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?

A Time of Middle Age Quiet

It’s been quite some time since I published, and I have missed it. I’ve wanted to put out an update, but there is still so much change happening it’s tough to find a stable spot. We’ve sold the house, moved into our 4th floor condo, achieved debt free, enjoyed the fall and the spectacular 4th floor sunrises, and settled into a routine. Most of the time now I even know where things are in the kitchen before I look for them (I still lose my shoes almost daily).

Rachel and I are still living life leaning forward; still no shortage of adventure, change, the unknown, expectancy, and impatience (that last one is mostly me). The reason for the impatience is that there’s a thing still in the development stage and outside of our direct control (C’mon already!), so I can’t share that quite yet.

I’m not so good (horribly awful) at the waiting-to-see-what-happens thing and tend to be action oriented. Someone told me once I’d burn the house down because the bathroom’s dirty (And?). The whole letting Someone else write your story is not my natural state (gimme’ that freakin’ pen!). When I was six I killed a fly with a croquet mallet because the mallet was handy. And the fly needed to die. The fly was on a plate glass window (seemed like a good idea at the time).
I’ve not changed much in that regard.

So during the wait, I focus on the million things I have to celebrate and be thankful for. Condo living is great. And different. We knew it would be different, and some of it is the kind of different that we were expecting and some of it is a different kind of different.

I thought there might be things I really miss. I thought I might dream about the House of Wales. I thought there might be hints of regret. None of that has happened.

I thought we’d always see lots of people; in the halls, in the elevators, in the hot tub. Not so much (my own private 30-person hot-tub-pool every morning at 6am. Down the elevator and across the dark parking lot in robe, slippers, Patriots beanie, coffee, phone, towel. Might as well act like I own the place, right?).
No wonder I never see anybody.

I thought it would be noisy but it hardly ever is. I hear less barking dogs than I did when I owned. Our fridge makes weird noises all the time, like a steel skyscraper just before it collapses. I thought I’d miss raking leaves and splitting wood this fall but I don’t, except for maybe the exercise aspect. I still try to ride my mountain bike more to compensate. I thought I’d miss fires and my wood floor office. Nope.

I thought I would have an issue with a sense of lack of control; a Man and his castle and eminent domain and all. A little at first, but now no.
Funny how that is.

We’re having family Thanksgiving in the condo clubhouse. We reserved it for just the family and we’re baking salmon. The clubhouse has an 8 foot conference table and huge couches and chairs and pillows and a pool table and shuffle board and three 6-foot TV’s and my private hot tub that I might share.

We’ve settled in here. It’s home. The sunrises are truly glorious. We have two garage door openers. We have a routine. Places where we sit. Places where things go. Routines are good. It still takes me about 40 minutes to do my morning chores. Evenings are nice, and, of course, there’s still the end-of-day martini and talk of the day’s events of import before a healthy dinner. We often watch the spinny-wheel show and try to guess the puzzles (Rachel is faster than I am). Then a Netflix episode. We sleep well and rarely see 10pm.

Sometimes I think you can tell a place is getting inside your heart because you know that someday when you leave there’s going to be things you really miss.

This is a really cool thing we’ve done.
The concept of moving towards mobility is exciting.
Being debt free is awesome.

Also, one of the biggest and greatest coming-soon(!) events is a January addition to the family by way of a grandson. Rachel and I already have plans for pool days, bike rides, wagon rides, sleepovers, falling asleep during Disney movies during sleepovers (me), wrestling before bedtime at sleepovers (me), and doing my best James Earl Jones voice for Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein bed time books during sleepovers.

Normally by this time of year we would have spent time at the Arizona Baby House. Not yet this year. We are missing it intensely and daily. Events have arranged (or perhaps more accurately ceased to arrange) to postpone our life there. In that regard, it has been a time of just-when-you-think-you’ve-got a plan: Grr. Shifting ground, rug pulling, not lining up, and all that. Reevaluating. Neither of us like the inability to make goals and march towards them in very measured strides (read: my head is about to fly off and then explode).

We won’t wait much longer (is that fly buzzing I hear?); we’re still evaluating, praying, testing, arranging, allowing time for responses, trying to figure out the better. Depending on what we decide, life could look very different.

The amount of restraint I’m showing ought to be rewardable (like winning a Life-Oscar for Most Patience Ever Since the Beginning of Recorded Time).

It’s a time of Quiet. Some of it is cyclical. Fall brings a time of reflection as days grow shorter, colder, and life pulls in and gets smaller. It’s a time of assessing and quiet conversation and listening. Maybe some of it is that I lived so much change and adventure for so long that it’s time to be quiet for a bit. I don’t like it and want to take it off like an ill fitting jacket.

Maybe downsizing life is more than just downsizing stuff. Maybe in the same way a football receiver takes off at great speed and then pivots to change direction on his route, so too I’m doing a slow-motion life-pivot.
Inertia.
The forced pause.
It makes me twitch (I’m holding my head on).

I am anxious to be on (and write about) the next adventure, but it’s not time yet. Decisions are outside of our control until we get more pieces in place. What I do know is that it’s a time of Quiet.

But if it lasts much longer I’m buying a frickin’ crochet mallet.

MP

A Martini with Jesus

Most people that know me know that I like Martinis. And then they smile in disbelief that I used the word like. They know that I have elevated the Martini to an art form (which, of course, it is). There should be Martini art shows and orchestral arrangements to Martinis and a National Martini Day and a museum.

Further, those same people that know me know that all Martinis are gin Martinis, they are shaken (violently), are so dry that the vermouth and gin are mere acquaintances (Hello over there), and they are not mixed with sissy things or given sissy names like Strawberrytini (this is offensive and should be listed as a crime against humanity).

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation should list the word Martini as a proper noun (which I’m sure they will once they receive my letter).

You can’t walk in to just any place that serves alcohol and get a Martini (trust me on this) any more than you can just walk in to any doctor’s office and get a spinal fusion. Martinis are nuanced and rare and can only be crafted by highly trained experts.

There’s one of two looks that bartenders give you when you order a Martini. The first is a sneaky smile and twinkled eye because someone has finally asked them to avoid the Huge-Breasted Swedish Woman beer tap and employ their limitless artistic talents, and the other is something that might resemble being hit in the face with a board. This latter group should be run out of town after being tarred and feathered for false employment and lying on their resume.

I’m passionate about Martinis. I only enjoy them in the evenings, after a very full day (so, every evening), and they are to me the signal that the day’s labor has ended, that it has ended well, that there is much to be thankful for, that I am safe, and that I am now ready to relax and wade into the deep and philosophical end of the conversation pool.

Which brings me to the title.

Almost.

I’m reading a book that my realtor friend recommend (if you ever need a realtor, seriously, contact me), and it reminded me of something while I was at the gym this morning that I’ve often thought about (I think about weird things at the gym. It tends to be my creative place while I listen to screamo metalcore and grunt alot)

Which now really brings me to the title.
I wonder if Jesus would have a Martini with me.
I bet he would and I’d like that alot.

I think some people have the wrong idea about Jesus.

He might wrinkle up his face and make the fake gagging sound like alot of people do when they try my Martinis (you actually drink this?) I’d give him the good chair like I do with guests and family that I like. He might recline and tell me it’s a good chair and I’d say yeah I know. I might say how ’bout those Pats and he might say how bout those Niners and then I might ask him to move out of the guest chair and he’d laugh but keep the chair. He might ask about my mom’s extra heart beats (though he’d already know) and then tell me he really loves her and gets a kick out of her.

While we sipped I’d ask if he thought the 180 gallons of wine he made at the Jewish wedding was overkill and he might say have you ever seen a Jewish wedding? We’d laugh more and I’d ask if his wine tasted anything like Martinis cause it should have. I’d also ask if he ever heard back from that lady at the well and if people totally freaked out when Lazarus came out. I think I’d also ask what’s the deal with goat heads and what he was thinking there because my mountain bike tires keep going flat and it’s getting old and expensive.

I bet he’d ask some bomb questions about my life that would take us really deep and have all sorts of layers and would be hard to answer.

Of course we’d talk about Martinis and that they’re on the drink list in Heaven.

Then he might tell me he’s got an amazingly cool super crazy wild adventure ride for my life if I’ll just quit taking over control so much and let him write my story and that I need to stop running away from all the hard parts. Then he’d zing me with something like since I made you and knew you before time existed I think I kinda got this.

He’d probably compliment my bed making skills and tell me my condo is really cool and relaxing and so is the Baby House and I should stop letting barking dogs bug me so much and let the past be the past.

I bet we’d be easy. And laugh too much. And I’d get a ton of new insight and be able to thank him for a really cool life. I’d thank him for his life and his death and his life again.

I wouldn’t want him to go.
He’d thank me for the Martini and give me a hug and smile.

I’d probably never wash his glass.

Middle Age Optimism

Now that I’m coming out of the stage of life that has been a major focus for that past several months (getting debt free), there are other things that I’ve been itching to write about. Financial rightness is certainly a component of a well-loved and well-lived life, but it is one component; it’s certainly not the end-all-be-all.

Life has foundational pillars; necessary substrates that we gather and erect to support and create a fulfilling and satisfying time here in this realm. There is no one right mix. Too much of one and not enough of another can topple the structure of our life. Each person can and will have a different life-pillar support arrangement; some smaller, some larger, but my contention is that there are some common ones. I’m on a mission to label the pillars and get them upright and justified in my life.

Health is a significant pillar. It’s not something that I paid much attention to when I was younger, for obvious reasons. I was bullet-proof when I was young(er). I ate things and drank things and did things that might put me under the covers for a day or a week now. I don’t recover as fast as I used to. I’m teaching myself new ways to maintain fitness and well-being, and as a long time trainer, weight lifter, and strong guy, it’s tough sometimes to talk myself through new (lighter) strategies. Tough, but still fun.

Purpose is another major pillar and also one that I didn’t give much thought to when I was younger. Purpose? I worked. I loved my family. I paid my bills. I went on vacation. I was the drummer. The cycle repeated. It’s not that I felt I was lacking purpose, it just wasn’t anything I thought about. It’s a major one now as I look forward to solid support for the 3rd act of life.

Faith is one of my big life-pillars. I like knowing that I’m not It, I’m not Him, He gets a big kick out of me, and I’m part of Something alot bigger than me.

Optimism has been on my mind and heart these days as a life-pillar. Among it’s definitions, it’s an overall attitude of belief or hope that life in general will be positive, favorable, fulfilling, desirable (and fun). It can be called different things: hope, expectancy, anticipation, enthusiasm, gusto, positivity, zest.

Whatever it’s labeled, I’ve met people with it and people without it. I’ve met positive people that brighten the room and cynical people that suck the light and life out of it.

Being cynical is an easy trap to fall into. We don’t want to get too far out over our skis lest the landing not go as planned. There’s drama in being cynical, and there’s power in drama. Cynicism can be a safety measure, a protection. It can create a “Hey look at me and how hard I’m battling against life; it must mean that I’m important.”

Let’s face it, “My day was blessed and fantastic,” is not nearly as dramatic or intriguing as “Oh my God, you won’t believe the day I had.”

I talked to my mom yesterday afternoon. I call my mom about 5 times a week. She’s 83 and lives in Maine and told me the cardiologist said she has “extra heartbeats.” She’s scheduled for a heart surgery this week and might need a stent. She doesn’t see the point and thinks extra heartbeats should not be a concern.

After we hung up I thought what a magnificent time to be on the planet when doctors can roto-rooter your heart and give you back quality of life.

I’m not advocating for not being honest when life becomes a bumpy ride. Serious things happen and they suck.
I am advocating for refusing to succumb to a negative perspective.

My dad was cynical. He still can be. That alone might cause extra heartbeats. Every bright hope had potential awfulness, every adventure more risk than reward, which he was quick to articulate.
I resist that with every fiber on my being.

So this morning, as the sun overtakes the foothills and the coffee is hot, I needed to write an ode to optimism. To me, optimism is like air and an absolute must-have life-pillar. It might not be in metrical form, but my ode is certainly full of enthusiastic emotion, and I might even make up a song (sorry neighbors).

I started my day at 6am in the hot tub. Rachel is home sick and I thought I’d better quick disinfect myself. While in the hot tub, I sent two emails, watched a jet with 250+ people fly overhead into a great new exciting day, ordered and started a book, watched an early morning hawk, ordered a movie for the weekend, checked my calendar, did my hot-tub-yoga-stretches, prayed, and checked the agendas for two meetings.

How awesome is life?

After I got out of the hot tub I spent a few minutes in my part-time living room. It’s a cool place and allows for a different environment while still having access to all things professional. Sometimes ideas flow better when I change environments. I can get a new perspective on a challenge that I’m overcoming. It even has a glass conference room (I sit at the head of the table).

How even awesomer is life?

After that I crossed the parking lot and came back to the condo. The sun had just crested and our little home was almost blinding in the morning sunlight.
I was suddenly overcome with gratitude.
I let it take me and thought about how much I love my life.

I have so much to be thankful for.

I love and am loved.
I have great friends that set a high bar.
I have a good bed and a good pillow.
I am warm, safe, well fed, and healthy.
I love my 30 year old mountain bike.
I love the way we give.
The Patriots are 5-0.
I love sitting on the balcony at the end of the day with a fresh martini (gin of course) and reflecting.
My phone is waterproof if I move really quickly.
The morning sunlight pours into our home and makes me emotional.
I love my work and my team and every once in awhile feel like I really made a difference.
I love Sunday nights and Al Michaels’ voice and homemade french bread pizza.
I have a new red couch and a glass coffee table and I put my feet up and watch cool things when I can get the rabbit ears right.
I love my morning chores and learning new ways to make the bed.
My garage door goes up and down with a button.
I have a garage.

I never want to miss the little things.
There are no little things.

I’m going to continue to invest in optimism and keep surrounding myself with optimistic people. Why would anyone not?

I’m standing that life-pillar up and cementing it in place for ever.
I’m willing to bet it helps support a really fantastic life.




Get Debt Free or Invest?

Sometimes we can’t really know a thing from a distance. Often, it’s impossible to really experience the truth of a thing until we get close, or even all the way inside it.

When we start to really get inside something, we start to see it for what it is, not what we thought it would be. Sometimes that’s really cool and amazing and we love it. Other times it starts to get dark and awful. Sometimes we push through because we’re going to finish what we started. Other times we reevaluate and make new decisions. It can be hard to know which way to go; to know if we should hold ’em or fold ’em.

I had a dream of being an attorney since I was a kid. I like to argue and wrestle with abstracts (Ok I like when people listen to me talk too). But being a lawyer is probably nothing like the lawyers I see on the TV shows. I’ve heard and read enough stories of attorneys walking away from practicing law that I probably would not have been happy. Maybe some things are better left dreamed about.

This blog post will be a little different in some ways. It’s a bit of the same in that I’m putting out there our financial plans and where we are so far. It’s a bit different because I’m hoping to get a bit more personal. I’m going to be a little more open about how we fared on selling the House of Wales; not in an attempt to boast as much to help anyone else that might be following.

So let’s just dive right in. Through years of hard work, consistent upkeep, smart upgrades, and market timing, we did very well selling the House of Wales. It’s been one of the major decisions in our lives; not just because we sold the house but also because we changed lifestyles. When all was signed and done, we sold for about $130K more than we owed.

That’s not counting paying off the Baby House, which took about $40K from that profit (debt free Baby Howwwse!) That’s also not counting fees, some upgrades, and other associated costs from the process of selling (If you ever need a realtor, seriously, please contact me), so we put about $70K in a money market fund account until we could settle on the exact plan.

Our current plan was to be debt free by October 1st 2020. We made this plan before we decided to sell the House of Wales. We were killing it. We had our debt whittled down to just three more loans: the car ($20K), the truck ($20K), and my school loan ($25K) and were throwing gobs of money at them every month.

We had originally planned to invest the entire profit and leave it for 10-15 years while we added to it slowly and continued our October 1st 2020 debt free pursuit.

A few weeks ago, like we always do, we began checking down the action plan and reviewing the timing. In other words, we got a very close-up view of our options. One of us (not sure which one) said, “And we’re sure we’d not be better off finishing the debt free journey and then starting to invest?”

Sidebar: You know how when someone asks a question and it’s more than a question and then the person says something like what? I’m just asking only you know their actually not just asking and everything kind of starts to unravel?
Uh huh.
Like that.
(Insert open can of worms).

We started reviewing our options again, making sure of our choice. It really came down to two options: invest 100% of the profit or get clear of 100% of the debt. Right now.

We talked about it alot.
A-lot.
The cool thing about talking about something alot is that often it serves as a catalyst to review other areas of life: plans, dreams, the future (and to have another martini. Gin, of course). It helped us boil down what we were really chasing.

Paying off debt cuts stress and creates a sense of freedom. It takes away some of the “have to’s” of life. Living expenses don’t go away, but the financial drag of payments and interest does. It also creates a really cool sense of accomplishment.

Someone once told me that it’s not how much money we make; it’s how much debt we have. If we don’t have any debt, we don’t need much money. (Just enough, really, for a 1-week trip on a cat in the Bahamas. Every year. With martinis).
Being debt free makes good sense and is never a bad idea.

We also knew we could use the $70K as a quick-start towards creating passive income through investing that would add to my two pensions; one from the Coast Guard (already drawing that one) and one from the state when I eventually stop full-time work. I plan to add another 5-7 years of state employment before taking that step.

Those pensions will create a bedrock income for retirement for the rest of my life (~$3K per month) before any passive investment income and before social security (no plan yet on when to draw). A cool additional benefit of my Coast Guard service is lifetime healthcare (huge, I know).

Rachel also has a 401K that’s worth about $40K right now that we’re also deciding how best to grow.

The investment idea was intriguing because we’re late to that game. I’ve let the awareness of my pensions make me lazy. I also liked the investment idea because I wanted to ride up and down the condo elevator checking my portfolio and saying cool things like “oh yeah, diversified” and “market share” and “Dude this ROI is toasting my nuggs.”

Yes, we would still have time time to invest but we’re losing the amount of wealth a $70K chunk could jump start (and my elevator trips wouldn’t be nearly as cool). It might take us a few years to build that core amount back into an investment with our income. Although we really don’t see ourselves coming to full-stop retirement until we’re really old (like 116), it might be hard to hold down full time work from a 40′ cat in the Bahamas.

When it came right down to it and we could really see everything up close, we decided to bring home the prize that we started chasing 9 months ago:

We’re Debt Free!
Happy Birthday to me!

When we started our debt free journey in January of 2019 we had NO idea what would become of this adventure. It’s been quite the ride!

It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I keep going to the school loan website and flipping it the bird while laughing and dancing around in little circles (I also have a little song I made up but it’s mostly naughty words). It’s fun to keep seeing zeros. It’s a huge chapter finally closed. I might keep doing my dance for awhile (probably close the shades next time though).

It’s the same with the vehicles. That’s not as fun though because we paid by e-check (and I don’t have a song made up for those). Still, the sense of there, that’s finally over feels really good (I might drive past the dealerships and flip them a bird too).

I think we’re going to live in this for awhile.
Small, quiet, 4th floor balcony celebrations are the best.

I guess I’m going to have to find something else to write about.
I don’t think that’s going to be too hard.

I’m proud of us.

Debt free Middle Age life feels really, really good.


Middle Age Actionating

I turned 58 this weekend. Happy Birthday to me! I purposely asked for it to be a very quiet, non-celebrated event. Not because I feel old, or embarrassed, or bothered by either my age or my birthday. It’s mostly because it’s 58. 58 is a boring number.

I ate alot of cake. Alot. I got a whole one and I ate alot of it until my lips went numb. And none of that cheap whippy-fake frosting either. This was the real 80 proof cane sugar right into the blood stream frosting. I really like (fantasize about) birthday cake.

I also opened the bottle of Bardenay gin that my realtor and friend Mike gave me when we closed on the House of Wales and made a top shelf martini. It’s really good gin. That night I dreamed of Genie on I Dream of Genie. She had a little yappy dog and wanted me to take it.
I said no and she was not a happy Genie.

Some people use birthdays to look back at the year that was. I’m not a person that looks back alot. I don’t see much value in it. It’s depressing. I almost hate looking back.

I threw out alot of pictures when we sold the house and downsized to the condo. Pictures are all about looking back. I’m not a big picture keeper. Mostly people look at pictures and talk about how young or thin or hairy everybody looked. Then they say things like how fast life goes by or how little little kids were or how long Grandma has been dead and get depressed. Throwing away pictures is like criticizing the Pope or Mother Teresa (and I’m not even Catholic); it’s just not done. I still remember the look on Rachel’s face. Kind of like I might be a guy that runs over kittens or pushes old ladies into traffic.

I suppose if we looked back and used the past to teach us actionable lessons there might be some good use for that. That’s if we’re actually going to actionate (yes, that’s a thing. And if it’s not it should be). But hardly anyone wants to actionate. Mostly they say something wishful or depressing and put the pictures back in the box and the box back under the bed. For year 58 I want to take less pictures and actionate more.

I don’t feel 58. I tried to think about how old I actually felt when I woke up this morning and I decided 38. 38 seems like a good age even though at 38 I think I could still see the alarm clock. I’m not sure how a 58 year old is supposed to feel because I’ve never been 58 and I don’t have any friends that are 58 and I don’t remember how my parents acted when they were 58.

I have tons of energy, tons of optimism, take the stairs to and from the 4th floor even on leg day, am pharma-free, and still gym and mountain bike every day. I don’t have as much hair as I did when I was 38. I think my feet might be bigger than when I was 38.

I felt like I wanted to go out and do something to commemorate becoming 58. When you’re 24 months away from being 60 you should make a statement about not going gently into that good night. More than eating alot of 80 proof frosting cake. I thought about a chest tattoo of a roaring Bengal tiger or going for a ride on the motorcycle while wearing an eye patch or shaving my head again. I asked Rachel about the tiger tattoo and she looked at me like I had thrown more pictures away. I decided to ride my mountain bike to the gym and do a chest workout.

I crossed on the no walky guy sign though.

Reinventing Myself

One of my mentors is the dad of a close friend (who is also a mentor) who once told me that his secret to a happy and successful life is that he keeps reinventing himself. When one door closes he opens another. It’s not always easy. But then again easiness is not one of the foundational tenets of a happy life.

He now lives most of the time with his uber-energetic wife in Mexico and always has a list of things that need to get done. His nickname is Machete Mike (I don’t ask). He’s probably got 20 years on me and is a fiend on a mountain bike. I can only hope to maintain the energy and vitality of that guy. It’s a very special treat when I get to see them. His prescription for life has stuck with me and I think about it alot, as I do about his concept of reinventing himself.

Rachel and I have been undergoing stages of reinventing for several years. She’s moved up corporate ladders and grown her abilities to manage groups of people. After the Coast Guard I entered the new-to-me field of education and grew there as well. We both went from holding no degrees to several each as we sought out new directions.

One of my favorite authors wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

I want to be a man who lives deliberately. Makes purposed decisions. Takes calculated risks. Isn’t afraid of change or tough calls.
I want to be a man who continues to reinvent himself. Even when it’s scary. Even when it’s uncomfortable.

In his book I’ll Show You, NBA point guard juggernaut Derrick Rose talks about covering some of the league’s most famous and skilled players. He said he got “comfortable being uncomfortable.”

I won’t say my most recent reinvention has been easy or comfortable. It’s different going from house-living to condo-living. I wake up many nights around 3am and read for an hour. Not sure why; I just wake up and the brain starts. I hear people moving sometimes in adjacent condos. It’s not loud; more a presence. The garage is alot smaller. I have to walk a little farther for Amazon deliveries and when I put trash down the chute. The e-lights in the living room seem to be magically controlled sometimes.

We’ve still got a little more stuff in storage that needs to be placed. Still have furniture to buy.

But there are also Plus Ones. The pool is huge and someone else takes really good care of it. Same with the hot tub. There are no barking dogs. We’re really close to the church we love. I feel like a big shot at the end of the day riding the elevator to the 4th floor (sometimes I sneak down the stairs and come back up the elevator to impress the neighbors. I think the flip-flops give me away). I feel like a bigger big shot enjoying my after-work-day martini (gin of course) on the balcony overlooking the grounds and pool. I can ride my bike to the Big Gym, or go to the one here.

I’m sure there are people who would have bet alot of money that I would have never sold the House of Wales. The enormous river rock fireplace, wood floors, pool, hot tub, gardens; we made it a special type of home, one project at a time. Many many hours of labor went into making it an enviable home.

My parents are still in their same house after 62 years. My dad hand-dug the foundation.

Maybe I haven’t reinvented all domestic life. It still takes me about 10 minutes to make the bed (What! Shams are hard!) I still do my morning chores of trash, dishes, floors.

Sometimes it seems like we’ve been reinventing for years. Downsizing. Donating. Trashing. Preparing. It felt a little different when we bought the Baby House in Mesa. That felt like (and is) a resort. It is (for now at least) our vacation home.

But our condo is our real home now. When we say home, we mean here. Even though we love it, there is an awareness of change, difference, learning, and getting used to new things.

We recognized the process of change the last time we were at the House of Wales. We paused after wiping down everything one last time to hug and remember all the lives we touched there. We talked about memories, cried, laughed, and I said a prayer of blessing that the new owners would find as much adventure there as we did.

We said goodbye and thanked it for being a good house.
It felt like the right thing to do.
We’re on to a new adventure.

Time to open the next door.

I’m not gonna lie. I’m a bit nervous about what comes next. I can feel it. It’s out there. Vibrating. And moving toward me. It might be what’s keeping me awake at night. My next purpose, my next reinvention is already on the way. I have no freaking idea what it is.

Yikes.