Saturday, April 27, 2013

Motherhood is Where You Find It

There are plenty of headlines at the moment about motherhood -- how to enjoy it, how to manage it and who is about to join that group.

As usual during Springtime, lots of women seem to be pregnant. Everyone from celebrities to Kate Middleton are among the new recruits. "Baby bumps" (a phrase which I loathe for its stupidity) are springing up everywhere. On a local TV new station, both of the co-anchors are several months pregnant.

Earlier this week former President Bill Clinton even remarked on the subject. At the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, Clinton remarked that Bush had won the contest of which would be the first to become a grandfather.

Mother's Day is about to roll around again. Don't forget to buy a gift, send a card or plan a family event.

But for those of us who never got on the baby bandwagon, all is not lost. There are plenty of other ways to channel all that affection.

Having pets, for instance.

Like lots of other people, I never caught the fever for having children. I was married very young and we were far too busy to think about having children. Marital problems appeared on the scene within a couple of years. By then I was fairly certain that if children did come along, I was likely to be a single mother with plenty of demands and little emotional support to help along the way.

Then I began teaching school. At the time, there was a saying among teachers that if you wanted to have children, you'd better do it soon. After a few years of runny noses and behavior problems, teachers would never have children of their own. For the most part, this saying proved insightful. Teaching friends did have children early in their careers while others of us watched peacefully from the sidelines.

While my friends all fretted over little league, scouts, school programs, orthodontia, skinned knees and many concerns during the early years, I was traveling down a different path. Dinner with friends, filling my closet with clothes, career advancement, and social events may seem selfish and shallow, but they were what appealed to me and proved nice alternatives.

Then it was whether their kids would learn to drive, get asked out, get pregnant, get into college or drop out entirely. I listened to as these woes were confronted, as any friend would, but couldn't help but be glad that I had chosen a different route through life.

Now my friends are becoming grandparents. Grandparents! They seem eager to show photos, discuss the baby's birth weight, dietary needs and diaper changes. They can't know how uninteresting these matters are to others. Other grandparents drawn into such conversations remain quiet, anxiously awaiting a lull in dialogue so that they can interject their own grandchildren stories and data.

I witness this all the time. Grandparents -- who are supposed to be enjoying retirement and pursuits of their own -- are wildly running around caring for the grand kiddies. Not occasionally visiting, as I recall with my own grandparents, but involvement which is both continual and feverish. Somehow the grandparents' roles have spun out of control.

As for those of us who didn't want or couldn't have children, things are continuing on as usual. We make our own plans and set our own schedules. Of course, sometimes the kitties or doggies (or hamsters, birds or other critters) have their demands and alter the schedule. But it all seems terribly manageable and loving.

My two pets are five-year-old Max and one-year-old Tesla. They are plenty to keep me on my toes and seem to enjoy our little arrangement. They don't ask for cell phones, keys to the car or need to borrow money and seem content with a few treats and pampering, of course.

It's never too late to find a pet companion. There are plenty of animals in need of love who will gladly return the favor.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

To Tan or Not to Tan…

With the first warm breeze, many people in various parts of the country step outside their homes to worship the sun. Sunning is a normal activity during warmer weather.

It's natural to want return outdoors to greet the arriving season. Like bears awakening from hibernation, people of all ages amble into yards to inspect the greening grass and listen to the birds. Some people have been inside their homes for several months. After raking up the fall leaves, residents could have avoided their yards for some time. They continued going to/from work, retrieving groceries and running errands. There were Christmas decorations to hang and remove. Even the heartier residents walked and exercised throughout the winter.

For many of us, the emergence into the sun is a big event. It's good to feel the sun on our faces and to absorb the warmth. However, some people don't know when to stop sitting in the sun and don't realize that they've had enough.

I have a great appreciation for the sun.

But during the many years I lived in Arizona, I understood that too much sun can really hurt us. There is a difference between appreciating the sun and burning the surface of our epidermis -- seriously and continuously -- resulting in bad things happening to our skin.

For many years I, too, loved lying in the sun. I would tan until I couldn't take the Arizona furnace much longer. Perhaps it was because I lived in the honest-to-goodness desert, but most of us understood when it was time to retreat into the house or at least seek shade.

There were times, of course, when we could be fooled by the cooling effect of water and not realize that we were charring ourselves. I recall one time another outdoor freak and myself took my rather indoors-y brother on a rafting trip down an Arizona river for hours of foolishness and fun. My brother got a serious burn, a fact that he didn't fully realize until a few hours afterward. He suffered greatly afterward for days. But at the time, he was relaxed and laughing. Similar events can occur when floating in a swimming pool and the sun sort of sneaks up on the unsuspecting.

The one thing I developed in Arizona was an appreciation for what prolonged and excessive tanning could do to the skin. There was a process whereby frontiersmen would take an animal's hide, remove the meat, allow the skin to dry and treat it with chemicals so it would last. The end result was leather. The process is, ironically, called tanning.

As a child newly-arrived in Arizona, I recall seeing people who had spent their entire lives in the desert sun and whispering to an adult, "Wow. Look at that man/woman!" Someone wise, like my mother, would say, "Ssshhh. I'll tell you about that later."

The result to this encounter would include a three-tiered lecture. (A) Don't point at people who are different; (B) Stay out of the sun whenever possible; and (C) Always wear sunscreen.

Medical knowledge has increased greatly over the decades, along with sunscreen prevention. Yet people still tan way too much. If you see someone in public during January and they look as though they just got off a plane from The Bahamas, chances are they spend time at the good ol' tanning salon. Although these constantly tanning people think they look vibrant, perhaps even extremely healthy, to the average onlooker they appear a little strange when the ground is still covered with snow.

I actually know a few people who have tanning beds in their homes. They either really like the feel of the warmth on their skin or they have a large area in their home with no furniture and need to fill that space. I can only imagine how often they would have to use their own tanning bed for this to be efficient.

The result of all this damage may well be skin that looks like -- leather. At the very least, skin is upset with being continually fried and gets revenge by making your face resemble a handbag. Seriously fried skin can not only make you look OLD at an early age but can lead to skin cancer. Ask any dermatologist and you are likely to get the sunscreen lecture along with a hefty bill for services rendered.

There are so-called self-tanning lotions, which allow the wearer to "paint" himself a lovely shade of orange in order to replicate a tan. There are also "spray tans" which seem to be big with celebrities on the red carpet who want to look tan without the skin damage, but these can be a little artificial looking too.

As happy as we are to see the sun return, use a little caution when exposing skin for too long. Enjoy the arrival of warm weather but don't turn yourself into a stick of beef jerky.








Friday, April 19, 2013

Rainy Days

During the past week, rain has drenched the Midwest -- and a great deal of the entire country. Today is the first day with no rain so far… but the sky gives the appearance that the status could change at any moment.

I love rain. It has a huge comfort factor, evoking memories of home-cooked meals and playing indoors unexpectedly. There is a certain atmosphere in the pleasant rainy day experience not to be found elsewhere.

Growing up in the Midwest, we could depend upon rain with some degree of regularity. We needed water to drink, to wash and to survive. The local farmers needed rain to make the crops grow. Irrigation was something that I didn't encounter until moving to Arizona in 1960. So most people were pleased when rain would arrive. I recall one drought period in my childhood when men in small planes flew over our town to "seed" the clouds and help make it rain. (I don't think this worked but at least someone tried.)

There were often storms that involved a lot more than rainfall. Winds, hail and even a few tornadoes occurred that caused us to take shelter in the basement. But millions of folks living smack dab in the middle of the country are used to occasional weather interruptions. They have learned to roll with whatever punches happen along.

The recent rain has been extraordinary. Somewhere a man or two must have contemplated building an ark. April so far has been quite wet, many of the still-dormant fields turning into ponds, unpaved roads nearly impassable. On the evening news tonight, there was footage in a nearby town of people paddling a canoe down Main Street, with water reaching the bottom of a red stop sign. In that particular town, the already-rising creeks and rivers had spilled over their banks and sent residents fleeing to higher ground.  Local emergency shelters were opened.

This local water surplus is nothing compared to major flooding that occurs along the Mississippi River every few years or so. Despite flood protection and steps to avoid serious damage, residents in low-lying areas near many large rivers often experience flooding. So our local troubles dim by comparison.

Rain remains an ally and is welcome. The past couple of years have been extremely dry. Last year, farmers across the Midwest routinely appeared in the press lamenting the drought conditions. Yields were down on many crops. Lake levels were much lower, revealing visible high water marks along the shore.

Of course, it is too soon to predict whether we have seen the end of water problems. A few days of heavy rain, although certainly needed, is hardly a sign that drought is on the wane. It may be only a brief respite and only time will tell.

 Remember that "April showers will bring May flowers." April is traditionally a month when rain arrives. We usually are so busy with preparing for summer fun that we overlook the inconvenience of carrying an umbrella. After all, the seasons have changed and we will soon be splashing and playing all day long. Why worry about a little drizzle?

During the 30 years that I lived in Arizona, I had a very awkward relationship with rain. Naturally, there were many days of sun with only a few weeks where predictable "bad weather" occurred in the form of strong winds and dust storms. These storms were referred to as "monsoons," a term that conjures up scenes right out of The Rains of Ranchipur. But what falls from the clouds over Arizona hardly passes for rain. Perhaps accompanied by a few droplets of moisture, dust descends to fill swimming pools, pelting people who are outdoors and turning day into night. The winds gather debris and dust from miles around and redistributes them haphazardly. The result is a mess.

Those moments were not warm and fuzzy memories that one likes to recall.

So when I hear people whine about how a day is cloudy, overcast or threatening to rain, I try to take it all with a grain of salt. Rain is nice, provided, of course, that we don't get washed away.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Enough Already

This June will mark four years since I officially retired. Guess it is true that time flies when you are having fun because the intervening time has passed quickly. On the other hand, I had jobs during my career -- haven't we all? -- in which a week seemed like a year.

At first, I planned to look for part-time work which sounded interesting/challenging. Fairly quickly, that focus disappeared and I began to look to myself for an answer about how to spend my own time.

Those of us who grew up in the 1950s likely had similar exposure to employment. Jobs were to last forever. My grandfathers were both railroad engineers during the peak of the railroad era. The work was exciting, secure and promised advancement. Both of them spent their entire careers working for the railroads, enjoying the work and getting gold watches at the end of the line.

Besides railroading, there were other jobs available during the Truman/Eisenhower years which provided job security. Our small town had a number of industries, including some manufacturing, where employers respected and wanted to retain good workers, paying them nicely and providing a good standard of living for their families.

Boy, have things changed.

When I entered the work force in the 1960s, jobs were quite abundant. Like your job? Stick with it. Hate the job? There is another one just around the corner, where they might appreciate you more. It wasn’t so much about money -- a consideration, certainly -- but more importantly workers wanted to be appreciated. And as hard to believe as it is, there were such employers. Good employees were valuable and stayed on the same job for decades.

The road to success has certainly altered its course since then.

The majority of today's employers appear to care little about their employees. It's a two-edge sword: employers expect little from their employees and select candidates according to those low standards, workers with low expectations who don't mind being treated as a disposable commodity.

So it was with significant pleasure that I approached the end of working. Since that time, I have worked temporarily in a few positions and have opened an online business. I now feel completely free of the old patterns learned during 46 years in the workplace.

The old patterns were hard to break, as anyone who has retired has experienced. I nearly always worked a five-day week, usually Monday through Friday (with ample overtime, of course and an occasional weekend). So at the end of every week I had to take care of all the usual projects that working folks face. My brain was thoroughly programmed with this five-day pattern, a hard pattern to break.

The present economy is shaky. And while the dearth of good jobs is a bit frightening, we know that we can survive this episode. Admittedly, it is a rough time to be unemployed, a little like stepping off a pier just as the tide goes out.

I have come to think for myself and explore what I can do to earn money. In news clips about unemployed workers, I often hear these thoughts echoed.

At last workers, many of whom have lost jobs, are beginning to think for themselves and focus on how they can earn money. They explore talents they may already have, perhaps skills they have wasted on some unappreciative employer. Workers examine what interests them, what has always intrigued them, pursuits that bring them joy. It is this burst of creativity that has launched countless small businesses around the country, from online sales to contracting businesses to entrepreneurial ventures of all kinds.

Is this rapid change related to today's technology? Certainly technology seems like a factor. People have started entire careers with the right mindset and a little computer savvy. Creative folks who have been discounted by the "main stream" have had to think for themselves and the results are amazing and inspiring.

In the past, workers have had to suppress their own talents in order to fit a job. That effort seems counterproductive to helping workers reach their full potential. The old system may have worked for decades, keeping "round workers in square holes," but times have changed.

Keep an open mind.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Projects and How to Survive Them

Spring's arrival seems to signal an onslaught of various domestic projects.

Normally I enjoy undertaking projects. Projects are encapsulated tasks that have a beginning, identifiable steps and end with a predictable conclusion. It's more appealing to complete a rather simple task than a more complicated and hard-to-define chore. If someone said, "Go clean up the mess in the kitchen," I would probably be able to handle it. Such a task would require scoping out the room, checking for debris, seeing whether food has been left out that needs to be refrigerated, and putting dishes in the dishwasher/washing by hand. I would recognize when the task was done.

However, if someone said, "Let's remodel the kitchen," I would feel a bit overwhelmed. Too many variables are involved. Too many small tasks combined. What type of style do you want? What about eliminating/moving walls? What colors should be chosen for the walls? Change the countertop? Replace the appliances? On top of the numerous considerations is determining the result you hope to achieve and keeping the price within an agreed upon budget.

Small projects are do-able, easy to examine and complete. Nice, neat packages of easily finished tasks. However, spring complicates the situation because it presents so many projects that require attention all at the same time.

In my yard, the first sign of spring is the arrival of crocuses, daffodils and tulips. Gotta love bulbs, which arrive without fanfare and grow with little encouragement. The perennials break the ice and remind everyone that another season is just around the corner.

At my house, I have to remove outdoor furniture from storage and uncover several items which have been under tarps since late fall. There is checking the exterior of the house and yard. The property is dotted with trees, so there are small limbs to retrieve, winter foliage to trim or rake, and other general tidying up.

I don't worry too much about the lawn. The grass will grow and get mowed without too much sweat. The few dandelions are of little concern. Some people fret over dandelions and other blemishes on their lawns. But why worry about small yellow flowers with a certain sense of style? It is spring. So live and let live. 

Cleaning and disposing of superfluous possessions is a must. Winter allows us to stay indoors and get a bit slovenly until spring's wake-up call. "Spring Cleaning" is a good excuse to throw out items and make more room.

I usually have a yard sale during late spring/early summer. It's a good motivator to set aside items, knowing they still contain a lot of use and someone can pick buy them as a bargain. By all indications, my stash is going to be large this year. I enjoy sitting on the driveway on a Saturday morning, chatting with eager shoppers while basking in the sun.

It does seem as though there is a lot of pressure put on homeowners to "fix" every task that has gone undone during the winter. I'm going through a bit of that myself this year. The kitchen underwent a mild remodel just before last Thanksgiving, with the expectation of getting the entire project finished around the holidays. That did not happen and the longer the kitchen project went unfinished, the easier it was to delay the completion date.

With the arrival of spring making me feel guilty, I began in earnest about two weeks ago to finish the kitchen. It seemed simple, really. Just move everything out, finish up and move it all back. How difficult could that be?

Two weeks later, the kitchen is finally nearing completion and needs only to have items returned to their original spots. The result is lovely, much better than originally estimated. I should have known at the beginning that there was more to the remodel than meets the eye. But at least one project will be checked off the list.

Projects always take longer than expected. During the decades I spent working at law firms, I often referred to this handy guide: Take the amount of time a project should take then multiply it by 1.5 times. We called this the One Point Five Rule and often spoke of it reverently. Everything takes longer than expected. This rule also applies to life tasks such as shopping for groceries, having your teeth cleaned or waiting in traffic. Don't expect things to fit within your schedule.

You think I'd have learned that lesson by now.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Time Machine

The past couple of days brought to mind times of long ago. Occasionally, certain circumstances will trigger recollections from the past. A comfort food will remind me of a school day lunch. The smell of baking releases thoughts of childhood Saturdays. These memories usually arrive unexpectedly and are brief, sweeping through my brain like a spring breeze.

No doubt such incidents occur to everyone on occasion. But recent events have sent me recalling an entirely different time and place - the 1950s.

A couple of days ago I read that Annette Funicello had passed away. It was sad news.  I had read that for many years she had been fighting multiple sclerosis. My knowledge of MS is scant, including only that it is quite debilitating and progressive. No doubt Annette's failing health had been a difficult challenge for her and for her family. But I hope she took some comfort from knowing of the joy that she brought to us all during a very different world of the 1950s and 60s.

The U.S. of the 1950s was truly a wondrous time. The post-war boom was well underway, jobs were readily available. Returning soldiers could buy a house and finish college on the G.I. bill, in many instances forever raising their standard of living. Many families drove new cars, sometimes more than one! New innovations were coming into vogue. Wall-to-wall carpeting was a luxurious addition to any house. Consumers were exposed to new methods to clean and iron clothes, freeze and store food.

It was also a world of nuclear fears, of rehearsing the now-silly practice of "Duck and Cover." Drills were carried out in classrooms across America so that we would all know how to prevent injury in the event of nuclear war. This was also the period of Senator Joe McCarthy and worries of Communist infiltration. Children still lived in fear of summertime polio. A lot of things were going on and not all of them were nice.

Into this melee of progress/confusion came television. House by house, the homeowners on our block succumbed to purchasing a television. In 1954, we bought our first television, which cost an amazing $350, steep compared to the cost of living at the time. But television was new and exciting and provided a glance into a whole world outside our small, smug communities.

Along with television came such personalities as Sid Caesar, Milton Berle and other stars from stage and radio who had been drawn to this new medium. Even the kids soon grew accustomed to such names as George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jackie Gleason and Jack Benny, already familiar to the adults for many years.

In 1955, The Mickey Mouse Club debuted and our world was enlarged for kids on our terms. The troupe of players in the show, later called the "original" mouseketeers, were cute, energetic youngsters attired in white sweaters, wearing "hats" resembling black mouse ears. They were more than just someone's idea of kids. They really were like us. Some had special talents. Cubby O'Brien was a wiz on the drums. Bobby Burgess was a good dancer, a talent he later displayed on The Lawrence Welk Show. Johnny Crawford moved on to stardom as Chuck Connors' son on The Rifleman.

But for many of us, it was all about Annette Funicello. Very popular with viewers, she represented what it was like to be accepted while being a little different. With her dark eyes and hair, she was almost exotic by little girl standards. She was growing up along with us, acting as a leader in segments and getting more media exposure than some others in the Club. But Annette maintained an air of modesty and humility that viewers appreciated. She was a star in her own right but that fact didn't appear to overwhelm her or her fans.

Her career continued for several post-Club years in a series of "beach" movies in which she co-starred with Frankie Avalon. On her passing, Avalon praised Annette's spirit, kindness and warmth. Those of us who enjoyed her years on The Mickey Mouse Club already felt a certain appreciation for those traits.

The 1950s was a time before celebrities flaunted their time spent in rehab, then strutted and posed for media attention. It was a good time, a sane time. I hope that Annette realized how her warmth and civility reached little girls across the country. She showed us that you didn't have to be petite and blonde to be a part of -- and even stand out from -- the crowd.

We will miss Annette Funicello and others like her who influenced an entire generation by her poise, grace and unassuming nature.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Dye-ing to Stay Young

I sympathize with anyone wanting to fight back the ravages of time. Many of us take steps to help preserve our appearance and sense of personal well-being from using moisturizers to exercise.

But some folks would be well advised to cease a certain practice. This statement is aimed squarely at men who make the wrong decision about coloring their gray hair. Most women have fooled around with their hair color at one time or another, so women are eliminated from this discussion.

Some men appear to make the decision to color their hair, even perform the actual coloring themselves, possibly out of embarrassment. Men who enter the world of hair color might want to seek the counsel of a third party -- a son/daughter, friend or co-worker -- regarding this decision.

Assuming that a man is fortunate enough to reach middle age with sufficient hair, he has several choices available. (By the way, celebrity names are being used for purposes of comparison. No doubt we each know a man or two who fits into each of the following categories.)

1. He can cut his hair very short (or shave it altogether) to disguise baldness and keep it short. Personally, I like this look. If a man is losing his hair, this is a much better option than a toupee (unless it is expensive and undetectable) or the dreaded comb-over. Some men can truly sparkle with this look -- Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Woody Harrelson to name a few. Maintenance may be an issue, but the result is great.

2. He can dye his hair dark to disguise the gray and convince everyone that he is still 35. This is a silly look and nothing ages a face -- male or female -- more than hair the color of polished brogans. Dark hair against a 65 year-old face looks dreadful. Plenty of celebrities fall for this ploy. If the audience liked me at 30, they might still think I'm 30 if my hair is still dark. Wrong. If we liked someone in the 1970s, Tom Selleck, for instance, it doesn't take long to do the math. I recently saw a photo of Selleck with dark hair and mustache and was shocked at his harsh appearance.

Now, these fine folks might have an agent or studio head demanding dark hair. It's perfectly logical that someone with an agenda might request hair that resembles patent leather. But it looks ridiculous, makes fans flinch at the results and is actually outdated in today's casually-attired world.

3. He can dye his hair red and look a different kind of ridiculous. Plenty of men appear to go red. Auburn-haired Paul McCartney has no gray hair and we know that he is old enough to have a few. Arnold Schwartzenegger has gone the red route, as has Italy's Silvio Berlusconi. They may think the result is less severe than black, but it's a bit silly.

4. He can allow his hair to go gray naturally. My personal preference, the result is often extremely flattering. Silver hair is gorgeous. George Clooney is dynamite with gray hair. Leslie Nielsen had wonderful hair, too. Steve Martin must have "grayed" at an early age because one of the first things that I noticed about him was his conservative suit-and-tie attire, dancing around with an arrow sticking through his gray hair. So incredibly cute.

The quandary about men's hair care seems to be only a few decades old. In the 1960s and most likely before, men either had hair or not, were either gray or not. Then hair became a focal point and products -- like Grecian Formula -- came into fashion.

While in college, I worked at a bank for a female manager. Her husband was a short man with gray hair and mustache, a rather dapper man who resembled photos of author William Faulkner. One day this gentleman came into the bank with jet black hair and mustache. We were astonished and some people didn't even recognize him. No doubt he thought he had turned back the hands of time. But those of us who knew him couldn't imagine why he had made such a dramatic change.

Men who are toying with trading stylish gray for inky follicles might want to try streaking, leaving the sides a little gray for impact. Mitt Romney and Bill Maher have pulled this off well. It shows a concern for appearance without shocking the audience.

No doubt there are other options available. Hair stylists and barbers understand hair far more than I do, but for a true read on how to proceed, the best answer might be: Please proceed with caution.










Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Retiring Abroad

Most people enjoy the thrill of adventure and seeing new lands.

I like watching such TV shows as House Hunters International on HGTV. The half hour episodes follow individuals/couples as they relocate to a new country and explore its housing market.

The reasons that people decide to relocate from one region to another are as varied as the people themselves. Sometimes younger couples want the experience of living in a more exciting location. They might be attending graduate school and chose to do so in a new country. Sometimes career opportunities too good to pass up become available. Many couples with children want their families to experience different cultures.

And an increasing number of retirees opt for a life-changing adventure while saving on living expenses.

Lately there has been a lot of information in the media about living abroad. I recently read an article which explored the complexities of such a move. Fueled by the undoing of the world's economy, a large number of ex-patriots ("ex pats") are fleeing their former homes and seeking a new life abroad in retirement.

Yes, its true that many countries offer great opportunities to new residents. Yes, there are many countries in which life is good at a much lower financial strain that the U.S. Yes, there are many countries with pleasant and more consistent weather, a significant draw to many tropical locations.

I have to applaud this sense of adventure. I, too, relocated as I neared retirement. However, I chose to relocate within the U.S., not in the hills of Central America. It's not a bad thing to shake up our lives when the circumstances present themselves… as long as we think the matter through completely.

During the HGTV episodes, there are few references to the actual move to another country. Occasionally, there is mention of pets which may have to be kept in quarantine for a short period before being allowed to join their owners. A few people mention the expense of moving personal possessions to a new country, particularly if there is no other party to pick up the cost. Subjects such as these are certainly factors to consider, but they are not the only possible obstacles.

First, be aware that each country has its own requirements. Because country A has revised its policy regarding household pets does not mean that country B has made the same change.

A move to another country -- without extended family, friends, security, perhaps even with a language barrier -- is not to be entered into lightly. Some of the questions to be considered are the following:

What is the relationship of my former country with this new country? Is this new country American-friendly?

Do I speak the same language as citizens of the new country? If not, can I learn that language? If that is not an option, are there sufficient people who do speak my language?

Am I planning to work after retirement? If so, what is my "work status" in the new country? Will I be allowed to work?

What about my citizenship? Will I be/should I be relinquishing my citizenship? How does the new country view that? What about having dual citizenship?

Will I be getting a pension when I retire? Will that pension income be taxed?

Will I be getting Social Security? The Social Security Administration has a list of countries to which they do not send payments. If you will receive Social Security, this is something you should investigate. This information is at  In fact, that website contains a wealth of information for anyone thinking about moving out of the country. 

My personal priorities would include a focus on medical care. Health care is a matter that we rarely think about until we need it and sometimes the need occurs unexpectedly. Senior citizens need to know about the availability of medical care. When I read about life in some picturesque, remote location, I automatically wonder about health care. As with other topics, health care varies from country to country but Medicare and many private health insurance policies do not follow you out of the country. Yes, costs are much lower for health care as with other expenses, but you need to check into this before you pack those bags.
*Is health care plentiful to all?
*What about life in a remote location?
*How far is the nearest clinic/hospital?
*Do you have a doctor/health care provider with whom you can communicate easily?

If such a move is tempting, do your homework in advance. Google such topics as "living abroad" and get answers to your questions. Information gathered can at least point you in the right direction.