Sunday, January 15, 2017

Asking The Readers: Do You Use Costco (or Sams or BJs?)

One of my goals for 2017 is to eat well while cooking less (and hopefully not spending more).  A second goal is to generally streamline my life-in terms of time more than stuff. I want to spend less time on busy work and "to do" items and more time on home pursuits (sewing, reading, general down and family time) and outside the house priorities like volunteering, knitting. book groups and challenging fun stuff.  

This has made the frugal retiree consider returning to the stocking up and buying bulk lifestyle that she had when there were multiple teenagers and teenage friends, a husband with a hollow leg, and many very hungry dogs. I mean, I certainly don't want to buy things I won't use, nor do I want my home to look like an episode of Extreme Couponers. I just would rather purchase things that I use regularly on a multi month basis instead of every week, couple of weeks or even month.

In case you haven't guessed, I hate shopping and doing errands. I make an exception in the case of fabric and crafting supplies, but usually get those in large amounts online. I know folks who use errands for exercise, getting out of the house or socialization. That is not me.

Which leads me to  the topic of those warehouse clubs or Amazon subscription service. In addition to the non shopping issue, we have some very different dietary needs and eating times in this house on occasion. I have a college student with high cholesterol who should only eat lean meat and goes to school full time and works forty hours. His dinner time, when he is home is often at  midnight. I can eat all the meat and fat I want within reason, but cannot eat carbs. The person who shares this house has her own quirks. We have a working baby boomer, a retired baby boomer, an  a twenty something college student.

So on some level my goal I suppose is to have easy options for different people as well as shopping in bulk. My recollection from previous warehouse clubs is that, for example, you can get large packages of chicken breasts with each individually wrapped.  Yes, I could buy many pounds and repackage, but the chance of my doing it is slim to one.

Since I never said goodbye to my large chest freezer, my plan is to start buying large amounts of stuff one at a time each week, until I am where I need to be. In other words I am not liable to walk out of a warehouse club with five hundred dollars worth of items.

Since I would not be buying large amounts of everything, I'm trying to decide if the membership does in fact "pay for itself", in convenience, if not in money.  

Yesterday my son quipped that I should probably call this year the "year of convenience" or the year of "let someone else do it".  Yes, and no.  I am still the Frugal Retiree. I cut coupons, I clean my own house. I make my own gifts. But I did promise myself that I would spend as much time as possible on those things that bring value and as little time as possible on those things that don't bring value-busy work if you will.

Now, I have a friend who loves to shop and hates to clean her house. Her idea of streamlining will different. Right now I am happy to limit going into stores, cut down on cooking, and take advantage of the occasional fluff and fold service.

Meanwhile, talk to me. Have you ever belonged to a warehouse club? Do you now?  If so what do you buy? Have you ever ordered from Amazon subscribe and save (for say, something like large bags of dog food). What was your experience. Do you think it saved money or time? Both? Neither? Let me have it!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Passive Savings (And Earnings) in Retirement-Monday Saving Monday

As we move into the new year, one of my blogging goals was to have more information here about frugal living and fixed income in retirement-money saving, money managing, and money earning.  I do know that some folks who read other articles on the blog are not into this. However, I began the blog to talk about living on a fixed income in retirement, and a great many folks who read (and comment) are having similar issues. So..............

Every time I comment on frugality on the blog, I get piles of questions- often more by email than in the comment section of the blog. Some of them are semi-negative and some are truly curious and worried. What fun is retirement if I have to take a peanut butter sandwich when traveling or going to class?  Doesn't being frugal and saving money take up all my time and energies?  Why do I spend all that good retirement time doing money saving task?  How can I have a rewarding retirement if I have to watch pennies?  The questions go on. I mean, I get many more comments that are positive on the blog every day than negative. But some folks question the reality, and some folks want to know how to add and save a little money in their retirement-without having that take away from said retirement, if you will.

I am neither an expert on money saving or money earning as such.  I have learned a few things in this frugal retirement journey.  So before I talk about passive and non-time consuming ways to make money, I first need to state the obvious: All the little day to day money saving thoughts are worth little if you have not "positioned yourself" financially in retirement. By that of course I mean that nothing else matters if you haven't gotten that huge expense of where you will live under control.  

All the money saving tips you might glean from blogs or financial websites are of little value if you are "house poor" in terms of fiances and or energy.  For example, I relocated, primarily because of the energy and time, although my bottom line got a burst in the process. My personal view of a joyful retirement means no yard work or house maintenance or lawn mowing (and not paying someone else to do the same).Sometimes we reposition more than once in retirement, and often for other than financial reasons. A successful, financially good retirement depends on facing reality head on when it comes to those major costs of living.

That said, once big issues like housing and transportation are under control, my personal experience says that earning and saving money can both be done passively, and often as part of our daily routines.  While there sure are labor intensive things we do to save money, my personal experience is that we do those based on what we like to do. I make gifts because I like to and have everything I could possibly need on hand. But  I would never change my oil, or can produce because I hate the idea and probably have not the physical skills needed.

My goal in the coming months is to add a money related post every week or so, and include things I personally have done that saved me money or made me money.  I also want to track how much money I have saved on the spending side, now have a tracker to see how much I actually save a year.

Now, my goal each month is to make $150 to $200 either passively or while doing things I would be doing normally.  Much of my so called "money making" is actually earning gift cards. Just to give everyone an idea of future posts, I'll close with a rough idea of what I earned last month, just by doing stuff while watching TV or shopping or walking.  For those interested, I'll include both links and exact amounts in future posts:

I earned multiple gift cards on the Swagbucks website.  I did this by running apps on my phone while I was watching TV or sewing, ordering through their website (I do all online shopping except for when I visit small local businesses), and buying gift cards. I go to AMC movies regularly, and have meetings at Panera twice a month, so I purchase those gift cards and get rewards.

I earned more gift cards through another app (I obviously have unlimited Data, but I also do most of this on my wifi, so it is not costing me extra). Viggle is an app I run while watching TV, earning up to four points per minute-either live or streaming. I watch a fair amount of TV at this time of year-I just finished the made for Netflix show "Travelers" and of course have been watching a great deal of football. Finally happy to see Clemson WIN (with apologies to Bama fans).

I earned gift cards for things I purchased at the grocery store. There are a variety of websites and apps that give you points and or cash for purchasing what you normally would. Just as an example, I buy the pre-cooked all beef burgers and have a half a burger and salad and fruit for lunch. The last two times I purchased one of these, I earned a dollar each. Now, just like coupons it's self defeating to purchase what you won't use, but thankfully many of these rebates are for milk, produce, bread and eggs.  I also earned five dollars for spending $35 at Joanne's crafts.

I sold things I made. Now, before everyone yells, "but that's not passive", let me tell you why it's here.  I don't sew or quilt or draw things for people. I make what I want and what I like. When I'm finished, I decide what to do with what I made. Sell it, give it to the shelter, give it to a family member or keep it. Since I see all kinds of fabric I like, I often make things that, while I love them, don't match or fit as such with other family members.  If I decide to sell, I list on Craigslist or my local Facebook Next Door site (which takes three minutes of photos and listing) and then wait for someone to tell me they might like it.

Finally, something I haven't done, but will add for this month: getting gift cards for exercising. There are plethora of apps out there that allow you to connect with your fitbit or other exercise tool, and that give you rewards for meeting goals and more. I've connected one with my fitbit and we'll see how it goes.

Just as expenses depend on seasons, some of these give me more rewards and some less depending on the time of year. In holiday shopping periods there are many more coupons and rebates for real food items. And since I watch less TV in the summer, some of my "sitting in front of the TV time' is better spent elsewhere.

There are also occasions (again seasonal) when I might do a few more time consuming earning things, depending on my energy levels. In the past I have both written articles and edited papers for content. I've done the occasional craft fair, and every year I consider working in Dillards during the holidays to grab the rewards and discounts, although I've never done it yet. My son, nephew and brother are all six foot six and they have an extensive tall guy section actually in the store.

Even when it comes to so called passive income what works for me might not be the same as for someone else.  I am still learning to use my new Samsung Edge phone, but it takes really good photos. If I were a better photographer, there are many places I could sell photos. Someone who travels or has the passion to take many many pictures might see this as a primarily passive way to earn.

One last thought as I add this new feature to my blog. When I talk about earning money, I do so with the knowledge that I have created a life where earning does not pay for the necessities as such. I can live, eat, drive and do other things without the money earning. Depending on your financial level,I encourage everyone at any level to first do those major things that make them as secure as possible-and then add earnings and savings.

And now, I'm off to have my car looked at-speaking of spending versus savings

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Good Night's Sleep?

A few days ago, I bought a Christmas present "to me". This is something I rarely do-there is not much I "need" and normally this is the kind of thing that when my offspring ask me what I want, I might mention.  The problem was that before Christmas, I had no idea that I wanted a Kindle Paperwhite.

In the past few months, I have been operating with a smart phone and a Samsung Tablet (I don't "do" Apple). I got a really good permanent keyboard for my tablet so I can use it like a mini laptop. I also was taking the tablet out of the case and reading my kindle on the LED screen every night.  

Now, I had heard from a variety of folks that watching that screen prior to sleep was a very bad idea, especially as I was intensively discussing my lack of ability to sleep without drugs.  But until I visited my daughter in Texas I had not realized the how huge the difference in screens were. Completely different, my friends.  Since I generally read in bed and then fall asleep, this is my first step in my goal to sleep better and longer. I now leave my tablet/laptop a good couple hours before getting into bed, and do my "fall asleep while reading" on a completely different, less intensive (and more adjustable) screen.

Now, regular readers know about my sleep issues. Prior to my widowhood, I was a light sleeper (as many women who are moms are I expect). I always woke up if one of my kids got up, and when my husband came home and generally woke a few times in the night and went back to sleep. Post widowhood, that problem became worse for a variety of reasons. Certainly the empty bed was a part of that problem. But I also went through a huge period of stress and depression, as well as gaining a huge a mount of weight as I ate and spent myself through my first year or so of retirement. The bottom line is that I was often getting just a few hours of sleep-and then falling asleep in mid afternoon for a couple hours if I was lucky.  I also have had mild chronic pain that has developed into serious chronic pain that worsens and cannot be reversed. Sleep was difficult to say the least. 

Readers also know that my first step in this direction was to allow myself to use medical pot-and this has certainly helped in more ways than I can say. I still have pain during the day, but can deal with it better after a good night's sleep. (THC makes you sleepy, so I am looking for a different kind of pot for daytime use when I am home and don't have to drive)There are no words to say what a difference this has made. But pot is not legal everywhere, and although it lets me avoid opoids I would rather find other ways to get a better night's sleep that I can use in addition to my "Colorado Medicine".

I am surely not the only person, or only senior who has sleep issues. People across the spectrum have sleeping issues-and many people simply think they can burn the candle at both ends. But lack of sleep affects brain function, and the brain does not regenerate. Lost sleep damage cannot be replenishes by sleeping all Saturday, in other words. Lack of sleep affects our skin, obesity, diabetes, and more. This article is a great link to the damage to your health, depending on how much sleep you have missed. Sleep disorders increase with aging, and affects everything from our cognitive abilities to increased falling.

So, how to get more sleep, or a more restful night?  This is something I've been looking at for awhile. While there are always plenty of articles and viewpoints, there does seem to be a consensus about a few steps that we can take to sleep better. For what it's worth, I am a work in progress, and am slowly working towards these steps:

  • Try and keep to a similar schedule. We all have those day, like New Year's Even or special celebrations, or days when families or emergencies affect our sleep time. I try very hard to do this-I aim to be changed and ready for bed at a certain time. In my case sleep time is a fair guarantee, as it takes my medicine about two hours to hit me (even with help I am still a night owl who sleeps sometime after midnight.
  • Having said that, if you can't sleep by fifteen minutes to a half an hour, get up and move around, get a drink, or read quietly and then try again later. Nothing is worse than lying in bed (especially if the other person is out cold) and not being able to sleep. This one has always been a huge issue for me, but I have learned that even if I have to get up and quietly go to another room for awhile the people around me suffer more if I am cranky and sleepless.
  • Food can affect your seep. If you go to bed extremely full, or hungry, you can have a rough night. I drink milk at bedtime and I also have some crackers on hand in case I wake up. Also, smoking, alcohol and caffeine can affect your sleep as well. One of the reasons I no longer drink red wine in the evening is that this was affecting me drastically.
  • Make a routine, as small or large as you can.It can be taking a bath before bed or listening to music.  In my case I am an evening shower kind of gal (that's why the short hair, ya know?). So my routine includes the shower, a glass of milk or T, fifteen minutes of meditation with a candle, and low lights in my bedroom.
  • Make your room a sleep room. Depending on the size of your home it may be more difficult. For years, my husband and I had a large bedroom and no office of any kind, so our huge bedroom also housed the desk and computer and so on-but we never used it when the other person was asleep. At the moment I am blessed to have a bedroom that is a bedroom. I never do homework or anything in my room and I absolutely refuse to have a TV, when leads me to....
  • Leave behind both the TV and other electronic devices. Research increasingly shows that screen time two hours before bedtime affects our ability to sleep and sleep well. This is where my trusty Kindle paperwhte comes in. I don't need to have other lights on as it is back lit, and lets me read on a non-led/LCD screen.
  • Finally, exercise. Moderate exercise throughout your day is a good thing and helps you sleep.  That after dinner walk is a great thing on many levels. More active exercise done to close to bedtime is liable to keep you awake for longer than you would like. On the other hand, yoga, or tai chi, like meditation can help you sleep. I sometimes do a half hour aerobic program at home at four in the after noon-especially if I have spent a full day sewing or doing other lazy things. But I am trying to move it earlier, and would never do it later than that.
And there you have it-the quick down and dirty about how to maybe sleep a little better, and maybe even get some more sleep.  I am a work in progress, and continue  to try and make strides in the sleeping area as well as my overall health.

Some folks may have noticed that I did not include Tylenol PM, Melatonin for sleep, or even the marijuana chocolate bar that I eat.  While I know tons of people for whom these fairly non traditional methods work, because we are behind the curve in the US on research of herbs and supplements and the like, I would just say that there are plenty of places to do online research and explore various options. 

We often have to experiment to find what works for us, but in my journey, I would say it's well worth it.

How about you folks reading. Do you need help to sleep? Do you sleep through the night? What do you do to ensure a good night's sleep, if you are getting one now.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Happy New Year to all. I hope that your New Year's eve was lovely, even if you spent it as I did watching football (not a lot of drama this year), having appetizers for dinner, and going to bed before midnight. All after driving college student's truck home from Dallas. Today I expect to be an equally lazy day.

As everyone knows, nearly every blogger in sight will have lists of goals and plans for the coming year in the next week-and I am no exception.  Because I am a frugal blogger who does many things on not much money, things like annual financial planning are important, even though I am not a "budget" type of gal.

This year however, things are going to be a little different. Rather than list every single thing I want to do or accominplish this year, I've decided to set a few general goals and take life from there. During my two weeks in the Red state, I did some planning and some numbers crunching, as well as some goal setting in between TV, holidays, dinner and the movies. My daughter and son and law allowed me to do almost nothing while I was there, so I had copious amounts of "down time".

After some thought, and of course, not knowing what the coming year will bring exactly (do we ever?), I have decided that the areas I will concentrate on in retirement for this year are family/home, Outreach and community, personal enrichment (an umbrella for travel, taking classes, lord knows what else, this is a big umbrella) and financial issues.  These are broad . I mean, you could come up with twenty smaller categories, but it's not my style.

And since I don't want to have too many goals and we have twelve months, I'm giving myself 12 challenges. While I'm not going to do one goal a month, I figure twelve is a good number. So without further ado this New Year's day:

  1. Make my health a number one priority. Regular readers know that in the last year I have lowered my blood sugar (A1C fasting) down from the six point something range to 5.8 with diet and exercise, and have lost weight. However, this was mainly done casually. By this I mean I might say to myself that I didnt walk today so I need to go out and walk. I am a complete unscheduler in retirement, so the how of this one is still working. I need to make time for daily exercise even on the days I cannot walk, use my trusty fitbit whenever I am not in the water, and seriously track my food. Equally importantly, I need to work on ways to sleep through the pain better and pamper myself with the occasional massage, pedicure and the like.  This, as many of the others is a really broad goal and I'll be breaking it down, sharing, and asking for advice from my readers as always.
  2. Find ways to help my kids including financially, even as a blogger who is on a fixed income. I have two offspring who are pursuing graduate degrees, doing unpaid internships and working when they can.  While I am not in the position to give them large chunks of money, I am in the position to help them other ways. Moral support, making things, sending food and sharing, and (coupon queen and cheapskate as I am), sending them various gift cards for food and other things as I make them. I want to be more agressive with this, since this spring will be the hardest semester for both in every way.
  3. Research and evaluate my living situation and options for the long term. Regular readers also know that since 2006 when I left Germany (after my husband's death) I have lived in Germany and then downsized and moved to Denver. This was absolutely the best decision I could have made, but the agreement was for three years. So I (we) need to decide if and how long to continue the current situation. It could be in the long term I will need another, last option and/or look at snowbirding. One of my kids lives in Texas and the other will leave Colorado post grad. My initial thought is to snowbird from just after the holidays until May beginning next year.  This goal (as many of the others) requires more explanation and I will talk about that more later.
  4. Explore financial options to expand my financial base and possibly invest. I do not have a 401K or IRA. I have a pension and my social security-which are more than sufficient for my needs now. But, I don't have large, long term savings (a pot of money if you will), and want to explore ways to get that.This is not a requirement (I live well on what I have now), but something I've had in the back of my mind for awhile. I'll definitely be calling on my financially savvy blogger friends and subscribers for lots of help as I consider if it even makes sense to begin investing at 65.
  5. Refocus, streamline and elminiate some of my outreach works. Right now I volunteer at a homeless shelter, provide food at my church once a week at our weekly worship and fun activity night, am taking a major four year course in the history and cultural basis of the bible, sew and knit for charity and have just begun an immigration and sanctuary ministry. I do not begrudge any of these. I just feel that I need to streamline my time, concentrate on one or maybe two things and narrow that focus. Again, more to come, but I'll probably be giving up that class that is four hours a week and has six hours of homework weekly to begin with.
  6. Bring the focus of this blog back to frugal retirement and add women's and single issues. Obviously I'll write about other things, but this blog began as a discussion of living richly in retirement on a fixed income. And since so many of my followers are women (many single, some elder orphan types), I do think this is important. I will also be starting a Living Richly in Retirement Facebook group open to all in the next month or so, in addition to much more social media.
  7. Try to write every single day, even if it is only a letter.  Write for the blog, write a memoir, write recipe pages for family, perhaps write a book. Been talking about all of these for at least six months and have not gotten anywhere at all-not because I really don't want to (before someone suggests that as my reason for avoidance), but rather because I just have not sat down. I'm not going to say what I'll write every day, just that I write.
  8. Sew and craft and create just for me-and my family. When I want to and when I feel like it. I've done much sewing and knitting for charity and sewing to sell. I won't say that will stop as such. Rather, I'm just going to sit down and make things when I feel like it, as I feel like it. When I'm finished I may keep it, give it away or sell it-who knows. But the making will be when the mood strikes and what I feel like making as opposed to what I need to make. No deadlines this year folks- for much of anything. None.
  9. Bring frugal retirement travel back to the forefront of my retirement. You all know that I used to travel much, and have done less since arriving in Colorado. It was the right thing to do, since I feel spending intensive time with church and new friends and orienting made my adjustment to a new place so much easier. I'm now ready to go out again, starting with a train trip to the east coast.
  10. Allow myself to say yes. And occasionally no. Most of these goals have to do with lifestyle changes rather than "doing". The goal is to streamline, streamline, streamline in the short term to allow myself to be more spontaneus and say yes in the long term.  I don't want to volunteer less as such, I just want to change how I do it this year (as an example). Rather than committing to so many hours per week. I want to be the girl who says yes when there is a last minute cancellation at the shelter, yes when someone invites me to lunch, and even yes to sitting down and sewing for day and ignoring all else or putting my feet up and reading a book from start to finish. Retirement is, or should be about relaxation and spontaneity (at least for me).
  11. Unplug at least one full day a week, other than phone calls. I add that last because I don't have a land line. I actually don't think this will be on Sunday although I try to honor Sunday, because that is the day my children are both off from school and jobs and we text. This will be hard, but it will need to be  done.
  12. Finally, I am promising myself that I will not be silent in the face of what the future brings. This is not a political statement as such, rather a personal promise. I will be tactful and appreciate that others have different views. But I will not be silent about racism, sexism, the issues of gay and transgendered rights, womens health or reproductive rights, immigration or any of the other issues I expect to come into play even more in the new year, unfortunately. Am I going to stand on the corner screaming?  Heck no.  Will this blog become political?  Of course not as such, but if the new year goes as I expect politically, you will absolutely here me commenting here about racism, hate crimes, the dumbing down of Washington and more.  As always I will be tactful and appreciate other's comments.  However, as I commented to someone today, changes and protest begin at the local level and move up the chain, not the other way around.
And there you have it this new year's day. A few goals to head into January with. For now, I'm off to unpack that car after a two week road trip, put my feet up and watch more football,  and in general do as little as possible today. Happy 2017 to all.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Frugal Retiree Looks Back on Christmas

It's eighty degrees here in Dallas, and I look out my window at five, count them five, dogs playing in the back yard.  As always at this time of year, it's time for post Christmas thoughts and musings, as well as time to look into the New Year:

  • Sometime mid-December, I realized that my son had only carried half of the Christmas decorations upstairs-and that I was fine with that.  While I wish that we had had at least one of the nativities out for display, there was much I did not miss-especially as we were not there for Christmas Day.
  • As we split our holidays, I realize that the traditions we keep are the important ones. Midnight mass. Cookie making and Christmas breakfast of scrambeled eggs and cookies. A second holiday get together when I return to Colorado where we have a belated "Christmas" on New Year's Day.  And small parties with handmade gifts as we have little get togethers among all my "groups". Going to see the lights.

  • Every year, as I leave my Colorado family (and live in sister), I feel a twinge as I travel to my daughter's home. When I first moved, I saw myself as trading off-one year Thanksgiving there and Christmas here, and rinse and repeat or reverse. Unfortunately, my daugther works both the day before and the day after Christmas (it's required). So until she leaves the restaurant business, this works for us. For now.

  • With the exception of my son (who is a college student with a thousand dollar book requirement for the new semester), all the immediate family gifts this year were for things or experiences-nary a gift card among said gifts.  While I am not opposed to said gift cards (obviously the son in question above needs all the Amazon gift cards he can get his hands on), I like it when I can give someone an actual gift or experience that I know will be appreciated and used.
  • For the past couple of years, instead of traveling to a large (fourteen plus people) Christmas dinner, we have been staying in our small family groups. In our case that means myself, my son, my daughter and her husband (and all our canine children) at this particular juncture. While Imiss being able to see every single person during my two week foray, I am finding I really appreciate the smaller, scaled down Christmas. Especially the ability to stay in my PJs and not leave the house unless the mood strikes. And I am reminded that all the really good cooks in my family are guys-including my son in law who cooked Christmas dinner.

  • I love that my children suggested a gift limit and pretty much stuck to the "$50 with a max of $75" gift limit that was their idea (including stocking stuffers), and that I mainly did as well. Yes, I am the parental unit, but my kids get upset if I spend more than they do at the holidays. And since they are both full time grad students with internships, I help them through the year when I can.
  • My daugter has seemingly decided that every year should be a new hobby. Last year, she got me a complete artists box. This year, two large boxes of theraputic quailty essential oils, a storage box and more tell me that I'll be making body products, massage oils and more this year.
  • And last but not least, I have spent an excessive amount of time, lazing and sleeping (sometimes not getting up until ten).  I'll be more than ready to head back to a fuller schedule here soon, but meanwhile I'm enjoying putting my feet up, doing some extra reading, knitting, catching up on TV and yes, taking time to scan or take pictures of pictures and memorabilia for genealogy research.

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas to all. and yes, I can still say that because, after all it's only the 4th day of Christmas. So keep up that celebrating, everyone!!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Is Sitting Really The New Smoking?? Yes!!

On Sunday and Monday, I was a passenger in my son's truck as we headed south to fairly warm Dallas. The roads were less than clear and the first day took us much longer than we had thought, but it was nice for a change to not be he driver (my leg has been a bit sore lately). All in all it was a good drive, considering how loaded down our vehicle was.

I always wear my new fitbit charge, as it also acts as my watch. One of the advantages (or disadvantages I suppose in this case) is that my trusty fitbit reminds me to get up and walk after fifteen minutes to a half an hour.  It's a great help, although I would be the first to admit that when I am sewing or painting i may not get up and walk at every single reminder.  On this particular trip, it was a reminder of what I was not able to do, unfortunately.  I tend to try and stop every two hours, as much for my canine family members as much for myself. To say that I am not moving the way I should on those days would be an understatement.

The truth is that I am the first to admit I don't move as much as I should-and I am well aware of the downsides of sitting too long. With a fair percentage of my hobbies falling in the "sedentary" category (sewing, drawing, writing), I have to make an effort.  My fitbit reminds me to get up and walk around the house, or exercise, or do something else-and most of the time I do it. I also plan my exercising on those good days to be mid day to divide up the laziness if you will. On the bad days, I accept that moving is gonna be no more than limping around the house.

And limp I do on some days. Even so, limping is better than the alternative. And I realize that retirement allows me to be more active than many others.  My schedule no longer requires me to sit in a car, then sit at the office, then sit in a car, sit down to dinner and get in bed, thankfully. I now have time to at least move about my house at will.  While it may be exhausting on some days, I know well that it needs to be part of my continuing goal to be healthy.

Apparently, even standing in one place is better than sitting, even without the exercise quotient.  Dr James Levine, who among other things is the inventor of the standing and treadmill desks, has been known to say that sitting kills more people than HIV, smoking, or parachuting. He believes we are sitting ourselves to death.  The bottom line is that prolonged sitting increases rates of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

What's even more concerning is that studies also show that the long term effects of sitting are not easily reversed-hence it's comparison to smoking. The only way to minimize the effects is, well, to simply sit less. Exercise and other good habits are great going forward, but don't minimize past damage.  This of course is always a concern to someone who is handicapped and has days when walking is, let's just say, difficult.  It's also a concern because for ten years I worked long hours, mainly at a desk.

So, what can we do?  Contrary to some critics, every little bit of exercise helps.  While all day, sweating activity is admirable, it may not be realistic or even desirable for all of us. So what's a sedentary or even slightly sedentary retiree to do?  The short answer is to move, or even just to stand, every chance you get.

More specifically,  recognize that even though you may workout an hour every day, that doesn't necessarily offset the sitting problem. Walking and standing need to be done regularly throughout the day.  I've been known to walk back and forth in my house for five minutes or so, to clean, to stand and clean or iron, to go outside and throw a ball do the dogs. If I still "had my balance" I would probably get one of those exercise boards that allows you to twist from side to side.

Whatever you do, running outside for a half an hour every half an hour is not realistic or necessary. In fact, Dr. Levine says that walking every hour or so for a few minutes around the house can have the same benefits as working out at the gym for an hours three times a week.

These days, the ways I "move for health" are varied.  I manage five thousand steps (or close) most days simply by moving about my house in little spurts here and there thanks to my fitbit. I don't have a standing desk, but when I can do something standing, I try to do so. On the good days, I aim for at least thirty minutes of aerobics. And last but not least, I try to be cognizant of the time spent in the chair (is it better in the recliner with my legs up?), and pay attention to that dancing guy on my fitbit that tells me it's time to get up and move.

I don't listen to him every single time, but I know he's there. And he keeps me honest. Mainly.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rethink, Retool and Re-Adjust

Regular readers of this blog know that while I like to keep a certain level of privacy when it comes to family members, I'm fairly open about my personal foibles, to say the least.  I've shared financial disasters. Stories about widowhood. Mistakes I have made large and small.

And I've made more than a few. Mistakes. Lifestyle changes. Re-adjustments-financial, personal and otherwise. I've shared with you all how I went back to school full time, and then realized it was not my thing as such (going full time, not school). I could go on.

Sometimes, we retool after a retirement year by looking back and evaluating. This is true of time, money and priorities, and something I do almost every year.  Sometimes though, the situation hits you in the proverbial face, as happened to me in the past couple days.

Tonight, I was cleaning up my sewing studio in preparation for heading out for a week or so of family and down time. As I put things away, I realized that I had completed less than a fourth of the holiday sewing I had wanted to do-not because I "had to" but because I love to sew. I started a Washington Redskins scarf for my daughter at the beginning of November and it is still not done. I have not sat down and read (for classes or relaxation) in over a week! (Admittedly I have been baking like a fool). It goes on.

Those who know me (from the blog or in person) know that Ilike to do a wide variety of different things.  The problem is, that I also like to have down time-a lot of down time.  Liking to do a variety of different things means I still need to prioritize or it will make me crazy. Right now, I am taking a four year class that meets one night a week for five hours and has a good six hours of homework a week. I volunteer for a homeless shelter a half day a week. I provide a casual meal to about twenty five people once a week for a weekly event at my church. And last but not least, I just took on a brand new ministry having to do with social justice. As with all new ministries and organizations, a start up takes time, effort and research.

I also sew, read, knit and plan to learn to weave in the new year. I go to a knitting group, multiple book groups, a weekly crafting group. I have a dog. I have a house that needs at least the basics of cleaning and maintenance. I really want to take that long train trip to the east coast. And I have thought seriously about getting back into sewing for cash, working at my own pace throughout the year to prepare for the selling season. I'm studying genealogy and doing my family history...In other words, what the heck is going on here!!!!  I just want to say "good grief, Charlie Brown".

The problem, of course, is that everything is fun. I like doing it all, and I look forward on some level to everything above.  Sounds good, I know. But from a reality point of view, it's time to reboot and make some decisions and perhaps step back from commitments. This is something new to me. Although folks sometimes comment about how busy I am when I talk about my week, the truth is that most days I used to have a single thing and then the rest of the day was at home puttering (sewing, reading, things that sound like being busy when they get put on paper but really are things done at my own pace).  I am not used to having to set these kinds of priorities.

The next week or so will be spent away from family-visiting my daughter and friends and my ill father in law. Because I have to do nothing for Christmas and my daughter will be working part of the time I am there, I will have time for reflection-and perhaps some prayer as well.

As I sit here in bed typing after rolling my new hand made yarn so I can make something beautiful, I have some initial thoughts.  My four year program is a study of the history and origins of the Bible and Christianity. I enjoy it, but somewhere in my heart of hearts I believe that I do better by doing rather than learning-and am fully committed to my immigration and sanctuary movement.  Senior college has no classes this semester that hold my interest in the times I can attend. And there are ways to cut back with my homeless women while still serving them-sewing at home for the center, for example.  Instead of cooking every night, I can volunteer to do it one or two times a month and let someone else share in the food joy. I'll let these ideas stew for awhile, in "mental computer" as I used to tell my offspring.

Meanwhile, I'm packing light, if you will. I'm taking a tablet/kindle for reading. Yarn for knitting. A journal for writing. Christmas gifts and clothing-all I need for a nice relaxing vacation away from home.

And now, back to winding that yarn.  I now appreciate what I thought were foolish photos of men holding hanks of yarn will women wind-do you suppose the dog would sit still for it??