Tag Archives: Medicare

Teens once, now Masters of all they survey …

It’s sometimes hard to believe this exercise in letter writing began when Ellen and Reid were in their teens and scarcely in college; now, they have both earned Masters degrees – leaving their mom and dad in the educational dust. 

It’s a testament to each of their stick-to-it-ive-ness that they plowed ahead with their education. I logged 24 hours toward a Masters in Journalism in the 1970s but to this day still marvel at the lack of brainpower to finish it out (a move to a new city had something to do with it). But such dereliction can’t be said for my two. They got it done.

April 4, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Wow, now we have two adults in the family with masters degrees. Kind of puts your mom and I between a rock and a hard place education-wise. We are the laggards but are so proud of the two of you. Your degrees will pay off in the near and long terms. It never really crossed my mind that either of you would ever pursue an advanced education but you’ve gone above and beyond – and then some. My idea of higher ed is just reading the newspaper. We’ve got to figure out how to celebrate things the right way (which probably means some sort of wine or premium beer). Pick your poison. You’ve earned it.

Reid, I like the idea that you are looking at environmental careers. That’s good. I hope you can comb through that list of Chicago area organizations and non-profits. There is something to be said, too, for volunteering as a way to meet/network with other professionals. It will also pay off in the near and long terms. It will. Now if we can keep our anti-environmental kook out of the way. He’s just such a nothing loser. I swear he’s composing his tweets on the shitter.

This isn’t said lightly but I’m becoming something of an expert on Medicare. Or at least not how to go about it. But the knowledge has come the hard way: through the school of hard knocks – and phone calls. It’s still farcical in that there is no significant progress. I’m not really closer now to a Part B (medical coverage) than I was five months ago. All the conversations I’ve had boil down to this advice: wait. But there was something of a breakthrough on the phone to Social Security this morning. The agent (he had 38 years of experience) said my reinstatement is indeed in the works. I have passed what he called ‘screening’ which is apparently the moment when they open my paperwork and decide to move forward. Now the new Part B card is in process and could be mailed within the next month. It doesn’t sound like much advancement but it is coming. I’ve learned little smidgens of info on each call and have kept really good notes. Honestly, with the exception of one dismissive person I personally met who couldn’t care less about me and never even glanced at my documentation, every Social Security person I’ve talked to has been ever so helpful. Moreso, I dare say, not so much with Medicare. My condition has not, knock on wood, gotten worse so I hope to stick it out. But man, it’s getting old. It has truly been all-consuming. It’s on my mind 24/7.

So if it is indeed the case that it is nearly case closed, I’ll celebrate by going fishing tomorrow. My neighbor Dan helped me load Miss Emma atop the car and I don’t seem the worse for lifting my share of the load. The putrid and abhorrently stinky bait is thawing in the garage. Maybe the reds and black drums will like it. It’s been a while since we’ve been on the road together and it will be good to hit the highway as early as I can muster the energy to get up and going, all the while bolstered by stiff black coffee.

Had a nice photo freelance gig on Sunday at a big Presbyterian church in Uptown. Here is what’s truly wild: the speaker, a Peabody Award winner and New York Times best selling author, Krista Tippett, knew Tom Kigin and Liz. That was so wild.


I hadn’t done a freelance photo gig in a long time … but this one was fun and when you do creative work, it keeps the juices flowing.

Here we were in a photo up in what was basically a green room before she spoke, and we’re talking about Minnesota. She lives in the Twin Cities. She was really good, and the job was fun. Reid, I have to upgrade my mid-range Nikon Coolpix to something beefier and better. Has to have a strong flash and both manual and auto focus. Any suggestions on that for me?

Okay guys, put those fancy, schmancy degrees to good use. As for my higher education, I’m content to pick up what I can while reading the paper.

Love, Dad


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We were all Irish for one day in Asheville … and the hunt is on for a PT job

An old saying has it that we’re all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

That was true in Asheville, a town that didn’t invent fun but has perfected it. What went on in Asheville will stay in Asheville except to say Jamison and Irish Car Bombs were the order of the day. Mercifully, it was an early night.

And, like Reid, I’m prowling around for a part time job, if nothing else than to fill 6 – 8  idle hours each week.

One final note: next week’s 697 word letter to Ellen and Reid was written in 9 minutes. That is likely a personal record, but who’s keeping track?

March 20, 2017

Ellen/Reid: It’s really been colder than it ought to be down here. Our morning lows (20s and low 30s) and yours aren’t that far apart. Maybe it’s the higher humidity in these parts, but it’s just bone chilling. Windier than normal, too. I made a new platform for my container garden alongside the driveway and fully intended to sow the first seeds of romaine and spinach over the weekend but shelved that to stay inside. I won’t wimp out today and will get it done. The planting is at least two weeks overdue. This time last year the seeds had sprouted.

Had an extraordinarily fun St. Patrick’s weekend with my friends Sondra and Jody and Sue in Asheville. It’s just one helluva town. Lots going on and lots of fun people. Sondra and Jody wanted authentic corned beef and cabbage (the boiled variety, mind you) so we started with that and then wandered over to a jam-packed Irish Bar where Jody somehow snagged four primo corner seats at the bar. We proceeded to idle the next five or so hours there listening to locals play Irish music


It’s not often Irish music gets jam session treatment, but that’s how they do it in Asheville. And these folks did a pretty damn good job at Jack of the Wood.

until we finally called it a night although it wasn’t that late. It was great fun. We left my car downtown overnight and wisely Ubered it back to the motel. The next morning Sondra and I were up around 6:30 to go retrieve my car. I made a side trip to Starbucks and camped there for an hour or so to read the local paper and enjoy the strong black eye-opener. We played golf at the posh Grove Park Inn. It’s a mountain course, tight and really a challenge for being a so-called short course. Jody shot lights out while the rest of us kind of muddled around on a nice day. We pledged to do the ‘Celtic Open’ again next year. St. Patrick’s Day will be on a Saturday. Yikes.

The Medicare thing is getting really old really fast. Just cannot get any straight answers no matter how many people I talk to on the phone. I mean, it’s been hours of conversation and questions. Very frustrating. In fact, one of the Social Security people said it could be up to another 60 days before a resolution is determined. Fortunately, the hernia isn’t worsening as of this writing but you never know. But if it drags on much longer it’s going to make a mess of my Wyoming plans and perhaps the Spain trek in the fall. There’s been a physical toll taken, too, in that I haven’t visited the Y in a month and walking 4 – 8 miles per day just doesn’t cut it. I can feel my conditioning slip away. The scales don’t lie, either. This predicament is all consuming for me right now.

Applied for a couple of part time editing jobs on LinkedIn. We’ll see if anyone bites. Reid, have you plied those online waters very much? I was surprised Continue reading

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It’s Monday, meaning another Monday letter is nearly out the door …

True to form, it’s another Monday which means another letter to Ellen and Reid is about to be stuffed into #10 envelopes and posted at my development’s mailbox. 

The writing (about 15 minutes) was polished off over a cup of coffee. There’s no real formula to how the letters come together; at one time I kept a cheat sheet of notes but now I sit down and write whatever comes to mind in whatever order. That’s pretty much it.

(Here’s the letter sent last week. I wait one week before posting each letter so Ellen and Reid see the single pages first.)

March 13, 2017

Ellen/Reid: The tepid stream of prospective buyers will no longer be trouping through the house. I took it off the market at mid-week and my W Group Realtor, Scott, took the news like a champion. Really a good guy. He did confide that he thought my asking price – the one he and I agreed to at his suggestion – was a shade too high since other homes he’s represented have been selling very quickly. But in the end that didn’t matter. He’s sent me a few more smaller townhouses to take a look at since he thinks I’m still in a tad too much space; he’s probably right. The taxes and such might be less elsewhere, particularly if I relocate to the suburbs in South Carolina but I sure like the SouthPark location. As you’ve seen, it’s right in the thick of things and I can – for the time being – still navigate three sets of stairs. But after months of keeping the joint clean (let’s hope that trend continues) it’ll be nice to just live in it for a change.

So now the garage has to be cleared out of the two twin beds and cardboard boxes that will no longer be of use. In one sense the purge of stuff was a wholly good thing, plus I got some free decorating and rearranging advice. I really do like how the first floor dramatically opened up. It just looks so much better and is more livable.

I’m not sure how a move might have gone physically if this hernia operation goes on as scheduled. There’d of been no packing or lifting for a month or so. Still no word or update from the Social Security/Medicare folks. Somewhat perturbing in that if the letter doesn’t arrive today then I will pull the plug on Thursday’s surgery and delay it until the situation is clarified. The condition hasn’t deteriorated so a rescheduling might not be bad. What’s lurking on the radar is Wyoming; I want to be in good shape entering the mountains and need several months of solid workouts to deal with the climbing and walking. We shall see.

Since it looks like the knife will be staved off later this week, I’ll proceed to Asheville with Sondra and Jody to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and enjoy golf with them on Saturday. Since my dating life has per usual ground to a halt/is non-existent, it’s an easy solo trip to make.

My Irish friend Luke and his daughter Kate came over for dinner last night (she’s in the states for another 10 days or so before heading back to Dublin) and I asked if they’d like to come to Asheville too, and it looks like they might take up the invitation.


My friends Jane and Luke and his daughter Kate show that the English and Irish can indeed get along.

He’s really a great guy (Reid, he said he wanted to talk to you again) and a good stick. He can be the jovial life of the party and jazzes up any room in an instant, such is his pleasant, outgoing personality. So that pair will be a good addition to the soiree. My English friend Jane was here, too, and she and Luke dispelled any notion the English and Irish can’t get along. After my unfortunate faux pas linked Ireland and England, I was told in pointed terms that Ireland is not part of the U.K. Learn something new every day.

Sunday’s snow event totally fizzled. It never ceases to amaze me how people here launch into a tizzy at the mere mention/hint Continue reading

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A stale house and the idiot …

You could chalk it up to shorter, darker days or cold and clammy weather or other seasonal affective disorders but damn, these past couple of months have been pure hooey.

Much of the disarray/disfunction and gloom-and-doom is utterly self-inflicted. There’s been a smattering of good news here and there, but geez, enough already. A ray of sunshine, though, is Reid and I connect in 10 days. And not a moment too soon.

(My note: no doubt you notice typos in the letters. This week’s one pager is no exception. I seldom re-read a letter as it is written. If a mistake is noticed as I type, it is fixed on the fly. Otherwise, after 10 or 15 minutes of writing, the pages are printed and are out the proverbial door. No effort is made to correct the errors for the blog. What was mailed is what you see, warts and all.)

December 5, 2016

Ellen/Reid: Well, there was one bright spot in a weekend otherwise marked by recuperating from a cold and sore throat; there were visitors very interested in the house but they have to sell their home first and their hope is my place is still available if/when their home finds a buyer. We can only wish that would become true. At this point I’m so close to the forest I can’t see the trees in terms of what needs to be done next to make the place marketable or at least draw more lookers. Until the visitors Saturday, there was some thought to yanking the listing lest it be seen as stale or viewed as a home with something wrong.

Ellen, glad to help on the mirror for the girl’s bathroom and the zoo. Reid, let me know what you want; Harvard Business Review or something else. And if anything remains on your most-wanted list, let me know that, too. Not a lot of attention was paid to Black Friday and all that other shopping hoopla. Just another excuse to spend money.

Alas, the tree isn’t up yet. That was on this weekend’s bucket list but I just didn’t have much energy to get off the couch. It’ll go up sometime this week. Reid, I take the car in later today for service that should prep it for the trek to Florida in a couple of weeks. I re-upped my Florida non-resident fishing license yesterday so Miss Emma and I can hit the saltwater if there’s any time to do so in the midst of the Christmas visit. Just let Liz know I’m very appreciative of the kind offer to intrude on her family time.

My good friends Sondra and Jody and Ted will head down to Hilton Head to use the timeshare, which is reserved Dec. 24-31. Reid, I will likely shove off from Marco Island on the 26th so I can join them for a few days on the way home from Florida. Since we have to check out on New Year’s Eve, the thinking is we’ll gravitate to Savannah or Charleston for the Dec. 31 celebration. We’re not sure which as of yet. It’ll be nice to have people use the unit rather than let it sit idle. This whole time share thing has kind of gotten out of control; I’ve been thinking of selling my share in the unit but am uncertain of how to go about it. Really, it has been completely squandered in terms of use over the past decade. Hilton Head has been so close yet so far. What an idiot.

I made another idiotic mistake earlier this summer on my Medicare for retirees. Just before I left to see you guys and drive on to Wyoming, a notice came from Social Security and I didn’t even open it, thinking it could wait for my return. Wrong. It was a payment notice for my monthly Medicare expense – and I missed the deadline and my Medicare Part A (medical insurance) was cancelled. Now, as a penalty, I have to wait for open enrollment in January with coverage not set to resume until July, 2017. I just couldn’t be more stupid and have kicked/cursed myself repeatedly over the past few days. Bob F., whose been counseling people on Medicare and Social Security, thinks I can appeal the error and I’ll try to do that this week. It has just been a complete downer that I brought upon myself.

On the flip side, it’s been great to get down to Charleston for fishing. It really is the best time of year to do go after fish. The cooler waters has tended to draw them in from the open ocean and they also tend to school a bit more at this time of year.


Can fish be friends? A bright spot for me has been the down-and-back escapades to Charleston to fish for beauties like this slot black drum. With a kiss on the snout and a shove into the drink, most of these biggies return to King Flats Creek.

That’s the real deal, finding the schools and that’s where the structure like the barge is a big help. Hopefully if I’m feeling up to it, I’ll head down this Wednesday for another stab at it. It really is fun. Tim sent me a YouTube clip about tailing reds south of Charleston and from what could be seen, Miss Emma and I are on waters very close to it. If they tide cooperates, I’ll loosen myself from the barge long enough to paddle into the shallows to see what we might find. It would be great to see tails swooshing around, let alone have something bite.

Love, Dad

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Cousin Tom, Pine Needles and apologies to Jackson Pollack …

There was a lot to relate last week to Ellen and Reid; the week was fuller than most. It was hard to confine things to the normal single page and for a few – few – brief moments it occurred to me to stretch the narrative out to a second page. That would have been the first multi-page missive in 15 years of letter writing.

But I stuck to tradition and jammed it all into 709 words – and two envelopes.

March 7, 2016

Ellen/Reid: While you two were no doubt snoozing on Sunday morning, I was out the door at 5:00 a.m. to meet cousin Tom at the Charlotte airport. He was taking the red eye from Portland to Washington, D.C. and we happened to be his layover. After landing at 6:00, he walked out through security and into the concourse and we found a seat to sit down and chat for about half an hour.


My cousin Tom Andersen from Salem, OR. Great guy who, as a city councilman, has upheld the progressive ideals of the Andersen/Bradley clans.

It was great to catch up on both sides of our extended families. Tom is on the city council in Salem, OR and he was on his way to some sort of municipal government meeting in D.C. His son Eli is in med school, and his other son Ben is about to present Tom a third grandchild.

Later in the day hopped over to Pinehurst with my friends Christie and Doug to golf at Pine Needles, one of the more reputable courses over there. It was fun but my game stunk, as it often does these days. It made for a long day and I hit the sack earlier than normal, if that’s possible.

Miss Emma and I hit the water early tomorrow for another down-and-back excursion. The high will be in the low 70s in Charleston and I just want to get out on the water. No telling what, if anything, will bite since the recent warm spell won’t have been sufficient Continue reading

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The ointment of a single page salve …

If you’re like me – and for your sake hopefully not – you gotta wonder from time to time how it is that life has ended up the way it has. The twists and turns or the odd bit of fortune that was a life changer. I do. Like North Carolina. How the hell is it that I ended up here, and for nearly 10 years? It seems to me the weekly letters are that odd bit of interpretation of a life that changed – in large part for the better – by landing here.

So that’s what the kids see and hear; a nuanced existence that, for nothing else other than luck of the draw, came to be the way it is today. As it has done for you, life here has demanded a whole new set of adaptations; attitude, discipline (sort of), Southern-isms (sort of), pluck, introspection, maturity and no doubt a host of other things that escape me at this very moment.

It’s 1,165 miles to Ellen in St. Paul and 765 miles to Reid in Chicago. Hardly the stuff of weekend jaunts. But once a week there is a piece of paper that makes that trek in my stead and in some ways closes the gap and cuts the separation, the me-from-them isolation and the depressing distance to more tolerable limits. Perhaps that single page salve is an ointment of sorts. You wonder about it, or at least I do, because life has ended up the way it has.


October 19, 2015

Ellen/Reid: There may be some frost on the ‘ol pumpkin this morning; stepped outside to fetch the newspaper and got bonked in the noggin by 34F temps. Aside from being a vegetable killer, it’ll also make the Bermuda grass go dormant by this time tomorrow which will make golf all that much more difficult than it already is. Such is living in the South. The space heater is on in the office.

I head to the mountains, such as they are in North Carolina, for golf this weekend with my Golf for One Meetup group. Six or so months ago, on a whim, I set up a weekend outing for about 20 people which ought to be a lot of fun. We golf Saturday and Sunday, and the drive is about two hours straight up I-77 with a little veer to the left to a place called Olde Beau.

The North Carolina mountains were a sight to behold this weekend. Incredibly beautiful.

The North Carolina mountains were a sight to behold this weekend. Incredibly beautiful.

They say it’s a lovely spot and I’m anxious to see it. I set up another Friday music situation and 10 folks have signed up but the odds are I’ll bail and head to the hills sooner than later since I’m perpetually nervous about all the details for the 20 people that will be there. We’ll tee off at 11 a.m. both days with a cocktail hour/dinner squeezed in on Saturday night. There’s been five straight weeks of tournament play for the group and I’m totally fried from the organizing of it all. So I may switch from Guinness to G&Ts to set the world straight.

The plumber/tile guy grouted the new tile yesterday and did a terrific job. He comes back tomorrow to set the fixtures, baseboard and, short of me installing some new lights, the job will be done. It’s a relief to have it nearly finished rather than dragging out for weeks and weeks like was done with the master bath. The total cost will be in the $3,200 range which was more than I planned for but when you consider the payback, it will be a good deal for your old man. My rough calculations are in should add – knock on wood – about $7,500 – $8,000 in home value. Ellen, I really, really, really appreciate your help and guidance. There’s a bit of sanding on the walls today and the walls will see a first coat of paint so I won’t have to sweat painting behind the new vanity and toilet.

For a while there I thought I was headed squarely down the vegetarian path and then I got crosswise with a big slab of prime rib on Saturday followed by a big burger yesterday. Hopefully my right-minded senses will return this week but then there’s this weekend’s outing and my diet might go to hell all over again.

I got drilled by friends yesterday for not yet signing up for Medicare. I’ve been oblivious to some of this retirement stuff and they pressed me to sign up today – not tomorrow – otherwise there would be some sort of penalties involved. We shall see. Last week I got to thinking about what would lie ahead in retirement and it dawned on me that there are no real hobbies that have captured my time or attention. I don’t paint or play music or other arty things like that. Golf more than twice a week would bore me to tears. The Harley is going to go away since its time has passed. Perhaps there’s more tennis since my shoulder seems to have held up to it. A guy can only write so much although you never know. My hoped-for letter writing class on eventbrite.com has seen no takers so that will likely get scrubbed. For a while there I thought that might be a fun thing to do, teach class after letter class, but that appears headed down the tubes. pickupyourpath.com seems to have gained steam in terms of visitors, about 50 a day which, in the grand scheme of blogs, isn’t a lot but there does seem a spike in interest. Perhaps I can parlay that into something. You never know. Maybe that’s the way retirement goes; you figure it out as you mosey along. One thing I do know for sure: I sure as hell want to sleep in beyond the usual 5:00 a.m. wake up. That’s no way to live. Later, guys.

Love, Dad

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The guy in the mirror…

My brother gives me the evil eye at an after-Christmas lunch. We share similar hairlines, political outlooks and other traits although the past year has tested our ability to cope with stress.

My twin and I have passed the tender age of 61.  That’s 427 in dog years.  It is utterly unfathomable to me that in theory, in one more year, I could dip into the Social Security fund you have contributed to for so long.  (My thanks to FICA contributors who make more money than me and the Ellens and Reids of the world who will continue to support my age group into the foreseeable future and beyond.)

Deep down, I don’t feel 61 although I’m not sure who the guy is in the mirror every morning.  My recollection of me and reality are not in snyc.  But I can tell I’ve lost a step in the gym, have developed an intolerance for uncalibrated bathroom scales, have come to rely on a grocery list as a must-have memory aid and know the ability to stay awake for the 11 o’clock news is a pipe dream.  The jury is out on whether I’m older but better.

Discussion of their old man’s age by Ellen, Reid has never been forbidden.  I could care less if they talk about it as long as they don’t rub it in.  There really have been no overt references to this birthday, hence no specific letter dealing with it; that would just rub salt into the gaping wound.


It’s not an official week on this site without a photo of Ellen’s loveable dog, Henry.

Henry is an early riser. I don't know the caffiene equivalent for dogs, but he doesn't need it.


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