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6/2/02-Sun.-We are gradually getting back to our normal routines. This morning we got up early and went for a walk in a favorite area. We saw eleven deer plus a hawk. Then we did our weekly shopping. I'm driving. Fran has no experience with a stick-shift, my car's transmission type.

We're also slowly getting chores done and things caught up after the various recent trips.

Money worries, great fatigue, disappointment over the loss of Fran's car, and the other negative aspects of her vacation from hell, have added, though, to our usual difficulties getting along when tired or stressed-out. Thus today we found we were snapping at one another over something silly, the precise way I'd spoken in answer to something she had said, then my reaction to her "correction," and so on.

Our being of necessity so much in each other's company, though we are both somewhat independent (and so not disposed to greater friendliness when someone else is always around), just adds to the potential for friction.

Fortunately, we both usually do better after a nap and were in a better mood once we'd had one today. Also, we have different hobbies that can occupy us separately for hours, even while right in the same small house. So, for the time being, we are once again fairly compatible. Knock on wood.

Aside from all the little nuisances and concerns, like dental and medical appointments, some needed repairs to the residence, and so forth, the next main project, clearly, is getting Fran a vehicle. Neither of us is looking forward to the search for one, nervous that, despite everything, we could wind up with a lemon.

Still, we usually do make good decisions.

As for the anxieties about money, and from where it's coming, we think that a combination of investment prowess, cutting our expenses, and/or extra earnings should suffice. The projected deficit, even after buying another used car, should still be only about 3-5% of our current assets' value, spread over the next few years until my early Social Security benefits kick in.

6/3/02-Mon.-Sitting in a pleasant, breezy gazebo at the local branch of the Austin Public Library, sipping free coffee from my bank, waiting for Fran to check the current "Consumer Reports" guide to autos.

It constantly surprises me, despite mankind's influences, how much nature persists in the heart of a city. At the bank, Fran noticed a mockingbird feeding vast quantities of insects to its young in their nearby nest. The other day, about midnight, I got Fran up to photograph a worm snake that was in the middle of our kitchen. Here in this bright open area adjacent the library building, the wind is stirring dozens of pretty wildflowers, doves are searching for seeds, and I can see vultures riding warm air eddies close aloft.

Fran has narrowed our car search down to Honda Civics or Toyota Corollas, from 1993 on.

Yesterday marked the Golden (50th anniversary) Jubilee celebration of British Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. In spite of her offspring's antics, she remains a popular and impressive monarch.

On the long trip back from IL, hoping to make ourselves feel better about losing Fran's car, we calculated its price per mile over the eleven or so years she's had it. It cost us very little, only about $2000. Up until now, maintenance has never been major. And it had only 25,000 miles on it when we got it, but well over 200,000 when it "expired." It works out to just 3.8 cents a mile! Rather good. I suspect neither of us will ever get that economical an amount of use out of a vehicle again. So, even though it's depressing to put it behind us, we certainly were not "taken" by owning it. It was one of the best assets or investments we have had.

While Fran was finishing her business at the library, I looked through a couple investment magazines. "Kiplinger's Personal Finance," in its present issue, has an interesting article on how much total state tax (income plus real estate) folks will pay in different U.S. places. Those among the lowest ten that we'd find intriguing as possible locations to retire were, in ascending order of estimated taxation:

  • Delaware
  • Kentucky
  • New York
  • Michigan
  • Wyoming

6/6/02-Thurs.-Fran and I this week have been scouring the online classifieds seeking a reasonably priced car for her. Most had already sold by the time we reached the sellers. Both Frances' preferred vehicle brands, Toyota Corollas and Honda Civics, are in great demand and being snatched up quickly here.

Yesterday afternoon, though, we found one, a 2000 Toyota Corolla, we both liked and that passed our inspection and test drive with flying colors. It is a little higher than we'd wanted to pay and has more mileage than is preferred. Still, overall, it seems a good car, in many ways ideal for us. We figure we need to accept the greater price since even more expensive of these type cars are being swiftly removed from the market; and we need to put this crisis behind us, to get on with our lives in other ways.

So, we've arranged to complete its purchase today. Our schedules are quite full, though. This morning Fran has a dental appointment and this afternoon an x-ray and second mammogram, as a follow-up to previous mammogram abnormalities. Around these fixed loci in our agenda we have fit in visits to the bank, insurance company, county tax, title, and registration office, and the meeting with the sellers for the exchange of the vehicle, with its keys and servicing records, for our cashier's check.

Just as before my last car purchase, in 1990, when I bought my Toyota Tercel for $3300, I was up most all of last night, agonizing over whether we'd made the right decision or been foolish. Fran also was upset last evening, worrying about the deal. We torture ourselves unnecessarily! (We can but hope, despite our mutual anxieties, the outcome with this purchase is as good as for that earlier one. I've had the car twelve years. Though it's not air conditioned, it still runs fine.)

Frances and I, by predisposition or parental influence, tend to be perfectionists and suffer for it. At this stage in life, it seems it might be better to give ourselves some slack and take a few more risks for what we want, without beating ourselves over the head for them!

Later-Inevitably, after all the stress and disappointments of the last couple weeks, extreme fatigue and significant, if situational, depression have set in. For awhile this evening I had convinced myself I must give up my retirement and go back to work to pay our bills. Hopefully, this conclusion was pessimistic, due mainly to recent fatigue and a mild grief reaction. But the notion, realistic or not, had a rather negative effect on my outlook.

We did today, though, get a lot done, including progress on Fran's dental care, learning from the latest diagnostics and their interpretations that she has no breast cancer, and completing all the business surrounding getting another car for her, transfer of its title and registration, and so forth.

Wednesday I had a good lunch meeting with Sandy and Maria. Both of them have been lately under a lot of stress as well, however. Maria is having difficulties with her mortgage company over a house she was trying to buy, the closing delayed several times for one last-minute excuse or another. She also is feeling much the kind of burnout I did about our wonderful state job. Sandy has two step-children but had grown quite close to their biological mother, who just died, late Tuesday night, of metastatic cancer. She was just in her early forties. Sandy as well as her husband and the children are all pretty broken up over it.

6/7/02-Fri.-The disruption of the last few weeks having at least temporarily put the last nail in the coffin of my recent meditation regimen, with little or none being done over most of that difficult period, I am needing to reassess once more how that key emphasis will figure into a retirement agenda.

Besides these mini-crises that keep coming along, I seem to continually have an abundance of projects or chores, of varying priority, that intervene or, if they are not attended to because I put the meditation experiments first, which obsessively weigh on me as things needing attention, such as a large backlog of investments record keeping, medical decisions and appointments I've been putting off, maintenance on our house (already too long delayed), the possibility of having to return to at least part-time work to improve our financial circumstances, and so on. In addition, I note that, during the time Fran and I are together, much more the case now that we're both retired, there is a greater sense of distraction than when in isolation. A meditative atmosphere is harder to maintain under these circumstances, particularly as she is not interested in the introspection of a meditation path.

All in all, then, I have decided to reduce the time specifically set aside for meditation efforts to an hour a day, until well rested and feeling generally caught up with the essentials, but to be firm in always sticking with that hour (minimum), no matter what else is occurring.

Sam and Frances were rehearsing here tonight for a Baltic Buzzards tango gig coming up toward the end of the month. I also enjoyed once again the "Film Score Focus" program on KMFA.

We got about a half inch of rain late this afternoon, most welcome!

While I mowed our back yard this morning after a luxurious sleep in, Fran and Pepper went for an early walk and saw a couple rabbits. My wife is quite a collector of skeletons. On her walk she checked out the remains of a feral boar she'd found. They are rotting rather nicely.

She hopes that, in a few more weeks, they'll have progressed enough with the natural decay and cleaning process for her to bring the large skull home for final preparations and being added to her displayed collection. (Our place looks somewhat like a museum.)

6/10/02-Mon.-Things continue to go less than ideally for us.

Over the weekend, each early morning we went over to Zilker Park, where Fran did her usual seed gathering and photography, while Pepper and I went for long walks. The canine enjoyed chasing after several squirrels she saw; and I liked getting plenty of exercise before the sun was high.

However, by Sunday evening, it was apparent the dog was in a bad way, barely able to move around without pain, seemingly having pulled a muscle, tendon, or ligament, and/or having aggravated an arthritic condition. We gave her an eighth of an aspirin tablet to help her sleep.

This morning, though, she did not want her food and has been lying around even more, scarcely moving. I've now put her on a heated electric blanket. We'll see.

Meanwhile, Fran has gone for her first endodontist specialist appointment. Even after we'd sought a second opinion from a general dentist who does some endodontic work, she was referred again to this specialist, for whom our insurance only pays 25%. We'll still be stuck with a bill for about $700, besides her regular dentists' charges for an initial visit, a separate cleaning appointment, and the whole business of adding a crown. She's been waiting now with a temporary filling for a root canal for about two months. Nonetheless, the specialist today just used the visit as an opportunity to charge her $75, glanced briefly at her mouth and the x-rays, and said she'll need to come back in several more weeks for the long pending root canal. He emphasized, though, suddenly cognizant of time concerns, that she must have her crown treatment immediately after the root canal.

That, however, is to be done by her regular dentist; and his appointments staff says the earliest new visit would be in September. Fran has asked his dental assistant to call her back about the matter. Needless to say, we are less than thrilled by this best of all possible dental health plans. Ironically, from what we can gather, unless one has unlimited funds, this really is about the best possible plan.

As Fran points out, and I'd already noticed about our health care coverage, "We are just at their mercy! They can do whatever they want." Already upset over the car situation, she is in no mood to accept this latest insult of fate calmly.

I did receive a friendly and welcome e-mail from one of our regular readers, about our vehicular woes. She related an incident a couple summers ago when she and her family were stuck with a broken down car while on vacation. They had an awful ordeal too but got through it OK. Afterward they have looked back on it as something that helped prove they can overcome great difficulties. It is a source of strength for them. They cheer each other on accordingly.

We too probably can gain a measure of extra confidence from having overcome our travel challenges of the last few weeks. But a rallying cry of "Look what we can do when the chips are down!" seems a little premature, given that Fran is freshly tearful and quite distressed. From her point of view, we had not quite bobbed up completely before yet another unfortunate circumstance has pushed us back beneath the waves. Luckily, though, she generally does bounce back relatively quickly from life's assaults and usually has a sanguine attitude.

Later-The mutt is doing better, having taken a poop and walked around outside a little this afternoon. Fran too is more relaxed after having taken a nap and then coaxing the regular dentist's assistant into an appointment the next day after the root canal. Yea!

The combination of heat and humidity here in the last few days, especially after new rains on Saturday, has our environment quite sauna-like and the mosquitoes large and numerous enough to carry off children, pets, and Shetland Ponies.

It is so unpleasant that, in combination with our recent financial concerns, I felt it was time to check out other places we might live for less and with lower levels of discomfort. Remembering that a former colleague of mine who has just retired is moving himself and his family to the Finger Lakes district of Corning, New York, I looked up real estate and other attractions there, on the internet. To our surprise, we'd be able to buy a place in that area with much more square footage and larger lots, yet for a significantly more modest price than we could likely sell our place for here. The area itself has many natural features to its advantage over central Texas, including plenty of water in ponds and streams, cooler temperatures, bigger and more numerous trees, beautiful falls, gorges, and so on. So, we discussed when we might just sell our place, move there, and begin the good life!

Fran is at least as conservative as I in such things and suggests we wait till we have more money. With our lower mortgage, chances are we would already have extra funds available. Also, as noted in an entry a few days ago, New York has lower taxes, over all, than we do.

She suggests before taking a plunge like this that we go up there on a vacation trip and check out the area pretty thoroughly. Makes sense.

Even though we've talked about moving almost since getting married, I think a factor for both of us is the change it would mean in our lifestyles. Corning is in a more rural area than here. We would need to make new friends. Fran would no longer be in The Baltic Buzzards or The Austin Lyric Opera. And, of course, we'd be farther from my relatives. (This might be a good thing!) So, it may be awhile before we fix up this house and are ready to pull up stakes.

It is wonderful to know, however, that there are places which in some ways are nicer than here that we could afford on our rather modest retirement budget. Fran is used to the colder winters we'd experience there because she grew up near Chicago. I have lived in Washington State, Nebraska, and in New York State and so am familiar with the kinds of cold with which we'd be dealing. Despite that, I've always liked the more northerly areas better than the warm south. (Hopefully that would still be true once old age and its infirmities begin their onslaughts in earnest.)

As things stand, assuming we do not have a major disaster with our current residence (for instance if our foundation were to crack, a common enough occurrence here, that destroys the value of a place), it would not surprise me at all if in two to four years or so we are relocating ourselves to Concord, Ithaca, or Elmira, New York.

Once we have a bit more saved up in our nest egg, I'd like to get a place up there that not only has more square footage to the house, but quite a bit of land, perhaps a couple hundred acres, as well. It may be just a dream now; but one day it might be a grand reality. At least it's something for which to aim.

6/13/02-Thurs.-Pepper continued to be in a pretty bad way, with some kind of serious digestive system problem, through Tuesday. She was gagging or throwing up after both eating and drinking, raising concerns about dehydration. Fortunately, she was fine yesterday (whew!), though she continued to have hellish, "stealth farts" that would in seconds fill a large room with an extremely foul odor. What must she have eaten before this started!?

I have been trying to talk myself into enthusiasm for going back to work. It's a really hard sell. I've now spent several hours weeding through hundreds of job-related want ads and looking at a variety of public and private employment agency sites and job lists. Nothing really appeals to me. Besides that, it is clear getting a decent job would be rather difficult at this stage.

So, from both standpoints, the whole thing is quite depressing. I'd never consider it at all but for all our recent or pending extra expenses. So soon after retiring with the expectation we'd never have to work for someone else again (if we did not wish to), this is just rough!

Yet, the harsh reality is that we shall need an extra $5000-10,000 a year in reduced spending or additional income, until my early Social Security benefits kick in toward the end of 2005. I can borrow it, either with stock brokerage margin credit or a second mortgage on our house. We could save that much by severely tightening our belts. Besides Fran's work for the Austin Lyric Opera, I could go back to work for extra earnings. I could cash in my 401k assets, taking distributions on them right away, instead of holding them for the long-term as I'd planned. Or we could use some combination of these. There are no very promising yet pleasant options.

The only additional remedy seems, in the current bear market, something of a long shot: I might be able to generate those kinds of further profits from careful investing.

Anyway, as I obsess about this overall situation, this is the second night in a row I'm having trouble sleeping. Need to relax about it! A decision made while exhausted and under stress will likely not be a good one.

Besides, I may need prostate treatments before long, not the best time to be seeking fresh employment.

Later-We did our laundry this AM.

The dog continues to be well recovered from her serious illness of a few days ago.

(This paragraph would normally appear in my personal finance web site, Investor's Journal. However, since money worries have lately been intruding so much into the rest of my lifestyle, it seems to fit here this time.) While at the laundromat, sipping thick Starbucks coffee, I put together a conservative plan for getting through the next few years in good financial shape. It calls for a combined approach to meeting our monetary targets, with emphases on reducing expenses (but not by cutting out our restaurant eating, a favorite recreational activity we enjoy together), increases in earnings, somewhat higher debt levels, and good results from carefully selected investments. Basically, given a moderate level of both debt and lowered expenses, each year's net 8% gain in total assets must be achieved in one manner or another, either through additional work or investment returns (or both). For the current year, we must, as a minimum, reach total current holdings of $610,000. (We're at $584,500 currently.) If this can be achieved in no better way, I must find some type employment in the next few months to assure that target is met. To the extent it may be exceeded otherwise, assets may be sold off to further decrease debt levels. So, it is an interesting challenge. We'll see how it goes!

6/14/02-Fri.-Had an appointment with my new dentist early this morning. He polished a tooth which was slightly broken, the tip having come off several weeks ago.

In the first good news we've had since a string of added expenses began a few months ago, he said I do not need a cap or crown, that the burnishing today was sufficient remedy, and he saw no other problems. I go back for a cleaning in early October.

A couple days ago a small, soft-tissue growth of some kind became apparent on the inner cheek area. It's catching a little on one of the teeth. The dentist detected no serious abnormality. Chances are its just another lipoma. Of course, if it becomes a difficulty, I can have it removed and biopsied, likely at my expense. I'll probably just learn to live with it. Growing older means doing more and more of that.

I also have a mysterious, sharp pain now, that has just started in my neck. It bugs me every now and then as I turn my head a certain way. Of course, it too could indicate cancer. But an acute musculoskeletal condition is more likely. One can't be going to the doctor about everything. There would be no end to it.

Fran and I are preparing the June issue of our monthly newsletter. It should be out late this weekend.

Have been steadfastly maintaining the (reduced) meditation regimen as well as a walking program. Some evenings I also do some conditioning exercises.

The other night, Frances and I were watching TV together when AFI (The American Film Institute) was doing its countdown of the top 100 romantic movies. We were discussing it as the evening progressed and trying to figure out which films would be shown later (among the very best such movies). By chance, I picked their choices for the top three, and in correct order:

  1. "Casablanca"
  2. "Gone with the Wind"
  3. "West Side Story"

6/16/02-Sun.-Father's Day-Last night, in what I thought was a dream, I realized that the pain in my neck area, on the right side, was not musculoskeletal, as I'd earlier assumed likely, but from a swollen area, in the lymph nodes or salivary glands, as if I had a mild case of the mumps, just on one side.

On becoming fully awake, I checked by pressing with my fingers on one side and then the other of my neck. Sure enough, there is a mild, localized swelling on the right, under the jaw.

I checked on-line for medical self-diagnostics and neck swelling symptoms, and learned that, chances are, this is due to something other than cancer, but that a serious condition is a possibility.

One of the flow chart questions is whether the swelling has been there already for awhile and is still growing. I cannot tell as yet. I figure if the pain and edema get worse in the next week or so, I'll then promptly seek medical attention. If not, it must be from an acute, and thus probably temporary, infectious process. (If it is due to cancer and yet pronounced enough to cause noticeable swelling and pain, it is almost surely far enough advanced already that the extra few days will not matter.)

On a walk yesterday, Fran and I saw and heard a nearby hawk, flying low and screaming, just as in the movies. Moments later, we saw an equally picturesque scene of a couple deer standing, just so, in the dawn's light, against a backdrop of trees.

Sensuality reared its lovely head last night. The dog was diverting, apparently wanting to play but nonplussed by our preoccupation with each other, and not her.

Before sunup, we had a great surprise. Though there were in the weather forecast only warm nights, hot days, and dry conditions, a pleasantly cool front and a thunderstorm came through, along with about an inch of precipitation. Yes! (For the year, Austin still has a deficit of about nine inches of rain.)

We completed and uploaded our newest family-and-investment newsletter this evening.

6/20/02-Thurs.-The swelling in my neck, which mysteriously appeared several days ago, has as mysteriously gone down, with now hardly any pain. Another "crisis" has passed. It's back to the usual collage of insignificant background pains and puzzling phenomena of the aging process.

So far this week, besides this, we have had our highs and lows.

Fran and I met with a "financial consultant" who attempted to sell us an insurance product that pays about 3-4% a year (though this is tax deferred) and "only" has about a 2-3% annual fee. We declined.

We researched a little some of the jobs currently available, in case we elect to better our financial situation with increased earnings. But we found nothing to excite interest enough for us to want to give up our newly gained retired status.

I had an optometry exam and bought and picked up some more fashionable appearing glasses, which pleasantly increase my distance visual acuity, probably most beneficial for nighttime driving.

We took Fran's recently purchased Toyota Corolla in for a checkup, since it turned out to have had a shimmy at high speeds. The front wheel rims clearly had suffered some quite major impact and needed to be replaced. All told, the repair bill, for this and that, ran well over $400. That's one more expensive new hurdle for our stressed out budget.

Frances and I have our 17th wedding anniversary on 6/22. To keep our spending down, we are celebrating in low-key ways. Fran bought me a nice card and a used, good condition, thick, one-volume edition of the Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant, for which I'm very appreciative. This is a read I've wanted for some time.

I had gotten her some gifts as well. We were ready for the exchange by last night and so celebrated a little early. We'll likely cap the festivities with a nice dinner out and a shared movie tomorrow or over the weekend, unless the difficulties of our friend Sam intervene.

Sam just turned fifty a few months ago. He's our Baltic Buzzards friend and manager, who frequently rehearses with Fran, and sometimes others, at our house. We've gotten to know him well over the years. He's a really nice guy, witty, extremely intelligent, and most talented. He called tonight, though, rather shaken up. He's going in for further diagnostics tomorrow, but has some kind of liver abnormality. As with my throat situation, chances are it is nothing life threatening. But he is aware that, with the liver involved, a problem could be rather serious.

This evening I'm watching an entertaining videotape of "Seven Years in Tibet."

The hour a day of meditation continues, along with regular exercise, at least to the extent of a rapid, daily two-mile walk. On ours this morning we once again saw a number of deer. Yesterday, Fran picked up the boar skull and brought it home to finish the process of being cleaned. It's now in a large plastic container full of water. The jaws are surprisingly long and wicked looking. On our outing then we also saw a couple rabbits, much to Pepper's delight.

6/23/02-Sun.-Up about half past six this morning. Had turned in about one o'clock. Then Pepper had been restless and keeping me awake from about five. Too little sleep.

Got ready. We left to go to a walking area we usually prefer.

My right throat or neck region was preoccupying me. Though the swelling had gone down, it still felt "funny." There were vague pains, that depended somewhat on how I move my head and neck. I could, without feeling ridiculous, imagine some fatal abnormality still beneath the surface.

But how much should one yield to such notions and seek new medical attention? My brother, Ralph, had vague feelings and went to doctors. They told him he was under stress and should find ways to relax better. At least a dozen times since then I have asked doctors to check out some new pain or strange set of sensations. Nothing. Ralph, though, had been right to worry. His brain tumor was at last diagnosed after he began having seizures.

With such obsessions in mind, as our drive began I had a mild sense of Fran's attitude being annoying. She seemed to be finding things amusing and wanting me to join her in a condescending kind of making fun of others about various things. Nothing unusual for her; but this time it bugged me. I tried to ignore her remarks. Then a big car was speeding up behind us, evidently impatient with our vehicle's speed and trying to pass. Fran snickered and deliberately drove our car over to block the other driver's path just before he could complete his maneuver. He had to suddenly slow down or ram us.

I blew up, yelling and accusing her of driving like an aggressive bitch. She demanded I not call her a "bitch," yet completely neglected the import of my reaction, self-righteously acting as though her behavior were completely acceptable, when in fact it was the sort of immature, irresponsible recklessness that leads to road rage, bloodshed, and serious accidents. It is far from the first time she has had an in-your-face "up yours!" approach toward total strangers, as if begging for a fight, like a child acting out.

How should one respond in this type situation? I felt furious and spoke only as essential over the next several hours. She behaved as though it was just another of my moods and she could wait it out, meanwhile carrying on her light prattle, pretending with smug, self-satisfied complacency that nothing unusual were going on.

I remembered, though their personalities are quite different in most ways, that Ralph's wife and now widow, Mary, shared with Fran this tendency toward blind assurance that she has done nothing wrong, even as she was driving Ralph up the wall. Many times in the latter years of their marriage it was obvious he deeply regretted the way their interactions often went, but knew of no way to deal with them, given her defensiveness and lack of insight, short of divorce. After his illness it came out, ironically from Mary, that they had seriously thought they needed marriage counseling or even a divorce, and were thinking of taking the next step along that road when his seizures started.

I fantasized how, faced with several more decades of being with someone like Mary, as she was then, and feeling that he could not so acknowledge a major mistake as to divorce her, especially after their son was born, Ralph might very well at times have thought it better that he was dying.

But people do, in a manner of speaking, accept each other, just as they are, despite seemingly irreconcilable differences. Both my parents and Fran's often were seriously at odds, but carried on, for better or worse, for the sake of the marriage.

I suppose we shall as well. I do not suppose I am God's gift to womanhood.

Certainly it is possible to be very angry with someone at times and still live with or even love them. But it is often not easy!

6/24/02-Mon.-Got better rest overnight. Awoke remembering a dream about getting a new job, perhaps with the feds. From prior work for several years with them, I have some priority in hiring.

In brainstorming on this general idea today, it occurred to me that, if either Fran or I can stand the idea, getting a full-time job in a new area might be the added factor needed to get us over the hurdle and on to a preferred place to live in subsequent retirement.

I might go to a new area on my own seeking new work, if only some entry level position, then send for Fran if successful. Or she might get an orchestra or government position in a desired location and I follow, getting part-time work once there. The income would be added to the existing retirement annuity for a quite satisfactory level of funding, with which to finance a nice residence as well as miscellaneous luxuries, like a better vehicle for me, covering our dental expenses, eating out when we wish, travels during vacation days, and so on. Comparatively, right now we are just getting by.

Or we might simply go to a preferred area, in, for instance, New York, Oregon, Washington State, Michigan, etc., with the understanding that one or both of us will work for awhile once we get there, to cover the moving expenses and get us back on track with our investment and retirement nest egg targets.

Alternatively, we could, at least, work part-time here, once one or both of us can obtain some additional such employment.

Besides the money, I could perhaps use the added social outlet.

So, these are tentative, off the top of my head considerations, subject very much to change after I've had a chance to sleep on them and take into account other factors that may arise later. There is no great rush and, in fact, no necessity, for we can, if we have to or prefer, keep our expenses quite low, hunker down, and just remain retired.

Still, for the first time, I am beginning to see other work options, and semi-retirement, in a more positive light.

6/26/02-Wed.-Today I had my third routine doctor's app't. of the past couple weeks (teeth, eyes, & skin). The dermatologist could find no significant anomalies this time. One by one, I'm completing and checking off the exams required before I might reasonably return to at least part-time employment. (A minimum of two critical appointments lie ahead, though.)

If I get and keep new work beyond 10/05, when I'm sixty-two, we should have five assured income sources, surely enough for any eventuality (state retirement annuity, required distributions from tax-deferred accounts, Fran's part-time earnings, Social Security benefits, and my new work wages)!

I could simply remain in Austin until the pay offered elsewhere would make the change worthwhile, even without Fran's contribution, as, for instance, an initial minimum in another state of $15,000 a year. This amount allows for annual expenses of $60,000, absent the Austin Lyric Opera checks Fran now receives, and before the Social Security benefits start.

Later-Optimism, idealism, realism, depression, and stoicism seem to alternate frequently now in how I view the possibility of a return to the world of work. The bottom line at present: if we can afford it, I'd prefer to remain a retiree. At the same time, starting a new career at this stage, for anything but entry level (i.e. Wal-Mart greeter - yuck!) may be daunting even if I were truly enthused about it.

Meanwhile, if they continue, I should in the next few weeks once again have the latest strange sensations checked out. Even though, as Fran points out, I have often (at least thirty to fifty times [!]), since my brother Ralph died, mistakenly thought there was a good possibility I was dying of cancer, so that the chances I am correct now are quite small, this does not mean I should ignore the most recent disturbing symptoms. Though the neck swelling is gone, a feeling of burning and pressure in the area persists.

Yesterday, at Zilker Park, I did a several mile walking circuit again with the mutt while Frances, as usual, was taking pictures and collecting seeds in the botanical gardens. Toward the end of our time there, I found an exotic looking giant centipede specimen, at least four inches long, still barely alive but no longer racing about or biting as they normally would, so I could carefully collect it without damage either to the creature or myself. Fran was delighted to add this unusual model to her morning's photo shoot.

6/28/02-Fri.-A review of recent entries shows me that, too frequently, despite the greater leisure one might expect from retirement, there has been instead a prevalence of stressful issues, from medical or dental concerns, to bickering in the marriage, vacation crises, money worries, needing but not wanting new work, anxiety about Pepper's health, insufficient sleep, poor or neglected meditation, and so forth.

This week I have taken some decisions that may begin to put things right.

The other night, 6/26, we had a magnificent, surprise storm, with great gusts, intense showers, a marvelous lightning display, and enough close thunder for an artillery barrage. We received about two inches of badly needed rain, enough to wash much of the loose leaves and other compost debris in our yard into little deltas and troughs and to briefly flood a section of garden under our big live oak trees. Fran and I held each other while watching, through our open garage door, the exciting weather's arrival. Our precipitation deficit before that evening was ten inches for the year; so it was most welcome!

Recognizing that all these above alluded to subjective medical "crises" add nothing to my life, each of the many times in the last decade or so that I have thought I might be suffering from some new terminal illness, and then agonizing over whether I ought to have it checked out, yet delaying because of not wanting a horrible diagnosis confirmed, only to find, once I at last do get things evaluated, that nothing serious was going on, I've decided that, no matter what, I shall never again waste energy with indecision over whether or not to see a physician about such a thing. If the concerns are strictly my own, independent of any consensual evidence, I shall not see a doctor but, like a schizophrenic adjusting to his/her voices, simply ignore the symptoms and get on with my life.

Have also made a decision or two about my relationship with Frances, not to be aired here, since she reads this as well, except to say it is nothing in any way bad or negative.

There have been two or three other behavioral changes I expect to implement.

The meditation and exercise continue. Some days they are both quite difficult, sometimes both quite easy, usually somewhere in between. At least they are now always being added to the daily agenda.

Sam was over tonight for the latest Baltic Buzzards rehearsal and visit. Fortunately, his liver and other diagnostics this past week went well, revealing he apparently has some benign cysts, but nothing of any consequence. He leaves Wednesday on a vacation trip up to Illinois.

Pepper and I went by ourselves for a walk today, seeing four rabbits. Later I got a haircut and rented the videotape of the 1984 movie adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge, with Bill Murray. This is a low-key film, the opposite of a blockbuster, just a very nice story about a man in search of himself, and, for my taste, quite well done.

Frances had her root canal done yesterday and the temporary crown appointment, with our new dentist, today. No problems. All went well.

I've applied for a couple part-time jobs this week. Will likely stay on top of this till am successful in finding work for about 20-25 or so hours a week.

My friend, Maria, has lately been in touch. She did finally have a closing on her house and has already moved in. Seems quite happy with it, though there were some inevitable things that need immediate attention, like a minor plumbing problem, trouble getting the gas utility in her name and turned on, etc.

6/30/02-Sun.-The deluge has continued. In addition to our great downpour Wednesday, yesterday and today we have received about another three inches of rain, reducing our precipitation deficit by forty percent just since Wednesday evening.

Our weather in the last few days reminds me of that on the western (ocean) side of the Pacific Northwest states. The temperatures have also been somewhat cooler than usual. Meanwhile, our yard, benefiting from the fact that much of it is a little lower than the surrounding terrain - indeed, it appears likely, from the bedrock slightly below the surface, there was a creek along the length of our back area before topsoil was added by the developers - seems to drain the waters from much of the nearby land. The ground is accordingly much more moist now, completely saturated, than one might expect from knowing that, technically, we are still about six inches short of having average moisture for the year.

Molds and mosquitoes are now extremely productive around here. The former are considered allergens and adversely affect many throughout central Texas after periods of abundant rainfall. This, in turn, may be contributing to a perception that I have as yet something wrong with my right jaw and neck. Yet the symptoms are, for the most part, substantially reduced by taking antihistamines.

The meditation and exercise agendas are being maintained.

This morning, when we took a brisk walk in a nearby county park, it was flooded, even in several places along and across the raised circular concrete perimeter path.

It's wonderful to have the life-giving wetness in our yard. But in one respect it has set us back a little. I had planned for early this next month getting contractor estimates on replacing a lot of the damaged siding around and below our chimney, then hiring someone to take care of that. Now, though, we really should let things dry out awhile before tackling that project. A small price to pay.

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