Being of sound mind and body

If you have not already made your last will and testament, do so immediately.  Inheritance laws may vary but the last thing you want is conflict after you’ve departed this mortal coil.  Making a will ensures that your wishes are heard, if not always followed to the letter.

Take a moment to research inheritance laws in your area to ensure that anything you ask for isn’t illegal.  Your will may be contested or overturned at the cost of thousands of dollars, eating away at the inheritance you wished to bequeath.  It is better to strike a compromise than to risk people bankrupting themselves attempting to ensure that your final wishes are met.

If possible, use an attorney that specializes in wills.  They will know the ins and outs of the process, what is legal and acceptable, and will offer invaluable advice.  Their experience will help minimize costs.  It will also help minimize costs if you go in with a clear yet flexible idea of what you have to give and what you wish to do with it.  Use addenda to allocate assets so that you’re not continually paying an attorney to revise the document.

If you can not afford an attorney, write out a holographic will, have it witnessed and dated.

In any case, find a safe place to keep your original documents (safe deposit box, fire-proof safe, etc.) and keep photocopies on hand with details where the originals can be found.  You may also wish to give a photocopy to a trusted friend or family member (although it probably shouldn’t be someone who will be inheriting anything substantial, or who will be upset that they aren’t inheriting anything substantial).

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Is there life after death?

Perhaps but your body isn’t going with you – so you should probably start making plans.  It’s a rather macabre subject but it’s a necessary conversation to have with your significant other.  You need to know what they want, they need to know what you want.

Start by making some decisions of your own.  Do you want to be buried?  cremated?  church funeral?  secular gathering?  Do you want a wake? Closed casket?  Open casket?  Burial shroud?  If you’re cremated, who will keep your urn?  Do you want a funeral procession of crying mourners?  Would you prefer an upbeat gathering?  This is the last party you will ever plan – make it fabulous but make sure you can afford it.

Do you have an advance directive, living will, or do not resuscitate order?  Do you want last rites from a religious authority?  Does your partner have power of attorney to handle your wishes in your final days.

Yes, this is a horrible topic but consider what might happen if you don’t make these decisions yourself.  Now share them with your partner.  It’s also a good idea to share the broad strokes of your plan with a few close friends and relatives, lest they think your significant other has lost his mind with grief when he announces you wanted to be made into a diamond and have Sinatra song played at your memorial.  Put it in writing.  Record it if you can.  Put it in a safe place and then rest assured that your wishes are safeguarded.

On his being put out to pasture

While we frequently look forward to our retirement as the time we’ll be able to travel and do the things that have always held our interest, men can hold an entirely different view.  Rather than looking at it as a reward for work well done, they sometimes see it as a punishment for having grown old, having grown weak.  Retirement can make a man feel emasculated.

Men, from the time they are boys, are wrapped up in what they can accomplish.  They are famously linear in their thinking.  When you talk about your problems, they attempt to solve them.  Men tend to function in verbs, usually “to make” or “to do”.  So when they are told that they can no longer make or do, they feel unwanted, unnecessary.  It is reasonable to expect that they may feel a bit depressed or even angry when they finally retire, even if they had been looking forward to it.  Be gentle with him but do not coddle.

If you can, plan ahead of time.  Without attempting to control his life, introduce things that he may be interested in.  Hobbies are good for keeping busy but men need a purpose – encourage him to mentor, teach, or volunteer with his free time.  Re-direct his energy into useful pursuits.  He has years of experience that can benefit others.  Re-assure him of his usefulness but again, don’t coddle him.

You may find that you’re arguing more. You may feel that he’s constantly underfoot.  You may feel as though your domain has been invaded.  You may feel as though he’s being overly critical.  Before bickering, take a deep breath and ask yourself why this is happening and what can be done to improve the situation.  Don’t rule out counseling because you think you know each other so well – often a third party can offer a neutral viewpoint or a workable compromise.

The golden years

Ah, you’ve reached retirement age.  Hopefully you’ve planned your retirement well, managing your money and anticipating the day you won’t have to get up and go to work each day.  So what will you do with your time?

Don’t be surprised if you’re a little at loose ends to begin with.  Perhaps even a bit of depression as you feel “no longer necessary”.  Rest assured, you are very necessary.  Your value hasn’t decreased.  You will, however, need to find new ways to fill your time.

Give yourself structure.  Find a new time to get up and go to sleep and base your daily activities on your energy level.  You may want to keep a diary for a few days to figure out when you have more energy and when you need a rest.

Figure out what interests you and dive in.  All those things you ever wanted to do – now is the time.  Don’t worry if you find out that you don’t love gardening or that charcoal drawings aren’t your strong suit.  Experiment and give yourself permission to fail and move on.

Keep up your social life.  It seems harder to make friends as we get older but that’s simply because we aren’t putting ourselves in the position to make new friends.  Put yourself where the people are.  Take classes.  Join social groups.  Frequent the local senior center and sign up for some activities.

Take care of your health.  If you haven’t been proactive about your health, start now.  Quit smoking.  Eat healthy.  Exercise daily.  Visit the doctor regularly and follow his advice!

Direct from my desk – week 43

I’ve stated time and again that your significant other should NOT be your best friend.  Among other things, it gives you no place to turn in times of distress.  What you need is one really good confidante.

Your confidante may or may not be your best friend.  If you don’t have a best friend, look carefully at the people you’ve surrounded yourself by.   Your confidante needn’t be the person that you spend the most time with or have the most in common with.  What your confidante should be is:

  • Loyal to your relationship
  • Discreet with your secrets
  • Stable, not flighty or volatile
  • Gives good advice on a variety of subjects
  • Has no agenda in your relationship or life

Your confidante may not reciprocate in this relationship – don’t feel threatened.  A lot of people who are good at keeping secrets are also great at keeping their own.  You may need to develop this relationship slowly, share a small secret or problem and see how they react.  You may also want to ask if they’re interested in being your confessor as this is a position of trust and you don’t want it to turn out badly.

When your nest is empty

As this isn’t a blog on child-rearing, it’s taking the liberty of skipping directly to the empty-nest syndrome.  Obviously it will be a moment of heart-wrenching agony when your last little human leaves the house to embark on their next great adventure.  Barring the boomerang children, you will be alone with your significant other for a while.  You’d better have a plan.

It may seem odd at first.  The house will be quiet.  You may struggle to find topics to discuss on a daily basis.  You can lapse into a comfortable silence without realizing it.  None of these are the harbinger of doom – they are merely a call to arms.

Hopefully you have stayed connected with your partner through the years.  Maintain or create new small rituals.  Find new common interests.  Or even one for yourself.  Now is not the time to bicker, it’s the time to rediscover what drew you to this incredible person to begin with.

Children and consensus

Like with most things, it’s better to get consensus before the start of a project than after.  This is especially true in the case of children.  Discuss every possible contingency to make sure that you’re on the same page.

Topics for discussion?  So glad you asked:

  • Responsibilities:  What is the child responsible for at each stage of life?  How do you instill a sense of responsibility?
  • Discipline:  Is discipline a shared responsibility?  What methods do you find acceptable/unacceptable?  Are you willing to use a third-party to assist with discipline?
  • Education:  How will you handle the price of education?  extra-curricular activities?  Is the child allowed to get a part-time job while at school?
  • Fitness:  How do you handle a child with too much/not enough emphasis on fitness or sports?  How involved will you be?
  • Nutrition:  How far do you allow picky eating to go before intervening?  How do you handle a child who decides to be a vegetarian?  Do you discourage a child from dieting?
  • Religion:  Are you raising a religious child?  Which religion will you choose?  How often will you attend services?

Obviously there is more to discuss than just these questions however having an understanding about the nuts and bolts of how you will raise your child is important before embarking on this endeavor.

Your children are not your relationship

Some people have made the mistake of choosing their children over their relationship.  Worse, they don’t even know that they’re doing it.  Parenting can be exhausting.  It can really test your endurance and while you may want it all, it can be difficult to have it all.  Choices need to be made and priorities assigned.

Do not make the mistake of focusing more on your children than on your relationship.  Yes, children are precious little minds that you are responsible for molding into productive citizens.  However, in eighteen years, they’re going to be moving out of your house and you’ll be left with a complete stranger for a spouse and nothing to say because the main topic of conversation is gone.

Your children are important but so is your significant other.  Continue to make time to check in with them on a daily basis.  Have date night – yes it’s cheesy but it’s also important.  Stay connected to your partner through common interests (no, the children do not qualify as a common interest).  Remain a couple, even within a family.

Baby love, my baby love

The decision to have children, in- or out-of-wedlock, requires serious consideration.  It’s not enough to merely want children, you have to be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to raise healthy children.

  • Are you in a stable, committed relationship?  Will that relationship survive the stress of raising children?
  • Are your finances in order?  Is your debt on a payment schedule?  Have you looked at how much it costs to raise a child?
  • Are you on the same page when it comes to things like parenting schedules, schooling, discipline?
  • Are you ready to change everything from your social life to your work life to accommodate a demanding young life?
  • Are you willing to be the “bad guy” when you’re more concerned about their long-term future than their short-term future?
  • Are you having a child because you want both the joys and the sacrifices that go along with raising children?

Without a doubt, raising children is challenging.  There are no half-measures and you may never feel that you’re doing a good job.  Make sure you’re ready for it.

When he wants to have a baby

Possibly the four scariest words coming from a man are, “Let’s have a baby.”  While this could be taken as a good sign, if you’re not married (or on a similar commitment level), there could be a variety of reasons why a man suggest this and you should fear it or not.

First, find out why he wants to have a baby:

  • Your relationship is in trouble and he thinks it will make things better.
  • He doesn’t want to get married but wants to “show” that the relationship is progressing.
  • Your genes and his genes would make cute babies.
  • He wants a baby and the uterus is irrelevant.
  • He honestly wants to have and raise children together.  (Obviously this is the only good reason.)

After you know why, then you can work out how to handle the situation. Gentle confrontation and tactful honesty will probably work best.

If the relationship is unstable or he’s unwilling to make a commitment to you (there are a number of men who will try to tell you that a baby demonstrates more commitment than marriage), suggest counseling before you opt for getting pregnant.

Cute babies?  Tell him he’ll need a better reason; it’s probably a passing fancy.

If he’s getting broody, it may or may not pass.  If, when discussing having children, he makes you feel irrelevant, absolutely refuse.  He may go find a more accommodating woman but it’s better than attempting to co-parent with a person who believes you do not matter.

There are good guys out there, use your judgment.