Archive forMay, 2009

Ready to head to Florida

For the month of May, the high temperatures in our part of Michigan have been under 70 degrees (with maybe one or two warmer days all month). June is starting out the same way. The forecast for the next 10 days shows highs in the low to mid 60’s. Tonight it’ll drop into the high 30’s or low 40’s. Not much sunshine. It’s been lousy. We’d be happy if it was March, but not for June.

I’m ready for Florida. I can’t wait!

I just ordered a new bathing suit and I’m ready to “try it out.”

The Kings Point activities which are scheduled during the period I’ll be down there will be fairly laid back and quiet. Afterall it’ll be June and the snowbirds will have departed leaving only the quieter “full-time residents.” I’ll arrive Tuesday, the 2nd.

The day after I arrive, there’s an ice cream social, but no other social activities are planned until Thursday evening. Every Thursday starting at 4:00 p.m. there’s a Rockin’ Rendevous get together at the South Club lounge. (The 4th, they’ll have a jitterbug contest which should be fun to watch.) I know it’ll seem deserted, but I’ll plan to go about 5:00. I doubt if I’ll stay an hour. Regardless, I’ll be fun to see anyone who is there.

Friday’s (11:00-2:00) and Saturdays and Sundays (12:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.) there are always pool parties. The ‘burgers and beer are ok.

Saturday (the 6th) a Bellmont Stakes horse race party will be held at the South Club. (I don’t know what to expect, but I’ll go.) There’ll also be a “Nearly New” sale from 8:00 a.m.-12:00 noon Saturday (in town).

The last evening I’m there, Friday the 12th, they’ve scheduled 5:00-9:00 Sunset Celebration pool party. I’m guessing there’ll be entertainment, a bar-be-que, and music. It sounds like a good way to end my visit.

But what I’m looking forward to most is the pool time. I need the sun. My skin feel bleached and dry from too much “in the house” time. I’ll love a little sun-glow.

I’m packed for my trip. I will be traveling light (no luggage). I left most everything in Florida when we came home in April. I don’t need to bring clothes, and if I have forgotten anything, there are always stores.

I could also go to Busch Gardens, but I probably won’t. Instead I’ll relax, be lazy, and take in the rays.

I’ll leave Michigan Tuesday at 7:00 a.m., the 2nd, and be gone until Saturday evening, the 13th. It’ll be a nice get-away.

I’m ready.

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The recession

I made a stupid comment back a few months ago.

I was talking to a senior citizen friend and I commented that “old folks” like us aren’t as hurt by the recession. She looked at me with shock and asked what was I talking about. She and everyone she knew had lost much of her retirement income because of the change in the economy.

My comment was made thinking only of “seniors” as not being as apt to “lose jobs” because we’re already retired. But she’s right. Many of our friends have told us tales of woe because their income from investments, which they are depending on for the staples of life, is now greatly reduced.

I’d lost a bundle back in 1987 when the dot coms failed. Nasdaq had shown remarkable growth so I moved much of my retirement to “risky” ventures. When the dot coms went broke, I was hit hard. It took me years to recover – actually I never recovered because I’d have twice as much in my retirement fund as I do now, if the fall then hadn’t occurred.

That experience taught us to become more conservative. Over the years, we did get back into stocks, but we were always on guard. By mid-2008 we started feeling really skiddish. In late summer we had moved most everything out of the stock market. When the September crash occurred, we were safe. We had moved almost everything from stocks to secure bonds. True, we weren’t earning much, but we didn’t lose anything.

Some of our friends ask why we didn’t warn them about a “pending collapse.” At the time, we felt we were being overly cautious.

Settling Mom’s estate occurred at an opportune time, but it was a matter of chance. It happened that she died just before the crash. I had invested her funds in annuities. She had a sizeable portfolio.

Mom died on September 14th. Later, as I reported her death to her various investment companies, they were obligated to pay at the September 14th rate. The crash had occurred about September 22nd. As her heir, I benefitted from the timing, although it certainly wasn’t in any way anything I would have wished for. It just happened that the cash-out was timely.

We also benefitted because the condo we bought in October 2008 was priced at $240,000 in 2006 but because of the economy, the price dropped drastically. By the time we bought it, the price was $125,000. Yes, it’s continued to lose some of it’s value over the past few months, but we’re sure it will go up in value eventually.

I feel truly sad for our friends who have been hard hit. A year or 18 months ago, I remember talking to a close friend who mentioned that he’d paid over $320,000 for a condo. I was envious. That same condo is now worth “maybe” $200,000 (probably less). It is likely that is was financed. They could owe more than its current value.

Over the past few years in Florida, I became acquainted with a sweet lady at the pool. She must be in her late 80’s. She and her husband have loved investing. She was proud of how well they’d done. But that was before September 2008. I spoke to her right after the crash. She and her husband had lost $100,000 in the value of their portfolio. A few days later she said their loss had grown to $200,000. I haven’t seen her lately but the last time I saw her, she wasn’t mentioning her investments.

These aren’t people who are rich. They are retirees who earned their funds with hard work. They saved and invested. They felt they were “set for life.” Now in their 70’s or 80’s or 90’s, they are in a different position.

John and I are among the fortunate few. We have our debt-free home(s) and we are “comfortable.” We are conservative in our spending and don’t go over-board. We don’t do things extravagantly. But we don’t go on cruises nor have we ever purchased a new car in the 24 years we’ve been married.

I shop eBay and re-sale shops. We are bargain hunters.

John and I have not been hurt by the “stock market” but we have other losses. We are “property poor.” In addition to our home in Saginaw, our new condo in Florida, and our place in Michigan’s U.P., we also own two farms and one-sixth interest in another. Obviously real estate values have tanked.

When I mentioned that we pay taxes on our home, our condo, our place in the U.P., two farms, and a camping club membership, I was asked if I was “bragging.” What??!! Bragging??!! Are they kidding?! That comment can only be made by someone who hasn’t watched what’s happened. At this point, we can’t sell the properties which we thought of as “investments.” Now we’re stuck paying property taxes on all of them plus camping club dues, and association dues on our Saginaw home, our U.P. property, and our condo. We would like to divest, but who’d we sell to? I sure wasn’t bragging. I was complaining.

So thinking about it, I realize I sure was stupid when I said that the recession doesn’t affect retirees.

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Memorial Day – thoughts of my dad

Yesterday was Memorial Day. Dad in 1944
Coincidentally my daughter called and reminded me she wanted a picture of my father, Curtis A. Layman, in his World War II uniform for a military tribute at her church. Dad was a Marine and in the second wave that came ashore at Iwo Jima. He served from 1944 until 1946.

It took a while to find a picture of Dad. I finally located one of him taken September 5, 1944.

As I looked at the picture with a “critical eye,” I had to say to myself that he was darned good looking. In fact he had almost movie star good looks. Of course he was young — in his very early 20’s.

His hat was at sort of a jaunty angle (probably not as it should have been), but he was always a bit of a non-conformist.

He was a very proficient artist. The only example I have of his artistic talent is a picture he drew of me as a seven-month-old baby. It was beautifully done! When in the service, Dad sketched pictures of fellow soldiers so they could send them home to their loved ones. A year or so ago, I found his “diary” which he wrote during his time in the military. He talked about going ashore and the losses of his friends.

After the war, Dad became a design engineer at Dow Chemical Company. He helped design the equipment that was used for the production of Saran Wrap. Among his papers, there’s a patent which Dow bought from him for some of his designs for the saran process. (The patent was purchased for $1 – which was the way it was always done.)

Dad died when he was only 65. He had enjoyed a couple of years of retirement in Sun City Center, FL, the city where we now have our condo. He loved “the good life.”

So on Memorial Day. I did what was right. I thought about my father and others who have fought to defend our country. I felt grateful.

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Soaking Storms

In 11 days I’ll arrive in Sun City Center, Florida, which right now is anything but a “sunny city.”

I’ve been watching the daily weather reports and it’s been raining down there EVERY single day since the 12th of May. During that period there’s been about an 8-inch accumulation of rain. Yesterday, it rained 1.14 inches!!!!! That’s a monsoon.

Of course, there is still plenty of time for a “break” in the weather, but looking ahead to the next ten days, there is a strong possibility of rain EVERY day between now and then.

There’s time for that “stuck front” to move northerly. But will it? I can deal with a few crummy days. I have lots to finish on the workshop program for the big dulcimer festival. But Florida represents wonderful, warm sunny days!

During my 11 days in Florida, I am looking forward to pool time. Lots of it! Enjoying stuff from the “grill” at the South Club. I want to take a good book, and watch the palm trees sway, but not from under an umbrella.

So I’m praying for sunshine and lovely temperatures for the next week or so in Michigan and then, from June 2nd until the 13th in Florida.

It’s hard enough to get results on prayers for one place. Guess I’m pushing it by asking for two areas with nice weather. Today is cool and cloudy, so I’m not doing well with either “request.”

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Summertime summertime sum sum summertime! (now hum along)

I’m out on our deck, enjoying a lovely summery day. I’ve described at length our place in Florida, but haven’t said much about our home on Lake Cecil in rural Saginaw County.

Lake Cecil
We’re on a small lake called Lake Cecil. Yup, that’s it’s name. John and I had our home built in 1986. We were the seventh house on the lake. You can see small boats on the beaches of some of the houses across the lake from us. It’s only 26 acres but about 20 feet deep. Summer swimming is enjoyed by the neighborhood kids. Fishing for pan fish doesn’t require a license because it’s “private.”

The fellow who developed the man-made lake was Cecil Sepanski – hence the name. The street names around the lake are Lake Circle Drive with designations for the side of the lake you’re on. We’re on Lake Circle Drive North.

We’re about 12 miles west from Saginaw, MI, off M-52. Our mail is addressed Saginaw, but we are closer to Hemlock, Swan Creek, and Shields.

It’s fairly quiet here. The wind, birds and someone’s wind chimes are the only sounds I can hear today.
John has a small (very small) vineyard on the left side of our back yard toward the water. There are 10 grape vines, so he should be able to harvest six or so bushels of grapes. We also have a couple apple trees, and a small garden with a half dozen tomato plants and a large area of rubarb (also used for wine).

This afternoon I’ve tried to devote some serious time to the workshop program for the big festival in July. I really want to keep pecking away at it since I’ve promised it’s completion within the next couple of weeks and festival goers will be looking forward to the completed program so they can “plan” for the festival.

The program is a monsterous 16 pages (sometimes even 20). I have about six pages done. That still leaves a lot to complete and then there’s the tweaking that I’ll have to do to what I have already finished.

But today, the beautiful weather has me feeling optimistic about everything.

Ahhhh, it’s a great life!! A tad windy but very nice!

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Today, for the first time in weeks, the sun was out!!

I loved enjoying the rays. I took my computer outside and worked on necessary stuff in the warmth of a Michigan summer day.

Tomorrow it’ll be even warmer. I’ll enjoy it even more.

Two weeks from today, when I’m in Florida, I want to be able to move my computer to a beside the Florida pool to a shady spot, and stay there all day. I’ll work (part time) getting stuff done, but I’ll spend most of my time relaxing.

Yes, I can follow the same routine in Saginaw, MI, beside our private lake. I can read, sun bathe, relax, and enjoy. It’s what I plan for tomorrow.

Life is grand. There’s nothing that I lust after. I have it all. I have what makes me happy: John, the sun, Willow, two lovely residences. (in Michigan and in Florida).

What more could I want?

In July and August, the music festivals are coming up. When at the dulcimer festival, we will need a good email wifi signal, a comfy residence/trailer, air conditioning and the close proximity of lots and lots of close friends. The music will enhance everything. Hopefully all of those components will be present. We’ll enjoy a wonderful festival season. It’s fun to have something to look forward to!!

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Pickin’ Pansies

We went to a wedding reception party for a friend’s son this afternoon in Midland. We’ve watched him grow up. I recall going to his high school graduation party and now its a wedding party. The happy couple got married last weekend in the U.P. (where they both live). This party was for their home-town friends and family.

On the way home, I said, “Let’s do something exciting and unexpected.” We were all dressed up with no place to go. I suggested going to a movie. (John’s not a movie fan.) We tried to think of somewhere we could stop. Walmart didn’t do it. Kohl’s didn’t work out because we didn’t need anything, so left empty handed. We stopped at a couple garage sales (I bought two paper backs). It was feeling like it had been a wasted day.

But then we stopped at a gardening shop filled with flowers. It was lovely. We roamed around the store for about a half hour. The flowers smelled so good and were in their prime. The red geraniums, the colorful petunias, the pots of daisys.

We bought a flat of pansies.

It’s been so cold and gloomy and the pansies looked so spring-like. Tomorrow I’ll dig in the dirt and plant a flat of pansies. Sounds sensational.

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John hasn’t been feeling well so this afternoon he went to the doctor. He then had to wait three hours for a cat scan. (It’s a “guy thing” to just tough it out health concerns but I was pleased that he was smart and sensible and went to the doctor.) I took advantage of his absence and FINISHED the three daily grids for the ODPC Workshops.

I have been saying that I’ll have the grids ready by the end of May. Since today is only the 15th, I am officially “ahead of schedule.” Yeah!

I plan to start on the 16-page “program” and maybe it’ll be possible for me to enjoy my time in Florida (June 2-13) rather than having to work non-stop on this project.

It’s still gloomy and cold. John is on antibiotics and will hopefully feel better.

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20 days and counting

In 20 days (two weeks from this coming Tuesday) – on June 2nd, I’ll be in Florida.

I’m really looking forward to some nice warm temps. Sunshine. And solitude.

I adore my husband. But it’s nice to know that for 12 days I’ll answer only to myself.

I hope this isn’t the last time when I’ll be able to enjoy a solo vacation. I had a good excuse this time because I bought the tickets when Mom was still living, but I already know I want to do it again in 2010. I hope I can. I don’t really want to take “separate” vacations, but a week or so apart gives us both time to enjoy solitude.

20 days and counting!!

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Biggest compliment

A friend of mine, Jim Rathbun, paid me a supreme compliment. He referred to me as, “A tech goddess who pole dances. . . .A geek’s dream.”

What a image. A 67-year-old lady doing a pole dance with friends. Yes, I’m guilty. It was last year (August 2008.) We were at a festival in Midland, MI. Things had gotten too intense so I tried to think of something fun. Another campsite had created a wonderland with tiny Christmas tree lights. We tried to enhance our area with all the Christmas lights and hanging decorations we could find, but by comparison, ours looked tacky.

The canopy (20 x 20) was supported with nine aluminum poles. We (a bunch of us in a crazy mood) decided to put on a pole dance. None of us knew what we were doing but we enlisted two good dulcimer players to belt out “Night Train.” We grabbed our respective poles and did what we considered to be “dirty dancing.” It was laughable. All of us are over-the-hill. None showed any true talent nor aptitude.

I took the pole next to a tree which had a huge “hill” at the base of the tree. It was all I could do to keep my balance.

Actually within the group, two of the ladies made it memorable. Gail Schwandt is a total extrovert so that made for a showy display. And the youngest of the members, while wearing a face mask really got going. Her name: Rochelle DeAnda. I think she felt she’d never be discovered, so she did “moves” none of the rest of us would even consider.

Oh, and also Gwyn Besner showed talents we didn’t know she had.

So it was fun. Silly but fun. It made us laugh and will forever be part of our “memories.”

Probably, as the years go by our memories will enhance our performances and in a few years, we’ll be described as fantastic. Unfortunately it’s too soon now. I know we were bad!

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Good Performance

Our dulcimer club played for a Mother’s Day party at an assisted living facility. We played for families and residents, and all seemed to enjoy it.

It was one of those plays that “felt good.” We had a great balance of instruments (19 musicians): dulcimers, fiddles, whistle, dobro, harmonica, guitars. autoharps, bass, and several were excellent vocalists.

It was fun.

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Warming up

Michigan’s finally warming up. It’s still not up to “Florida” temps, but today it’ll get close to the 70 degree mark which is a distinct improvement from what we’ve been “enjoying.”

I can’t believe it was only three weeks ago that we left the sunny south. In less than a month I’ll be flying back down to Florida by myself to check on things and spend 12 days in the sun. I am looking forward to it. I really love Sun City Center (Kings Point). I know that it’ll seem very “empty” in June compared to the winter months when it was crowded with “snow birds” but I can lounge around the pool and visit with our “full-time” Florida friends. It also gives me so “alone time” which I think everyone needs occasionally. (In fact, I’m thinking that next year, I may try to schedule a solo week or two in Florida.)

Much of my time the past week or so has been spent trying to get workshops organized for the ODPC dulcimer festival which will be held in July. I really want to get on top of my commitment so I can enjoy Florida and not have to spend all my time on the computer.

We have a few activities coming up this week: a luncheon tomorrow, a practice tomorrow evening, and a “Mother’s Day” performance Thursday, but nothing very exciting. Writing something of interest for this blog gets tough. Our life is boring during this part of the year. I could tell about the “red-bud” which is about to pop into glorious color, or the young goslings that hatched out and are swimming around our lake. I could tell about our lawn that is looking ratty, and all the stuff that we need to do to get our place polished up. I could talk about contractor discussions to get our roof replaced, or the state of the economy. But none of that is anything anyone would care to read about.

I could tell about my resolve to skinny down a bit before fall so I’ll look better in my bathing suits. My eBay purchases have been routine — no exceptional purchases, I haven’t heard any super jokes. I could discuss the latest book I’ve read or discuss my tan which has faded, but that’s “me” stuff but I don’t like to include posts that feature me. I’m just a stoggy, boring 67-year-old non-descript woman.

Maybe you can tell I’m in kind of a funky mood —- and feeling “moldy” because of all the bad weather we’ve faced. I think I just need some sunshine.

Life is great, but not especially interesting.

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Original Dulcimer Players’ Club Meeting

Today John and I drove to the Dearborn, MI, area which took us over two and a half hours each way. The meeting was satisfying. I’m very proud to be associated with the new ODPC board. They are a bunch of hard working, thoughtful individuals who are like-minded in trying to keep the wonderful festival we all love on track.

The meeting today was well-attended. We had a very good time, and I even won one of the door prizes (an embroidered stadium blanket).

I’ve been working for the past few weeks to get the “workshops” in order. (I’ve been workshop chairman for 14 years!) It’s a grueling job. I requested the submitting of classes starting in December 2008 for this year’s festival, but I started really working hard on the organization of the workshops in mid April. I’ve been spending about five or six hours a day for the past couple of weeks. That’s just the start. I can’t begin to count the total hours I work getting the whole line-up ready.

Today was sunny and slightly warmer (64 degrees). It’s not like Florida, but I love the sun.

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