Who Likes to Talk about Death?

Rich decided to take his pension from his former employer. We spent a lot of time today filling out paperwork online and then had to get it notarized. Honestly, I am a little spooked about going out right now. I took my own pen with me. I put some hand sanitizer in my purse. Rich grabbed a manila envelope to put the papers in after they’d been touched by the notary. Is this overboard? I don’t know. I keep seeing the message “if we look back on this and think we overreacted, then we did the right thing.” In other words, if social distancing works, then we won’t see the massive number of coronavirus cases that we could have.  That would be good. You know what? I didn’t even feel silly about walking into the UPS store with my hand sanitizer and my  own pen and a manila envelope.

The clerk was very nonchalant. I asked him how things were going and he said fine, and well, they were doing “the usual precautions” but he thought soon they might do more. This made me think they weren’t doing much. I jokingly said “We are old and overly cautious.” He was actually nice about it and complied with my requests. I used the sanitizer a couple of times in the store. He notarized the paper, scanned the whole stack and emailed it to Rich so we could upload it to the company when we got home.  I asked him to slide all the papers into the manila envelope instead of giving them back to us. He did. We thanked him and left. Then, of course, more hand sanitizing in the car and hand washing when we got home.  Now I feel like we need to re-start the clock from today. You know, we were feeling like we were pretty much in the clear after a week past Ally’s visit. Now I don’t know.

We came home and uploaded the documents. I feel weird to say that part of the reason Rich requested his pension now is that he will get the full lump sum, but if he dies before he has it in hand, I only get half. Is that morbid? Or just realistic? Or both?

I have been bugging him for years to do a will.  He doesn’t like to talk about death, doesn’t like to “plan” for the eventuality. I am the complete opposite. I don’t mind talking about it and I am always updating information to leave behind for him and/or for the kids. Any time we go out of town, I send what my son in law Miles calls “the death email” to the girls. It just tells them where to find our important paperwork, info about accounts, etc. It’s kind of a running joke and it makes everyone uncomfortable except me.  When we lived in Alaska, I finally made my own will through LegalZoom because we had no one on the island who could do it. We flew in and out of there so much that I started getting really worried I was going to go down in a plane. So I have a will that is now outdated and Rich still has none. Because we thought we were about to go on this big 5 week Europe trip in April, I started ruminating over it again. What if we both died in a plane crash or a cruise ship accident (definitely didn’t anticipate cruise ship corona virus at the time) or had some sort of accident wandering around Europe? I didn’t want my girls to have to try to sort it all out with the state if we didn’t have wills . I convinced Rich we needed to get it done and one of my friends referred us to a “progressive female” attorney (one of my requirements haha). We paid her for a two hour consult and she sent us some forms to fill out ahead of time and we went in to visit. She was great but we went in thinking we were doing two simple wills and came out halfway convinced that we needed to do a family trust instead. Too much info to get into here, but it just sounded more appropriate. Unfortunately the cost for either wills or a trust was a lot more than we anticipated right after paying for two cataract surgeries and a new plumbing experience. We thanked her and told her we’d get back to her when we could afford it. Now we are having to cancel our trip so maybe it’s not quite as urgent…unless one of us gets the corona virus. This is how my mind works. Maybe it’s time to call her back.


Queen of the Thrift Store

We didn’t have a thrift store in Unalaska and I don’t really remember shopping in them in my past life in Abilene.  I do recall going to the Army Surplus store as a teenager to look for bell bottoms and army jackets, though. Oh, those low slung jeans with the wide bells were the coolest!

I’ve been to a few thrift stores here in Dallas, just browsing, mostly, and they were a mess.  I really could hardly stand to be there because there was no rhyme or reason to the set up and I basically had to dig through piles of stuff to find anything.  And then didn’t find anything I wanted! So I figured that was it for me: no thanks! However, I drive past a large thrift store every Tuesday on my way home from volunteer work and thought I’d look around one day. Oh, my goodness!  This store is amazing!  It’s organized!  It’s clean!  No digging! Everything’s labeled!  Clothes are hung on racks by size and color! There’s a big section in the back full of toys and games! It looks like a modest department store.

Now I am a regular.  I have a loyalty card.  I know I get a senior discount on Mondays and Wednesdays. I am thrilled when I walk back in and there are new and different items on the shelves.  They are replenished constantly, thanks to the generosity of Dallas neighbors cleaning out their closets.

Although I have bought a few clothing items, notably some brand new capri pants with tags still on for $2, I mostly head for the kids’ section.  I am stocking our second bedroom with toys, games and puzzles for the grandkids when they come to visit since we literally had nothing for them here.

Here’s what I got on my last trip for a total of $11! Yes, $11!  One game was unopened.  The books were 33 cents each!  I’ve bought quite a few toys, picture frames, knick-knacks for our shelves, baby clothes for a teen mom that my daughter is mentoring, baskets and pots for plants, and more. Why would I ever buy this stuff at a regular store again?

Do you shop in thrift stores?  If so, what’s your best find?



Retirement Issues: Health Insurance

Rich and I retired at 61, before we were eligible for Medicare.  In Alaska, we both had great health insurance through Rich’s employer,  including vision and dental.  We knew that finding health insurance would be a bit of a hassle but I had done some research and thought that we would be able to figure things out once his insurance came to an end. And we knew that we had the option to continue with his insurance through COBRA for awhile if needed.  With the Affordable Care Act, I knew that we could not be denied coverage so I wasn’t overly concerned about having to find new insurance.  Unfortunately, we have had nothing but hassles with our insurance so far.  If you are looking to retire early and can’t afford a high priced policy, beware!

I called healthcare.gov when we first moved to Texas and submitted an application showing that we’d had a change of circumstances (no longer covered by employer and moved to a different state).  That was all fine and good and we were approved for coverage outside of the open enrollment period.

Next we had to find an insurance company that had the services we needed and did not cost a fortune.  My first rude awakening was that the “Affordable” Care Act does not necessarily provide very affordable insurance unless you are under a certain income limit.  Unfortunately, because Rich and I both worked most of the year (we retired in October 2015), our application was based on the income we’d already earned, even though we were only living on our savings the rest of the year (October through December 2015).  Because of our income, we would have to pay about $1200 a month to cover both of us for the rest of 2015 and then we could reapply with our lower income for 2016.   We were a little paranoid but we decided to go without insurance for the rest of 2015 since we didn’t have any major medical issues looming.  We decided not to take COBRA because it was going to be just as high.  (Thankfully we made it through without any problems!)

Continue reading “Retirement Issues: Health Insurance”

Reading is Fun(damental)


My second volunteer job was helping two elementary school students improve their reading, but we are now finished for the summer.  I worked with two cute little boys for one hour each, one a second grader and one a third grader.  As I mentioned in an earlier post about seeing poverty up close, it was eye-opening to learn about my students and their lives, as well as the other children who came to the tutoring program.  Many of the families were struggling to make ends meet and some had additional social problems to deal with:  some were immigrants, some couldn’t speak English very well, many had difficulty finding employment, some had substance abuse issues, and more.  The kids were sweet and smart and mostly positive about life, despite their circumstances.  Sometimes I would go in an extra day and help students make up a session they’d missed.  On one such day, I had a very intelligent little girl who told me she loved school, her school was “the best in town” (it’s not….but I am so glad she thought so!) and that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up.  I hope she forever keeps that enthusiasm and achieves her dream!

I’ve always loved to read, though I have to admit that in these days of internet browsing of news and informational articles, I don’t read as many books as I once did.   I think part of it is a symptom of getting older, too, because my eyes get tired much more quickly than they did when I was younger.  🙂  But I can’t imagine not enjoying reading nor being unable to read.  Reading is such a foundation for so many other subjects in school and for so many functions in life.  I find it really sad when kids struggle to read because then they heartily dislike it, and they avoid working on it, and then they get further and further behind.   It becomes the proverbial vicious cycle.  Hopefully the tutoring program is breaking that cycle and helping kids catch up, keep up, and learn to enjoy reading.

Both of my little guys were strugglers but they were bright and curious and usually seemed to enjoy participating in the program.  We had structured lessons so we started out with the tutor reading aloud for 10 minutes, then we worked on tasks together, including the student reading aloud to the tutor.  Most of the books were fun and interesting for the kids, so that helped.  They were also encouraged to take home a book after each session and they received rewards for writing a basic book report if they wanted to do so.  One of my students LOVED to do book reports and I don’t think the other one ever did any!  🙂

I looked forward to my once a week sessions with the kids and had a couple of funny encounters–one day I was sitting with a student and he was lightly stroking my hand while I read a story to him.  My heart swelled as I thought how sweet he was, just wanting to connect with me while we read together.  Then, as he ran his fingers over the veins on the back of my hand, I heard him say under his breath, “old, old, old.”  LOL  Kids can certainly keep you humble, can’t they?

We were all a bit sad when the school year came to an end.  We had a little party and I took my students some books for the summer–hopefully they will keep up with their reading and enjoy it on their own while out of school.  I worry about what they will do all summer and hope that they will be safe and not too bored.   I can’t post photos because of confidentiality but you can just imagine how cute they were.  🙂

Now that my Wednesdays are free, I might have to look around for something else to do with my time!






Retirement is Good!

I was never one of those people who wasn’t sure what she’d do in retirement. I couldn’t really understand the ones who said they didn’t know  what they’d do with themselves or they were afraid they’d be bored. Although I *mostly* enjoyed my career as a social worker and especially liked my most recent stint as development director for our small public radio station in Unalaska, I looked forward to retiring, not having a set schedule or a lot of obligations, and the freedom to do what I felt like doing.

I’m happy to report that, so far, it has played out in much the way I hoped.  Life is pretty leisurely–we make our own schedule for the most part and get to do what we want to do.  We have a few obligations–volunteer work and the garden, mostly, and babysitting on occasion, but otherwise we can pick and choose how to spend our days.  I highly recommend it!

Grandson Beck has been playing T-ball and we had fun watching his games despite the already VERY  hot sun!  Those poor boys had to be burning up in their uniforms.  Son in law Miles was one of the coaches and he was just great with the kids–so encouraging and low key.  Miles played baseball in college and was drafted into the minors after his junior year so he knows a lot about the game, but also about the pressures,  so I think he’s a good one to work with the kids. You could tell he wanted it to be a positive and fun experience for them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We get to babysit sometimes and it’s always fun to spend time with the kids.  Last week I stayed with Jack for a little bit while everyone else was gone.  He’s such a sweet, happy baby.  He takes after his Daddy and big brother–enjoys building things (see pic below)!  I stopped by another day and played lost several card games with Elle  (remember “Slap Jack,” “Old Maid,” “Go Fish,” and “Animal Sounds”?!), then we went to get a slushie and to pick up some vacuum cleaner bags for her mama.  I like getting to do these little things that we might not get to do if we weren’t living here.  We’re talking about going to a movie soon–Rich really wants to take them to see “The Jungle Book,” but both Elle and Beck say they think it will be scary.  So we will see.  🙂

Jack building with Legos. Well, Gigi helped quite a bit but he loved it!

My brother Joe and sister in law Denise own several restaurants in Jackson, WY.  Joe is good friends with a Dallas restauranteur and brought some of his staff to train at one of his friend’s restaurants here this week.  We had a delicious dinner and good time visiting with family and friends at Street’s Fine Chicken tonight.

Sarah, Joe and me
Fun group!
Sarah and Miles

Next Saturday we have a required community work day in the garden, we’re mapping out our trip to Wyoming June 18-29 , and trying to get things organized for the move into our house July 1. I’m not sure how I ever managed to have a job and get everything else done, too.  🙂



Commune-ity Garden

Someone else’s big cauliflower 🙂 
I’ve always had a romanticized notion about living in a commune.  I’m sure it would be much harder than I imagine and I would probably be saying “what was I thinking?” sooner than expected, but there’s a part of me that has long held the idea that sharing the workload, expenses, and rewards would be pretty great. And why do we all need our own lawnmowers and rakes and pressure cookers and ladders and other stuff we only use once in awhile?

Continue reading “Commune-ity Garden”

From Unalaska to Dallas

Dallas Skyline

After more than 11 years for me and 22 for Rich, we packed up and left the beautiful island of Unalaska, Alaska for retirement life in the big city of Dallas, Texas.  I spent many years in Texas before moving to Alaska and swore I would never live here again–I’m a little too left-leaning to be a good Texan.  🙂 But eight grandkids (and their parents) scattered across the Lone Star State and the opportunity to buy a house in Dallas eventually sealed the deal.  People, I am SO happy to be closer to the kids, but we will see how well I do in the latest state to approve the “open carry” of guns.

Come along with me as I explore my new home city, get involved in the community, hang out with the kids, travel with my hubby, and occasionally opine about various issues I care about.

If you want to read more about our adventures in Alaska, our travels, and our family and friends, check out my previous blog here.