Posted by: docbop | November 27, 2012

A new pet

Both Ray and I are used to having animals around.  Ray’s life has been full of dogs and I have had more than one pet of my own. When we got married, I had Garbo the one-eyed cat and we soon adopted Max, an abused older sheepdog.  Within two months of moving to Ecuador, we had Mocosa the cat and, for a few months, Digger the dog.  Well, we’ve been back in the States for about 5 months now, and haven’t had a pet.  Our lease states “no pets allowed,” and so it did not occur to me that I could have a pet.  We had planned to move at the end of our lease, in December, to a place that would allow us to have a cat.

This morning, Ray ran into our landlord and they had a short discussion about our leaving.  The landlord said, “Well, if the only reason you are leaving is to have a cat, don’t leave; you can have a cat.”  As soon as possible after that, I called and asked if we could stay here for another year and that I was getting a cat.  The landlord agreed and after I went to WalMart to get cat supplies and other things, Ray and I drove to the facility of the Valley River Humane Society.  It is a very well-run, clean, and spacious facility.  After visiting the three rooms of cats, I chose a 6 month old female.  Her shelter name was Sweetie Pie; her new name is Doodle or Noodles, depending on whether Ray or I are talking to her.  I chose her because within a minute of me entering the room she was in, she had climbed my back and sat on my shoulder.  And she lost part of her tail; I am a sucker for animals that other people might not adopt for what I consider silly reasons.

 

This is the first time she got up on the bed, and it wasn’t the last.

I am happy she is with us, and Ray is too.  And we don’t have to move, at least until the house is done.  I hate moving.

Till next time, be well.

Barb

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Posted by: docbop | October 7, 2012

Fall Festival at the Folk School

One of the most popular events around here is the Fall Festival at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC, a small community about 10 miles from Murphy.  The folk school was founded in the 1920s by Olive Campbell, who, with her husband travelled the southern Appalachians studying the ways of the local residents and spreading religion.  After John’s death, she decided to start a folk school in his memory.  Olive’s search for the perfect place led her to Brasstown, where she had the enthusiastic help of local farmers. The Folk School holds week-long and week-end classes in many subjects, from cooking to pottery, gardening to blacksmithing, woodworking to writing.  If you are interested check out the school’s website at http://www.folkschool.org.

I am sure that if I had visited the Folk School when there weren’t a great many people there, I would have been more impressed.  I had hoped that the artisans would be those who stuck to the old ways, but most of what we saw was pretty much what you would see at any local festival.  And I had hoped for more demonstrations. However, a few things struck me as interesting.

Gourds seem to be popular as the basis for craftwork, and we saw the usual gourd birdhouses.  But one man’s work interested me; he makes chicken figures from gourds.  They are quite cute and clever.

A Flock of Gourd Chickens

As usual, many potters displayed their work.  I was particularly taken with two of them:

This is the work of an instructor at the school.  You can see the back and the chimney of one of his kilns behind his work.

Another trend seems to be pierced pottery.  I saw many examples of it, but this one is representative.  This is not by a school instructor.

Woodturning by a folk school instructor:

Anyone need a canoe?

Or Santas, dressed in clothes made from vintage fabric, for Christmas?

My favorite thing — other than the all-beef hotdog sold by the fine people at Ranger Baptist — was the band playing near the exit as we were leaving.  They seemed to capture the spirit of the mountains better than anyone we had seen during the day.  The band was quite good, and one of the members plays a wash tub!

Until next time, be well.

Barb

Posted by: docbop | August 3, 2012

Quick update: New Computer

Quite a week for me and new things — first a car and now a laptop.  The old one was old and slow; it never really recovered from a crash it had two years ago, and the J didn’t work on the keyboard.  It was hard to send messages to my niece Jessica and my nephew James. 

Maybe I’ll write more now.

Until next time, be well.

Barb

 

Posted by: docbop | July 31, 2012

Yes, I bought a car

Those of you who follow my husband Ray’s blog know that one of the issues around here had been when I was going to buy a car.  I hadn’t driven since December 2010, when we moved to Ecuador, and, as many of you know, I am blind in one eye, so I was reluctant to drive.  Ray kept talking about me having my independence, and taking the advice of a television news commentator that the time to buy big-ticket items is now, before hyperinflation hits.  And, I admit, I wanted a car.  I’m 60, and haven’t been without a car for a long time.  It becomes part of the way one thinks about oneself: I am a person who has a car.  There were no financial reasons not to buy one. 
Since we came here, we’ve been visiting the car dealers in the area, looking at both new and used vehicles that met my criteria: all-wheel drive, high enough to get in and out of (most sedans and coupes are too low for my comfort) but not too high (I have a difficult time getting into Ray’s truck), some cargo space, and a good color.  The choices here are very limited.  Yesterday, on the way back from our daily stint of cutting trees and clearing the house site, Ray pulled in at the Ford dealership.  We’d been there before; I had briefly thought of a Mustang, but it is far and away too low.  But as we drove up the hill to King Ford, I saw, at the edge of the used section, a marine blue Subaru Forester. Before we went to Ecuador, I owned a white Forester, and loved it.  My old Forester was the base model; this one, a 2009 model, was the Limited: power seats, moonroof, compass — the whole shebang, pretty much.  I knew I had found my car.
The salesman, Eric, was great.  He knew I wanted the car but was not pushy about it at all.  He came out when he saw us looking with the key and all the information about it.  (I can hear you thinking: “So what?  Isn’t that what sales personnel do?”  I thought so too, but we have learned that it doesn’t always work that way.) We went home (I was far too excited to think clearly at that point) and went back this morning to buy the car.
There were no problems.  Sharon, the finance manager, got me a great rate in about half an hour.  The last time I bought a car, the finance people kept me waiting until they could sense that I was going to leave  the dealership.  It was at least a couple of hours.  I signed everything I needed to sign; Eric put the temporary tags on the car, we went to State Farm and changed our insurance policy, and that was that.

Me in my Forester

Posted by: docbop | July 1, 2012

Happy to be Here

I’ve been in Murphy, North Carolina for a week now — I spent five days with my sister and her family in Texas — and I am happy to be here.  It is hot here, like much of the rest of the country, but somehow I don’t mind so much.  I am leaving my Ecuador attitude behind. 

Murphy has about everything one needs.  There are stores such as Lowe’s and WalMart.  There are good places to eat.  Of the places we’ve eaten, I like T-Birds the best:  real onion rings, not overly breaded.  The hamburgers are huge, big enough to share.  There is a winery, Cherokee Cellars, not far from our apartment.  I haven’t been there because I don’t drink.  And, of course, the Hiawasee and Notteley Rivers are right here.  Not far away is one of the best canoeing sites in the country.

With moving comes hassle.  We’ve set up the internet and cable TV and new bank accounts.  We found the good supermarket and have spent a lot of time (and money) at WalMart.  Ray found a nice apartment in the center of town and bought a truck.  I passed the NC driver’s exam on Thursday, and as soon as the money situation straightens out, I’ll be looking for a car.  I am not sure about the Mustang convertible that Ray wrote about in his blog, but after a lifetime of sensible cars, I’d like something a little sporty and fun to drive.  I worried about getting a license with only one eye, but the rule is that you can drive with a blind eye as long as the vision in the other eye is corrected to 20/30.  The North Carolina written test is on computer; you have to answer 20 questions of 25 correctly.  The program stops you when you reach 20 correct or 6 incorrect.  I needed 21 questions, which is embarrassing; I missed the one on what to do when there is a flashing yellow arrow.  I didn’t really study the book (I read through it once) before I went — I have been driving for over 40 years without a moving violation.  My excuse is that flashing yellow arrows were not commonly used before I went to Ecuador.  I’m sticking to it, although it is a feeble excuse.

One great thing about our apartment is that the Henn Theater is right across the street.  We haven’t been yet, but we will go soon.  Right now it is showing Brave; last week it was Madagascar 3.  The Henn is a small, one screen theater and it has several showings a day.  It is very popular, which amazed me because I know that many movie theaters in small towns have had to close.  Of course, Murphy is in an area of small towns.  I don’t know where the nearest multiscreen theater is.

The best thing that Ray did was find the property on which we will build a house. It is part of a five-acre piece about 8 miles from town.  Ray’s detailing the process on his blog

I’ll get back to retirement issues in the future.  I didn’t buy a new computer yet, but I need to do it soon. 

Until next time, be well.

Barb

I’ve been asked how to deal with the Planning Stage  The issues are so complicated.  The basic one, of course, is financial.  How are you going to afford the lifestyle you want?  Most of us, except Presidents, Congressmen and Congresswomen, Senators, and CEOs of successful corporations, will have less to live on in retirement than we did when we worked.  How much are you willing to change your lifestyle?  A second issue is activities: What do you want to do?  In retired life, there is a lot of time, time that used to be spent working.  Work organizes our lives in ways we don’t think about.  How are you going to fill that time? As my husband says, “How much fishing can you do?”  Over the past few days I have talked to a retired research scientist who is considering retiring here in Cuenca with his wife.  He has been searching for work teaching at local schools in Cuenca. It’s hard to find such positions, especially because people over 65 are generally not hired.  Especially if you don’t continue working, you have that time to fill. You say, “Well, Barb, I plan to volunteer.”  Really?  The best predictor of volunteering in retirement is whether or not you volunteer now. Think about the reality of your life.  A basic psychological principle is that, if you what to predict what a person will do in the future, look at what he or she has done in the past.

In May of 2010, the Psychology Department of Missouri State University gave a retirement reception for the four of us who had chosen to take the early retirement option.  We all had to give a little speech, and, as I stood there thanking all the administrative assistants (secretaries, in the old days) who had made my life so much easier, I had the recurring thought, “Well, this is it.  Once this semester is over, you will never stand in front of a class again.”  This is the beginning of retirement Stage 4: Realization, which starts on the day of retirement and lasts about a year.  In this stage, the overwhelming feeling is liberation, or freedom.  On the way home from the reception, I thought, “No more students asking for special favors.  No more futile committee work.  No more biting my tongue when my colleagues are doing stupid things.”  It took a long time for me to really feel free from my work; part of that is my choice to continue to teach two classes a semester online.  But it was freedom from the committee work, from having to be at a certain place at a certain time to deliver lectures and hold office hours.  But with the feeling of liberation comes the feeling of isolation.  Most of our friendships are formed at work.  I missed seeing certain people every day.  I missed the talk of things serious and not so serious.  I missed it all.  And that feeling can counteract the feeling of freedom.  When you retire, you retire from more than your work.   This leads to the stage I am in now, Stage 5: Reorientation.

This stage is marked by the development of a new identity, as if retirement took us back to psychological issues last confronted in adolescence.  From the time we were teenagers, we developed an identity.  It doesn’t arrive all of a sudden one day; it takes time.  And much of that identity is wrapped up in work.  What do we tell people about ourselves?  Most of us say things like, “I’m Dr. Barbara Turpin, and I am a university professor.”  But we don’t have that anymore.  Do we think of ourselves as parents or grandparents?  We face a new reality.  We have to come to terms with it.  Coming around to this can involve self-doubt and lowered self-esteem.   I often think, “I was a college professor for 31 years; what can I do now?  What skills do I have to offer anyone?”  This can take from the second to the fifteenth year after retirement to achieve. 

The final stage, Stage 6; Reconciliation. is marked by increasing physical concerns.  I haven’t reached this stage yet, so I can give no concrete examples.  One of the hallmarks of this stage for some people is increased feelings of depression.  We look back on our lives and ask ourselves if we are satisfied with life as we lived it.  This stage is very much like the final stage of psychosocial development proposed by the influential developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson.  Erikson, unlike Freud, who basically believed our personalities were set by the time we were six or so, and Piaget, who belived our intellectual development (not what we know, but how we organize what we know) was fixed by the time we enter adolescence, Erikson proposed that there are psychosocial dilemmas that must be dealt with throughout life.  His eighth and final stage was labeled ego integrity versus despair.  In this final stage of life, we look back and evaluate what we have done.  If we can look at our lives and can say “I did the best I could, and my regrets are few,”  then we can meet the end of our lives with equanimity.  However, if we look back and focus on all the things we did that we think we shouldn’t have done, or all the things we didn’t do that we think we should have, we will feel despair.  Erikson emphasized that this is an internal struggle; the most saintly person can develop despair (a look at Mother Teresa’s writings will show you an example of this) and the most depraved criminal can develop ego integrity.  Self-acceptance is the key. 

There are other psychological aspects of retirement that I will deal with in future posts.  It will be a while before I post again, though.  We leave for the U.S. Wednesday morning, and for a while I will be busy coping with the change.  And with buying a new computer.

Until next time, be well

Barb

Posted by: docbop | May 27, 2012

Retirement: Not all the Issues are Financial

The first time I thought about retiring occurred when I was in my early 50s.  It was the first day of a new semester, and a student walked up to me at the end of my second Introductory Psychology section of the day.  “Dr. Turpin,” she said, “do we have to read the book?”  Now, I’d heard that question before, but for some reason this time the implications of the question hit me hard.  After I answered the question, saying, “Well, yes, if you plan to pass the course,” I walked up to my office fuming.  I was vexed and muttered all kinds of things: “Why is this student in college?  How are high schools preparing students for college?  Why am I wasting my time?  If this student feels this way, how many other students do, too?  Why do I need this aggravation? It’s a good thing I can retire in 2010.” (The student, by the way, did pass the class by a narrow margin.)

According to my psychologist colleagues who study retirement, this is a fairly common thing to happen.  At some point, usually six to fifteen years before the age one thinks one will retire, the thoughts come.  Commonly, according to what I have read, the first thoughts are triggered by simple events, like the one I described.  After this point, thinking of retirement may come more often.  This stage — we psychologists put everything, it seems, in stages — is called the Imagination or Planning Stage.

Now, even though at the time this occurred, I had no thought of retiring in 2010 (although it turns out that I did), I started thinking more and more about retirement.  But, like other people in this stage, I started thinking about the financial issues.  Would I have enough money for when I did retire?  What would my pension from the state of Missouri be?  If I retired at 62, what would my Social Security benefits be?  (At that point, staying until I was 66 seemed impossible.) 

My thoughts also went to what I would do after I retired.  In those days, I was unmarried, and my plan had always been to return to the area where I was born and lived until I went to college. (This was not well thought-out.)  My plan was to read all I wanted, all the books I had wanted to read but hadn’t, and, best of all, I would never have to read student papers.  I’ve heard other people make similar comments about retirement.  They say they are going to fish every day, or play golf, or travel.  Those are the kinds of activities in which they participated during vacations; they enjoyed such activities, and we all think that it would be great to do them all the time.

In the fall of 2009, my university offered an early retirement plan, to get rid of the older, higher-salaried professors.  Those of us who were eligible for retirement were offered a deal: either 25% of one’s yearly salary as a lump sum or continued medical coverage at no cost until age 65.  By that time, Ray and I were married, and I came home the day of the announcement and said, “We were offered an early retirement deal, and I am going to take it.”  This made Ray very happy, because he had been urging me to retire as soon as I could.

So I made the decision.  And then I entered the next phase, the Hesitation Stage.  In this stage (which usually occurs three to five years before retirement, but in my case occurred three to five months before retirement), people start to rethink the decision.  “Can we really afford it?  I know how much my pension will give me, and it seems like enough, but is it?”  This vacillation was particularly acute right after I told my Department Head, Dean, Provost, and the Office of Human Resources that I was retiring.  It was official, and felt inevitable, but I felt like I was making a tremendous mistake.  I considered, more than once, changing my mind.  I had a month to retract my decision.

This reaction fits in with a well-known and influential theory in social psychology, Cognitive Dissonance Theory.  Cognitive dissonance theory, developed by Leon Festinger, is based on the assumption that people seek equilibrium among their thoughts.  If thoughts are in conflict with one another, we seek to bring them back into balance.  Dissonance is most likely to affect us if our thoughts and attitudes are in dissonance with our behavior.  As an example, suppose you firmly believed in buying products made in the U.S.  You need a new car, and, after looking around, you find yourself seriously considering buying an Aston Martin Rapide, a car made in the United Kingdom.  That should create dissonance.  How can you reduce the dissonance?  Well, one thing to do is go to the nearest Ford dealer and buy a Ford Shelby GT 500.  Then your behavior and belief would be consonant.  But what if you buy the Aston Martin?  That is going to create dissonance.  You could reduce it by returning the Aston Martin to the dealer and taking the depreciation loss.  But you really like the car.  So you say to yourself, unconsciously, that foreign-made cars are great.  You say to yourself that U.S. cars are so poorly made that they don’t count in your belief that you should buy only U.S. made products.  You add cognitions or change the old ones to bring your attitude in line with your behavior.

So, I had dissonance over my retirement.  I had made the commitment to retire, yet I thought over and over again about the financial repercussions of doing so.  I handled this by adding cognitions: living less expensively and working part-time.  These factors, in part, led to moving to Ecuador. 

At this point, I entered the Anticipation Stage.  I was excited about retiring, I had plans, I was ready to go.  This usually occurs two years before retirement; because my decision had occured so fast, it was about a month before retirement day.  I was going to continue to teach at my university on a part-time basis at a satellite campus.  We were going to move to 40 acres we owned in the country.  I was  happy for a new start.

In my next post, I will discuss the final three stages of retirement. 

Until next time, be well.

Barb

Posted by: docbop | May 22, 2012

Countdown

It is Tuesday, and in three more Tuesdays we will be on a plane to Quito and, the next day, we will be on a United flight to Houston. 

In the meantime, a number of things have to be done.  By the 30th of May, we have to be out of our apartment; we’ll spend our last 12 days in Cuenca in a hotel.  So, we have to decide what goes back to the U.S. with us.  Through sorting, I have found that we will take back less than we brought.  Most of the clothes we originally brought are too large and are worn out.  The towels and blankets we bought here will be donated.  I am taking home two fine wool blankets that we bought to use in the country but were never used.  I have two sweaters to take home, and some gifts.

Ray has made his last trip to La Paz.  He accomplished what was, for us, the most important task: to find a new home for Mocosa, our cat.  Neither of us thought it would be good for her to take her back to the U.S., although I considered it seriously.  Digger, our dog, was hit by a car and died in early April. 

So, there isn’t much left to do except clean.  Our landlord bought our stove and refrigerator.  Our TV and DVD player will be given to a friend — her son is very excited; he thinks he is getting a TV of his own — and the printer to another friend whose son will be starting university soon.  Next week I will put an ad in Gringo Tree offering free stuff.  If no one wants any of it, we’ll leave it here.  Once again, I have to leave behind furniture Ray made for me; this time it is a huntboard.

Of course, I am sad to be leaving Ecuador.  It is the right thing for us to do at this point in our lives, but it is still sad.  But I feel, from what I have seen and read and from what Ecuadorans tell us, that a big change is coming.  I don’t like the military patrolling the streets.  I don’t like the resentment toward expatriates that I hear expressed from Ecuadorans.  I don’t like the expatriates who feel somehow entitled to special treatment.

While we are waiting to leave, we will enjoy the things we love about living here. 

Until next time, be well.

Barb

Posted by: docbop | May 9, 2012

Onward . . .

I was content, and then I wasn’t.  Don’t get me wrong; I like Ecuador.  I like the people I’ve met here. I like the weather.  I like the beautiful views. If I were truly ready to retire, I’d be in heaven.

However, I’ve realized in the past two months that I am not ready to retire.  My last on-line class at Missouri State Univesity is coming to an end within a week.  For a while I have felt that I would like to teach again in the standard way, in front of a class with real interaction with students. 

I mentioned this to my husband, Ray, about a month ago.  I didn’t know that he was feeling the same way.  When we came here, we thought we were done.  Ray thought he had one more house in him (he is a building contractor) and, frankly, I thought I never wanted to see another student again.  I had taught at the university level for 32 years and I had had it.  I was tired.  What I needed was a break, and Missouri State’s early retirement offer was a good one.  Ray tells his side of the story in his new blog, http://thisoldmandotcom.wordpress.com.

We are lucky in that we had a Plan B.  We are on a fixed income, but it is more than adequate for our needs and we would have been fine if we had stayed in the United States.  We have been able to save money.  We still have a house in Springfield, Missouri which is rented and generating income. 

At the end of this month, we will move out to our country place in La Paz, Ecuador, for a couple of weeks and finish what needs to be done there.  Our lawyer and friend, Lina Ulloa, will handle the sale for us.  Please follow us as we finish our current life in Ecuador (someday we may be back; we do love it here) and start our new one.

On June 12, we fly to Quito, and the next morning we fly to Houston, where we will be met by family and start our new adventure.  Ray will be writing about the process, and so will I.  I hope you read both sides of the story.

Until next time, be well.

Barb

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