I Hate Packing!

I'm a lousy packer.

I love to travel but I have failed to master the intricacies of packing a suitcase. Actually, packing is not the problem; deciding what to take is the real problem. My husband and I went to visit our daughter in New York for three days and I ended up taking the large suitcase better suited for a month's visit.

In retrospect, the real problem is the weather. When we visited our daughter, it was October. That's Autumn, the time of the year when it could be 90 degrees one day and 40 degrees the next. It could be raining; it's even possible to have an early snow storm. So what should one take? Shorts and a t-shirt or long pants and a sweater? Sandals or boots and a winter coat?

There's still another issue: activities. Are we going to stay home most of the time or go out for dinner and the theatre? Will we end up working together in the yard or will we visit relatives? Do I need "at home" clothes or should I bring a nice outfit? Maybe I need more than one nice outfit in case we go out several times; the fashion police frown on wearing the same thing two nights in a row. And, of course, I need shoes to go with each outfit. With all these questions unanswered, there's only one solution: bring everything.

However, we still haven't touched on the other essentials such as make-up and medications. There's dry skin lotion, deodorant, face cleanser, electric toothbrush, regular toothbrush (in case the electric brush runs out of power) and toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, style gel, hairspray and sunscreen. Of course we can't forget daily medications (which seem to have doubled and tripled as we age). I also bring a large bag of "in case I need them" medications. These include Tylenol, an antihistamine, left-over antibiotics (please don't tell my doctor), pain medicine in case someone (God forbid) is injured and in pain, (a prescription I filled but didn't need after a dental procedure), bandages and an antiseptic. I was a Girl Scout at one time and I've always believed in that motto, "Be Prepared"!

I imagine at this point you are probably feeling very sorry for my husband who has to lift my heavy suitcase into the car, out of the car, onto the airline baggage check, etc. Not to worry- I consider this his weight lifting training and believe ardently that my suitcases are keeping him in good shape. But I am also aware that not everyone packs like I do.

For instance, I have a friend who travels a lot and she is masterful at packing. She takes one medium suitcase wherever she goes and has certain clothes that she knows, through trial and error, travel well and can be washed and will dry overnight. I did manage to pack like this once, when we went to Africa on an animal sight-seeing safari. We were limited to one medium bag each, a condition that truly tried my abilities. I started packing three weeks ahead, taking clothes out and putting new ones in; then replacing them again. I do have to admit that having a smaller suitcase and fewer clothes definitely made traveling easier but by the next trip, I fell back into my old habits.

My seven-year old granddaughter was here for a visit and she has a very unique method of packing. She traveled with a small child-size suitcase and my husband and I watched while she unpacked two rather heavy containers of children's hand lotion, two stuffed animals, three small dolls, four bottles of children's nail polish, an iPad, a comb, three DVD's of children's movies, one book, and a folder of math problems to be solved before she returned to school. Our concerns about clothes were quickly solved when her mother entered the room with an armful of t-shirts, skirts and shorts. I was left to wonder what kind of packer she would be as she grew older.

Of course there is always the "I don't need anything but the clothes on my back" kind of packers. They tend to be in their early twenties and in seeing the world mode. A backpack with essentials (bottle of water, one change of underwear, small package of soap and a little money) seems to suffice. When their clothes disintegrate after too much wear, they simply wire home for enough money to replace them. Ah, to be young again - although I must admit I don't remember ever being able to travel this way.

On one trip I was forced to exist with the clothes on my back for three days when the airlines lost my suitcase. Except for a few essentials I purchased at the drugstore, I slept in my underwear and wore the same clothes every day. In some ways, it was liberating. I never had to think about what to wear or what was appropriate. And everyone we were traveling with knew the situation so I received a lot of sympathy. However, I was awfully glad to see my suitcase when it reappeared.

Someone once told me that packing is a metaphor for life. If you take too much, you may be carrying around too much baggage in your head. If you pack light, you've let go of all that old baggage. I don't agree; I think the only baggage I'm carrying around is literally in my suitcase and my problem is simply that I I'm afraid whatever I leave home is exactly what I'm going to need while I'm away!.

But in the end, it's not the things you take with you but the journey itself (I think that's a quote from somebody). Please do not emulate me; take only what you absolutely need and enjoy your family, your travels, and the rest of your life. Travel light, my friends.

Please visit my blog: http://www.stayingyounginflorida.com Email: jean@steigers.us
Watch for my book: Moving Into Murder

My Version Of Band-Aid Economics

I am not an economist but more of analytical thinker when it comes to our economy. For many years now we hear the spin doctors and politicians boasting about how our economy is growing, which is correct if that is all one considers. The question is why would this be happening when unemployment is high, a huge deficit, and those working are drowning in debt? The answer for me is what I call Band-Aid economics, here is how it works.

Instead of focusing on the real problem which is inflation, we emphasise how our country's economy is on an upward swing. Our bank of Canada describes economic growth like this online, "The most common way to measure the economy is real gross domestic product, or real GDP. GDP is the total value of everything - goods and services - produced in our economy. The word "real" means that the total has been adjusted to remove the effects of inflation." The idea from what I see is that if you paid last week $2.00 for lettuce, the next week it is $2.50, the following one $3.00, it makes the economy look good because as they have said inflation has been removed. The current politicians pitch is vote for me, since elected our economy has grown. Now let's examine the next factor in Band-Aid economics...

Let's face it most lower-income and working poor cannot afford higher ticket items upfront like $30,000 for a car. How about for almost nothing down with good credit, anyone could be behind the wheel of a new vehicle right! It helps our countries economic growth, even if the same type of car 20 years ago was less, but now jazzed-up with more technology, and of course insurance rates on a new cars is higher too. Decades ago people saved up, bought their cars for cash, and it was more of a positive economy. The financial killer for people is inflation, if everything costs too much constantly going up, but wages stay the same, deductions at source are unreasonable, consumer taxation is 13 cents/dollar spent, then not many people can save enough in their lifetime to buy a high ticket item like a car. However the GDP is the total value of everything. You buy a car on credit it goes into goods and services produced in our economy.

The reality is if a person is not earning enough they will always be ten cents or more short on the dollar. Families supplement their below standard income through credit cards, lines of credit, and over drafts. The reason is simple inflation doesn't match incomes. The great news for our government is even if they need to purchase food on credit it boosts the economy. The next time you hear our economy is doing well, maybe look at your own financial affairs, in product costs, and then decide for yourself if our countries economy is really in good place. Welcome to my version of Band-Aid economics 101, where a good economy doesn't mean citizens are living better, and over many years now even below par levels. By Arnold Nadler

Rent or Buy - Winners and Losers

Marital break-up and business-related challenges brought me to homelessness in the sense that I no longer own property. Do I feel deprived? Far from it. 'With one leap Jack was free.'

During Spain's property boom, in which house values could double annually, I put a deposit on an apartment in Murcia. However, due to my then relationship breaking down I opted out and licked my wounds. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Had I gone ahead with the purchase I would have been more or less isolated in a back o' beyond concrete urbanization near Vera in coastal Spain.

Obliged to meet mortgage repayments on a loan twice that of the apartment's today value I would have been the unfortunate owner of a property I could neither let nor sell. I have since pondered our obsession with home ownership. Renting is common in mainland Europe. In Berlin 90% of properties are rented, in Munich 80%. Only in Saar-land and Rhineland is home purchase more popular. However, at 60% it is more or less level pegging.

The Spanish are the keenest to buy rather than rent. At the last count 83% were home owners. Perhaps this explains why each week 500 are evicted from homes they thought they owned. The figure for Britain is 70%. This could be less today due to the near impossibility of getting a mortgage. In France 45% rent and Germany and Switzerland respectively only 44% and 38% purchase.

Obliged to rent since 1999 I consider myself fortunately mobile and financially better off. For wonderful years I rented a palatial wow-factor annex in a parkland manor the mortgage of which I could never hope to meet. Retiring to Spain I rented at less than the owner's mortgage. When circumstances left her little choice but to sell she pocketed half of what she had paid for her property. Lawyers and notaries, the tax system partied.

When later I had opportunity to spend a long summer in Latvia, the Canada of Europe, I simply gave a month's notice and caught the plane. On my return I rented an apartment in Mijas Pueblo. The views were out of this world. Sunsets to die for. I drooled over the Straits of Gibraltar and beyond the African coasts and mountain ranges.

Due to her mother's death my wife is frustratingly ensnared in the entrails of bureaucracy. She negotiates rightful ownership through a maze of expensive legal and local government departments. Had I fallen off the perch and left my Spanish property to my sons they would have had good reason to curse the transfer of my 'assets'. I no longer need to bother myself with home maintenance, purchase furniture or mess with bureaucratic paraphernalia. If tomorrow, my editor in his wisdom calls and says: "Come here, boy: I am going to make you a star," I go tomorrow. Rent or buy? To me it's a no-brainer.

Michael Walsh was voted 'Writer of the Year' by the editorial board of Euro Weekly News. This English language weekly is read by 550,000 readers each week. A broadcaster and author of over thirty titles, he is a journalist / columnist providing hundreds of media published articles to mainstream international media.

Who's Afraid of Donald Trump?

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, DC.
Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, DC.
I was sitting in a doctor's waiting room when two men walked in the door, holding hands. As they approached the front desk, one man put his arm on the other's shoulder, giving it a soft pat of reassurance. At the same time, I heard the woman sitting next to me click her tongue. When I turned to look at her, she shook her head sadly. "I can't get used to this," she said. "It's against everything I was taught growing up. It's just wrong."

"If it doesn't hurt you or change your life in any way, why is it wrong?" I asked.

"I'm too old to change now," she said, and turned her attention to the magazine in her lap, cutting off the conversation.

For a moment, I studied her thinning grey hair, her face which had a few more wrinkles than mine. There weren't that many years between us and yet, I felt decades younger than her. At home, I told my husband about the encounter and asked, "Why do we accept change so easily? Why are we so different from this woman?"

He didn't have an answer either. Then, I saw Gloria Steinem interviewed on TV and she was asked what she felt her most important contribution was. She responded that she couldn't possibly know that since she was still active. "I am always future oriented," she said.

And that is the difference. My husband and I are still future oriented. Although we remember past events fondly and even recount them, our lives are not rooted there; we are still making new memories. We not only embrace change; we encourage it. The right of gay people to marry, adopt children, live and work without discrimination should have been a reality ages ago. Unlike Supreme Court Justice Scalia, I believe in Affirmative Action and feel African-Americans should have the right to an education at any college they chose.

I am not afraid of the Muslim people. I welcome Muslim settlement in our country and invite them to make their home here just like the Jewish immigrants, the Irish, the Italians, the Japanese, the Chinese. They want the same things that my grandparents wanted when they traveled across the ocean to a better life in this country.

I AM afraid of mentally ill white men who have access to as many guns as they want. And I must admit that I am afraid of the people who attend rallies for Donald Trump, who cheer him on, who believe the outrageous things he says. They are the woman in the waiting room, the people who stopped the buses filled with Mexican children last summer, the individuals who attempt to burn down mosques. They are living in the past, afraid of change and afraid of anything or anybody that encourages them to accept an inclusive future.

Now, instead of wondering why I am future oriented, why I can accept new ideas, I wonder why some people can't. I wonder if there is a way to help these people conquer their fear of change, to help them understand that change is how we grow, both as a person and as a nation. I want to tell them that we all benefit from accepting new ideas, new ways of doing things and, above all, new people.

We are enriched by each group of immigrants that enter our country. They are our future doctors, lawyers, writers, teachers, philosophers. In one or two generations, we won't even remember that they were once the new immigrants because, by that time there will be another group to take their place.

And now, I am wondering what I can do, what all of us can do to help people who can't accept a changing world, to embrace a new wave of immigrants to our country, to allow them to make us richer by introducing us to their culture and religion. Perhaps all we can do is speak up when we hear anti-gay slurs or hate speech against any race or religion. But we need to respond in some way; we cannot allow those people who are afraid of change or afraid of immigrants to shape the message of this country. We need to speak up, all of us who know how to look forward.

Please visit my blog: http://www.stayingyounginflorida.com  E-Mail: jean@steigers.us
Watch for my book: "Moving Into Murder"

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