A Banking mess

What a mess I created this morning – all because banking has become too easy. I do some, but not all, of my banking online. One thing I do is pay my credit card bills online because it is issued by my bank. So there I was – SS check had come in. So I transferred some money to my card. Then I planned to transfer more (much more) to my savings account. But somehow I hit the transfer to credit card button. I immediately hit the panic button. But it was too late. The process had started. So I called my bank. They called the credit card folks. The result: I have to wait until the payment is posted on the card. Then the people there will transfer the large payment back to my checking account. The bank will call me about this. It will all take between three and five business days. Fortunately, I have enough in checking for that amount of time. But hitting one wrong key has caused a mess.

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My journey

I’ve lost nearly 50 pounds – and it’s taken 18 months.

I still have about 30 to go so I’m far from through with this journey. But at least I’m well underway.

Thinking back, I’m not sure why I reached the decision I needed to lose weight. Of course, any photograph I looked at showed me why. But that wasn’t new. Every time I stepped on the scales (which didn’t occur often), the numbers also told me why the weight loss was needed. That wasn’t new either.

I knew I could do it; I lost about 60 pounds years ago when I did WeightWatchers at Work. But I had gained every pound back plus maybe a few more.

Actually, the real reason probably was because I huffed and puffed when climbing the 15 steps to my mother’s apartment at College Walk. I did that when I arrived and when I bought groceries, lugging the bags up in two or three trips. I was beat at the end of that. And I noticed that I automatically took elevators whenever possible.

I had retired six months earlier. I had no excuse of working too hard, having lousy hours or eating on the run.

On Jan. 13, 2013, I took the plunge. I found a WeightWatchers meeting in Greer and walked in. That first weigh-in was humiliating. When I came back to the house and looked up more information, had to admit that I wasn’t just overweight. I was obese. That’s an ugly word that is thrown around often. We read about obese kids. We hear about and see obese adults. Now I had to say out loud and to myself – that’s me I’m reading about.

My health wasn’t bad. I did have high cholesterol. I wasn’t fit. I ate poorly. But I wasn’t diabetic. I didn’t have heart disease. I didn’t feel bad most of the time.

My support community became a staunch ally in my weight loss journey. As I grew to know people in the meeting, they supported me as I lost one pound, two pounds. Then I lost five pounds. They all clapped for me. But even more supportive was my mother, a woman who has never had weight problems.

She encouraged me and applauded my losses. She made up a game that provided money as I lost certain numbers of pounds. She said, “That’s okay” if I gained a little. I wanted so badly to lose all the time so I could tell her every Monday night. Of course, that didn’t happen.

I realized as I started that this would be a life-long journey. I’m the type of person who can look at potato chips and gain a pound. My first experience nearly a decade ago was losing between half a pound and 1.5 pounds weekly. So I had realistic expectations.

The disappointment came when I looked no different after losing 10 pounds. My clothes seemed no looser. My shirts were just as tight. But at the meetings, I still was applauded for every five pounds lost.

Then one day, one of the lifetime members said, “You’re going to have to get new pants soon.” What a lift!

I wasn’t going to buy new slacks because weighing in with the same clothes – navy blue pull-on pants and a gold and white top that I bought when I retired – had become a ritual (weigh-in time also meant taking off my shoes, my watch and glasses). But it was nice to know that the time had come.

Still, I was in no better physical shape. I didn’t want to exercise although I knew it would make me feel better and spur my weight loss. Finally, I met someone at WW who said she needed a walking partner. So we began walking at the old high school track – nearly a fourth of a mile around.

That first day I made one mile. Every week, we added another lap.

Then I had difficulties with my feet. Old shoes caused blisters. Other shoes only made them worse. I knew I needed new shoes, but my feet hurt too much to try them on and buy any. So to a podiatrist I went, a man I had used years earlier. We cleared up the blisters. I bought new shoes – expensive ones. They didn’t cause blisters.

Then came the day I tried on a pair of size 12 pants I had hanging in my closet. They fit. Some of the sweaters were now looser. That encouraged me to consider going to a gym. Walking wasn’t enough although we up to three miles a day.

Toward the end of May, I went to SSI, a gym that is primarily a therapy center. Allison, a trainer, weighed me, measured me and ensured me I could do an exercise program.   The next time I was there, I tried out the equipment as planned. Some were easy. The arm exercises hurt.

But Allison told me I was limber. Anything that sounded good provided encouragement.

After a couple of weeks, she checked me out again. I hunched my shoulders as I did the arm exercises. That’s not good and made my neck tight. So my goal now is to lower my shoulders, do the exercises and get stronger. Once again, this will be a long-term exercise. It will take months to get stronger. It will take years to get fit.

But I’m on another journey – a fitness journey to join my weight-loss journey. And it’s one I expect to last a lifetime.

Back again

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been so long since I wrote on this blog.

Bad!

I have begun walking in the mornings, not far but for about 35 minutes or so. Right now that’s about 1.3 miles. I’m taking it easy because I managed to produce blisters almost immediately and am trying to heal them before I buy new, well-fitting walking shoes. But the walk starts my day off right.

When I get home, I feel ready to run errands, write or clean the house – whatever my task for the day is. Since I’ve retired, reading is always part of my day. Of course, it always was. But now I read in the daylight instead of late at night.

The other part of my upbeat outlook is that I have lost 32 pounds in the past 10.5 months. That’s slow, but that’s how I lose. I now have more energy and feel more able to do things that enhance my writing – such as hiking to a waterfall or just rambling through the countryside.

I am also a contributor to a blog – mooingaround.com – on WordPress. If you’re a writer – or even if you’re not – come check us out. We have five staff contributors and guest contributors. It’s open to any writing – poetry, memoirs, short stories, articles, writing tips, a blog on the blog- as well as photography. Nan Lundeen, a friend and colleague, is the chief editor (I guess you’d call her) and a wonderful poet.

The life of a homeowner

The life of a homeowner is tough.

I am getting a new compressor for my air conditioner this morning – a couple of thousand dollars. But I have been without air conditioning (in South Carolina, no less) for three weeks. Most of that was my problem since I didn’t call the repair man. But when I did, it took some time to find the part.

Then, good news. My insurance company is covering the cost of a new roof because of hail damage. The adjuster said there was significant damage. It has come over the years rather than in just one storm, but it’s being attributed to a 2012 storm. The roof is 23 years old, and I’m replacing it for the cost of my deductible on my homeowners.

The next step is getting my garbage disposal and kitchen sink working right again. But that should not be super expensive.

Isn’t it interesting? I retire so I no longer have a bi-weekly check coming in. Then the bills start hitting. So far, I’m fine with savings. But I certainly hope things slow down for a while.

Retirement – not an easy way of life

Retiring is tough work.

The drug insurance I have with Medicare does not handle prescriptions the same way my employee drug insurance did. I have a generic drug I use routinely that is costing me $40 a month. So I have to figure out a different way to buy it or get a different prescription from the doctor.

What a pain!

Also, I’m being inundated with Medicare paperwork – it comes from the agency and from the two new insurers I have.

Plus I’m getting ready to talk with an accountant who will take care of taxes, etc. next year. But I have to pull together paperwork for them. Another hassle as far as I see.

Who ever thought retiring would be this much work?

A new milestone reached today

Well, I’m on the other side. I’m now in the senior category – but I decided to be a senior babe rather than a senior citizen. Although I’ve been receiving my hard-earned Social Security since February, I signed up today for Medicare (effective today).

It seems strange to hit this milepost, but in lots of ways I feel no different. It’s like when my brother turned 13. He said, “Jenny, what’s the big deal? Thirteen doesn’t feel any different from 12.”

I guess the main difference is that it’s up to me to maintain a schedule in my life and not lolly-gag the days away. I want to stay busy – writing, visiting friends and family, volunteering, learning new skills. I’m thinking about taking up knitting. I’m going to get more serious about photography. I’m taking care of my mother, visiting her every other weekend to take care of shopping and washing. I’m writing a family-based cookbook and a photography book based on Psalms.

In addition, I want to write the history of the Reedy River and I’m working on a memoir. In addition, I’m freelancing with a weekly newspaper and want to start freelancing with magazines.

My major project, other than freelancing, right now is WeightWatchers –  I’ve lost nearly 19 pounds in 3 1/2 months. That’s an ongoing project because I’ve got many more pounds to drop. But it’s working and I’m having fun (and not feeling deprived).

So I’m moving into a new adventure. Look out, world. Here I come!

Getting retirement right

You know, getting retirement right can be difficult.

My company recently put a special contribution in my 401(k). However, I had closed out the account. So it ended up in an IRA at Merrill Lynch. When I received a letter from Merrill, I got to work moving the money. It wasn’t easy. They sent the wrong forms. Finally, my financial advisor and I decided to have the money sent to me – without any taxes taken out – and then we’d roll it over. I took the check to Brian and found out I needed to deposit it and write another check to roll it over. Finally, my part of that is over.

Then there’s Medicare. I started Part A when I turned 65 but turned down Part B because I had employee insurance for another year. So last month, I decided to get Medicare started on May 1. To my surprise, I found I needed a form filled out by my employer saying I had insurance for the past year. I got that. Then I found I still am in a general enrollment period – whatever that means – and if I filed now it would start in June.

No way, I said. So now I have to take all the paperwork back on May 1. I said, What if I have a wreck that day. As long as it’s after I fill out the enrollment, I’ll be covered, so they say.

At least my Social Security has already started. The first check came in around the end of February.

Details, details. Get them right and life is easy. Get them wrong and you may never get it straightened out.

Spring is here (I hope)

Spring has sprung. Easter has come and gone, but it seems to have brought warm weather in its wake.  I watched glossy blackbirds flying around a sugargum tree last Saturday and seconds later watched a white squirrel climb up and down and sit in the crook of a branch nibbling on a seed.

The past week – other than the Easter weekend – was tough. I had a cold that really knocked me out. But I felt better by the weekend. I visited my mother but stayed on the couch in the living room. A cold is a pain for me. It is a major illness for her at 96.

I received my second Social Security check in March and will start my Medicare on May 1. That’s when I no longer have money coming from the newspaper buyout. It seems impossible that’s it’s been nearly a year since I left. I needed a form recently so I visited the newsroom at the same time. It is the same, I guess, but it feels different from the way it did when I worked there.

Family is special

My brother and his two daughters recently visited my mother in Brevard. She is exhausted now but had a wnderful week, visiting, catching up and just talking and watching the girls.

Amanda and her boyfriend Richard joined my brother Chip for the first part of the week. One of the highlights was Richard’s first sighting of a waterfall – Looking Glass Falls. He’s from Florida and earlier lived in New Jersey.

After Chip took them to Atlanta for a conference, he met Shannon at the airport in Greenville. She flew in from Washington, D.C.  We ate, talking and visited Connestee Falls, Pretty Place and Caesar’s Head.

Chip, who hasn’t been to Brevard since a year ago in January – he helped my mother moved into her College Walk apartment – enjoyed his visit. He also was treated with collards and field peas (I cooked). That’s something he doesn’t get much at home.

Linda, his wife, was unable to come because she was ill. We’re all praying the doctors soon find out what is wrong with her. This has been going on for some time.

I was there the whole time, simply as support for my mother and to visit with everyone. You forget just how special family is until  you see them once again. My mother had not seen Amanda in six years. Shannon gets to Brevard more often as does Chip. And I’m there every other week.

It was a wonderful week for all.

3-12-13 - Grace, Amanda and Richard 3-16-13 - Arriving -  Holding hands

Retirement on the horizon

I find it strange that I took a buyout last April, which effectively was retirement, and am only now feeling the fear of the unknown.

My buyout payments end the last of April and then Social Security and my retirement investments take over. My financial adviser says I have enough to live off comfortably as long as I do a little work. So I hope to bring in $7,000 or more annually in freelance fees. I’m writing for the Greenville Journal and now plan to try to get some jobs with magazines, such as Our State, the Clemson research mag, Furman University and more.

I expect to feel really “poor” for a month or so as I adjust to less money coming in. What I’d like to do is pay off my mortgage, but the tax consequences make that a slow process. This year I’ll use my Roth Ira funds to pay off one small chunk of it.

I don’t want to feel so poor – or be so tight on money – that I can’t buy things on the spur of the moment or take trips when I want to – maybe every other year.

My next task is to get my Medicare Part B going – starting it on May 1 – and get the paperwork needed so my retirment funds can be deposited directly into my account. That’s the money that will pay the mortgage every month.

What brought this meditation to the foreground is my visit with my financial adviser today – talking about how much money I have, where it’s going, how it will be invested, etc.

So I’m trying not to become overwhelmed with change. It is a new adventure that I’m moving  toward.