Friday, September 30, 2022

Do A Nice Thing!


This is a short post as a reminder to myself to be a better person. This post is also to challenge my readers. I do not go out of my way to look for opportunities to help people like I should. I have times where doing nice things come to mind but I tend not to focus on it all the time. Don't get me wrong, I'm not mean to people, I just fail to take a moment to go out of my way sometimes to be nice to someone.

Yesterday, while at the grocery store, I loaded my few bags of groceries in the back of my car and headed to the cart cage to deposit my empty cart. I looked down my parking aisle and saw an older woman finishing up unloading her cart so I veered over to her and offered to take her cart along with mine. I got a huge smile and a thank you. I don't tell the story to toot my own horn. I tell it in a challenge to my readers and myself to do something nice for someone. Please seek out an opportunity daily and then return here and comment what nice thing you did. I will continue to seek out opportunities and will comment on my progress also. 

Please comment with any nice act you do, whether small or large. Maybe your reported "nice act" will spur someone else to do the same thing. Being nice does not cost a thing unless you escalate it to buying a coffee for the next person in line or something similar. So, get out there and do something good for humanity!

Sunday, September 25, 2022


 Definition of perseverance

continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition the action or condition or an instance of persevering STEADFASTNESS

I recently finished two books that made me think of the word perseverance. Both books were true accounts of war heroes. The first book was "On Full Automatic" by and about William V. Taylor Jr. and his tour in Vietnam. The second book "Damn Lucky" was written by Kevin Maurer about the service of John Luckadoo during WWII. Both stories are amazing and really put you smack dab into the middle of two historic times. Both achieved something despite tremendous difficulties, failures and opposition as defined above. 
William (Bill) Taylor tells of his battles and hardships endured in the Vietnam War. His tour of duty was 13 months and his personal battle was to survive those 13 months and return home safely. He survived ambushes, booby traps, snakes. leeches and more to get to the end of his tour and return home. Each battle that Bill Taylor engaged in might result in the death of several of his friends and fellow marines. One of those had just found out his son had been born the day before he died in battle. Several died in their last month or two of their tour. 
John Luckadoo's story involves his deployment to a B-17 bomber group. He has to survive 25 missions to return home. Out of 40 men he trained with and flew with in the 100th Bomb Group, only 4 survived the missions. He survived enemy fighters and anti-aircraft guns to finish his 25 missions. John Luckadoo returned from many missions in which 20 or more bombers failed to return with his crew. The odds were that only about 25% of crews made it to the 25 missions and returned home. He survived and turned 100 this past March! Their stories show their determination to persevere through their situation to hit those magic number of 13 months or 25 missions despite terrible odds of surviving to the end. 
Their struggles and near misses demonstrate what we all are capable of in tough times.
In retirement, most of us don't come close to facing the situations of the two young men above where perseverance is at the highest level you can imagine. However, there may be numerous situations in which perseverance is a valuable tool during your retirement and your last 20 or more years on this earth. 
In retirement you may have small situations that require short bouts of perseverance such as a repair or remodel of a part of your home, an unexpected car accident that you have to deal with, a family or personal relationship that has gotten off track for some reason, a financial hit to your budget or retirement funds and many other short term "tough" situations.
Also, during your retirement and last half of your life, you may endure much tougher situations involving death of family or friends and personal medical situations involving you, your spouse or immediate family. Major medical situations would be the most likely situations that might equal the life and death battles that the two men above endured. My wife has persevered and continues to do so with her breast cancer diagnosis. Her perseverance through chemo and radiation treatments has shown how tough she is while in a very hard situation. 
During "Lucky's" missions, he talked of being scared to death as he walked to his plane for a mission. But, once he climbed into the plane, he knew that he had a job to do and he began to focus on the moment rather than possible outcomes. I saw this same determination in my wife. Once she was hooked up to her IV, she would even make a comment about having to do what she needs to do to be around in the future for the grandkids. To me, she had the same attitude of perseverance that the bomber pilot had and I have full faith that she will continue to persevere for the next 30+ years!
I need to remind myself daily about the tough battles that people are going through and the fact that my life is going pretty well even though small things get me down sometimes. There is always someone else out there who is persevering through some pretty bad times. As much as people grumble about the state of the U.S., I wouldn't trade it for anything. We need to think of the problems going on in Ukraine and Haiti to remind us of how great we have it right here. We also need to continue to remember the heroes like Bill and Lucky who helped give us this great life we have today!
Have you had to persevere through anything lately? Any big issues that really knocked you down for awhile, but now are in the past? Have you read any great books lately that are similar to the two I just read? 

Monday, September 19, 2022

What's On Your Coffee Mug?

Here at the Retirement Coffee Shop, I enjoy a couple of cups of coffee every morning. A cup of Folger's usually starts out my day. On occasion I may have some roasted coffee that I picked up at a local coffee shop. Every morning I reach up into the cabinet above my coffeepot and pick out the coffee mug of the day. My favorite is a mug I picked up at the Evel Knievel Museum. Some of my other favorites include a cup that has a picture of books on a bookshelf, a NASA cup and a new favorite is a plain blue Corell cup. 

When out thrifting, I see a million coffee cups in all shapes, sizes and colors. Many have advertising logos and many have a few words of wisdom on them. You have seen many of these cups before with words embossed on them such as "I'm the boss!" or "Best Dad" or some other saying. My son bought one over the weekend that had a cat in a Santa hat and said "Meowy Christmas". I saw a coffee cup a few weeks ago that had some retirement slogan on it. I should have grabbed that one for my daily coffee.

I think your coffee cup says a lot about you. My coffee cups, shown above, say that I am a highly intelligent daredevil spaceman or something similar. I have three coffee cups that just sit as decorations on a bookshelf in my study.  One is a bright orange mug with Cozumel written on it, one is a Life Is Good cup with a cartoon guy laid back in a chair and one is a White Pass train cup with three train engines on it. These three say that I like Cozumel, trains and a relaxing day. 

 A "Best Dad" cup says you probably are a great dad and you love your kids and they love you. An "I'm the boss!" cup says that yes indeed you are the boss and you are proud of it. A cup with a puppy or cat on it shows that you love animals and especially love your pet. If you have a cup with some type of company logo it shows you are too cheap to buy a mug and got that one for free somewhere. Some coffee cups have your name on them. I don't know why you really need your name on the cup unless you keep it in the cabinet at work and it would show everyone that it's yours and yours only. 

A person's coffee cup may indicate they love nature, sports, a certain hobby, music, etc. by what's on the cup. What does your coffee cup say about you? Do you have a favorite cup or two that you use a lot? Do you have a cup with a really cool saying on it? 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Mr. Fixit


I've always been somewhat of a handy man. I guess I learned the basics from my dad. He could fix about anything. I'm much like my dad in the fact that our fixes sometimes are not the most beautiful repair you have ever seen. But, nonetheless the repairs solved the problem.  

My wife and I recently flew to Seattle and then went on an 8 day Alaskan cruise. When we retrieved our luggage in the baggage area during our return home, my wife advised that this was the last trip for one of our suitcases (Big Bertha). I told her that "Ol Bertha" had at least another 5 years of travel in her. She rolled her eyes as she looked at the suitcase with a handle I had bolted back into place and a roller wheel that I had duct taped back on. I told her a new strip of duct tape and she would be good as new! We recently bought a new set of luggage, but after one flight they got scratched up and a handle broke. There is no need to try to keep nice luggage. In our experience, the handles on the suitcases do not hold up well. I repair them with a small bolt, washer and nut and they seem to do much better. 

Another recent repair resulted in the development of a Franken Turtle. My 3 year old granddaughter loved a small rock turtle that my wife and I had bought on vacation in Cozumel. She loved that turtle and dropped it several times on our tile floor resulting in turtle legs and head flying in different directions. After gluing the guy back together at least 3 times, the last drop just totally destroyed him. This was a few months ago. On our Alaska cruise we bought a similar rock turtle and brought it home to her. She was super excited and carried it around our house for a few days without incident. She insisted taking it inside a restaurant last week and dropped it on a tile floor. It shattered and then she fell apart. I recovered pieces and when we got back home we pulled out the glue. When I arranged the parts, I realized I was missing two legs. The genius in me told her we would find two small rocks and make legs. We were able to do so and got him back together. He looks somewhat like a turtle and should last another drop or two. Looking back, we should have bought several of the $5 turtles to keep in reserve! You can see our homemade rock legs in the photo below.

I enjoy piddling around the yard and the garage and working on small projects. I get great satisfaction in little things. Last week I installed a rain gauge in my yard. I had pulled open a drawer in one of my toolboxes and saw the rain gauge sitting there. I had been meaning to install it somewhere for the last two years we have lived in this house. So, I grabbed it and two screws and a few minutes later had a fully functioning rain gauge. Good thing I did it, I was able to measure some rain a few days later! Recently, I have changed out a few sprinkler heads, replaced a couple of outdoor landscape lights and planted a hardy hibiscus shrub. Before that I had small projects of taking apart, cleaning and reassembly of an old bench grinder and vise that used to be my dad's. Both came out looking great and working great. 

A few things on my current "to do" list include installing two pull bars next to our bathtub, replace and paint a wood gable vent on the front of our house and plant 2 shrubs that my wife purchased. I also need to charge a couple of batteries in our Ring cameras and trim some shrubs. Home ownership always supplies me with a list of things that need to be done. There are always a/c vents that need to be cleaned or a/c filters that need to be changed out as well as other monthly maintenance things that come up. Most of these I enjoy doing and then have the satisfaction of crossing them off my "to do" list.

Are you or your spouse a "fix it" kind of person? Do you have some ugly, yet functional, repairs that you can share? What are some of your most recent repair or maintenance projects?

Friday, September 9, 2022

Hawaiian Shirts

I was looking through my closet at my shirts today deciding what shirt to wear, when a retirement question hit me. That question: Is there a rule on when you can wear a Hawaiian shirt? You know the old saying about not wearing white pants until after Easter and other silly sayings about clothing. I wondered if there was an spoken or unspoken rule for happy floral shirts. It would make sense that you should wear them only during warmer months or on a cruise ship. I like to wear them because they give me a little "pick me up" and small feeling of being on vacation. Then I thought, "I'm retired, who cares when I wear those shirts!". 

In former days, people dressed up to go to the movies or dining. Some of the old photos show an audience at a movie theater and all the men are in suits and hats and the ladies in their nice dresses and hats. Our society today has changed a lot since then and clothing rules have gone out the window. I searched the world wide web for clothing rules. Some I had heard of, some I had not. One article was titled "14 Dressing Rules That Everyone Should Learn Once and For All". So, for those who need some guidance when dressing in the morning, here they are:

1. The middle button on a jacket should always be closed. The upper one depends on your mood. The lower one should never be closed.

2. When you are wearing a shirt or a blouse, you can unbutton no more than 2 buttons.

3. Wear earrings that match your bracelet and a necklace that goes well with your ring. 3 or 4 things in one look is too much.

4. The tip of your tie should reach your waist and cross it just a little.

5. Opt for either a miniskirt or cleavage. Both at once look too vulgar.

6. If you are wearing a shirt without a jacket, you don't need a tie.

7. Your office shirt cleavage should not be deeper than 4" from your collarbone.

8. If you tucked in your shirt, you should wear a belt.

9. Your naked skin should not be seen between your cardigan and your jeans. Wear a top if necessary.

10. Your belt should be the same color as your shoes.

11. All visible tags on clothes should be cut off.

12. Don't wear too many prints. You can wear 2 different prints of the same color or 2 coordinating prints of different sizes.

13. Your socks should be long enough that your naked legs aren't seen when you are sitting.

14. An office blouse without sleeves should cover your shoulders. "Spaghetti" straps are not okay in formal situations.

The most important thing about this mention of Hawaiian shirts! I'm free to wear them when I want!

I have numerous shirts that I have bought with floral prints, most were purchased in the Caribbean while on a cruise. I have never been to Hawaii, so I have no real Hawaiian shirts in my closet. I don't live in Florida or on an tropical island in which you would happily wear these shirts year round. But hey, there is no reason I can't bring a little vacation sunshine into my home this winter by wearing a bright colored floral shirt with a few parrots on it!

Some of the rules above, I have heard about including the tie length and matching the color of your shoes to your belt. As a man, most of the rules above don't apply to me.

These days there aren't too many people who follow any kind of clothing rules. I see people in pajamas at Walmart and almost anywhere else. I guess they are comfortable, but it looks a little too comfortable to me. I even see a lot of older retired men wearing pajama bottoms and an untucked plaid shirt. Maybe they have the same attitude as I do of my Hawaiian shirts of "I'm retired, who cares".

Do you have clothing rules you follow? Do you were pajamas to shop in? I admire those that look sharp and often will compliment them. I do this standing there in my Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts, socks and crocks. Looking good Mitch! 

Friday, September 2, 2022

Retirement Hobbies

Before you make the leap into retirement you often make plans for what you are going to fill your retirement days with. You may decide to work part time or do some volunteer work. You may also decide to explore a current hobby more in depth or try a new hobby.

Shortly before retiring I took up the hobby of metal detecting. I joined a local club and jumped into it at the beginning of retirement with gusto. I continue to enjoy getting out and digging up treasures. Just this week I got out for about two hours and unearthed a 1937 silver half dollar! Those moments bring great joy to my retirement. 

I know two retirees who took up beekeeping in retirement. They have a Facebook page and often post of removing honey bees from homes or trees. They bottle and sell their honey and have made a part time business out of the deal. 

Some people jump into golf and have weekly golf outings scheduled. Some spend more time fishing or hunting. Some take up knitting or quilting. All of these hobbies can fill many hours in a retirees weekly schedule. I searched the internet for retirement hobbies. Some were interesting and hobbies that I had not thought about. Some of those hobbies included growing a bonsai tree, animal care, paddle boarding, genealogy, geocaching, birding, wood carving, candle making and many more. 

I guess my current hobbies would be metal detecting, gardening, reading, blogging and doing a few jigsaw puzzles. Nothing that takes up a tremendous time or money. I've also been working on some online guitar lessons on and off and so far have not progressed much on that particular hobby.

Have you tried a new hobby in retirement but found it just wasn't for you? Retirement is a great time to try something you always thought you might enjoy but didn't have the time while working. If there is something that interested you 20 years ago, you might take another look at it as a potential hobby in retirement. Metal detecting was something I was interested in as a kid but and resurfaced as as potential hobby right before retirement. I'm glad I started doing it now that I have the money to invest in equipment and the time to enjoy the hobby.

I saw a news story the other day, on tv, about a guy whose hobby was repairing old G.I. Joes. He enjoyed it so much that he wound up opening a G.I. Joe museum in Lone Wolf, OK. During the news story you could see great joy on the owner's face as he repaired a G.I. Joe. He allows kids to touch and play with the toys in the museum because he said that's what they are meant to be used for. "If they break one, I will fix it" he said. What a unique hobby! What a great hobby that he can enjoy while also bringing great joy to others. Imagine having a G.I. Joe that was your favorite toy as a kid and finding it in the attic in pieces or worn out. Send it to this guy and he has fun repairing it and you have great fun in seeing your old army friend back in action!

Do you have any interesting hobbies you do in retirement or have you heard about a unique hobby like the one above? Any others out there digging for treasure with a metal detector? Anyone making a few dollars with their hobby? I would imagine a hobby like beekeeping could get away from you and become a full time job. Do you have a hobby that requires very little time or do you have a hobby that is consuming a lot of your time?

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Europe Travel

My wife and I want to do a trip to Europe in the near future. We would like to see some of the typical tourist attractions all over Europe. I think most of what I would want to see would be in Italy to start with. I have on my list the Colosseum, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pompeii, the Vatican Museums and many other places. 

I'm looking for advice on what time of year to go and how long to stay. I don't want to fly across the ocean for a 3 day trip but don't want to be exhausted trying to stay 3 months either. Is it best to visit Europe in pieces and see Italy one trip, France and Germany another trip and England another trip? Or, is it possible to see much of the highlights of Europe in a few weeks? We enjoy a good cruise and I know there are several that do Italy, Greece, etc. So, I've thought of going for several weeks with a week cruise somewhere while we are there.

If you have been to Europe, do you have suggestions or tips? Are some sites overrated? Are there some sites, that you saw, that are under the radar but must see in your opinion? Any suggestions on transportation once we get there? Any suggestions will be woven into my planning and decision making and are greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

What's Your Name?

My 3 year old granddaughter takes on many roles throughout the day. She arrives at our house in the morning most days clothed in a princess dress of some kind. She may start out the day as Elsa from the movie Frozen. Within the next hour she may take off that dress and put on her Ghost Spider cape. In the next hour she has butterfly wings or bee wings on. During the day she becomes many different things. If I call her by name, she will say "I'm Ghost Spider" or "I'm Elsa". Often while in her different roles she will come up to me and ask "What's your name?" If I say "Pawpaw", she says "no you're not, you're Anna" or "you're Cat Boy" as she wants me to role play with her. I have recently been Cat Boy (PJ Masks show) , Mecha Cookie (Mecha Builders show) and the villain Romeo or Night Ninja (PJ Masks). When I am handed the role of a villain she will say "I want you to be mean!" so I play the part while she saves the world.   

                                            Ghost Spider                                 Romeo

As my granddaughter plays many roles through the day, it makes me think of the different roles we all play in life. When we are born we become a son or daughter, a grand child and possibly a niece or nephew. In those various roles, we mean different things to different people and have a variety of relationships based on those roles. Of course, when I was born, the common thing with my various new roles was that everyone said "He's the cutest baby I have ever seen!". 

As we continue through life we continue to assume new roles. We become siblings, students, team players, friends, etc. Each new title we get brings on new responsibilities and individual parts to play in those roles. As we continue on in life we become employees and coworkers. We may take on roles of spouses and parents, aunts or uncles and maybe grandparents. We may become teachers and mentors. We become neighbors. 

Some roles change over the years. As you move into new roles, some old roles may disappear forever. I once was a grandson and son. Once my grandparents and parents passed away, I no longer actively served in those roles. I used to be an employee/manager/coworker but gave those roles up upon retirement. 

Some people in this world take on the role of the villain and become thieves, murderers and other criminals. Some just shirk their responsibility of their roles and become absent parents or terrible employees. These people have an entirely different viewpoints than I on the responsibilities given for each of these roles. 

I currently have many names that include the following: brother, uncle, father, grandfather, husband, neighbor, friend, club member, and many others I can't name at the moment. When I look at all the roles I have played, the greatest has been husband, father and grandfather. The names of dad and pawpaw are my favorites. I read an article in the latest edition of the AARP magazine about Tyler Perry. He has had great success in his career and is a self made billionaire. At the end of the article he was asked "Who is Tyler Perry today?". He replied "I'm Maxine's baby. I am defined by everything she put in me. She was the kind of woman who tolerated or accepted nothing but your best. And I'm Aman's father. All of this other stuff is really great. But the thing that gives me motivation every day is being Aman's father." Well said Tyler, well said!

What is your name? What roles do you currently play? In retirement we move from employee/coworker into the role of retiree. At that point you may take on new roles of mentor, teacher, volunteer, part time employee, hobbyist or something else. What roles did you embrace after taking on the retiree role? Are you performing well in each of your given or chosen roles? Or, is there room for improvement in your roles? What is your favorite role, past or present?

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Alaska Cruise!


My wife and I just returned from an 8 day cruise to Alaska. We had an Alaska cruise scheduled in May 2020 and then the pandemic hit. So, two years later we finally got to set sail! We had never been to Alaska and we thoroughly enjoyed this trip. The scenery was spectacular and the wildlife was abundant. The views from the ship alone were worth the price of the trip. We saw waterfalls, bald eagles and a lot of whales from the ship. Onshore we saw bald eagles, bears and salmon. The weather was very nice with high temperatures of 65 or less. We expected more rain, but were lucky we only go a little rain at one stop in Ketchikan. Our ports were Icy Point Strait, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan and Victoria, Canada. We cruised up the Tracy Arm Fjord and took a small boat excursion up close to the Sawyer Glacier. That excursion was incredible and we saw icebergs, waterfalls, seals and one black bear. If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend at least one cruise to Alaska! This is what retirement is all about!

Have you had any recent travels or have anything planned in the near future? Do you feel safe enough to get out these days? We have been vaccinated and double boosted, plus we had a dose of COVID so we feel pretty confident we won't get deathly ill from COVID at this time. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The Dead File

As we all get older we need to think about some estate planning issues. Since we are all retired and have nothing to do, I have a little project for you....create a "dead file". 

Early in my career I became very good friends with a coworker of mine. At work one day Mike had a document in his hand and made mention of adding it to his "dead file". I was curious about this "dead file" and asked him what he was talking about. He said he had made a file folder that contained a variety of information for his wife to refer to when he was dead. He thought he was real funny by naming it the "dead file". I was in my 20's at the time and didn't see what the big deal was. Later in life I saw the value of a "dead file". Mike passed away unexpectedly at the early age of 51 and I'm sure he left a detailed "dead file" behind for his wife.  

In most marriages or relationships there is one person that handles the finances and day to day aspect of keeping the lights on. This person is usually the planner of the two and is more detail oriented. I am that person in my house. I handle the utilities, insurance, investments, streaming subscriptions, etc. Even though I have offered the management of these duties to my wife, she has declined many times. She would prefer that the light turns on when she flips the switch, the house and car are insured, Netflix works and money is in the bank without knowing how the Wizard behind the curtain operates it all. 

The problem with this scenario is if the "Wizard" dies without leaving an instruction manual to operate the buttons and levers. Several years ago I created my own "dead file". This simple manilla folder contains a sheet of paper with information about everything I could think of that she may not know the details about. It begins with information on our life insurance and where the documents are located. Home information includes the details of what company has the mortgage and what company handles the insurance. Next is info on our cars including where the titles are located, insurance and any loans against them. Next up is where our important documents are located including birth certificates, marriage certificate, passports, etc. I have them all in one place and want to be sure they can be found by accessing the "dead file". The next item on my list is a list of all financial accounts and where they are located. Next is health insurance info and then info on who to contact on my retirement pension to seek survivor benefits. I have also included info on actions to be taken to access my 401K funds. 

My "dead file" also has small things in it such as the combination for my gun safe and the combination for the lock on an outside gate. The file has the location of keys to our outdoor shed. The file also tells where a list of passwords is kept for all online accounts. I tried to include everything that I know her or my kids would not know the details about or think about while dealing with by passing. I included a line on who our utilities are with and about our auto toll pass account. There are so many little details that need to be known to make life easier on the surviving spouse or children. 

While writing this post, I noticed my "dead file" is dated 2020. So, I need to update it soon and add any new details or accounts. Updating the dead file should be a frequent event so put it on your New Year's list of things to do every year. Your "dead file" could contain anything you want it to. When my dad passed away in 1993, he left a hand written letter in which he spelled out a few of his wishes. Your file could  contain a one page document with info similar to what I have talked about here or it could be inches thick and contain all the reference documents needed. You should include your will and any other end of life documents. If not previously discussed, it should include any burial or cremation wishes you may have. You could include a letter to your family or reveal family secrets or buried treasure or who gets the dog. Make your file whatever you want it to be. My "dead file" is in a larger plastic file box that also contains folders for life insurance and retirement that I refer to in the "dead file". 

I know this is one of those conversations that is sometimes difficult to think about. But, after going through the death of my mother about two years ago, I know it is difficult to figure out those things listed above when account statements, bills, etc. are scattered about a desk or a room. My mother's bills and finances were pretty simple but there were some surprise accounts that I didn't know about until I found an old credit card or a new statement came in the mail. While dealing with mom's estate I learned a few things that I need to add to my file as tips or suggestions and I will share them here. Order many copies of the death certificate as they are needed many times when trying to access financial accounts or to close accounts. Also, remember there is a death benefit from Social Security. It is small and something like $250 but remember to file for it. I went through mom's bills and statements and quickly settled and cancelled all credit cards and subscriptions. Most had balances of $0 or small amounts like $25-50 for her most current purchases. 

Who is the "Wizard" in your relationship? Do you already have a "dead file"? If so, what does it contain? Do you have any other suggestions on what the file should have in it? Do you have any tips or suggestions for others when dealing with an estate after someone dies? 

Please don't procrastinate on this project that I have assigned you. If you are the "Wizard" in your relationship, you have an obligation to write out an instruction manual for those you may leave behind. If you work on your "dead file" and can't figure out what to do with all your money, please include this statement in the file "Send Mitch, at Retirement Coffee Shop, a large amount of money"!  But please, don't leave me any pets!

Friday, August 5, 2022

Smells & Memories

Oh those sweet memories. Our brains amaze me in their ability to store long term memories. My last post was Music & Memories and associated music with memories. Another thing that triggers a few memories for me is smell. Smell doesn't seem to attach itself to my memories as much as music but there are a few smells out there that bring out a memory or two.  

If you read the last post you will remember that I had a crush on a certain cheerleader in high school. After agitating and pestering her for months, I won her over with my wit, charm and handsome good looks. One thing that drove me crazy about her was the smell of her perfume. That perfume was Sand & Sable. A whiff of that perfume today will take me back to those teenage years and our dating and early marriage life. She has long moved on to new perfumes, all which smell wonderful, but that Sand & Sable has stuck in my memories. I'm sure she could have worn Ode De Skunk, and since I was so smitten by her, I would have stored that smell into my brain with those same great memories. 

Another really strong memory producer for me is not a pleasant memory. In 1995, I was across the street, in my office, from the Murrah Federal Building the morning it was blown up by a homegrown terrorist. In the days following the explosion, I was in the area assisting our office and providing security while rescue operations were being undertaken. After a day or so, Little Caesars Pizza set up a portable pizza oven in a tent in our parking lot to serve the first responders. The weather was cool and rainy during that time and you could smell the pizza being cooked every day. That pizza smell, along with the smells of the remnant of the building are deeply set in my memories. Today, I walk at a local park walking trail and across the street is a Little Caesars Pizza. On certain cool days, and with the right conditions, I get a huge whiff of pizza and with the cool weather, all of a sudden I'm back in that 1995 memory. The strength of that memory with that pizza smell amazes me every time.

My dad was a smoker. He smoked a lot of cigarettes but he also enjoyed smoking a pipe in the evening. I always loved the smell of his pipe tobacco when he packed his pipe and when he smoked it. He used Sir Walter Raleigh and Prince Albert tobacco if I remember correctly. I would use an empty tobacco can to store pennies in. Today, although very rarely, I will pass someone smoking a pipe and it reminds me of him instantly. 

Another smell that takes me back in the time machine is the smell of fresh asphalt or at least recently laid asphalt. As a young kid and up through my late teens, I would go to Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, TX. Their walkways around the park were asphalt and always smelled of asphalt during the hot summer months when I visited. My Sand & Sable, cheerleader girlfriend and I went at least once or twice together. Even today, if we step out of the car and smell asphalt, we will look at each other and say "It smells like Six Flags!".  

Which triggers your memory more, music or smells? Do you have any smells that take you back in time to some really great memories? Any smells take you to a bad memory?

Monday, August 1, 2022

Music & Memories

My parents, both born in 1943, listened to country music when I was young. The late 1970's country music scene included singers such as Willie Nelson, Charley Pride, Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell and Conway Twitty to name just a few. Last year and into this year, when my wife and I travelled to Houston several times, there was a spot between Dallas and Houston in which we could only find a few radio stations that came in clear. It seemed that every one of them was classic country and featured songs from those mentioned above. Every time that I heard one of the hits from these artists, it transported me back in time to the 1970's with my parents. I could just see myself in the car or truck with one of my parents with the radio tuned to country music. I could visualize the clothing and cars of that time period of my life. My dad loved music by Patsy Cline. Every time I hear one of her songs, I think of dad.   

Music is connected powerfully to memories. There is something that clicks in our brains that matches the music up with certain memories and that match seems to stay linked forever. Music is often used in therapy with dementia patients to help with recalling the past. Music is usually associated with different events in our lives. You may remember songs that were played at your wedding or other special events. I have a lot of memories that pop up when I listen to 80's music. I was in high school in the early 80's and music was a big part of my teenage life. When "Footloose" comes on, I think about my first date with my wife and our dating life in general. When any song from Def Leopard, AC/DC or Foreigner come on, I am instantly transported back in time and I'm cruising the streets of my old home town (Pop. 800 or so) and blasting the songs away in my 1973 Mustang before or after a Friday night football game. 

One song "Islands in the Stream" by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers takes me back to study hall in high school. I had a crush on a cheerleader who was dating one of my best friends. We had study hall together and I flirted and teased her relentlessly. We had music playing during study hall and when "Islands in the Stream" came on I would tease her and say that it was our song. My tenacity paid off and we started dating the next summer and have now been married 33 years. When I hear that song, I'm back in that study hall flirting with that 15 year old cheerleader all over again! We laugh every time we hear it played.

Music was much different in the 80's. We played it on the radio or on cassette tapes. I kept a cassette tape holder in the back seat with some of my favorites. The tape holder looked like a briefcase. At the time, I joined Columbia House (I think that was the name) which allowed you to choose something like 10 tapes for free and you had to buy 1 or 2 a month after that. Car stereos were popular with my age group and I always wanted to upgrade my stereo to a more expensive and powerful model. I did eventually get a set of better speakers for the back window tray area of my car and bought a cheap equalizer that I screwed to the bottom of my dash. Nothing better than turning up the music and hitting the power on the equalizer and seeing all the green lights flashing. I'm not sure it helped a lot, but it did seem to get a little more volume and a little more treble. With the 80's music, I always like the treble set a little higher. I guess I was tired of all the old bass sounds in the old country music!

One of my best friends in high school drove his dad's green 1970's Ford truck. This truck had an eight track tape player in it. That was old school at the time as the latest and greatest was the cassette tape. He loved to hunt deer with his dad and one of his favorite, and maybe only tape, was a Hank Williams Jr. tape. I think the only song he played on that tape was "Country Boy Can Survive"! Whenever I hear that song, I am again transported to the 80's and I am riding in that green Ford with Steve. My dad also had an eight track player under his dash in his ford truck. His collection of tapes consisted of "simulated artist". These were tapes he got at discount stores that had current hits but were sung by someone that sounded a lot like the original artist. How funny is that? He saved a few dollars on his music collection!

Another song that is strongly connected to a memory is "Bad Boys", the theme song to the TV show COPS. In the Fall of 1991 I was at a federal law enforcement academy in a three month training to become a federal agent. In our dorm we had a common area with couches and a large TV. A few of my classmate and I would meet down there and watch COPS in the evening and sang the "Bad Boys" song along with the intro. It was a great time and that memory will be forever linked to that song and show. 

I'm sure you have similar memories that are attached to music even if it is from a different decade. Those in high school in the 70's probably have memories related to bands such as Aerosmith, .38 Special, Boston, REO Speedwagon and others. Those of you who are even older will have similar memories of music of your generation. Recently, I have been picking up record albums at thrift stores that include Big Band and Swing music and some Waltz music. I really enjoy this music and even though I don't have memories of that era, I can picture in my mind WWII soldiers and their dates dancing to that music in big ballrooms. 

There are many more songs that bring up memories. I can't think of them all right now, but when that song is coming through the speakers, I will remember. Are there songs that take you back in time? Any particular one that really triggers a great memory? Any of you still have a cassette tape or eight track tape collection out there? 

Keep the music flowing and the equalizer on and enjoy those memories or enjoy making brand new ones to new music!

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The Environment Around Us

When we think "environment" we usually think about nature, or at least I do. I think of environment in relation to "save the environment" from pollution, global warming, deforestation, etc. Seldom do I think of environment without visualizing forest, oceans or waterfalls.

I recently though about this post when watching a true crime story about a very evil man who treated his kids awful while the wife looked on unable to take any action. The environment that the family was in, under constant threat from the father, dictated their daily actions. They tolerated his abuse because they were too scared to speak out in any way. The children, growing up in that environment, probably didn't know that every other child wasn't in a similar situation. This example is an extreme example of how the environment around us affects how we act. This example also fits the part of the definition above that "provide conditions of danger & damage".

A soldier in combat will act with brutal force in a way that he would not normally act. His environment of "kill or be killed" changes everything. I have never been in a combat situation, but have heard many stories about soldiers doing atrocious things when they get caught up in what is happening around them. 

I spent 28 years in federal law enforcement. Most of the time my fellow agents and other law enforcement officers were very professional and early in my career most federal agents wore suits and were all business. When working with some of the state and city law enforcement officers I quickly found an entirely different environment. Often, when I went into rural areas to work, the officers were fantastic at their jobs but loved cursing when in meetings, planning operations or just talking shop. They seemed to feed off of each other's profanity to the point that every fifth word was a curse word. I did not get caught up in it and maintained my normal verbal behavior and dismissed their profanity as part of the business. It never kept us from having a successful operation, but I couldn't help but notice the language in those situations. I often wondered if those same cops spoke like that at home. I really doubt it. It was one of those things I pictured them leaving at work. It is strange to me that someone could turn this behavior on and off so easily. In these situations, I did notice those that stood out among the group with their clean language. One of them, I later found out was a pastor of a local church and the police work was just his "day job". He always impressed me with his demeanor when surrounded by an environment of profanity. 

Everyone of us grows up in a slightly different environment which shapes who we are at our core. Each of us was raised a little differently by our parents or caregivers. Sure, some of us grew up in similar situations like others around us, but no experience is exactly alike. These different environments affect our attitudes, our opinions, political affiliation and on and on. We can't begin to understand those around us without knowing the environment that shaped them. We may not know about the hardships that one had in their past or about experiences they had in their jobs or life in general. I have a neighbor that is a Vietnam Vet, who probably had a rough year or two in combat, that I will really never completely know. 

In retirement, your environment changes. You no longer have the work environment of meeting new people or working with a variety of people at your company. In retirement, your environment becomes one of your own making. If you are interested in golf, your new environment may be hanging out with fellow golfers several days a week at the clubhouse or on the course. If you are a fisherman, your new environment may include more time on the lake or at fishing tournaments with like minded fisherman. It seems that in retirement you have more control over your environment and who you spend your time with. You no longer have to work along side an idiot at work that pushes your buttons daily. You no longer have to deal with human resource issues with employees. You no longer have to be somewhere for a meeting or training class that you would prefer not to be at. Your new retirement environment is a blank slate for you to build it the way you want it. Our retirement environment fits more in the definition above as "provides conditions for development and growth".

We must interact with our environment and must not let the negative aspects interfere with our life. Don't let the peer pressure of your environment get to you. Don't let your environment cause you to do illegal or immoral acts. Embrace the good aspects of your environment and try to change those aspects that fit the "danger & damage" definition.

As in life, your environment in retirement will be ever changing. You may need to adjust to a new living location and the loss of friends or family as the years roll by. You may have to adjust activities due to physical or monetary issues. You may have to change saving and spending habits based on the current economy or inflation.  But, the important thing is to keep adjusting it to what suits you and to what works best to keep you happily retired!