Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who watches out for you?

Life is an uphill climb. Sometimes the path is well traveled, easy to follow. and most people have friends and relatives who have dropped hints and tips on how and what to do on such path.

Once you retire, once you drop out  of the rat race, you also drop out of the circle of friends who watched out for your interests.  Your colleagues knew what you did, what everyone did, how work progressed with your help, how everyone leaned on each other to be safe and to be productive.  You probably had a union that spoke to your bosses on behalf of all people working in that field.

You all looked out for each other.  Engineers, scientists, professors and longshoremen are all represented by a union board, people who study work conditions and protect the safety and the interests of the workers. 

If you are as old as I am, you probably started to work at a place that had no union.

I remember my first job, a teacher at a Catholic school staffed mostly by nuns, and very few lay folks like me.  We, the lay folks were known to be temporary. We would get married in a year of two, so everyone assumed, and then our husbands would watch out for us. 

No need to worry our pretty heads.

Women, especially, were seen as temporary workers, waiting to become mothers in residence.
If we complained, we were fired on the spot.  If we received unwanted attention for any reason the management deemed improper, we were fired.  If we remained quiet and submissive, we continued to work and be tolerated.

I remember well when the first union was formed in Los Angeles Unified School District. The District refused to negotiate and allow unions. We didn't want to strike. We needed our jobs.  Many older women didn't want to join the union. Too rowdy and rough, unprofessional, they thought.  If you do a good job, they kept saying, you will get a raise.

Women, especially, have found themselves discriminated, and held back.
Women should be worried if unions and legal contracts are exterminated.
Equal pay for equal work is still being discussed today.

There is a great deal of financial instability in our land at this time. And this time, we are thrashing the wrong people, the ones who had nothing to do with our instability.  We should be looking at the big corporations who have enjoyed a great deal of tax cuts and who have supported the election of people who will continue to fire at the foot soldiers, the workers in the field, those folks who have worked by the rule of law, who have not shared in the great wealth these corporations have set aside.


Ask yourself, who is watching out for you, the worker, the retiree, the senior who is on fixed income, on a pension that took a lifetime to earn?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Are we ready to downsize?

One of my dreams, besides living on the beach in sunny Italy, was to own this lovely sailboat, for weekends getaways, for simple outings followiing warm ocean breezes.  This one would do well. I'd sail for a couple of days at a time, packing food and clothing and gear, but this eighteen footer would not be big enough for all my needs.
I'd want to take some working clothes and lounging clothes. I'd pack shawls and windbreakers, and then catch myself in Catalina, at a fancy place, needing heels and a ball gown. 
Oh my, never prepared for everything.
But what if this is all the space one gets for the rest of his/her days?

I bet I'd worry about other things after a while.
I would not think about my clothing. (Yes, I could definitely become a clothes horse again, as vain as anybody, drooling over those shoes,  handbags. You only live once still could be my favorite tune!)

I'd worry about fuel.
And storms.
And provisions.
And warmth.
And loneliness.

Oh yes! I'd miss everybody I left behind. Even those I didn't like.  I'd miss all my electrical appliances too! And all my books!

Most of all, I'd worry about getting hurt, sick.

Getting away from it all, including our present lifestyle, is possible and tangible.
How many people actually do it?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Living on these shores...

All the driftwood in the world
even if we could gather it and bring it home to burn
wouldn't be sufficient to keep us warm or to power  our machines.

We are voracious

needing a lot of things
clothes and blankets
and shoes for all occasions
products for hair, skin, upper body
lower body
implements to cook
implements to clean
stuff to help us collect and store other stuff.

We eat constantly
purchase constantly
need this and that
enough to forget by the time we hit the store.

We make so little  ourselves
toast sometimes
and on vacation
and if  children insist 
and we have company
 we burn meat the way our parents did
though we didn't kill
or raise those chops
anywhere  on our shores.

We are television clickers
radio knobbers
thumb sketchers 
list makers
hungry for the latest
the newest.

We need so much to live
we notice
when the price of gas goes up
and then
we blame the Arabs
or anyone who didn't bother
to become like us. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Weather Affecting Disorders and other scary stuff.

I'm in the Northwest, the area of the United States  that starts in Mendocino, California and goes up to Alaska.  The Northwest is where weather starts, where Pacific storms hit the coast and then move east to bother the rest of you folks.

Sometimes, the twirling and compression zones are quite large, as the satellite pictures at the Weather Channel show. The entire Pacific Ocean gets into the act for months and months, pinning everything and everyone in place with anger and fury of biblical proportion.  And, if something is not strapped down, it will end up in Toledo, or Chicago, or...

Remember the history of Lewis and Clark, the Corps of Engineers that traversed the Mississippi and headed west to chart the new West Territory, the one that gave impetus to that historical event called the Oregon Trail?  Well, Lewis and Clark got to the mouth of the Columbia, the river that separates Oregon from Washington State,  and the group was pinned down for months by the terrible weather they encountered.  For months, they couldn't move, had to stay put at camp, chewing on rawhide, hard tack, beans and roots.  Since they couldn't move, they probably couldn't hunt, couldn't wash their clothes, couldn't take too many moonlit walks. They relied on the local native population for food and supplies for themselves and for their animals.

Well, the weather is still the same, I'm here to report. 
Last night, after a glorious sunny Wednesday, the weather changed to a Pacific storm that pounded us all night, winds and rain and branches and anything that wasn't pinned down whirled and slammed against the house, against cars. Trees fought each other, and the old ones collapsed.  

No wonder I had a headache all night!
No wonder this morning I can't think of anything else

We have these storms- 50-80 miles per hour winds and torrents of water- for a good seven months, lasting a few days at a time. After a storm, a beautiful sunny day kisses us all back to good spirits.  At the end of the rainy season, in June, the tourists will arrive and marvel at the old groves, the amazing green pastures, the spectacular clear skies, the hardiness of people and things.  They marvel and envy those of us who moved here. They won't understand this strange attachment we have to all this danger. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

This is not how your father followed the news..

This was in my in-box this morning, a daily service i subscribe to, allowing me to know what's going on at Capitol hill. You too can subscribe and receive this information daily. 
Do you want to contribute to the conversation? Go ahead.
Do you want to just lurk in the background? Fine.
Do you want to be counted? You have to stay informed.
Too busy?
Skim and save the contact info.
Too flustered?
Save the info for when you feel better.

Health Reform: A Phone Call from the President

Posted by Kalpen Modi on March 22, 2011 at 04:00 PM EDT

One year ago tomorrow, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. It was a historic day, and the law is already making a difference in the lives of millions of Americans like Erick Moberg.

Erick is currently a senior at Michigan State University and his dream is to attend medical school at his grandfather’s alma mater in Missouri. Erick was always interested in medicine, but he was inspired after speaking to the doctors who treated his mother when she had quadruple bypass surgery.

After he graduates this spring, Erick will be taking a year to enhance his skills and prepare his application. Under the old insurance rules, he would have been forced off his parent’s health insurance plan. But now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Erick will be able to stay on his mother’s plan.

We interviewed Erick, and as he told his story, he received a surprise phone call from President Obama.

Erick is just one example of the millions of Americans who are being helped by the new law. After just one year, Americans are enjoying:

New coverage options

•Children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage in new health plans.

•Adults who have been locked out of the insurance marketplace because of a pre-existing condition can now buy coverage through a new Pre-Existing Condition Plan.

Better quality coverage
•People with insurance are free from worrying about losing their insurance due to a mistake on an application, or having it capped unexpectedly if someone is in an accident or becomes sick.

•All Americans in new insurance plans will receive preventive services without being charged a deductible, co-payment, or co-insurance.

Lower Costs

•Seniors have the freedom to get the care they need, including free preventive care, lower cost prescription drugs, and Medicare they can count on. Nearly 4 million Americans who hit the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the “donut hole” received $250 tax-free rebates, and will receive a 50% discount on brand name prescription drugs if they hit the donut hole this year.

•Up to 4 million small businesses could receive tax credits to make employees’ health coverage more affordable.

•Insurance companies can no longer overcharge consumers just to boost profits and CEO salaries.

Visit to learn more about the new law and the work we’re doing to deliver the benefits of reform to the American people. For step-by-step instructions on the young adult coverage provision that helped Erick, you can also visit

Note: you also can visit our 50 States, 50 Stories map to listen to more stories of people the law has helped.

Kalpen Modi is Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Water is a scarce commodity.

Today is World Water Day.
Visit this blog for a beautiful informative post!

Later on, I'll tell you about our community's struggle with water issues.

Monday, March 21, 2011

We're changed...

We write things down. We take pictures  and videos. Even if we plan on forgetting certain things, we can't.  Events of great magnitude live with us forever.

The experiences of March 17 in Japan, the earthquakes and the tsunami waves that caused so much devastation will forever be etched in the DNA of Japanese people, and they and we will be talking about this event for a very long, long time. In Chile, in Haiti, in California, people who have experienced similar devastation and panic will understand, will relate.

And then, artists will interpret those emotions, unburden the weight of the fear and the terror of those days in ways for us to understand what they went through. Then, too, we will nod for a while, and then try to forget.

Soldiers write war stories sixty years after the event.  Stories of violence and famine and natural destruction are passed down from generation to generation.

Stop and listen.
We'll be talking about this for a long, long time, and the fear and panic will not go away...
We need to listen and be present.
We need to hold hands and cry together because these things have changed us.
Our world has changed.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring is Here.

The sun is shining, the camellia blooms are blanketing the ground, and our hopes are high.  Easter is just around the corner, and everyone seems to be on spring break.

What will you do to celebrate Spring?
What special foods will you cook?

It has been raining hard here in the Northwest.  New onions and peas will be sprouting soon and we'll be cooking our special Easter dishes.

I have posted a traditional dish served at Easter, in my cooking blog called  Verdetto.
Coincidentally, the story I'm writing on my fiction blog has this dish listed as a conversation starter, a way for the narrator to reconnect to her past, and to open up to her husband.
If you are curious, go check them,  and the easiest way is via my profile page.

Let's hope we can all watch the Blue Moon tonight. Happy Spring Break.
Happy Easter.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Will curiosity kill us?

Our children know that we sleep late, but they tried to wake us and alert us about the incoming tsunami  predicted to hit the west coast. 

Hubby had been up and had heard about the earthquake and had told me about it as soon as it happened.
He calculated that it would be a few hours before a tsunami wave would get to us and  tried to get some winks.  At four a.m. we heard a knock at the door. We ignored it for a while; sometimes birds, deer and raccoon bump against the house and it feels/sounds as though someone is at the door.  The knock was insistent.  So, Hubby got up and saw a sheriff's car on the driveway of the next house, and a pamphlet at the doorstep. 

I got up. Nothing had hit Hawaii yet, so we had time.
I woke my hubby about 7:00, and it took me a bit of effort to get him up.
We left our house after Hawaii was hit.

Cars were lining up on Cedar Terrace, a neighborhood across the highway,  over the next hill. There, each neighbor had a bit of a story. They told us that parts of the highway were blocked off, before bridges, for instance, and in low areas.

If major tsunami waves had hit the west coast, many towns would be isolated for months, leaving many residents to fend for themselves.  Our town has no doctors, no pharmacies.

We tried to call out to California to our two boys. Our phone didn't work.
We waited in a cold car (cold by comparison to our warm house.) The outside temps were in the 40's.

It reminded me of the earthquakes in California, the last one causing so many injuries.  I always take these drills seriously. Hubby was quite reluctant to remain put and waiting.  When he saw the harbor master drive down to work around eight, he was chafing at the bit to get out of sitting around. If it had been warmer, I would have let him drive off and leave me up at Cedar Terrace

Half hour later, we drove around Cedar Terrace and asked the authorities, first respondents who were busy on their walky- talkies, what the prognosis was. They didn't  know.  We kept driving around, looked over at a relative calm ocean and decided we could go sit at Battle Rock at watch. Battle Rock park is on a bluff approximately 40-50 feet above the surf line.

Waves rolled on shore, then receded after ten minutes, a low and high tide in ten minutes intervals, with some waves cresting higher than normal.

All this time, I was doing much berating. If we just stood there, and a rush of water began to climb the hill, it would crumble right under us, taking us to sea and to sure death.  We were all fool on that hill.

 A police car was keeping people from driving down at the surf line.  Yes, in Oregon, one can drive on the beaches!

After 9:00 we left for Coos Bay, for lunch and a movie.  If major tsunami waves had landed on the west coast past 9:00 I would not be here writing this today.  The highway, Pacific Coast Highway 101 that runs up and down the US and Canada all the way down the Pacific Rim, that highway has many low points at which the ocean can bring much destruction.

What I fear the most is not our preparedness.  It is not even our ability to handle logistics and mobility. We all got out of our houses.  We all knew what to do, and we did it.

 What I fear the most is our human instinct to be witness to an event such as this.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ants on a Log..

No amount of preparation and worry will save us from the forces of nature.
This thought has lingered with me ever since Friday's event in Japan.  We are ants on a log in all this drama. Infinitesimally small and insignificant in the big scheme of things.  We can rebuild, pray, create stronger abodes, move to higher ground for a while.

Then, we will forget again.
We will roam the earth looking for adventures and opportunities.
We will feel powerful and strong again.  We'll encourage engineers and architects to build bigger and stronger structures to withstand bigger and stronger events.  Our technology and our tools will improve and we will gain another stronghold in history. 

Our small town was spared the power of tsunami waves last Friday.  Other towns, up and down the coast were not so lucky.  Our elementary school is sitting low. In an event like this, our children will have less than fifteen minutes to walk away from sure destruction. 

These are the thoughts we are exchanging  on this beautiful shore after a destructive event the power of which was unimaginable.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

No Day like Today!

We are on the Pacific Coast, in the area of the Ring of Fire, the area  most susceptible to earthquakes and volcanoes.  Sea stacks tell us the story of this land and of this ocean.

Yesterday was another wake up call.  A call to know our limitations.
We can move somewhere else, or  prepare for the next calamitous event.

We  have two identical backpacks in our car, with supplies for a couple of days, plus blankets, extra jackets and shoes, medications.

I've had these supplies for a while. I refresh them every season or so, eat up the food and drink up the water and update the meds.  We take many meds, and this process of updating them is probably the toughest thing to accomplish since pharmacists do not give you extra meds for emergencies. 

Do you feel safe where you are? Good.
Do you want to be prepared for emergencies?
I will repost my backpack contents on my next post. If you are in a hurry, search my old posts, copy and paste, if you wish. You have my blessings and permission.

Sometimes, that's all we can do.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Back on home ground.

Some of you may know that this blog was hijacked a few days ago, while we were in California, while my computer was in the shop for repairs. By the time we returned home and I discovered the coup, trying to get on board from my husband's computer, waiting to boot up a new computer we purchased, while all that was going on, we were recuperating from a nasty cold that made us curt and irritable.

The whole thing was very upsetting. I felt shut out, isolated, violated. These things happen all the time, to someone or other. Well, it happened to me, and I don't know how to prevent this.

Well, I'm turning this page and I'm moving forward. I started a new blog called anatomy of old age to dissect what happens to old folks during their last decades.  Not that I'm abandoning this home. I'm creating other spaces to expand my interests.  Have you visited my fiction blog? If you are a writer, you might want to see what I'm creating, called

Of course, if you hunger for real food, you'll drop by my non-cookbook cooking at .

Glad to be among the living!
Now, off to visit my friends and colleagues.
Have a great day!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Retirement: Saving for those days.

This Australian fig tree on the site of Rancho Los Cerritos, in the area of present Long Beach, is over two-hundred years old,  still thriving and on foreign soil. This young family here could be living way beyond the current life expectancy, way into their nineties, and they could be living on foreign soil too. Many of us have ended up where we didn't anticipate to be.

Most financial planners and actuaries calculate that you need a good twenty-thirty years of saved up income and a house already paid up. It was a good assumption for our parents' generation. Nowadays, with medical breakthroughs, we  can all look forward to a longer life span than our parents. And, unlike them, we'll not have much savings, nor a house paid up.

So, the first thing we need to do is live below our means while we are employed and able to put away money for rainy days, for children's college. So many things to finance!  If you are a modern two-spouse income household, try to live on just one of those incomes, and sock away the rest.

Did we?
We couldn't save enough for our children's college because we were still paying back our own student loans.
We even tapped our retirements a few times for tuition, to buy our first house, to reconstruct after a major earthquake.

How much money should we have had before retiring?  Interestingly, less than we thought.
We didn't need the things we needed when our family was young.
Our house?  We slashed our house payments in half by moving to a more affordable place.

This is what you need:
Health Care/Medications
Mental and physical stimulation.

Could you live without a car?
Could you live without a land line?
Could you work part time?
Could you make your own gifts?
Could you exchange your services for those you need? For instance, there are time-banks all over the country, an exchange of hours, my cooking for you, you repairing my plumbing.
Could you grow some of your food? Or do your own picking?

These questions are meant to stimulate yous saving buttons. If you could live without a car, you have dropped a good amount of money into your savings. If you already have a computer, you have a lot of networking and entertainment capabilities, including inexpensive ways to read papers and find out about the world.  Track your expenses and make a game of slashing them. 

You don't have to retire at any particular age,  so, plan on working as long as you can and as long as it doesn't kill you.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Retiring Thoughts.

We wanted a quick meal the other night, and the subject of where to  pick up fast food popped up.  Here, vacationing in Southern Cal.,  we are close to many restaurants and fast food joints.  Not a lot of thinking or driving.  The picture above is of my favorite burger joint, the only thing I really miss in Oregon.

When we decided to retire, it was a quick decision too.
We had not spent months and years in preparation.
We figured out that if we sold our Cal. property we'd be able to move anywhere in the world.

We thought of moving to Italy, my homeland, after a  visit of a few weeks.
Hubby was all for the idea. I kept thinking that our grown children wouldn't be visiting us too often if we moved so far from them.

So, four elements should have guided our thinking, in retrospect:

1. Finding a place we loved, and not too far for the children to get to us, affordable in our new status.

2. Identifying  the things we wanted to do with our time. 

3. Accessing service providers.

4.Live well within our means.

We did extremely well on the first element  We sold our house in a couple of days, and moved to a small apartment close to my work site, until the retirement process was completed.  All our belongings went to our children who appreciated the stuff they could select and keep.  The rest, went to charity.  We planned on purchasing what we needed for our new digs later.  We kept a few things and these too were given to charity on the day we left California permanently

We chose a place in Port Orford because if was just breathtakingly beautiful. All the other problems paled by that beauty. We had looked on the coast for months for something affordable to us; and we didn't find anything in California. Oregon is much more affordable. One reason, no sales taxes, and a laid back life style.

On the second, not really. It took us a couple of years to figure things out.

 People gave us gifts of golf clubs thinking with all the links in our new area, we'd pick up the sport.  We tried. We didn't like it. The same with fishing.  There isn't much to do in some places. And, the big AND, we didn't really have hobbies besides our work.


Our mistake is one most people will make, not thinking of how they will spend their time in retirement, before health issues will immobilize you.  Traveling, shopping and dining are not hobbies or creative activities. They will just drain your dwindling resources. Yes, you can do them. But, they will not keep you engaged mentally and physically for the long run.

In the next  post I will outline some of the ways that would have helped us prepare for this eventuality.