put them in a pile to sell to Half Price Books or donate back to the thrift store. For us, thrifting is as much a fun hobby as it is a savings thing. And when asked where you got that beautiful shirt or blouse, just reply "A cute little boutique on 16th street".

A few years ago, we had a thrift store Christmas. Anything given had to be purchased at a thrift store. We all had great fun shopping and trying to find unique gifts for each other. Some were awesome, some were gag gifts that we thought would be funny when opened. We enjoyed it a lot. 

I also see things in thrift stores that make you think a little. I will see a large selection of dog, cat, pig, or clown figurines, piggy banks, trophies, etc. and think they probably all belonged to one person as part of a collection. I see nice old furniture that makes you wonder why it's in a thrift store. It ties back to my post of "Digging for Treasure" and I realize all of these items in the store were probably someone's treasure at some point. They gave it up voluntarily to update their wardrobe, discard an old collection or update their home decorations. Or, they gave it up involuntarily through downsizing to a nursing home or a funeral home. In the end it's only "stuff". A few of my things may wind up being passed down to my kids and grand kids, but I know that most will be sold or given away eventually. Most of my thrift store finds are not treasures anyway. Most I'll use and discard or use and donate back to the thrift cycle. If nothing else, I'm saving the environment a little by my reuse and recycle. 

Do you thrift at all? Do you hit the garage sales? What bargains have you come across in your thrifty shopping?

Back to reading, I have another 20 books to finish by the end of the week so I can do some thrifting on  Saturday!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

101 New Things for 2021

Sometime last year I read a blog that mentioned how the blogger was doing with their new year's resolutions for the year. One of their goals was to try 101 new things that year. I think the blogger had hit 40 something out of the 101. This year I set the same goal to try 101 new things. So far, I have enjoyed trying new things and look forward to many more. I've completed 18 so far, so I'm a little behind schedule. I need to hit  8-9 a month to make goal. So, I need to be at 24 at the end of the month to be on track. Here is my list of new things completed so far:

  • Greek food-lamb gyro
  • Tried a Huli-Huli chicken recipe
  • Tried a new bakery around the corner and had a cupcake
  • Thai food- Chicken Pad Thai
  • Axe throwing
  • Tried a french onion chicken recipe
  • Tried a new fried catfish restaurant
  • Learned to sew on a sewing machine
  • Played Backgammon for the first time
  • Moroccan food
  • Started a blog
  • Visited a Seminole Nation Museum
  • Visited graves of G-Grandmother and GG-Grandfather and GG-Grandmother
  • Tried a new fried chicken restaurant called the Drum Room
  • Attended a Toby Mac concert
  • Tried a new coffee shop
  • Tried a new pizza place
  • Made a Chocolate Guinness cake
I have numerous ideas for the coming months. I would like to try pottery making, archery, flight lesson, Top Golf and Pho. Getting to 101 may be difficult and all will not be epic new things. A new restaurant, new coffee shop and new recipes will need to fill the gaps between the epic things. I plan on adding several to the list from a vacation we have planned in May. The quest to hit 101 new things, has me looking for new places, things and events to go to. Some of these, I may never have thought about or might have said "maybe, some day". I've enjoyed the new things completed already and feel like it has added a new freshness to the year. I have a new optimism about the future and about adding things to the list. 

 I encourage each of you to look for something new to try this year. You don't have to do 101 things. Just step out of your routine and try one thing and see if it doesn't add a little something to your life. 

If you have any great ideas I could try, please comment and let me add them to my list. Now I've got to get up the courage to open that can of sardines sitting on our kitchen island. I bought it a few days ago to add "Try a sardine" to my list. Wish me luck!


Friday, March 19, 2021

Digging For Treasure


A few months before I retired, I began to think about things I might like to try in retirement as a hobby. I was reading a blog somewhere and it mentioned metal detecting. As a kid, I always dreamed of finding treasure using a metal detector but the most my family could afford was a really cheap model from Radio Shack. I was excited but that excitement soon wore off when all I found with that detector were rusty nails and aluminum pull tabs. I quickly tired of that game and knew I couldn't afford a "real" metal detector. That mention of metal detecting brought up those old memories and I said to myself "heck yeah, now's the time to get that good detector". I purchased a pretty cheap, used one, off of craigslist to make sure I would enjoy the hobby. It didn't take long to get hooked. After one time with this detector and finding 30 coins or so, I decided to upgrade to a mid-level detector with more bells and whistles. The new one was from the famous Garrett company that has been making detectors since the 1960's. The new detector can tell you what is likely buried and how deep. It is pretty awesome! I really enjoy it as a retirement hobby. My wife thinks I'm crazy spending hours digging in the dirt to find a handful of coins and relics. 

It is the thrill of not knowing what is in the next hole that keeps me excited. I could find a pull tab or I could find a gold ring (haven't found a real gold ring yet!). They both emit similar tones on the detector. I may find nothing but newer coins and then I may find an old coin or two. All of it is treasure to the little boy still inside me. I will leave the house and tell my wife "I'm heading out to find some treasure!". 

 As we leave the nest and head out in search of our own life in our youth I think most of us have a different view of life's treasures. We tend to look for a promotion at work, a new house, a new car, a new watch. A lot of material things become treasure to obtain and horde in a race to have more treasure than the next person. I guess that is why some call it the "rat race". I also visualize that the human race, in general, is at times much like a bunch of pack rats. Here is a Wikipedia quote about pack rats:

Pack rats are nest builders. They use plant material such as twigs, sticks, and other available debris. hey are particularly fond of shiny objects. A peculiar characteristic is that if they find something they want, they will drop what they are currently carrying—for example, a piece of cactus—and "trade" it for the new item. They can also be quite vocal and boisterous.

Pack rats run around and find any and everything they can to add to their nest. You may find bits of shiny stuff, pieces of plastic, small toys and other items in their home.  All of their gathered items are treasure to them. Humans are much the same, running all over town, buying a few things from the different department stores, dollar stores, etc. and then running home to pack it away. And doesn't that peculiar characteristic sound a lot like a human also?

As we get older, I think our view of treasure changes. I know my view has changed. I no longer feel the need to acquire things as much. I treasure non-material things a lot more now. Treasure is my family getting together on holidays or weekends and spending some time together. Treasure is sitting quietly in the morning with a cup of coffee and a good book. Treasure is great memories from a trip or vacation. Treasure is when my 22 month old grand daughter, sitting beside me in my recliner, looks up and says "Hi Pawpaw" with a big loving smile on her face. Treasure is one more day on this earth. And, treasure is a 1940's Mercury dime dug out of the ground!

What do you treasure during your retirement years? Have you seen a change in what you have treasured over the years? 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Our Recorded Cherished Memories


If you are like me and my wife you have taken a ton of photos and videos over the years. Memories stored on film, video tapes, digital video tapes, floppy discs, etc. We have gone through at least two video cameras and I kept  them to use as a playback device for those cherished recordings. Recently, we decided to break out the old video cameras and videos and take a look. Unfortunately neither of the players were working and I got an error messages on one. Now, there we were with a stack of various tapes with no way to play them. Facebook seems to read our minds or listen to our conversations because soon I was getting ads for companies that digitalize tapes for a fee. There are numerous companies that do this service and they take about any kind of media and put in on a DVD, thumb drive or send it to you in digital form. My wife and I collected 14 tapes of various sizes and sent them in. The company we used sent a box for shipping and barcodes to attach to each tape we sent in. It was very easy. A couple of weeks later we received our tapes back along with DVD for each tape and a thumb drive with all the footage. We have only watched a small portion so far. We had one tape that was very degraded and they couldn't get much off of it. What a great way to save the memories for the future.

We had video of Christmas celebrations, birthday parties, sports games and school activities as well as a lot of other video of our kids growing up. I'm sure each of you have something similar sitting around the house. We still have thousands of print photos that need to be organized. The companies will scan photos, but I feel like it would be really expensive to do a large quantity.  I figure the price we paid to ensure these memories are viewable and can last a few more years was well worth it. If you decide to look for a company to do your videos and photos, I suggest you shop around and then wait for emails to be sent to you. We eventually got an email offering rates of 60% off the regular rate. I thought the final price was very reasonable. 

As we get older these memories are as precious as most anything else we own. Looking back at the videos show how quickly our kids grew up and moved on with their lives. It reminds us all to live in the moment and cherish every minute of every day and to go back and savor those cherished memories we have. Some of my best memories are only recorded in my own mind. If only I could put them in video format!

What kind of media do you have laying around and how are you organizing it and protecting it for the future? Any success stories or disappointment with any digitalizing companies? How do you deal with photos? We have albums, photo boxes and drawers full of photos. What about your modern day digital videos and photos from you smart phone, how do you save and sort this large volume of media? I delete a few photos every once in awhile because I take screen shots of things I want to try such as a new coffee shop or I take a photo of a special light bulb or furnace filter I need to buy. If I don't go weed out these photos I could wind up saving them forever in the cloud or on my computer. Fifty years from now some grandchild will look through my photos and say "Why in the world did he save a photo of a furnace filter!"

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Where There's Cannon, There's Fun!

Another Mitch Davis original: "Where there's cannon, there's fun!".  This ties in to my previous post of "You never know, 'til you go". If I see a cannon, I apply the saying and go check it out. I love history and visiting museums and historical sites. One day on vacation I came up with this quote as my family visited one of these sites. I do want to say that I know being on the business end of a cannon would not be fun and I do not want to make light of war or the destruction that cannon can cause. With my interest in history, I just equate the presence of a cannon as a sign that it sits at an interesting historical site and that is where the fun comes in. I have enjoyed visiting Civil War battlefields such as Pea Ridge in Arkansas, Vicksburg in Mississippi and Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. As you would expect, all of the sites displayed a lot of cannon. I visited Gettysburg as part of a leadership training in which we went out on the field of battle and discussed the leadership aspects of  the decisions made during the battle. It was the best leadership training I ever had in my 33 year career. Speaking of the Civil War, my wife, son and I went to our first ever reenactment about a year ago. I loved it, my wife and son not so much. It really brought the history to life. It was a small battle but they had numerous cannon on both sides. When they started firing they were incredibly loud and smoke covered the area like fog. I can't imagine the chaos those things would bring in a real battle or to a large battle like Gettysburg where you had hundreds going off.

I have visited numerous historical forts in San Juan and other Caribbean islands. Some of these are very old and date back to the 1400's or earlier. All of course, have a cannon or two. You will also find a cannon sitting along a boardwalk on a beach, old army forts in the U.S., museums, military bases, city parks, etc.  Oh, I almost forgot about pirates. Pirate ships always had a cannon or two and anytime you can see anything pirate related, you can be sure you can have fun. All of these are great places to visit and enjoy, thus lending credibility to my famous saying. 

My wife and I took a sunset cruise on a pirate sailboat a few years ago in Florida. We had a great time just relaxing and taking in the sites. As we pulled out of the port, the crewman warned us that they were about to fire off a cannon. Cannon! What fun! They pulled out this tiny 2 foot long cannon and loaded in a blank shotgun shell. They pulled the ignition cord and that thing exploded with noise that echoed through the area. They laughed and said they fire it every time they go out and the local diners along the water love it. Again, "where there's cannon, there's fun". I enjoy historical sites and if I can get a photo of myself next to a cannon it just adds to the experience. 

So, whatever you do in retirement, find those things that you really enjoy and do them when you can. Balance is also needed in your retirement. My wife supports my interest in some things that she isn't too interested in such as historical sites, car shows, metal detecting, home depot, etc. On the flip side, I support her in things she may enjoy. To make it work well, we both support the other's interests and hobbies. On vacation, we go to a historical fort and then do some shopping and dining so we both get to enjoy the day. That balance is needed in any relationship in your life and at any time in your life including retirement. It may be more important in retirement due to the added hours you are together once those old work hours are now free time. 

What interest do you or your spouse have that is fully supported by the other? Any good suggestions on how you balance this and other things in your retirement?

Well, now it is time to get back to planning our trip to the Carolinas and Georgia in May. We plan to visit the Biltmore Estate and the cities of Charleston and Savannah.  I've already found the cannon stop on the trip. Fort Sumter here we come! 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

You Never Know 'til You Go

 This is a Mitch Davis original saying: "You never know 'til you go". I use this often in my everyday living the retirement life but it applies to any place you may be in life. This post can be considered a follow up of last week's post about taking risks. Whenever my wife and I see a "fork in the road", I try to apply my saying to it. If I see a place to visit or dine in a local television show "Discover Oklahoma", I add it to a "to do" list in my phone in case I'm ever in that area. My theory of "You never know 'til you go" applies to about anything. New dining option- it could be great or it could be awful but "you never know 'til you go". New museum or retail establishment- could be awesome or it could be a flop but "you never know 'til you go". Just take a chance on doing new things, what is the worst that could happen other than you wasted a little money or time. Last weekend we visited the Seminole Nation Museum in Wewoka, OK (on my list from the show). It was about an hour and a half drive from Oklahoma City and we took the chance that it would be worth it. It was a smaller museum than I had envisioned but it had a lot of interesting information about the Seminole Nation and their removal from Florida and other states to the Indian Territory of Oklahoma. There was info on a whipping tree and an execution tree that stood in front of the courthouse where tribal police meted out punishment according to the criminal offense. The whipping tree still stands today in front of the courthouse just down the street from the museum. Interesting stuff!

On the way out to Wewoka, my wife and genealogist in our family, mentioned I have relatives buried in Wewoka. We decided to find the cemetery because "you never know 'til you go".  After the museum visit we headed out and found the old cemetery on a dirt road outside of town. Unfortunately it was grown up and you could only see a few headstones. We both walked around the small cemetery and found headstones from my great grandmother and great great grandfather. My wife knew from her research that my great great grandmother was buried there also. I walked all over that place kicking away grass and branches trying to find her resting place. My wife stepped off the paces from great grandmother's headstone to the next headstone and then took the same amount of paces in the other directions and Bingo! she finds the headstone of my great great grandmother under the grass . Very cool! Now we are a little more hooked on our family history and plan on visiting a few more cemeteries in the future. 

I use my saying at a lot of places. We love to go to thrift stores. Sometimes, when we are debating on visiting a thrift store, I will voice "you never know 'til you go" because you never know what treasures await on those shelves. So, use my saying whenever you are debating doing something because more often than not you will come back from the activity saying "that was fun" or "that was unexpectedly good" or something similar. You can use the saying for anything. Thinking about meeting your new neighbor, trying a new church, trying a new restaurant, hiking a new trail, visiting a new place, reading a book from a different author and anything else you can think of. Go ahead, give it a try and you may be surprised at how it turns out.