Late last night I finished the IRS certification process for VITA: Tests in Basic, Intermediate, Advanced and Ethics. It was bit easier time around as it is my third year. Still, travel and other play put me behind the learning curve and the deadline was closing fast. Our site opens next Tuesday and Thursday night I’ll be putting in my first shift. From there, it gets easy: most Thursday evenings and Saturdays for about eight hours a week.
Retirement is not working out like I planned. Somehow I expected a bunch more downtime. I like downtime. Nursing a cup of coffee. Wondering what, if anything, to do next.
When I was working my jobs tended to be all-consuming. It wasn’t them, it was me. It’s just the way I approached them. Little time for much else. I was never good with balance. That might explain my short attention span with them and why I stepped away for months, sometimes years at a time. The need/desire to do that is why F-you money has always been so important.
But the nice thing about having a job was that it was just one thing. Now, in retirement, there is a seemingly endless stream of cool stuff to take on. Maybe not endless, but enough that I find myself thinking “Opps. I forgot about that one.” Spanish is a good example.
Like many, I took Spanish in high school. Learned a handful of words that I used on my occasional travels to Mexico, Venezuela and Spain over the years. But when we spent the summer of ’11 in Ecuador I decided to get serious. We engaged a tutor and made some real progress. Since then a focus on travel to mostly Spanish-speaking countries has gotten me to the point I can carry on basic conversations badly.
Sitting on my desk is a terrific book, Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish. A few hours a week with it would do wonders in moving my skills forward. But between trips, I never think to touch it.
When I launched this blog a year and a half ago, I had never read one. Barely knew what they were. Now I follow several. Many, if not most, seem to provide their readers with a year-end review post followed by another on their plans for the coming months. The thinking seems to be, going public helps to keep one on track. Makes sense to me, and readers seem to like reading this stuff. I know I do.
With that in mind, here’s how I plan to spend 2013:
1. Working on languages. Ever since I was young I’ve wanted to be multi-lingual. I’ve always admired and envied those who are. But I made a critical mistake in high school and convinced myself I lacked the talent. Making up for lost time now. As mentioned above, I’ve made some sound progress on Spanish. That will continue this year, and Mrs. jlcollinsnh and I have signed up for French classes. Our first was last Tuesday evening and this will be our Tuesday evenings for the next couple of months. It was great fun. Engaging teacher and interesting fellow students. Our daughter is now fluent in French. It will be nice to share with her and helpful if we make it back to France one of these days. It certainly gives us a reason to return to Quebec later this Spring. If nothing else I’ll finally learn how to pronounce the names of French wines. I already know how to drink them.
2. VITA. As already mentioned, I’m volunteering as an income tax preparer in our local community. This commitment runs until (surprise!) April 15th.
3. This blog needs work. In addition to writing posts, I have been convinced that I need to seriously consider moving it to another platform. Seems ads already appear on it, I just never see them or any revenue from them. While a labor of love, this is a bunch of labor none-the-less. I’d like both more control and more benefit from it. But this is going to be a tough nut. Not only do I have no relevant knowledge on how to make it happen, I have no interest in the process. But, I do have friends!
4. The book. Since the beginning I’ve wanted to morph the financial posts here into book form. One of the reasons for the blog has been to provide the motivation to write. The material is mostly done, but there is still quite a bit of organizational work and rewriting needed to make it what I want it to be. Plus I need to decide and explore how to publish it. As with these posts themselves, the book will be what I want my daughter to know about money and investing. If others find it helpful and of interest so much the better.
Arasha Resort, Ecuador
5. The Ecuador Retreat. I’ve alluded to this in a few earlier posts. Too much so for at least one commentator, but I’m really pumped about it. The speakers are in place, the resort booked, the excursions arranged, the plans laid and the website just about finished. Very shortly I’ll be publishing a post with the details. Maybe come September we’ll be hanging out in Ecuador together.
6. Off-road motorcycle training. As regular readers know, I ride a motorbike. Recently one of my riding buddies has been luring me further and further off-road and into the dirt. It is great fun, but I have zero skills for the task and motorbike riding is not something you want to do without some skills. So this March I’m headed out to California to have these guys spend a couple of days teaching me. Afterward, we’re going to head out into the Mojave Desert for a couple more days to see if I learned anything. I’ve signed up for the Intro course and the Base Camp Alpha ride starting March 22nd. I think they’ve still got a spot or two open if you want to come. Should be an absolute blast!
6a. Motorcycle mechanics. As with languages, a long time ago I convinced myself I had neither the temperament or the talent for such dark arts. Maybe that’s still true. Maybe not. But this year, I’ll find out. When I put my bike to sleep for the winter I found a carburetor float bowl leaking. Ordinarily, I’d just cart it over to the dealer for some professional attention. This time my pal and neighbor Tom is going to teach me how to deal with it. I met him last year when he came puttering past on his old ’48 Harley while I was walking the dog. Of course, I flagged him down. Tom’s hobby is restoring old bikes and he’s got some beauties. More importantly, he’s got the skills and fully outfitted garage to keep them running. All I need now is a relatively clear day and ice-free roads to get my bike over there.
the league of extraordinary gentlemen
7. Cleveland. We used to live in Cleveland and I’ve still got a soft spot for the place and quite a few friends out that way. Last year I spent a week visiting and had a grand time. I intend to make it happen again. My pal Dennis recently emailed me to suggest the time has come for “the league of extraordinary gentlemen to convene” again. Yep, that’s us! As you can see, ego will not be in short supply.
8. Sell the house. Word is the housing market around these parts has improved so we’re going to take another run at selling the house. We’ve tried unsuccessfully a couple of times over the last few years. When our daughter was young the house and the school system it is in made sense. Now, not so much. The first thing is to give it a thorough scrubbing. We started last weekend and it should eat up a couple more between now and March 1st when we plan to list it. Of course we’ll also have to spend some time interviewing realtors. Our last realtor told us if she couldn’t sell the place we shouldn’t re-list with her. We’re taking her at her word. It will be on the market from March thru May. If it doesn’t sell by then, we’ll set it aside until Fall because….
9. We’ll be living abroad for the summer again this year. We haven’t decided where – and that will take some time and effort – but as before we’ll be renting an apartment somewhere and exploring from that base. I’m inclined to head back to Latin America for more Spanish practice. But with the Euro dropping against the dollar, Europe is becoming attractive and potentially affordable as well. Plus we have that French thing going on…..
10. Credit cards and frequent flyer miles. We use reward cards and travel on our frequent flyer miles. This is not something I’ll much enjoy, but I think with a bit more effort we might find more benefit to be had. File this under: I really should get around to it.
11. Cell phone and cable plans. Ditto what I said about cards and miles.
Harrisville, New Hampshire
Painting by Jon Holiday
12. Come autumn we have the most beautiful time of year here in New Hampshire. The trees burst into color, the air is crisp and the sun (mostly) shines. Last year I spent a good part of it in Ecuador. While that was a wonderful time, it left me scratching my head as to why I’d leave at the best possible time to stay. It’s a good time to be here, watch the leaves change and ride motorbikes. This year I’ll be sticking around come Fall. Nursing a cup of coffee. Wondering what, if anything, to do next.