TheMcKeeSpot is a blog by Steven McKee. The purpose of this blog is for me to explore things that interest me as I plan for my next 50-plus years on this planet. Starting out, I am writing about my family and activities, but as time progresses, it will be about anything. Stay tuned, check in often and enjoy the ride.
I can feel it in the air. The morning air has a bit of a chill. The leaves already have a tinge of orange color in them. College football occupies the weekends. It isn’t getting into the mid 80’s in the afternoon like it did just a few weeks ago. And friends on Facebook have already posted photos of snow in the mountains of Colorado.
As for me, it has been 43 days since my last posting. Much has happened with myself and the clan since the last positing.
As a nation, we remembered the tragedy of September 11. My son turned another year older. My daughter got another horse. The horse went down with colic, had surgery and is on the slow road to recovery. Stall rest for at least 3 months.
For me, it was long hours at work. Work continues to just be bad. I no longer want to be there. I was going crazy and needed a break.
In some ways, we were still being locked out of normal because of COVID. That also was taking its toll on my mental and physical psyche.
The positive happening during these past 43 days was that I had enough and took a much needed vacation. I was obviously going crazy. The stress was just getting to me and I needed to get away. Thinking back, except for short excursions over a weekend, a few days here and there, I really had not had a true vacation in years.
It was long overdue.
So I left. I hoped on an airplane and went for a trip. Went back east to the garden state of New Jersey. I enjoyed some of the best food New Jersey has to offer…
I got to see some old friends…
Odd that I flew to New Jersey, only to drive to Pennsylvania to watch a high school football game. Priceless!
And I got to listen to some great music…
Yes. I was able to catch Pearl Jam after three years (along with 35000 other people), and spend an evening with The Smashing Pumpkins. Outstanding performances by both. Not to mention other performances spanning several musical genre. It was great music…in a great location…
It was a good substitute for the Telluride Brews and Blues Festival. Beer, music, food. What more could I ask for? I was able to get out, see the ocean, see the beach, and relax.
I also managed to visit some other interesting places in New Jersey as I drove along the ocean…
I have always had a thing about lighthouses.
Sun, good food, a good book and relaxation. Yes I am still trying to finish reading Atlas Shrugged after all these years. It was a memorable trip, one that I will have to make again. It was great to reconnect with some old friends, whom I thank for taking the time out of their busy schedules to enjoy food and conversation, even if it was a brief moment.
And if this trip served as a prelude for retirement, then I am there.
Wow, it has been almost two months since my last posting. I’ll chock it up to laziness and not because of a lack of ideas. Another Sunday is before us. Time to rest, recover, and get ready for the next week. In the idea department, I have been working on three themes of late. So I have had to do research on the topics before putting them down. More on that later. As a trained scientist who still follows science, the complete lack of research on any topic makes it just an uneducated opinion. And of late, everything, from the daily news to whatever is just opinion.
In some ways, this blog is based on my opinion about things, from the subjects that I write about to the words that I use to convey the topic. Opinion is OK, so long as we agree to disagree. When it deteriorates from a difference of opinion to verbal harassment to physical abuse, then we have a situation that is not good.
And that my friends is where we find out country. We have a great many differences of opinion, but lack the leadership and the courage to compromise and move forward together. Certainly, as a society, we lack the art, the passion, or the will to compromise. Of late it has been one way or the other.
But this is not the subject that I care to write about today. Instead, what have I been up to since last I posted back in early June? Well the answer is, not much. I find myself still working, and working long hours, On the work front, I have come to a fork in the road. Simply, I no longer get the enjoyment from what I do, of that which I have done in various capacities over these 30 years. I long for the next journey in my life. It is one that I hope will keep my young and active for another 30 years.
I have been giving that a great deal of thought of late, thinking that it is time to embark on a new adventure. Plans I have a plenty. Execution has been limited.
Looks like it will be another mild and sunny day here in Los Alamos. Rain is again in the forecast, with the summer monsoons underway, bringing much needed moisture for the area. As for me, I slept in till 5 am, got up, made coffee, read some news and then went to feed the horses.
Ruby and Jasper were out standing in the mist that transformed into rain while I was mucking and feeding them. It was a very comfortable 58 F outside. Of course, the rain will certainly help my tomato plants that I have growing on the back deck.
My plants certainly are not growing tomatoes like the pictures that came with the plants. Thought about a garden in the back third of the stable lot but never started the necessary work to make that happen. So we will see how this summer goes in terms of whether I have a green thumb. Next year I can build some boxes for growing vegetables. Thinking that this may be one way to spend my time after I retire: taking care of the horses and growing some veggies.
Since it is just son and I this weekend, Saturday took us to Santa Fe, where we went to restock the aquarium. The pandemic certainly limited the options available from the pet store, but we managed to get six additional fish. So far, after 24 hours, they are all doing well. I hope that the two old-timers in the aquarium make the new fish feel right at home.
Took a family outing a few weeks back to Durango. One day was spent tubing the Animas River. Water was low and of a temperature that was just right. Fun was had by all. It is always good to get the kids out and show them things that I did from time to time growing up. Daughter was playing in the water and built this pile of rocks. Of course the pile of rocks reminded me of the RUSH Test for Echo album cover.
So school will resume shortly for the kids, in about two weeks. Both are vaccinated, but this new wave of the virus is certainly a cause for concern. We will probably wear masks, knowing that the county has a vaccination rate of over 85%, but it appears that the vaccine has its limits. Wore my mask at the grocery store this morning out of an abundance of caution. I typically take one with my to work, as it looks like the mask requirements will resume shortly. Of course, government could change things again and resume the lock down and bar gatherings and such. I am like most people and the idea of returning to work from home, staying inside, and the like will not be viewed favorably this time around. I have some travel coming up soon, and that will certainly be a topic for a later post.
And so, with this free-lowing update spanning several weeks since my last post, comes to an end with pictures of daughter performing yoga on a rock in the Animas, to your humble author and son in a hotel room in Durango, I bid you all good bye until next time. I will endeavor to do better and post more often. Have a great day, take a deep breath and enjoy.
Happy Saturday. I am up early for the weekend, up as if it was any other day and I was getting ready to go to work. In reviewing my personal e-mails today, I discovered the need to renewal my subscription to WordPress in order to maintain my domain and this blog. Then just like that, “ding”! My phone had a message from my credit card company indicating that the auto payment to renew my WordPress subscription and domain had been denied. Like magic. Modern technology, for all the good and the bad, is connected. Me and the world.
All this means is that it has been two years since I set up my plan and site. When I enrolled in April 2019 I had no idea where this experiment was going to take me. To explore this new found medium, I set up my domain as a business account. I guess that I was thinking that perhaps I would set up some type of business around TheMcKeeSpot domain. Something to keep me busy over the next 50 years. Maybe I would sell stuff and perhaps recover my investment.
To renew, or not to renew, that is the question…
I remember when my kids were younger. They talked about setting up their own YouTube channels and become overnight “gazillionaires”. Daughter would emphasize horses; son would be a video game superstar. I of course had more modest ideas for all. They are tech savvy. For me, it just goes over my head.
Oh to be young again and to dream…
Ruby and I had uneventful birthdays. My daughter tells me that Ruby is 15. Alas, I wish I was 15 but I will have to settle for 60. That makes me 4 in Ruby years…For her special day, Ruby enjoyed dehydrated kiwi fruit. Willow doesn’t like kiwi but was fine with dehydrated banana chips to help in the celebration. I had sea scallops from a local restaurant. I took off from work to allow for a four-day weekend of sorts. Nothing planned in terms of festivities for my self and the kids outside of dinner together the night of my birthday. They had homework.
I really didn’t do anything special for surviving another decade, or is it starting a new decade? Spent money. Reviewed all of the birthday wishes from friends old and new on Facebook. Went to Santa Fe and shopped at some stores. I was able to score on ammo for my guns. They are usually out but if they have it, you are limited in what you can purchase. Spent an hour perusing a bookstore. Bought a biography on Ulysses S. Grant. Should be a good read as I add it to the pile of four other books that I have in the queue. And to those of you who frequently visit TheMcKeeSpot, yes, I am still working on Atlas Shrugged. See my post from May 28, 2019 entitled “Reading is Fundamental” for the appropriate background. But at least I have gotten passed the pages where in my two previous attempts to read this book I gave up.
So, two years later, I have no business plan. I have not set up the site to sell anything. I have renewed the domain for another two years. Aside from the time that I spend writing, which hasn’t been much over the past two years, and a few hundred dollars to maintain the internet domain and infrastructure. Now I just need to write more often, to expand upon the subjects that I write about and see where it takes us.
Until next time, stay safe, feel free to read and comment.
A little snow fell this morning. Nothing too significant other than covering the roads, trees, the car, sidewalks. It is cold and wet outside.
Happy Monday! It is that final week of 2020. The period between Christmas and New Years. As has been this period over the past 50-plus years (work, graduate school, college, etc), I have the week off. The lab is closed and I am home adjusting to a week without work, or not working from home this week. Unfortunately, travel is limited due to the pandemic. In general it is a weird week on the calendar, which has been discussed and commented on before. In searching the internet, I think this image best sums it up in my humble opinion…
Let’s face facts, the year 2020 just sucked. Here is hoping that 2021 is better. Plenty of memes out there talking about how bad this year was. Of course, many are spun off into signs, pictures, even t-shirts that you can purchase. Guess capitalism is alive and well. As long as you can make it, market it and such, someone may want to buy it.
Since my last post, I had identified many topics to write about. Not sure if we will cover all of them, but we do have several days until 2021. We can lament about the year later. We can critique my ramblings for the year much later.
Let’s start with McDonald’s, who brought back the McRib sandwich to help us through the end of this year. Why is the McRib so craveable? Start with seasoned boneless pork dipped in a tangy BBQ sauce, topped with slivered onions and dill pickles, all served on a toasted homestyle bun. When everything combines you have BBQ pork sandwich perfection. It’s only here for a limited time so don’t miss out. The previous words are straight from the McDonald’s website. I like how the adjectives just jump off the page. I can truly taste how delicious it is as I write about it here.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the McRib sandwich. When it is out, I usually defer my Big Mac order, or my Quarter Pounder Deluxe order so I can have the McRib. Not my kids though, they have the usual, a Triple Cheeseburger with only ketchup. Do I see a trip for lunch in order?
Ah yes, which brings me to the kids and Christmas. Put the tree up a few weeks ago, stockings hung above the fireplace. A wreath on the door. I had great plans since I was to have them Christmas Eve, stay the night and here Christmas day. And in typical fashion, the best laid plans get ruined by the ex. The kids and I managed a couple hours on Christmas Eve. Had to rush the dinner and such. Take them back and then a few hours on Christmas Day. Still, it was good to have them, even if it was not what I had planned, or even less than what is required. They say that divorce is hard on the kids, yet I think it is harder on me. This too shall pass. I jump to my happy place and all is well.
Anyway, the kids came, we opened gifts, then we enjoyed our time together, playing with or working on the gifts received. Calling or texting with relatives and such. Truth be told I was never that much excited about Christmas since the late 70’s and my excitement wanes every year. Every year I think that I am becoming more like Mr Scrooge, or the Grinch. My preference is the Grinch because he at least has his dog Max to keep him company. It’s this time of year that I break out my Grinch coffee mug at work, giving the Dilbert mug a break. Clearly I am a curmudgeon as time passes on. Bah Humbug! That said, I have much to be thankful for this year. I probably have much to be thankful for every year. And I am thankful for my health and my children. That said, the kids and I did spend some time talking about those less fortunate and in need of help this time of year.
The week before Christmas was an anniversary of sorts for me. I have worked at Los Alamos for now 30 years. No fanfare, no parades, nothing of congrats from my bosses. I did get a few e-mails from former employees whom I had the opportunity to manage over the years. That was personally rewarding and brought a smile. I do not know why I expected more. I did, and was disappointed when there was nothing. Certainly gives me something to write about when I respond to my performance appraisal, as well as my performance goals for the next year.
I guess the big questions for me is whether I will have “a next year”. After all, after 30 years, I am 59 and a half (slightly more), and wonder about retirement. I wonder about it just about every day. This blog was my attempt to explore what the next 50 years has in store for me. I honestly do not know about tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, the next several decades. Some coworkers say I cannot retire because I have kids who have several years of high school before they venture off to college. I expect the economy to crater soon and thus that will cause problems with savings for retirement. Too many bills to pay, too much to do. Have you even decided what you will do in retirement?
In the last post I commented that I took the car in for repairs. Well the car is fixed and now, it will not start. Thought it was a dead battery so I replaced the batter. Now it still will not star. Probably the starter motor so I have some more car repairs in the future. The car is about 18 years old and has over 189,000 miles. Yet when it runs, I still get the same gas mileage. Over the 18 years, I have put about $10,000 in repairs into it. The kids and I have many fond memories in that car so I cannot see replacing it anytime soon.
Looking outside, I can still see some snow flakes falling onto the ground. Nothing too dramatic except the forecast was for snow tomorrow. High today is in the upper 40’s, but wind will put the wind chill into the upper 30’s. But as I write this post, and words jump off this page and cause me to search the internet, I come across a meme that can sum up today’s post:
Alas, another two months has gone by since my last post. Not what I have wanted to do but I guess that time flies. I thanks those people who periodically check in. Sorry that I didn’t post something new. It’s not like I have been tied up or anything. I often have ideas on things to write about; happenings in the daily world of myself worthy to be posted on TheMcKeeSpot. Call me lazy, call me whatever. No excuses here. I had ideas that never materialized into words and a post on the blog. So let’s catch up.
Am I still in the ongoing condition that I have written about in the past, namely a Frustration and a funk? Or should I correctly differentiate between the two. Am I frustrated? Am I in a funk? Still not sure so I will say that I probably continue experiencing both situations. Need something to stimulate where I am or where I am going. Not sure but I am guessing that I will know it when I experience it. Whatever it is…
How does the reading of books go? Well last year, I continued to indicate that I was reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I can report after approximately 18 months, I am up to page 125. Over a thousand more pages to go. Over the years, I have tried reading this book.
I think this my fourth attempt. Not sure why I cannot finish it, or for that matter why I have to read it. Do I really need to find out “Who is John Galt”? Yes, Yes I do! I find it odd for someone who is not religious to have read the Bible twice, in having so much trouble trying to get through this book. I need to because Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is next on the list. Perhaps I need some discipline.
Last weekend was my weekend with the kids. Madison had a borrowed horse and was off at a competition. I planned on spending time with Dylan, playing Minecraft of perhaps starting his latest Lego set, or even helping him with his homework. Neither activity materialized because Ruby was injured. She had stepped on a nail was what I discovered on Saturday, after trying to get a vet to visit. By Sunday, we had to keep her injury free of dirt. That includes soaking the hoof in a bath of Epsom salts with some betadine, an IV with antibiotics, and sedation. Of course, this was being done inside as a snow storm was making its way into the area. The expectations were for wind, cold, and at least 12 inches of snow. Wind chill dropped temperatures to single digits in the afternoon. Blowing snow covered paddocks, only to become mud puddles days after the storm.
From Sunday through Tuesday, the wind howled, and the snow fell. When it was over, I think we may have gotten up to 16 inches of snow. It was cold, often in the 20’s during the day. Jewel and I would be cold and subsequently reduced our morning walks. Yet everyday, we managed to push forward and get Ruby’s foot washed and covered.
By Wednesday, the snow had stopped. The wind subsided, and the sun came out. By Thursday, it had melted around the paddock area, and it was actually warm enough to soak and treat Ruby outside.
Using tape after soaking the foot was not the best approach since the paddock went from snow packed to mud in a couple of days. We managed to get her one of those boots so that we could keep her injury contained and dried. This is the second time that she has managed to injure this hoof with a nail. And it’s not like she has had a hard summer, since she was being treated for arthritis. We will know soon if the inflammation has subsided to where she can practice and compete, or whether her days of dressage, show jumping and cross country are over.
Halloween was last night. Sadly trick or treat was cancelled because of increased cases of COVID here in New Mexico, as is being seen throughout the United States. So this year, there was no Trick or Treat on Main Street, no Almond Joy’s for me to get from the kids, no stops at houses for the special adult beverages while we walk from house-to-house with the kids. We all wear masks and so far have been successful in avoiding the virus. I continue to split time in the office and working from home. The kids continue to have school from home. They get lots and lots of homework but they are not really learning. So much homework that they often cancel visits with me. Limited contact for many months will school friends and teachers. No band, choir, or movies. It is taking a mental toll on all of us and not sure when the end is in sight. It is obvious that American’s have grown weary of the whole lock-down, masks, the bull shit that is surrounding the pandemic. Medical science often suggests that the cure is often worse compared to the disease (paraphrasing here). This ain’t no cure. This is prolonging the inevitable.
This week we have an election. The future of our country, in my opinion, hangs in the balance. I have already voted. In person, wearing a mask, standing in line. Easy, simple, no Russian collusion. Four years ago, I voted for the Libertarian candidates, Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. Gary was a great governor during my time here in New Mexico. He was decent, and actually did well for the people of this state. I despised Hillary. Not because she was a woman. Not because she was a Democrat. She was crooked and evil. She was never about the American people. I hated Donald Trump, not because of his policy positions, but rather how he communicated his positions. He wasn’t Presidential in my opinion.
Four years ago, Trump won. Then as a nation, we had to endure four years of the other side contesting the election. There were never any debates about his policies. It was always a discussion about him. The other side never gave him a chance. They immediately concocted one BS story after the next. Under Russian Control. Fake reason for impeachment. Four years of lies. Four years of fake news. Four years of phony politicians trying to undo what the electoral process in the country put into power. Four years of total Bull Shit. Time wasted when we could have been working to solve the problems of this country. Before 2016, we wasted eight years of apologizing to the nation and to the world. That too was total BS. Now we wasted four more years because we hated the individual who was trying to do what was best for a country that did right by him.
And now we are within days of another election. The democrats have chosen another bad ticket. Neither Biden or Harris represent my values. They are corrupt and do not represent the best of America. I am suppose to vote for the lessor of two evils. Except it is clear to me that the principles that this country was founded upon are also under attack. The planned policies of the Democrats will undo how I have lived my life. Hard work. Rugged individualism. No handouts. I have worked and sacrificed to get where I am. Put myself through school. Borrowed money and then paid off my student loans. Got a job. Worked long hours. Lived by the rules and played by the rules. That was how my family did it. Those are the values that I try to instill into my children.
As I get on in years, and inch closer to retirement, I do watch what happens daily with the stock market. That is my money that I worked hard for. Invested. I sacrificed the nicest car, the biggest house, fancy vacations and lifestyle. The economic policies of the Democrats will serve only their own self-serving interests. They will not help those in poverty, those who have suffered because of the pandemic. They will not provide better jobs, make the middle class better, provide for clean air or clean water. The environment will not get better after the clean new deal. To treat the patient, you need to know the disease. They do not know the disease. We are heading down a path that will result in depression, unemployment, increased crime, and probably war.
It has been almost two months since my last post. It is not like I have forgotten, went on vacation, got a new hobby, or fell in love. I wish I could say that it has been awhile because I have been busy, or work has kept me away, or even the dreaded COVID tied me up. It has been none of that. I am especially thankful that I have not had COVID.
I and my family are healthy. We have largely listened to the CDC guidelines. Avoid going out in public. School resumed a few weeks ago on-line. We wear masks and maintain at least 6 feet social distancing. Wash our hands often. That said, staying inside has certainly made me “stir crazy”. I can see where this has taken a toll on my mental health, and I can see the toll on the mental health of my kids. They haven’t been able to go to school, or spend much time with their friends. No more trips to the movies, or out for dinner in a restaurant, horse competitions, or even band practice. I feel the urge to hop in the car and just go somewhere, do something different, to be spontaneous.
I do get out very often and when I find myself in the office, it is only part time. Trips to the grocery store are limited. Haven’t dined out or gone to the beer pub, ice cream with the kids on a hot evening, or even shopping. Camping was off limits as the parks were closed for much of the summer. No swimming, either indoor or outdoor. No art galleries or the annual kite festival. No trips to see concerts, or a return to the beach, or even home to Pennsylvania.
I think the dog is sick of us being home as much as we have been.
I have limited myself to largely working around the house and the stables.
I have become more of a hermit. I venture our for pick up from a variety of restaurants and bring it home. Less phone calls and more text messages. I have even ventured out to Starbucks, which has been on my boycott list for awhile. I prefer Morning Glory Bakery and the other small local establishments that has equally good coffee, and donuts and burrito’s. I don’t drink the exotic fancy coffee. But several of my colleagues prefer to meet up at the Starbucks and sit outside early in the morning to talk about work and other stuff. Talking to other people face-to-face has been good for the soul.
Work has been slow and difficult. No morning coffee cabel’s of late. Work has not been a very productive this year and between turnover in people, the stress caused by bad management, COVID restrictions, and the general direction of things, I find myself wandering more and more about retirement. A number of colleagues of mine have retired over the past year. In a few months, I will eclipse 30 years. If I am looking for change, that would be one way to make a major change in my life.
Many coworkers tell me that I cannot retire because I still have two young children. I need to save for college. You are divorced and that probably sucked lots from your retirement funds. Financially, I am saving and continue to save, both for my retirement and for college for the kids. I don’t know if I have saved enough, or which way the economy will turn over the next few years. That said, I am not optimistic of a favorable economic picture over the next few years, regardless of who wins the election.
I look out and do not see a bright future for our country given how it is being torn up from the inside. Between the riots, the lawlessness, protests, crime, and the economic shambles caused by the pandemic, the future doesn’t look great. The principles that I live by appear to be gone with the times. Rugged individualism appears to have been replaced with the handout. Living within your means has been replaced with shirking your responsibilities. Saving for tomorrow and getting a good education are no longer part of the roadmap for advancing.
I am tired of the fake media. I am tired of being told about white privilege. I am tired of being told that I am stupid because my opinion differs from yours.
For years, we have torn down the infrastructure in this country to be self sufficient, the infrastructure to build things. Now I see we find ourselves tearing down those things that form the building blocks of this country: education, striving to better ones self through hard work, religion, law and order. It is sad that with this destruction comes the inability to accept responsibility for our actions, or our inaction’s. We spend more time tearing down each other as opposed to working together for the common good. When did we become so hateful of our fellow citizens?
So much of it is because we are looking for the easy way out. I see it at work, I see it all around.
Yes today is Sunday September 6. It has been about two months since my last post. I see as I scroll through this post that I continue to ramble. In July 2019, I referred to is as frustration and a funk. I know where I have been but I am not sure where I am going. Maybe it is my loneliness eating at me, I do not know.
Tomorrow is Monday, and it is Labor Day. I will return to the weekday ritual. Jewel and I will get a walk in. I will make coffee, read and spend some time working around the house. Normally Monday is a work day, but I find myself in the odd situation where there is a holiday and I do not have the kids.
Until next time. Hopefully, today’s ramblings find you healthy, wealth and wise.
It has been a few weeks since my last post. I had started several posts but never finished them. Much has changed since my last post.
Sadly, we are coming up on day 14 of the 15 days to slow the spread. They call it “flatten the curve”. As it is, I am starting my second week of working from home. Only so much of my job that I can do at home. Lots to do but working on things, trying to access my work computer from home has been difficult.
For the kids, the school year has been cancelled. In New Mexico, we have 208 positive cases out of 10,977 total test as of the latest information on the New Mexico health website. I am sure that the numbers will only increase. At present, no one in Los Alamos County has tested positive, but several people in every county surrounding us has tested positive. It’s just a matter of time I am afraid. But I fear that there will be a rush to return and that will only make things worse. We have been instructed to work from home in order to limit the number of people at work. Well if you cram four to five to ten people per office, the outcome will not be good. Some people have been designated as essential to the national security mission. So for them, work continues. I don’t like to be considered “non essential”!
Yes we will pay in terms of our economy in the short term, but the longer term and many unnecessary lives is not worth it.
The only times we head outside is either out for food, to the grocery store, to walk the dog, or to the stables to feed the horse. Have plenty of supplies in terms of food. Dreary Sunday morning. Ruby is fine.
Spend lots of time reading things on Facebook. Whether it is posts from friends who are similarly locked up inside, or the news spinets that are for or against the President, we all have to pull together to beat this illness.
I find this interesting in a scientific way. Several times a day, I venture to see the updates on the Johns Hopkins website ( https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html ). It saddens me that it is a scoreboard,
much like when I turn to CNBC to catch the daily scoreboard of the stock market. Certainly have taken a hit as far as my retirement accounts, but that will recover over time, just like we will recover over time from this illness.
It’s times like these that make me ponder, make reflect, about what are the best things in my life. Family. My kids. This adventure of mine that will soon surpass 59 years on this planet.
I do not have the illness, not that I have been tested. I find myself checking my temperature several times a day. Wash my hands frequently. Drink lots of fluids. However, those damn seasonal allergies make people look at you if you are in the store and sneeze, cough, blow your nose, or look sullen around the eyes.
Soon, this too shall pass, and our lives will return to some semblance of normalcy. I am sure that the dog would like to have her days of peace and quite.
Don’t forget to fill out your Census 2020 forms. I did. Every ten years we count the number of Americans, well at least we try…Until then. Everyone stay safe, hug your family, and be careful.
It’s that time of the month where I sit down to pay the bills and track my budget and figure out financially where I am going in the coming year. Before my divorce, I was very frugal. No credit card balances to speak of. No outstanding debts except a mortgage. It was save, save, save. Emergency fund. Savings for college for the kids. Check. Savings for a beach house. Yep, it’s what the family wanted. Savings for retirement. Planned to work to age 52. Everything was on track.
Then it came all crashing down. I managed to keep my retirement account untouched in our amicable, negotiated settlement. But I managed to pick up massive debt. Rent became a new mortgage. Child support became half of my paycheck and yet I had the kids half of the time. A personal loan to cover expenses incurred during my divorce. Lost significant savings. My doldrums that I encountered during the divorce were handled by some extravagant spending on trips, on stuff, on junk. No control. No problem, just charge it. New furniture for a house. Buy whatever the kids wanted. LEGO’s and horse things, fish and birds and guinea pigs. Exercise equipment to better myself. Books to read, learn to play the guitar, eat better food, drink better wine. Bourbon and scotch. Hobbies. I literally found myself in debt.
Now, as I stand on the precipice of retirement, I find myself still digging myself our of that debt. Granted, I am probably better off than most Americans. A good paying job. A 401k and pension for retirement. A roof over my head. Not living paycheck to paycheck. Yet there it is. DEBT.
So here I am this Sunday morning after Thanksgiving, paying my bills. No, I am not thankful for that debt. I am thankful that I can manage it. Started looking at the interest rates that are charged for monthly balances. My Chase Freedom Card carries an interest rate of 13.99%. They calculate it by taking the prime rate and then add their costs on top. The Wall Street Journal carries the prime rate, which is currently listed at 5.25%. From the internet, I learned that the prime interest rate, or prime lending rate, is largely determined by the federal funds rate, which is the overnight rate that banks use to lend to one another. Also, it is stated that the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee, which is comprised of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks) has voted to lower the. target range for the fed funds rate to 2.00% – 2.25%.
So JP Morgan Chase charges me 8.74% to use their money when I charge something to my credit card and then carry a balance. Wow! My local bank pays me 0.10% for what I save in my savings account, and less for my checking account. It’s much worse when I look at my American Express Delta SkyMiles card. There the rate is 21.99%. A whopping 16.74% to use their money. It was my Amex card that just started me on this rant this morning. My annual fee was being increased to $99 a year. That’s $99 just to carry the card, get some frequent flyer miles if I use it. All of this for the luxury to not pay to travel with one bag on an airline. Not really sure if it is worth. I think that I can leave home without it.
Why so much for using their money? Well, the are a business. They need to make a profit. They have millions of credit cards in use. They get paid every time I use their card. And if I carry a balance, they get paid again by charging me interest. By my math, that is between 8 and 16%. Sweet if you can get it for your savings account. Some people pay them off every month. Some do not. Some incur large debts and then just don’t pay them. Guess that means that those of us who honor our debts are also paying for theirs. Why should I pay for someone else? I have my family to keep.
As a business, they have shareholders, including myself. I like my stock price to go up, my dividends to increase. After all, I need my 401k to cover me when I retire. They have employees who have families just like me. They have CEO’s who make ridiculously large salaries. I am not picking on Jamie Dimon; he certainly works hard for his money and has added value to his company. JP Morgan made $31,500,000,000 profit in 2018. Jamie Dimon got a 5% raise in 2018, and made a salary of $31,000,000. Now if you were like me, my raise was less than 2%. No bonus, no stocks, no performance-based variable incentive compensation. Jamie’s salary was a base salary of $1.5 million and a “performance-based variable incentive compensation” of $29.5 million, split as $5 million of that in cash, and $24.5 million in the form of “performance share units”, a fancy word for extra shares of stock. I could not find how much Jamie personally donated to charity in 2018, but I know JP Morgan Chase donated millions.
I don’t necessarily begrudge Mr Dimon for his money. There are others who do, like Elizabeth Warren. She is running for President. She has a plan, and as near as I can tell, a tax for everything. She wants to expand government into everything. In 2018, Warren made about $325,000 from book sales in addition to her $175,000 salary from the Senate. Her husband was paid about $400,000 from Harvard. Explains why it is so expensive to go to college. The couple paid about $46,000 last year for a solar energy installation on their home in Massachusetts, and received about $15,000 in tax credits, and they donated more than $50,000 to charity. All told, the Warren’s paid more than $200,000 in taxes on about $900,000 in income last year, based on their tax returns. By my math, they made about $100,000 on investment income. Don’t worry, Joe Biden did better. Can’t say that about Donald Trump. Yet we know that he took no salary and did not release his tax returns.
So as it is now 24 shopping days before Christmas, it’s time to go shopping. No iPhone 11 for me or the kids, the iPhone 6 works just fine. No trip to someplace warm for the holidays. It’s currently 22 and with snow on the ground. No Black Friday. No Cyber Monday for me. Just gather up my kids lists and then off we go. Soon we will have another Star Wars movie in the theaters. Then it will be tax time and another election.
Sunday starts early. I’m up before sunrise, doing some reading. Daughter is sleeping in but we must get going if she wants to feed the horse and get to Goose Downs by nine. Sadly, she is the slowpoke of the family and doesn’t have us heading out the door after eight to go feed Ruby.
Ruby is happy to see us. In her fly mask and sheet, she greats us like she does every morning. Leaning over the fence, a couple of hello whinnies, and then the expectation of a treat. Hay, grains, beet pulp and supplements; and she is fed and we are on our way. No ride for Ruby today. The 60+ minute drive to Goose Downs is in front of us.
I have brought the dog along for the car ride. Drop off daughter and finally get play date time and location scheduled for son. There I am, driving back. Passing through the McDonalds drive through in Santa Fe, I order a large coffee and a sausage with egg. Long line at the drive through, but as I get my order, the two people at the window are talking that the order in front of me left too quickly and were short on their order. I comment how I never leave without checking. I check and it looks good, at least the wrappers. However, I need to check deeper in the future. My sausage is not sausage, rather it is Canadian bacon. My coffee, which is black with two sugars, is coffee with cream and no sugar.
Back in Los Alamos I get son and get ready for his play date. His friend arrives after lunch and they proceed to play Minecraft for two hours. I try to nap as I am still tired and recovering from travel. And just like that, they are done and scheming for next weekend. I drop his friend off, taken son to his mothers and then back out on the road to pick up daughter.
I have divided the trip to Goose Downs has been into three 26 minute increments. Each increment becomes a race inside my head as I try to beat the time of 26 minutes. The first is Los Alamos to Pojoaque, one of the many reservations (and casinos) that exist in the state. The road is two lanes in each direction, the scenery is that of mesa’s and mountains, although they lack the vivid colors from a Georgia O’Keefe painting. The second segment is Pojoaque to the I25 interchange south of Santa Fe. This actually takes you through Santa Fe. Once upon a time, one could drive through Santa Fe at 38 miles per hour and never hit a red light. That changed with the New Mexico Rail Runner, which crosses at the intersection of St Francis and Cerrillos. The panhandlers are on these corners, with their signs stating their plight. It’s summer so there are many of them, although it isn’t as bad as the cities in California, Oregon and Washington state.
After the I25 intersection, you head north for the third segment, to Goose Downs. Staying on I25 for awhile, you then turn south on 285, passing Eldorado. Goose Downs is south of Lamy, just before Galisteo.
The scenery is like much of New Mexico. All in all, the trip is just over an hour one way, and probably could be described as the southern route like the scenery in the great book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”.
Before you know it, I have daughter and we are heading home. The race over the three sections plays itself out in reverse. Try talking during a car ride to a teenager who has her ear pods in and the music cranked up. Lastly, horse is fed, sone is retrieved and tonight we are having pizza. After 12 hours in the car driving back and forth, my ass is sore, the evening is soon upon us and tomorrow is another work day. The things we do for our kids.
Since I have had to set up my own household, the kids and I have adopted two dogs. Both animals were from our local county animal shelter. The first was Abby (photo on the right). The second and most recent is Jewel (photo on the left).
They are part of our family.
Abby was a long hair mixed bread who was an older dog. The adoption papers suggested that she was perhaps 10 years old, and came to our local shelter after living in the Taos area. Set in her ways, she would always great me at the door when I came home, often sitting there looking outside through a window that was floor height.
She immediately fit into the family, but was not the kind of dog who liked to wrestle with son. Even though he picked her out of all of the dogs at the pound, she was my dog. When she wanted something, it was me that she would always visit. Short walks were fine, but she certainly would let you know when it was time to go home. I think that is a trait that she learned from my kids. We had Abby for a little over two years before she passed away from a seizure. We have a lock of her hair, a paw print and her cremated remains in a picture box in the dining room of the house.
At her passing, I wrote a little poem. It went like this:
Rest In Peace my four-legged friend. Our time together, albeit brief, has come to an end. I rescued you from the pound, You rescued me from being lost. Together our love and friendship grew. I already miss your wagging tail, and your growls of joy when you roll on my pile of dirty clothes. Your barking when you would greet me at the door, was evermore poetic with the kids in tow. My loss of joy makes this pain so acute. It will exhaust me with each passing day I am sure, But in the end, we will meet once again.
Some months passed before we got another dog. Her name is Jewel. A pit bull terrier, she equally had a troubled life. Abused and injured before she was two years old, I can only describe her as a very lovable ball of pure energy. Just looking at her chasing her tail wears me out.
She also likes to look out the window next to the door. And she loves long walks that allow me to really get a workout. She also is my dog even though the kids picked her at the pound.
In my life, I have only had four other dogsthat I called part of my family. They had less interesting names: Tinkle, Tippy, Buffy and Dash. Dash was the family dog after I got married. She was the dog who was around when the kids were born. A golden retriever, Dash was a great dog. The other dogs are from my childhood years growing up in Pennsylvania.