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!

Friday, July 22, 2022

Simple Advice!


When my daughter was in middle school she was part of the track team. It was a very small school and everyone was involved in some type of track event. She was tasked with running longer races of 800 meters, the mile and the 3200 meter relay. She poured her heart into the running and always tried her best and tried to please the coach. During one track meet, she ran her race and did really well. She then approached her coach with a red face from running her race. In her effort to get better, she asked her coach how she could improve her time. He looked at her with a smile on his face and offered the simple advice of "Run faster!". It makes perfect since, if you want to improve your race time, run faster. 

During our lives we often hear very complicated answers and formulas to very simple questions. One of those questions is how do I accumulate the funds to retire? Complicated answers include the explanation of compound interest, investing in stocks and options and investing in real estate. There are hundreds of books that have been written on the subject. There are answers that tell you to save a certain percent and invest it at a certain growth rate and then the advice will go on to tell you about withdrawal rates and inflation. The simple answer is "Save more" or save as much as you can and invest responsibly in things you know. 

Dave Ramsey has made millions of of using a simple idea. He even says in his radio broadcast that it is advice your grandmother would give you. His simple advice is only buy with cash that you have and to pay off your debts. His formula is super simple and used by millions of people. 

There is a lot of complicated advice involving losing weight. Low carb, no carb, intermittent fasting, mediterranean diet, blue zone diet, Weight Watcher, Jenny Craig and many more diet plans are out there with complicated plans and advice. There are tracking apps to keep track of macros and calories. There are apps to track exercise and steps taken. But, the simple advice is "Eat Less" and "Move More".

When I think of making a simple thing more complicated, I think of a Rube Goldberg machine. Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist and from 1914 to 1964 he drew schematics of complicated machines that did simple tasks. His complicated machines became known as a Rube Goldberg machine. Just picture the game of Mouse Trap, invented in 1963, as an example of a Rube Goldberg machine. Remember the various parts of the trap that were operated by a rolling ball that triggered a variety of steps until the net dropped onto the mouse. Today, there is a Rube Goldberg contest held every year in which contestants are given a simple task. The contestants must devise a complicated machine that uses 10-75 steps to complete the task. Prior to 2015, the contest allowed up to 200 steps. Example of these type of machines can be seen all the time on the various social media apps as people build the machines and film them in action to attract viewers. 

I often voice that I wish there were only 2-3 choices for everything. Humans have complicated life by creating so many options. Want to buy a new car? There are so many options of gas or electric, every color you can imagine, cloth or leather interior, 2 door or 4 door, and on and on. Go to Walmart to buy a bottle of shampoo or toothpaste and there is a whole aisle of options. Go to Bath & Body Works and they have a whole store full of candles, lotions and bath gels. At B&BW there are way too many options. You just need two choices for lotion, unscented or vanilla. B&BW probably has 50 different scents for candles. Again, unscented or vanilla should be the only options. Make it simple for everyone. I'm only kidding, I do like the various scents of the candles and hand soaps and their men's selection is very nice.

Other simple advice might include the answer to the following questions:

Want more friends? "Be friendly"

Want less stress in your busy schedule? "Say no"

Want a nice yard? "Water, fertilize, mow"

We humans seem to complicate a lot of things in this life. The best way is to live more simple. What simple advice have you heard or spoken? Any two word answers to questions that seem simple? 

Saturday, July 16, 2022

That Glorious Sun Tan!

That summer sun feels good when you are at the pool or at the beach! So many of us enjoy getting a little sun during the summer months. But, oh that sun can be damaging and deadly!

Prior to the 20th century, having the whitest skin possible was the ideal in many cultures. The English and French monarchies would whiten their skin and wear powdered wigs. The implication was that the whiter your skin the more upper class you were. The term "blue bloods" came into being as a compliment to those who had skin so pale that you could see their veins coursing with blue blood. At the time, only laborers who worked outside had tans and were looked down upon as a lower class. 

The industrial revolution came about and changed some ways of thinking as the working class often moved indoors with their jobs in factories and away from the sun. In 1925 Coco Channel ushered in the suntan age by sporting a tan and inventing a dark tanning gel. During World War II, silk stocking became impossible to find as the silk was being used to make parachutes for the military. Women found a way to get around this issue by tanning their legs with tea or other substance and painting or marking a faux seam along their leg.

In 1944 Coppertone sun tan lotion originated. During the 50's and 60's, suntans became the norm with the beach culture of the time. Suntans were sported in movies and advertisements everywhere. In the 70's and 80's, suntanning hit it's peak with the invention and use of indoor tanning beds. I remember laying on a plastic, blow up, raft in our above ground pool in the mid 80's and soaking up the sun. I've always had a darker complexion and rarely get a sunburn. In the 90's tanning beds were beginning to be looked at as being dangerous, to your skin and your health, and began declining in use. Also in the 90's and 2000, the skin damage done to skin was being studied more and more with warnings being issued to use sunscreen. 

People have been protecting their skin from the sun for a very long time. Ancient Egyptians used a variety of products such as rice, jasmine and lupine to protect their skin from the sun. Ultraviolet rays were discovered around 1801 by a German scientist and his information was later used to refine sunscreen lotions. In the 30's, sunscreen was used in Australia and then spread to France and in 1936 L'Oreal began to produce a line of sunscreen products. In 1969, Hawaiian Tropic began to produce a fragrant coconut oil for tanning. That smell still makes me think of the beach and summer! Sunscreen evolved into some waterproof lotions and began to be marked with SPF ratings. In 2018, Hawaii banned the use of some sunscreens that have harmful chemicals that damage coral reefs and marine life.

I enjoy getting out in my pool and soaking up a little sun. It feels great to take a dip in the pool then lay on a float and slowly dry in the sun. This year, I have tried to step up my use of sunscreen and have been floating a little more in the shade than the sun. As I get older, I may be getting a little wiser and I realize that the sun is not my friend. I have been using some SPF 50 sunscreen spray and my skin is still getting tan. I don't think I can ever be a "blue blood" nor do I really want to look so pale that my veins all show.  I need to be more careful with my skin. Often, when doing yardwork or just being outside I don't think to put on sunscreen. I need to protect my skin much better than I currently do.

Skin cancer is a big issue in today's world. Skin cancer primarily occurs on skin that has been exposed to the sun over the years such as the face, neck, ears, arms, and hands. I saw something recently that reported that skin cancer is a result of damage to the skin's DNA. One recent study says 1 in every 5 people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Some risk factors that increase your risk of skin cancer include having fair skin, having a history of sun burns, excessive sun exposure, living at higher altitudes, having many moles, having a family history of skin cancer, having a weakened immune system and exposure to radiation. To combat the risk of skin cancer, the medical industry recommends limiting exposure to the sun, avoid tanning beds, use sunscreen and check your skin regularly and notify your doctor of any changes.

There is a lot of information on the internet describing the different kinds of skin cancer, symptoms and treatments. I encourage you to check out the information to become as well informed as possible on this important subject. 

Are you a child of the tanning era? Have you enjoyed a nice healthy tan in the past only to realize you may have damaged your skin? Have you experienced skin cancer in any way? Has your thinking changed towards a "healthy tan" as you get older? What steps are you taking today to prevent additional damage to your skin?

It's time to spray on some sunscreen and head to a shady area of my pool for the afternoon! I may have to sneak in a few minutes of full sun to get my daily vitamin D. Have a great and safe sunny summer!

Monday, July 4, 2022

Travel in Your Youth

I ran across this quote recently in A Traveler's Diary,  "To look, really look out upon the world as it is framed in the window of a moving vehicle is to become a child again- Anonymous". This quote made me think of a few vacations I remember as a child. I'm sure you have fond memories of travel when you were young also. 

My family lived north of Dallas, TX in a rural area of North Texas in a town of about 850 or so at the time. I remember us loading up in our Mercury Grand Marquis car and heading out to the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. The car was huge and had plenty of room for my two sisters and I in the backseat. This trip had to be late 70's and we didn't wear seat belts at the time, so one of us may be laying in the floor or in the rear window area at any time. We had plenty of room to play and sleep while dad drove us across Texas. I remember looking out the window and seeing nothing but blue skies and a few clouds as we crossed West Texas. 

We got to Carlsbad Caverns and I recall a long walk down stairs into the cavern and about a 50 mile walk along the caves. Most memorable was a gift shop far down in the cave! I don't remember where we stayed or what else we saw on that trip. 

Another memorable trip was a trip to Colorado Springs. We saw the Garden of the Gods, Seven Falls, Pikes Peak and also had a side trip out to the Royal Gorge. At Seven Falls, as we exited the car and walked towards the falls, I remember my dad telling the parking lot attendant not to put a bumper sticker on our car. At the time, it was common for them to sticker every car that parked. I guess they figured it was free advertising. Some people had bumpers covered in stickers. I guess it would be a badge of honor to show how much you had travelled!

 One last trip that I remember involved us traveling in a cab over camper. This is a camper that goes in the bed of a truck and has a section that goes over the cab of the truck. I remember my sisters and I laying in the bed, over the cab, and waving at oncoming cars out the front window. It was such an adventure! That trip was to the Great Smoky Mountains. We stayed in campgrounds in our camper. The first night I had great fun running around the campfire playing and enjoying the night. Later that night I couldn't breath because my asthma had gotten triggered by the fire smoke and I barely slept all night.

On most of these trips we packed a cooler with drinks and sandwich supplies so we wouldn't spend money eating out or at convenience stores along the way. When we were in the camper, I remember handing a cold can of coke to my parents through the pass through window from the camper to the cab of the truck. What great memories! Our camper was similar to the photo below except it was mounted on a 1965 Ford Truck.


I remember these trips in bits and pieces and I'm sure my kids remember their trips to the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Yellowstone Park and other places much the same way. I hope they remember a few positive things that will bring them great memories of their youth. 

What youthful trips do you remember? Do you have fond memories of spending time with your family on vacations?