When my parents announced we’d be moving from our blue-collar industrial Chicago neighborhood to the safe and sunny suburbs I went through what emotions I had accumulated at that point, I was eleven, and said ‘okay’, not knowing what it was all about anyway.
How my parents, on my dad’s measly salary, built a new semi-custom home was beyond me. But, who cared. It was a new adventure and I’d finally be getting away from those nuns: another story.
Each week we’d jump in the old Hudson Hornet and head out to see the progress:
First week: flat ground with weeds
Second: hole in the ground filled with rain water
Third: hole filled with concrete walls
Fourth: concrete basement floor and a big pile of lumber
Fifth: you get the idea. Semi-boring
Finally there were walls and a roof. The dirt had been leveled and we had a driveway. A driveway for God’s sake! Not an alley! Inside it was open 2 x 4’s with pipes sticking up. And insulation and windows. It smelled good. And then, at long last, it was painted and carpeted; and there were appliances and, finally, a move-in day, cleverly timed to coincide with the first week of my summer vacation. There was no lawn. Or trees. A Lawn? We came from the city; our lawn was cinders, our trees were telephone poles. But it wasn’t long before my dad jumped into that and we had all the green we could desire.
And I had my own room! And life was exciting. And I went to a new school I could ride my bike to instead of taking a bus. And that lasted for a whole three years when, all-of-a-sudden, upward mobility set in. And in less than five or so years my parents had built two more new houses, each one bigger than the last.
By the time I was in the third year of design school I needed to get out on my own. Since then, about 47 years, give or take, I’ve lived in maybe four apartments briefly and bought four houses during and between various marriages. I’m still in the fourth and will be until they drag me out by my heels. Downward mobility.
On the other hand, buying old cars and trucks…..
Wayne Mikosz is an ex-restauranteur, writer, residential designer, collaborative painter with the love of his life and a Certified Appraiser of collectible automobiles, trucks and motorcycles. Visit Convergence Studios. Check out his new book, 10 Stories of Life, Love and Death at www.blurb.com.
Ned and Carol, where are you? The reason I ask is that we keep getting calls for you. It’s been five years since we moved here and signed up for landline phone service. They gave us a number that must have once belonged to you.
But you two – you little imps – you two must have run up some mighty big debts, because not a day goes by that we don’t get a call from a collection service looking for you kids.
“If you are Ned Street or you know how we might locate Ned Street, please call yada-yada-yada.”
Now, when I see the collection agency name come up on caller ID, I pick up the call for two seconds and then disconnect. They are such wearisome calls after five years of hearing the same recorded message. And if I were Ned, would I really call the number for the collection agency? I hardly think so.
And not just one collection service is looking for you. There are several that would be interested in knowing your whereabouts. You and Carol must have racked up some serious debt. I imagine that it all started with some profligate spending on the credit cards and perhaps some gambling. The next thing you knew, it spiraled into a second mortgage and then maybe foreclosure on the house. The banks must have come after you too, but by then you and Carol had split town. Speaking of splitting, my guess is that the stress of your indebtedness drove a wedge between you and Carol, and the marriage folded. I could be wrong, but it seems unlikely that a marriage could survive the such a tremendous fall so far down the rabbit hole. I imagine you’ve gone your separate ways and tried to disappear into the cracks somewhere new, but it must be hard to try to rebuild a decent credit history with the collectors breathing down your neck.
I don’t know when the calls will stop. Maybe never. You would think the statue of patience limitations would have run out after five years, but hope springs eternal in the collection biz. I guess my own hope that the calls would finally stop demonstrates that I too have unrealistic expectations. Anyway, Ned and Carol, I hope you’ve landed on your feet somehow and find a way to rebuild your lives. If you’re ever feeling nostalgic, call your old phone number and let us know how you’re doing.
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.
Practice Being An Expat at Home
The Pocket Babe and I have been living outside the U.S. for the better part of 3 years, now. That’s not a very long time but it is much longer than your average vacationer spends outside the states. I frequently meet other expats here in Cancun who have been here over 25 years and we know a handful of long-timers in Ecuador too.
We also regularly meet short-time vacationers here in Cancun who are easily identified by the colored wrist bands they wear designating their status at one of the many all-inclusive resorts. They are also usually the ones with the worst sunburns, their skin painful to look at.
Sometimes we see a couple who has obviously just arrived, looking like they haven’t seen the sun in decades. Their skin is so white they could easily hide and never be found in a small sandbox filled with Pillsbury baking flour. In 24 hours, their skin will be the color of a ripe tomato as they spend way too many hours in this very expensive sunshine often purchased at 18% interest.
The vacationers always presume we, too, are here on vacation.
“When do you go home?” they ask.
“We are home…this is where we live.”
So what does it take to be a successful expat, move overseas and start a new life? In a word…flexibility! If I had to pick one trait that is shared by all of them, it would be flexibility or rolling with the punches. Are you married to your routine? Won’t consider trying other brands of your favorite products? Live your life by the ticks of a clock? If so, you may want to consider loosening up a bit!
If you are considering the life of an expat, you can start now to increase your flexibility. Go shopping for needed items in different stores than is usual for you. Expand you menu to include different foods that aren’t usually on your list.
And here is possibly the best exercise you can do right there in your home town. Change brands from all the favorites you’ve used for many years to other brands you’ve never tried. Personal items, toilet articles, clothing, and most certainly…food! Change it all! Also, practice carrying toilet paper with you wherever you go. You’ll understand later!
Not all are destined for the life of an expat. Those seriously considering making the move can begin practicing some practical flexibility in your hometown right now. It’s a start!
Donald (Don) Murray is a retired guy living in Cancun with his Pocket Babe, Diane. You can follow him on his blog, www.donaldmurrayexpat.com. He has written a top-selling Kindle book, Our Ecuador Retirment...Part Two is available for download from Amazon. He now spends his time doing whatever the hell he wants!
Weigh To Go!
I heard it first from a doctor, urging me to shed some weight instead of starting medication to lower my blood sugar: “Starving mice live longer.”
That near-nothing diet is a tad too drastic for baby boomers, but the principle still applies. Lab animals on this program live about 30% longer than normal.
One expert boldly states that calorie reduction “is the only nutritional regimen thought to retard aging.” Even midlife mice can start the diet and get the longevity benefit.
If the average baby boomer expects to live to 85, a 30% increase gives you an additional 25 years. Is it worth it? Just how many calories do you have to give up?
For those 51+ who are “moderately active,” the American Heart Association sets guidelines from 2000-2200 calories for females, 2200-2400 for males. The average American adult consumes a whopping 4000 a day.
The Calorie Restriction Society is almost 20 years old – not a pop culture fad diet. It goes beyond the American Heart Association to recommend 1100 to 1950 calories a day, depending on height, weight and gender. A study of eighteen members ages 35 to 82 revealed a blood fat lower than 95% of those in their 20s. The average blood pressure was 100/60 – typical for a 10-year-old.
Some scientists believe such a restricted diet would only modestly increase life span. There are two serious downsides. The regimen tends to lower the libido. And researchers report that skinny mice are mean: “If you take the lid off the cage, they immediately bite you.” Humans on the diet list “crankiness” as a side effect.
Terry Hamburg writes the Baby Boomer Daily about the exciting and revolutionary baby boomer years.
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Dawn Denfield sees her world (around Portland, Oregon) in the close-up view. Talk about getting close to your subject! See more of her images at flickr.