Spring - A Time for Renewal
Spring is a good time to let go of the old and make room for the new.
This can apply to the traditional spring cleaning but most importantly we need to apply it to letting go of old grudges, resentments, and anger that holds us back from enjoying inner peace and more happiness in our lives.
When we hold on to the old we keep ruminating and re-visiting old wounds and they keep us stuck. And sometimes we don't even know it.
When we choose to let go of the old we make room for the new and open the door to endless possibilities that are waiting for us.
Question of the Month
A question from a client warmed my heart because it perfectly demonstrates how you should seek help to maximize your Social Security benefits even after the recent changes to the claiming strategy rules are fully phased in.
This strategy, which applies to surviving spouses and surviving ex-spouses, is not going away.
The question involves a widow, age 62, who is still working. She earns about $45,000 per year and plans to continue working through her full retirement age of 66.
Her survivor benefit would be worth $2,057 per month if the widow waited until 66 to collect, or about $1,666 per month if she claimed now at age 62. But because she is still working, her benefit would be subject to earnings restrictions.
In 2017, someone who is under full retirement age for the entire year would forfeit $1 in benefits for every $2 earned over $16,920.
But in this case, something is better than nothing.
I'm thinking she should collect survivor benefits now, and she would get about 81% of the survivor benefit based on her current age, or about $20,000 for the year. The reduction from working would be around $14,000, so she would net almost $6,000 for the year.
The math works like this: $45,000-$16,920 (earnings limit) = $28,080/2=$14,040. Subtract that amount from her $20,000 in annual survivor benefits and she would end up with just under $6,000 this year.
The benefit reduction due to excess earnings would be temporary.
When she turns 66, Social Security will adjust her benefit amount upward to reinstate the amounts withheld due to working. Any benefits lost due to excess earnings are restored after full retirement age in the form of larger monthly payments.
In the meantime, the widow can let her own retirement benefit continue to grow up until age 70 or any age prior to 70 and then switch to her retirement benefit. With an estimated retirement benefit of $1,700 per month at full retirement age, postponing her benefit until 70 will boost her monthly payout by 32% to about $2,244 per month.
Any intervening cost-of-living adjustments would be applied to her retirement benefit.
If you have questions about Social Security planning, please do not hesitate to call me.
FITNESS AFTER 50 ISN'T ABOUT THE NUMBER ON A SCALE
I went on my first diet when I was 14. I had been a gymnast and a diver when I was younger, and as I slipped into the more sedentary life of a teenager - and my body entered puberty - I started worrying that I weighed too much.
I came by it honestly. My mother went on a diet every Monday morning for most of my childhood. By Thursday, we were eating cookies and ice cream for dessert again and her weight - which I actually never noticed - didn't change much.
I became a runner in my 30s and for years that allowed me to eat what I wanted to eat and stay within a comfortable weight range for myself. It wasn't really until menopause that I entered another phase of having trouble keeping weight off.
Fitness After 50 is More than a Number on a Scale
I'm almost embarrassed to say that it took me that long to realize that the number on the scale, the shape of our body and how we feel about that shape is not something we can fix or correct or change with a short-term eating plan. As trite as it may sound - and as many times as we've heard it - being fit really is about how we live, not about how little we can manage to eat or what we put into our mouths.
More than anything, fitness is a result of paying attention to what and how much we eat, moving our bodies every single day, enjoying a mix of good, healthy foods and making this a lifetime commitment, not a short-term fix.
Paying Attention to What and How Much We Eat
More and more, fitness and weight loss plans are getting on board with the approach of paying attention by providing computer apps that help you track what foods you consume each day. This makes it infinitely easier than writing down each granola bar and chicken breast you eat, but the idea is the same. It keeps you accountable to yourself.
If you know you are going to record what you eat, it makes you pay attention. After a few days of noting what you're consuming, you start thinking about food before you eat it. Do I really want to have to write down that I ate a half a box of Wheat Thins? Maybe I'll have a sliced apple instead.
Most of the programs give you a range of calories or points for food items based on your objectives so you know that if you stay within that range, you can achieve your goals.
Moving Your Body Every Single Day
You don't have to run marathons to get in shape or stay there. You need to move every day and you need to gradually increase that movement when you're ready. If it's been awhile since you've walked around the block, try a half a block. Let's face it - it's better than sitting on your couch.
Researchers believe that as we age and begin to feel that our bodies aren't as capable as they once were, it may have more to do with the fact that we stop moving than it does with actual decline.
Keeping our bodies going, including some kind of cardiovascular movement and some kind of weight-bearing exercise, is what we need to get through the long haul. The cardio keeps our blood flowing and the weight-bearing work builds muscle and bone density. We all need that whether we're trying to lose weight or gain it.
Enjoying a Mix of Good, Healthy Foods
For most of us, when we start thinking about losing weight or getting into better shape, we immediately think of having to eat foods that are "good" for us, and nothing that is delicious.
Although it's not a good idea to live on hot dogs and French fries, it's the balanced diet that will allow us to make this a lifestyle and not just a quickly failing, one-shot venture.
We all know that it's a good idea to eat fruits and vegetables, lean protein and fiber, and it's easier than ever today to follow this guideline. Grocery stores even sell packaged meals that are both fresh and frozen.
The good news is that you can also have a treat every once in a while, especially if you're paying attention to what you're consuming and how much of it you're eating.
Making This a Lifetime Commitment
I wish my mother had lived long enough to realize that we all struggle with staying healthy and fit and that no new diet plan is going to change that.
They key is always moderation, but it's also remembering to see fitness in the same way you think of any aspect of your health. You would never say, "Well, I brushed my teeth for three months so now I don't have to do it anymore," or "I slept a lot lost week. I think I'll stay awake all this week."
We need to be smart and realistic about our weight and our fitness and there's plenty of help in the world these days to get there. Look around online and find a good app for tracking what you eat. Find out which works best for your lifestyle.
What "treat" foods do you have trouble moderating? Maybe try keeping smaller containers in your cupboards, but still let yourself have a little bit now and then. Meet with a friend who also wants to get into better shape and make a health plan together. Who would be a good partner as you embark on this new lifestyle?
Cat and Bird Do Everything Together
When Irina Stepanova brought a parrot home, she hoped her 10-year-old cat, Bonifazii, would at least tolerate him.
But she never imagined they'd spend their days playing and snuggling together.
Once the parakeet, whom Stepanova named Yasha, had settled into her home in Chelabinsk, Russia, she decided to cautiously introduce her to Bonifazii.
"I began to let [Yasha] out of the cage," Stepanova told The Dodo. "He flew and Bonifazii calmly watched the parrot. Then Yasha landed on the floor and met the cat."
Since this first meeting went well, Stepanova allowed Bonifazii and Yasha to spend more time together.
"They play together and run around the apartment. The
ir favorite game is hide-and-seek. Th
e parrot flies out of the cage and immediately looks for the cat," Stepanova said.
Now Bonifazii and Yasha do everything together, t
hey gaze out the window, go on
Bonifazii even lets Yasha sit on his head.
Stepanova trusts them completely now, and she's happy to leave them alone together.
"Whenever I'm home, the parrot cage is always open," Stepanova said. "Bonifazii is a tolerant cat, and very gentle. I trust my cat."
Their relationship may not be typical, but Bonifazii and Yasha have certainly shown that love knows no bounds.
The Month You Retire is Important
A large percentage of people choose the end of the year, December, to retire. December may actually be the worst month to retire. Since people often receive extra or larger paychecks upon retirement, it is often to their best advantage to retire at the beginning of a new year since income will likely be less in that year.
Your #SpreadTheHealth Challenge: Relax Already!
You deserve a little R&R. Chill time is the antidote to
, and when you think small, getting it on a regular basis is easier than you think. Aim to do one of these three things every day.
Try a daily 3-minute meditation.
Just a little bit of zen can help keep a case of the crazies at bay. Shut the door, close your eyes, and devote a few minutes to just breathing. You might be surprised by how much calmer and cool-headed you feel.
Set a phone curfew.
It's not your imagination: That never-ending flood of selfies and notifications really can leave you feeling funky, research says. So pick a nightly stop time-and honor it. (Your newsfeed will still be there in the morning. Promise.) Try to make it a couple hours before bed, if you can. The blue light from your device is better at wrecking your sleep than a double espresso, suggests a recent study.
Stick to your bedtime.
Your standing date with Mr. Sandman boosts your energy and mood, helps you avoid getting sick, and helps keep your weight in check. Even when there's a crazy cliffhanger, turn off Netflix at a reasonable time so you can get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Too wound up to turn in? Having a regular routine-like a warm bath and a book-can help get you into sleep mode.
For more insight in to the #spreadthehealth challenge, please check out Prevention Magazine.
5 WAYS TO RECAPTURE THE SPIRIT OF YOUTH
I am feeling melancholy. Sentimental. Nostalgic. These sad-faced visitors knocking at the door to my ultra-sensitive soul trigger emotions we all find difficult to face. Wasted moments. Lost time. Forgotten memories.
Why do we do this? Why do we look in our rearview mirror at the road we traveled, memorializing the scenery we took for granted along the way?
We eagerly got in the car on our journey of life, put our blinders on and didn't even bother to look out the window to enjoy the view. We were only excited for the destination, not the journey.
The Desire to Bring Back Moments
The remorse we have for this revelation is heart-wrenching. We want the time back. We want a second chance. We want the memories to miraculously reappear in our mind, so that we can once again feel that breath of youth on our face, fresh air in our lungs, and the wind of passion in our soul.
We long to remember the "firsts." First love. First "real" kiss. First moment your arms held your child and you realized this was a love like none other. First amazing glance at our new grandchild - the startling realization that the circle of life is here and now.
We long to remember it all - every event that measured up to that beautiful word "meaningful." We want all of those moments back, so our sulking soul can come out from under its blanket of pity and revel in all its glory in the here and now.
How do we accomplish that? How do we recapture that essence of youth and remember the journey that we so blindly rushed through?
Reflecting on the Past and Present
I've thought a lot about this over the past year or so since I've retired and I've realized, only now, that as much as I loved my career, it gradually took over my life. It became who I was. It monopolized my time and energy and I had little left over of "me."
Yes, I had a great career. Yes, I was successful at it. Yes, I feel I contributed greatly to my profession. But I, solely, take responsibility for letting it consume my life. My "being" disappeared behind the magnitude of my job and a greedy computer screen.
I reclaimed my "self" last year and peeled off the tough layers of minutiae that grew around my spirit like troublesome weeds. This liberating process has had an awakening effect on many things that I had forgotten about myself. Like how I love to garden. And read. And write. And paint. And take walks. And nap. My spirit is giddy with Joy. Happy. Fulfilled. Rested. Restored.
But, the flip side of this reclamation is one that gnaws at my spirit's twin sister - the sensitive one that mourns the loss of "what could have been" and causes me soulful pause. During the time that I spent working and burying my "self" under the demands of career, I lost time. I lost the ability to refresh my weary soul through the joys of everyday living, simplicity and meaningful moments.
It's truly regretful to feel that sense of loss. I long for a rewind of the last 20 years or more to capture more of what I could have had. A do-over. Repeat. But, I am not one to linger on the "what ifs" or spend too much time on wishful thinking. So I, stubbornly, commit to shake off those sad-faced visitors at my door and break free to make up for the regretful missed moments.
In that spirit, here are five tips for looking back to recapture your youthful spirit.
Looking Happily in Your Rearview Mirror
First of all, we make mistakes. Some people in our past have made mistakes too. We are human. We need to get over it. Any mistake that has been made in our life is a lesson learned. We are hard on ourselves and mull over every potential hurt that could have been misinterpreted.
Forget about the mistakes and release yourself and others from the guilt. Don't get caught up with anything negative that has happened. Break free and move forward with a positive attitude. Your spirit will thank you.
Second, do the things that give you joy. Pull out those memories from your youth and remember what gave you the most pleasure. Was it being outdoors? Was it using your creativity? Was it spending time with other people or your best friend?
Recall the joy-filled bliss of younger days and find ways to rekindle those feelings.
Third, create a photo album of your life. This is a great way to reminisce and remember everything that you have done, places you have gone, and moments you have felt joy. Start with your childhood and make this project about you! Your life in pictures shows just how greatly you have lived. Leave pages for writing about your feelings or things you remember.
Creating an album is a great way to summarize and celebrate who you are. The person that you are today is the direct result of all of your life experiences. Be proud of the path that you took to get here. Your family, someday, will cherish these photos as their most prized possession.
Fourth, visit your hometown. Walk down the roads that you once traveled with younger legs and lighter hearts. Drive by homes you lived in, schools you attended, schools your children went to, jogging your memory of the details of the life you lived.
Fifth, and finally, talk with your family and friends of days gone by. There is something so comforting in sharing memories with those with whom we spent time. A memory that we have forgotten all about can be jostled loose from our dusty minds and remembered with such joy and laughter.
I think, especially as we get older, we are conflicted with emotions that mess with our sensitive souls. We are joyful of being at the point in our life where we can live more simply, rested and happy. But the opposing emotion of realizing the finiteness of life makes us feel sad and regretful over missed moments and lost time. My goal for you is to find peace with your journey in this life. Past. Present. And future.
So many of my readers who have written to me have not had easy lives. Rough childhoods, divorce, financial problems, deaths. Sad and lonely souls reaching out, seeking joy at this stage in their lives. They tell stories that are not always easy to read and tug at my own soul to find ways to encourage comfort, positivity, and joy. If I can help even one person find happiness in their day, just by reading this, then my hopeful spirit will sing with delight.
My message is simple:
Surround yourselves with sincere people. Loving souls who support you and bring joy to your days. Make friends with the past - remember that its greatest joys and deepest sorrows are part of the journey that you have traveled to get to this moment in time. Breathe deeply in the fresh air of today and feel the kiss of tomorrow on your cheek. Make your tomorrows count. Every single one of them.
Healthy Shrimp Fried Rice
In this tasty side, majority of the flavor comes from the veggies and some key spices. It is a rice dish, but that just means it's the perfect accompaniment to a main dish of chicken or fish, so you don't have to feel guilty and with the added shrimp, you get some great protein.
- 3 1/2 cups cooked rice (even better if leftover)
- 1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and de-veined
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 scallions (white and green parts), chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or dry sherry
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger powder and white pepper until smooth. Set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat and cool shrimp for 2-3 minutes, or until pink and opaque.
- Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
- Add carrots and onions to the same pan and saute until tender. 5-7 minutes.
- During the last 1 minute of cooking, add garlic and cook until fragrant, but not burned.
- Transfer onions to same plate as shrimp and set aside.
- Pour beaten eggs and egg whites into the skillet and scramble, breaking them up with your spatula as you go. Then transfer to same plate as veggies and shrimp
- Heat remaining olive oil in skillet and, once hot, stir in leftover rice.
- Use your spatula to form an even layer and let the rice cook, untouched, until semi-browned and crispy.
- Flip rice over to brown the other side, then return shrimp, onions and scrambled eggs to the wok.
- Pour in soy sauce mixture and scallions and toss to coat.
- Transfer to bowls and serve immediately.