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Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Sybil…then and now

If one is so inclined, they can do some digging and find a previous post (approximately 8 months back) where i introduced Sybil to the blogging world. She was all of eight pounds when we got her and while we struggled with a name for a bit, she quickly aided us by demonstrating a multiple personality disorder that left us little choice. Sybil fit the bill perfectly.

She turned 1-year-old on Sunday this past week and she has grown into quite a character. This magnificent standard tuxedo party poodle hasn’t completely abandoned puppiedom, but she grows better with each passing week. Those of you who have had the joy of puppies in your life, know what i mean. There’s nothing like a puppy who has the capacity to eat virtually anything they can get their mouth around. We took a large pineapple palm down out back as it was the source of more fiber than we cared to think about for her.

Most of those days are in the past (we hope). The reality is, one always need keep an eye out as she works her way towards her terrible twos. She is now close to 55 pounds, still likes to hop around like a kangaroo and still loves to torment her older sister Phoenix. Nixie takes it like a trooper as Sybil latches on to her ears and pulls for all she is worth. Hit and run, hit and run as the older pup (also a standard poodle) mostly ignores her sisters juvenile delinquencies.

I’ll keep it brief as i know way too many people who go on and on about how their dog is the best, the smartest, and the most loved animal on 4 feet. Truth be told, almost all of them are sweethearts and invariably provide us with hours of fun and tons of love each and every day of our lives. Having a dog is a good thing, and loving them is even better.

Just be careful if you see us out and about. Sybil thinks everyone is talking to her and she wants to watch what you are doing. And lord forbid if you come by the house, that crazy girl is convinced you only came by to see her. The oddity is she won’t try to kiss you to death, she will bug you till you acknowledge her and make her the center of your attention. But then what puppy doesn’t want to feel special?

What drives you?

Pretty personal question eh? Course i could move a few words around and it becomes less so; What do you drive? But really, who cares how you get from point A to point B? Seriously, i don’t mean to minimize the whole “boys and their toys” deal, but life should be deeper than that.

Nope, i’m talking about what gets your juices flowing? What makes you excited and thrilled to be alive? What turns your crank? Puts the siz in your sizzle? Come on now, you must be getting the picture. There’s got to be more driving the bus than just crawling out of bed every day and just doing it cause it’s there.

Sometimes i find retirement leaves us a little less (huh?). Hold on, let me explain: For many, work defined/defines us. It shouldn’t, but all too often it does. We get caught up in that frenzy and forget there is a whole other other out there. Mind you this is coming from someone who struggles with the term “balance.”

Lest i loose you completely, let me just say i found it easy to retire and leave it all behind. Having spent the past near on nine years, away from the craziness of work, i transitioned without much challenge. Playing became a way of life and while i always had stuff going on, i was free to walk about the cabin, no seat-belts needed.

Since joining the RCSC board, i have come to find myself somewhat reinvigorated. Nope, not a “missing work” thing, but just kind of excited about the prospects to grow, learn and give back. All too often as we age we forget we are still capable of picking up things that help us be better, do better.

Case in point: Twice this week i received emails from residents who wanted to share their opinions. Some good, some less than. As is my type, rather than chat on the phone i wanted to talk face to face. In the first situation, we didn’t see eye to eye. He invited me to his house and so i stopped by. We had a great time and spent a hour plus talking about Sun City and life in general.

The second is happening this morning: i am going to a residents house for coffee and hear some ideas he has long held. His excitement level is near the ten level and what’s cool is, listening to him gets mine in that same range. Seriously, i love people who feel their emotions and are able to articulate them. Agreeing is secondary (if that).

The point here is; both these guys are in their 80’s. Both are opinionated and both wanted someone to listen to their thoughts. That’s the perfect storm for me; i learned long ago listening was 85% of good communications skills. Besides, i love having the discussion with folks who love Sun City and care enough to want to share their thoughts.

Best of all, no matter the outcome, this is a win/win. I know from both guys this is the kind of stuff that gets their juices flowing and if you haven’t figured it out yet…it does for me as well. While others ponder the state of the nation, the fate of the world and all things Oscar related, i elect to live a much less stressful, more fulfilling Sun City simplicity. Nice.

Building a strong Foundation…

The good news in Sun City is people live longer; the bad news is, some of those that do, outlive their resources. It’s a challenge that has been in the community for years. As an interesting footnote: There was a time (1980’s) when Sun City didn’t have the ancillary care we do today. A study was done by a major university that pointed out that shortcoming and within 15 years large numbers of assisted and independent living complex’s sprung up within the walls.

Back to the case at hand: In 1986, the RCSC recognized a need. They saw a growing number of residents trying to get by on very limited resources and even though rec fee’s were low, some of the population could not make the payment. It’s been the way of the community for years; identify a problem and then find ways to fix it.

To do so, the board established the Sun City Foundation. It is an organization funded solely by donations from residents, clubs and organizations wanting to help their neighbors. With some 25 years under its belt, they have done a great job of assisting those in the most dire of need. It’s one of the things that makes Sun City so special.

This past week, i was elected to be president of the Foundation (one of the two board members assigned to the board has to be the president while the other serves as the vp). I’m not a big fan of titles, i’ve always more impressed by what people accomplish than by what their title was/is. Nothing has changed; i still see my roll as serving the residents and helping bring the Foundation to a more prominent role in the community.

We all know how financially challenging it is in this economy. We know people are living longer and costs are rising far quicker than any increases to social security. That hits those on fixed incomes harder. It leaves too many of our seniors in harms way. The assistance we give them is limited but i’m told by the board members doing the evaluations how much people appreciate the help.

At our last board meeting we had a great discussion. A good number of the board wanted to look at better defining and perhaps expanding the role the Sun City Foundation played in the community. Obviously that’s the easy part. The tougher choices will be based solely on just how much Sun City residents want to help those in need?

The Foundation does not exist without those of us who are able to send a few dollars more when we pay our rec fees. It won’t be easy, but we feel by better promoting the organization and showcasing its importance, Sun City residents will rise to the occasion like they have always done.

Stay tuned…

Chicken Soup for the Sun City Soul…

Anyone who has read any of the awesome Chicken Soup series knows the compelling stories that fill the pages and the inspiration that comes from them. It’s almost like being at a Gaither Family Homecoming where the Gaither Vocal Band rocks the house.

So this morning i literally sprung (pretty amazing for an old fat white guy) from the big old king-sized.. To say i was feeling inspiration wouldn’t be enough; motivation, exhilaration and rejuvenation just barely capture what was driving me to the keyboard to start banging out my thoughts

It’s funny, these stirrings in the soul have found me almost from the first day i stumbled across Sun City. To be honest, i wasn’t sure what they were in the beginning, i just knew there was something pretty cool going on inside me.

Turns out i’m not alone. Yesterday was another of our yearly orientation programs for new Sun City residents. I’ve made them all and never leave the sessions without that state of being pumped. Every time i get a chance to interact with those who just found Sun City it takes me back to that place in time, that first year in 2003 when we moved to Sun City and made it our home.

Retirement was a destination and we had reached it. The best part was, it was just the start of a whole new journey. I get to renew those feelings as i stop folks who walk by whatever table i’m working at. It’s odd, i know hundreds of Sun City residents but i don’t have many “close friends”. Truth be told i’d just as soon read a good book, than hang out and mingle with the boys.

But i digress, or is it regress, who cares? Since moving to Sun City, i’ve always put myself in volunteer positions where i get to talk to people. I become a social animal, albeit for that brief point where we share our stories of how and why we ended in the best retirement community in the country (IMHO).

The funny thing is i tend to pick those people who look i did when first arriving here: A bit overwhelmed by what i had stumbled upon, newbies that look like they have a thirst to take it all in. You can see it in the glow on their faces and the light in their eyes. It’s exciting to me to know they still exist, much like it did back when Sun City first opened in 1960.

Yesterday i talked to folks from Alaska who were still working; two weeks on, two off. A couple form New York who looked like they were lost in each other and when i mentioned it they responded with “that’s how us old hippies are.” I chatted with several folks who had moved here in November but hadn’t picked up their rec cards yet because they have been too busy remodeling their homes. And the ones that were still unpacking, having moved in a mere 4 days back were still in the state of shock.

The point is, every story is different, yet every one has the same excited ring to it. The funny thing is there are hundreds of oral histories at the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum that tell of that identical excitement. It’s about feeling good about their decision to having moved to Sun City.

It dawned on me after the close we are missing the mark. We should be able to record that new comer presentation and post it to our coming soon marketing website; make it available for everyone and anyone. Beyond the canned stuff, we can do roving mic interviews, talking to those new folks and letting the world see and feel that joy.

I know this sounds like an infomercial for Sun City, so be it. I’ve never been a salesman, but when i love something, the passion for it invariably becomes readilly apparent. Let’s face it, promoting something you love should be easy. Sun City is that darn good!

Let the sunshine…

1 million dollars baby! Okay, for the official record, the RCSC press release estimated it to be $937,255 over 15 years. Having been in the room during the presentation, the final amount will be worth well over either of the numbers listed above.

Here’s why: The investment in 14,000 + solar panels and the multiple locations was done on a lease/purchase agreement. There was no way we could put out the 10 million dollar cash outlay. It would entail borrowing money and we aren’t able to do that (that’s really a good thing).

The 15 year lease will allow us options for buy-outs along the way. Those buy-outs will only enhance the value of this agreement. Beyond that, there is so much more to this deal. Let me tell you about it.

Before i do that, a quick story. My folks moved to Sun City in the mid 90’s. Mind you, they found the heat in the valley of the sun a bit repressive. My father was a hoot in that he had a philosophy my wife and i carry forward in his absence. He insisted on finding a tree to park under whenever possible. Now even in the dark of the night, if we see an open spot under a tree, we take it, always laughing how pleased dad would be.

Now to the great news…along with the 14 projects (with 1 to be bid on), the 10 million dollar budget includes covered parking. The solar panels need be installed on top of fixed structures. In that many of locations have no place to do that, the costs include building what will be covered parking spots (with panels affixed above). Dad would love it and i suspect the vast majority of Sun City residents will as well.  

Let me also state for the record: This decision was made by the 2010 board. With that said, i may well be Sun City’s biggest fan for them having the courage to move forward on it. It is exactly the kind of thinking we need in Sun City to keep us current and vibrant. It will reduce our energy costs and provide us an inflation buffer as those electric costs increase (as we all know they will).

Make no mistake, this is a stroke of genius, brilliant. If there is a Sun City resident who opposes it, they will only be doing so due to not understanding how vital it is for us to get our arms and heads around costs. We have no upfront cash outlay, the project allows us to take advantage of grants and rebates via the lease agreements.

It is the best of all worlds. Congrats to the 2010 board and all of us in Sun City should be celebrating this decision and looking forward in ways to keep our costs low and the quality of life here high. Spectacular!

For those that missed it, here is the press release from the RCSC: http://www.sunaz.com/?id=328.

 

Keynesian Economic Theory and Sun City…

“Sun City is unique, a throwback to a more genteel time. While those outside the walls rush about, the pace of life in Sun City is slower, the sense of togetherness greater, and the commitment to enjoy what we have here almost limitless.”

The year was 2002 and i was near the end of my working life. I was the chairman for an organization called the International Foundation for Employee Benefits. Our primary role was developing education for both management and labor trustees serving on pension and health care plans.

It was a volunteer position and one i thoroughly enjoyed. I worked with some brilliant people who understood benefits far better than i; experts in their fields. We usually wound up the conference or convention with a social evening where we could chat and get to know one another better.

Even back then, our economy was beginning to falter. The boom of the mid to late 90’s was over and the downturn was coming. One of the presenters was an economist who was making frequent television appearances. We began talking and he said it was imperative the country look at tax cuts to stimulate the economy (part of the Keynesian Theory of economics).

I looked at him askew and replied simply, “really?” He was stunned in that most never challenged his thinking and why was some “labor goon” willing to engage him on his home turf? I’ll be the first to admit, i didn’t have a business school background. Economic theory was as foreign to me as breaking someone’s fingers was to him (that’s a joke by the way).

My training came from dealing with working men and women and from the owners that employed them. Our local had built several websites where research was a key fundamental to their existence. One of those dealt with changing employment trends and what the future held for the United States.

It was an interesting study for me in that i clearly saw there were dramatic changes coming. One where workers became almost meaningless in the grand scheme of things. We had become a throw away society and the business model embraced that same kind of thinking. Employees were going to become expendable in the growing job markets: Retail and the service sector were the two areas most jobs would be found. Employers like Wal-Mart had set the stage; use them for a few years and move them out. At a point in time, they became a liability rather than an asset.

I used this as the backdrop of the argument to the economist. The fact was, massive tax cuts meant little or nothing (other than money in their pockets) to those whose primary production was done in China or other third world countries. The bulk of what they invested in this country had little to do with long term growth. Jobs in the service sector or retail often paid next to nothing with virtually no benefits that a viable middle class relied upon.

The longer we talked, the more he understood where i was coming from. I had statistics to support my arguments and our discussion was fascinating. Sadly, as time marched on, most everything i had said to him has come to fruition. The new business model, the one embraced by most business schools, has turned our country and our way of life upside down. For that matter, most of the world is suffering an economic disaster of proportion most don’t know how to combat it.

When i retired in 2003, i left the staff at the local union i was president of with these simple words: “You will look back on these past ten years as the good old days.” I knew exactly what they were in for, little did i know it would get that bad, that quick.

So, what has this diatribe got to do with Sun City? Everything. The caption above is one i wrote for the magazine we produced at SCHOA back in 2007. I love the commentary because it captures exactly why most of us living here love it…why when we buy here we feel we have won the lottery and are now enjoying the good life.

Everything that goes on outside the walls is bigger than us. Virtually everything is faster paced, more frenzied and less comfortable. When i first found Sun City i saw the simplicity of a community founded on principals of a common goal; where being happy is an easy objective to attain if one simply lets go and enjoys what is straight in front of us.

Sun City is that darn good and each of us has an obligation to do whatever we can to keep it that way. It’s how it has worked for more than 50 years and how it will work for the next 50. We can’t change what is happening outside the walls, but we can keep Sun City a very special place to live if we all do our part. It’s still that simple.

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