8 Reasons Middle Age Camping is a Great Idea

Our campsite in the Sawtooth National Forest

I wrote this blog in a little notebook while sitting at the water’s edge in the above picture on the last morning of our most recent camping trip. There’s a special ambiance that comes with camping near water. It’s even more relaxing and mystical. I didn’t know what day of the week it was. I did know I didn’t want to go home.

Although I love where we live in Boise, I wondered why I was so resistant to heading back to the real world. We had braved cold (low 30’s at night), dust storms, smokey fires, being sunburned and bugbit; even taking a classic header while fly fishing. But on that last morning, I would have written a blank check to be able to stay. As I walked myself through why, here’s what I came up with.

My Wake Up view

We Get Outside Ourselves. There are no reflective surfaces when camping. No mirrors and nothing that reflects what we look like. We’re not reminded of our hair or weight or wrinkles or those places that we focus on every single time we look in the mirror. We have charcoal smudged hands and sandy feet. I have the best wild camping hair and it’s great to just wear my even more wild camping straw hat. We get to focus elsewhere. It’s freeing.

You sure do make beautiful places

Talking to God is Easier. Maybe it’s because I’m in the middle of His Nature Show. The stars at night beg wonder. The power of forces are easier to see. I reflect more. I’m more thankful. I feel appropriately small and reminded that an awful lot of stuff goes on with no help from me, like forest fires and bears and rivers and wildflowers.

Here fish fish

Concerns Become Simpler. We headed to the mountains just as a mandatory mask order was being put into place and all the usual political/ social / medical hoopla was in full hoop. Once in mountain air, all of it was quickly forgotten. My concerns became very simple: tent zippers, weather, food with minimal ash, enough ice, firewood, not getting eaten by a bear, and trying to catch a fish. That’s pretty much the list. My brain unknots. I become tolerant, easy, happy; heck, even funny. I like me.

Where did Mark go?

Peeing Outdoors. I really like to pee outside. Peeing outdoors has got to be one of Man’s first best enjoyments. It’s natural. It feels right. There’s room. And things to look at. It’s feels Manly. And feeling Manly leads to using saws, building fires, getting wood and then making jokes about getting wood, creating the perfect Man-kingdom-settlement-campsite, toting big caliber handguns, and exploring; all things that give men back their wild. Wild is good.

No traffic getting to our mountain top date

Less / No People. Camping, especially outside of regulated campgrounds, lets us get away from people. People are often the reason we have challenges. Their actions impact our lives, and we’re forced to deal with their dumbness. Managers and leaders know that people themselves make up the bulk of work problems. Less/no people, less/no problems. Less we have to adjust to. An increased likelihood that our grand plans come to perfect fruition. As they should, of course.

Does this person need a calendar?

No Calendars. In the real world, the non-camping world, our lives are strictly regulated according to time. Everything we do, from waking to sleeping, has an allotted time, including the waking and sleeping. 7 minutes to shower, 3 minutes to brush the choppers with the sonic, pouring coffee and grabbing the lunch is 2 more, and out the door by minute :17 or traffic will be a school bus bitch. Then it’s 3 meetings, 30 minutes to eat lunch, and 3 more meetings, all with accompanying reminder dings. I hate dings. But in the camping world, there are no calendars. F&#! calendars and f&#! dings (and the horses they rode in on). In the camping world, days are known by the one thing that is enjoyed that day, like hiking, or biking, or beaching, or napping, or reading, or fishing, or sitting with your toes in icy river water. We get to slow down. We get to breathe. We drink cold beer. We are successful.

Mid day peace

We Get to Minimize. Camping allows us to remember the simple things, the minimal things, and how rewarding these things can be. The sound of the river at night and tent zippers, owls, shooting stars, campfire coffee and bacon, sunrise, the moon, and crickets. Staring into a quiet campfire until late at night. Hushed conversation with wide open spaces. It doesn’t take very long for these things to begin to unwind us. We feel the stress begin to come off, the shoulders drop, a few cleansing breaths, a deep sigh. It can make one wonder if the real word is really worth it.

Excuse me Ma’m, does your buggy need fixin?

Sex. This one probably should be closer to the top. Camping sex can be awesome. Although air mattresses don’t always offer the best support, not to mention if they pop it might mean a night on the hard ground, there are multiple other campground places that work. Couples feel more connected. We need each other more. We talk more. We wear less clothing. It’s cold at night and hot during the day. Men feel more manly in the wild. You can play games like lumberjack and/or lady camper in distress. There are no people around so being loud is not an issue. Although the term “Squirrel!” might take on a more literal meaning, getting the Bow chicka wow wow going in the great outdoors should certainly be on the list.

So there’s my list of why camping in Middle Age is just an all around great idea. I’m sure you can add to the list, but the important thing is that you just go. Find a place, get some stuff together, and head out. Summer will fade all too soon; get out there and make some memories.

Summer Fun Update!

Go ahead, say it: “Groovy baby!”

Rachel and I have just started our July 2020, and despite it being a unique summer for obvious reasons, we’re having a ball. As I write, I’m sitting in the sun on the 4th floor balcony, surrounded by towering sunflowers, green tomatoes, a cucumber bush (?), herbs, and listening to Jason Aldean and kids playing Marco Polo in the pool.

Taking over!

We’re just back from several days of camping in Featherville, Idaho, and are preparing to head out again to Stanley, Idaho. We recently purchased all new camping equipment, after having sold it all because we were positive we were done with camping, and absolutely positive (no, honest, really) we were done forever with tent camping. So much for having life figured out, huh? That’s twice now I’ve been taught the “Never say never” lesson. I’m trying very hard for it to be the last.

We love the new truck tent and sleep so well with the fitted air mattress
And we love camping on the water

My profession allows me to have half of June and all of July free from work. Although I pick up some summer add-on hours, my days and weeks are largely mine to fill as I choose. It’s a great time to begin to practice retirement, and I like the arrangement and opportunity. Many people are thrust into retirement with no real time to “dabble.” It can be a real challenge to find meaning and purpose when the profession goes away.

Rachel is still enjoying her year of sabbatical, but has just recently begun applying again. We have a better idea of what she does and does not want to invest in, and we’re leaning strongly toward finding something online full time. We’ve been able to do very well on just my income; again one of the benefits of being debt free.

One financial side note and a good lesson for us: after buying the truck tent, the only real drawback that we found was that it’s a pain to go exploring or run to the nearest town because we have to take down the tent to go anywhere. Although it only takes about 20 minutes (read: first-world problems), we were finding it a pain. So, we started looking at side-by-sides, razors, UTV’s, etc, to add some fun and solve a practical issue. The type of size we wanted would cost us right at $20K, and we wanted one badly. After several days and multiple dealers, we both came to the conclusion (over a fine Martini; gin, of course) that, although it would have been a cash deal, this was not the season of life to buy one. I believe that season is coming, (along with a blog post called Seasons), and soon, but it’s not quite time. I was proud of us (but oh boy someday!)

Zoom zoom!

Our other most recent adventure is Keto, low carb eating; a whole new approach to food for me. Rachel discovered, after years of research and several doctors, that she is challenged with insulin resistance (I’m challenged by liking chocolate fudge whoopie pies. Omg. Colors). She’s been teaching me the ins and outs of the diet, and we even stay on it when camping. It’s hard work, takes discipline and planning, and we’re both seeing incredible results. I’m still dialing it in, as it’s not really designed to support the intense type of workouts that I perform daily, but I can see a physical difference in my abs (at 59, I’m getting obliques back). Kind of fun.

Finally, this summer is allowing me to explore another dream: fly fishing. Ever since I saw the movie A River Runs Through It, I’ve wanted to live in the west and fly fish. Half of that dream has been realized; time for the other half. It looks like such art when performed well (and by well I mean not getting washed downstream screaming “Mayday!”), and it seems like it would pair nicely with camping on the water. Fly fishing seems founded in western rivers and streams, it’s not something I heard much about back east. It’s going to be a very special moment for this Man when he lands his first fly fished fish. Little things (no laughing Fred! I can do this!)

I know you’re out there!

So there it is. Summer 2020. Add in some extra mountain biking, pool time, and writing, and it’ll be a quick 6 weeks of retirement practicing. Lots of good things happening. I’m working on several new blog posts for the fall: Things my mom says (she thinks she might be Hispanic now), The 55 and over world, and the aforementioned Seasons. I’m looking forward to getting those put to page.

Be well and safe my friends.
MP

Middle Age OMG

OMG.
Oh.
Em.
Gee.
Endorphins are a wonderful thing. So is the feeling of feeling your body move. Muscles and tendons and joints and lungs and even spleens (?) doing what they were designed to do.

After a very-too-long absence from the gym, I’m back as of this morning. And Oh My Goodness (!) it’s incredibly fantastic.
It’s true; it really is Goodness.

I knew I had to be a bit cautious. Although I’ve done a great job of maintaining during the close down, there’s a difference between body weight movements and resistance weight movements.

It was glorious. Better even.

I’ve never considered myself to be a gym-rat. I actually strongly dislike the term. I do however take fitness seriously; it’s a significant aspect of my life. For me it’s a mental-physical-emotional-sexual (what?)-spiritual experience. There are a thousand ways to be fit and strong, and I support all of them. And there are some really smart people who have designed some really cool equipment that allows the body to strengthen itself in ways that simple body weight movements can’t.

Fitness is an amazing life tool.
And with underlying health factors becoming a real thing, there’s never been a better time for Middle Age folks like me to tend to the house God gave them.
It’s a Lifetruth: Growth happens when we overcome resistance.
And it’s wicked fun.

I was expecting the little local club to be packed; overrun really. The fit and not-so-fit masses storming the doors. Lines, masks, people being weird and offended and freaked out and you’re too close! The whole planet knows that gyms on Saturday mornings are mobbed. Gyms on Saturday mornings after being closed for months will be Toilet-Paper-Aisle-Lock-down insanity.
What happened was none of that.

I was there early-ish (a little after 7am), and there were just two cars in the lot (huh?) My first thought was Crap. I was wrong; it’s not open or I’m too early. Nope. I walked into an almost empty gym (huh??) There was one other woman doing yoga and a younger guy on a bike.
The front desk lady smiled with a big happy, “Good Morning! Welcome back!”

It was quiet. Peaceful. Clean. Light. Everything in its place. No caution tape (I have Caution Tape PTSD now thank-you-very-much). I asked if there were any special rules and the Happy Good Morning Welcome Back Lady said, “Nope. Just extra squirt bottles if you’d like and some of the treadmills have signs that ask you not to use them.”

I was in disbelief. She stared. I almost cried.
I found my favorite weighted fit-ball and put in my ear buds and did warm up wall-bounces and felt my body say omg yeessssss…

Halfway through my first warm up set of assisted pull ups I just stopped to hang and stretch and be thankful.
“Oh My God that feels good,” I whisper-prayed (you know how when you’re wearing ear buds and the rock music is up and kick ass and you think you’re whisper-praying quietly just to yourself and it’s really not so quietly just to yourself? Yeah, that).
The yoga lady moved her mat.

For a little over an hour I just moved and let my body push and pull and stretch. Two people left. Two more came.

My own personal private peaceful reentry into life.
I’m going to be so sore tomorrow.
I can’t wait.
I’m so thankful.
It’s over. Thank You God it’s over.

Middle Age Dog

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks (whoever the proverbial misplaced pronoun “they” is). It’s a good thing, then, that I’m not old. Old-er maybe; but not old. I wonder if a Middle Age dog can learn new tricks.

I started this blog to keep a running update of my Middle Age Life adventure. As I do get older and move into new life-phases, I thought it would be cool to document the journey, and in doing so perhaps give others ideas. I like to write. It helps me be objective; as least as much as I can be.

That said, it’s been a helluva first year.

A little over a year ago we decided to get debt free. We made plans, started to work them, set timelines and budget goals, adapted, reorganized, reevaluated, communicated, measured, planned some more, communicated a bunch more, and adapted the new plans some more. We never stopped moving forward. Even though we ran into bogs that we had to work around, over, or through, we slogged on. We sold everything (except the Baby House), paid off everything, and moved into a smallish 4th floor condo in the same town.

A short time thereafter, Rachel quit her medical management job and is in the midst of taking a 1 year sabbatical. We’re now a one income, 4th-floor-living, debt free Sugar Daddy couple. I’m soon to be 59. That brings us current.

If this blog is to be of any use, to me or anyone else, I want and need to keep documenting what’s going on. Where we are. Where we’re going. Because there are things going on. It might seem like the pace has slowed a bit, and perhaps in some ways it has. But in other, more unseen ways, there’s still big-C Change happening.

Case in point: this is my first spring without living in a full size house in close to 30 years. I’m a guy that was raised on chores, projects, upkeep, and repairing. I was taught to take great pride in where I lived, and to always make it the best it could be, no matter where or what it was. Weekends and most afternoons were Man-chore days. To me, keeping things nice is an act of showing thanks to God for what He has given me. Even a dirt floor shack should be organized and clutter-free (and have clean dirt floors).

But now I’m on the 4th floor.
It’s well decorated, clean, sunny, airy, open, and, if I’m being honest, and why wouldn’t I be, I’m beginning to miss. Something.

I’m not quite sure what to do with spare time. There are no projects. Nothing needs to be fixed, and if it does, I call a guy.
I read, workout, bike ride, clean, and still, afternoons and weekends are challenging. I hate resting. And one should only rest when there’s something to rest from (like splitting a cord of wood).

I might actually be a little bored. I might also just be having a day. I’m known to have days. On said days, I usually do something that conjures the phrase, “Well, shit.” It’s often followed up at some future point with, “That wasn’t how that was supposed to go,” or, “…seemed like a good idea at the time.” Often, those are also then later followed up with, “It’s ok. I think I can fix that.”

Either way, I’m in a twist today.

My balcony farm crops aren’t growing fast enough to harvest yet. Knocking down walls seems to be against some silly policy. So, too, vacuuming the halls at 7am. I applied twice to the management company here for part time work; the pool needs a pool sheriff (if that’s not a thing it should be) to keep #113’s shitbird kids in line, the gym needs a trainer, and most of the trash cans are more than half full; extremis.
Nope.

The stainless in the elevator needs cleaning and the doors squeak; still no. I could do the grounds way better than the lawn service that leaves brown spots.
Uh-uh.
Fine.

I applied for weekend and summer weekday work at Lowe’s and Walmart. I even answered 6 straight times the question “On a competitive scale of 1-10, 1 being a mamby-pamby team player and 10 being a highly Man-competitive Man”, I hammer-clicked the 10 button several times and additionally commented, “I eat my competitor’s bones for breakfast! Two Chickens!!” (ok, I added the mamby-pamby part but I’m pretty sure it said Man-competive Man).
Silence.
Fine.

I took a long bike ride today and ended up in a neighborhood. I rode up and down each street, making a mental list of Man-chores for the owner, and wondered if the owner was a dub (dub is a Maine term. I first learned it as a boy when my dad and I watched a man trying to spin-cast a fishing lure from a dock. He almost fell in twice and every cast splashed right at his feet. “Look-a this dub,” Dad said). Probably not very nice of me but like I said, I was in a twist.

I got home and took out the Man-scoot and went for a ride. I thought it might help because it’s loud and I look like a biker and give other bikers the down-lo sign. I swung by the the local park to check out the outside fitness area since I thought it would be open by now. Nope. Caution tape makes me insane when there is no danger. Put there by dubs no doubt.

I roared back into the garage and went up to investigate this park tape nonsense. In retrospect, it was unnecessary to rev the Man-scoot as loud as I did pulling into the garage but it echoed and smelled like gas (plus, I’m thinking hearing aids are Middle Age vogue these days anyways). The city park office was closed but had a Facebook page so I fired off a private message about needing unending super-sets and the only caution needed might be for park-bike-hater granny’s ShitZoo.
Thanks for asking. No. We’ll know more soon. Shih Tzu
Capital G Grr. Teeth-clenching. Fine.

I thought about going down to the new construction site and restacking the river rock construction pile. The dubs that did it had done an inferior job. Then I thought about taking my pick axe and redirecting the irrigation ditch so that it flows more efficiently. The new construction 6 foot commercial planters are spaced wrong, the hot tub looks dirty, the pool should be uncovered by now (dubs), and the stacks of lawn chairs should be cleaned and reset geometrically.

My death grip on the balcony rail made my forearms look strong in the sun. Sigh. I watered the crops, sat down, sighed again, opened a beer since I hadn’t done anything to earn a fine martini (Gin, of course), and watched the #113 shitbirds chasing each other on the open area brown-spotty grass.

I’m not good at being bored (ok, I suck at being bored). It’s very uncomfortable. I get into trouble. I feel like I’m wasting life. I need to do something. When I say do, I mean, do.
Reading is not doing. Talking is not doing. Siting still is not doing:
“What’cha’doin?” “Nothing.”
“What’cha’doin?” “Restacking this giant pile of dub-stacked river-rocks, of course.”
See?

Plus, how’s a man supposed to enjoy a fine Martini (Gin, of course) at Day’s End when he hasn’t earned it? Ever seen a dub drinking a fine Martini (Gin, of course) at Day’s End?
Well there ya’ go.

I reflected and projected as I tried to wind myself down and dismiss the get-in-trouble bad ideas that the PBR part of my brain was offering the fine Martini (Gin, of course) part of my brain.

I expect we’ll own a house again, someday. Somedays are hard. There’s no action in Someday, nothing to grab hold of, no tools needed. But I know it won’t be too many years from now. We have the Baby House still, but we’re not there alot yet. We’re not sure where or when our next primary home might be, although it is making for intriguing dialogue. I’m not sure anywhere is off limits (except maybe Utah. Can’t get a decent fine Martini (Gin, of course) in Utah. The next house will probably be smaller, probably be in an over-55 kind of place, have a little lawn for crops, a pool and hot tub, good neighbors, and need lots of tools.

In reflecting, I feel restless, purposeless. Nothing to charge at. Going slow is another thing I’m not good at.

I’m not panicked. I know I’m in a Life-season. Big-C Change has happened in little time; it can become routine to live at that pace. Selling The House of Wales was a big one for alot of reasons. I do know that I have no regrets, which is significant. It was time to do what we did, and we were purposed to do it.

And I do remember how sometimes I would tire of the relentless upkeep; lawn, pool, gardens, hot tub, wood, irrigation, camper, boat, dam-delions and that frickin’ thorny rose bush (I did beat it though).

So I guess I’m a Middle Age dog trying to learn new tricks. Or maybe unlearn old ones. At least for the short term. And, I’m not sure unending repetitive yard and house work (and the commensurate funds) is the best way to invest in life. Man v. Nature is good, but I wonder if at some point I might have looked back and thought, Geeze I spent alot of life trying to repel the effects of time. I do know I was always proud when I looked back over the day and could see what I had accomplished. Maybe it was being proud of each day and how I spent it.

It’s ok to wrestle. And be restless. To desire adventure and new chapters and full days and feeling like you’re firing on all cylinders. Maybe some new things won’t work, but many will. It’s ok to see pros and cons, debits and credits, weigh it all out; to look and go without needing a final judgement just yet.

It means I want more.
It means I still have journey and adventure and hope.
And hope always becomes plans.
And plans become actions.
And actions, adventure.

I plan to be learning new tricks for a long, long time.

But for right now, I need to call a guy because the screen door is stuck.
Gr.

Middle Age 4th Floor Farming

There’s just something about dirt. It makes me feel good. I mean the dirt that’s earth. Soil. And planting in it. Having my hands in it. Having it on my clothes because I’m working in it. Cathartic. Therapeutic. It smells and feels like life and sun and rightness.

I did some research when we decided we’d have our first 4th floor patio garden. Just because we’re 40 feet up and a bit fenced in for room is no reason to not have our summer Man-garden (a Man garden is just like a regular garden only I put on my Man-gloves and Man-boots and grab some Man-tools and say things like, “headed out. Be back afore serious dark“). We knew we wanted lettuce (two kinds), kale, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, several kinds of herbs, several kinds of flowers (Man-sunflowers of course), and we added a bird feeder so I could call in the local wildlife.

So, we gassed up the Man-rig and headed to Lowe’s at sunup (Ok not quite sunup; coffee and a Man-potion are must-haves). As you might guess, the trip proved to be its own special kind of adventure. Mostly because it’s spring, it’s the first nice weekend we’ve had, we went three times (well? what?), and the card reader system crashed (which apparently is a code 70). The lack of parking and carts was foreshadowing I should have recognized. It was like Disney World without the rides or Mickey (although I did see some pretty unique sights). It was the longest line I’ve ever seen. That said, all I have to say about it is God Bless Americans. We can’t stop ourselves from wanting to make where we live beautiful. Come Hell-er-highwater, we won’t be denied our dandelion killer.

We made it back after the 3rd trip and called it a good campaign (pretty sure the manager had declared martial law as we were leaving). We had everything we wanted between stands, pots, seeds, and plants and spent the afternoon transforming the End-of-Day Martini Patio into the End-of-Day Martini Man-Garden. The only real setback was the woopsie when I dumped a whole bag of potting soil onto the kitchen floor (if it ain’t dangerous it ain’t Man).

I’m anxious to see what grows. I’m anxious to taste really fresh salads. I’m anxious to have fresh mint in the End-of-Day Man-Martini. If it’s like most things I do, I’ve way over done it and the management here will at some point knock the door and inform us that our cucumbers have trespassed to the floor below (which is when I’ll smile and puff my chest and reply, “heh-heh. Well a course they have”).

Life is good. Things are good. We are blessed. It’s become the time of year when we sleep with all the windows and the slider wide open. Feels like camping on a really nice bed. There’s a single robin that wakes me every morning and the sun blasts in as soon as it’s up. We’re anxious for the gym, pool, hot tub, and club house to reopen; we think it will be soon. The garage rock-and-stump workouts are sustaining for now and Rachel is painting rocks and secretly decorating the premises. She’s also creating coasters that have become quite poplar. We just moved into a bigger garage so I can get the Man-scoot in and out without moving the car.

After an uncomfortable pause, we’re back to our plan making. It’s so good for the spirit. I’m looking for a summer gig of some sort (Mark’s Man-Gardens?) I’ve got the names of one Florida and two Bahamian catamaran companies and we’re opening talks about where and when the next Casa Plummer might be. I’m looking at investing options for the corona check. We talk often of AirBnBs in Florida or the coast of Maine. I think there’s a trip to the Oregon Coast when it opens. I read a few pages of Fankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning to Rachel every afternoon as we rap up and then we unpack it a bit while throwing something healthy on the barbie.

The 5’oclock hour approaches, and with it the end of day, even for a Sunday. Time to grab Frankl, make something nice, and head out to the Man-Garden; to smell the fresh dirt and listen for the robin to start his evening song.

Ain’t That America

If you’re like me (it’s OK here to breathe a sigh and whisper “Oh thank God I’m not”), your internal dialogue runs constantly. I do pretty well keeping it internal. Most times. Sometimes, for us writers, our internal dialogues find their way to a blog. I guess this is the manifestation of a Sunday morning 9-second internal dialogue.

I was getting a little computer work done Saturday evening and doing my best to not ingest the sensationalist diatribe on recent media. Not easy but certainly doable, and a worthy goal. I’ve been reading Victor Fankl’s “The Meaning of Life,” and contemplating a people that lived in a time of truly, for me, unimaginable pain and darkness. It’s a wonderfully crafted work but not a fun or easy read and I have to take it in doses. I mean doses in the truest sense of the word. It’s good medicine for the soul, but geeze, it tastes mentally awful.

Rachel had just set before me a thing of great beauty, art, and love; my Saturday evening end-of-day, all-chores-done, Gin Man-Martini. As she sat down she whispered something that I did not quite catch but often don’t on the first go. After a minute I gave my usual half-assed, I-kinda-wasn’t-really-listening utterance that finished in a vocally upturned ending.

“Mmmmm?” I didn’t look up. I get a bit myopic when I work.
“Something-something-something-something gin”
“Mm.” My brain kept working on it. I’ve been accused of being able to keep working while someone burns the house down around me. I’m not sure why anyone would do that but I’m not entirely sure it’s not at least a little bit accurate. Sometimes the non-worky part of my brain goes to sleep while the worky part does all the heavy lifting. Sometimes the sleepy part gets all prickly when it wakes back up.

“Sorry babe.” My non-worky brain was starting to feel like a billion little needles. “One more time.”
“We’re out of gin.” Smile.

I wish I could explain the myriad sensations and questions I experienced in the proceeding quarter of a second.
Suffice it to say, I panicked.

How could this have happened?
What did this mean for me and my future?
Why was life so unfair?
How could you say that to me?
I don’t want to live in Gulag.
I should get online quickly and learn the route to the closest available remedy.
Where was my credit card?
I should arm myself.
Will drinking mouthwash really kill me?
Who is to blame here?
I thought this was America, not some Gin-less Third World (GTW) freakin’ country.
We won’t make it.
Where are my shoes?
Is my underwear clean?
I want my mommy.

I think I got the look on my face like the abominable snowman when he realized Hermie had pulled all his teeth.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer - Page 6 - Holiday Central Photos - CBS.com

And then, two seconds after the quarter second, the really awake part of my brain bitch-slapped the prickly side of my brain and said, “Stop it.”

I saw my shoes.
I wasn’t even wearing underwear.
Rachel was looking at me with concerned love and a smile.
“What’re we watching tonight?”

Thankfully I was already one really-fine sip in and cooler, Man-thoughts prevailed. We made a very calm plan to get to the packy the next day and pick up some gin and those really nice extra big martini olives and to continue finishing the final season of Sopranos (am I the last person on the planet to learn how good this show is? I’m practicing my Tony around the house: Wha-ya-gonndo-boutit). I was proud of myself for overcoming the panic.

We got to the packy the next day after live-streaming church. What an amazingly cool time to be on the planet. We’re liking a new Gin. New Amsterdam. It’s very floral and took me a bit to relish, but oh-now-trust-me, I’m relishing the AF out of it (I’m 58; leave it alone). On the way back we stopped at a local smaller store to get some veggies to grill. We’re leaning more vegetarian these days in a very quiet way. We grabbed some tofu to grill as well.

The store was buzzy and we parked out a bit. It’s always buzzy on Sundays. We didn’t get everything we wanted but we were open to new options and the produce section smelled like freshness. We found some new thing that looked like it might be fun to grill and had lots of vitamins. People were in a bit of a hurry. Nothing new there. The lines were long but we were in no great rush (having secured gin of course) and we expected to wait a bit. John Cougar Mellencamp’s Ain’t That America was playing overhead. I like that song.

While in the checkout line I met Alejandra who has a daughter and new granddaughter in San Francisco and apparently also has great predilection for Lunchables and bleach. Alejandra had alot of pictures on her phone. Alot. She was very nice and laughed alot too.

The older guy behind me had three stepdaughters from two wives and one girlfriend (I’m so not good following familial trees) and knew how to butcher cows and owned a .300 magnum and knew where to go shoot a cow. I wasn’t sure he’d need that caliber and velocity to shoot a domestic cow, but held my own. He seemed very proud of his skill set and reminded me a bit of my senile dad. Further ahead the lines parted and I said my goodbyes to Alejandra and Cow Shooter Guy.

The checkout girl was in support of societal lock down and I said I was sorry her day was bumpy and thanked her for using the bags we brought. Like my EMT son and ER nurse daughter in law, her life has been fuller than usual lately and she was understandably ready to normalize. I offered her my Monopoly cards but I guess she’s not allowed to play. The pink hair girl who took my cart likes working on Sundays because there is different energy. She can’t play the Monopoly game either. I grabbed the bags and waited for Rachel to get the receipt.

I stood beside phone guy along the wall. It’s odd the gyrations people go through when their phone rings and it’s in their pocket. It looked like a third ring might bring a jaw-clamping electric shock or maybe the miss of Publisher’s Clearing House next Millionaire call. In the next 9 seconds I wrote this blog in my head.

From what I could piece together, someone was checking on his progress. His cart boasted a successful hunt that supported proud regaling. His responses surprised me so much that I had to look at him and thought he might be an alien.

Alien phone guy said, “awful,” “craziness,” “wiped clean,” (twice), “insanity,” a few resigned yeps and nopes, a finally “ridiculous,” and ended the call.
He caught me staring.
He really was an alien.

Wiped clean? Wiped Clean? For the love of God, wiped clean? Are you blind? Have you not just walked every one of the 23 aisles in this wonderful store? Have you just not seen more food in one place at one time than most of the world sees in a month or a year? Did you not just spend a one hour fantasy stroll in a luxurious place of choices and options and freshness and best-if-eaten-by dates and mist sprayers?

Insanity? Insanity? Did someone just not ask you how your day was? Did you not see that muscle car pause for crosswalk granny? Were you not offered game cards for whatever fantasy you might enjoy? Are we not all talking nicely as we stand in line and wait?

Awful and craziness? Awful? Craziness? Are you not pushing that weighted cart? Breathing clean air? Financially well enough to have a cell phone? Wearing nice clothes? Free to leave this store and drive any direction you choose? Did you not meet Alejandro who has a new granddaughter? How about Cow Shooter Guy who knows cool things? Do you not love Ain’t That America?

We got in the car and I sat for a second.
Alien phone guy made me a bit sad.
We. Have. SO. Much.
You. are. SO. blind.

Funny how different people see things, hear things, experience things.
I wonder of Viktor Fraknl. I can’t stop humming Mellencamp’s song. Little pink houses for you and me.

Tonight, when I sit down to my end-of-day, chores-are-done martini, I’m going to get a little bit emotional, lift my glass in thanks to God, not be able to really find the right words, think of Frankl and little pink houses, and whisper my best Tony “Salute.”

Middle Age Maxims (part one)

I start each day reading. Early. In the dark. In the quiet dark. I eschew light like a vampire and sound like a black ninja. I read from my phone with the screen set to its darkest setting, my robe wrapped tight, my Tom Brady fluffy slippers keeping the tootsies warm, and my beanie hat pulled down as far over my face as will still allow for deciphering letters and any necessary slow navigation. Because my right eye does not usually open for a significant amount of time after I wake, and because I’m looking through one eye through my beanie hat in the dark, any navigation is slow navigation. I have the coffee process memorized so it does not require light, sight, or sound.

Or talking. Mornings are not for communicating. Mornings are for not communicating unless you’re a songbird or rooster. All other nonsense can wait.
If I must communicate (like if the house is on fire and I need to notify Rachel), I whisper.

It is in this fashion that I also descend in the elevator to the ground floor after reading and traverse the dark parking lot enroute the hot tub for my dark quiet morning soak. Those stories are for another post.

Lately it seems it’s getting harder to find anything worth reading. So much rubbish out there. I try to stay away from most things political, because all politics is all politics, regardless of the election cycle or year or person or issue. I vote; and I also believe in more do less talk. I steer away from things that are cynical. My day will hold sufficient challenges. E-books are great, and I’m still picking through Tribe of Mentors.

Many of the other headlines in my several feeds, which I thought I had meticulously crafted, are assumptive; assuming a premise, usually unstated, that I am apparently expected to assent to prior to reading: Why Eating Healthy is Ruining Your Sex Life or
Why You’re So Unhappy.
Huh? Foryourinformation my sex life is robust and I run pretty damn happy. Even the articles that I do wander into have the meat of the information so far down the page that I become disinterested soon after clicking. Get. To. The. Point.
And one errant feed click and I’m off the res for good.

I’m taking a re-certification course for work. It’s the last of three that will earn me the six credits I need to carry me for another five years. The courses are book studies; informal and self paced, which I love, and they have introduced me to readings that I would not have otherwise picked up. It’s provided some limited but quality input.

The most recent course asked me to list three to five words that I thought were my core values. No sentences; the values were to be distilled to one word each. That was fun. And hard. I was surprised by what I came up with. But that’s good fodder for another future blog as well.

An offshoot of distilling those core values was a desire and habit to start jotting down life-thoughts; life-axioms, at least for me. They come to me in the morning, as I’m reading, or sometimes after a certain situation from which I think I’ve extrapolated a truth (Ok and also after my first good martini). I don’t hold these truths to be anything that would interest a populace. They are my truths, but you’re reading the blog, so see what you think. Take no offense and mount no counter. If we’re ever together, I’d love the chance to share a drink and pull them apart with you:

-There are things that will happen today. Your button will get pushed. Be a reflective practitioner. Be really good at what you do, regardless of how someone might try to knock you off course.

-Start early each day by creating a fantasy list of what you’d like to celebrate accomplishing when you sit down to enjoy your end-of-day martini. Then make it a little more realistic, with a few extras tossed in. Call it My Martini List. Look forward to the end of day because of how good you’ll feel and how good that first sip will be. Sip it slowly, and tell someone how good it is.   

-Mostly, taking the high road means being quiet. Measure your words. You’ll know when it’s time to speak because you’ll become calm.

-It’s hard to punch someone who’s trying to shake your hand. 

-It’s ok to be unsure. It’s ok to tell someone you’re unsure. It’s not a weakness because you know you’re already making a plan to get the right answer and you’ll have it soon. 

-It’s work. It’s ok to not love every day. That’d just be weird and would make you annoying (And you’d be in desperate need of a life).

-You’ll never regret what you don’t say. Not really. Despite the fictional applause you hear in the shower as you reinvent both sides of the conversation and emerge amazingly victorious, no one is taught a lesson during those moments. Silence is hauntingly powerful.

-Everyone gets to live their time in this realm as they choose. I didn’t make the rules, God did. When their choices impact you, choose to live your life in this realm as you choose.

-If you’re quiet, people will tell you a lot of stuff. If you ask the right questions, people will tell you everything.

-It’s easy to compliment people in genuine ways.

-Being cynical and being lazy is the same thing.

-Know your long game and let your short game loosen up. You’ll be happier.

-If you’re talking more than other people in the group, restrict yourself to only questions for an hour. There’s a reason why people hate work conferences.

-Listen to people without adding your fat thumb to the scale of shared experiences. If they want to know, they’ll ask. Keeping up is annoying.

-Happiness is not a schedule-free life. Happiness is the freedom to create your own schedule. 

-When you build story in your head about something that was said, lean heavily towards how awfully most people communicate.

So there it is. Just some things that came to me over the last month or so. If you’re reading, hopefully you find them somewhat more useful than Why Intelligent People are Miserable.

Good At and Good For

As Rachel and I continue our Middle Age life-journey of discovery, we’re continuing to learn and grow. That is, after all, the purpose, yes? Or at least one of them.

It can be interesting the things we find ourselves doing in making our lives here on the planet. We are often initially measured by the ubiquitous question: “So, what do you do?People mean, of course, how we pay the mortgage, not how we act when we’re home alone for the day (and that’s a very good thing). I get asked it alot when I fly, and despite the kind nod and smile, the look is a dead give away that says, “I have no idea what the words you just said mean.” I’ve tried changing up the phrasing, but the results are the same.

The question is kind and innocuous enough I guess. I suppose what we do might say something about us. Some people seem to know almost from birth their vocation path, as if they are selected and designed for just one option; a calling if you will. Lucky bastards. Most of us, not so much.

Most of of us bang around and eventfully find a niche. We settle in to an acceptable and mostly enjoyable job. Maybe we’re not necessarily designed for it, but maybe we’re the type of people that could do alot of things pretty well (I thought for awhile I’d work at Sears selling furniture and be That Guy who knows an awful lot about recliner construction).

We start a path, grow a family, take on the weight of debt, grow social roots, get comfy, and surround ourselves with what we do. There’s nothing wrong with that. I never intended on doing what I do now. It just sort of unfolded, one step at a time. I really like it, but if you’d have told me I’d be doing what I’m doing 20 years ago, I’d have advised you to cut back on your meds.

Knowing what you should do is hard.
Knowing what you could do it easier.
Sometimes it seems that you didn’t really choose it, you just ended up making some small decisions and ended up there.
Some were decisions of inaction and some were decisions of action.
Some decisions seemed very purposed, and some were not really sure how I got here.

It’s the same with Rachel and me. Some of the places we arrived at were because of our planning and our choices. And some of the things we chose were because they materialized suddenly based on previous choices.

Funny how that is; you can’t see new options until you move forward to a new place.

Gotta move first, and then you see.
Crest the next rise, and there they are.
Blurry shimmering somethings in the distance.
Move first, then see. I wish it was the other way around, but it’s not.

Seems like we’ve been doing alot of moving lately.

When we originally began the journey towards financial independence, it was largely for two reasons. Being debt free would allow for alot of cool options (like tropical hedonistic cruises on chartered catamarans). Paying interest sucks and so do payments. Someone told me once that it’s not how much money you make, it’s how much you owe. If you don’t owe much you can take alot of hedonistic cruises on 50 foot chartered cats (ok, I added that last part, but it’s true).

Additionally, and more importantly, the kind of work Rachel was doing was making her sick. Not metaphorically sick; physically sick. Like killing her sick. She was unwell, diagnosed with several immune deficiencies, on several medications, gaining weight, not sleeping, and was on all fronts circling the drain. We knew being out of debt would allow her to assess her life and have more freedom of choice – like choosing a hedonistic tropical cruise with free martinis. (See how it just keeps getting better?)

We also knew that if we didn’t make some big changes soon, we might be facing options that were not so fun.

But the truth is, Rachel was making alot of money and was really good at what she did. Awards and all that. High-end corporate medical management sounds flashy and important, and in many aspects it was. And at its core it was altruistic, philanthropic, and benevolent: managing people and systems that saved kid’s lives.

The paradox was entangling, at least it was for us. She was so good at it, and it was killing her. We thought maybe if we could just adopt a different mindset. Learn to handle stress better. Meditate. Visualize. Diagnose. exercise. Find just the right combination of any or all. But over time, talks, tears, getting as many perspectives as we could, and trying all sorts of approaches, a truth started to emerge:

Just because we’re good at it doesn’t mean it’s good for us.

Good at and good for.
As soon as the words were out of my mouth I knew life had changed.

The money we had. The Good she was doing. The future it painted. It took very clear eyes and minds to not only discern the situation but also make the call to walk away. And she did walk away. We’re starting our 4th week of one income and there are lots of really cool things going on (like becoming a Sugar Daddy). I won’t steal her show and I’ll let her tell her own story as she sees fit here.

Some of the things we’ve learned and are thankful for:
– Being debt free allowed for a much broader scope of choices
– Money is only fun if life is already fun
– Money’s not worth being miserable
– Being a Sugar Daddy is awesome
– I can get pretty hedonistic in a hot tub
– Meaningful conversation is a critical aspect of life

We’re not sure what the future holds (Lord, do we ever? Do any of us?) Right now we think we’re looking at a one-year-ish sabbatical. There’s alot of healing going on (and I’m learning some really awesome new dance moves). To be honest, I’m a little afraid of what new options might suddenly jump up. I’ve already told her I do not want to be a missionary to Zimbabwe (probably no hot tubs).

The financial goals have adapted, or at least been set to pause for a bit. But get this: our original financial goal was to be debt-free in November of 2020; 11 months from now. So we’re 100% on track to meet our original plan (I just gave myself chills).

The hedonistic free martini cat vacation is still out there, oh trust me. As is the AirBnB for a month in Naples and Vermont and lots of other dreams to come. First things first. Gratefulness, health, love, family, dreams, faith, SugarDaddying, wisdom, smart choices, risk and reaching, knowing when to move, knowing when to hold.

And I guess downsizing to a 40 foot cat with free martinis would still be ok. I mean, the simple life, right?

MP

Middle Age Sugar Daddy

Part of my morning habit is to wake early and spend a quiet hour reading. The reading list varies. Sometimes it’s the feed or one of the bloggers I follow, sometimes I’m not quite sure how I get to the articles I find. I call it “jumping.” My path is almost never re-creatable as I usually have no idea how I actually got there.

Several months ago I jumped onto an article about college debt, and how some younger female students were finding ways to get out from under it. “Commendable,” I thought.
“Hard working young entrepreneurs probably.”
“Uber side hustles and all that.”
Well?

When I read that “Sugar Daddies” were footing the bill I was a bit surprised and unsure. I had heard the colloquial term used in jokes and sarcasm, but when the link took me to the Voice of America website and not the front page of Tinder, I said “Wait, what?”

From my reading, a Sugar Daddy is a Successful Member: a modern gentleman (probably around 58), with refined taste (like Gin Martinis and making the bed really well), exceptional experiences (like getting debt free and trips to Ma’s house in Maine), and abundant resources (like owning a Baby House and access to a 30-person hot tub!) who is looking for someone younger (Sugar Baby) to share in his extraordinary life and lifestyle with (Rachel!).

Who knew? I could hardly wait to tell Rachel of my new found awareness, which I did with great zest. I unpacked it all, and explained that we were in what’s known as a Sugar Relationship (it was right here that I broke into a rousing chorus of Def Leppard’s Poh Some Shuga on MAY! – replete with wicked sexy dance moves). She said wow.

I can’t say at first that she was anything other than humored. She nodded alot. Ah. I see (quizzical side-looks). She reminded me that her 6-figure income was an abundant resource. I said yeah but. This wasn’t just me. This was on websites. I did another chorus and added hip thrusts and finger licks to illustrate that I had even awesomer abundant resources. I thought we should have new pet nicknames ( I wanted mine to be ShugDad or GrandMaster Shug). Rachel wasn’t quite sure what hers should be (I offered BabyShug). She said wow again. This was going to be fun.

Summer 2019 passed, and what a summer. Other life-events came and went, and other than me practicing the GMS rendition of Poh Some Shuga (I added really cool hand flourishes), we largely forgot about our new nicknames.

And then, as I noted in my previous post, on December 15th of 2019, after a great deal of prayer, introspection, communication, reflection (and just about every other shun word there is), Rachel left Corporate America and her 6-figure income. She made it public for the first time here and here. I’m sure there’s much more to come about the process that led her and us to this point, but the psychological and physical changes in her are already obvious. We’re not sure exactly what the future holds, and are excited about possibilities.

But, you can probably imagine the urgency and weight I feel now.
I’ve got to get my Sugar Daddy moves back!
I need to get more abundance in my resources and learn more than just the chorus line (although I think the neighbors are really starting to dig it)!
We need Tshirts!
There should be Shuga-rules!
My new nickname could be (wait for it):
ShugaPlum!
Daddy’s bringin’ home the bacon bay-bee!
Poh Some Shuga on MAAYYY!

Middle Age Mark’s Year in Review

I am generally not a big fan of year-end reviews. They depress me. Time has passed, I’m a year older, my bald spot is bigger, famous people have died, it’s tax time and the days are short. I’m not a big looker-backer. Too many people refer to the past when asked how they’re doing, and begin a diatribe of struggle and glum. Makes me insane. But then I throw away old pictures, so I might not be the best litmus when it comes to wrapping up the year.

Having said that, 2019 was a wicked good year (shout out to my Maine peeps). Perhaps one of the best I’ve lived. For reasons I’ll unpack shortly, I saw more beneficial change this year than any year since. The year started in Mesa Arizona with one word, prepare, and little did I know then how that word would help usher in a new era in life.

I start every new year with one word. It’s my Word For The Year (WFTY). Nichole (daughter) created the practice. She’s a beautiful spirit-forward person, which means she senses you way before you have the chance to tell her anything. We spend just about every New Year’s with her and her husband Joey, and it’s a great environment for setting a new word-path for the year. We make drinks, have a little ceremony, and hope to see our spirit animal (ok that last part is just me). More on that in a bit, but if you want to adopt the practice, it’s kind of fun (and it really helps to focus you forward).

As I mentioned, we started 2019 at the Baby House in Mesa. Nic and Joey were down for New Year’s with Rachel and me, and we partied like it was 2099 (see what I did there?) I remember a rousing rendition of how-low-can-you-go on the dance floor and thinking how amazing it all was (I could hardly walk the next morning, but still). It was that trip that Nic first shared that she was having a change of heart, and they were thinking of getting pregnant in a year or two. We shared some very close, quiet conversations. Life stuff.

The word prepare had been on me for some time. I don’t remember where it came from or why, but I sensed something was coming and I wanted to be ready. It was on that trip that Rachel and I decided to put all efforts towards climbing out of debt; the school loans, the cars, the cards. Rachel was sick (literally) of medical management and had had a run of very tough surgeons and situations. I had been reading Dave Ramsey and Fritz Gilbert and knew the first step towards having options was removing drag. We looked at the numbers and set a date for November 2020 to have zero debt. We left there very excited.

It was in the spring that we learned of Nic’s pregnancy. Rachel made me a special martini and delivered the news. All I could repeat was, “You gotta be shittin’ me!” I cried and then I wasn’t able to talk. I’ve never seen any women be so pregnant and yet not at the same time. She said she told God that this was His deal and she didn’t have time to be sick (she’s not had even one day sick) or stop doing yoga.

The summer was wonderful. Rachel took some extra time off, and we decided to try our first July in Mesa. As July’s go there it wasn’t particularly hot. Mornings started between 75-80 and days topped about around 110. In short, we loved it. We did what we needed to do during the mornings and early afternoons, and then hit one of 3 pools with our shaker martinis. It was like our own private resort. We had the “opportunity” to replace the AC, but things like that should be expected.

It was on that trip, during one of our floating finance sessions, that Rachel dropped the bomb: “I think we should sell the house.” We had talked about it on and off for years. So we did it; we left there and went back to Boise and immediately called our realtor friend. After a few weeks of intense prep, it was on the market and sold very quickly. After some research, we used the profits from the house to advance the debt free date, and we began a new phase of life, that of no debt, minimalism, and condo living. Rachel writes a blog on living a minimalist life. The whole package is wonderful (even I’m surprised at how much I like the condo life).

On a more micro note, my approach to fitness changed this year. Although I still crave resistance training, at 58 my joints no longer always love the heavy weight. There’s a difference between good and bad pain (wink), and I knew it was smart to listen to the form. I tightened up the diet (which of course excludes martinis), shaved a bit from the weight stack, and added more cross training. I feel great and look pretty good too.

So we came into fall and the holidays. Rachel got candy in case we were visited by any trick-or-treaters (eternal optimist), and she began to plan for Thanksgiving. It would be hard to overemphasize the importance of Thanksgiving to Rachel. It was one of the challenges of becoming condo-livers; there needed to be a place with enough room for the whole family. Enter the condo clubhouse, with all the amenities for cooking, serving, and enjoying the Thanksgiving day (and 3 big screen TV’s and pool table). A better day was never had.

Christmas has come and gone, and it was wonderful as well. We got a skinny tree and decorated the front door. Rachel and I celebrated early with the kids like we do every year, so that they can be more free to relax or see other family on the actual day. Nic hosted for the first time (after a morning session of maternity yoga), and carried the mantle of easy, relaxed holiday enjoyment perfectly. It felt right, us going there, as soon Kepa will wake us with excitement about what Santa brought. Can hardly wait.

And finally, we ended the year with perhaps one of the biggest life changes in our relationship yet. Rachel tendered her resignation and departed the corporate world for an undetermined sabbatical. Already the change in her spirit is evident. A surgeon friend described her as radiant during a recent small gathering, and I could not disagree. I can see the weight being lifted more every day. She’s coming back to the surface. We both wear smiles most of the day, inside and out.

My 2019 word was prepare.
We got debt free and small.
Kepa is on his way.
My toast each night is Blessed Life.
What a year.

Could SugarDaddy be one word?