Friday, April 28, 2017

A New Project for the Frugal Retiree??

So today, it's fifty degrees here in the Mile High city-and dropping fast. We expect between three and seven inches of snow.  I expect a low of twenty five or so this evening. That may not sound that cold for many of you. We, however, have had seventy and eighty degrees since February, which means a bunch of plants are probably going to die. I'm just praying I won't loose a tree branch from wet snow. Seriously,  there are ups and downs to living in any place-but living in an area where it dropped twenty degrees in less than half an hour makes life interesting.

A new project requires a new notebook.  Too many notebooks you say?? Never!
Now, Denver is a beautiful town, and like many towns, there are always deals and freebies and fun things to take advantage of. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of ways to find what is out there. And when there is such a page in the paper, or a web page or blog, they are not just few and far between. They are very oriented to young families.  Seriously. I am using a Dallas based web page to find almost every freebie and deal that is not extremely specific to Denver.

Which brings me to a possible project.  Possible I said, folks! For some time I have been considering a web page. Honestly, I'm unsure if it would be a blog or something else. Whatever it is, it would be a "Denver on the Cheap" kind of website. In my vision, this blog (or web page) would have the typical grocery deals and freebies that other pages have.  But it would also be heavy on ways to "do things on the cheap". Like, by combing a Regal gift card purchased through a reward website, using Regal rewards and going to the movies on Friday morning, you could end up seeing the movie and having soda and popcorn basically for free. The blog would be user friendly, fun, informative and more.

Again, this is merely a vision at this point. I have however, put out feelers both on my Next Door site and via some word of mouth and garage sale Facebook sites to test out interest.

Last week, I wrote about keeping space in retirement. Plenty of space. This project would seem to contradict that. On the one hand, I hesitate to take on another project. I'm working on becoming more active on this blog and going back to the roots of Living Richly in Retirement. I'm in the project of writing a Christmas book heavy on handmade gifts and I'm traveling more than I have in the past few years (more on that later).  

If it's a holiday, it's deserving of a decorated cookie. Just saying.

There are other parts of my life as well. I just got these fabrics to make a Star Wards yoga mat bag for my eldest. The peach is for a kimono style top. I'm knitting. I'm taking a drawing class. And the past week I've binge watched a TV series and read a book or two. In other words, there's not much chance of boredom settling in. Oh, and I am slowly baking cookies for tasting, since I silent auction off five trays of cookies every year. 

When your thirty someting daughter askes for peach, mint and anything Star Wars!

New Yarn to play with spa cloths

On the other hand, this is an area where I excel (no false modesty here, oh no indeed).  Most of the time when I talk about frugal finances on this blog it is with regard to general issues that apply to all. Rarely do I get specific, except when I get a request or do the new Five Frugal Things. But trust me, for just an hour a week, I manage to access unlimited freebies and discounts, like my day of freebies. This is a topic on which I know a great deal, both in terms of general cheapness, and local cheapness-for lack of a better expression. And last but not least, I will be giving up my Monday class (three hours of attendance and six hours of homework weekly). Like the one in one out theory of possessions, I am getting rid of one commitment for another. 

Also, for the most part I have avoided monetizing on this blog, for a variety of reasons. I have hosted some giveaways, and expect to host some sponsored content and other types of things here in a small way soon. A blog with different content could, at some point, become monetized if I choose (although that is far from being the primary reason for this new endeavour). It's something to consider.

Meanwhile, I'm letting it sit on the back burner, in my "mental computer" if you will.  As I have time I'll write some articles, see what the demand is, and see if anyone else is interested on co-authoring as I go on this possible journey.

Tonight we're having chicken, and tomorrow homemade minestrone. I have books, knitting, sewing, a TV show or two and dogs and blankets to cuddle with. Add that to tea, hot chocolate, comfort food and wine, and what's a day or two of snow in the overall picture!!

Especially as it should be close to seventy by Tuesday at the latest.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Money Saving Monday-Five Frugal Things

This blog is about living richly in retirement-on a fixed income. My writing takes me in all kinds of directions here.  Since I am the Frugal Retiree, and since I am in the process of streamlining my life and finances to the next level, I'm taking a page from some other bloggers. Here are just a few of the frugal things happening this week at Chez Barb (minus photos due to the late hour):  

Love, love love this blog and all of her recipes

  1. I couldn't help it, I got a spiral ham. Knowing that the other people I live with all had to work on Sunday, and that we are not huge on leftover ham. It was Easter, I was in the mood and it was on sale.  So today I cut up potatoes, sliced and cut leftover ham, and made two large casseroles from this great loaded baked potato casserole recipe (with one small change, I sliced instead of dicing to make it look more like scallop potatoes to the unwashed among us). No waste and we can use our salty ham on our own time. 
  2. I'm using some leftovers of my good  yarn to make washcloths in spa colors. A set of three or four would make a nice gift, and while I can't say they will be free (I paid for the yarn once upon a time), it's free to me now. I do intend to make bath salts to go with them for all the women in my family. I'm starting with this pattern and then moving on with my inspiration! 
  3. I got no groceries except for fruit, lettuce, bread and milk.  I've decided to completely eat down our small stand alone freezer so that I can defrost it. Right now, we're eating well. When we get to the very ends, meals could be interesting!! Meanwhile, my grocery budget is non-existent for the moment.
  4. My really good office chair broke after almost 10 years-one of those expensive leather things with arm and a high back. Worth the three hundred dollars I spent, until  I sat down and one of the wheels simply broke in half-leaving the other half in the chair. I despaired both of fixing it, and of finding another one that was less than the original price. In close succession, my daughter informed me that I could have her chair as she doesn't use it, and my son said he thought that the other wheel half could be pulled out-and I may still find the part. Whichever solution I end up with, I came ahead by waiting instead of rushing out for a new chair, ya know?
  5. None of my short pants (crops or shorts) fit me, and I am not into safety pin fashion. The bad news is that the weather is getting warm and I have yet to find things I like (more soft and not jeans-y). The good news is that I'm spending nothing on clothes, for now. I'm also looking at trying out project 333, but making the 33 clothing only.  
I'm using the good old Purl Soho websie (see linke above) as my inspiration for spa sets!

What are your frugal endeavours if any this week?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Frugal Retiree Embraces the "Do Nothing-ness" of Retirement

I have a confession to make: The longer I am retired, the less I feel obligated to fill my time. It's funny, because I'm one of those folks who used to be proud to have more things to do than time available. I've been known to write in days of old on this blog and wonder how I ever had time for a job (saying that with pride). Heck, I remember when I swore I would never, never be one of those daytime TV watchers in retirement.  I mean, people who did those kind of things are boring, right?  They have no life, give retirement a bad name, and sit around with bon-bons. I mean, our parents did that, right??

That was then, and this is now.  In the now, I get to watch Bosch on Amazon after lunch, while working on my knitting for an hour.  In the now, I have absolutely no guilt about sitting down and reading the newest Joe Pickett mystery in a day with breaks for lunch and playing with the dogs and my half an hour walk.

On an average morning I wake sometimes between eight and nine am (remember I am awake past midnight).  I grab my cola, adjust the heat/air conditioner as necessary, and depending on the day, either jump back into bed with my journal and tablet or climb into the chair by the picture window where I meditate, pray, make notes and slowly wake up. Yesterday morning, my twenty something son walked by and said "If those folks who read your blog could see you now!"

I have more things that I enjoy doing than I can count, a few of them serious passions. I have a list of things that I want to try at least once. I think the phrase "Don't try, just do" is not one that serves folks, at least me, well. I want to try many things, realizing that I'll only be good at a small percentage, and that I'll also only want to repeat and enjoy a small percentage as well. Sewing, quilting, taking a college class, writing, being involved in my church, going to the movies, meeting folks for lunch-all of these and more are a part of my life.

But I would be being less than honest if I didn't say up front that an hour or so in front of the TV is also part of my life. Sitting on the patio swing daydreaming and watching the dog explore is part of my life, as is grabbing that book, curling up in a chair and coming up for air only because I suddenly realize I'm hungry or that I need to  move.

Retirement guides, gurus and books regularly instruct us on how to fill our days, using every method, and I have read more than a few, from Ernie Zelinski and his Get a Life Tree onward. Books abound on how to be busy in retirement, decide what you want to do in retirement, and more. 

I certainly would not want to see folks not plan for retirement, don't get me wrong. Reading those books was valuable, and I know more than one person who has been at loose ends in retirement while deciding what to do with the rest of their post work years. In fact, I have had some more than filled retirement days. I have shared what I did "today"' on occasion, listed my retirement goals for a week and for a month, and more.

The bottom line for me though, is that I don't want or need to be as busy in retirement as I was when I was working. I'm no longer particularly interested in having my days "filled" if you will. I want time, and lots of it-to sit and daydream, to stare out the window, to sit on the swing and watch the dogs in the summer, to read a book, even to binge watch House of Cards in two or three days if the mood strikes. I don't want to tell a friend I am too busy to go to lunch, and if I want to read a book from start to finish in two days, so be it.

Don't get me wrong. Anyone can have too much down time, and some of us need more scheduling than others. I have blogging friends who prefer to go from dawn to dusk and that works for them. It is true that for some folks too much down time is unhealthy, and it is also true that the old image of a retiree sitting in front of the tube snacking all day is a scary image for some.

As an enforced early retiree I get that. I've been through some of that, and dealt with the fact years ago of my new lifestyle change. I also feel pretty strongly that as a retiree I need to be contributory, and active both for my own health and that of the world if you will. What I am unwilling to do is do it all, or even as much as I possibly can on any given day. On the contrary. I aim for no more than one out of the house commitment on any given day (and admittedly there are days when that goal is a fail), and only plan one project  per day. The rest of my day is in flux, to be as busy or as relaxing as I choose.

Just so you all don't think I'm still in my chair from this morning, this afternoon I've volunteered at my women's homeless shelter for a couple of hours, and thrown together two loaded ham and baked potato casseroles (with Easter Ham). so they can go into the freezer when I am done. So I've been out of the house and into the world today.  

Now that the cooking is done, the rest of my day involves reading (I'm introducing myself to Randy Wayne White and Doc Ford), television (yes, I will probably binge watch Bosch on Amazon), and a few weight strengthening exercises (I hope to go full normal workout tomorrow, knock on wood).

Naturally, I still have a pile of goals and "want to dos", including a family cookbook gift, family history research, designing a quilt, and planning my road trip, knitting a gift, just to name a few. But none of them have deadlines. And while I would make more of a schedule if I ever felt like I was stagnating, for me this time of life is mainly go with the flow. A schedule is a guide, not a rule.

And now, I'm gonna pull those casseroles out of the oven, grab a blanket and put my feet up and decide if I really like reading Doc Ford mysteries. Because of course, you can never have too many authors to read!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Spring Goal-Or Two

Easter has always been the beginning of spring. While it may officially begin on a day in March, for me spring begins with that holiday. This year, Easter is almost as late as it can come, and in order to make it feel more springy, Denver has been averaging in the seventies for months. Of course, because this is Denver, we can still have a storm as late as early May!

Tonight and tomorrow's evening services bring to the end an active week here at Chez Barb. While  I have not been to church every night (because of my pain meds after my injury), I did only manage to miss one. Churchgoers among my readers may understand that I cannot do the "Alleluias" today and tomorrow without observing all the things that got us there-from the way of the cross to Maunday Thursday to Good Friday.

This warm weather has inspired me to set myself a few goals this spring.  To be honest, I am not a goal setter as such. I am however, one of those for whom if it doesn't get written down, it won't be done.  Annual goals for me are too long. I want to see some results in a short time.  Deciding how many goals to set is always difficult. In this case, even though I am starting late for the season, I figure each season is about 13 weeks. Ad in an extra goal or so, and there you have it.  

  1. Aim for a basic goal of five dollars daily by passive means:  Five dollars a day is $150 a month, and is money that I earn through no real effort other than an occasional click or reset on my phone.
  2. Begin a new, non-walking (or at least not walking outside) exercise and health routine.  I love to walk, truly. but the risks to my falling down are too much and on the bad days, walking is out completely. I've begun to explore Silver Sneakers, chair aerobics and walking in the water as part of an alternative fitness program. I'll need different routines depending on the pain level of the day, so this could take awhile.
  3. Finish at least two homemade/handmade gifts. The first gift is the shawl/poncho that I shared on the previous blog post.  The second is a "year of outings" which I'll share more about shortly.
  4. Write daily-with intent. I do free writing fairly often, and thsat has value.  I well remember those "morning pages" from the Artists Way.  That kind of writing is important when it comes to learning about oneself and when used as a spiritual practice.  But I am writing both a craft book and a memoir, and so these days that is the kind of writing I need to do every day.
  5. Completely declutter and streamline and deep clean sewing and bedroom.  While I appreciate the bloggers who promise to completely declutter their homes, room by room in 12 weeks, that is not me. With these two rooms, I will be ruthless, she says! Prepare to see embarrassing progress pictures, she says!
  6. Get at least seven hours of sleep every night.  My pot and CBD have improved my sleep more than I can ever say.  But I am a night owl and I live with folks who are early risers. I need to get that pot effect earlier so by the time I am wakened I have had that sleep time. A little less night owlish, perhaps?
  7. Turn my unused stash into $400: My sewing room has a large closet and more fabric, yarn and scrap booking paper and art supplies than one woman can use. Some of the fabric I have love and will keep. Other pieces, including scraps, can be turned into items to sell on my Facebook page or blog or put away as gift. 
  8. Complete a rough outline and at least two sections of my crafting book. Writing a craft pattern or book takes time, as the directions and the project itself have to be tested, reworked, retested....
  9. Take at least one local adventure weekend a month:  While long term travel is fun and wonderful, my goal is to take more "long weekend trips", be they to Santa Fe, North Dakota,or to Aspen. Truthfully while it's only an hour away, the Broadmoore resort is high on my list. Dinner, Brunch, the full spa experience and Old Colorado city-what more could you want.
  10. Completely plan my fall train trip.  I am not usually an advance planner. But since I am attempting to use a rail pass and do all the math in my head about how long I'll be where (since many trains arrive at odd times of the day), I need to get my itinerary soon.
  11. Make two items for my church annual silent auction.  Every summer my church holds a silent auction of both services and items. Last year I gave away many trays of Christmas cookies and a team bedding set. Time to decide what the giveaway this year is.
  12. Finish updating the blog completely.  There have been some small changes already, such as my updating the sidebar, but it's time to get more involved with some larger changes. I expect sitting on the patio in Texas and being the dog whisper-er to four dogs for a week will give me plenty of time for this.
  13. Aim for a use it up month in June, in every sense.  Traditionally I have not been a huge fan of no spend days or months as such.  But for me, this goal meshes with the streamlining I've been doing. This does not mean that I will necessarily do without, but that I will see how long I can go using and repurposing what I have. For example, my small chest freezer is full, and I have no idea what's on the bottom.  
  14. Compete at least one full online class.  I have probably nine classes in my watch list on the Great Courses (more about that later). I want to completely finishing my drawing class, or at least go the equivalent of one semester,
  15. Discern as to how best to spend my time in the fall. This is something I do as part of my daily meditation time.  This winter and spring I have felt "over scheduled", partly because I am discovering I like going out in the evening on a regular basis less and less. I tend to commit without thinking, so my goal for spring into summer is to put this into my mental computer and pray briefly on it daily. Life is about balance and between travel and energy levels and other issues, I need to rethink about where that balance should be!
And there you have it. My goals for April, May and June. Because I'm using the blog as my accountability, I plan to post updates of before, during and afters on as many of those goals as I am able (perhaps every other week?) Since many of the above written goals have to do with decluttering or getting in shape, prepare to see all kind of photos-both the good and the bad.

And now, I'm off to drag a chair to my walk in closet. Because you have to start somewhere.

Happy Easter, Everyone!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Earning Extras in Retirement-Gift Cards From Swagbucks

As I slowly make changes to the ole blog, please be patient with me. You'll be seeing some new things, and also a new style, shortly. Meanwhile, do look at the blog sidebar and check out the newer links I've added for you to peruse!   

Tomorrow is my big monthly shopping day. While I enjoy being out and about, and will have a nice lunch during my errands, I am not a shopper at heart, at least not in the traditional sense. Fortunately tomorrow's weather will again be in the high seventies and no clouds-a perfect day to be out and about, if that is what you have to do.

I actually enjoy buying things on occasion. But at this point in my life I enjoy small local shops (quilt shop, hardware, non chain garage) or thrift and yard sale shopping. For everything else I hop online. I have some clothing stores that I know my size with certainty. Shopping online allows me to avoid shopping, to have someone else put the heavy stuff inside my door and leaves me more time. 90 percent of the time I am getting free delivery, or delivery to the store. I also shop almost exclusively from stores that allow local returns. I realize that online shopping is not for everyone, but for me it's the proverbial bomb.

My errands are varied, and I may not get them all done. As of this moment I need to: hit my local pot pharmacy; fill up my tank; buy needed groceries (especially non perishables-I'm slowly moving to Amazon Pantry for some items); and hit Target for their gift card deals. I also need to go to the yarn store, get a car wash, and hit the dollar store to see if there are any decent glasses. When they were talking about clumsy is as clumsy does, it was me they meant. Besides I'd like to get some nice, spring stemmed glasses. I'm sure I've forgotten some stops.

There are a few things I expect to be leaving to another day-primarily my pedicure and hair cut and color. I have a lot to get done tomorrow, I expect to be gone all day, and that means that I am taking myself out to lunch. At Red Robin. With another earned gift card.

When I waxed eloquently last week about my own personal field trip and lunch, some wondered about the Applebee gift card. And, when I wrote about my two weeks of birthday freebies earlier on, even more people asked me about the specifics. Do you spend money to earn the cards? Does it take time? Do you give out personal information? The answers to those are no (with one exception), no,  and no.

While I could write on and on about how to get freebies, good deals, coupons on meat and produce and other things, earning gift cards always is fun to write about because it's a tangible reward (as opposed to the math sometimes required to figure savings on labor intensive stuff, for example). It's also something anyone can do, depending on their time and on rare occasions their effort.

Most of the gift cards I earn, I earn from a place called Swagbucks that some of my readers are familiar with.  Swagbucks is unique in that you can earn rewards in a variety of ways. Some are labor/time intensive like surveys, web searches and the like, should that be your choice. Many are passive and require just a couple minutes. This is the way I personally roll.  If I can read, watch TV, or quilt and just refresh the phone every so often I'm in my personal zone. Other money earning ways include shopping through their portal, and taking advantage of many of their paid offers, if it is something you can really use.  If any of you remember my trial of Hello Fresh, for example, I had a thirty percent off coupon, ordered two meals for two people for thirty dollars, and received 3 thousand points or 30 dollars back. In this case I made nothing, but my order was basically free and we enjoyed the meal.

This is not a tutorial about Swagbucks-that would take more time and space than I or this blog post have. I would suggest that it is pretty self explanatory after a look around and that there are lots of folks to ask. My personal, passive earnings streams are simple and not time consuming. I have a variety of apps on my phone that I simply set and they run, earning money. These apps allow me to earn almost a dollar a day in a few hours while doing nothing. I also buy gift cards. Now, I know I said I would not spend money to make money. These are cards that I use regularly, and I do NOT go off my budget. Each time I purchase these cards I earn Swagbucks (often many swagbucks). I generally buy one of four cards: AMC theater (lasts me awhile), Panera Bread (two of my book groups meet there), JCPenny (they have big and extra long shirts for men who are taller than six foot six), and restaurants nearby that serve lunch or brunch (Panera, Red Robin, Denny's).  I never purchase gift cards that I don't need, but do purchase gift cards that I can use and get cash back at the same time.  For those who shop in the Kroger family of stores, I use this same philosophy. I buy cards to the stores I use (from Walgreen's to Target), and get the fuel points for gas.

Swagbucks also allows you to buy a gift card and get rewards and then turn around and order through their website and again get rewards. For example, I have purchased a Macy's gift card and received rewards, turned around and ordered Lancome face cream, picked it up at the store and earned points on purchase as well!! And finally, as I said above, I use Swagbucks to shop through (as opposed to Ebates, Rebates or some other door through). So, all of my gift cards through Swagbucks are earned passively.

Swagbucks has a huge variety of cards, and most people I know get Amazon cards or Paypal so that they can treat it like cash. I have done that in the past. However, I Iive within 15 minutes of a huge Walmart (with gas and food and everything else), and have also starting getting cards for that use and at Sam's for gas.  For other purposes, Swagbucks has everything from Regal Cinemas to rental cards in the rewards section, and in the gift card purchase section are more than I can name.

Any time I talk about these kind of rewards, I get a small, regular response having to do with either, "I'm too busy to do stuff like that", "Is it really worth the time" or in the case of some coupons and gift cards "there's never anything worthwhile, the coupons are junk food and the gift cards are unuseable". Folks, I am a seriously busy retiree (albeit some days the busyness may, as today, have to do with reading the next David Baldacci from the library). Please believe me when I say that I am NOT going to spend much precious retirement time doing online surveys and the like. Your mileage may vary, as the old phrase goes. If it's not something I can fit into my schedule, I'm not interested. Swagbucks allows me to earn money and all I have to do is keep my phone near by and refresh it, while I "do" my day.

Now, there are things that I would do actively to earn money. Most of those fall into the home or seasonal business category rather than daily earning gig. I have been known to sell finished quilts that did not have a recipient for example, and long time readers know that if you want a plate (or for or five or six) of holiday cookies, I'm your gal.

Swagbucks is not meant to be a business or a part time job as such, just some casual income. Or, as one reddit group calls it "beer money". How much you make is up to you, but it's not going to replace your part time job any time soon. On the other hand, combining Swagbucks with Ibotta, Shopkick and the like allow me to earn a minimum of five dollars daily and often more. All for simply letting my phone work its Swagbucks magic while I walk, knit, quilt, read, watch TV or play with the dogs (and occasionally get a good deal or coupon).

I'm sure some folks are thinking to themselves, "what's five dollars a day in the scheme of things" and for some this is probably true. On the other hand, five dollars a day on an average month is $150.  $150 that you earned doing the things you normally do. $150 that can be put towards spending money on next year's holiday cruise (waiving hand), for stuff around the house, for basic savings, for almost anything. And whether it's a card to use yourself, one you use as a "just because" or surprise gift, or one you put away now for a free Christmas season then, it's all good.

Note:  I realize that these money saving and making posts are not for all my readers. But I am the frugal retiree, and I have many frugal readers who contact me publicly and privately about how others manage and how they will manage. Coming up I'll be taking about other "casual income" and small business ideas. Look for more next Monday on whether the "Entertainment Book" is a good deal.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Solo Retirement-Embracing Some Alone-ness

Today is a difficult day in the news and I am sad. While I have long wanted intervention in Syria (and in fact the Republican congress refused Obama's intentions), I am concerned for a variety of reasons:  We killed four children ourselves in the raid (and more in the Yemen mess). The attack was not thought out in military terms. And frankly, if we care about Syrian children dying, then damn it, we should allow them in the country. Now, Now, Now. Assad may not be a Muslim extremest but he's as big a threat and a bully as ISIS. I do think it is amusing that the populist leaders Trump likes are criticizing and the EU leaders like Merkel that he hates are supporting him. Oh, and as for the Supreme Court?  I'm less upset than many of you are.  You see, I feel fairly confident that if the health care debacle continues, the Democrats will easily win the house in 2018. And when they NEED us later on, that price will be paid.  Onward and forward in the resistance!  

Since this blog was begun as a way to share with others how I live richly in retirement on a fixed income, I get piles and piles of comments and private emails with questions on topics ranging from couponing, to getting deals, to affording X on a fixed income in retirement. That's really not a shock I suppose, considering my blog origin and my personal history.

What's more surprising (at least to me) is that I get just as many public and private questions on the subject of living alone and widowhood. Again, maybe not as obvious as the financial topics, but fairly understandable.  When it comes to the social and perhaps emotional aspects of living along, the vast majority of questions have to do with how to meet others to do things with. That's certainly important, and I write about my own experiences with this one pretty regularly.

That said, my experience tells me that the most important thing to learn about living alone (especially for those us of who became single later in life) is to learn to enjoy ourselves, by ourselves, and to learn to enjoy doing things alone on occasion. 

For almost every Thursday since last September, I have been preparing a meal at our church. On Thursday nights we have a church service, then a meal and then a program. The program is as varied as topics on sustainability or Muslims in America or the arts as spiritual practice (in Lent we have done free writing, made two sided masks, written poetry, done "free" dancing and discussed music). Some folks come for all three (church, food and program), and many come for any one or two they choose. Truth be told, I do not cook every week, but I still set up and take down, buy the food and drinks and everything else. I tend to alternate something like last night's Stouffers chicken enchiladas (with salad and dessert), with last week's homemade ham and cheese sliders on Hawaiian rolls. I am reimbursed so this is labor, not a financial contribution.

I'm getting ready to travel and have finished with this responsibility until I start again in the fall. Last night, after my last "cook" for a while,  I got a lovely thank you card. Said card  also included a gift card for $100 to one of my favorite yarn shops. I had absolutely no idea!! None!! 

Now, when it comes to financial types, I am the gal who will not go into debt but will spend money if it is there (my husband was the same money type). I want all my bills taken out electronically and I want my savings done through 401K or some other mechanism so that I know I can spend what I have "in hand". All of which is to say, I fully intended to get that yarn. Today. Without question. It was time for a field trip-in this case a field trip alone. Some shopping?  Maybe some lunch?  Just me and my gift card (s)?  You bet!!

I am someone who loves to yak and who loves to do things with others.  My knitting and crafting groups regularly have field trip and outings that include shopping and museums and lunch and more every few weeks and I enjoy those times. Socialization is surely an important part of my life.

But I also enjoy my own company. I don't have to converse with others, I can sit and read at lunch and I can enjoy my surroundings-and my own thoughts (which are at their most creative when I am alone). My little trip this Friday included a drive to the "good"  yarn store. I spent unlimited time looking at yarn without worrying about holding anyone up while I compared three or four shades of "neutral". I chatted with a couple of women who were sitting and knitting near the front door-they wanted to know what I was making and I showed them the photo below. After spending an unlimited amount of time shopping, I explored the neighborhood which included the ice cream boutique next door as well as the gourmet bakery. Since it's in the mid seventies today, I walked and wandered at will, not worrying about how much time I spent looking in a window. Rather than eating at said eateries, I settles for Applebees, since I had an earned gift card for that. 

From my correspondence, I sense that eating alone is one of those issues that makes people shake their head and go running from the room. I'm never sure if this is because of embarrassment, comfort level or any of a dozen other issues. If that describes you, whether you are single, married or something in between, I encourage you go go and eat and drink-alone. Leave your partner at home. Take the dog if you must. Heck, go to Starbucks if that works better. Get coffee.........but don't wander off with the cup, or open your laptop in work mode. Sit inside or on the patio. Respond or nod to folks who nod or say something as they walk by. Enjoy the moment. And get rid of the embarrassment or "pity" factor. Realize that if someone IS looking at you as you walk by, they are probably more interested in what you are reading, your dog, or what you are dining on than why exactly you're alone.

A not great picture from the cover of my new pattern. I 've chosen the darker gray and the neutral, still thinking on the middle stripe, am I!

An admittedly dark picture of my choices. Yes folks this is in fact $72.00 worth of yarn after taxes. Note that bright skein on the side.  I'm me, I always have to add some bright.

I usually take my kindle with me on outings, but that doesn't mean I read all the time when eating out. I am a people watcher at heart, and when possible ask to be seated by a window or on the patio so I can see what's going on nearby. I also enjoy the action of eating, even if it's only their homemade broccoli cheese soup with half of a mandarin salad and a frosted Easter cookie. If I read my book while dining, it's because I have interest in the book, not because I  want to "look like I'm not really alone".  I AM alone. I embrace it.

Today's field trip adventure was not nearly as long as it could have been. Mainly because after lunch I wanted to get home and play with my yarn and needles! Friday is my outing day. Sometimes I'm alone (movies and the Silver Diner, visiting a museum, going for a drive) and sometimes I am with friends. Both work, both are full and fun experiences and both enrich me. 

Still needs work and has a cople mistakes but it will be much bigger, so time to knit on the table for this one.

Meanwhile, since my multi color blanket is too large to be portable, I'm starting on my next knitting project, a Christmas gift. I mean, one knitting project at a time?? How fun would that be?  Boring, but unfortunately I also have multiple writing projects, sewing projects and an art journal. Whatever my issues are, having nothing to do at home is well............never really an issue.

Oh, and since Easter is on it's way, it was time to move the spring stuff out...slowly but surely. Every year my decorating for holidays lessens a tiny bit. This Easter, I'm settling for quilts, a couple Easter baskets, my Easter fairy garden and some hand decorated eggs and knick nacks.  Welcome Spring!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Please Help Me I'm Falling-My Home Safety Awakening

Confession time............Today the day that I knew would eventually come has finally arrived. This evening as I was coming home from my Tuesday night class, I climbed the very shallow two steps that lead to my front door (admittedly these steps don't have a railing).  My right, slowly degenerating leg, simply gave out.  There was no warning and I went flying.  Literally, onto the steps and into the large bushes in front of the house before landing in the slow. I  had fallen and could not get up. Or roll over.

Now it may be that I might have been more stable with even a railing next to those steps, who knows. I may have been able to use the railing to help myself get up as well, instead of my son. Again, who knows.  All in all, in most senses this is a mainly one level one house (there is a basement but I don't need to use it) with the exception of these steps and the steps to the garage (where there is a door jamb to hold onto). There are no steps as such to the back patio, but getting from the back patio to the front of the house requires those other two methods.

When we chose this house I knew a ramp might be in our future, just as I knew my going into the basement was not. I just thought that future was further off. And it may well be in the long run. This has not happened before. While the degeneration is an active, moving thing, I spend most of my exercise time not doing aerobics but weight exercises and physical therapy to build muscle around the leg. I walk a full five thousand steps as many days as I can, on land or sea. So it's not like I am walking around with a constant limp or that I don't move. Still, this was a warning to me. And when it comes to health and safety, I believe in listening to those warnings and planning ahead when possible.  

This means, I guess, that I have come to that time in my life where I need to take that extra look around, do a safety check, and make sure I feel comfortable- both in terms of issues like falling and physical safety from intrusion or other issues, frankly. This is especially true since I spend most of my time in and around this house alone. The fact that my son was home at the same time, as well as alert and responsive was pure luck, and my immediate neighbors are all very active coming and going folks-who may or may not be home. 

Whether an omen or luck (I guess it depends) I had recently been doing some research for future blog ideas, and ended up with this safety checklist in my inbox. Since I had already been making some notes, I decided to go with the flow. Let me say that this was just one list, and there are many out there, some of which I have checked out from time to time.

It surprised me to find out that in one study almost 86 percent of us have done nothing to prepare our homes for the future. On the other hand, I was unsurprised to find that falls are the primary cause of injuries and that most of them happen in the the bathroom or bedroom. Every checklist I looked at suggested a room by room check, and then double checking annually thereafter. While I have not done that, I did go over the things that I thought were most import for this person in this house.

There were some precautions on this list that I didn't feel I needed, some that I will need later and some that were probably unrelated to middle age but just general safety issues.  I am not, for example, ready for an alert device by any means. And I am not in need of a buddy system as such as I have family who I see or speak to at some point on a daily basis. My closest friend in Texas has an arrangement where she calls a close friend from our church in the morning, and said friend calls her at an agreed upon time in the evening. If I had no family checking in on me as it was those years I was living completely alone, I would absolutely do that kind of deal.

My home has the basic every day safety things which I double check on twice a year: Pretty much all our outlets our grounded. We have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and small extinguisher (we don't have a gas stove so truthfully this is as much for the grill as anything else). Our home is basically well lit. We don't have alot of throw rugs. I don't do ladders, or snow removal, although I've been known to rake a leaf now and then.

When it comes to physical precautions, I have been taking some, but plan to add more to the list. Because of my general leg creakiness, I have no choice but to stand slowly until I have gotten my bearings and move slowly until the kinks are out. I haven't worn high heels in years, and wear pretty yet conformable and supportive flats. If I have an area of danger, it is that I love to wear fuzzy slipper socks alone around the house, and have gone ice skating briefly a couple times. Because I cannot crouch, I'm rarely in danger of picking up something too heavy! And I am not liable to turn my water temperature down any time soon, hot showerer that I am.

Because no one is perfect and because I sometimes tend to avoid reality, there are things I need to do.  I recently purchased one of those walkers on wheels with a seat. It was not as useful as I thought, except for in those places where I cannot stand. It's an issue of confusion for me that with this degeneration I can walk most days for at least thirty minutes, but standing in one place such as at a concert of church, causes unbelievable pain). However, I have decided that it's time to get one of those traditional walkers. You know, the ones with the tennis balls on front?  I'll buy it kicking and screaming, no doubt. Once bought, it may stay in the bedroom and out of use for longer than I care to admit. But I'll have it for when I need it, and my safety is more important than a little embarrassment about a couple tennis balls. And, as every middle aged woman in the world knows, in a pinch I can keep it next to the bed and let it help me get to the bathroom faster-a serious conundrum for us women, let me tell you.

As to other issues, I've recently put a night light in the master bath. That's as much about not having those bright circles on your eyelids after turning the light on to look for something at night as it is about falling down, truth be told. I am in the process of getting estimates on both putting in a railing (now) and a ramp (later?) as part of my spring budget and to do list. Because I prefer to have things handy rather than pulling them out, my heavy things like mixers are already out and require no lifting.

And finally, there is one issue that my checklist did not address. Pets and retirement health. Especially as it pertains to falls, and especially small dogs. I am not liable to fall and get twisted up in my coon hound. On a bad day, send the crazy powder puff across the street in my direction and I'm liable to end up in the middle of the road. I remember well when my father-in-law tripped over his bulldog puppy and fortunately landed on that padded part of his body. This does not mean that I would ever give up my canine family, on the contrary. I also have something on safety of women living alone in the works and almost every expert recommends a dog-small enough that you can control, but large enough to be a presence. But leashes and training and size and temperament all affect our safety as well.

Only you can decide how to make your home safer (and healthier). Hopefully my little nudge towards the earth this evening is something that won't happen again. But if it does, I'll be more ready. Maybe. I hope.