Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Luck, Chance or Happenstance

As luck would have it...I'm back.

Things have quieted down a bit since I last posted.  The remodel (as previously discussed in Closed for Renovation)  is now completed and allowing a much quieter atmosphere in which I can think....for now. As is always the case, one improvement has led to us thinking another few remodeling "tweaks" need to happen.  There is no end to the  madness.

ALSO, since you and I last spoke...hubby and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary.  Yeah!!! Crazy!!  Who says that teenage marriages are a bad idea?  OK...possibly everyone.  I see that.

Which brings me to the subject for the day. it real?  Given my past post,  If You Knew My Story,  you wouldn't probably think of me as a lucky person. I, however, do feel extremely lucky and I am not alone in this.  According to a recent poll done by CBS News, 71% of people polled consider themselves lucky as well. with pretty much EVERYTHING...I am conflicted about what parts of my (or your) life are a result of luck as opposed to fate, or destiny or the result of our actions and efforts.  How much of our life's  outcome is just a result of  being in a particular place at a particular time?  Even then you would have to question, how did you come to be in that place at that time?  Was it chance, or luck or destiny?

I was recently watching a segment of CBS Sunday morning that was about the "science" of luck.  Susan Spencer interviewed 4 people that have various takes on "random luck" versus "taking control of one's life".  Three of the four interviewed guests talked about "controlling" your luck in various forms.  One alluded to the use of "lucky charms" or superstitions such as "See a penny, pick it up, all the day, you'll have good luck.".   Another discussed how he creates algorithms to insure positive outcomes and yet another talked about having a optimistic attitude" as a sure-fire way to bring about good luck.  The 4th person interviewed, however, said life is all intrinsically arbitrary.

On the CBS program Dr. Mazur pointed out that the  sometimes  a random act by one person defines the luck of another. He gave an example of a book, Fieldwork, that was written by Mischa Berlinski that was doing OK (not great) when Stephen King (yes, that Stephen King!) picked it up in a Barnes and Noble and was quoted in Entertainment Weekly  saying "This is the great American novel."  The book ended up being a finalist in the National Book Award.  This same set of circumstances could be attributed to every author the Oprah touted as being the "must read".  How lucky for them for her to touch them with her magic success wand.  Well...Maybe not so much James Frey.  She did, in fact, touch his "A Million Little Pieces" book with her success wand but then beat him over the head with it on national TV for taking creative liberties with his memoir.  I guess that is "good" luck that goes "bad". 

Of course, there are theories that nothing is "luck".  It's more about each of us sending out positive energy into the universe with our optimism.  According to Rhonda Byrnes, the author of The Secret,
our luck..good or on us.  According to her, we just have to concentrate, visualize and remain positive in our goals and they will come.

I have to tell you that when I was forced to watch the movie along with nearly every other corporate worker whose employer felt the need to shovel positivity down our throats,  I thought I potentially would be fired due to my involuntary gasps of  "are you shi**** me?" during it's run.  I seriously considered asking for workman's compensation for the eye strain resulting from  the excessive need to roll my eyes when the part  of the movie showing  a  guy sitting in the Bark-o-lounger who was conjuring up his  expensive new sports car.  

I realize I am not the most "positive" minded person in the world but perhaps my pragmatism counters that a bit.

Clearly, I don't believe my good fortune is product of my sending positive thoughts out into the universe but I appreciate all those that look at life as one big hugfest singing Kumbaya  around their metaphorical campfire.  Probably can't hurt, right?

Still...there is no way to know why things happen as they do. What's your thoughts?  Do you consider yourself lucky?  Or is your good fortune due to your good choices or hard work?  Is fate predetermined and out of our control?  Does your free-will alter the outcome?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Positive Side ot Obsolescence

I was reading an article this morning in the USA Today about all the ageism problems in Silicon Valley. According to the article, while the median age of working Americans is 42, the median age over at Facebook is 29, at Google and Amazon it's 30, at Apple it's 31 and at Microsoft it's 33.  It might not surprise you to know that since 2008 150 of the top tech companies have been sued 226 times in age-related discrimination lawsuits.

In the article, there is a comparison  of modern employment opportunities for anyone over 30 to Logan's Run, a sci-fi movie about a futuristic society in which life ends at 30. That idea was underscored in 2007 when Mark Zuckerberg at 22 told an audience at Stanford University the "Younger people are just smarter...why are all chess masters under 30?"

WHOA!!! That surely wasn't the most intelligent thing to say and I have to assume he is even less intelligent today at 32 (according to his wisdom).

Why should I care, you ask?  What does it matter that Google or Microsoft muckity-mucks consider me to be a dinosaur? It's not that I was planning on job hunting anytime soon as I discussed in a previous post The Tough Questions.  I happen to be quite content with my current state of flux between unemployment and pseudo-retirement.   That pesky problem of not knowing which box to check on questionnaires as to my state of employment isn't going to be solved until survey creators add a box  marked "uninspired" or "unmotivated".

But still... articles like that one in USA Today make my aging brain think maybe I should be checking Consumer Reports on the "recommended" walker that I surely will need sooner rather than later. (Yes, for those of you keeping track, that is the same brain that has taken up swearing.)

As it happens, a lot of things have been cropping up lately to reinforce in a rather nasty way, that I am getting (or have gotten) old. I guess the verb tense would be dependent on my level of pragmatism any given day.

BUT there seems to be an upside to going over the hill.  Free or discounted stuff!  Yes, who knew that there was a financial boost to becoming old?  For the last couple of years there isn't a day that goes by,  that we don't get some offer in the mail, or some "unknown caller" type of phone call and even a random e-mail (or 6) offering us some type of product or service that makes promises to us that our golden years can be  blissful and worry free if we would only buy their product or service. AND if old age related bliss weren't enough.... through their extreme generosity they will provide us a complimentary meal. After which, we get to hear a spiel about the aforementioned bliss inducing product or service. No pressure...just like any other date where there is an expensive dinner involved.  (What?  Not even a kiss???)

All of this has me wondering, though.  How is it that all these companies know our ages?    Is there some mass mailing sent out by the Social Security dept.  that gives the name and phone number of every poor slob in America that is turning 62?  That surely is the case because there seems to be a lot of eager people trying to get my attention as of late. I have to assume it isn't my winning personality that is causing them to reach out to me.

DAILY..and I am not exaggerating here...I get offers of free dinners at local restaurants (for two) for coming in and learning more about estate planning, drawing social security, or learning more about my medicare options.  I find that very interesting  (ironically so) that while I seemingly can RSVP to eat my supper gratis at the Cheesecake Factory and learn all about Social Security...I can't actually make an appointment at the Social Security office.  They don't seem nearly as eager to share my company as ABC Financial Planners are.

While I haven't taken advantage of cashing in on any of these offers of free meals, theater tickets, or assorted "exclusive offers just for me!" enticements... I am considering my options. A good friend of mine and I have been talking about having a free evening out every week from here till death and calling it part of our retirement plan.  But, sadly as I am still very wishy-washy about if I am retired, unemployed or just pathetically lazy, I haven't started my free meal plan quite yet.

 I did however, come to the point after I turned 62 when I thought I might go in to talk to someone and ask some questions about when I might want to start drawing my social security.  After a 4 month wait, I did manage to get an appointment. Of course, that turned out to be a bit of a tricky situation because the man wanted to know if I was retired. Not that a person needs to be retired to draw their Social Security but you do have to limit your earnings. Again, the problem for me is explaining myself. When I say things like  "When you say "retired" do you mean "figuratively" or "literally?" That response just seems to confuse people. 

Anyhow...a year ago  hubby and I thought we would get a head start learning about our options for Medicare as hubby was approaching the time that he could unload his pricey individual medical insurance and take advantage of Medicare. While Medicare isn't free it's about 1/10th the cost of individual insurance. Kaching, Kaching!!  With this in mind, we  decided we would make an appointment to go in to ask about our future Medicare options.  But to our shock and awe.... NO APPOINTMENTS AVAILABLE...none....ever.

 When I mentioned this to a neighbor that is a couple of years older than me, she said she started a year in advance in setting up a face-to-face appointment as someone told her it's like planning a wedding.  If you want to book the venue (and in this case, I am talking about a chair in front of a Social Security clerk) you have to start early and be diligent. Since I had only allowed 4 months, I was SOL on actually securing my spot. Even my numerous tries calling into the 800 number to gain a coveted chair to talk to a real person were met with failure. They did mention numerous times that I could sign up online which is obviously the way to go.  It's not like you get a choice so there is that way .....or yeah...that way. Really, it's not difficult to sign up of Medicare online but gawd forbid if you aren't clear on the A,B, C, D,'s of it all.

I figure by the time I am actually eligible for Medicare, I will have it figured out.  How hard can it be?  

Again with the mail, phone calls and emails offering us free information. This time, however, there was an added element.  We started receiving envelopes and cards that looked "official". Mail started arriving in envelopes that appeared to come from the Federal Government with documents to fill out that looked amazingly "important".  Luckily for me, I have super powers. 

I also can read amazingly small print that says "this is not affiliated to the government"

So....while most days I feel like I am a 30ish year old caught up in an older body, I only have to go to my mailbox for a clear reminder that I won't ever get a chance to work in Silicon Valley....but at least my disappointment will be offset by a free meal at Outback while some Long Term Health Care specialist tells me how blissful my old age is going to be.

Still... I can only hope I live long enough for Zuckerberg to have to try to make an appointment to find out about his Medicare...or Mdca.

(Note to my Canadian, UK and any International readers...Hope I didn't lose you on the Social Security or Medicare discussion.  Do you have some bureaucratic equivalent that you need to take care of at retirement age?)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Swear Jar Would Bankrupt Me

OK...maybe that title is a bit of a stretch because I don't actually go around the house swearing non-stop or anything.... BUT...I certainly have lowered my standards as far as NEVER saying bad words to being very liberal in both thought and deed. 

I don't think I am alone in my increasing liberal attitude toward swearing.  As a culture that first heard the F word used in a mainstream movie in 1971 (M.A.S.H.) we have progressed (maybe progress isn't the right term) to the current likelihood of watching any cable television show that has at least one "four letter" word inserted pretty much in every sentence. It appears that the general public has collectively become more tolerant of naughty words.

So, while I don't presently have a swear jar, if my attitude keeps on it's current trajectory from tentative tolerance to active acceptance, and now heading into the realm of enthusiastic might say the future is going to require some measure of self-control on my part.

As I see it, this propensity of mine for getting more comfortable with being a potty mouth might, in fact, require a swear jar. With my ever optimistic attitude, I can always tell myself that while my decorum is going downhill, it may in fact allow for a nice vacation sometime in my future.  OR... I could use my jar as a Christmas Club Account and have my holiday fully funded by Thanksgiving. (Given the fact, there is a major election between now and then, I really need to have a plethora of loose change around to fund my jar.)

If I am being honest, though...currently it's not so much as I SAY all that many bad words out loud as much as I think them.  My brain, it seems, is getting more and more short tempered on a myriad of subjects but my mouth seems to mostly remain aware of it's surroundings.  In most cases, as a matter of respect to those around me, I try not to appear as if I have Tourette Syndrome as this would be blatantly unfair to those that actually have that disorder. There is the nagging reality, that I should be able to control my language.

I will confess that the National Nightly News is just bringing the worst out in both my brain and my mouth.  Hardly an evening goes by without me hemorrhaging four letter words in retaliation for the idiocy of  our assorted leaders, or would-be-leaders, or people in leadership roles that can't lead....or just people in the news that generally piss me off.

Of course, I can, justify some of my brain's use of bad language.  I was recently reading a couple of book reviews.  !n Pr@ise *f Pr#fanity, by Michael Adams and What The F, What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains and Ourselves, by Benjamin K. Bergen. Both authors seem to be very "pro obscenity".  After reading excerpts from both books, I am (according to them) doing my body a real service by swearing.  Of course, it really doesn't address the "thinking" bad words versus "saying" bad words but I am prepared to take any and all of the perceived positive effects and call it good. Both authors point out the cathartic nature of swearing, so I am, in essence, by swearing striving for total calm in my life.  
I am sure you have heard people say that swearing is the lowest form of communication and only those with limited vocabulary feel compelled to use foul language. I believe neither of those statements to be true. (My brain just said, "F*** them.")  I believe the real reason that swearing became popular was while there is an unlimited supply of words to convey information, there needed to be words that would convey EMOTION.  Of course, that doesn't necessarily hold true in today's use of swear words.  Now it seems we swear just...well...just because mostly everybody does.  A lot of once taboo words have become "conversational" as opposed to "controversial".  Really...when you think about it...a word is only considered bad if the person hearing it, is offended by it.  SO...if I swear with words you are comfortable with, we are just two people talking.  If I say words that offend you then you will deem me as "foul mouthed".  It boils down to everyone having to size up their audience.

Take for example:  Yesterday, I was having lunch with a good friend. My friend is  older than I am (I think she is in her late 70s)  and I have for the most part curbed my use of colorful language around her because I sensed that she wasn't the type of person that would be open to me or my brain tossing 4 letter words randomly into our conversations. As for this particular friend, she is very political which is tricky for me NOT to throw in a lot of obscene words while talking about either of the current candidates for President.

Anyway, my friend was telling me that she was having some problems with the new car that she bought about a week ago.  The car comes with a built in navigation system.  Upon driving the new car, she realized that the "GPS girl" wasn't talking so she called OnStar to find out if there was a setting to turn on the sound.  I gather that the OnStar person could do that from afar but the problem was that once it was turned on,  the "GPS girl" talks REALLY, REALLY loud and my friend couldn't figure out how to turn the volume down.  So she called back to get help in a hurry before her eardrums exploded.  After several minutes of trying to explain to the OnStar rep what the problem was she finally resorted to saying, "Can you get this bitch in the box to shut the hell up?"

If you think about it, (and I am sure this is keeping you up at night) vulgar words always were comprised by four categories, A. Sexual activities or sexual organs B. Religious concepts C. Bodily Functions and D. Denigrating social or ethnic groups.  In many instances the words associated with the first 3 categories have been reduced to fairly commonplace while the 4th category has probably become even more offensive over time.  (Thankfully...we aren't heathens after least most of us.)

I did find a few interesting facts when I was reading  various articles about the evolution of swearing in preparation to this post.  That there was a time when swearing was a sign of social stature and power.  Makes sense that people in power positions can get by with being profane while lower classes or people in vulnerable positions have to mind their p's and q's.  Take for example:  I doubt that any of King Henry VIII's wives told him to F*** off but he probably deserved that and worse.  (I assume this is the case for at least for Catherine, Jane, Anne of Cleves, and Katherine got to keep their heads...intact.)
Henry the VIII deserved some outbursts but perhaps didn't get them.

So, do YOU ever swear?  Are you more tolerant of others that do, as it becomes more prevalent in our society?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Closed for Renovation

Have you noticed that my timeliness for posting over the weekend has gone off the tracks?  (If you said no, consider me offended that you hadn't missed me but moving on...)   I do have excuses and the major one is that I have lost my mind along with the capacity to articulate rational thoughts or ideas.  (AND...if you said to yourself "didn't she always have trouble articulating rational thoughts and ideas?...again I am offended.)

For the last couple of weeks, I just can't seem to get my act together.
Here's the thing about me....When everything is going really well and life seems to be smoothly humming along, I (apparently) feel the need to park a truck full of chickens on the train track of my life just to watch chicken poop fly about when the train hits it.  I am currently mired in metaphorical chicken poop. 

Last week, when I was talking about my long term love/hate relationship of my job as a Realtor, I failed to mention that when it comes to buying houses, I am, in fact, the world's worst customer and consumer.  Fussiest person ever as far as picking out a house and invariably, whatever house I choose will become a money pit. I have proved this tenancy numerous times.  The very house that had me ooohhhing and aahhhing at  first sight, will mysteriously need a complete remodel the minute I move into it.

While I have proven this over and over again during our 21 moves, the most recent example started about 12 years ago, while living in Dallas, Texas.  During that time,  our daughter was planning her wedding and hubby and I were routinely making the 8.5 hour trip between Dallas and Kansas City for various wedding and daughter related events. While I don't specifically remember how  the conversation of  "Let's move to Kansas City!" came about it  probably went something like this.

 Well...besides the pleading being done by our yet-to-be-born grandsons,  we  were possibly feeling rather vulnerable at both the prospect of our little girl being all grown up and about to be married and the evaporation of our checking account due to the impending nuptials. Somewhere in our fuzzy brains we actively began a plan of relocation. We, of course, didn't ask our son-in-law-to-be his opinion on this matter as he might of reconsidered the whole idea of marrying our daughter.  Who knows if hubby and I might be his "deal breaker" and didn't want to put it to a test as we had already paid for the wedding venue. Anyway...We just forged ahead and found a Kansas City Realtor to start looking around for a house that would "work" for us.

As a Realtor, I recognize these "dipping their toes in the water just to test the temperature" types are a colossal pain in the ass for real estate agents, however I was committed to be exactly that for some unfortunate soul that had the misfortune to pick up the phone when I called into a real estate agency.

From that point onward, every trip we made to KC, we asked to see several homes in various neighborhoods to get a "feel" for where we wanted to live.  Now, I am sure you can imagine how well this plays out for some agent to have numerous (and by that I mean too many to count) weekends taken up while someone is using them for a chauffeur and sounding board for a future move that may or may not happen any time soon...and agents get to do this for free because they work solely on commission.  Yeah, sounds like a perfect job, right???

Well..our agent, Debra started out fairly agreeable only to be worn down little by little over the course of mid 2004 into early 2005.  We weren't purposefully trying to be difficult (it comes pretty natural for us without trying) but it was such a hot seller's market at the time, that by the time something came on the market and we drove 8.5 hours to see the house, invariably it had already sold.  The ones that didn't sell the minute they were listed had a REASON they hadn't sold.

Finally in early 2005 we happened upon a house that had some things going for it.  It was on the market only 1 day, was amazingly clean, and was the size and price that was in our wheelhouse.

Debra who by this time could nearly smell the money of her commission finally wafting in her general direction thought that her payday was close at hand. Not so fast, Debra.   After putting in a full price offer, the sellers decided perhaps they had listed too low.  I mean...really...if there were buyers that would pay full price for it after one day, surely the sellers could of gotten more.   So...these sellers being sellers, AKA  greedy,  countered the offer for MORE than the asking price.  Me...being me, AKA stubborn...and being a real estate agent myself, didn't take this laying down. I said NO.  My thought was that there was no way in hell that I was willing to pay more than asking price with no other offers on the table. I figured in a city of 2.5 million people there had to be at least one other house that I would like, even if it took another year to track down.  Of course, when I mentioned this out loud, Debra  turned an odd shade of green and actually swayed a little bit.  I thought she was going to faint but as luck would have it, the sellers conceded to sell for their original price.

Back to my theory that homes are only perfect until you own them....In the last 10 years, every  single year we have done a MAJOR renovation and/or improvement of some type.  I don't think I am alone in this phenomenon but it appears that the same buyer that claims any house to be PERFECT when initially looking at a prospective home will, in fact, need to change EVERYTHING about it once the closing documents get signed.  

Walls have been removed, floors have been replaced, rooms have been gutted and reborn in somewhat the same manner as a Phoenix but in our case the new Phoenix is rising from the ashes of our money.

As for our current craziness...a couple of weeks ago I had this utterly brilliant idea that one of the bathrooms needed freshened up with some new flooring and paint.  ANY one that knows me at all, of course,  knows that the words "freshened up" is code for "take this sucka down to the studs".

One advantage (and maybe the ONLY advantage) of being a real estate agent is that we know a lot of contractors, plumbers and electricians.  This expedites the time it takes from "brilliant idea" to "let's get crackin'"

One of the guys that has done previous work on our mission of tearing down and rebuilding our house bit by bit,  had mentioned he had a window of availability in late August, early September to do this project.  I am fairly secure in telling you that 5 days into this remodel, he is fervently wishing he had never EVER met me.

Why, you ask?  Because hubby and I are total nut jobs when it comes to these renovation projects.  Poor, Kyle the general contractor of this "freshening up" project is learning fairly quickly that whatever he listed on the quote needs to be tweaked a bit.... AND by a bit I mean changed in it's entirety.

Now that we have added a few (OK maybe more than a few) items to the "to do" list, Kyle realizes that he vastly underestimated both the amount of time and money that he needs to allow for.  I recognize the poor guy is exhausted at this point but I just can't seem to help myself from adding or changing the scope of the project daily. Honestly, he should appreciate that he wasn't here for the master bathroom remodel.  On that one, my husband decided to have the contractor remove a wall that opened up into attic space so the walk-in shower could be enlarged.  I am not at all sure that Kyle can appreciate the fact that I have not asked him to tear down any walls...yet.

I have to say there is quite a lot of stress deciding on materials, colors and quality when it comes to bathroom and kitchen remodels. Hence the craziness on my part.  While you might not be losing sleep at night thinking about the pressure of flush toilets or the depth of soaking tubs but believe me those are REAL concerns.  Do not under estimate the difference between Cararra Marble counter tops and quartz that look like marble.  Soft close drawers and non-slam toilet seats are a "thing" and it would appear that those are things I need.... OK, maybe need is a strong word...but Kyle can make those things happen.

Perhaps, some of you that have already taken on bathroom remodels might already know about "golf ball" flushing toilets but I was clueless until recently on this important feature.  While shopping for new toilets, I realize that a whole line of toilets claim that they are capable of flushing an entire bucket of golf balls in a single flush.  I know...I might not ever NEED to flush golf balls but the fact that it is possible to do it if you wanted to with this toilet is impressive.  Once I realized what a wonderful thing it is to have a golf ball flushing toilet, we ordered 4 of them.  Our other 3 bathrooms do, in fact, currently have toilets but not any with super-toilet flushing powers so all 4 bathrooms are about to get "freshened up."  Hope Kyle doesn't have plans for a personal life any time soon.