Apr
18

Finding Balance: Living In The Moment And Planning For The Future

by Christine

Recently a family member asked for advice on how to balance living fully in the moment with planning for the future. This question brought to mind the days when my kids were still young and in school. More than one Sunday evening Matthew or Kathryn declared that a book report, a difficult to source poster board or a dozen cupcakes was due at school the following morning. My children were in school during the days when teachers believed it was the responsibility of the student to plan their work and communicate with their parents.  There were no weekly folders from the teacher or on-line student accounts with school calendars to help the parents monitor their child's schoolwork.

Each time, the hair-on-fire moment created by these pronouncements put me into a quandary. Do I stop every thing and edit and type the half finished book report, scour every store looking for that special poster board that can only be found in the local arts store that's not open on Sunday or stay up to midnight baking cupcakes. The other option was to calmly explain to the kids that part of the planning process was giving me notice and unfortunately it was too late to do what they needed done. They would suffer the consequence of a failing grade or the discomfort at spoiling a class party. I was never able to follow the second option, I would kick into gear to solve the late night challenge, yelling at my child the entire time. We hit the deadline but my home was not a calm and nurturing place during those episodes. This was definitely extreme living in the moment. 

I don't believe planning for the future is in conflict with living fully in the moment. Planning means putting into place a set of actions that have been thought through as a way to achieve your future goals. Have you taken the time and energy to think through what you want your future to look like and put a plan in place?  Each January I spend a dedicated amount of time putting together my goals for the coming year. This exercise helps me visualize what I want my life to look like and how I am going to achieve my goals. I work the plan during the year. I may change the plan depending on opportunities and challenges that come my way but having a plan takes some of the pressure off when looking towards the future. 

Planning for the future is not the same as obsessing about or worrying over the future. If you haven't developed a plan or aren't living your plan then the tension between living in the moment vs. the future maybe more about your lack of a satisfactory plan. If your energy is directed towards second guessing your plan or second guessing the future of the world then you will find it difficult to live in the moment. If you are feeling uneasy about being fully engaged in your life today and planning for the future, I encourage you to dig a little deeper. Worry steals joy from today and pays no returns in the future. 

Hugs,
C

Apr
16

How To Organize Your Family Photos-Step Two

by Christine


[Mom & Dad at 300dpi}

Last Wednesday I wrote about the prep work necessary for organizing your family photographs. The next step in your organizational journey is to scan your photos. There are two ways to get it done...you can do it or have someone else do it. When I say someone else, I am talking about one of the multiple companies advertised on-line. First the disclaimer: I haven't used an on-line scanning company. 

The on-line companies give a variety of reasons for turning to them instead of making scanning a DIY project. They tout the ease and quality of using a professional service to scan your "memories".  Pricing varies based on individual companies. Scancafe provides an á la cart menu with each media priced individually while PhotoBin offers a Photo Pack price based on type of media and quantity. Photo restoration, videotape transfer and photo books are additional services provided beyond basic scanning. If you don't have the time or patience to scan all you photographs, this may be the option for you. 

I made the decision to scan my pictures for a couple of reasons. I am reluctant to let my photos out of my sight and the quantity of photos I have to scan would be expensive.  To start out I purchased a Canon CanoScan 9000F instead of using my 3-in-one Canon printer.  It's optical resolution for film on the CanoScan 9000F is 9600dpi; that is more than sufficient for my needs. The scanner sits next to my desktop at home for ease of use. I scan 10 to 12 photos a day depending on my schedule. On rainy Saturday, I may scan more while listening to one of my favorite podcasts.  Another reason I chose to scan my photos instead of outsourcing is I prefer organizing with the hard copy in my hand. The scanning companies suggest you organize your photographs after they are scanned instead of before and truthfully I am old school. Organize hard copies first and then scan. 

Regardless of who takes on the task of scanning, you will need to decide at what dpi you want to scan your photographs. To answer that question you will need to think about what you are going to do with your pictures. The higher your DPI, Dots Per Inch-refers to the number of dots of ink used per inch to create an image of a physical page, the better your photograph will look when printed out. What this means is if you are scanning your photos for archival purposes, to electronically share with a friend or if you only want to print them 1:1 then a 300dpi is good. If you want to print out a photo at double the size then you would be better off with an image scanned at 600dpi.  

Why not scan all photos at the highest resolution? The higher the resolution the longer it takes to scan an image and the more space it takes up. You could end up spending a great deal of money on storage space for images that you will never print out or never print out larger than 1:1.. The question is difficult to answer because you are trying to anticipate what you may want to do with a photograph in the future. I find that the majority of my images warrant scanning at 300dpi but when I run across one that is particularly important to me, I scan at a higher dpi. The professionals don't "over' scan, Scancafe uses 600dpi while PhotoBin uses 300dpi. Keep in mind that scanning a low-resolution image at high dpi can make the photograph look worse. 

Next Wednesday, I will blog about storing your electronic images. If you have any thoughts on dpi, please share.

Hugs,
C

Nugget: If you want more information on resolution and dpi, check out, National Geographic's helpful explanation on the technical side of photography. 

 

 

Apr
14

Saving Money In The Fourth Quarter

by Christine

Do you put money into a retirement savings account? If you do, you are part of the 72% of Americans who are saving for retirement. The Capital One ShareBuilder's Financial Freedom Survey found people are saving on average 6.4 percent of their annual income for retirement. The survey sheds light on our attitudes toward savings and what we actually do. The report reveals Americans believe they should be saving closer to 12.1% but don't because of more immediate financial needs. 

When we were younger the vision of retirement was a mirage. It was an illusion; an imagined distant future that had nothing to do with us in the present. If we saved money at all, it was the minimum. We were spurred on to save money by employers who offered 401K programs with matching funds. By the time we had an inkling that we would actually reach retirement age, we had built lives that required 95% of our income to support it. 

If you want to retire or change your life during the Fourth Quarter then it will be necessary to learn to save money...even during the Fourth Quarter. Last week I wrote about U.S. Social Security Benefits and the concept of full retirement. Let's say you are currently 60 years old and your full retirement age is 67. You've made the decision to change your life at 67 so you can take advantage of the full benefits SS has to offer you. You now have 7 years to reorganize and save for that change. Your first response may be to think your world is built upon a bunch of assumptions that will be difficult to undo?  Yes, but to make a change, you must change. 

Financing your retirement or a life change during the Fourth Quarter is no longer a mirage or an abstract distant future. Launching a plan that allows you to finance the Fourth Quarter of your life starts the moment you recognize your desire to change. It will be easier to accomplish because you have something solid to work for. Think of it as the Red Zone in a football game. It's the last 20 yards before the end zone and a touchdown. 

Hugs,
C

Nugget: Anytime money is discussed anxiety increase. Check out my friend and fellow blogger, Kathy Gottberg's piece on 15 Ways Simple Living Relieves Anxiety & Reduces Stress. Life is about choices and tradeoffs and stressing about those choices and tradeoffs takes the joy out of life. 

Apr
11

Little Yellow Lemon: The Taste Of A Spring Pound Cake

by Christine

Grapefruit and lemon trees grew in our yard when I was growing up. As a kid, the fragrance of our blooming citrus trees stopped me in my tracks as I inhaled the sweet aroma of spring; today the pleasant, scent of citrus transports me back to a time of warm spring afternoons where neighborhood kids played chase until dark.  My brother and I ate our homegrown grapefruit with a thick layer of sugar on top. The sugar helped mask the bitter taste of the fruit. As an adult I learned that citrus trees need an average temperature of 78˚to bear sweet fruit. Jacksonville is just a little north of the optimal growing region.

To enhance and improve a dish just add citrus. An arugula salad with walnuts, goat cheese and blood orange is luscious. A classic mojito is a refreshing summer lime drink that conjurers up Ybor City and Cuban cigars. But the real powerhouse of flavor is the lemon. Lemon is a perfect accent to chicken or fish. If you want something sweet mix up a pitcher of lemonade or if you don't want the calories use lemon to make the perfect body scrub.

My favorite use for lemon is in pound cake. The hint of tart enlivens the flavor of a pound cake without overwhelming it. And the smell while baking is glorious...it makes the whole world a hopeful place. Depending on the climate, lemon trees will bloom and bear fruit multiple times a years....Fabulous! Lemon pound cake year round.  I made this scrumptious Lemon Pound Cake this past weekend. I wanted to show you the cake sliced and nicely arranged on a plate but...we ate it. We had family over and before I could save a piece for the camera, the cake was gone. You must take me at my word that it looked as good on the inside as on the outside.

Hugs,
C

Lemon Pound Cake

Ingredients:

Cake:
3 sticks of butter 
1 8 oz. package of regular cream cheese
6 eggs
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
zest from on lemon
3 cups sugar
3 cups of sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of vanilla

Glaze:
1 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoon of lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of buttermilk

Directions:

Cake:
Preheat oven to 325˚

Flour and grease a tube pan

1. Bring butter, cream cheese and eggs to room temperature.
2. Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar until fluffy.
3. Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each egg.
4. Add lemon and zest and mix well.
5. Mix flour and salt together; add to liquid mix.
6. Add vanilla and mix.
7. Pour in to pan.
8. Bake for 90 minutes or until toothpick come out clean. 

Glaze:

1. Whisk together the confectioner's sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and buttermilk. 
2. Allow the glaze to sit until the cake is fully cooled, then drizzle over the top of the cake. I didn't let the cake cool completely; while the cake still tasted great, I don't think it was as "pretty" as it could have been if I hadn't rushed the process. 

**Buttermilk is a difficult ingredient to keep and use up. To make your own buttermilk substitute measure out a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice and put it into a measuring cup. Add enough milk to measure up to the one-cup line. Wait 5-minutes and you are good to go. 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: 
Apr
09

How To Organize Your Family Photos-Step One

by Christine


[Visiting Ron & Nancy in the 1980s]

Last year, B&H offered a series of lectures by leading professional photographers. B&H is the absolute best camera and electronics store in the world. I can't say enough good things about its product selection and the people who work there. They have a great on-line service too. Marty and I went to hear working photographer Bob Straus speak on how he captured magazine cover quality images of the famous and not so famous over his 40 year career. At the end of the question and answer session, a meek voice from the back of the room asked Bob how he organized and cataloged all his photographs. And I promise you, this professional photographer whose career has been taking photos for CBS, ABC, NBC and other high-end groups said, "I don't. If you find a good system, let me know." There you have it. Even the professionals are struggling to organize their photos.

So today I begin by stating there's no perfect solution. Now that doesn't mean you throw up your hands and do nothing. It makes no sense to have photographs stuffed in a drawer, a shoebox or a plastic bin and not know how to find a particular photograph. At least that is what I told myself as I started this project. My first criteria are that the photographs must be retrievable. I developed a filing system so that I could retrieve images when creating videos or birthday card for my loved ones. My filing system is by person and date. An example is my daughter's school pictures, prom pictures and individual baby pictures are in a file with her name on it. Our 1990 family Christmas pictures and 1990 vacation pictures are in a file simply labeled 1990. It's been fun and a bit maddening to figure out the dates on some of my photos. The 80s were a cinch! The big hair and Bill Cosby sweaters definitely date a photograph. If you have a system that for you is more intuitive then use it. The key element to developing a filing system is to keep it simple. 

Additionally, identify the people in the photographs. I'm working with other family member to identify everyone in our family photos. Do it now before the older members of your family pass away. I have hundreds of photos of "family" members from the late 1800s and early 1900s but there is no one alive to identify them. I am labeling the photographs I know so that there will be no questions in the future. 


[Touring the British Museum]
 

The second step in this process is to cull your photographs and remove the out of focus, poorly cropped or just plain bad images. I resisted this at first but got on board when I imagined future generations going through my photographs. Tossing out the bad ones meant that my future great, great grandchildren would think I am a better photographer than I actually am plus scanning will take less time and money. Keep in mind that depending on the number of photographs you own storing the hard copies may take up a lot of physical space.  Why lose valuable real estate storing bad photographs?

Third, decide which photographs you want to display and how you will display them. I have purchased a frame that holds multiple photographs and I regularly change out pictures of my grandchildren.  I've also created a couple of scrapbooks containing a mixture of photographs and memorabilia that captures not only the images of family and friends but also the flavor of the era. If you have digital photos that you want to display but don't want to create hard copies then a digital photo frame is for you. So far the technology is driving a rather basic looking frame but I believe over time the size and style of the digital photo frame will evolve. 

This is the first step in organizing your family photos. Next Wednesday I will look at the technology behind scanning and the different scanning options. If you have other ideas on how to make this process easier, please share. 

Hugs,
C

Apr
07

Income In The Fourth Quarter: Social Security Benefits

by Christine

Happy Monday! It's been two weeks since I suggested you build a budget by tracking your expenses for a month. In another two weeks I will post about the next step of building your Fourth Quarter budget. Today I'm beginning a series of blogs about sources of income in the Fourth Quarter. This week it's Social Security. The debate rages in our country on the best way to administer the program and there are even those who question whether the program should exist. I'm going on the supposition that the program will continue to exist in a form similar to what we have today.

I am not an expert on the Social Security system but I am going to highlight a couple of key points to keep in mind as you start to plan for the Fourth Quarter. First, don't wait until six months before you want to retire or cut back on work to explore your benefits. The Social Security Administration has an easy to read and information packed website with the latest information on requirements and benefits. It also complies "Your Social Security Statement"; this is your personal statement that has information like years worked, taxed social security earnings and estimates of payouts depending on age or other factors. You can set up an account with the SSA to view your SS Statement. Use these tools to plan at least 5 years out. 

Next, remember that full retirement age for people born between 1943-1954 is 66 and will gradually increase to 67 for people born in 1960 or later. You can retire as early as 62 but your monthly payout will be less. If you retire later your monthly benefits will be larger. If you enjoy your job and your health is good, it may be to your advantage to work until 66* or beyond. 

Third, you can work and still receive retirement benefits but your earning limits will be effected if you retire prior to full retirement age. What this means is if you retire at 62 instead of your full retirement age of 66, the amount of money you can earn and still receive social security benefits will be subject to limits. Once you reach full retirement you can keep on working, and your social security benefits will not be reduced no matter how much you earn. As you can see, the government is trying to entice workers to remain in the workforce until full retirement age. 

Finally, social security benefits are income. How much money you make in the Fourth Quarter dictates whether you pay taxes or not on your social security income. SSA reports that about 40% of the current beneficiaries pay taxes on their benefits. As you develop your plan or talk with your financial advisor, keep in mind that after a certain amount of income whether filing as an individual or joint SS income is taxable.

There's more information to be found on the SSA website to help you make decisions about when to retire and how to maximize your benefits. The Social Security Act was put into place by Franklin D. Roosevelt to offer old-age assistance as well as helping blind persons, dependent and crippled children. It was never intended to fully cover the living expense of those who were part of the program. As you plan for the Fourth Quarter, keep in mind that your social security benefits may not cover your living expenses. You may need to explore other sources of income to finance the Fourth Quarter.  

Hugs,
C

*66/67 is the current full retirement age. Congress continues to debate changes to the Social Security program so listen out for any changes. 

 

 

 

 

Apr
04

It's Spring! Time For Eating Light

by Christine


[ Jacksonville Farmer's Market Circa 1938]

This was the first week that temperatures didn't drop below freezing. Hooray!  The warmer weather has brought on visions of spring and summer menus that include local fresh fruit and vegetables. When I was growing up my mother would shop at the Farmer's Market in Jacksonville. Farmers from South Georgia and North Florida would arrive pre-dawn at the West Beaver Street facility to put out their produce. My mom would have to go early because by the afternoon the produce had been picked over by local restaurants and other bulk buyers. These were real farmers selling produce right off the farm. You could buy bushel baskets of fresh peaches, okra, pole beans, corn or strawberries. Any thing that was in season could be found at the Farmer's Market. 

I tagged along with Mom a couple of times and the place looked very much like it did when it opened in 1938. When I think of going to a Farmer's Market that is my vision but today's Farmer's Market has gown and evolved. In New York City, they are called Greenmarkets.  While the Greenmarkets still sell fresh fruit and vegetables, they also sell other products such as baked good, fresh meat and fish and other assorted food items. The idea is to make available local goods from local growers and local producers. I am a big, big fan of locally grown. New York State locally grown apples are crisp, firm and tasty but the oranges from Florida not as good as the ones I get when visiting Jacksonville.  I believe the reason the apples taste so good and the orange doesn't is the distance the produce has to travel to get to market. 

Framer's Markets are hosted in most communities these days. The USDA has a great searchable database of all the Farmer's Markets in the country. Just plug in your zip code and hit search. I was amazed to discover 21 Greenmarkets were within 2 miles of our apartment. The local markets in the City always seem to have good produce as well as the fruit and vegetable carts that line the sidewalks. But a lot of that produce is flown in from Central and South America and the price tag reflects the shipping cost. If you want to find the freshest produce, cut your grocery bill and help your local farmers, check out your local Farmer's Market.

Hugs,


 


 

Apr
02

Aging Parents, Stress And Your Memory

by Christine

I've spent the morning looking through filing cabinets, boxes in closets and plastic bins full of photographs. I am searching for my grandmother's letters and for the life of me I don't know where they are. Maw Maw saved all the personal letters mailed to her by her two sisters and sister-in-law. Currently, my emotions are in check but the thought of losing her letters could bring me to tears. 

My grandmother and the women in her life didn't write of grand events; they wrote of their everyday lives of baking, sewing and caring for others. I read of the making of dresses for church or the baking of a cake for a family meal. My grandmother and her sisters had to leave school after the fourth grade to help support the family by working in the local textile mill. The spelling and sentence structure is frozen in a time when family economics dictated how long a girl could remain in school. I love the memories of my grandmother that these letters resurrect and now, I can't find them.

I believe in a moment of organizational frenzy I put them someplace safe. The desire to control and organize was strongest during the last six months of my mother's life when I had no control and my life felt unorganized. As a result, my safe place is so safe even I can't remember where it is. Scientific American states this kind of memory loss occurs because the voluntary searching mechanism that I am relying on to retrieve the whereabouts of the letters is prone to interference and forgetfulness.  The interference may have been the stress of managing life while caring for my mother or forgetfulness because my focus was elsewhere. 

I continue to remind myself that my grandmother's letters will turn up and the logic of where I put them will make perfect sense once I find them. If you are going through a stressful time, I encourage you to be gentle with yourself. Or if you know someone who has lost a parent or loved one be kind and gentle with him or her. Their forgetfulness may not be an indication of their affection for you but a reflection of the stress in their life. Plato's quote says it best, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

Hugs
C

 

 

 

 

Mar
31

4 Things To Do To Find A New Job In The Fourth Quarter

by Christine

I'm not a professional career counselor or coach but I was asked recently what I thought were good jobs for people in the Fourth Quarter. My first response was to ask, what are you are trying to accomplish? Are you bored in your current job? Do you want to earn more money? Or do you want more free time? What is your reason for changing jobs? Once that is clear, I feel the Fourth Quarter workers have a couple advantages over the Second and Third Quarter workers. 

Just take a look on the web for steps to finding a new job, the advice centers mainly on developing skills and qualifications and customizing resumes or cover letters. Fourth Quarter workers have experience and knowledge that's been garnered by years of work and interacting with other people. They also know people within their chosen field. To maximize this life experience, I would encourage you to do four things.

First, Think Different(ly). Yes, that's a 1997 Apple advertising slogan but it pertains to job-hunting in the Fourth Quarter. To Think Different means not always accepting the  "prevailing wisdom". The concept that younger workers have a leg up because they have a knowledge of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any other social media outlet is in my opinion wrong headed. Employers want people who are multi-skilled, reliable, proactive, dependable and self-disciplined. In short they need people who can get things done. If you have been employed for 25 plus years, you have gotten "things done". Stop thinking terms of what you lack and start thinking in terms of what you've gotten done and how. Don't look at your job title, look at your skills. 

Second, get out of your comfort zone both professionally and personally. If you are talking to the same 8 people day after day, you aren't learning about new and different opportunities. I am not saying dump your current business friends. I am encouraging you to intentionally increase your contacts both inside and outside your industry. At least once a week go to lunch with a different business contact. Volunteer, take a class or better yet teach a class or eat at the bar instead of in the restaurant. I hesitate sharing the "eat at the bar secret" because seating is limited.  I don't want to lose my place because for me, eating has becomes a communal activity again and I have met some very interesting people. The key here is to intentionally be open to new people. 

Third, talk to your clients. These folks have seen first hand the kind of job you can do. They may know of jobs with your competitor and be willing to put in a good word for you. Also, think about moving to the other side of the desk. My father was in transportation management for 35 years before the industry changed and the company he worked for ceased. His clients were the first to ask him to put his expertise to good use for them. 

And fourth, start your own business. This suggestion falls under the if I knew then what I know now category. I started a small business in 2005 and my only regret is I didn't do it sooner. The SBA reports that self-employment grew by 24% in the 65 plus age group. Most small businesses are owned by individuals 40 and older. Starting a small business is not the domain of the young as one may be lead to believe from all the buzz around the tech company start-ups. The business doesn't even have to be in your current field. Mark Furstenberg was a writer for the Washington Post who became a professional baker at 50 and opened Bread Furst a neighborhood bakery at 75. Age is not a requirement for opening a business. 

So what is a good job for the Fourth Quarter? It's one that draws upon the skills and passion of the person looking. I believe the right job is out there. It's just a matter of clarifying you skills, talking to friends and colleagues and taking the leap.

Hugs,
C

 

 

Mar
28

The Little Blue Box Or A Recipe App?

by Christine


[After a little spring cleaning]

Walking the end of life journey with my mom was arduous and long. I put multiple aspects of my life on hold so that when death finally came, I returned home anxious to get back to normal. What I've come to realize is the feeling of normal takes a backseat to grief, which takes time to experience and move through. The thought that I was going to return home to pick-up where I left off before mom's passing and that I was going to organize all the family photos and mom's recipes too, makes me smile.  The old Southern phrase, bless her heart, comes to mind. That translates into "she means well but she doesn't have the sense God gave her".

I write of this because I have many friends who are walking the same journey with their parents right now. I offer up my experience as one who is on the other side of the intense sadness and grief that comes from losing a parent. My friends, one-day life will feel normal again, you will think of your parents with a glad heart and not with overwhelming worry and sadness. Also you will be able to organize the family photos and recipes without tears. 

Julia and I have started to gather and exchange mom's recipes. The little blue box that held all mom's hand written recipe cards sits on my desk but my sister and I prefer using a recipe app. There are multiple reasons why this works for me including but not limited to the fact my handwriting looks like the scribbling of an overworked doctor and my kitchen window is already cluttered with too many keepsakes. The main reason I like using a recipe app is that it is easy to share and edit.  Julia enters the recipes she has and then emails them to me; I do the same. We chose the same app so the exchange is seamless. We purchased The Recipe Box about 18 months ago but since then the recipe organizing business has exploded.

There are apps and on-line services that will help you not only organize your recipes but also suggest menus based on what you currently have in your refrigerator or suggest wine pairings. The cost varies depending on what you are looking to accomplish. There's even a free recipe app marketed by Whole Foods for the budget conscious. Do you cook? How do you organize your recipes? Do you share your recipes with family and friends? If you are already using a recipe app or on-line service, what do you recommend?

Regards,
C


[Before a little spring cleaning]

 

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