Monday, January 25, 2016

Retiring to Florida – Here I Come?

Sitting around with a group of friends, someone threw out the question, “Where are we all going to buy places near each other in Florida?” What?  I did not think I was at the point where I am even thinking of that, as we have our girls in college, I am still happily working, and do not consider myself that close to retirement.  Then the temperature dropped below freezing – I am not a fan of the very cold weather and the thought of Florida from that conversation popped into the back of my consciousness.  Then I headed down to Florida to visit my father, as I have not seen him since he left in October.  Immediately, I was happy to put on a pair of shorts and sandals.  The first day, I walked to the 19th hole café on the grounds, saying hi to everyone I passed.  As I sat there, it dawned on me that I am eligible to become a resident in 2 years from now, but as I looked around, it was very apparent that I was a guest by the vast difference of the ages between everyone else and me.  Am I ready for this lifestyle?

I think that I have been to Florida most years since I was a teenager.  I watched as my grandparents rented an apartment one or two months, then eventually bought a place.  My other grandparents always rented.  As time moved forward, and one generation lived only in our hearts and memories, my father and his peers began to make the annual trek to the warmer climates.  It has been the ongoing joke, you move to Florida and immediately you have the urge to eat dinners at 4:00, which makes room for the fourth meal after the early show.  Most of our friends have parents that spend time in Florida.  A few weeks ago, we were at a birthday party and someone said they preferred the Carolinas to Florida and found a senior community they like.  This has become the circle of life?  Queue Sir Elton John and the popular Disney theme song.  Show the baby, go to school, work, raise a family, and retire to Florida.

As I sat there eating my food, I watched an aide wheel a resident with her son.  “Mama, you want roast beef?” he asked.  In a small voice, she asked what else they had.  “Turkey.  How about a roast beef sandwich,” he yelled.  Again, the tiny voice asked what they had.  The aide moved in close to her ear and yelled ROAST BEEF SANDWICH, to which the resigned older lady said in her tiny voice, “I will have roast beef.”  I heard her speak, but it seems as if she was no longer allowed to have a “voice”.  I finished up and looked around.  All good people, all elderly, all still able to get out, but there was no doubt about where some of them are in their circle of life.  I paid my bill and I walked out shaking my head.  I like the weather, but am not ready to be here, in this place, yet.  A potential future? Yes. For now, I am happy to visit, enjoy the weather and return to New Jersey.  The day will come, but happily, not for many years.

Monday, January 18, 2016

When Our Children Travel

 The New Year had begun and with it the hopes and excitement that stands before us.  The school break seemed short, as it was time to take Bec back to college and drop Gab off at the airport.  To round out her time off from school Gab was going on a free 10-day trip to Israel as part of the Birthright program.  We left early, allowing for traffic as we drove to the airport (JFK).  Once there, we found the group that Gab was traveling with, and then we said our goodbyes.  Less than two years ago, Bec went to Germany on a two-week student exchange program.  We had let our precious children out of our sights to travel off into the world.  Traveling for business, I never have a thought about hopping on a plane, but when you send off your child (no matter how safe they will be), you feel like you are sending them off into the unknown and beyond your protection.

I remember when I was a child; I had the opportunity to fly in an airplane all by myself.  My parents walked me to the gate, where a stewardess (prior to being called flight attendants) met me and took me to my seat.  At the other end, a stewardess took me from my seat to the exit where my Grandparents met me (this was when you could go to the gate without a ticket).  I never left adult supervision and I was able to spend time with my grandparents in Florida.  By the time I was in college; I had only one friend that traveled beyond Florida and spent a semester abroad.  When he returned, we had the chance to hear all about his time in England.

How times have changed!  Today, our teens travel.  We have friends that have children who went on an adventure to different locations in the world every summer.  Other friends of ours have had children study abroad and travel extensively.  Communication is simple with the fact that everyone has a cell phone (this did not exist when I was their age), Wi-Fi and free communication apps.  I remember on our honeymoon, we sent a fax, at $10 a sheet, to inform our parents that we made it safely.  Why send a fax?  It was the cheapest way to update them “real time”.  Each day, Gab sent us an update of her trip (as Bec did in Germany).  Truth is I did the same this last time when I was in Australia.  As concerned as we are that our children are “not here”, the world has gotten “smaller”, so they seem like they are not too far away.  

When Bec went to Germany, ISIS was not a concern.  When Gab was in Israel, they updated their agenda based on what was happening in Tel Aviv the week before, and the event in Jerusalem the day before they walked the Old City.  The group had guards escorting them wherever they traveled, even to the nightclubs.  Did she feel safe – yes.  Did we feel she was safe – yes.  Were we worried – yes.  Do I think they should travel? Yes, it is a big world out there, with many fantastic places and people to visit.  We live in a global community and are no longer bound to our smaller states, or counties.  Yes, there are dangerous places, but like when going to visit a city, we know ahead of time what areas are safe and what areas are not.  Traveling abroad is no different.  In addition, when done correctly, it can be a safe, exciting experience.  Truth is, we cannot look over their shoulders forever, as much as we try at an arm’s length.  I wish I can keep an eye on them forever, but at some point, I have to recognize that they are old enough to make their decisions, seek out what they wish and venture forth.  I am happy…no, I am blessed that they will always come home and share what they have experienced.

Monday, January 11, 2016

When Our Parents Age

My grandfather came to this country in 1920 when he was 12 years old.  A few years later, his father died and he had to become the breadwinner in his family, which included his mother and two sisters.  In 1920, the male life expectancy was 53.6 years.   That means that my great-grandfather died young (figuring mid-40’s).  But if the life expectancy was basically a few more months than I have enjoyed in my life so far, then my grandfather was not alone in losing a parent at a comparatively young age.  The same grandfather was with us until the age of 89, and his older sister died a few months before him at 91.  Back in the day, my dad would inform me, multi-generational families living together were not unusual.  Both of my parents told of their entire families living within blocks of each other (in my cases: Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Bayonne).

Fast forward and we find families disbursed throughout the world, living in smaller family units.  There was a guest with us for Thanksgiving that had lived in Asia for a number of years, before settling in Cambodia these past 8 years.  He made a life – got married, has a child and owns a Mango farm.  He would visit the US once or twice a year to see his parents.  His parents are now in their mid-80’s and asked him to come back.  Traveling that distances takes about 18 hours.  By comparison, the trip my grandfather took to the US, in the hold of a steamship, took about a week, not including the time kept on Ellis Island for checkups and processing into this country.  

My father is 80, has had multiple back surgeries and suffered a stroke 2 years ago.  My mother-in-law is younger, had a heart attack 4 years ago and recently had congestive heart failure and a minor stroke.  Neither of them is as nimble nor spry as they once were by how we still picture in our minds.  I know that the older they become, the more chances we will have to face something more than a cold. When we were younger, the weight of the world was not so much upon us.  As maturing adults, (I guess that I have to admit that at some point in my life) we carry the weight of our families and our parents.  We have become known as the Sandwich Generation, a phrase coined in 1981 by Dorothy A. Miller and added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2006, to describe the generation raising their children and taking care of their parents at the same time.  To be honest, I never thought about this happening, because as a child, you always see your parents as the ones that raised you, looked after you and were always there for you.  We are happy to be there for them now, as they were once for us.  That is what families do; we take of each other, no matter what our ages are.

Monday, January 4, 2016

My Year in Review / Goals for 2016

It is once again that time of the year where we review what we did, assess our 2015 goals and chant the new goals for 2016.  Why do we chant them?  It is an annual mantra to what we want others to hear, and then a few weeks into the New Year, when no one is listening any more, we stop the chant and stop pursuing the goals.  The chants, which we treat as affirmations are then put away until the next year.  Yep, I again find myself in that category – even after I wrote an update (!  Why do we fail?  I picked achievable goals for my weight and exercise.  Was I consistent and persistent in obtaining them – No!  With my weight, though eating healthier, the only thing that I watched was the food coming to my mouth.  To help with my exercise, I downloaded a free app that can have strength, cardio, stretching or yoga broken down into 5-minute routines – easy; however, I did not put aside a consistent time to do this and so the few times a month I exercised, it was meaningless.

Tim Ferriss, in his book the “4-Hour Body”, makes the point that we do not need to exercise for hours a day, but minimal, correct exercise, done consistently, can have a big impact.  In addition, he promotes making the outcome that you are looking for measurable.  I know he is not the only to say that.  Thought leaders, business / planning writers and success advocates, for what seems like forever, have promoted measuring outcomes.  While we all read this, hear this and know this, for some reason in our private lives we forget this.  I am not talking about the people (we all know them) that have been following healthy choices since they were young; I am talking about the rest of us.  Consciously making healthy choices on a daily basis can bring about a shift in our mindset, our lifestyles, and hopefully, the lives we aspire to lead.

So, how was my year?  On the goals set this time last year, I failed.  Does that mean the entire year sucked?  No.  On the positive side, we had Bec graduating high school and starting college, I went skydiving with Gab, we had a great family trip to Ireland, saw friends / friends’ children get married, and I had a chance to speak at my uncle’s posthumous induction into the Brandeis Athletic Hall of fame ( the first 9 minutes).

My goals for 2016 are once again to lose weight and exercise.  What will I do differently?  Last year, I had a target weight, but no overall outcome to shoot for.  I have always wanted to have a six-pack, not to drink, but an abdomen to show off.  That means that the image that I have in my mind is not the same as the one pictured.  Weight (eating) and physical shape (exercise) now have a desired goal.  I will need to measure weight, body fat and revise my eating habits to achieve my desired outcome.  Yes, it means putting a program together for me to follow.  As this has real measurability, if you will allow me to have you as an accountability partner, I plan to provide updates during the year.

What are you goals for the upcoming year?  How will you measure their success?