Retirement Manifesto     by M. Blackledge  Family - March 2005

Retirement:  Retirement refers to the time when you stop working for good.
Manifesto:  A manifesto is a public declaration of principles and intentions, often political in nature.

Retirement Blog.  Christmas Eve - 24 Dec 2004 -  marked the first day for Mike in over 45 years as a fully unemployed member of society.  He has survived this condition to date and perhaps it is appropriate to have him self-evaluate his recent time in the non-work force and consider some options for his future.

The family photo at the right was taken in March 2005
Mike is one of the two guys wearing a black hat. 
 E-mail if you require further identification.

Retirement Description:  I have found retirement to be an intriguing tyranny of freedom – more than during any other part of my adult life, I have found tremendous freedom … and just a little guilt.  For the first year, I have been relatively "busy" but not "productive."  Perhaps that is a success. I have not been surprised, but smugly satisfied (when I think about it) that I absolutely made the best decision for me, namely, to retire when I did.  Not one minute of one day do I wish that I were back in the work force – I truly enjoyed my job with Sandia and especially enjoyed the camaraderie with colleagues - however, I don't think about it now, I have moved on, don't miss it.  Some things I did not expect – here are a few of those:

Surprise #1: Additional sleeping. I had thought I would read considerably more during retirement. However I did not take into account the degree of my "bad habit" of reading myself to sleep. I find it extremely difficult to sit in a comfortable chair and read for long without falling asleep. {On the other hand, it is an amazing testament to the excitement that an author can bring if he/she can keep me awake! Only one example I have to date: Cormac McCarthy’s "No Country for Old Men." That kept me awake and turning pages.  Beautifully done, with the philosophy of the old lawman interspersed between the action sections.}  What I have found is that I still am ready to go to bed by 11 p.m., and still wake up around 7:30 a.m. – regardless of whether or not I fell asleep or took "power naps" for hours during the day.

Surprise #2: Financial Independence.  I couldn't help but wonder if I had "saved enough" for retirement.  The best words I have heard came from the Fidelity Financial Planners who told me, "You have won the game!" I don’t have to worry any more about investing in individual stocks, etc. – similarly Helen is set as well. See Accomplishments: Year R-1.

Surprise #3: Grandkids. I had not figured grandkids into my retirement plans at all. I faintly remembered that Helen stated when she retired (Jan 2001) was to "Spend more time with my grandkids."  I recognized that Tricia dropped off the grandkids for Helen to baby-sit on a regular/irregular basis, but I had not considered that I would be at home now when this happened. Sometimes good, sometimes … interesting.  By the by, interesting that Ian shows improved behavior while taking Kidalin, a herbal product rumored to be developed "right here" (Santa Fe).

Surprise #4: Helen’s Health. Helen has suffered from neurological issues for more than 15 years; however, (and perhaps I see more now because I spend more time with her) her condition has greatly deteriorated in the past year, mostly in the past two to four months.  Minor example: Helen now uses a cane inside the house as well as outside, and climbing the stairs continues to be a chore. The CARBID/LEVO (generic name for Sinemet) Helen is taking for RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) seems to create more problems for her than taking nothing.  On 29 Dec 2005, Helen had her first appt. with a neurologist.  Dr. Quintana is not convinced Helen has Restless Leg Syndrome.  He indicated most of the symptoms Helen described can be attributed to Peripheral Neuropathy.  He prescribed Neurontin (originally developed to treat seizure disorders) for the PN, and which also may help the RLS symptoms.  But Helen has to ease into it over the next four weeks.

As friend Tom predicted, neuro called for a (EMG) Nerve Conduction Test on Helen's legs, and Helen went back for that on Jan 10.  Nerve Conduction measures NC velocity to determine if the complaint is from muscles or nerves.  Results:  essentially no response from nerves in right foot area.  Armed with this, plus standard (blood) lab tests, diabetes (glucose) test, and some time to see if the
Neurontin medication is making a difference,  the neurologist will see Helen again in about six weeks:  Feb 6, 2006.

Here is my concern with Helen on the CARBI/LEVO (or Sinemet):  from this web site on RLS Help, one medical reply reads:  "Part of your problem is the Sinemet. When you take more than two of the 25/100 tablets per day there is an excellent chance of getting rebound and augmentation (which means much worsened RLS) from the Sinemet. You must get your doctor to slowly wean you off of the Sinemet."

Volunteer Activities: I had been warned and fore-warned not to say Yes to too many volunteer requests which were understood to come hot and heavy once you are retired. The world says, "Say, you’re retired, why don’t you do this?" In general, I have been able to hold off the hordes through counteroffer: "no, but I’ll be glad to work on a Web Page for you."  The result is more than a half-dozen volunteer web pages (which are linked from my home site: – however I still have a few "real" volunteer obligations.  Most of these are with the Albuquerque Genealogical Society, a group of which I have been a member for over ten years, but did not really participate with as their monthly meetings are on Wednesday at 10:30 am: a difficult time to skip out of work to attend.  Now I find I am writing a column for their newsletter.  What won me over was a] it is a Quarterly and b] the columns can hopefully be pieced together later to become a chapter or two in one of the three books I (still) intend to write during retirement.

Philosophy of Life During Retirement

My Favorite Things:  I love waking up at 7:30 in the morning and lying there in the quiet and just thinking about things.  "What am I going to work on today?"  I have really enjoyed reading the paper at leisure with Helen each morning while watching “our pet” thrashers enjoy eating out on the deck. As they say about retirement, every day is pretty much like very other, except that one day where "the newspaper is real fat."  I find that my Book Club and Lady Lobos Basketball are sources of great enjoyment and entertainment; I can explain one more easily than the other. 

Physical Activities:  For the previous 20 years, I had undergone a 5-minute stretching and pushup routine each morning upon rising, and walked the dog almost every evening upon returning from work.  During the last year or two, my left leg had been so bothersome that I had cut out most of the evening walks, and when I went into retirement, I pretty well dropped them altogether plus dropped my morning stretches.  My leg got worse and drove the decision on my new car (see Accomplishments – Vehicles).  On Friday after Thanksgiving ‘05, I visited the doc and found I had made a similar complaint on leg pain two years earlier – and the problem may be the same, I am too “stiff.”  Example to judge yourself against:  lying on my back, bringing my legs into my chest, I cannot cause myself to see my left foot around the outside of my leg – even if bringing my head as far left as possible.  I can see some of my right leg – this emphasizes to me the tightness of my left leg, which the doc discovered by trying to move my legs this way and that while I lay on my back on the examination table.  I am taking some Motrin now for aches, and forcing myself to get back into the stretching routine.  I will try a walk now and then, but I easily can still aggravate the left leg pain.

Clutter vs. Organization:  Suze Orman has some good lines in one of her "Wealth" books on the point that getting rid of clutter provides independence and freedom to you.  ABQ Journal also ran a recent article on clutter. My sister Patti has converted to Minimalism (Kalama Branch) as her approach to this problem.  Susan Ganong makes Gary remove two books from the house for every book he buys.

I am not clearly winning the battle against clutter.  However, another good rule that applies here is "a place for everything and ..." - yeah, your Dad probably said the same to you.  I do have some folders I have created since retirement that areimportant to me. One is labeled "Retirement" and that is where I keep any (direct deposit) pension statements - they "must" send one a month and I can't stop them. But after a year or so I can start to throw them out the back of the folder. Also in this folder are my statements/forms from Sandia when I put in for retirement, and the current Hartford AD&D Insurance I am maintaining as a carry-over/payment - I think Helen will let me drop that next year.  I have an "Infiniti" folder where I store the monthly statement (Invoice) I get from IFS. In the last week I have created two new folders: "Helen's Health" and lastly, "Mike's Health" - this is where I'm putting the TriCare statements, etc. In Helen's folder, I have many of the spreadsheets and summaries of Helen's situation (see above).  I feel I am struggling in the battle with clutter, however it doesn't feel like clutter when I have a folder to file it away and get it out of sight, almost immediately.

Spiritually At Peace:  One is destined to start self-awareness/life with a brainfilling of whatever indoctrination one’s parents impose upon you.  I am completely at ease with accepting the non-comforting truth beyond our cultural myths which are ingrained in our youth and indoctrinated throughout our life.  "The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness."  - Vladimir Nabokov, Speak Memory I nevertheless completely understand and accept that a spiritual belief system is very important to many (perhaps most) people.  I suspect that the USA would probably be more inclined to choose a registered Child Molester as President over an avowed Atheist!

I note that in general, only Christians and Muslims proselytize – and conduct terrorism and wars in the name of their brand of worship.  Tribal (native) religions, Buddhists, Jews, and atheists in general do not.  I hope to learn more about what Emperor Constantine did to influence the Council of Nicea he (not Pope Sylvester) called in 325 A.D. to clarify and establish the Christian religion around "stabilizing" ideas (anti-Arius; including anti-Semitic?) – choosing what books to include in the Bible, what to expel.  But being at peace with my own conclusions, I am not driven to spend the remainder of my life studying why other people reach and follow other conclusions. 

My converted Jewish friend Sally claims that Jesus would be appalled to see the worship of himself and his Mom in today’s Christian religion – that he himself was of the Jewish tradition and never asked to be worshiped.   The world (and the USA) does not encourage Freedom of Religion, it desires Freedom of Our Religion.  References of interest:  "When Religion Becomes Evil" by Charles Kimball ;  "Misquoting Jesus: Who Changed the Bible and Why" by Bart Ehrman; and especially "God:  A Biography" the Pulitzer Prize-winning scholarly work by Jack Miles.

My Buddist friend Sally reminds me:  "Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future:  it transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and the spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity."  Albert Einstein.    Reference:  Helen Dukas & Banesh Hoffman, Eds., "Albert Einstein: The Human Side," Princeton University Press, (1954)

Thoughts to Ponder:  Southern author Will D. Campbell once said that air conditioning ruined the south.  Before air conditioning, people sat on the front porch a lot.  Everyone knew everyone else in the community, and as people came by, whether walking or riding, they stopped or slowed down, waved and spoke.  Now, after air conditioning, people stay inside with the windows closed, which doesn't leave much room for neighboring.

"Accomplishments" During Year R-1

Financial Maneuverings: The Investment area was one that I wanted to tackle during retirement; at one time, I suggested spending at least an hour every day. I have been successful in cleaning up much of the 40-year mess. – I will feel more comfortable after filing a year or two of taxes while retired.  Still some more to do such as auto-paying the 529 plans for grandkids, and especially to check a year or two after taxes to see where I stand and take stock of what more remains to be managed.

Specific accomplishments:  Created USAA AMA (Asset Management Accounts) for Mike, Helen, Joint, IRAs. Disposed of all the DRiPs (Dividend Reinvestment Programs).  Brought many of the far-flung IRAs into the USAA IRA account for Helen and one for Mike (Helen’s main account is still under AARP Scudder). Established Social Security Benefits by direct deposit for both Helen and Mike into respective USAA AMA.  Established a modest Schwab Charitable Gift Fund: The Blackledge Fund – I will move "old" stocks into this each year, receive the tax write-off, and provide some guidance as to what charities to support.   Plan is for Doug and David to take over for me as donor-advisees.  Established two each 529 Plans for grandkids:  one under USAA (Nevada Plan) and one under New Mexico (run by Oppenheimer). 

Vehicles: Following field and on-line research, decided on and purchased an Infiniti FX35. (Yes, Helen hates it, but this is the ideal car for me – leg room was deciding factor). Subsequently sold ’91 Lincoln Continental and ’89 Dodge Cargo Van to family of the best thing to happen to Helen in the past ten years: gardener/housecleaner/friend Ray.

Reunions: Planned and executed the first USNA 4th Co. Mini-Reunion (ABQ: Oct 6-9 2005). Twenty-five attendees included 13 classmates. The entire affair was successful by all accounts. One of Mike’s classmates Ken Sanger made a commemorative DVD of the event, and Mike sent out a CD of all collected photographs. Tradition appears established, next Reunion: Easton, MD in 2007.
We also helped with "The Summer of Fausts" during July 2005.  Kudos to Jerry and Barbara Faust for coming out from PA, Annabeth for coming out from Atlanta, and special recogniton for Bob and Trice Faust including all the family in their cross-country trip to Trice's parents CO celebration.  Fun several days, brought many of us together, good times.

Minor Victories:  Re-arranged downstairs office so both desk and computer users can view TV.  Enjoyed with Helen two (2) retirement trips: in March '05 to Denver (used for the first time; learned to go for at least 3 stars) to the MWC B-ball tournament and in October '05 to Laughlin, NV for (Helen’s shirttail cousin) Hugh B. McKeen birthday celebration/ reunion.

Plans – Year R-2

Remodel Bathroom: This effort is already begun in that Kevin Eddy will provide some plans and options for us to consider in early 2006. Main attraction: walk-in shower.  Hurray!

Trips: March (7-10) 2006:  MWC Tourney in Denver.  We will hope to visit Sam Hughes on the way up, and Lou Simpleman on the return.
April (1-7) 2006: Grand Princess Cruise out of Galveston; Google for: Medicare Cruise. We will consider driving down.

Surgery: We need to plan for Helen to have her (other) cataract removed. This may be causing some walking problems, beyond the neurological – having no depth perception causes problems!

Retirement Manifesto last updated 3 September 2012
Retirement Party Page
Home Page