Future Plans & Some Goals

Brett and I have made a decision about where we are going to go after we leave Tennessee, but he has asked me not to write our decision until a year or so out from our departure, and I’ve agreed to his request. In his opinion, there’s still too much we need to accomplish before we start announcing where we’re going. But, there are things I can bring up now, about our goals and plans for the future, and some of the things we have already been working on.

The biggest and most important factor we have to consider when it comes to where to live post-Tennessee was that it has to be a location where I can continue to afford to to stay if Brett predeceases me. The majority of our retirement income comes from his military retirement, and while I would be able to keep the benefits (healthcare, travel, commissary and exchange privileges, etc.) if he dies before me the military income will cease. I would continue to receive the pension he earned post military, and his larger social security benefit (but give up my social security). The total loss of income would mean I would receive a considerably smaller amount than we currently do. There are places we could afford now, like Honolulu, but if something happened to Brett I could not afford to remain there.

There are several locations in the U.S. where I could live on the smaller income . . . but I don’t want to live in those places, and none of them are close to where our children live. The kids have all said they would help to support me no matter where I lived, but I don’t want to have to depend on them if something happens to Brett nor put that burden on them.

That leaves remaining affordable options for us that we would consider outside of the U.S. We have long dreamed of living overseas, and see this next move as our last chance to make those dreams come true.

So, refining an earlier list, we we came up with a dozen criteria to use for evaluating different locations, including both needs and wants. We realized affordability could not be the only guide, and we set out to find a location that would be both affordable and somewhere we truly would love to live. We came up with this list:

  • somewhere we’ve been before and could see ourselves living
  • cost of living that I could afford if Brett predeceases me
  • ease in acquiring long-term resident visas
  • proximity to our children
  • good healthcare and dental care
  • a climate we could live in
  • good public transportation/no car required
  • low taxes
  • the ease of learning the language
  • safety
  • proximity to U.S. military facilities
  • travel opportunities in, from, and around the area

Although we thought we had settled on Mazatlán, we felt we should expand our horizons and ended up evaluating other places in Mexico as well as locations in Europe and Asia in order to make the best decision for us. We also decided we should have a back-up location, just in case our first choice might become unviable for some reason.

Both of us are satisfied and happy with our overall decision and are now working on making it a reality.

In order to make a future move as easy as possible, we also developed a short list of goals we want to accomplish before leaving Tennessee:

  • Save a base amount of $30K+ to cover relocation costs. This is the amount we believe will be necessary to cover visa costs, transportation, rental fees, furniture and other household goods that may be needed to set up housekeeping, as well as other incidental costs that will arise from a move to another country. We also want to have a nice cushion in place for things we can’t think of or don’t know about now. A portion of this will come from the sale of our car.
  • Learn as much of the language as we can before we go. We don’t expect to be fluent or really even conversational, but we want to have a solid foundation of basics to start out. We will continue taking language classes after we arrive.
  • Stay active, and keep ourselves in good shape and good health.
  • Think very carefully about what to take along with us, what to store, and what to get rid of. We have to get this move right because there will be no do-overs. We plan to give some our furniture to one of our daughters, and leave some other pieces and household goods in storage in Tennessee because we don’t want to start from scratch again if we eventually have to return to the U.S.

So . . . that’s where we are now, and what we’re working on. Our budget is currently set up to get us where we want to be without having to feel deprived or resentful while we’re in Tennessee. It is still going to require vigilance, determination, and some sacrifice to reach our goals, but as in the past we know we can do this if we set our mind to it, to make our future dreams and plans a reality.


Goodbye April, Hello May!

(photo credit: The Girl Who Loved To Write)

We made good progress with our goals in April:

  • Keep grocery spending under $450. We spent over $450 on food this month – our total was $471.76. Food costs for Brett and myself were $443.92; the additional $27.84 was the cost of snack items for the grandkids (although we will be reimbursed).
  • Aim for zero food waste. We nearly had a zero-waste month – just a half cup of cooked chicken was tossed. I had bought the chicken at Trader Joes, and used most of it in a Waldorf salad and a chicken pot pie, saving a little to use in some fried rice. However, it had started to turn by the time I got around to making the rice and I threw it out (better to be safe than sorry). Otherwise, we used up everything!
  • Have one full no-spend week. We spent nothing April 17 through April 23 .
  • Have four no-drive days. We had only three no-drive days this month because of my work schedule and a trip to Shiloh National Military Park.
  • Walk 40 miles. Between work and walks at our apartment complex, I walked 50+ miles in April.
We had a great visit to the Shiloh battlefield. There were more cannon, memorials, and markers describing the battle than imaginable, but the history of events was laid out well and easy to follow and understand.
  • Visit one natural or historical site in the area. We had a very satisfying visit to the Shiloh National Military Park mid-month, with great weather, no crowds at the park, and an easy drive both ways.
  • Read four books. I read five books this month. One of them, The Far Pavilions, was v-e-r-y long, 1,000 pages, and in order to finish it before it had to go back to the library I read 5% every night. It was a wonderful book to read again though. This was my third time reading The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. It remains one of my top three favorite books ever.
  • Study ***** every day for 10 minutes. I did my Duolingo lessons twice every day. They can be frustrating at times, but I am making progress, albeit slowly. I gave Brett a pronunciation workbook and phrasebook that I hope he’ll let me borrow once in a while.

We celebrated Brett’s 73rd birthday this month although I sadly had to work that day. Our daughter-in-law took us out to dinner in the evening though and gave Brett a bartending set as well as a box of 20 different cocktail mixers! Meiling sent him a box of fancy cookies, WenYu sent a generous Starbucks gift card, and I gave him his two language books (so exciting).

Brett’s cookies came from the Levain Bakery in NYC!

Our son arrives tomorrow for a week’s visit, which means we have the first week of the month off from watching the grandkids as our son will do all the drop-offs, pickups, etc. We will offer to watch the kids one evening though so M & M can go out before he heads back to Japan.

We put an incredible $55.84 into the change/$1 bill jar in April, in spite of of spending slightly more than usual on food.

Our goals for May are pretty much the same as last month:

Our goal is to visit Chattanooga in May, including the Chickamauga and Chattanooga battlefields.
  • Keep grocery spending under $450. 
  • Aim for zero food waste. 
  • Have one full no-spend week. 
  • Have four no-drive days. 
  • Try one new recipe. 
  • Walk 40 miles.
  • Visit one natural or historical site in the area. 
  • Read four books.
  • Study ***** every day for 10 minutes. 

Upcoming events in May include Mother’s Day and my 71st birthday. Brett has promised me my annual Day of Doing Nothing, and I’m hoping I won’t have to work on either of those occasions.

Wants & Needs

I have finally reached a place where I always stop and ask myself if something is a want or need. More importantly, if it’s a want, I don’t go on and try to rationalize purchasing it or talking myself into it. There are no more impulse purchases – I can let things go or go without these days. Brett thankfully got to this place way before I did.

It has taken me 70 years to get here. But Brett and I have a big goals for our remaining years and realize this is our last chance to make them happen, so staying on track with the number of possessions we own as well as our budget (and saving) is more important than ever to both of us. Something has to pretty much be outright essential before we’ll spend on it these days.

I really want a pedicure, but it can wait.

Of course this doesn’t mean I don’t want or need things. I would love some new summer clothes beyond the pants I bought on eBay. Almost everything I brought from Hawaii is worn and I’m fairly well tired of it all as well. I also want to get regular manicures & pedicures (especially the pedicures), but working at Trader Joe’s has ruined any chance I have for nice nails for the time being, and I do what I can for my feet on my own for now. I will probably allow myself a pedicure once sandal season begins, but that is still a ways off. I very much want a rug in our living room, but the bigger apartment we move to might be carpeted so I keep talking myself out of a rug even though I’ve seen a few that would work for us. I also don’t want to pay to store a rug when we leave Tennessee.

My favorite pajamas are these cotton ones from Garnet Hill. They are super comfortable, and last for years. The long-sleeved version on the right will go on my Christmas list this year.

I do need new pajamas. My summer jammies are over three years old now and the fabric is thin and fraying as they were worn daily in Hawaii and after and have been washed and dried frequently. They’re still in good enough condition (I hope) to see me until the end of this summer but won’t get me through next year. I need new cold weather pajamas as well. I’ve been wearing old t-shirts and inexpensive leggings ever since we began traveling in 2018, but they’re on their last legs as well, and have been surprisingly almost too warm for our apartment this winter. I am going to put cool/cold weather pajamas on my Christmas list this year and see what happens, and will wait and purchase new summer pajamas next year when I know the ones I have now are past saving. That’s it for actual needs though.

Both Brett and I constantly see things we would like to buy, but these days we’re able to talk ourselves out of them, or find ways to work around owning them. Even though we enjoy our simple life and owning less, sometimes that still can take some real effort on both our parts. In the meantime we use what we have, fix or mend things if we can, and continue to go without. We are blessed with generous children who indulge us from time to time as well, but it’s nothing we expect or depend on.

Time is flying by and before we know it we will be ready to start our next adventure. Recognizing needs, holding off on wants, and enjoying the simplicity of our lives now is going to a long way to making sure we’re in the best possible position when it’s time for that to happen.

Another Satisfied eBay Shopper

One of my goals for the year is to not buy any new clothes for myself, and I have limited myself to only purchasing items from thrift shops or eBay (or possibly another clothing reseller).

I have been wanting some additional summer items, pants particularly, as many if not most of my worn-out summer items were left behind when we departed Kaua’i last year, but was finding selections at our local thrift stores quite limited. So, I decided to check out eBay.

My all-time favorite warm-weather pants for as long as I can remember have been J. Jill’s Easy Linen cropped pants. They were an annual staple in the J.Jill catalog (and stores) for years, always available in a variety of colors and prints. The pants’ loose style and elastic waste kept them cool, comfortable, and stylish, and I wore them daily in Hawaii. They were easy to care for, and the linen was high quality and lasted for years. They were also great for travel as there was no worry about wrinkles – linen is expected to wrinkle! At one point a few years ago I had a collection of six or seven pairs of the cropped pants in different colors, all bought on sale over the years.

Wearing my white J. Jill Easy Linen pants (and a J. Jill linen tunic) on our visit to the zoo in sweltering Sydney.

Sadly, the pants disappeared from J.Jill sometime in the past couple of years, most likely due to rising costs and the inability to find quality suppliers. The pairs I owned started wearing out one by one and this year I found myself with just one remaining pair, in white. I wanted to find replacements or a substitute to get through Tennessee’s upcoming sweltering summers (and beyond).

I have only shopped on eBay once, for a denim jacket, and felt I might get lucky again and find at least one pair of my beloved Easy Linen pants there. Not only did I find one pair in my size, I found five! As might be expected, color selection was a bit limited, but I went ahead and purchased all five pairs and all arrived in great condition and fit well. Each pair cost less than half of what the sale price had been at J. Jill (which always has fabulous sales). I am ready for warmer weather this year and into the future!

The black looking pair in the upper left is really a very dark navy blue. I never wear orange, but thought for some cool summer pants, why not? I also typically never wear patterned pants, but love this ikat-like print in black and white.

I’m not looking to spend on anything else right now nor have I bought anything more since purchasing the pants, but I occasionally find myself looking for different items first on eBay these days and the savings I could enjoy if I indulged myself. Count me in as a satisfied shopper!

Goodbye February, Hello March

We had a good month in February, all things considered:

  • Keep grocery spending under $450. We spent $468.21 for food in February. That would have been over budget but our daughter-in-law reimbursed us mid-month for all the snacks and meals we provide the kids (and for gasoline), so we used some of it for . . . more snacks! What was left over was used to pay for haircuts for both Brett and me, Kaipo’s grooming, the purchase a small (reconditioned) printer, and Brett and C’s outing to see the IMAX 3-D version of Antman.
  • Aim for zero food waste. I had to throw out two things in February: a bunch of broccoli that went from green to yellow (and bitter) overnight, and the small remainder of a head of lettuce that I forgot about. Everything else was used and eaten. I’ve vowed to do better next month.
  • Have one full no-spend week. We were going to have a completely no-spend week 2/19 to 2/26, but both my large mixing bowl and large baking pan broke and had to be replaced. And, Amazon had the Stasher mega stand-up bag for over $10 less than it typically costs. We’ve been wanting one to store the dog’s food, so we bought one of those as well. Total spent $61. We otherwise didn’t spend on anything else.
  • Have four no-drive days. Even having the kids with us for a week and driving them all over, we had six no-drive days in February, and only had to fill our gas tank twice.
  • Try one new recipe. I made a beef pot pie for the first time ever, using puffed pastry for the crust (and boy, was puffed pastry hard to find around here!). I made a wonderful, easy beef stew in the slow cooker (my first time for that too), then put it in a baking dish and topped with the crust. It was fabulous! I also made crusty Dutch oven bread for the first time this past month and cannot imagine making bread any other way. It’s been a winner with everyone.
  • Track my meals and calories every day on MyFitnessPal. I did not follow through with this and have decided I’m not going to continue. January was informative, but basically the good habits and portion sizing I learned before appear to be ingrained.
  • Walk 20 miles. The weather is getting better although was still all over the place this past month which made consistent walking difficult, and my recovery also knocked a few days off, but I ended up walking 26+ miles this past month.
  • Visit one natural or historical site in the area. We visited Carnton Plantation on February 3 with our grandson. It was bitterly cold that day (below freezing), too cold to wander and see things outside, but the indoor tour was interesting and informative. Eleven-year-old C was especially fascinated by the bloodstains left on the floors in the upstairs rooms (every room in the house had been utilized as a surgery for wounded Confederate soldiers). He was grossed out though by the lack of any indoor bathrooms. Even though didn’t get to do a weekend hike with the grandkids, Brett and I hiked in Smith Park, on a different trail than the last time, and had a great time and got some good exercise.
On the Black Trail in Smith Park
  • Read two books. I hoped to read at least two book this month but ended up reading four, including rereads of Band of Brothers, Grant, and Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. I began rereading Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War the last week of the month as well as Eat, Pray, Love, which I enjoyed the first time around. I’ve put several other books on hold at the library for March.
  • Study ***** every day for at least 10 minutes. I kept up with this every day and am learning and improving. I usually spend between 15-30 minutes a day with the lessons.

We put $41.06 into the change/$1 bill jar last month and the jar is now almost completely full! I was thinking it would take a year to fill the jar, but in another month or so I’m going to have to take it to take it all to the bank and start filling it again. We also received our rebate check from Costco this past month in the amount of $86.09. That amount will go into savings and we’ll use the check next time we shop.

I’m beyond happy that my eye surgeries were successful and I can clearly see distances, read signs, etc. again without glasses – YEAH! Vision in both eyes is again 20/20 except for close work, like reading or working at my laptop, and I almost cried when the doctor said my vision will stay that way for the rest of my life! Going forward, I will only need to buy inexpensive readers versus an expensive pair of prescription glasses every year.

My goals for March are pretty much the same as they were last month:

  • Keep grocery spending under $450. If all goes well, I will have a 20% employee discount from Trader Joe’s to help out.
  • Aim for zero food waste.
  • Have one full no-spend week. 
  • Have four no-drive days. 
  • Try one new recipe. With my daughter-in-law’s help I hope to make katsudon for the first time in March. It’s my favorite Japanese dish, a fried panko-breaded pork cutlet topped with eggs and onion, served over steamed rice.
  • Walk 40 miles. I’m kicking my walking distance back up to 40. I’m not sure whether to count the time I will be on my feet at Trader Joe’s, but during my interview I was told the average distance walked during a work day there is five miles!
  • Visit one natural or historical site in the area. Our big goal this month is to go to Mammoth Caves National Park, located about an hour and a half’s drive away from us. M has a business trip to Mississippi in early March, and then our son will be here from Japan for 10 days over the kids’ spring break, and we’re going to try and fit in this trip.
  • Read four books. I am goaling myself once again with reading four books in March, with at least two of those books I’ve read before.
  • Study ***** every day for 10 minutes. I am enjoying the challenge!

Spring is starting to arrive around here, with trees blossoming or starting to bud out. It honestly can’t come soon enough for me – we had a taste of warmer weather last week and it was so lovely. I’ll be starting at Trader Joe’s next week, and we’re looking forward to our son’s visit and celebrating our grandson’s 12th birthday in March – it should be a fun and busy month!

Goal Achievement: Urgency, Importance, & Value

(Updated from a previous post)

Prioritizing means making choices that will most effectively get you to your destination with less effort and less stress. (Photo credit: Kristin Snippe/Unsplash)

In the past, I had no problems making our daily life flow smoothly, but with big undertakings I would get caught up in the myriad of little things that popped up and allow myself to almost completely lose sight of what I was trying to or needed to achieve. I obsessed about everything and was often a complete wreck, asking myself why I ever thought I could accomplish anything.

The adoption process for each of our girls, paying off our debt, moving to Hawaii, and setting up our first big travel adventure, and leaving Hawaii were all master classe in how to prioritize when taking on a big task or having a big goal. I learned over and over again about the necessity of establishing priorities in order to keep the process moving along smoothly in order to complete everything that needed to be done. The biggest thing I eventually figured out was everything didn’t necessarily need to happen in a precise order but tasks needed to be assessed for urgency, given a value, and then prioritized and set up in a logical order. Doing this ensured lower priority tasks didn’t get in the way of the bigger stuff.

I have always been goal focused, and the SMART. method of goal setting (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) has helped me sharpen that process. Having a solid, specific goal is just the start though. It gives a big picture overview but then there’s the next step: focusing on what tasks need to be done in what order to get the job accomplished. I’ve learned to recognize that certain things I would like to do first are not always the most important things to be looking at or focusing on and can and should be put aside until later in the process. For example, when setting up travel plans, our highest priority task has always.been building our savings and figuring out different ways to do that. Without those savings, we won’t reach our goal. Decisions about lodging, transportation, and other aspects of our travel plans come later as we get closer to a departure date.

I’ve learned along the way there are steps for setting priorities when working on a big task. They can be moved around a bit as needed, but these generally have proven to make any job go more easily:

  • Set a specific goal (using the SMART method). This is the most critical part of setting priorities. Without a specific goal I have no real idea of what I’m working toward and I can’t realistically decide what needs to be taken care of and in what order.
  • Assess urgency, importance, and value of the tasks that need to be done. Once I know the tasks that need to be completed, the first thing I do is make a timeline. Sometimes this is easy, but other times it’s not because of unknowns. However, without a timeline there’s no way of seeing the big picture, what can and needs to be done first, and what can wait. A timeline also helps to evaluate what aspects of planning are more critical or important than others. Finally, a timeline can tell the value of making one task a priority over another. Taking care of one or some tasks before taking on another can provide the information to help make informed decisions, and make the next task or several other tasks easier. For example, looking at Airbnb listings 18 months ahead of time might seem frivolous since we’re not going to be booking anything that far out, but it gives us an idea of prices, and how much we will need to save for lodging expenses, so there is value in doing that task earlier than might be expected.
  • Do something every day. While the big things are easy to figure out because they’re usually the most urgent or have the biggest impact, even the smallest effort on days when nothing seems to be happening will get you closer to achieving your goal. Keep a chart of your savings. If you’re traveling to a foreign country, study the language a little bit every day. Post pictures of your destination where you can see it every day to stay focused.
  • Know what and when to let go. My advisor once said to me when I was struggling to finish my thesis, “Laura, finished is better than perfect.” Struggling to get every detail tied down and perfect can and will drive you crazy. The same applies when prioritizing and working toward a goal. Do your best but don’t expect perfection all the time.
  • Measure progress. Keeping lists, charts, etc. are a great way to reinforce that you’ve got your priorities in the right order, and that you are on track with getting necessary tasks completed. Keeping track of progress is also extremely motivating and can let you know when you might need to make changes, or whether it’s time to start on another task. Setting smaller monthly and weekly goals as you get closer to achieving your goal helps make sure everything gets done.
  • Expect things to change. Change is always going to happen, probably more than expected. Refusing to make or accept changes can and will bog everything down faster than expected as well.

Setting a goal is just the first step in making sure something you want or need gets accomplished. Prioritizing what needs to be done is an equally important part of the equation. Setting priorities is a learned skill, one that can take time but that will provide value later, and help minimize the work that needs be done. Learning to address and recognize the urgency, importance, and value of necessary tasks has helped make the process of accomplishing our goals easier, has helped make time move along more quickly as well, and greatly reduced anxiety. There is something that can be done each day, even if it doesn’t seem like much, and before you know it, you’re at the finish line.

Goodbye January, Hello February

We have our first month done for the year, and it went pretty well, all things considered:

  • Keep grocery spending under $450. We spent a total of $433.86 on food this month, and ate very well if I do say so myself. I was hoping to make just one Costco visit this month, but ended up having to go twice. However, on both trips I purchased less than six items, a new record for us.
  • Aim for zero food waste. After throwing out a few items at the beginning of the month (salsa and some spoiled vegetables) we had no other food waste. Everything got used up and eaten!
  • Have one full no-spend week. We had a completely zero-spend week January 22 through January 29.
  • Have four no-drive days. We had 11 no-drive days this month and needed just one fill-up for gas for the entire month.
  • Try one new recipe. I made slow cooker Coq au Vin as planned (without the Parmesan potatoes), and although it was a quite a bit of effort up front it turned out well and we enjoyed it for two dinners as well as lunch one day. I also made two other new recipes: an easy blueberry galette and one-pan spaghetti and meatballs. Both turned out well – recipes will be coming!
  • Track my meals and calories every day on MyFitnessPal. I did a pretty good job of getting this done almost every day although I did miss a few days. I was so eating way too much at the end of last year.
  • Walk 40 miles. I finished the month with 24 miles under my belt. The weather just did not cooperate much of the time, giving us rain, thunderstorms, snow, below- or near-freezing temperatures, and more, but I walked whenever I could.
  • Visit one natural or historical site in the area. We were all set to visit the Carnton Plantation on 1/30, and then found out our grandson will be with us all day this Friday (K still has school that day) so we postponed are trip and will take him with us on that day.
  • Read three books. I read nine books! Two of those were re-reads: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillibrand. I enjoyed both immensely, just as much as I did when I read them for the first time.

We were concerned that with everyone here for the holidays and all the energy we were using that our utility bills would soar, but they ended up just under $40 more than we usually pay which was quite a relief. We spent only $433.86 on food in January and put $16.14 into the change/$1 jar. Another important goal we completed was our taxes (federal only; nothing owed to Hawaii, and Tennessee does not have a state income tax). We wanted to get them done early because we have to pay estimated tax beginning this year and needed to figure out how much that will be. Finally, I didn’t get any crocheting done – it has to wait until after my eye surgery is done and I have new glasses.

And, I was called in for an interview with Trader Joe’s on the 28th, and called back for a second interview on the 30th and am now waiting to hear back from that. They know I will be unavailable in February, but are okay with my working just two days a week, so we shall see!

My goals for February are pretty much the same as they were last month, with a couple of changes:

  • Keep grocery spending under $450. 
  • Aim for zero food waste.
  • Have one full no-spend week. 
  • Have four no-drive days. 
  • Try one new recipe. I want to make a beef pot pie this month (never have before), but that’s all I know of for now.
  • Track my meals and calories every day on MyFitnessPal. 
  • Walk 20 miles. Because of my upcoming eye surgery, I’m only going to goal myself with 20 miles this month (ten two-mile walks).
  • Visit one natural or historical site in the area. We will have the grandkids over for one weekend while our DIL is on a business trip, and are planning to take them hiking at Smith park and do a “nature scavenger hunt” with them. We’ll do another trail with the kids than the one Brett and I did there before (it would be too long and too rugged at times for them). The weather will be, of course, the wildcard in our plans
  • Read two books. I am only goading myself one book this month because of the eye surgery. Right now I’m rereading Ron Chernow’s wonderful biography of Ulysses S. Grant.
  • Study ***** every day for 10 minutes. I decided last month that I wanted to continue to study a foreign language this year and started online lessons. I’m enjoying it so far and it’s good mental exercise. I’m keeping the language a mystery for a while!

My eye surgeries will be on the 10th and the 14th, and I am so ready for them as January was a struggle, vision wise. I will post when I can, and be back at the first of March to report how February went!

January Goals

After all the expense of the holidays, January keeps it going for us with two of our three girls having birthdays before the middle of the month (with the third girl’s birthday in early February). Otherwise, it’s usually a quiet month, and Brett and I have come up with ten goals to work toward in January:

  1. Keep grocery spending under $450. With everyone here for the holidays, December’s grocery costs were astronomical compared to what we usually spend. We’ve got several leftovers though to start off the year. While Costco shopping was necessary in Hawaii, here it’s really a massive money drain, and we plan to stop in once a month only if necessary, and otherwise limit our shopping to Trader Joe’s and Aldi’s, and occasionally Publix or Whole Foods.
  2. Aim for zero food waste.
  3. Have one full no-spend week. This will take some planning (like making sure the gas tank is full for example), but it’s doable.
  4. Have four no-drive days. We plan to hang out at home on Sundays this month.
  5. Try one new recipe. I want to make slow cooker Coq au Vin this month. I love it, but have never made it myself before.
  6. Track my meals and calories every day on MyFitnessPal. I got out of the habit of doing this while we were in Mexico but got started again at the end of last year and I am going to keep it up – it makes a difference. I’ve been thinking of starting up my activity cards as well but haven’t committed to doing those again yet.
  7. Walk 40 miles. Weather permitting, we should accomplish this just by walking through the apartment complex five days a week – one loop is 2.1 miles. However, bad weather kept us inside much of December, so we’ll just have to see how it goes this month.
  8. Visit one natural or historical site in the area. Our plan is to visit the nearby Carnton plantation home this month and/or maybe Radnor Lake State Park.
  9. Read three books. I was going to reread Gone With the Wind, but there’s a wait list for it at the library. I’m currently going through books I’ve already read in my Kindle library and choosing some of those to reread (Being Mortal by Atul Gawande was first) and otherwise waiting for books to come off hold from my end-of-the-year list at the library.

I’m just getting started with my crocheted sweater project so don’t know how to goal myself – there are some things going on with my glasses so it may have to be put off until next month. Many of the above goals seem pretty basic, but writing them down and knowing what we’re working toward made and big difference in the past. Brett and I think it will also help move the year along – 2023 will be a full year in Tennessee and we want to make the most of it!

My Not-So-Big List of Goals for 2023

I know these lists of goals usually show up at the end of the year, but I’ve been working on this for the past couple of months and thought, Why not post it now? What are you waiting for? since things are going to become very busy around here in the not too distant future.

I don’t have many goals for next year, but enough I think to keep me (and Brett) motivated and busy:

  • Save enough to pay cash for our Big Family Event in early January 2024. Beyond our usual saving hacks, we’re going to continue putting away $5 bills as well as $1s, and we plan to collect natural items in the area during the fall (pine cones, Osage oranges/hedge apples, acorns, etc.) to sell on Etsy – I was surprised to find there is a demand for this stuff. I am going to apply for a part-time job at Trader Joe’s, but that’s still an unknown for now so we’re mostly going to save the old-fashioned way. If I do end up working, that income will go into other savings for the time being.
  • Buy only handmade items, either through Etsy or local venues. We don’t plan on buying anything more this coming year, either for us or the apartment, but if we do we’ll choose handmade or locally produced.
  • Source all clothing purchases from thrift stores, eBay, or Etsy (except for socks, underwear, and shoes). Neither of us need anything thing right now, but if we feel like we do, thrift stores and Etsy will be our sources.
  • Try one new recipe each month. I don’t cook much these days, and usually stick to favorite recipes, so trying one new dish a month should be enough.
I will be making this sweater pattern that I purchased on Etsy. Yarn is a 50% wool/50% acrylic blend, and I’m thinking lavender gray for the color.
  • Crochet a sweater. I haven’t crocheted in years, but I found a pattern I like on Etsy, will purchase the yarn next month, and WenYu (a master crocheter) will help me get started when she’s here in December. I can do this! I can knit, but those skills are even rustier than crocheting.
  • Stay in shape through continued walking, healthy eating, and tracking my calories on MyFitnessPal. I let MyFitnessPal go when we were in Mexico, but it was very helpful before and I want (and need) to get back to it.
First up on next year’s reading list is this classic.
  • Reread 52 books. My theme for 2023 will be to read books I’ve read before, including some from high school, college, and beyond – I want to see how I feel about them now. The first book up in the new year will be Gone With the Wind, which I read when I was 11 years old (I expect I may find it rather sappy now). I’m going to be very picky because I’m pretty sure the books I disliked back in the day I will dislike just as much now, but I’m looking forward to giving some of them another chance.
  • Visit 12 historical or natural sites in our area. At the top of our list is a visit to Mammoth Caves National Park, but there are Civil War battlefields and other historical buildings in the area to visit, the Shaker village, and loads of natural areas worth seeing while we’re in the area. We are hoping to do some camping with M and K this spring and summer, if possible but haven’t figured out yet how we’ll pull that off.

Some of these may change or more may be added as the year goes along, depending on how things play out. I also want to post a monthly list of goals here and see if that helps us stay motivated as well to accomplish more through the year.

Should We Do That?

Although we’ve recently been focusing on the idea of a big road trip, Brett and I talk almost daily about what we want to do and where we want to go when our time in Nashville is over. Mazatlan? Big road trip? New England? Settle down somewhere else in the U.S.? Something else? All of these appeal to us in one way or another, but they all come with pros and cons, and we’re grateful we have the time and opportunity now to examine all of them more deeply. It’s fun to have possibilities or to sketch out rough plans, and it gives us plenty to talk and think about together, but we’re not getting any closer to making a decision, let alone the right one. All we know for certain now is what we don’t want.

We decided this past weekend that it was time we set up a spread sheet. We need to define what we want and will need going forward, and then evaluate the different ideas and places we’ve come up with using those criteria. We’ve made a list of nine items once again, but unlike the past when many of our criteria were in support of our daughters and how a relocation would affect them, the focus this time was solely on our needs as aging retirees. We need to have a logical system for evaluating choices versus getting wrapped up in ideas that have us potentially changing our mind every couple of months or even weeks. Spontaneity, creativity, adventure, and trying something new have always played a strong role in our decision making, but this time is different.

Below is our list of nine criteria to evaluate the potential of particular locations or travel ideas. None of these have been ranked (yet) as being any more important than any other except for cost of living/affordability and healthcare. We discovered when we did this the last time that as we went through the process of evaluation our wants and needs mostly sorted themselves out and ranked themselves without our intervention. Back in 2014, much to our surprise, Kaua’i met eight of our nine criteria, but I don’t think that lightening is going to strike again. Our nine criteria this time are:

  • Cost of living/affordability
  • Healthcare/dental care
  • Housing
  • Proximity to family
  • Adventure/activities
  • Climate
  • Transportation
  • Taxes
  • Senior services

We have less than two years until it will be time to move on, and we’d like to know sooner rather than later where we’re going and what we need to be doing to get there in the most cost effective and efficient way. We’re fortunate to have a variety of choices and time on our side for now, but we know we have to get it right. There will be no more do-overs for us this next time.