How to handle painful losses during retirement

What a title!  Way to bring readers down!

No, I’m not trying to depress you, dear reader, or bring you down.  I’m trying to give you some tools to handle FORESEEABLE, painful losses during retirement years.  You may and likely WILL suffer losses–many of them.

They’re part of living and growing old.  Sad, but true.

Isn’t it better to be prepared than to be surprised?

You don’t have to forge ahead blindly into the many losses that come with aging.  This post will tell you about the types of losses you will suffer,   the likely responses  you may have, and the types of coping mechanisms you can use to survive the losses.

So let’s get on with it.  Here’s how to handle painful losses during retirement.

Types of losses you will suffer

Your losses will involve people and pets, roles, objects, physical aspects of your body, and states of being.

People and Pets

Photo by Christian Langballe, on Unsplash.com

Your most difficult losses will be the serious injuries, terminal illnesses, divorces,  and deaths of yourself and those you love – both human and nonhuman.  I include pets in this category because many adults love their pets as though the pets were children or companions.

I’m sorry to remind  you about the upcoming losses of people and pets, but it’s true; they will happen.  Here are some statistics from the Social Security Administration on senior citizen losses of a spouse or partner by death or divorce:

  • 12% of people 65 and over are already divorced
  • 5% of people 65 and over have never married
  • 25% of people 65 and over are widowed
  • 58% of people  65 and over are married or living with a partner.

Income of the Population 55 and Older, 2014, Table 11.1.

By age 65, 37% of people have ALREADY lost a spouse or partner.  The rest — 58% — will lose their spouse or partner in the years after age 65.

In 2010, the life expectancy for people aged 65  was 17.7 years for men and 20.3 years for women.  This means if you were 65 in 2010, you’re going to live an average of either 17.7 more years or 20.3 more years, depending on your gender.

So if you are part of the 58% of Americans who are over 65 and married or living with a partner, you can expect to lose that partner within 17 to 20 years, on average.  Some will die sooner and some will die later, but everybody is going to die.  https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/demo/p23-212.pdf

In 2010, 1.8 million or 72.8 % of the total 2.5 million deaths in the United States occurred to people aged 65 and over (Murphy, Xu,
and Kochanek, 2012).  Heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, nephritis, and accidents were the 9 leading causes of deaths in 2010, according to the same study. (Murphy, Sherry L., Jiaquan Xu, and Kenneth D.Kochanek. 2012. Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2010.National Vital Statistics Reports 60/4. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Availableat <www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_04.pdf>)
Photo by Alex Blajan on Unsplash.com

Every one of those 2.5 million deaths was a loss to a family and to friends.  Most of the deaths were people 65 and over, but a substantial number (700,000) were to people under 65.  Those deaths were of people who were someone’s daughter, son, grandson, granddaughter, sister, or brother.  That’s another kind of loss that you may suffer.

And that’s just one year’s worth of deaths.

 

Loss of a child, parent, sibling, or grandparent will happen, and likely more than once during our retirement years because today many of us have more than 20 years of retirement to live through.  So we will lose those we love.

 

Losses from death or divorce WILL occur.  So we might as well be ready to cope with these painful losses during retirement.

 

After losing a spouse by death or divorce, many older people keep pets as companions to help them deal with loneliness and to give them something to love.  Some have already had dogs or cats or both throughout their lives.  Others adopt pets after a loved person passes away.  Pets offer companionship and unconditional love.
Caring for them offers people a way to share their love and desire to take care of another living being.  Giving the pet a home can stave off loneliness.
RIP Shunkie, 2006-2017. A sweet companion.

But pets age quickly and die.  Cats can live from 12 to 15 years very often, as can small dogs.  Large dogs usually live to age 9 or 10, and medium-sized dogs to age 12 or 13.  Of course there are exceptions; some live longer, some shorter.  Some adults have horses, llamas, alpacas, donkeys, or cattle that they keep as pets or companions  in a barn on a farm or in a rural area that allows large animals.

When someone adopts a pet, he or she knows that the pet will eventually die.  Although we try not to think about it, the beloved dog or cat may grow white around the face, limp, become thin, or have trouble moving by around age 7 or 8.  When we see these signs of aging, we know that there is not much time left.  Dealing with the loss of a loving animal is very hard and emotionally draining.

Roles

Women over 60
Credit: www.ism.org

When we retire from career or work or both, we automatically lose our important roles as members of a profession or occupation, and our roles as employees, bosses, or teammates at a place of business. Along with the role loss goes loss of the respect and admiration that came from other people who learned of our chosen career or job.

When I retired from my career as a university professor 13 years ago, I was no longer a teacher, no longer an employee of a university system, no longer a colleague in a department of other professors, and no longer a person with a secure job.  These four identities disappeared the moment I drove home on December 31, 2004.  I lost these roles.

 

When I was divorced 30 years ago, I lost my roles as wife and partner.  I kept the role of parent.  I lost my role as part of a couple in a neighborhood group of couples, which meant I no longer had a social life with couples.  I gained the role of divorced woman, which meant that I was seen as a danger by married women in my age group.  I had to develop an identity as a single woman, a single parent, the head of a family of three, solely responsible for the maintenance of a home.   It was a tough process of role loss and change.

 

When we lose familiar roles, we face uncertainty and feel pain.  Familiar patterns of behavior are now gone.  What do we do instead?  How do we adopt new patterns of behavior to fit our changed status?  How do we handle these painful losses during retirement?
For me, when I retired from teaching, I didn’t know what to do with all the time that was suddenly freed up.  Used to working 60 hours per week, I now had 60 hours to fill.  Used to commuting to work 45 minutes each morning and evening, I now had to find other reasons to leave the house.I had to create a new role for myself that was not the role of professor or employee or colleague, while grieving for these familiar roles that I lost.  I had to think differently about myself.  This process took a long time.

The condo building where I live now, after giving up my house.

Similar losses occur to roles when you move house.  In your former house/condo/apartment, you lived in a community of people who knew you as the owner or renter of that home.  You had specific duties as a member of that community.  You moved in a system of relationships among your neighbors, your local government, your local stores, your local medical facilities and schools, and so on.

But when you move house more than a block or so away from the old place, you lose the community of people and some or all of the relationships that were familiar.  You have to reestablish your duties in a new place, meet new people, learn the culture of the new place.  It’s difficult.  You must simultaneously give up your old, familiar roles, and create new roles in the new place.  These painful role losses must be grieved as you initiate new roles in retirement.  I have written a series of blogs about my experience in giving up a large home and moving to a small condo.

 

Many retired people downsize their living arrangements either before or during their early retirement years.  Some stay in their familiar homes until they lose their spouse or partner.  Then they move somewhere else and lose their homes and familiar community relationships.  Retirement blogger Jeanette Lewis has written about her experience with moving:  http://postworksavvy.com/letting-go-of-a-place-called-home/. 

 

It’s often helpful to read about how others survived the experiences of loss that you are facing.

Objects

Along with the loss of a partner or other family member, a job or career, and/or a familiar home comes the loss of important objects.
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash.com

During our lives, most of us become fond of certain pieces of furniture such as a favorite chair. We may hoard special dishes or wine glasses or mugs, collect shells  or glass horses or model cars and so on.

These objects are part of our familiar, comfortable spaces in our home place.  But when we are faced with giving them up, we suffer another set of painful losses during retirement — letting go of our stuff.

This can happen as a result of a move from a larger place to a smaller place.  Or it can result from a fire, a flood, a hurricane, or some other natural disaster than damages or destroys our homes or businesses or both.  It could even be the outcome of a robbery.

 

Losing our stuff is painful.  When I was going through divorce, my husband drove a rented truck to our home one Saturday and took away about half of our furniture.   This loss left me with an empty living room and dining room.  I was allowed to keep the kitchen table “for now,” but eventually had to let him have that too.  These furniture items came to us from his family over a period of years.  They replaced furniture items that were mine or that we had purchased together.

 

Photo by DennisKoralArchitects

If you have ever visited someone in a nursing home, then you know that the amount of space each resident has is very small compared to the home that he or she gave up.

Sometimes a resident can have a piece of furniture like a china cabinet or a shelf in her or his room, with some favorite collectibles or mementos displayed there.  That helps the resident to retain some familiar items from the earlier stages of life.  But everything else from the former home is gone:  given away, sold, or placed in storage.  The process of moving into a nursing home is one of the painful losses in retirement that each of us may have to face.  There is so much to give up – so many objects to lose.

Physical aspects of your body

Photo by homeinabox.us

Growing physically old is also a process of coming to terms with painful losses in retirement.  We are faced with losing our mobility, our physical abilities, our strength, our endurance, our body image, our sexual activity, our hair, our teeth, our sight, our hearing, our sense of smell, our sense of taste, and eventually our lives through death.

Each of these aspects of our physical body represents another loss.  Some of us will have more losses than others.  Each loss must be faced, addressed, grieved, and accepted.  Each loss brings with it more changes and adjustments that must be made.

 

When my father reached age 70, his lung disease (COPD) entered a stage where he required oxygen to breathe.  This meant, in the 1980s, that he had to drag around a tank of oxygen on a little cart and wear an oxygen tube in his nose and accompanying headgear at all times.  This change in his physical body was difficult for him to accept and identified him as a “patient” – a role he hated.  It also meant he had to give up his mobility to a large extent.  He could no longer drive and had to persuade my mother to take him wherever he wanted to go in the car.  He did not like to be dependent in that way.  He got out of breath easily, and had to walk slowly.  He had to give up beloved activities like golf, gardening, lawn care, fixing things around the house, and going on trips.  These losses caused him a lot of psychological pain.

 

A woman I know is nearing 80 years old.  She suffers from chronic pain and uses a walker to get around.  She has lost most of her mobility, although she can still drive.  She also suffers from allopecia (hair loss), and has experienced the body “sagging” that many older women develop when gravity pulls. This makes finding well-fitting, attractive clothing difficult in the thrift shops where she gets her clothes.  She no longer wears makeup, even lipstick.  When you look at her and take all these factors in, it seems like she has given up on herself.  The changes in her physical body have become overwhelming.  Other people avoid her because she treats others cruelly and constantly criticizes those around her.

 

A man I knew, who has now passed away, suffered from diabetes and lost both of his feet in his late 50s.  He used a wheelchair to get around, and had to be carried from the wheelchair to the family van whenever he went somewhere, because he was not capable of getting from the wheelchair to the van by himself.  His sons or his man friends did the transferring.   He had no teeth left, and his eyesight was poor.  But this man did not give up.  He accepted his physical losses as just part of his journey.  He attended spiritual ceremonies, sang, told stories, and enjoyed his meals and especially hot coffee.   He died at the age of 64, but he lived every day as fully as possible up until he passed away.

 

These three stories offer three approaches to the physical losses we all may face as we age.  They are part of the painful losses in retirement.  Each of must choose how to deal with them.

States of Being

The last category of losses, states of being, is about how we perceive what is happening and how we feel about our aging process.
Source: Free Stock Images

For example, when a retired person (or any person) loses a spouse or life partner, along with the loss of that person come other potential losses:  financial stability, self-determination, security, happiness, shared experiences, partnership, togetherness.

 A friend of mine lost her husband in September 2016 after 61 years of marriage.  She still lives in their home, but it is a big house on a big double lot and now she is alone.  I’ve heard her say that she doesn’t know what to do with herself – having been married so long, depending on another person for most of her life, losing companionship, faced with maintenance of a large house and yard.  She feels disconnected.  There’s no one to talk to. She has lost her security as a spouse, her happiness as part of a couple, togetherness, partnership.  The shared experiences she and her husband had are no longer shared. She is the only one left.
Credit: nidsun.com

For another example, I’ll share the losses that have left me with a different state of being.  All my life I’ve depended on my body to walk, bend, lift, reach, sit, stand, climb stairs, and so on.  But now, when standing or walking, I become dizzy without warning at times.  I can’t climb stairs without developing intense pain in my knees.

I can’t kneel or squat down to pick something up, or get down on the floor to do yoga or other exercises without experiencing severe knee pain.  Then if I do get down on the floor, I’m unable to get back up without help.  Getting out of a low chair or soft sofa is almost impossible without using something to lean on to propel myself up.  My legs no longer work as they did for the first 65 years of living.  I’ve lost confidence in my body.

Many women feel they are no longer attractive when they reach age 65 or more.  Their hair may have changed color and texture.  Their faces have developed wrinkles and lost the plump smoothness of the cheeks.  Their neck skin has developed wattles like a turkey.  Their upper arms no longer have defined muscles.  Their waists have thickened.  And on and on.

 

No longer feeling pretty is a loss.  Looking in the mirror and seeing an old woman is a new state of being that many don’t want to accept.  It’s disorienting.
Photo by theCHIVE.com

Men react similarly.  Muscle tone is lost.  Facial skin sags along with neck skin.  Spines may develop humps.  Shoulders droop.  Former athletes can no longer perform the skills of running, throwing, swimming, jumping, shooting, or skiing.  Living in an old body is a new state of being.  Familiar activities have to be abandoned or extensive accommodations made.

Some men and women lose interest in sexual activity and can no longer perform as they did earlier in life.  This is a new state of being, and often a very unwelcome loss.

 

People who have suffered a stroke, who have a debilitating or progressive disease, must often use a wheelchair, walker, or scooter to move around.  Loss of mobility can bring on feelings of irritability and resentment as we are forced to depend on others for help.

 

Credit: pbs.org

People who have suffered financial losses, for whatever reason, and people who never earned much money, may find themselves living on a tight budget in retirement.  They have a hard time paying for their basic living expenses of food, shelter, medicine, clothing, and doctor bills.  This is a new state of being – the feeling of being poor, not having enough, being deprived, being afraid of the future.

People who sell their single-family homes and move into assisted living, condominiums, apartments, or nursing homes experience extensive loss of control over their living situations, activities, surroundings, and freedom of movement.  They learn that there are many rules they have to follow – often for the first time since high school or college!  Living in a condo or apartment is like living in a dormitory, and very different from living in one’s own house.

 

Homeowners’ associations, landlord-tenant leases, and other legal documents severely limit what people can do.  It’s uncomfortable and confining.   The regimentation of a nursing home or assisted living facility may lead a person to feel trapped and sad.

Types of Coping Mechanisms

Well.  If you’ve read this far, you probably have seen your own situations, or those of loved ones, depicted in the two preceding sections.

You’ve recognized that you’re going to experience losses.  Maybe you already have.

So now let’s take a look at what you can do about it.

Facing Problems image 6
Credit: femgineer.com

The most important principle of coping is a recognition that you have to take care of YOURSELF.  No one else is going to do it for you.  It’s up to you to find out what you need and take steps to get it.  Others can help, but they can’t do the hard work of accepting change for you.

There are MANY  coping mechanisms that can help you deal with the painful losses in retirement.  You and I have probably tried some of them before.  Feel free to use as many as you want to!  There’s no limit on the ways that you can ask for help or help yourself!

One coping mechanism that helps me is to schedule a treat for myself every day.  It might be as simple as saying, “Well, at 3:00PM I’m going to fix a nice cup of tea and sit on my balcony for a few minutes to listen to the birds.”

Here is a list of coping methods that can help you get through a loss:

  • Talk therapy, with a trained psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist
  • Self-help books, tapes, and CDs
  • Support groups filled with people like yourself experiencing what you’re experiencing
  • Writing – in a diary, journal, or blog – about what you’re going through
  • Volunteer work, where you reach out to help others and find that your activities also help yourself recover from losses
  • Meditation
  • Yoga, exercise, walking – alone or in a class or group
  • Travel, domestic or international, provides a change of scene and a change of subject, leading you to forget your own troubles
  • Rituals and ceremonies that honor what you lost
  • Gathering mementos and keeping them in a box readily available to you but out of sight
  • Focusing on the good times and the best memories of your loved one or pet
  • Gardening
  • Cooking, canning, preserving, or drying food
  • Listening to beautiful, uplifting music
  • Fishing
  • Sewing, knitting, crocheting, working with wood or leather, beading
  • Drawing, painting, or coloring
  • Spending time with good people
  • Spending time outside in the sun each day
  • Going out for coffee or a meal
  • Going to a movie or concert. Many free ones can be found!
  • Visiting new places in your local area
  • Taking a warm bath or shower
  • Signing up for a class
  • Trying a new hobby
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Painting the walls of your home or room in a light color
  • Taking stock of your goals.  What do you want out of life?
  • Learning your limits
  • Making a plan for the next day, week, month, year, or longer
  • Finding a part-time job
  • Joining a book club, card club, biking group, etc. that meets regularly
  • Thinking about your daily schedule
  • Enjoying each new day with gratitude
  • Letting time go by

These coping methods will help you go through the stages of grief:  shock, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  The stages may last for months or years.  There’s no fixed way of going through them.  Each person handles grief differently.  But knowing that there is a process togo through can help you survive it and heal.

Other coping methods are NOT good and should be avoided.  These include

  • Drinking or eating too much
  • Gambling
  • Using illegal drugs or prescription drugs to excess
  • Lashing out at others
  • Isolating yourself longer than a few days
  • Joining a cult that promises to solve your problems
  • Spending too much money
Credit: imgarcade.com

If you find yourself doing any of those seven things, then get some help.  You don’t have to go through your grief alone.  People will help you.  You just have to ask.

How to handle painful losses in retirement

We’ve now seen the many losses that older people face in retirement.  Sometimes it seems like the losses really pile on.  I talked with a friend recently who told me of her cousin who had just lost his wife, and returned from  the funeral to find his home on fire.  It burned to the ground and he lost all his possessions.  Shortly after, his dog was hit by a car and died.  What a string of losses.  The man turned to his friends and his married son for help in handling so much difficulty.

If we’re lucky, we will be able to face just one loss at a time.  One of the women in my bridge club last year was turning 104.  We asked her if there were anyone she’d like us to invite to a little birthday celebration.  She answered, “Thanks, but no.  Everyone I knew is dead.”  She had recently attended the funeral of her only daughter.

In times when we feel really sad and overwhelmed, it’s helpful to cry.  Everyone needs to cry now and then to release stress.  Crying helps to let out bottled-up feelings. After a few moments, we feel better.  We take some deep breaths, and go on with living.

A radio preacher I used to listen to would start each Sunday service by saying, “Thanks, Lord, for giving me another day of living.  I woke up this  morning clothed and in my right mind, for which I am grateful.”

Sometimes we have to focus on small things and being grateful for them:  a beautiful sunrise, a hot cup of coffee,  the purring of a cat in your lap, a bird singing near your window.  This is the best way to cope with losses:  taking one day at a time and living with an attitude of gratitude.

The list of coping mechanisms that I offered to you in the previous section is a good place to start when handling a loss.  You CAN survive whatever happens to you.  I know you can.

If this post has helped you with a loss, please let me know.  I care!

 

Here’s what it takes to get social services benefits and unemployment benefits when you’ve lost your job

Here’s what it takes to get social services benefits and unemployment benefits when you’ve lost your job

I’m pretty disgusted with lawmakers who say they want to add more requirements for people to fulfill before they can get food stamps, Medicaid, or other social services benefits and/or federal assistance. It looks to me like they have absolutely no idea what it is like to be poor, unemployed, homeless, stranded, and/or hungry.

I wonder if any of them know what it takes to get social services benefits and unemployment benefits when you’ve lost your job.  Have they gone through the process?  It’s daunting.

So I’m going to lay out two scenarios for readers, so you can walk in the footsteps of people (composites of people I know, no real names used) who need aid and need it NOW.

Then I’d appreciate hearing your comments as to whether you think it makes any sense to add more rules to an already-difficult situation for poor people and those who are disabled and/or down on their luck.

Do we need to add more requirements to what it takes to get social services benefits and unemployment benefits in the U.S.?

A 35-year-old woman loses her job

Here’s what it takes to get assistance in Todd County, Minnesota – a rural agricultural area in the center of the state, 130 miles from Minneapolis.  I know about this because I lived there for 13 years.

Median income in Todd County was $47,920 in 2015. Median contract rent for apartments: $468. (http://www.city-data.com/county/Todd_County-MN.html) Utilities estimated at $50 per month for heat and electricity for an apartment.

Location of Staples, Minnesota, 160 mi NW of Minneapolis

Let’s pretend you are a woman, age 35, unmarried, with three children under 10 (ages 3, 6, and 9) and no car. You live in a small apartment in Staples, Minnesota.  You’ve been laid off from your cleaning job at a factory in Staples, Minnesota.

At the factory cleaning job, you earned $10.00 per hour for a 40-hour week (that’s $400 gross, minus deductions for social security – 12.4%, Medicare 2.9%, income tax withholding of $18, etc., so your net pay was about $320 per week, or $16,640 per year (about 33% of the MEDIAN income in the county). Your employer provided a basic healthcare policy for free.

  • Your rent is $468 per month. You have no car.
  • Your food cost per month in March 2016 (the latest available figures) was estimated by the USDA to be $563.20, but you probably spend far less than that because you don’t have the cash. (https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/CostofFoodMar2016_0.pdf).
  • Utilities are about $50 per month for heat and electricity with a low-income subsidy. You can’t afford a phone or cable TV.

So what you have left after rent, food, and utilities is $199 per month ($50 per week) for clothing, medicine, school supplies, day care, transportation, and everything else for four people. You have no bank accounts and pay your bills with money orders.

But now you have no job and no income. So what do you do? Your rent is due in 3 weeks.

Daily Mail photo

You decide to apply for unemployment and for aid at the county. Your county seat, Long Prairie, is 29 miles from your home in Staples.

–You can apply in person or online. If you apply in person, come Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 4:30 PM, to the Todd County Courthouse in Long Prairie, Minnesota.

There is no public transportation system in Todd County. There is a subsidized occasional bus service called Rainbow Rider. The fare depends on the distance you travel. 0 – 5 miles, $2. 5.1 – 10 miles, $4. 10.1 – 20 miles, $6. $2 additional for every 10 miles thereafter. You must call and request a ride at least 6 hours in advance. If you call less than 6 hours before, $1 will be added to the fare. The buses run regular routes between the towns of Long Prairie and Browerville, and between Long Prairie and Grey Eagle. If you are going anywhere else, you have to request a ride.

You don’t live in Browerville, Grey Eagle, or Long Prairie. Your apartment is in Staples. The distance between Staples and Long Prairie is 29 miles, so the round trip will cost you $16.

First, you decide to apply for unemployment.

To accomplish this, you learn that you can go online to www.uimn.org, to complete an application, or call a phone number for Greater Minnesota: 1-877-898-9090 to complete the application by phone. You don’t have a computer or a phone.

  • You’ll need your social security number, employer’s name and address, dates of work, type of work, and why you are no longer employed there. After you complete the application, if you are eligible, your weekly benefit will be about 50% of your average weekly wage, or about $200 in your case.
  • To receive benefit payments, you must make a request for a benefit payment every week – online or by phone. When you make your weekly request, you will be asked to report any income, if you are available to accept work, and if you are looking for work.

The earliest you could receive a payment is about three weeks after you apply. http://www.uimn.org/assets/HowToApplyForUI_tcm1068-193561.pdf . You must keep the address on your account up to date for at least four years after your last request for a benefit payment.

If you are deemed NOT eligible for unemployment, you may be eligible for $621 in cash assistance and $581 in food assistance, according to a social worker you talked to .

You call the phone number for the unemployment office, using a phone at the library, and complete the application for unemployment benefits.

Second, you decide to apply for county aid.

To be considered for county aid, you learn that you must complete the ApplyMN application online or in person at the Courthouse in Long Prairie to apply for cash, food, child care, and emergency assistance.

You do not have a computer. To use one, you must go to the local library. The library in Staples is open MON 10:00 – 6:00. TUE 2:00 – 8:00. WED 10:00 – 6:00. THU 2:00 – 8:00. FRI 1:00 – 5:00. SAT 10:00 – 1:00. SUN Closed.

To see if you qualify for ApplyMn housing benefits, you must go to www.BridgetoBenefits.org/Home2. There you will find a short questionnaire to see if you qualify:

Check any items that describe your living situation:

–Someone in my family has a physical or developmental disability

–I am a grandparent, other relative or family friend raising someone else’s child(ren)

–I am under the age of 18 and living on my own

–I am a senior, 65 years or older.

Since you don’t fit any of those four criteria, then you don’t qualify for benefits through BridgetoBenefits.

Next, try to find out if you can get food stamps, now called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP. Here are the requirements:

If you are an able-bodied adult without dependents (in other words, a single person 18-50), you can only get food benefits for 3 months in a 36-month period unless you meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • You work at least 20 hours per week (80 hours per month)
  • You participate in an approved employment program at least 80 hours per month
  • You are receiving cash assistance
  • You are certified unable to work
  • You live on Bois Forte, Fond Du Lac, Leech Lake, Lower Sioux, Mille Lacs, Red Lake or White Earth Reservations
  • You live in Cass, Clearwater, Kanabec, or Mille Lacs counties
  • You are pregnant
  • You are under age 18 or older than age 50

But you are an able-bodied adult with 3 dependents, so you may qualify for SNAP.  You may have to meet an asset or income test.

SNAP in Minnesota provides a minimum monthly benefit of $16. The average benefit is $118.

If you meet certain other criteria listed below, you may be eligible for SNAP with no asset or income test:

  • Families in which at least 1 child in the household is eligible to receive Basic Sliding Fee Child Care and/or the Transition Year Child Care. The family must have applied and been found eligible for the Child Care Assistance Program but can still be on the waiting list.
  • Families participating in the Diversionary Work Program (DWP).
  • Families composed entirely of people who receive General Assistance (GA), Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in Minnesota.

If you want to apply for SNAP, you must complete the Combined Application Form (CAF) online or at your county social services office in person.   It is 15 pages long, plus instructions. This application can also be used to apply for cash assistance (Minnesota Family Investment Program or Diversionary Work Program) or a health program.

You decide to go to Long Prairie to the Courthouse to fill out the applications and schedule your interview.

Next, you call the Rainbow Rider bus line from a phone at the library.  You ask for a ride for tomorrow at 9 AM, from Staples to Long Prairie, returning later in the day.  The ride will cost you $8 each way, using $16 of your $50 per week cash.

At the library, on one of the library’s public computers, you learn about what to do at the Todd County social services office.

Here are Todd County’s online instructions:

–You must come for a scheduled face-to-face interview if you are applying for cash assistance (MFIP and DWP) programs. Interviews for food and other cash programs can be conducted as scheduled interviews over the telephone. You must bring proof of your income, such as check stubs, and your expenses.

–For health care, go to mnsure.org to inquire. If you are 65 or over, certified disabled through Social Security, or are receiving Medicare, contact the county office for the appropriate application form. Your unemployment benefit amount will determine whether the children and yourself are eligible for Medical Assistance, MnCare, Unassisted Health, or QNP.

You make your journey to Long Prairie, to the Courthouse where the social services office is located.  You waited until your two older children left for school, and then you asked a neighbor to watch your 3-year-old for the day.

Photo by Contegrity Group, Little Falls MN

Now , after an hour on the Rainbow Rider bus, you’ve arrived at the Courthouse in the county seat, Long Prairie. You go to the Social Services office. You have brought with you all the information required:

■ Identification showing your name and address

■ A Social Security number for all household members applying for benefits; if you or a member of your household has not applied for a Social Security number, you must apply at the same time you apply for benefits

■ Proof of your monthly earnings, such as recent pay stubs

■ Proof of your monthly unearned income, such as benefit statements

■ Proof of housing costs (needed before the agency can allow these costs as a deduction from your income)

■ Proof of immigration status for all household members applying for benefits

■ Medical bills of household members who are 60 years or older or have disabilities if these bills are not paid by insurance, Medical Assistance or Medicare (needed before the agency can allow these costs as a deduction from your income.The agency cannot decide if you will get benefits until you submit the entire application and required verifications.If you qualify for benefits, you will get them no later than 30 days from the date you submitted your application.

You wait for your turn and meet with a social worker at the county social services office to ask about food assistance, cash assistance, and work programs.

You decide to apply for the Child Care Program also.  How does the Child Care Assistance Program work?

The Child Care Assistance Program can help pay child care costs for all children age 12 and younger, and for children ages 13 and 14 who have special needs. If your child is under the age of 15 and has special needs, talk to your county worker if your child care costs are higher due to your child’s special needs

Child care costs may be paid for the time you are working, looking for work, attending training or participating in activities included in your approved Minnesota Family Investment Program/Diversionary Work Program employment plan.

You must cooperate with child support for all children in families with an absent parent.

There is no time limit on how long you may receive child care assistance, as long as you meet the requirements and your income is within the program limits for your family size

Your child care must be provided by a legal provider who is at least 18 years old. For more information about selecting a provider, see the How do I choose a child care provider? section on page 3. It is important to know the rules of the Child Care Assistance Program and ask questions if you don’t understand something. Keep two important policies in mind:

Report changes in your household within 10 days from the time the change occurs. This is very important if you move to a new county and want to keep getting benefits and not have an overpayment. Changes can include the number of people living with you, your income, your address, your employment and your school schedule.

Pay the part of your child care costs that the Child Care Assistance Program does not pay. Your case might be closed if program rules are not followed.

https://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/lfserver/Public/DHS-3551-ENG

Your social worker tells you that you will be eligible for $649 per month in SNAP benefits based on the “thrifty food plan” since you have no income and three children to feed, plus yourself.

The social worker asks you who the father of the children is, so that he can be located and ordered to pay child support.

–Third, you apply for housing assistance.

You may soon lose your apartment because you no longer have income to pay the rent. So you will need to apply for housing assistance. Here is how to do that:

The Todd County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) controls housing assistance for Todd County. It is located in Browerville, 21 miles from your home in Staples.

Here is what the HRA website says:

The housing choice voucher program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.

The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.

Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies (PHAs). The PHAs receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program.

A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family’s choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This unit may include the family’s present residence. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the PHA.

A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program. Under certain circumstances, if authorized by the PHA, a family may use its voucher to purchase a modest home

Applying for a Housing Program:  the application, authorization form, and criminal release form need to be completed and submitted to a Browerville address.

For additional information about the voucher program, contact either the Todd County HRA serving your community or the Office of Public Housing within your local HUD office. There may be a long wait for assistance under the housing voucher program. If the PHA also administers the public housing program, applicants for the housing choice voucher program may also ask to be placed on the waiting list for the public housing program. HUD also administers other subsidized programs and you may obtain a list of programs in your area from the Office of Housing at your local HUD office at 1612-37-3135.  http://www.co.todd.mn.us/organizations/hra/todd_county_hra#housing

Your social worker suggests that you complete the application for housing assistance.  She can’t offer you any information about how long it will take before you receive approval or any assistance to pay your rent, because housing is a separate program not run by the county.

So when you reach the end of this month, you may become  homeless unless you can make arrangements with the landlord to let you pay the rent late.

Utilities

In case you do find an apartment through the voucher system, there are several sources of help to pay for utilities. HeatShare, Lifeline/Link-up, Stay Warm Minnesota, Weatherization Assistance Program.  All of these programs require that an application form be completed.

Summing up your day at the county office:

At the end of your second day of trying to get aid, you have completed the following applications:

Unemployment

ApplyMN

Combined Application Form (CAF)

HRA application form, authorization form, and criminal release form

Child Care Assistance Program

You have been told about the following waiting periods for benefits:

Unemployment benefits – three weeks

ApplyMN – one to three weeks

Combined Application Form (CAF) – immediately to one week

HRA housing voucher – there is a waiting list, unknown when you get a turn

Child Care Assistance Program – available as soon as you find a provider

You can’t apply for Medical Assistance until you find out what your unemployment benefit amount will be. So for the present, you and your children have no health insurance.

The social worker tells you that next Monday or Tuesday, you can go to the Staples Food Shelf and get food for three days, while you wait for your application for SNAP to be processed.  Only one visit per month is allowed.

Photo by RainbowRiderBus.com

You ride home one hour on the Rainbow Rider bus, and make dinner for your family.

This is what it takes to get social services benefits and unemployment, when you find yourself out of a job and in danger of losing your housing.  You have filled out all your required applications, and will now wait one to three weeks for benefits.  You may be homeless if not approved for HRA subsidized housing, or if approved but none is available.

Readers:  did you know about all these requirements?  Did you know what it takes to get social services benefits and unemployment?

Let’s meet another person who needs help.

A 50-year-old man arrives in Minneapolis on the bus from Detroit.

You are a lifelong Detroit, Michigan resident, but have come to Minneapolis because you have some family here and they said there might be jobs at day labor places.  You need to find out what it takes to get social services benefits and unemployment, in case you can’t find a job right away.

Due to a plant closing, you got laid off from a warehouse job in Detroit in November of last year. You have been looking for work for 6 months, but didn’t find anything. Your Michigan unemployment benefits have run out and you’ve lost your apartment.

Google Map of the Twin Cities, showing your cousin’s location

Your cousin meets you at the Greyhound Bus Station and takes you to his place in north Minneapolis in his car. You spend the night on his sofa.

The next day, you call AAA Labor (612-871-2505) and learn that there are lots of day jobs available immediately. Turns out, you have to apply in person at 1908 Chicago Ave between 5 AM and 5 PM, and bring your ID and Social Security number or birth certificate. Most of the jobs pay minimum wage, $9.50 per hour.

Intersection photo from Google Maps

You ask your cousin how to get there and he tells you how to go there on the bus. You’ll walk to the intersection of West Broadway Ave and Penn Ave N, and take 19B Penn Ave/Olson Hwy bus to Penn Ave & 26th Ave N. Then transfer to 5E Chicago/Mall of America bus to Chicago Ave S & Franklin Ave E. Then walk north to 1908 Chicago Ave. This will cost $1.75.

When you get to the AAA Labor office, you fill out an application for work and are interviewed.   You are approved for work and will start tomorrow at a warehouse job near where your cousin lives. You ride back to his place on the bus and tell his wife the good news.

After a couple of weeks of working in the warehouse 5 days per week, you get your first paycheck. It’s for $760 gross ($9.50 x 80 hours), and $530 net with taxes deducted, for the two weeks.  You give your cousin $100 cash to help pay for the food you’ve been eating at their place all this time.

On Saturday, you start looking for an apartment. You can pay about $600-$700 per month, no more. All the ones you find in that price range are in St Paul. You are asked to pay a security deposit of one month’s rent, plus first and last months’ rent, which is a total of $1800 to $2100 cash, and sign a 12-month lease. But you don’t have any money except your first paycheck of $530, minus the $100 you paid your cousin for food, so you can’t get an apartment today.

Photo by ReverseMortgage, Brooklyn NY

Your cousin tells you that you could apply for emergency assistance to get help with the security deposit and two months’ rent at Hennepin County Human Services. Their hours are 8 to 4:30 M-F. You’re working during those hours. You ask your cousin’s wife to call them for you. She finds out that you have to apply in person for an interview.

You tell your boss at AAA Labor that you need to take a day off to apply for emergency rent assistance. He says that’s OK, but someone else will take your warehouse job. You’ll have to go to a new job when you come back to work.

So you take off the following Friday from work, and take the bus to the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis.  At the Human Services office, you fill out the Combined Application Form (CAF) for county aid to see if you can qualify for some emergency cash assistance to help you pay the security deposits on an apartment, and to sign up for health insurance through MnCare.

You learn that you must be in Minnesota for 30 days before your application can be accepted.  You’ve been here only 20 days.  The social worker puts your application on hold, telling you to come back in 10 days, and you go back to your cousin’s place on the bus.

The next day, Saturday, you go back to AAA Labor and ask for another work assignment.  This time you’re sent to the Minneapolis Convention Center to help set up for a major trade show. You spend the first day there unloading trucks filled with equipment and putting up the walls of display booths for the companies that will show their goods during the convention.

That night, your cousin and his wife tell you that they need some privacy and ask if you can find another place to stay.  You’ve been with them nearly four weeks, sleeping on their sofa.

Now you’re going to have to find somehwere else to go.  Your cousin tells you to take the bus to  Franklin Ave and Chicago Ave in Minneapolis, and walk three blocks to the Catholic Charities Opportunity Center.

A guy at work told you that you could go to an agency called Sharing and Caring Hands. You can meet with someone who could help you find a place in an emergency shelter.  You have to go there Monday – Thursday from 10 – 11:30 AM to be screened for a voucher for homeless men.

On Monday, you pack your things and thank you cousin for his help.  Then you get on the bus for AAA Labor.  There you tell your boss that you have to find another place to stay, and won’t be able to work today.  He tells you to come back as soon as you can, because you’re a good worker.

You walk a few blocks to the Catholic Charities Opportunity Center and get in line for screening for housing, meals, and medical screening.

Now you know some of what it takes to get social services benefits and unemployment, housing, and day work

Our 35-year-old woman with three children and single man, both out of work, had to jump through all kinds of hoops to get any help whatsoever.  One was in rural Minnesota and one in urban Minneapolis.  Both did everything that was asked of them, but after applying for help, they were left with waiting periods without food or confirmed  housing.

What do you think?  Do we need more requirements laid on people before they can get aid?

Let me know what you think in your comments.

My thanks to those in the social services and charitable work forces who provided information for this blog post.

 

 

 

Thirteen years after retirement, here’s what I’m doing

Are you wondering what life will be like thirteen years after retirement?

Are you having trouble seeing yourself as a “retired person”?

Well, read on.

I hope I can give you hope and examples as you think about what retirement will be like.  (I’ve written about this before. Click HERE for earlier posts.)

Each person is different.  Each of us can chart our own path through the retirement years.  I retired early, at age 58.  I’ve been retired for 13 years. Your retirement date may be similar or different.

It used to be, back in the mid-20th century when retirement became a thing, that many people did not live to age 65, so they never experienced retirement.  Others might make it to 65, and then die within a couple of years.  But things are different now!

You may have way more retirement years than you expect!

For women, life expectancy after age 65 in America is now 15 to 21 years, meaning that women will live to age 80-86!   For men, it’s 18+ years, living to age 83 or longer.  This means you may have a LOT of years to fill with activities once you stop full-time employment, and a lot of years to pay for your living expenses out of your savings, pensions, investments, and/or paid work.

In this post, I’m going to tell you my story:  thirteen years after retirement, here’s what I’m doing. And how I’ve managed financially.

I’ll add some information on what friends and acquaintances are doing.  Their stories are different.

Thirteen years after retirement, here’s what I’m doing

Paid Work

When I retired from university teaching at the end of 2004, I had no intention of ending my work life.  After spending 40 to 60 hours per week at a job, I could not imagine filling all those hours with hobbies or television.  I knew I would want to work.  Also, I needed to supplement my post-retirement income.  So I created a job for myself:  freelance writing and environmental work.

I became a newspaper reporter for four local weekly newspapers in the rural area where I lived.  This part-time freelance writing job lasted from 2004 to 2016.  Some years I worked for four papers, some years for two or three, and at the end of the 12 years, I worked for just one paper.  This job ended when I moved away from the rural area.

Evaluating Judicial Communication as a Consultant

My second part-time job actually started before I retired.  I worked as a consultant for a large metropolitan county district court system, evaluating the communication skills of judges.  This work lasted until 2011.

My third part-time job began in 2006.  I applied to be appointed to a county planning commission, and was accepted. For this job, I attended monthly public hearings lasting from one to four hours, and made site visits with the county planning director two to three times a year for a half day.  This job ended in 2016 when I moved out of the county.

Getting ready for a commercial building tour

I added a fourth part-time job in 2007:  commercial building energy auditor.  In this freelance job, I work with other retired people to assess commercial buildings for their energy usage, solid waste production, and water consumption.  Then I write reports for the building owners, describing my findings and making recommendations.  I’m still working at this job.

At the height of my freelance work in  the post-retirement years, I was earning about $15,000 per year in wages.

My social security payments were about $14,400. I received $200 from a teaching pension, and withdrew about $1,000 per month from my 403b retirement account.

Three of my friends took different paths that did not include working at a job after retirement.  One worked all the way to age 67, and now fills her days with activities like golf and attending her grandchildren’s sports events.  She receives a monthly pension of about $3,000, and her husband receives about $6,000 per month. Their home is paid for, but they buy two new cars every few years.

Another friend who is divorced worked to age 62.  She fills her days with Bible studies, reading, babysitting her grandchildren, knitting, and caring for a sick friend.  She retired with a 401K worth over $1,000,000.  Her home and car are paid off.

A third friend retired at age 55 and spends her days watching TV.  Now 74, she struggles with social isolation and depression.  She has no hobbies and lives several hours away from her closest relatives. She and her husband receive different amounts of Social Security benefits that together total about $2,400 per month.  He works part-time to supplement their income.  They have a mortgage and make payments on a pickup truck.

Volunteer Work

Screening dirt from a fur trade site in Wadena County, Minnesota, 2009

In addition to my three part-time jobs during the period 2004-2016, I volunteered at various nonprofit organizations.  My volunteer work included working a monthly shift at a local food shelf, contributing to local fundraising causes, speaking at historical society events, and traveling to annual in-state and out-of-state archaeology projects to take part in supervised excavating and surveying of archaeological sites.

Since the election of 2016, I’ve been volunteering for the ACLU and working a weekly shift in the kitchen of a homeless day center.

My three friends vary in their time devoted to volunteering.  One mentors heart patients and attends fundraising luncheons, one helps with church functions, and the third does not do any volunteer work.

International Travel

Women over 60
I have enjoyed international travel.

During my first 13 years of retirement, I’ve gone on six international tours:  Croatia and Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania, Poland and Czech Republic, Northwestern Russia, Spain, and Turkey.  I’ve also spent six two-week vacations in southern Mexico.

I wish I could travel more, but finances don’t permit it.

Of my three friends compared in this post, one has taken several international tours and domestic trips, another spends the winters in the South, and the third has been on one Caribbean cruise and several brief car trips.

Domestic Travel

Small elk herd near Bailey, Colorado

During my 13 years of retirement, I’ve traveled to four family weddings and one funeral.  I’ve also made a half-dozen trips to visit my brother in Colorado and my sister in Tennessee.  I’ve visited several national parks, Washington DC, wildlife refuges and conservation centers, zoos, arboretums, and museums.  For a decade, I owned a mobile home in a senior citizen park in Arizona, and traveled there annually during the winter to visit and get warm.

Hobbies

RV Camping

I also devoted time to my hobbies — things I wished I’d had more time to do during my full-time working career.  Since retiring from full-time work, I’ve read a lot, hiked and camped, collected rocks, done woodworking, spun fibers into yarn, knitted, visited historic sites, sewed, taken photographs, done beadwork, made jewelry, taken part in fur trade rendezvous, and attended American Indian powwows. I bought some guns, learned to shoot, and tried deer hunting and target shooting.  I continued my activity of tapping maple trees for sap in the spring to make maple syrup,  and I split wood for my wood stove, learned beginning Spanish, and learned to understand local American Indian spiritual traditions.

I’ve enjoyed a rich variety of activities during my first 13 years after retirement!

Of my three friends, one plays golf and is an avid gardener, one reads and knits, and the third reads and watches TV.

What’s Missing

Grandchildren — they are what is missing.  I was not fortunate enough to have grandchildren arrive in my life.  I know that many retirees, and most of my relatives who are retired, spend loads of  happy hours and days with their grandchildren.  I applaud them for their good fortune!

My three friends have grandchildren that live in the same state, and spend time with the kids either weekly or as often as possible.

After enjoying my rural dream house for 13 years, I moved to the city

Like many others, I dreamed of living in a house that was perfect for me after I retired.  I was lucky enough to be able to design and build a home that included many of the hoped-for qualities of my dream house.

My house in August 2016

My house was large – 2560 sq ft, plus a 1500 sq ft garage and wood shop.  It was located in a wooded rural area 14 miles from the nearest town.  I had six wooded acres of my own, plus miles of country roads to explore along with state parks and recreation areas.   I had privacy, quiet, and contact with nature that included deer, bear, birds, chipmunks, squirrels, skunks, and foxes. I was free to do as I pleased (within reason and budget) and enjoy each day.

But I realized after a health issue that my years of splitting wood and operating a wood stove for heat, shoveling snow, performing yard maintenance, and living alone far from medical care should come to an end.  I began the process of selling my home so I could move to a smaller place without maintenance responsibilities.

It took 6 years, but I finally sold my home in August 2016.  After living in a temporary situation for four months, I moved into my condo in a metro area suburb in December 2016.

Of my three friends, two live in the houses they have owned for years, and one has moved to a smaller house.

After facing a health issue, I began to live each day like it was the only one

My dog Shunkie, who is 12

In February 2011, I had a heart attack while walking my dog on a 20- degrees-below-zero morning.  I did not recognize my condition as a heart attack.  I thought it was pneumonia.

So I took the dog home, packed an overnight bag, and drove to the closest hospital, 16 miles away.  When I arrived, the emergency room staff quickly determined that I did not have pneumonia, but was having a heart attack. They loaded me into an ambulance and transported me to a heart center 80 miles away.  The next morning, I had an angioplasty and a stent placement.  Two days later, I was home again.

My family is one that has a history of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity going back 140 years (that’s as far as we can trace).  All of us take cholesterol medication, and some of us try to eat right and get plenty of exercise, but those precautions aren’t enough to overcome heredity, said my cardiologist.

My event was a warning.  It told me that someday soon, my time would be up.  Worst of all, there’s nothing I can do about it.

So I decided that I would enjoy each day, do what I liked to do, and try to have no regrets when time was up.

I’ve been fortunate that my health has been relatively good up to now.  I have osteoarthritis and herniated disks in my spine that make walking difficult and climbing stairs painful and kneeling almost impossible, but these are not life-threatening conditions.   I have not had to battle cancer, diabetes, or other serious diseases.

The actuarial tables used by life insurance companies indicate that my life expectancy at birth was 72.6 years.  Upon reaching age 65, my revised life expectancy was 15.6 more years.  So I figure I will have between 1 and 9 more years on earth.  I want to make those years as good as possible.

Of my three friends, one has faced serious physical and mental health issues for 30 years; one has developed diabetes, arthritis, and depression; and the third has struggled with obesity, depression, and multiple joint replacement surgeries.  Growing old is no bed or roses!

Thirteen years after retirement, what will be your situation?

Are you planning for a long retirement?

Maybe you had not thought much about life after retirement until now, reading about my experiences and those of my friends.

It’s never too late.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

How will you spend each day? Do you have meaningful work, volunteer opportunities, hobbies, travel plans, grandchildren?

Do you have health concerns?

What kind of housing are you in now?  Do you need to plan for a change?

These are the issues I and my friends have been dealing with during our years of retirement.  I hope you will take the time to start or continue to plan for your retirement, whether it’s coming soon, has already taken place, or will happen in the not-too-distant future.

Let me know your plans.  I care!

How to resist the Trump agenda (#resist)

It’s been nearly three months since Donald Trump was sworn in as our 45th President.  Since then, we have seen his and the Republican Congress’s unprecedented attacks on science,  energy efficiency standards, women’s rights, education, America’s standing in the world, immigrants, refugees, health insurance coverage, NATO, the EU, international trade agreements, and on and on.

To many people, the TV and radio news each morning is so depressing that they turn it off, or sit spellbound while news anchors and reporters describe yet another day’s worth of disastrous executive orders, Tweets, speeches, and bills passed by the Republican Congress.

To think that we have three and three-quarter years of this left is daunting.

Yet, we must not give up.  We must resist the Trump agenda.

No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. 

No one person can stop Trump and the Republican Congress.  But working together, many thousands of people can stop SOME of the destruction.  We can resist the Trump agenda in bits and pieces all over the country.

  • We’ve seen this already in the defeat of Trump’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s bill to replace Obamacare was withdrawn before it could be brought to a vote in the House of Representatives.  This happened for two reasons:  (1) a group of ultra-conservative Republican Congressmen refused to support it, and (2) ordinary Americans made over 500,000 phone calls to their 535 Congressmen and Senators expressing their opposition to the bill.
  • We also saw our strength when Trump’s bans on Muslims and refugees were overturned by federal courts after actions from state attorneys general and independent groups like the ACLU and Sierra Club.

These independent groups and others like them are in court trying to stop Trump’s attempts to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, privatize public lands, repeal the Endangered Species Act, overturn women’s reproductive rights, cancel clean air standards, restart oil pipelines stopped by the Obama Administration, and many other harmful actions.

So you see, we aren’t powerless.  We can resist the Trump agenda.

But it takes persistence, time, and money.

Right now, I’m volunteering for the ACLU People Power group, getting ready to join a group that cooks meals for homeless people, and marching for Planned Parenthood.

In this post, I will give you some examples of resistance movements of the recent past.  These will give you hope!

I’ll also suggest some actions to take and some reading that you can do on your own to help you learn the tactics of resistance that you can use to resist the Trump agenda:  to fight against specific Trump and Congressional actions that you just refuse to accept.

So here we go.

Resistance movements of the recent past

Definition:  A resistance movement is “an organized effort by some portion of the civil population of a country to resist the legally established government or an occupying power and to disrupt civil order and stability.”–Wikipedia

Vietnam protest
Credit: agora.cosmopolitan.com

The resistance movements that most easily come to mind for Americans are the Civil Rights movement and anti-war movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the American Indian Movement of the 1970s, the Gay Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, and the current Black Lives Matter movement.  These resistance movements are examples of people fighting the actions (or inaction) of a legally established government in order to achieve the movement’s goals.

World War II was the impetus for many resistance movements in countries occupied by Nazi Germany and the USSR:  Norway, France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Denmark, Netherlands, and Italy.  These resistance movements were examples of people fighting against an occupying power.

In the Middle East, resistance movements include the PLO, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

In Southeast Asia, the Viet Cong, Viet Minh, and Pathet Lao started out as legitimate resistance movements, but later used extreme violence in their efforts to achieve their goals.

In Ireland, the Irish Republican Army fought against British occupation. In Nicaragua, the CONTRAs fought against a dictatorship.  In Cuba, Fidel Castro fought against a dictatorship.  In Czarist Russia, the Bolsheviks fought against a monarchy that operated as a dictatorship.  In Mexico, Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata fought against dictatorship and led a revolution.

Nelson Mandela fought South African apartheid.

As you think about all these examples of resistance movements, you’ll note that many – but not all – succeeded in overthrowing the established order.  However, sometimes the new order was even worse than the previous one (e.g., USSR, Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam).

Credit: everything.plus

In all the resistance movements mentioned here, people expressed their disagreement through protests and demonstrations.  These actions were undertaken to bear witness on behalf of a particular cause by words or actions.  They were attempts to influence public opinion or government policy or both.  Often they were attempts to get desired changes directly, either through nonviolence or through violent means.

In World War II, partisan groups blew up railroads and sabotaged German and Russian troop transports when possible.  I’m not advocating violence as a means to get Trump’s attention and wake up the Republican Congress.  But there are many PEACEFUL, NONVIOLENT MEANS that we can use:

Actions you can take to resist the Trump agenda

  • Sign up for one or more of the daily or weekly online Resistance newsletters:  Rogan’s List, Jen Hoffman’s,

 

Alt and Rogue twitter accounts to follow for good information

 

  • Join a group that is working for a specific cause.  For example, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, Howling for Wolves, National Resources Defense Council, March for Science, People Power,
  • Use your Twitter account to express your views DIRECTLY to our U.S. Senators and Representatives.  Here is a link to the Twitter handles of all the Senators:

US Senate Twitter Account List

  • Make phone calls to your Congresspeople.  Call both their Washington offices and their local offices.  Phone calls are proving to be exceptionally influential in the current Resistance.
  • Sign petitions and send postcards to your Congresspeople and your local and state governments, when local issues are under attack by Republicans.
  • March for Science on Earth Day, April 22, and for Climate Change on April 29.  March for other reasons as the marches are organized.
  • Join a local group that is helping refugees to resettle.
  • Join a local group that cooks and serves meals to homeless people.

    NBC News photo, Migrants’ Camp
  • Volunteer in a local school to read to children, especially refugee and immigrant children who need to hear English to help their learning.

Further reading and viewing

Here are some fiction and nonfiction books that I rely on to give me the energy to resist the Trump agenda, and a few movies that will motivate you.  Each person can do something great!

Books

Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader
Black Like Me
by John H Griffin
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
by Dee Brown

Night Soldiers and others in the Alan Furst series
The Feminine Mystique
by Betty Friedan
The Second Sex
by Simone Beauvoir

Against Our Will:  Men, Women, and Rape by Susan Brownmiller

Movies

Hidden Figures
The Help
The Imitation Game
Defiance
Schindler’s List
Stalingrad

Windtalkers
Letters from Iwo Jima

#Resist now!

Dr King marching
Credit: gannett-cdn.com

I hope you will pick a few of these ideas for ways to resist the Trump agenda and take action.  It feels good to do something, even if you can’t immediately see the results. 

Remember the words of Dr King in his last speech:   “I may not get there with you….  But I have been to the mountaintop….”

Remember that Congress is there to serve us, the citizens.  Don’t let the members get away with ignoring us.

Remember that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the election of 2016.  That means that WE are the majority.  Let’s act like it!

Remember to take time for yourself and take a break for volunteering and activism at least once a day.  You need to fill your cup so that you will have enough energy and spirit to share with others who need your help.

 

Before you ask about my name — please don’t.

How I got my name

Personal names are something that we are pretty much stuck with. Our parents chose them. We are legally identified by them. They follow us everywhere.

In the part of America where I grew up, babies were given a first name, a middle name, and the last name of their father, if the parents were married.  Mine were.  Often the first name for a girl would be chosen from one of her grandmothers’ names.  Often the first name for a boy would be the father’s name, making the boy baby a “junior” or “the Third”, etc., with that name.

My first name was chosen to honor my mother’s best friend.  In all my life, I only met one other person who had the same name as I did.

How my name became a problem for me

When I started school, the nightmare began.  No one had ever heard of my name. (Before you ask about my name – please don’t.)

Children’s name tags (Pinterest)

In many schools, children’s names are printed on paper or card stock by teachers and taped to the children’s desks. In some schools, children must wear nametags or signs draped around their necks with their names printed on them. Children’s school work is identified by their names written at the top or bottom of each page. Children are called on in class by name to answer questions or carry out teachers’ instructions.

In every single school, in every single class, I had to explain my name to one or more people.  I soon wished I had some other name – a “normal” name that no one would focus on.  I would think to myself:  “Before you ask about my name – please don’t.”  I hated introducing myself.  Children and adults alike made fun of my name.

In the 1950s, there was a popular television show about a hero dog, called “Rin-Tin-Tin.”  This was the most common response to my introducing myself.  Each person thought he or she was the only one who saw the connection.  Ha ha.  Very funny.

The “name nightmare” continues

As adults, our names appear on our driver’s licenses, state or provincial identification cards, tax bills, credit cards and loan papers, voting records, mail boxes, and on and on – hundreds or even thousands of documents and forms.

Whenever we try to carry out some intention, the first thing we are asked for is our name. When you apply for a job, volunteer for an organization, ask for an appointment with a doctor, sign up for a class, or even sit down to play cards with people, you are asked for your name.

And that is when the nightmare returns, for me and many others like me who have unusual names or names perceived as “foreign”.

My name is frequently spelled wrong.  I have to spell it our, letter by letter, in any official situation where there is oral communication.

Official:  Name?
Me:  Laurinda Porter
Official:  L-O-R-I-N-D-A?
Me:  No.  L-A-U-R-I-N-D-A.
Official:  Oh, I never heard of that.  Where did you get that?
Me:  –Sigh–

When I am asked for my name in an informal situation, I reply, “My name is Rin, R-I-N.”  I think to myself:  Before you ask about my name — please don’t.

Inevitably, I receive the following responses: “Oh, like Rin-Tin-Tin. Ha ha.” “What’s that short for?” “What’s your REAL name?” “Where did you get that name?” “Spell that again?” “Is that a nickname?”

My internal thoughts: “Really? Do you think you’re the first person who ever thought of that? Why do I have to explain my name? Why is it any of your business? Can’t you just accept it?”

It has reached the point in recent years where I avoid new situations because I don’t want to have to deal with it. I am 70 years old. I have been asked these stupid questions since I went to kindergarten 65 years ago. I’m really sick of them.

When people persist, I just go silent, or I say, “Please, just accept it. It’s my name.”

When I go to Starbuck’s for coffee or to a restaurant where you have to give your name to be put on a list for a table, I give my name as Ann. It’s simple, clear, and not unusual. No one asks me to spell it. No one asks me what it’s short for. No one makes dumb jokes about it. I breathe a sigh of relief and wait for my turn to come up.

How I deal with other people’s names

Children’s name tags (Pinterest)

I NEVER ask anyone about his or her name. I just make sure I am pronouncing it right and move on. I assume that someone with an unusual name has experienced the same kinds of stupid questions and dumb remarks from other people that I have.

Why don’t people think before they speak? I don’t know. At my bridge group (which numbers over 50 people), I have to play cards with people I haven’t met  almost every week. All of us are senior citizens. All of us have lived a long time and experienced stupidity and rudeness from many sources. Yet, every one of them asks me the same questions every time I introduce myself.

Pretty soon I’m going to become Ann just to get through the afternoons at bridge.

Why it makes me mad to be asked constantly about my name

Why do I become so irritated about it? Because it goes on and on. It’s not just one person doing it. It’s the 65 years, day after day, person after person, singling me out as different, as “other”, as abnormal, that ticks me off.

Every day for 23 years of school, college, and graduate study. Every day as an adult.

 

 

 

Before you ask about my name — please don’t.

I don’t like having to explain myself in every new interaction. Why should I have to do this? Why can’t I be accepted without an explanation?

So please. Take my advice. When you meet someone, don’t make ANY remarks about his or her name. Just say, “It’s nice to meet you.”

You will make someone’s day. You will make MY day.

 

 

Keep Hope Alive: Women’s March 2017

The Women’s March

Three generations I met at the St Paul Women’s March, Jan. 21, 2017

The Women’s March in the U.S. and around the world on Jan. 21, 2017, gave me hope! A great amount of hope! Hope like I haven’t felt since the election of 2008 when Barack Obama was chosen to be our President.

I was excited to see so many people participate in the Women’s March. I was excited to see women of all ages, and a goodly portion of men of all ages too. There were children, dogs, banners, signs, pink knitted hats, chants, drums, and singing at the Women’s March in St Paul, Minnesota, where I marched.

Over 100,000 people joined in. What a sight it was.

Around the world, journalists estimated that a total of 5 million people marched to support their beliefs in equality, women’s rights, climate change, civil rights, free speech, science, social justice, immigrant safety, the value of our environment, animal rights, LGBTQ rights, reproductive freedom, universal health insurance, and many other causes.

Why did we march?

I believe it was because the election and inauguration of Donald Trump as President were frightening events to many women and men, and especially frightening to people of color. Trump has promised to roll back all the progress made by the Obama Administration in the beliefs I listed above.

And In the first week of his presidency, Trump has outpaced our fears. He has done more evil things than even the most pessimistic of us thought possible.

–He threatened to defind Planned Parenthood. Republicans in Congress introduced more than 100 bills to defund PP and/or restrict abortion rights and/or restrict insurance payments for women’s health costs.

–He made it illegal to provide financial support to agencies around the world who provide healthcare to poor women, if the agencies even mention the word “abortion”. The doctors and nurses can’t counsel women about their options or provide abortion procedures or the agencies will lost their funding. Reagan instituted this ban. Clinton removed it. Bush put it back. Obama removed it again. When the ban is in place, thousands of women die.

–He threatened immigrants to the U.S., both legal and illegal, and declared sanctuary cities would lose their federal funding.

–He insulted our close ally, Mexico.

–He attacked science. He gave an order instructing the EPA and NPS agencies of the federal government to stop tweeting and publishing scientific papers and reports.

Who could have foreseen that? Not me! It’s unimaginable.

Responses by scientific agencies

But our public servants in the science-based federal agencies did not acquiesce to this outrageous executive order. Instead, they started new Twitter accounts that they or their colleagues or allies controlled, so that they could continue to share science with the public.

One Twitter post from an alt site, Jan. 27, 2017

They planned a Science March on Washington to protest Trump’s actions. As of this writing, no date has been announced for the March. But around the world, scientists in other countries stated their intentions to march in solidarity with the American scientists.

Here are some of the new Twitter accounts:

@ScienceMarchDC      @Alt_NIH

@alt_fda             @Alt_CDC

@AltUSEPA           @Alt_NASA

@AltForestServ        @RogueNASA

@AltNatParkSer        @ActualEPAFacts

@BadHombreNPS       @AltHHS

@Altusda

The anonymous writers of some of the new Twitter accounts asked for artists to design new logos for them.  We’ll probably see the new logos in the coming days.

Responses by women’s groups and environmental groups

Women’s groups and environmental groups have responded to Trump’s and Congress’s actions with vigorous campaigns of phone calls, letter writing, petition signing, and visiting Congressional offices to express their opposition to Trump’s threats and orders.

Senators and Representatives need to hear our voices. We women are the majority In the U.S., and we need to stand up and act like it.

In addition to women’s groups and environmental groups like the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Greenpeace, and Center for Biological Diversity, some churches have announced plans to help resist efforts to roll back environmental protections. Clean water and clear air are needed by everyone, not just women and environmentalists!

An alternate National Park Service tweet, Jan. 27, 2017

We all want to keep our national parks and national forests and national monuments. We can’t let corporate greed be allowed to destroy these public lands through oil drilling, clearcutting of forests, oil spills from pipelines, forest fires caused by epic drought resulting from climate change, ocean levels rising, and other means.

This is the time to stand up and say “No” to Trump and the Republican Congress.

Trump’s first orders and proclamations

Here is a list of the orders and proclamations Trump has made in his first week in office:

–Signed an order to build a wall along the southern border of the U.S.

–Ordered a shutdown in Twitter activity at the Department of Interior, EPA, …

–Ordered the Affordable Care Act “burdens” to be eased.

–Cleared the way for the resumption of construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access oil pipelines through five executive actions

–Imposed a hiring freeze on federal employees for 90 days, with exceptions for military positions and national security.

–Withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership

–Ordered the government to withhold funds from sanctuary cities

–Asked for the resignation of the head of the U.S. Border Patrol

–Asked for the resignations of all senior staff in the State Department

–Reinstated Reagan’s anti-abortion Mexico City rule known as the global gag rule.

–Froze all pending regulations until they are approved by his administration

–Ordered the pursuit of undocumented immigrants by the director of homeland security

Banned all Syrian refugees into the U.S.

http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/01/all-trump-executive-actions-000288

Washington Post report; 3 PM CT, Jan. 27, 2017

The marches are encouraging signs

For those who want to resist Trump’s attempts to take away our freedoms and destroy our country’s environment by selling it to corporate interests, the marches are an encouraging sign. They showed that thousands of people are not willing to let him do it.

But marching is just the first step. After we march, we must take action.

No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.

Here is a list of some of the actions you can take:

–Tweet

–Email

–Write letters and postcards

–Make phone calls

–Discuss the issues with your friends and neighbors

–Join additional marches when they happen

–Go to local meetings of environmental groups, women’s     groups, and civil rights organizations like the ACLU

Redouble your efforts to reduce food waste, reduce your energy use, and decrease your carbon footprint on the planet.

–Contact your Congressional representatives and local legislators and express your opinion and your outrage at Trump’s actions.

–Contact the organizations you care about that support women’s rights, LGBTQ issues, civil rights, immigration, free speech, science, social justice, and other principles that are under attack by the Trump Administration.  Send them money.  Volunteer for them.

Most of all, stay strong!

This fight is going to last a long time.  It won’t be over by summer, or by Labor Day, or even by the beginning of 2018.  The Congress and the Trump Administration have vowed to wreck President Obama’s legacy, and they are taking steps to do that.

What they are doing affects us all. We can’t let them get away with it.  Women are 54% of the citizens of this country.  Science is important.  Social justice is vital.  Our public lands — especially our National Parks — are part of the heritage of this country.

I hope you will be part of the fight.  Let me know what you are doing to save the principles we care about.

To Everything There is a Season

At the end of this week, our nation begins a new chapter. The inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States is something no one ever dreamed would happen.

It is unimaginable.  But it is happening.

I have been thinking about the momentous changes that could and probably will occur as a result of Trump becoming President and Republicans taking over Congress.

I admit I have done a lot of hand-wringing and worrying in the two months since the November election.  But now I’m able to take a deep breath and tamp down my emotions and ramp up my cognitive skills.

It occurred to me that this is not the first time that we have faced an incoming presidential administration that is vastly different from the one before.

During my lifetime, beginning in 1946, this has happened repeatedly. It appears to be a pattern. Why, I don’t know.

Since WW II, there has been relative global peace. Yes, there have been regional wars on every continent except ours.  We have sent troops, advisors, educators, military police, and other types of aid to many of these regional wars.  We’ve even started a couple of them.  I acknowledge that.  There has not been TOTAL world peace, but there has been RELATIVE world peace, compared to WW II.

Many in our nation have prospered beyond their wildest dreams during these 70 years. Others, not so much.

Technology has become more and more a part of our lives, from the invention of the portable phone, satellite phone, and cell phone, to the garage door opener, self-parking car, heart-lung machine, high-definition television, silent dishwasher, wearable fitness bands, internet, and on and on.

Social change has come for many — slowly, yes, but it has come.

Things weren’t always like this, as anyone over 40 can recall.

Yin and Yang in Presidential Administrations

In those same 70 years since the end of WW II, we have experienced a yin and yang in presidential administrations.

So what does “yin and yang” mean?

Credit: Wikipedia

Let’s think about yin and yang in presidential administrations.  In our country, we have just two large political parties:  Democrats and Republicans.  Their occupation of the presidency has alternated regularly since WW II.

Just take a look:

–Harry Truman (Democrat) served from the time of Roosevelt’s death in 1945, to Jan. 1953.

Credit:https://view.publitas.com/inland-empire-museum-of-art/presidential-images-americas-leaders

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Truman, we had Dwight Eisenhower.  Eisenhower (Republican) served from 1953 to Jan. 1961.

Credit: Inland Empire Museum of Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Eisenhower, we had John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Inland Empire Museum of Art

Kennedy (Democrat) served 1000 days, from Jan. 1961 until he was assassinated in Nov. 1963,  and Johnson (Democrats) served from Nov. 1963  to Jan. 1969.

 

 

Inland Empire Museum of Art
Credit: Inland Empire Museum of Art

After Kennedy and Johnson, we had Nixon.  Richard M. Nixon (Republican) served from Jan. 1969 to Aug. 1974, when he resigned in disgrace.

 

 

 

Then Gerald R. Ford, Nixon’s second Vice President, was sworn in as President and served until Jan. 1977.

Credit: Inland Empire Museum of Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Nixon and Ford , we had Jimmy Carter. Carter (Democrat) served from Jan. 1977 to Jan. 1981.

Credit: Inland Empire Museum of Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Carter, we had Reagan.  Ronald Reagan (Republican), served from Jan. 1981 to Jan. 1989.

Credit: Inland Empire Museum of Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Herbert Walker Bush  (Republican, referred to as Bush 41)- the only President that breaks my pattern — was elected right after Reagan and served one term, from Jan.1989 to Jan. 1993.

Credit: Inland Empire Museum of Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Bush 41, we had Clinton. William Jefferson Clinton (Democrat) served from Jan. 1993 to Jan. 2001.

Credit: Inland Empire Museum of Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Clinton, we had Bush 43.  George W. Bush (Bush 43, Republican) served from Jan. 2001 to Jan. 2009.

Credit: Inland Empire Museum of Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Bush 43, we had Obama. Barrack Obama (Democrat), served from Jan. 2009 to Jan. 2017.

Credit: Inland Empire Museum of Art

 

 

 

 

 

And now….

And now, after Obama, we will have Trump, a Republican in name only.

Donald J. Trump, a Republican since 2012, has switched parties at least five times over the last 30 years, according to U.S. News.

Credit: Inland Empire Museum of America’s Leaders

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thus, there has been a back and forth between Republicans and Democrats throughout my 70 years.

The nation survived each Republican administration, although each one placed our nation in debt and into regional wars.

So, for some reason, we have continued to alternate from one party to the other.  Since 1972, each Democratic President reduces the national debt and puts in place revenue streams that would balance the budget eventually.  Then each Republican cuts taxes and makes the debt balloon once again, through what Bush 41 called “voodoo economics.”

Not only foreign policy and economic policy are affected by the yin and  yang of presidential administrations.

Domestic policy is also strongly affected by the back-and-forth swings. Civil rights, women’s rights, social justice, environmental issues, and many other causes advance and retreat as the administrations change.

One aberration in this trend is the second Nixon administration, the one starting in 1972, which saw Roe v. Wade decided, and the Environmental Protection Agency established.

Under Obama, great strides in social justice, environmental justice, and use of alternative energy sources have been made, but a lot more need to be made.

However, the incoming Republican administration opposes all the ideals that I hold dear: social justice, women’s rights, minority rights, marriage equality, preservation of the environment, alternative energy, saving endangered species, climate change, national parks – you name it.

To Everything There is a Season

Which us brings us back to the Bible quote that I used for the title of this post:  “To everything there is a season.”

This comes from the book of Ecclesiastes, the 21st book of the Old Testament, RSV, Chapter 3, placed right after Psalms and Proverbs in the Protestant version of the Bible.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, an a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

So maybe the coming four years are that yang of the yin and yang:  our time to break down, weep, mourn, cast away stones, refrain from embracing, lose, rend, speak, hate, and make war.

We can oppose what the Congress tries to do, by civil disobedience, protests, petitions, marches, speeches, demonstrations, and resistance.  We can try to stop the worst of it, and work hard to stem the tide of reactionary backward movement for the next four years, until the time comes to elect a new President more in tune with the 52% of the electorate that voted for HRC.

It’s important that we try to be good citizens of our nation, and that means obeying the laws, building rapport where we can, and working for the principles we believe in.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven.  Even Donald Trump.

 

The truth about climate change and you

We’ve all heard the terms “climate change” and “global warming” for two decades or more.

We’ve seen the scientific explanations, the ice core samples from the Arctic, the endangered species like the polar bear, the horrific hurricanes, floods, heat waves, and wildfires of recent years.

But unless you live in California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, or New Jersey and have personally experienced severe weather events, you may have been wondering how climate change and global warming will affect you.

I’ve been studying this and I’m prepared to explain the truth about climate change and you.

In this post, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned about the personal effects of climate change.  I found out that what you will experience–

  • depends on where you live
  • depends on your age, gender, and health status
  • depends on your type of job, if employed
  • depends on what investments you have, who manages your pensions if you have them, and what income sources you have
  • depends on your sources of energy
  • depends of your sources of water
  • depends on what you eat/your diet

Once you know the truth about climate change and you, you may decide to make some changes in how you do things.  If you do, then you can feel confident that you are doing your best not to make the situation any worse than it already is!

No single individual can alter climate change, but together, we can reduce its severity.

Climate change where you live

If you live on or near the East Coast, Gulf Coast, or West Coast of the United States, or on the Alaskan coast or in Hawaii, you will experience damage to your coastal property and nearby roads and bridges from rising sea levels and increased storm surge.  You will see increased temperatures all year round.

According to NASA, the ocean levels will rise between 1 ft and 4 ft by 2100, and have already risen several inches in the last decade.  The increase in ocean levels is due to the accelerating loss of sea ice and the melting of glaciers around the world.

Oceanfront property will gradually disappear as ocean levels swallow it up inch by inch.  High tides will be higher.

Damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, Queens, New York. Credit: Alamy

Hurricanes and typhoons will be stronger and more intense from now on, leading to greater damage to property and infrastructure from wind and water. You may lose your house in the next giant storm.

Damage to roads, bridges, wastewater treatment facilities, electric utilities, homes, and businesses in coastal areas will result in higher local taxes, insurance costs, and utility fees as state and local governments work to repair destruction caused by weather events.  Your budget will be affected by these increased costs.

Coastal wetlands and marshes will be inundated by seawater, resulting in a loss of sea lands by tribal groups, extinction of local marsh-dwelling species, loss of habitat for ducks and other waterfowl, amphibians, and freshwater mollusks.

Hurricane Katrina damage, Louisiana. Credit: Videoblocks

Governments in the coastal areas will experience higher costs for providing temporary shelter and supplies for people displaced from their homes by weather events.

If you live in the woods and mountains in the northeast, upper midwest, west, or southwest, you will see trees flowering earlier than usual, plant and animal ranges shifting to the north, increased insect activity attacking and killing trees (like pine bark beetles), more forest fires, fewer ski days in winter, more droughts, and higher prices for energy, transportation, and insurance.  You will see increases in local and state taxes as local and state governments need more money to keep up with the loss of tourism dollars, fight fires, remove dead trees, repair roads, and deal with increasing unemployment. Your budget will be affected.

Bottom of Almaden Reservoir near San Jose, California, 1/21/14. Credit: Slate.com

If you live near a major body of water – as 53% of Americans do – you will see a decline in river and lake levels and an increase in sea levels, and increased acidification of lakes, rivers, and oceans.  Increased acidification ofwater means more fish will die.  Fewer species of fish can survive in acidic conditions.  Fewer fish and fewer fish species mean reduction in income for tourist-based businesses such as resorts, cabin rentals, fishing guides, bait shops, hotels and motels, boat sales, restaurants, and convenience stores in vacation regions. Fewer fish and fewer fish species may mean changes to your diet if you are accustomed to eating local fish.  The economic losses lead to lost tax revenues.  Local governments will have to raise their property tax levies, which affects your budget.

Less water in the Great Lakes means decreased tourism as well as habitat destruction.  Tribal groups will see decreased wild rice harvests and more difficulty in maintaining traditional ways of life for tribal groups based around the Great Lakes.

Dead and dying salmon on the way to spawning grounds. Credit: Dreamstime.com

Less water in lakes and streams means reduced stream flows.  Salmon are especially vulnerable to reduced stream flows, and will find it difficult to reach spawning grounds.  Warmer water makes salmon more susceptible to predators, parasites, and disease.  When water reaches 72 degrees F, fish kills result.  Heavy winter floods can wash away salmon eggs and gravel spawning beds.

Shipping routes (such as the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers) will be interrupted as they already have been, as river levels drop, leading to higher costs for shipping by railroad and by truck, and increased costs for gasoline and diesel fuel.

If you live in an agricultural area, then you will see rising temperatures seriously affect crop yields.  The growing season will lengthen.  Precipitation patterns will change.  As crop  yields shrink, prices rise.  Feed for cattle, sheep, goats, hogs, chickens, and turkeys gets more expensive.

Livestock, especially cows, are affected by rising temperatures.  The dairy industry will be powerfully affected by climate change.  According to the NASA report cited earlier, cows produce less milk when temperatures rise above 77 degrees F.

The wine industry will see reduced grape quality.  Flood damage to crops and property will drive insurance costs up.  Farmers will see reduced yields in wheat, soybeans, and rice.  Corn may benefit from higher temperatures at first, but then insect damage will increase, leading to more herbicide application.  Rising costs of production will mean fewer acres of land under cultivation, resulting in higher food costs for consumers.

Climate change has already had a serious effect on pollinators:  bees, birds, butterflies.  Without pollinators, we won’t be able to produce most fruits and many vegetables.

Many of the foods and crops we rely on need or, at the very least, benefit from bee pollination. Here’s a list of some of those crops.

  • Alfalfa
  • Almonds
  • Apples
  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Buckwheat
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Chestnuts
  • Chives
  • Clover
  • Cranberries
  • Cucumber
  • Currants
  • Eggplant
  • Flax
  • Garlic
  • Gooseberries
  • Grapes
  • Horseradish
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Pumpkins
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Squash
  • Strawberries
  • Sunflowers
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turnip
  • Watermelon

If you live in a large city, especially in the Southwest (Phoenix, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Denver)  then according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you will be affected by rising temperatures that are increased by the urban heat island effect.

Credit: Mohave Electric Co.

Longer and more intense heat waves mean power outages for you, as people turn on air conditioners and run them longer.  Air quality will decline as carbon dioxide concentrations increase in city air.  More people will die from heat stress:  the elderly, children, those with disabilities, those suffering from respiratory conditions, pregnant women.  More people will suffer from stomach and intestinal illness following power outages as bacteria increase in warm environments.

If you live in a rural area, then you will be affected by rising temperatures and reduced state budgets for road maintenance.  Transportation costs will increase due to higher energy costs and scarcity.  Diseases carried by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas will increase.  Herbicide and fertilizer runoff into streams and lakes will increase in heavy rainfall events, leading to flooding contamination of water supplies.  Wells will run dry and access to clean drinking water will decrease.  Your costs for taxes, food, gasoline, heating fuel, and other necessities will rise.

Climate change and your age, gender, and health status

Extreme heat affects health.  Medical professionals know this.  Public health officials prepare for it as summers approach each year.

Climate change makes summers hotter as well as increasing ambient temperatures all year round.  Your age, gender, and health status determine how you respond to increased temperatures in your environment.

Credit: Clipartfest.com

The truth about climate change and you includes your age.   Heat stress disproportionately affects older Americans and young children because these two extremes of the human life span are not as good at handling heat stress as adults 18-49.

According to the EPA report cited above, your age will determine how you respond to temperature and weather events.  Children and older adults need to spend more time indoors in a cool basement or curtained room away from the sun’s heat, drink plenty of water, and reduce their physical activity.  Poor air quality also affects children and older adults more than adults 18-49. Asthma, smoke from wildfires, airborne allergens, ozone concentration, and other particulates (dust, sand, sea spray) are serious problems for older adults and young children.

If you are an adult over 50 or care for young children, then you will be affected by climate change through higher air temperatures and poor air quality at some point, if you have not been already.

Your gender also affects your response to climate change.

Studies have shown that women disproportionately suffer the impacts of disasters, severe weather events, and climate change because of cultural norms and the inequitable distribution of roles, resources, and power….”(http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2012/women-vulnerable-climate-change.aspx)

Women are more often responsible for caring for children and the elderly, for carrying out tasks that are more difficult to do in hot weather, such as laundry, cooking, cleaning, yard work, and transportation.

Women are more likely to die or be displaced as a result of natural disasters.  They are more likely to be poor and have less access to resources than men.

Your health is one of the most important factors in determining how you will fare in the coming years of climate change.

People with chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, asthma, COPD, heart failure, etc., are affected by heat stress, humidity, and poor air quality.  Those with allergies to spring pollen or ragweed also suffer more during weather events that include high winds.  If you have a compromised immune system because of chemotherapy or a immuno-suppressant drug regimen, you can be in danger from the bites of mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas because of the diseases they carry from animals to humans.  Extreme weather events also cause stress and loss which affects those suffering from mental health conditions.

Your ability to adapt is an important asset during climate change.  If you can take steps to safeguard your health by following public health guidelines, doctors’ orders, and common-sense principles like staying inside at high noon, drinking plenty of water, avoiding sugar, and taking part in appropriate exercise, then you are more likely to suffer minimal health effects from climate change.

Climate change and your job

If you are employed, self-employed, an active sports person, or volunteer at outdoor activities, then climate change can affect you through those pursuits.

People who work outdoors in recreation or tourism jobs, mining, farming, transportation, construction, building maintenance, road maintenance, fire fighting, garbage collection, gardening, law enforcement, and education are at greatest risk for heat-related and other weather-related death or injury.  Paramedics and student athletes also suffer during heat waves and severe cold events.

If you work at one of these jobs, play an outdoor sport, run or walk for exercise, then you must plan for how you will protect yourself during times of extreme heat, cold, wind, rain, air pollution, and dust.  These climate change episodes will occur.

If you prepare yourself with the proper clothing and protective gear, arrange your schedule as much as possible to avoid exposure to these weather extremes, limit the time you are exposed if you must be outside, and get recommendations from your public health department or physician, then you are more likely to survive the worst parts of climate change weather events that affect your job or other activities.

Credit: Minnesota DNR

In addition to your job or outdoor sports, climate change will affect your recreational pursuits.  Hunting, fishing, bird-watching, hiking, riding, skiing, skating, swimming, and other outdoor recreational activities will be affected by climate change.  Hunters will see fewer deer, elk,  and waterfowl available, with shorter hunting seasons and smaller bag limits.  Fishermen and -women will see fishing seasons shortened or even cancelled, as they were in Minnesota in recent years, due to the severe population crash of walleye.

Climate change and your investments

I am not a financial planner or advisor.  But I have investments and I receive pensions and distributions from a 403b and other sources.  Anyone who is retired, disabled, or soon to be either of these will depend on investments and pensions (your own or other people’s) and/or part-time employment for income to live.

So it’s important to think about what effects climate change will have on your investments and work possibilities.  If you have control over how your money is invested, then you will want to look into it immediately.

From my research, here is what I learned about the future of investing.

According to the EY Report, climate risks will be felt in the following ways by investors:

  • PHYSICAL:  damage to land, buildings, stock, or infrastructure owing to physical effects of climate-related factors, such as heat waves, drought, sea levels, ocean acidification, storms or flooding
  • SECONDARY:  knock-on effects of physical risks, such as falling crop yields, resource shortages, supply chain disruption, as well as migration, political instability, or conflict
  • POLICY: financial impairment arising from local, national, or international policy responses to climate change, such as carbon pricing or levies, emission caps, or subsidy withdrawal
  • LIABILITY:  financial liabilities, including insurance claims and legal damages, arising under the law of contract, tort, or negligence because of other climate-related risks
  • TRANSITION: financial losses arising from disorderly or volatile adjustments to the value of listed and unlisted securities, assets and liabilities in response to other climate-related risks
  • REPUTATIONAL: risks affecting businesses engaging in, or connected with, activities that some stakeholders consider to be inconsistent with addressing climate change

Whew.  That’s a lot of risk to take in.

Let’s think of some examples.  Let’s say I own stock in a portfolio of mutual funds that invest in shopping centers in Florida.  What are the chances that my shopping centers are going to be affected in some way by climate change — in other words, that they are at risk?

Looking at the list of six kinds of risk, I see that the PHYSICAL risks (damage to land and buildings) are great, since Florida is prone to be the target of hurricanes and flooding, and because much of Florida is only 3 feet above current sea level.  I might think about selling my shopping center mutual funds and buying something else.

Stock graph by Clipart Kid

Let’s say I own stock in a coal mining company.  Coal mining has been declining in recent years as alternative energy sources have increased (solar, wind, hydro, geothermal), and the costs of production of coal have increased.

Coal mining is also perceived as “a bad thing” by environmentalists and is declining for that reason as well as because of legislation in some states that mandates that electric utilities reduce their use of coal.

Looking at the six kinds of risk, I see that the POLICY risks may affect my investment. Financial impairment of my coal company might result from changes in local, national, or international policy responses to climate change.  I might think about selling my coal company stock and buying something else.

But what?

According to my research, certain sectors of the economy are going to experience increased demand due to climate change.

For example, the EY Report cited above suggests that the following groups may benefit:

  • manufacturers and operators of renewable energy assets
  • energy efficiency technology
  • carbon capture and storage
  • batteries and other forms of energy storage

while other industries may suffer because they are heavy users of fossil fuels.  For example:

  • chemicals
  • steel
  • industrial manufacturing
  • construction
  • transportation

If I buy and sell commodities, then it would be important for me to know that various government reports indicate that certain crops will be affected by climate change:

  • wheat, soybeans, and rice yields will decrease due to higher ultraviolet radiation, diseases, insects, and weeds
  • U.S. food production overall will decrease by as much as 27%
  • livestock production will decrease (hogs, cattle, goats)

Since I now know that there will be serious health consequences from climate change, I might want to ask my financial advisor whether I should invest in hospitals, drug companies, ambulance manufacturers, and products used by hospitals. Your investments may vary, but it’s worth looking into what they are and how they might be affected by climate change.

Climate change and your sources of energy

Is your home heated by oil, natural gas, propane, or electricity?

Does your vehicle run on gasoline, diesel, or electricity?

Have you installed any solar panels or geothermal systems?

Do you buy wind energy from your utility?

Up to now, you may have thought that your answers to these questions were not important.  But today, they are.

Fossil fuels are the biggest producers of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that are accelerating climate change.

Reuters photo, published in Minnpost

The things you do every day, like turn lights on and off, run your dishwasher, wash clothes, watch TV, and read this blog on  your computer, are using electricity.  How is your electricity produced?  Is it provided to your local utility by a coal-fired power plant?

If so, then YOU are causing climate change to worsen by using this electricity.

You and your family may want to have a discussion about how you can increase the role of sustainable sources of energy in your life.  Have you studied ways that you can support wind and solar energy?

Credit: NewportSolarri.com

The states of California, Arizona, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, Colorado, and Texas are the top 10 solar producers (in 2015, according to SELA.org).

Do you live in one of those states?  If not, what is your state doing about solar energy?

How about wind energy?

As of December 2015, the top 5 wind producing states were Texas, California, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Illinois.

What is your state doing about wind energy?

Many utilities are offering consumers the option of purchasing sustainable energy instead of, or in addition to, energy produced by fossil fuels.  Have you checked your utility’s website recently?

Climate change is here, and most countries in the world have agreed to reduce their use of fossil fuels.  This means that fossil fuels will become less available and more expensive.  Now is the time for you to make changes in your use of energy.  The costs of fossil fuels are not just in your electric bill or gasoline charges for your vehicle.  Their production affects our air quality and water quality also.

Climate change and your source of water

One of the ironies of climate change and the precipitation patterns it affects is that fresh water is becoming scarce.  Yes, even though we see huge rain events and floods, fresh water is disappearing.

Water supply and water treatment issues are now very important.  The droughts that have hit California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Washington, and New Mexico are severe and ongoing, according to https://weather.com/climate-weather/drought/new/severe-drought-states.  

Agriculture is the biggest user of water – responsible for 80% of U.S. water use.  States like California and Washington are agricultural-producing states that serve the nation.  If they don’t have enough water, then their food production will decrease and our costs to buy food will increase.

Six western states have 56 million people (California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado), 90% of whom live in cities, according to the EPA Report/Southwest cited above.  All these people are at risk of water scarcity due to drought.

Credit: Valley irrigation pivot.

States like North and South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas are using water from aquifers (underground water basins) for their agricultural production.  Some of the aquifers are being depleted by growing municipal use as well as agricultural use. When there is prolonged drought, the aquifers do not get refilled.  Once they run dry, then what?  (For more information, see Against the Grain by Richard Manning.)

The droughts in the western states are particularly worrisome because they mean that the western aquifers are not being recharged by rain and snowfall.

People in rural areas of the U.S. generally get their water from private water wells.  Towns and cities get their water from rivers and lakes.  When the depth of the water table underground increases, then it is harder for people to get water in their wells.  When river and lake levels decrease, then there is less water available for the town and city populations to use.

Where do you get your water?  What is your level of confidence that you will have access to clean water during the next 30 to 50 years?

Climate change and what you eat

Did you know that what you eat also contributes to climate change and water shortages?  That’s a big part of the truth about climate change and you.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 20 years, you’ve probably heard that beef production is both the biggest cause of habitat destruction and the largest user of water in the agricultural world.

According to Gracelink.com, certain vegetables, fruits, and nuts use way more water than other foods.

Credit: Los Angeles Times graphics

If Americans (the biggest eaters in the world) changed their diets and ate foods that use less water to produce, then our current water shortages would be less serious.

Let’s look at the list of foods and the water required to produce them, according to the websites just cited.

Biggest Water Users (per pound of food)

beef                            1,800 to 5,000 gallons
chocolate                 2,847 gallons
butter                         2,044 gallons
olive oil                      1,729 gallons
pork                             1,630 gallons
cheese                            896 gallons
chicken                           815 gallons
eggs                                  573 gallons
olives                               522 gallons
rice                                    403 gallons
tofu                                   244 gallons
bread (loaf)                  240 gallons
avocados                       220 gallons
mango                             190 gallons
corn                                  147 gallons
peaches                          142 gallons
bananas                          112 gallons
turkey                              100 gallons

Least Water Users (per pound)

lettuce                                15 gallons
tomatoes                           22 gallons
cabbage                              24 gallons
potatoes                             30 gallons
oranges                               55 gallons
apple                                     83 gallons

If you alter what you eat, you can save water and reduce greenhouse gases, all at one time!  Here’s an example of a new vegetable-based meal.

Credit: SimpleTruth.com

This meal used far less water and far less carbon to produce.

So, what can you do?

Now that you know the truth about climate change and you, what should you do in response?

There are MANY things you can do.  Some of them, you probably are already doing, like recycling, reducing your use of packaged and processed foods, changing from old-style lightbulbs to CFLs or LEDs.

But wait – there’s more!

Here are some more things you can do to reduce your personal contribution to climate change:

–Turn off computers, TVs, peripheral devices, cell phones, and anything else that uses electricity when you are not using them, and ALWAYS at night when you are asleep.

–Make a real effort to use public transportation (buses, trains, light rail) whenever possible.  Rearrange your habits of shopping so that you can take a bus or light rail instead of driving alone to a store. If you are able, use a bicycle or walk to your destinations.

–Drive less.  Do you really need to make that extra trip to get batteries? Plan ahead!

–Buy energy efficient appliances, like dishwashers that have a no-heat dry cycle.

–Stop using paper plates, plastic plates, and other disposables. Take your insulated travel cup with you to buy brewed coffee, if you must buy it instead of making it yourself.

–Buy local food.  Plan your meals a week in advance.

–Produce food yourself!  You can grow beansprouts in your own kitchen, tomatoes and peppers on your patio or balcony,   etc.

–Use your contacts to find a farmer who produces organic beef, chicken, lamb, or pork, and buy your meat directly from him or her.

–Reduce the amount of meat that you eat.  Start with one meatless day per week, and work up to three or four per week.

–Support candidates who are serious about reducing greenhouse gases, starting with your local city council or county board.

–Buy products made from recycled materials:  computer paper, toilet paper, paper towels, clothing, outdoor furniture, bags/totes/backpacks/wallets, activewear, hats, toys, sunglasses, building materials, and on and on.  Check this website for ideas: http://bgm.stanford.edu/pssi_5rs_buying_recycled_products

–Figure out how to reduce your costs by 10% next month by using less, eating differently, driving less, using less electricity, buying recycled items, walking more, using library books instead of buying books, making Goodwill, ARC, Saver’s, and other thrift stores your new go-to shopping destinations.

–Switch your investments to sustainable industries and companies that are green.

You can do this.  You and your family and friends can help stop the acceleration of climate change through your daily behavior.  I hope you’ll give some of these ideas a try!

Let me know what worked for you!

I BEGIN MY LIFE OVER (PART 4 OF MY JOURNEY)

Yes, I made it.  I reached the top of that mountain.

If you’re a faithful reader of this blog, then you know that I’ve been talking about moving since 2011 – when I had a heart attack and got a stent put into my LAD (left anterior descending artery) to keep me alive.

My house in the woods

At that point, I suddenly realized that there were a lot of things that I wanted to do that I hadn’t done.  Time was running out.  So in 2011 I decided to sell my home and move to Colorado, where I had wanted to live since I was 18 and saw it for the first time as an adult.

Fast forward to now:  I tried to move to Colorado in 2011 and 2012 — I even made an offer on an 1880s miner’s cabin in Leadville — but the spirits had other ideas.  My house didn’t sell the first year, or the second, etc., etc., until the sixth year:  2016.

And then suddenly it sold.   I had to get out in 30 days.  I wasn’t ready.  It was a nightmare.

Lucky for me, a friend stepped up and offered me her rental home to live in for as long as I needed it.  I estimated that I would need it for one to three months.

It ended up being almost four months. But now it’s over.  I begin my life over after a long journey.

How I did it

How did I do it?  How did I finish my move from 4000 sq ft of single-family house and garage on six acres of woods in a rural area, to a 900 sq ft condo on the second floor of a multi-family building in a first-ring suburb of a major metropolitan area?

Through grit and determination, that’s how.

It was strictly “I think I can, I think I can”, and “I, the Little Red Hen”, and “inch by inch, row by row”.  Every day during this process I had to give myself encouragement.

It was actually quite a lonely process.  For some reason, I thought people would line up to help me, but they didn’t.

I made a lot of lists:  what to sell, what to keep, what to give away, vendors to contact, people to notify, tasks to be accomplished, what  I needed in a new home, and on and on.

This is a long story, so you might want to get a cup of coffee before you read the rest of this saga.

My month-by-month process of moving

JulyI called a moving company as soon as the purchase agreement for my home was signed in July 2016.  The moving company sent an estimator a few days later.  He walked through the house and garage with me and determined how many boxes of stuff I would have, and the size of truck that would be needed to haul the stuff to his warehouse for storage.

I knew I would need storage because I  had no place to move to.

That was the next thing I did:  look for a place to live.

I soon found out that I could not afford any of the single-family houses available in the metropolitan Twin Cities.  Next I looked for apartments that would accept pets.

Again, nothing I could afford, and nothing that would take a dog and a cat.

So then I looked for condominiums and town houses all on one floor that would allow a medium-sized dog and a cat.

The condo building where I live now.

I found exactly ONE such development and quickly made an offer on a two-bedroom condo.  The seller rejected my offer.  So I made an offer on another unit in the same development.  And then the waiting game began.

The second offer I made in July was on a “short sale” property.  The owner tried to avoid foreclosure by asking the mortgage holders to allow the property to be sold for less than its value.

In my case, the owner had two mortgage holders and the condominium association standing in line for money owed.  My realtor estimated that it would take about two months to resolve all the issues and get the title to the condo cleared and ready for me to buy it.

So I applied for a mortgage.  That process was terrible and I am still angry about it.  I worked with a company where I had been a customer for nearly 30 years, so I expected smooth sailing.

July – October. There was no smooth sailing.  To make a long story short, it took more than four months and mountains of paperwork to get my mortgage approved – and I have a credit score of 834.  It was a freakin’ horror show.   But it’s over now.

After more than four months of waiting, I got a closing date for the purchase of the condo.  I wired the money for the down payment.  The closing was cancelled.  This happened four times (although I only had to send the money twice).

When the closing actually took place, the seller did not show up.  So I signed all the papers but one that the seller was supposed to bring, and went home to wait for the last paper.  That took several days, plus an electrical inspection by the city, and more paperwork delays.  But finally, on November 8, the condo was mine.

August.  Oh, by the way, I had to move out of my house on August 28.  I rented a storage locker in the town where I would live temporarily in my friend’s rental.  I put my computer and files, a card table and chair, a suitcase of clothes, a few cooking pans, boxes of canned food, and other things I needed to live for 1 to 3 months.

The movers loaded up my things on August 29 and took everything away. I took my dog and cat to their familiar boarding kennel and  went to an inexpensive motel in a third town.  On September 1 and 2, I moved into my friend’s rental and brought the pets there.

September, October, November.   For the next three months I worked at my part-time jobs, sent more and more paperwork to the mortgage company, and waited.  And waited.

When I finally took possession of the condo on November 8, I hired a handyman recommended by another of my friends — thank God for friends!  I put him to work painting the walls and trim and removing the old carpet and flooring.  Then I ordered new carpet and vinyl flooring to replace those badly worn materials. Next,  I got a telephone line and ordered cable TV and internet service.  I picked out new appliances and donated the old ones to my handyman’s cabin.  At last, I  arranged for the movers to bring my furniture during the first week of December.

I was still living 170 miles away and working my part-time jobs.  I did  a lot of driving and pet boarding while I was being the general contractor on the remodeling project.

The condo living room with its new carpet. Before the movers.

Meanwhile, the carpet store ordered the wrong carpet, but fortunately that selection was back-ordered. When I found out the mistake, I got the store to order the right carpet, and  shipped it over the weekend of a major snowstorm.  But it arrived on the 24th of November, and the installers put it in on the 25th.  It was beautiful, just as I had hoped.  The vinyl flooring arrived late, so I had to postpone the appliance installation.  But workers got it done just before Thanksgiving.

All this time I was living in the condo part-time, and at my daughter’s apartment part-time, and up north part-time.

During November, when I had to work up north, I would drive up from the Twin Cities, stay a few days, work my half-day, take my dog to the boarding kennel, and drive back to the Twin Cities.  Then after a night or two, I would return to the rental up north, after picking up the dog. It was stressful. My poor kitty stayed alone at the rental at least two nights a week.

After a week of unpacking.

December.  December came.  After the movers delivered the furniture to the condo on December 2, I brought the pets down. I  began moving out of the rental housing one car-load at a time.

I had  many carloads of things at the rental housing — clothes, books, computer equipment, pet needs, tools, food, cooking equipment, TV, radio, basic furniture, and a set of antique living room furniture that I had bought for the condo.  I had to find a place to donate my twin bed   after my last night in the rental on December 16. And  I had to unpack boxes and put things away in the condo and walk the dog 7 times a day. Literally.

There wasn’t enough space for my possessions.  Even though I had given away and sold mountains of stuff, there was still too much.  So back I went to Goodwill and ARC, giving away even more things.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I had rented a 10′ x 10′ storage locker 15 minutes away from the condo. I needed the locker to hold the items (mostly books and American Indian items from my 20 years of study and participation in activities).   The moving van went to the storage locker after delivering my furniture to the condo, and unloaded my storage items.

I had to give away some items from the storage locker to make room for items from the condo that I could not part with yet.  That process is continuing.

I begin my life over

As one of my blogging colleagues put it, moving is not only a physical process but also a mental and emotional process.

During my six-month journey from my beloved country home to the condo in the metro area, I needed motivation and encouragement.

Facing Problems image 3
You can do it!

I went back and forth between sadness, relief, excitement, anticipation, dread, discouragement, and confidence.

To get through the days, I relied on my  favorite sayings like “I think I can, I think I can”, and “I, the Little Red Hen, planted the wheat, harvested it, threshed it, ground it to flour, and baked the bread, and now I shall eat it.”

I also relied on ideas like “inch by inch, row by row, I’m going to make this garden grow”, especially when I felt discouraged and faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

I found a web post that was helpful in providing more quotations that were motivating, including this one:

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are. –J. Pierpont Morgan

And I remembered one of my favorite Bible passages:  Hebrews 12: 1, “Let us also lay aside every weight…and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us….”

I was confident that if I just kept going, eventually the work would be done. All the things I needed to move would be moved.  I would be done working up  north, and I could settle into my new home and begin my life over.

I’ve moved many times before, started over before, and I knew I could do it.

And that’s what I’m doing now, beginning my life over, in the last week of December 2016. Everything took longer than I expected, and was more difficult to complete.  But now there is enough floor space in my apartment to walk around. And more —

  • I  unpacked this computer and set it up.
  • I cooked a Christmas dinner for myself.
  • I visited the local senior center and found a bridge group to go to.
  • I submitted applications for two volunteer opportunities.
  • I’m ready for 2017 to come.  Not ready for what it may bring, but ready to look out the window and see what there is to do.
  • I’m registered for the Women’s March on January 21.

Are you faced with moving?

If you have to make a journey like this, to downsize and simplify your life, then let me tell you that you CAN do it.  I recommend that you get some people to help you.  I didn’t have anyone to help me, and it got very lonely at times. Often I felt despair and hopelessness because I had no help.

If it had not been for my friends Suzanne and Cherie, I would not have been able to complete my journey.  Reach out to your friends for help!

I also recommend the making of lists, which helped me to complete the process.

Other retirement bloggers have chronicled their stories of moving, and they can be helpful too: (https://satisfyingretirement.blogspot.com/, http://postworksavvy.com/moving-brings-mental-challenges/

And I’m sure there are other blogs that you would enjoy and learn from. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge how you feel about moving. Seek encouragement where ever you can find it!

Also take a look at one of my previous blog posts about making a senior housing choice.

I’d love to hear your stories about moving.  Please leave a comment!

 

The best ways to live worry-free in uncertain times (Part Three of my journey)

Causes of my uncertainty

Right now, I’m living in the midst of ambiguity.  I find myself worrying almost daily about my future.  I don’t WANT to be worrying, but I am doing it.  I don’t know what tomorrow may bring.

Girl with suitcaseSo I’ve decided to find the best ways to live worry-free in uncertain times — the times I am facing right now.

Here’s my situation of uncertainty:

  • I’ve sold my house, but I don’t have a new place yet.
  • I’m living in temporary housing in a new town through the generosity of a friend.  Don’t know the neighbors. When I move again, I won’t know a new set of neighbors.
  • I don’t know where I’ll be  three or four weeks from now – here or somewhere else.
  • I’m lonely and have no friends nearby.  It’s isolating.
  • I don’t have my “stuff”; it’s in storage.
  • The seasons are changing from summer to fall to winter, and In Minnesota, that can happen overnight.  When I wake up tomorrow, will it be summer?  Will it be winter?  Who knows?
  • I don’t know whether I’ll be able to keep my dog when I finally move into a new home.
  • I have questions about what I’ll do with my time, once I move from here and have to give up two of my three part-time jobs.  More uncertainty.

In other words, I have no certainty about my day-to-day life.  I can’t plan anything.

This is a difficult and troubling situation for me – a planner with a capital P!

The best ways to live worry-free

I’ve reached the point, after 5 weeks in temporary housing, where I’d like to get control of my worrying, and get rid of it.  So how can I do that?

1. Acknowledge that worry doesn’t change anything and doesn’t help the situation of uncertainty.

Credit: telegraph.co.uk
Credit: telegraph.co.uk

Of course I already know this.  You probably do too.  Worry is pointless and a waste of time.  I can’t count the times I have said to myself, “Stop worrying.  You can’t do anything about this, so forget it.”  And sometimes that works!  Sometimes just telling myself that worry doesn’t change anything will allow me to move on to other thoughts.

2.  Instead of worrying, make lists of what’s going right.

Yeah, I already make lists.  I’ve got lots of lists.  I’ve got lists of people to notify of my change of address, items to sell or give away (more than I’ve already done when I moved out of my house), bills to pay, furniture to buy for the new place, installers to contact, and so on.

It’s not that I don’t have lists.  I do have them.

It’s that I haven’t been making the right kinds of lists.  I need to be making lists of things that are going right.

For example, right now my health is pretty good.  Right now, the sky is blue and it’s warm (today, anyway). Right now, I have enough to eat and a roof over my head.

Even though it’s someone else’s roof.

Time image 4
Credit: www.exoticpets.about.com

Right now, I have enough clothes to wear and good shoes.  I have relatives who care about me.  I have friends (not here) who care about me, even though they are many miles away.

Right now, I can walk to a few stores and a movie theatre.  The grocery store is 5 minutes away by car.  And my car runs well.

And so on.  These are the kinds of lists I need to make – the ones that celebrate what I DO have, and not what I don’t have.

3.  Live in the present moment.

I read recently a saying attributed to Dale Carnegie:  “Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday.”

What that saying pointed out to me was that it is the present moment that is important, not the future or the past.  The present moment, right now, is all we have.  THIS moment is the one that is important.  The future may be uncertain, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.  Today is ours to enjoy or to waste.  And I decided not to waste it!

4.  Find joy in simple things.

Can you cook a good meal?  Then do so, and enjoy every bite!

Are there pretty sunsets where you live? Then plan to be outdoors or to look out the window when sunset is coming up.

Sapa 2015@0Does your dog or cat have soft fur?  Then reach down and pet him or her, and enjoy the feeling of the fur on your palm.  Tell him or her how good he or she is, and see the love in your pet’s eyes.

Are you breathing well?  Close your eyes and take three deep breaths.  Feel the comfort of being alive today.  Give thanks for it.

Do you have a favorite sweater, shawl, or vest?  Get it out and put it on.  Feel the warmth and comfort of familiar clothing.

Are there pieces of music that you enjoy listening to or playing on an instrument?  Listen or play once a day.  Pay attention to the feelings that the music stirs up in you.  Don’t let your mind wander.  Listen closely or play expressively.

Do you enjoy wearing perfume or inhaling the scent of flowers?  Put on your favorite scent, or plan a walk in a garden, indoor conservatory,  or florist nursery that has blooming plants. Breathe deeply and feel the pleasure of the scents that surround you.

5.  Realize that you can’t know everything.

Most people like to know and understand what’s going on around them.  One scholar described it this way:

The human mind is, for the most part, set on being in the know. We don’t like being uncertain or confused, we seek answers and explanations, a pattern we can recognize to make sense of what’s happening around us. In the face of an elusive solution, or a murky, messy problem, a lot of people are ill at ease.

Untitled designMy current situation is the epitome of this:  feeling uncertain and confused, seeking answers and explanations, trying to find a pattern in what’s going on (which is NOTHING!) in my long wait for a new home.

But what I have to learn to accept is that I CAN’T know everything.  Even if I could plan each and every day, I still could never anticipate what life is going to bring.  I need to develop tolerance for ambiguity – for NOT KNOWING.

[Tolerance for ambiguity] means staying in uncertainty, or staying with the question, despite the discomfort of not knowing the answer, or not knowing where we’re headed. It requires relinquishing control – even though a solution isn’t always guaranteed – to make room for new and emerging connections to crystalize into a clear direction. It also means accepting the fact that there might be numerous ways of answering the same question, each with different but potentially positive results.

I need to understand that there could be many possible answers to my uncertainty about the future.  And I could find positivity in many of them.

The author of this essay on tolerance for ambiguity recommends trying to stay neutral, curious, flexible, and patient while uncertainty reigns.  These can be good attitude goals.

6. Work toward these attitude goals:  Stay neutral, curious, flexible, and patient

So how do I do that?

Staying neutral means that I must control my mood swings and stop alternating between extremes like giddiness and despair.  Instead, take a step back and go for rationality.

A Red Fox curled up at dusk to sleep for the evening in a cold winter snow.
A Red Fox curled up at dusk to sleep for the evening in a cold winter snow.

Staying curious means that I must stop catastrophizing (expecting the worst) and stop living in a dream that my new place will be perfect in every way.  Instead, I’ll remain curious about what it will be like to move into a condo in a new city that I’m only partly familiar with.

Staying flexible means that I must not make a lot of decisions without any facts to support them.  Instead, I’ll think in terms of options and possibilities.

Staying patient.  Ah, yes, my most difficult challenge.  I am NOT very patient, sometimes.  Other times, I can be very patient.  So it’s time once again to work on patience.

Remaining worry-free

And what about you?

If you’ve read this far, you probably are dealing with some uncertainty as well.  What’s the source of your uncertainty?

For many people, uncertainty can come with a job change or job loss, with retirement, with a health issue, with moving (like me), with a death in the family, with divorce, with a relationship issue, with a change in financial circumstances, or many other possibilities.

Whatever the source, uncertainty can really mess up your emotions.

I hope these suggestions for the best ways to live worry-free in uncertain times will help you.  They don’t fix the problems, but they offer a way to make it through till the picture becomes clearer.

Living worry-free is a choice.  It may not seem like it to you, but it is.  You can CHOOSE which thoughts to think and which feelings to feel.

If you decide to make use of the best ways to live worry-free in uncertain times, then I believe things will go better for you.  You’ll use your present moments well, find joy in simple things, and encourage yourself to be neutral, curious, flexible,and patient as you wait for your future to come into focus.

Let me know how these ideas work for you.  Please comment!

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