Tag Archives: Social Security

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.

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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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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.

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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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No wolves at the door …


So, what do I do now?

Whatever that is is already beginning to unfold. Perhaps the larger point for my two is to continue to underscore that things indeed are ‘… far better than fine and far better than well.’ It’s not enough for them to read between the lines; they’ve heard as much from me as I double-up on assurances.

So that’s where we are today. Adjusting, as many of you have, to the new regime that is retirement. I mean, what the hell? The hand has been dealt and now it’s about playing the cards.

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November 2, 2015

Ellen/Reid: So, what do I do now?

That’s the $64,000 Question (that’s the title of an old game show when I was a kid). I can’t sit around and read the paper all day or spend time posting inane fishing videos on FaceBook or just idle around or walk or pick up trash. There has to be something of substance out there for me to do. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing to work a part time job. What that might be, there is no clue. No real thought has devoted in that direction but the noodling on it begins right about now.

There’s no particular rancor directed at Bank of America. It’s just a big business, that’s all. Employees account for roughly 60 percent of expense cost, and something had to give if the bank wanted to make its numbers and assuage The Street. Some friends have asked if I was shocked but the correct answer was no; if you didn’t feel this coming something was wrong. My run there was fine although I was never sure they knew what they had in me. They are caught in such a trap of corporate lingo/non-communicativeness that it is beyond its ability to escape. It’s just the way it is in business. What’s maddening is that is not the way the rest of the world communicates. They ought to gravitate toward plain English/plain spoken-ness. But I guess musing about that kind of foolishness isn’t my concern now, is it?

The ‘package’ arrived over the weekend via FedEx and it’s nothing that wasn’t expected. There were a few pages of added – and likely unintended – tidbits included; someone’s hand-written notes about me Continue reading

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The retirement rock is rolling downhill …


The retirement rock is rolling downhill and gaining speed as it goes. The glimpses I get of that life are pretty appealing and whatever trap doors there are – and there are sure to be some – haven’t reared their ugly heads as of yet.

Like most folks, some of my time will circulate around the kids. I hope they’re ready for me.

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December 15, 2014

Ellen/Reid: Today was something of a dry run for retirement, and I say it was rather quite enjoyable. Technically it was a vacation day although I did my usual early morning jobs so a coworker wouldn’t have to get up at 0-dark-thirty to do my dirty work. But I scooted out the door about 8:15 for coffee with my friend Ann who schooled me on Social Security (i.e. get off my can to apply for benefits and Medicare), left there and headed to the gym for a leisurely workout, came home for lunch of peanuts, a banana and apples, headed to Gander Mountain to buy another Penn Battle fishing rod/reel, stopped at Lowe’s for some lumber to build a workbench, sat in the sun on the porch and re-rigged all three saltwater rods with fresh line and circle hooks for our Christmas weekend fishing trip, Reid,

Somehow, the travel companies don't include scenes like this in their promotional material. Travel isn't as much fun as it used to be.

Somehow, the travel companies don’t include scenes like this in their promotional material. Travel isn’t as much fun as it used to be.

then wrapped it up the day with another couple of hours at my desk so I wouldn’t be swamped in the morning. The spending spree on the new fishing gear and lumber aside, it’s the sort of non-pressure day a guy could get used to. Of course, they won’t all be sunshine and fishing, but you know where this is going. Really, I can’t wait to get things headed down that road to see what lies ahead. We’ll know soon enough, won’t we?

On a related note, I was looking at a folder with a mish mash of recipes, and perhaps that’s my next retirement activity. Imagine a guy trying to sort recipes. The folders would read ‘Steak,’ ‘Potatoes,’ ‘Bread,’ ‘Beer,’ etc.

You'll hear more next week about Emma's artistry with Christmas cookies - and all things icing.

You’ll hear more next week about Emma’s artistry with Christmas cookies – and all things icing.

Christmas, at least the tepid non-gift side, should be a lot of fun. I just cannot believe how Emma is talking these days – full sentences, complete thoughts, etc. Ellen, I will be completely pliable as to whatever your plans are this weekend. Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it, including the cooking.

Reid, I am completely thrilled that you’ll be down here for Christmas weekend. Charleston sounds like it would be a riot, and we’ll get a rental kayak to go with mine and we’ll shove off into the Intracoastal for some fishing. If you’ve not been to Charleston, you’re in for a treat. It’s a lively town with a lot to do, and hopefully, we’ll find some of that.

The tree, such as it is, is up and I’m leaving the colored lights on 24/7 since it seems to cheer the place up a bit. There aren’t any gifts beneath the plastic boughs (why does a plastic tree shed?), but gifts are almost beside the point at this stage of the game.

I’m having some issues with my right hip which is a little disconcerting. It is noticeable almost all the time now and might be the residue of running and my recent few years of daily workouts. I’ve got an appointment early next month to see what sort of steps, if any, are necessary. It seems to be progressively more noticeable. I can’t blame it on the recent spate of gorgeous weather. It was well into the 60’s this weekend and today. It will make this evening’s walk a lot nicer – albeit a lot slower, too. Such are the wages of an aging body.

I had to redeem some points earned at the bank for a few odds and ends, and ordered a machine that makes sleep-inducing noises along with a set of two-way radios and a headlamp for the mountains and some sort of solar charger/lamp I can use in my tent when I take trips on the Harley.

Speaking of which, I will trek through the Midwest late next April or May, some of it to coincide with the birth of your little girl, Ellen.

Okay, today’s note is shorter than normal (lucky for you) and I’m about to wrap up my retirement test drive with that stroll just mentioned. See you all sooner than later.

Love, Dad

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Cork the Whine …


I dunno, for some reason there was a lot for me to whine about last week. You’ve seen those ‘Cork the Whine’ placards in kitchens? How true. I’ll get over things soon enough.

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November 10, 2014

Ellen/Reid: Our weather has zig-zagged the last few days. Warm one day, not so warm on others. What I really don’t’ care for is the early darkness. For some reason this year, it bugs me. Give me some light. But enough whining.

Dave Hemminger is just wrapping up an oceanic race on a sailboat. They are sailing from Virginia to the British Virgin Islands. It takes about 10 days to go that distance and you can follow the race on the web which is kind of an interesting facet. Out of 40 or so boats they were in the top 10 for a long time. The longer boats tend to go faster from what I see, but what an adventure that must be. He likes boating and the salt water.

After my abysmal effort, if I were Ruth, I'd find another golfer to pick up the slack. Hard to play much worse.

After my abysmal effort, if I were Ruth, I’d find another golfer to pick up the slack. Hard to play much worse.

Played like a dog yesterday in our couples event. The woman I was paired with, Ruth, deserves better than me. It was just awful. We shot in the upper 80s which is about 15 strokes out of the running. I’d like to be more competitive, but my game is just unraveling at the seams. I’ll try again tomorrow, Veterans Day, which is a bank holiday.

Still trying to get my arms around the election. What boggles me is that stocks are way up, the economy is improving, jobs are growing and we’re winding down the GOP-initiated Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. How does the average person vote for the GOP? They’ve increased taxes for the little guys (you and me) and drone on and on about social issues and gut public education and don’t give a hoot about the environment. I don’t get it. They’re just lackeys and stooges of the Koch Brothers, the ultra-right wing and big business. The average person gets hosed. The Democrats have made some errors, sure, but the mean spiritedness (see Ted Cruz), lack of any sense of bipartisanship and utter incalcitrant stance they take on anything is just plain stupid. The electorate gets what they deserve. No wonder my English and German friends laugh at us.

The WFAE-FM interview went pretty well (http://wfae.org/post/charlotte-man-clears-his-path-one-step-time). As is always the case, you forget what you really want to say until after the interview is over and done with. My page views went through the roof but only a few more people subscribed and that’s fine. Not exactly a topic anyone wants to keep up with every day; ‘Oh, let me look at more pictures of trash.’ The station archived the 4 minute thing at wfae.org. That’s a couple more minutes than the topic deserved.

I’m going to host Thanksgiving dinner for a bunch of my golf friends who’ve got no family to hang with for the holiday. I’ll probably have 5-6 people. They’ll play golf first then head over here afterward. It will be fun to be stuck in the kitchen. The pumpkin pies cannot turn out any worse than they did last year when the results were abominable.

Tried to get an appointment with Social Security but the local SS office has no listed phone number. Great. Government run amuck. I need to apply for Medicare pretty shortly to get it in place by February. Still need to make final financial arrangements with John. It’s a relief to get the will moving. I’d stalled long enough. I’ll get copies of it to both of you. I’ve asked for no special efforts toward the end of days, so you can pull the plug at your discretion. In no surprise, I’ve requested no formal burial but rather would ask you to put on your backpacks, hike up high and toss me to the winds in the Bridger. Just be sure to be upwind when you do that.

Okay, enough moroseness. Be good, play straight and fair, and see you soon enough.

Love, Dad

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Excited to go? Maybe.


There was a TV commercial not long ago that showed an older guy riding a motorcycle in the desert as a testament to staying uber-active in the golden years. I can’t recall the precise wording but in effect his voiceover said he wanted to go out at high speed.

Hey pal, count me in. I’m with you. I want Ellen and Reid to know their version of the commercial’s old man wants to go out kicking, too.

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April 7, 2014

Ellen/Reid: Well, I’ve started to increase the intensity of the workouts for the Bridger. It’s amazing how much more effort is needed when you ratchet up the elliptical by a single setting. But it feels good and along about May 1 I’ll add some time on the Stairmaster to get the legs working. I’ve been pushing my golf cart on the weekends and that’s helped and really hasn’t been very tiresome to do so. It would be great to go in better shape than in prior years. Knock on wood that it will be so. My Scott fly rod has yet to arrive and I’m about ready to call to ask for its whereabouts.

You both have my itinerary for the May extravaganza. No hotel/motel has been booked as of yet but don’t worry about me infringing on your space. I’ll find quarters elsewhere, and a rental car, too. It will be fun to have everyone together. There won’t be a moment of quiet the entire trip but perhaps that’s as it should be.

Everything for the Bridger Wilderness - bear barrel and new Scott fly rod included - ought to fit in my jaunty new Osprey pack.

Everything for the Bridger Wilderness – bear barrel and new Scott fly rod included – ought to fit in my jaunty new Osprey pack. Excited to go? Maybe.

Speaking of Minneapolis/St. Paul, my friend John was there last week for a church meeting that was hosted by cousin Tim’s church. John was incredibly impressed by both the facility and the church’s outreach, not to mention Minneapolis itself. It makes our little Caldwell puny by comparison, but it’s all a matter of scale.

As we speak I’m watching a male cardinal feed his female partner. He dips down into the feeder for a sunflower seed then flits up to the high branches straight to her. My weekend walks at 6:15 a.m. start just about the time the birds are at their noisiest. It’s still the best time of the week. Calm, serene, no traffic, plus I’m bolstered by a go-cup of coffee (I’m using the gift coffee you sent me). I thought the blue birds were going after the nesting box aggressively but haven’t seen hide nor feather of them the last couple of days so it’s not altogether clear what’s going on with them.

My walks have been going just fine. Bob F. is trying to help me strategize how to push pickupyourpath.com but it’s a work in progress. One thing I’ve noticed increasingly are little bags – and not to be indelicate about it – of dog shit that people leave behind. Why go to the trouble of inverting the bag and retrieving it (plenty of people don’t) then not take it with you? Inane if you ask me. I’ve picked up a lot of sordid things in my time of doing this, but that is where I draw the line: picking up dog shit. I renewed my memberships with the Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy last week. No sooner than the envelopes were in the mailbox than I kind of chided myself for not putting the subscriptions in your names or Emma’s.

Your uncle was reminding me this morning to put off collecting social security until age 66. He does the math in terms of how much more you get for each month that you put off that monthly check. But I don’t know if I can wait another 22 months for that to happen. I had another senior moment last week when, after exiting the theater with my date, I opened the door for her to what I thought was my Toyota and didn’t realize until I got in the driver’s side that the steering wheel was bound in leather and other stuff in the center console wasn’t mine. We beat hasty retreat to my car which was parked a few feet away. Perhaps this is why I don’t date too much. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m losing it altogether, which could well be. That’s a rhetorical question that does not demand an answer.

Love, dad

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Not bad: the live-for-now philosophy…


What snow we had is gone, but what really has me on edge is this whole retirement thing; do it now, or do it later.

I’m leaning toward now.

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Feb. 18, 2014

Ellen/Reid: I think what I learned from Florida is that I like warmth when it is cold and snowy here. Not that I am ready to jilt Charlotte for FLA-USA but it sure was nice to step into warm air that wasn’t cranked out through duct work from a gas furnace. That was very nice and certainly has its pluses. The traffic and sheer congestion would drive me bonkers but the place is secluded enough that you can retreat to your own little world.  It’s a great spot. On their coffee table was left the Friday morning Charlotte Observer front page which declared the town to be shut down. We have the same cars and the same tires as up in Chicago and St. Paul. Why do we make it so hard to deal and cope with such weather?

Let's be perfectly clear: Emma ran the show in Florida.

Let’s be perfectly clear: Emma ran the show in Florida.

Emma is just a scream. She has a mind – and a powerful sense of what she wants – of her own. Ellen, she is the apple that has not fallen very far from the tree. But that is a good thing. You don’t want kids like her to be pushovers so they might as well develop a personality of their own as soon as they can. Nothing wrong with that. Man, did she have papa wrapped uber-tightly around her finger.

The 11 inches of snow I fretted about so much last week is all but gone. It’s almost 70F here today and that usually does the trick of natural snow removal. But on Wednesday and Thursday I really sweated getting out of this burg. After scooping all the snow out of my portion of the driveway last Thursday afternoon and while the pavement was still thawed I drove the car up to one of the flat spots elsewhere in my subdivision. If it had frozen overnight and into Friday morning, even the gradual slope would have made it nigh impossible to get to the main thoroughfare. Once I got there, however, it was clear sailing and virtually no traffic all the way to the airport.

On the flip side, this was my driveway 18 hours before departure.

On the flip side, this was my driveway 18 hours before departure.

So here we are all back in the saddle at work. My inbox was choked with emails last night and this morning which took a long time to wade through and respond to. That’s what makes me shudder the most, the emails that require some sort of response even if it is just a sheer acknowledgement. But the beat goes on and things are in the groove this morning. Speaking of work, Betsy and Bob, and your uncle, have gently hit me upside the head about my pipe dream for retirement. They all but nixed the idea of part time work since Social Security severely penalizes you if you make X-amount of dollars in a year. That cuts back the amount of Social Security dollars that you can get. They encourage age 66 – sweet Jesus – but that doesn’t seem palatable to me. I kind of like the approach by one of Tim’s co-workers who takes the live-for-now philosophy. There’s something to that. I’ve yet to have the hard talk with John about his take on the brutal realities. He’s probably the arbiter of how I’m doing. It’s kind of a downer to think about it.

Tried to fire up the Harley but the battery is dead. Gotta buy a drip charger for the old girl. In all my years of bikes this is probably the worst I’ve ever prepped my black beauty so poorly. No pre-winter oil change, no placing on styrofoam to keep the tires off the concrete, no wash-and-shine. As I walked past her on my way to the gym this morning, I patted her tank and told her better days were ahead. I plan to ride the beast a lot this year. A lot.

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