Behind Closed Doors

Guest post by Laverne H. Bardy whose humorous, often irreverent, slant on life in general, and aging in particular, draws a large readership. She has been syndicated with Senior Wire News Service since 2004.  Her book, How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old? was released in January, 2012, and is a compilation of the best of her columns.   

I was sitting with a group of old girlfriends; old being the operative word. We meet at each other’s home, with our husbands, four times a year. Weather permitting, the men play golf while the women stay behind, wolfing down chips, nuts, cheese and crackers, and kvetching about how impossible it is to lose weight. Over the years our conversations have moved from breast feeding and potty training to impossible teenagers to the aches and pains of aging.

On this particular afternoon we were raving about our talented, beautiful grandchildren and complaining about our husbands, and their sex drives that showed no sign of dwindling. We wondered how it was that aging had zapped them of energy for yard work, and housework, but they were always up for sex…(pun intended).

Our husbands would probably blush if they knew what we talk about when they’re not around. They probably think we discuss shoe styles, recipes and fifty ways to sexually satisfy them. Those topics, seen slashed across covers of women’s magazines, may be addressed in the Thirty Something circle, but they rarely cross the lips of my Down And Dirty Well-Over-Sixty girlfriends –- especially if a bottle of Merlot is involved.

For years there has been a hushed battle between couples married thirty or more years. Most men in these relationships continue to want sex on a regular basis – like once a day. Women also enjoy sex on a regular basis; but more like once a month. This issue may have remained under cover, so to speak, were it not for the creation of Viagra, and Senator Bob Dole’s candid television talks about it back in 1999. These two events enlightened the world to the fact that older couples not only “do it” but are intent on doing it clear into senility. This new drug has caused men to pound their chests and howl like Tarzan, while their Janes can often be found hiding in fetal positions, on the floor of closed closets.

The accepted theory is that man’s desire for sex is nature’s way of assuring propagation. Towards this goal God, in His infinite wisdom, created Little Helpers, in the form of Playboy Magazine, Fredericks of Hollywood, Victoria’s Secret, and the Wonder Bra, and since when do men need a special bra to ensure that they’ll notice women’s breasts? Recent years have brought a litany of additional male enhancement drugs, with Viagra still leading the pack.

I thought I’d spice things up by asking my girlfriends direct questions about their sex lives. We’re pretty candid with each other so I didn’t think they would object. Each has been married over forty years, with the exception of me. I had been married for twenty three years, divorced for twenty three, and was now remarried, for five years. We were all anxious to talk; mostly about our timeworn libidos.

“He wants sex every damn morning,” complained Vicki. “I can’t sneak out of bed fast enough. His eyes barely open and he lunges for me.”

“Well,” Michelle chimed in, “I’m still asleep and looking like a raccoon with yesterday’s smeared eye makeup, and morning breath that could win a war but does any of that matter to Don?  Nooooo. ‘There’s only one thing I’m interested in,’ he said, ‘and it doesn’t involve your breath or your face,’ he winked.”

“‘Doesn’t it bother you that I’m not mentally here to enjoy it with you?” I asked him. ‘Not at all,’ he answered. So we compromised. I told him he could do whatever he wanted with me so long as he didn’t wake me up me in the process.”

“I’m afraid to sleep with my back to Bob,” said Vicki. “I did that once and was rudely awakened when he bulldozed me onto the floor in the throes of passion.”

Denise smiled. “The best thing that ever happen to me was Al’s blood pressure pills. They render him helpless.”

“I’ve always enjoyed sex,” I admitted, “but somewhere along the way my sex drive plummeted. I knew it wasn’t fair to Marc. My gynecologist suggested adding a little testosterone to my estrogen prescription, confident it would perk up my libido. It didn’t. But it worked out great. My voice dropped an octave, and I grew facial hair, so Marc is no longer interested.”

I continued probing. “Do you think another man, other than your husband, might be capable of turning you on?” I asked.

“Absolutely.” “Damn tootin’.” “You betcha’.” They each responded positively.

“So,” I continued, “it’s not that you have lost interest in sex; it’s that you’ve lost interest in sex with your husbands.”

“It would seem that way,” said Michelle. “After 48 years with the same man it’s like a robotic dance,” she continued. “One. Two. Three. Moooan.”

“It’s like a new dress,” said Sondra. “After wearing it a few dozen times it’s hard to get excited about it anymore, and you find yourself wanting to head to the mall for something new.”

Michelle jumped back in. “Viagra is killing me. Since his retirement, I swear, sex is Don’s new hobby. I begged him to find something else to do; something that doesn’t involve me, but he flashed an evil grin, and said it’s more fun with me.”

“A form of Viagra is now being used by women,” I said. “Some believe it helps and others say it doesn’t. It’s hard to know because it’s difficult to measure impotency in women; we don’t get erections. And there’s so much more to deal with like difficulty getting aroused, painful dryness,………….. ……………..” “……..and it can take so long to reach orgasm you’re both certain the Messiah will come before you do,” interrupted Michele.

Everyone laughed and shook their heads in agreement.

Nothing was solved at this gathering, but I think we were happy to discover we were not alone in the way we felt.

How comforting for men to know that when their sexual desire no longer matches their performance ability, there will always be doctors, scientists and the FDA working overtime to restore their joy and pleasure. It seems to me that if God could create majestic mountains, magnificent oceans, and men with sex drives that last far beyond child bearing years, He could have put more time and effort into spicing up aging women’s sagging libidos. As it is, the playing fields are not equal.

Other posts by this author:

Battle of the Bulge

How the Home Shopping Network Turned Me into a Zebra

Open at Your Own Risk

Up, Up and Away – Or Not

An Apple a Day Doesn’t Work

Vacationing with a Stranger

Help! I’m Drowning in Minutiae


Posted in Guest Blog Posts, Humor, Life Between the Tweets, Women's Work | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

That’s Life

I walked right into this one.

It was the Tuesday after Easter and Felicia, our maid, showed up to clean our sunny studio apartment which we rented for our short stay in Chapala, Mexico.

Easter is a BIG deal here in Latin America. If one is looking for topics of conversation with locals, it’s always safe to ask about family, church holidays, and the weather.

The beautiful malecon in Chapala

“Did you have a good Easter?” I asked.

Felicia’s blank look took me by surprise.

“You know, there’s Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, then Easter. Did you have a good Easter?”

“No,” she said. “I had to work. I work every Sunday. All day. I take the bus to Guadalajara and clean this lady’s house.”

I couldn’t help myself. “Even Easter?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes. I have to work, I have no choice. My husband is sick.”

Oh boy. Emotionally, I didn’t want to be here. I tried to have a light, friendly conversation on a safe topic and here I am, right in the middle of it. Many times the husbands of these working class people have back problems from the manual labor they do. I just assumed that was the issue, but I couldn’t retreat from the conversation now. Should I just pretend I didn’t hear her response or that I didn’t understand her Spanish? Or maybe I should be rude, turn my head and not continue our chat.

The pier at Lake Chapala

But you know that’s just not me. I had to move forward now that I was here, and the only way out was through.

“Oh… problems with his back?” I returned. “How old is he?”

“No. No problems with his back. He’s 45 years old and has been sick since he was 37. He has seizures. Do you know about Epilepsy?”

I wasn’t really expecting this. Yes, I was familiar with epilepsy and seizures but the people I knew had the disease contained with medication.

“He can’t work because he never knows when he’s going to have an attack. He falls, hits his head. He doesn’t remember things. He takes 9 pills every day for this, but nothing works.”

Now it was my turn to look at her blankly. I really didn’t know what to say.

Felicia continued. “He has no more upper teeth or lower teeth because the falls knocked them out. And the left side of his tongue is gone because he bit it off.”

I had no more words to say. I had no answers. Not even suggestions.

“That’s life,” she said as she went back to mopping the floor.

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Orthopedic Care in Guatemala

Guest post by Lori Shea, Owner, Guatemala Medical Travel.  Lori first arrived in Rio Dulce, Guatemala aboard a sailboat in 2005 and had a home and business there for two years. For more information on Cancer therapies visit her website.

With no conscious effort at all, our bones, joints and muscles engage as one miraculous mechanical unit. They propel us forward, as intended, with perfectly syncopated balance and strength. That is, until the pain starts.

Sometimes it’s a dull ache in the hips or a “slippery,” unstable feeling in the knees that gives you concern. Ibuprophen and other anti-inflammatories can work wonders to reduce discomfort. However, when the pain keeps you up at night, and it’s difficult to rise from sitting, it is time to see the doctor.

About hips

X-rays may show loss of the cartilage in the hip socket and a “bone-on-bone” appearance. Bone spurs and bone cysts are commonly seen on detailed diagnostic scans like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans. The goal of hip replacement surgery is to relieve pain and increase the mobility and function of a damaged hip joint, and is usually considered only when other therapies, such as physical therapy and pain medications, have failed.

Minimally invasive hip replacement allows the surgeon to perform the hip replacement through one or two small incisions. Patients usually have less pain compared with traditional hip replacement surgery, and rehabilitation is faster.

Total hip replacement, called total hip arthroplasty, is a common orthopedic procedure also; it involves removing the head of the thighbone (femur) and replacing the ball-and-socket mechanism of the hip with artificial implants.

Hip prostheses consist of a ball component, made of metal or ceramic, and a socket, which has an insert or liner made of plastic, ceramic or metal. The femoral component is generally cobalt chromium combined with titanium, which induces bone growth into the implant. The ceramic head of the acetabular cup is coated with bone growth inducing material. The implants used in hip replacement are bio-compatible—meaning they’re designed to be accepted by your body—and they’re made to resist corrosion, degradation and wear.

Do not let Fear make your decisions for you. Risk has a price and so does security.

Leading experts

In Guatemala, Dr. Guillermo Claverie is a leading figure in the field of orthopedics. He has over 25 years of experience and performs 500 total hip and knee replacements per year. Dr. Claverie has documented high success rates with private patients from all around the world, and with local Guatemalans who benefit from low-cost surgeries through his charitable foundation, Fundaorto. The Guatemalan-American Foundation for Advanced Orthopedic Surgery was founded by Dr. Claverie and his wife in 1999.

US prices on left, Guatemala prices on right

Arthroscopy is a common surgical procedure in which a joint (arthro-) is viewed (-scopy) using a small camera. During the procedure, your orthopedic surgeon inserts the arthroscope (a small camera instrument about the size of a pencil) into your knee joint. The arthroscope sends the image to a high-definition television monitor so that your surgeon can see the structures of the knee in great detail. Arthroscopy is a very effective tool that allows your surgeon to feel, repair or remove damaged tissue.

In the prestigious and modern Multimedica Hospital in Guatemala City, Dr. Álvaro Collia has specialized in traumatology, orthopedics and sports medicine for over 11 years. In his practice, he normally treats 300-350 cases of shoulder, hip and knee problems per month. Dr. Collia performs about 20 total hip and knee replacements every month with nearly 100% successful results and patient satisfaction. Since 2010, Dr. Collia has been researching both minimally invasive surgery methods and stem cell therapies in order to offer his patients the most cutting-edge medical treatments available.

Durable and flexible materials used

The materials used in artificial joints vary, depending on the type of joint being replaced and how the joint needs to function.

Hip joints, for example, need to be sturdy and able to bear your body’s weight. Knee joints need to be flexible as well as strong. In general, the components must be durable, flexible and able to function in the body without causing an immune system reaction.

Replacements for hip and knee joints include portions made from metal, such as stainless steel, titanium or chrome and cobalt alloys. The patella or kneecap replacement is made of a strong, durable plastic called polyethylene. The zirconium implants are made of metal that has gone through a process that allows oxygen to absorb into the metal, creating a ceramic surface. These implants incorporate the benefits of a smooth surface with the benefits of a hard material, making it an ideal option for both hips and knees.

Artificial joints have improved greatly since they were first introduced around 40 years ago, and all the finest high-tech Biomet implants are imported to Guatemala direct from the manufacturer. There are new types of knee replacement parts that are highly flexible, allowing the knee to bend up to 155 degrees. The pieces are designed to fit perfectly together and to function as closely as possible to a natural joint. Special bone cement is used in some cases to hold static parts of the artificial joint in place.

While traditional implants last about 15 years, those made of these newer materials potentially can last up to 20 or 25 years. Guatemalan surgeons, with many years of global training, extensive practical experience and cutting-edge technical instrumentation, are striding gracefully and confidently into the future.

Other articles by this author:

Buying Medical Care vs. Buying Medical Insurance

Cancer Treatment in Guatemala

Stem Cell Therapy – The Future

To watch an insightful and instructive video on Guatemala Medical Travel with interviews of both Doctors and Patients, Click Here 

Interview with Lori Shea, Owner, Guatemala Medical Travel

Posted in All Things Financial, Guest Blog Posts, Health, Women's Work | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Questions on Continuous Care in Latin America

Hi guys,

My husband and I just love all of the info we get from you! We are in the investigation phase of our plan to live abroad and one of the things we haven’t been able to get any info on is Continuing Care in other countries, especially Latin America. We’re all going to reach a point in our lives where we won’t be able to live independently anymore and what happens at that point?

If we have chosen to move to another country, get involved in the community and make new friends we probably won’t want to come back to the US, plus the cost of care here is already astronomical. Who knows what it will be in another 10+ years. What plans have you and Billy made for such a time? We don’t have any kids to take care of us at that time, but I would imagine that there are folks with kids who still would not want to come back to the US to live.

Thanks for all you do!


Reduce your cost of living. Pay less for medical care. Find better weather. Create a healthier way of life.

Hi Linda,

Thank you for writing to express such kind comments about our work here on Retire Early Lifestyle. We very much appreciate it!

Your question about Continuing Care in other countries is an excellent one. Especially as we Boomers age, the receiving of live-in care or having assisted living facilities available would simply be the next phase of our age group receiving medical attention.

We may be young at heart, but we are all aging.

What we can tell you from our observation and experience is that the countries which are supplying Medical Tourism on one level or another as a business enterprise, are very aware that we are a large consumer group. It is in their best interest to prepare for a wave of Americans who will need this next level of care.

We know that there are some enterprising Expats who are renovating houses and providing for convalescent nursing home services (I believe there is one located in Ajijic, in the Lake Chapala area). Some of these specialize in stroke victims or Alzheimer’s patients. There are local services in larger towns and cities (Ensenada, Puerto Vallarta, Rosarita, Puerto Escondido, Guadalajara, all located in Mexico or Antigua or Guatemala City in Guatemala) which can envision this business opportunity and are organizing in-home nursing assistance where you pay by the hour.

To learn more about the benefits of medical tourism, international dentists, hospitals, clinics, and insurance click here

Towns and cities where there are larger groups of Expats would be the places to look for these up and coming needed services. Our aging is the next swell of business opportunity, and medical professionals will want to capitalize on this. And I would certainly look into the already-organized volunteer groups in any community to find out the latest news and projects. They will know what’s going on – if anything – on this topic.

On a smaller, more personal level, one could live almost anywhere in Latin America and – after becoming involved in the community somewhat – you could hire a local to take care of things like housekeeping, shopping and cooking. This would be more affordable than you would now imagine with nothing comparable available in the States. I would contact the hospitals and clinics in any area where you are living and arrange with them for nursing care. They would know of nurses available for hire or perhaps put you in touch with someone who could facilitate this. Don’t forget, there are still doctors in Latin America who make house calls and actually have your best health interests in mind. These medical professionals will arrange for what you need, and this is something for which Billy and I can personally vouch.

I would say in general that this is probably still a fairly fluid situation at the moment but not a vast desert with no answers in sight.

Still, for most people, the language barrier, cultural variations and the differences in food will be a daunting challenge. And it seems as people age, they become less flexible of mind and that in itself poses a problem.

For info on bio-nutrition, Naturopathic Doctors, sports medicine, preventative care, leading edge medical approaches click here

The solutions for this next stage will come about, I have no doubt. I don’t believe that they are fully in place now, and there might be some bumpy roads to traverse in the meanwhile. But if you think about it, there are thousands of resourceful people who all want this to happen, and so it will. It will be a partnership with those of us who require this assistance and those who are able to provide it.

I hope you find my response to be useful and please feel free to write any time. In your travels, if you find any viable information yourselves, we would love to pass it on to our readers.

Wishing you all the best,

Akaisha and Billy

 For other related stories and information click here

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Honor, Respect and a Purple Eggplant

Enjoy this guest blog post by Annegreth Gori who has created a fulfilling semi-retirement with utilizing her skills as a nurse, volunteering around the world. You may follow her here on her blog.

To each a different path

I could never do what you do!

I’ve heard this so many times and of course you are right: you could never do what I do and nor should you. Do whatever you want and deep-down desire. If it is staying put in your comfort zone, so be it. If you choose not to stay home, then the world is your oyster and the pearl is yours alone to find and polish.

When I worked full time – often 2-3 jobs plus volunteering in various capacities – I was raising my son as a single parent, and all I wanted to do was escape. I had vague ideas and even less money.

Out of the blue the opportunity arose to report on projects in India. This was financed by a small group I was involved in and for which we did the fundraising. Since the money for the projects was matched by a government agency, an inspection was necessary and long overdue.

I volunteered.

I bravely proposed that if they would pay for my flight, I would do the rest on my own. They agreed, so I went.

Life is your pearl to polish!

Not exactly a smooth landing

Having been to India once before I thought to myself “This is no problem!” I even landed in Mumbai without having bothered with a hotel reservation. This might have worked in Delhi, but arriving in Mumbai in the middle of the night turned out to be a bad choice. All the hotels I could afford were locked tight and my only option was to beg and bribe a watchman to let me stay in the stairwell behind iron gates.

After this self-imposed deprivation, I took the overnight train the next evening to my first project destination vowing to allow myself some luxury. I planned to stay in my guide book’s highly recommended ex-Maharaja palace with a swimming pool.

And, I hadn’t yet contacted my hosts where eventually I was to stay.

Hyderabad was a bit off the backpackers-tourist radar, and the ex-palace was affordable and certainly impressive as I walked into the reception area. Here I was assured there was indeed a swimming pool. The office suggested that I could give them all my clothes to be washed and that they would be ready by late afternoon. Donning my swimsuit, I grabbed a towel and handed my clothes to the maid for cleaning. I happily made my way through the slightly less impressive dusty garden only to find when I arrived at the pool that it was empty!

A tense query at reception resulted in a smile and a shrug so I retreated to my room to sulk.

My host found me here a few hours later, insulted that I had preferred a hotel room to her home. This is when I explained to her that  before moving into her home we first had to wait for my clothes.

Loosen your grip on routine and follow your Dreams!

Meeting powerful perspectives

All the next week we toured project sites and found that many of the wells did not work anymore – pumps were broken and even with replacement parts they had not been fully repaired. The most shocking perspective to me was that the “untouchables” were not allowed to use wells which were still operating. All of this had to appear in my report and I was increasingly uncomfortable with the hospitality I was receiving. I suspected that more was being hidden from me.

Volunteering brings perspective and satisfaction to Life

With relief I boarded the train to my next destination in Orissa, where I then had to take a bus to a small town. My Hyderabad host had been doubtful about my journey but I was eager to be gone. It was not until I sat on the bus – I was the only white-faced passenger – did I feel a little apprehensive. It was a long and dusty ride, and we did not stop for any bathroom breaks. All I can say girls, is wear a skirt! One can learn to squat in a row with all the other women and simply ignore the stares when nature really calls!

When I arrived at my destination and walked into the clinic, I was greeted by shouts of incomprehension.

“How did you get here?”

“By bus of course!” I replied.

Nobody, my new host exclaimed, would take the bus! Of course he meant nobody white, especially a woman who was alone!

Honor, respect and a purple eggplant

Things settled down after that and I had a great time touring clinics and checking wells in remote tribal areas. Here whole villages greeted us upon arrival and we were escorted with music and garlands to the place of honor. To my horror, I found that I had to give speeches. I concentrated on women’s rights, which at this time in history must have confused the heck out of everyone.

But the women in the doctor’s household showed their respect by insisting on making me my first Salwar Kameez. To their amusement and to the tailor’s despair they used more than twice the material needed for a regular-sized Indian woman.

The result was stunning. I looked like a large purple eggplant!

Become a mentor! Teach, learn, give. Volunteer.

For more stories on Volunteering, click here

Posted in All Things Financial, Guest Blog Posts, Heart Song, Is It Work or Is It Passion?, Volunteering, Women's Work | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Flaws I’m Forced to Accept

 Guest post by Laverne H. Bardy whose humorous, often irreverent, slant on life in general, and aging in particular, draws a large readership. She has been syndicated with Senior Wire News Service since 2004.  Her book, How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old? was released in January, 2012, and is a compilation of the best of her columns.

I am a defective woman. I was born without several gender defining genes; the House Cleaning gene, the Shopping gene and, most devastating, the Motherly Instinct gene. Somehow I’ve made it through life without these components and efforts to conceal or make light of my deficits have often lead to deception, embarrassment and, yes, even an occasional lie.

Back in the forties and early fifties, I watched my mother sing as she crouched on all fours to scrub the kitchen floor. She hummed while she dipped clothes into liquid starch and ironed every single thing that came off of the clothes line, including underwear and sheets that felt like concrete against my skin. It was comforting to know that one day I would carry on such womanly traditions.

But something horrible happened a few weeks into my marriage. My tall husband discovered dust on top of the refrigerator and I was smacked in the face with the horrifying reality that eventually everything in the house would get dirty, and I was the designated cleaner. I did not face this reality gracefully.

Want to change your life? Make it possible, click here

A number of years later I stood in a parking lot with my three young children. They, along with scores of other children, were waiting to board buses that would take them to eight weeks of sleep-away camp. They had anxiously awaited this day for months, but probably not as much as I had. I looked forward to not picking up soggy towels from their bathroom floor. I relished the thought of not finding moldy dishes under their beds. I dreamed of tackling laundry weekly, rather than daily. Mostly, I delighted at the thought of all the free time I would have without my usual six-day-a-week car pooling.

You cannot imagine my surprise when I looked around the parking lot and saw scores of mothers weeping, clutching their youngster’s shirt tails, unable to say goodbye. It would have been nice to see at least one other mother who shared my unadulterated glee, but if she was there, I couldn’t find her.

I’m certain I was viewed with shock and disdain when my uncontrolled exuberance slipped out and I began bouncing up and down, waving pom poms and cheering, “Hip, hip, hooray! Children goin’ away. Soon as she gets outta’ here, Mama’s gonna play.”

Fast forward a few years and it happened again when my children left for college. I was dumbfounded when I listened to friends sob as they watched their college bound children pack. I had to grab one girlfriend by the collar, shake her silly and remind her of when her son was caught smoking pot behind the police station, and her daughter came home from a party drunk, and her other son demolished her five week old car. I described the impending joy of doing laundry only once a week, of sitting in the bathroom without the pressure of someone banging on the door to get in, of cleaning the house, leaving for the day, and returning to find it exactly as she left it. I encouraged her to think about candle lit dinners and uninterrupted romantic evenings with her husband.

I guess my talk impacted on her because she ended up dumping her son on the college campus a full week before registration.

Then there’s my missing shopping gene. I like to think there are other women out there who, like me, detest shopping, but if they exist I’ve not met them. I once had a friend ask me to go window shopping with her.

“I can’t afford to buy anything,” she said, “but, let’s just go look.”

I stared at her in disbelief.

“Are you insane? Why on God’s earth would I want to press my nose against a shop window and stare longingly at something I had no intention of purchasing? That’s got to be right up there with the futility of buying a dress two sizes too small because I believe someday I’ll actually fit into it.”

There is only one item I have never minded buying. Shoes. Recently I gave away countless pairs of pointed three inch heels, circa 1955, to Salvation Army. Some lucky person is going to drop in and recognize a find when she sees it. And, if she’s smart, she’ll buy them all, because I’m sure one day they’ll be back in style. I would still be wearing them were it not for a bunion, hammer toe, knee replacement and arthritis, that make it challenging to walk in slippers, much less three inch spikes.

I think the reason I enjoy buying shoes is because I don’t have to struggle to pull them up over my generous hips or down over my ample breasts. But, I suspect that’s about to change; I saw boots in Nordstrom’s recently that came so high up the thigh, that the next step in shoe designs will surely include waist bands and buttons. When that happens I’ll probably hobble right out and buy a pair to go with the dress I bought that’s two sizes too small.

Other posts by this author:

Battle of the Bulge

How the Home Shopping Network Turned Me into a Zebra

Open at Your Own Risk

Up, Up and Away – Or Not

An Apple a Day Doesn’t Work

Vacationing with a Stranger

Help! I’m Drowning in Minutiae

Posted in Guest Blog Posts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How I Created My Location Independent Lifestyle

Guest Post by Amber S. Hoffman

After 10 years as an attorney, Amber left her job at the largest law firm in the world and decided to start living her life.  She is now a recovering tax lawyer, traveling the world With Husband In Tow.  This is her second RTW trip.  Her first RTW ended with a return to the tax world.  This trip hopes to explore Europe, Latin America, and ultimately end in a happy existence somewhere in Asia, where her passion really lies, outside the law.

Over five years ago, I was a tax attorney at the largest law firm in the world. I was 32 years old and making good money, on track for partnership. My husband and I had a well-decorated condo in a great Chicago neighborhood, a sporty Mini Cooper S, and enough wine in storage to host a week long Italian wedding celebration.

Then, I came down with tendonitis in my right wrist, caused by the repetitive nature of my not-so-glamorous work. I was miserable, in pain, crying. I hated my job and my life. One night my husband, who admittedly made less than I did in his advertising gig, told me to just quit. He would support me no matter what I did, and I knew that.

Feeling the freedom in Croatia

Living the Predictable Life

But, I knew I could not quit. We had a mortgage, student loans, and expenses. We had been paying down our mortgage and maxing out our 401ks, but our extra savings was not where it should have been for someone with our income. My husband’s income alone could not cover our mortgage, let alone our lifestyle.

Our lifestyle was not excessive for our income – we were certainly living within our means, even with our 3-bedroom condo loaded with stuff from Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel. But, we were not planning for a future outside of the law. I assumed I would make partner and that my income would continue to rise every year until I was in my 60s.

Then, it hit me. I didn’t want to have a heart attack at my desk. I didn’t want to spend a large chunk of my life behind a computer monitor, on conference calls, and talking about tax law. I did not want to work 70 hours a week, weekends, holidays, and vacations. I did not want to be so stressed I was always fighting with my husband, a marriage destined to end in divorce, according to the statistics.

But, what did I want to do? At some point I realized – I will figure it out later. For now, let’s change our lifestyle.

Dream, Dream, Dream

Financial Independence

We tested the travel road, by taking a year-long RTW.  We loved it; we figured out how to travel on a budget.  We were hooked – let’s travel the world and live overseas. Cheaply. We returned to the US and settled back in Washington, DC, where we put our plan into action.

We rented out our Chicago condo for a 2-year lease before we left on the RTW.  We moved into a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Arlington, VA, a few Metro stops from my office. We automated everything. We continued to max out our 401ks. We had automated savings from each of our paychecks, and a regularly scheduled transfer from our checking account into our savings. We watched our savings grow. I tracked in all in an Excel file.It became addictive.

Most importantly, we stopped spending extravagantly. We still enjoyed meals out once in awhile, but splurged on Thai or Indian instead of fancy steak dinners. We used Groupon and Living Social as guides to our eating habits, offering great discounts. I stopped buying work clothes, shoes, and bags. And, wore the same old suits for all my meetings and speeches. When we had to buy new clothes, we agonized over the expense and had to ensure ourselves it was worth it.

Together in Slovenia

Less than three years later, at 36, I retired from the law. Our savings hit our magic number.  We took the risk, sold everything, including our beloved Mini Cooper, and left the US.

Location Independent Lifestyle

Since that time, we have traveled through Eastern Europe and Central America. We know we cannot continue to travel at this pace forever – its too expensive to keep on the move like this. But, we will slow down some, and eventually stop, most likely in Southeast Asia, to live cheaply and well.

Now, I have two blogs, I freelance write, and hope to write a book someday. I plan to teach yoga or English overseas. My husband continues to sell advertising on a contract basis. But, for a good period of time, I am okay not earning any money at all. We saved enough. We can work when we want to, and where we want to. All we need is a decent internet connection. We have become both financially independent and location independent. And, I am happier than I have ever been.

Need to find work or want to be location independent? Click here

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Domestic Medical Tourism

Guest blog post by G. Keith Smith, M.D. of The Surgery Center of Oklahoma  a 32,535 square foot, state-of-the-art multispecialty facility in Oklahoma City. This center is owned and operated by approximately 40 of the top surgeons and anesthesiologists in central Oklahoma. The facility has been accredited by the AAAHC since 1998 without interruption and has annually provided care to thousands of patients.

The beginning

A little over 15 years ago, Dr. Steve Lantier and I began the operation of The Surgery Center of Oklahoma.  We invited 10 surgeons to join us in this venture, physicians who like us were tired of the old hospital games.  We had grown weary of the way hospitals treated us, the surgeons we worked with and the way they treated patients, frankly.  We decided that we could complain about this the rest of our careers or try to do something about it.

From day one our mission was very simple.  Provide a quality surgical experience that was second to none, charge patients fairly and honestly and never deal with the federal government programs, Medicare or Medicaid.  In our 16thyear now, we have never deviated from our mission.

The Surgery Center of Oklahoma

Over the years, uninsured patients in the Oklahoma City and surrounding area came to know our facility as the place to go, as we would quote them prices over the phone, prices that were a tenth or less the amount they would be charged at the so-called “not for profit” hospitals here in town.   As I tell people now, by virtue of our physician-ownership structure, we had eliminated the most inefficient and greedy profit seeker from the surgical price equation:  the big hospital.

Unexpected power plays lead to posting upfront and bundled pricing

We very naively thought that insurance companies would flock to us, as in a market economy, high quality at very low prices usually brings ample business.  On the contrary, insurance companies assiduously avoided us, steering with all the power they could muster (through various “out of network” penalties and deductible tricks) those who were under their policies to the large, more expensive hospitals.  This “steerage” away from our facility led us to a point where about 4 years ago, we decided to post our prices online for all to see.  We could not in our wildest dreams have foreseen the effect this move would have here in Oklahoma City and indeed, in the whole country (even outside of the country).

Discover the best retirement secrets

We had hoped to make ourselves more “known” to the uninsured population requiring surgery, but primarily wanted to expose the price-fixing arrangements between hospitals and insurance groups.  The first thing that happened, however, shocked us.  Canadians started calling.  And then flying to Oklahoma City for their surgery. Individuals with high deductibles and increasingly, self-insured companies have been drawn to our upfront and bundled pricing as well, pricing that is all-inclusive; the facility, surgeon and anesthesia fees altogether.

Partial list of procedures

Price transparency spurs national movement

Other physician-owned facilities in Oklahoma City, following our lead, are now providing price quotes for joint replacement and open-heart surgery.  Oklahoma City has now become a medical tourist destination for people from all over the United States and beyond.

Upfront and honest pricing has been absent from health care for far too long.   While our price transparency has led others locally to join us in this effort, it has spurred a national effort, as well.  Some physicians and facilities are inclined to emulate our model simply because it is the right thing to do.  Others are frantic to do so, as patients are coming to Oklahoma City, rather than have their operation in the town where they live, whether in Anchorage or Fort Lauderdale.  Surgeons and hospitals far from here don’t like to see patients head out the door for Oklahoma City for any reason, least of all for not having provided them a price for their care.  This fear of loss of business we believe will continue to fan the flames of price transparency in this country, leading invariably to a deflationary effect on pricing everywhere.

Patients’ stories

We are blessed to have met grateful patients from all over the country and beyond and there are so many great stories to tell.  I often think of the Canadian woman who was told she would have to endure her painful uterine bleeding for 3 years before she could see a gynecologist for a hysterectomy.  She was quoted $40,000 at a big name hospital (not including the surgeon or anesthesia fees) in the northeast U.S.  We did her surgery for a fifth of that.  I often think of the man from Minnesota who had ruptured a disk in his back and was unable to walk and in constant pain, with a numb and useless foot, as a result.  He was quoted $80,000 after begging for a price by a big name hospital in his state.  We did it for a tenth of that.  He did well, but went home only to slip and fall, an injury that required another level of his back to be operated on.  We did that surgery too, for only the cost of the supplies – the surgeon and anesthesia  fees were waived.

While we hope our model catches on, we also look forward to meeting more patients requiring affordable surgery from all over the world.

For more information, on Medical Tourism, click here

Watch Dr. Smith at Surgery Center of Oklahoma on this informative video

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Battle of the Bulge

Guest post by Laverne H. Bardy whose humorous, often irreverent, slant on life in general, and aging in particular, draws a large readership. She has been syndicated with Senior Wire News Service since 2004.  Her book, How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old? was released in January, 2012, and is a compilation of the best of her columns.

I was swimming at a Cancun resort when I exited the pool for a bathroom break. In the stall I removed my cover-up and looked for a place to hang it. There was no hook. The stall door was too high to sling my cover-up over it, so I folded it and held it between my teeth.

I ripped off several strips of toilet paper and placed them on the seat the way my mother taught me, because everyone knows that toilet paper is the prophylactic most doctors recommend to prevent venereal diseases.

WooHOO! Fun on a Mexican beach

I was wearing a one piece industrial strength bathing-suit that had been crafted to conceal rather than  reveal, which pretty much guaranteed that men’s eyes would avert, and not flirt, ignore and not explore. It was the style worn by matronly, plump women who would be only too happy to pierce one of their own eyes with a fish hook if doing so promised that she would once again fit nicely into a bikini.

I stuck my thumbs under my soaking wet steel-belted straps, forced them down over my shoulders and jimmied my elbows out from under. I wondered why God, in His Infinite Wisdom, had opted to create boneless breasts. Other than to nurse infants and titillate men, they were useless. Boneless breasts are only good in chicken recipes. I have to jam them into horribly uncomfortable constricting bras, and when I lie on my stomach, on the beach, I’m forced to scoop out holes for them to rest in the sand or they get squished. If my breasts had bones they could have assisted me in my struggle by pulling themselves out of the suit. Instead, they just hung there acting as though they were not involved, and did nothing more than get in the way of the cover-up that was still dangling from my teeth.

Life is an adventure, follow your dreams.

I took a deep breath and continued to push the suit down where it refused to go. I pushed, and wiggled, but it remained dormant.

Time had become an issue.

My wet suit was as tight as a boa constictor

Several more gigantic shoves and it slid down to the floor, just in the nick of time.

My toughest challenges lay ahead.

I bent over and grabbed hold of the sopping wet coil hugging my ankles, but the wad of fabric in my mouth made it impossible to see what I was doing. A solid five minutes of backbreaking tugging got the suit back up to my hips, but no further. I was trapped in a Mexican toilet and held hostage by a floral print boa constrictor.

I wondered if my husband had noticed how long I’d been gone. I thought about shouting, but I wasn’t about to let anyone rescue me in this condition.

It was then I saw the pipes on the wall in back of the toilet that I hadn’t noticed before. I removed the cover-up from my teeth, tucked it between the pipes and returned to do battle with my bathing suit.

Several lifetimes later I succeeded in getting the suit all the way up, no thanks to my two useless girls.  I reached for my cover-up, and then the unthinkable happened. It slipped from my fingers and dropped into the toilet. What to do? Who was I kidding? That cover-up could have been a diamond encrusted Diane von Furstenberg original and there was no way in hell I was going after it.

I’m supposed to be relaxing at the beach

I exited the restroom and walked toward my lounge chair. As I prepared to sit a woman, several chairs away beckoned to me.

“Excuse me,” she smiled. “I don’t want to embarrass you but there’s a long strip of toilet tissue stuck to your back and another one behind your right thigh.”

Thank you didn’t seem appropriate, so I giggled and reached for the wet paper on my back.

When it only came off in tiny strips, I asked for my husband’s help. As he peeled off paper he said, “I understand how it may have attached itself to the back of your thigh but I’m anxious to hear how it got stuck to your back and shoulders.

I picked up my sunglasses, hat, and book, and dropped back into my lounge chair. “It’s not something I care to discuss.”

Other posts by this author:

How the Home Shopping Network Turned Me into a Zebra

Open at Your Own Risk

Up, Up and Away – Or Not

An Apple a Day Doesn’t Work

Vacationing with a Stranger

Help! I’m Drowning in Minutiae

Posted in Guest Blog Posts, Humor, Women's Work | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Don’s Personal Medical Tourism Experience

Don, one of our Readers, has been very kind to share his recent personal medical tourism experience with utilizing Bumrungrad, located in Bangkok, Thailand. Thank you Don!

I had an appointment scheduled for 10 a.m. at Bumrungrad, a private hospital across the street from my hotel here in Bangkok. I arrived at 9:20, 40 minutes early for my consultation. The procedure was done, and I paid the bill, and got both receipts and my paperwork and I was able to leave the hospital at 10 a.m.

This whole transaction was completed in those 40 minutes and the MRI on my knee itself took 30 minutes!  Note: Bumrungrad had brand new machines from Siemens.

I believe they could only have done this more quickly if they had me RUN between machine and cashier. But from what I could see, it was merely a brisk trot.

I go back there to see specialist this afternoon at 2 p.m. for the interpretation of my results and my free CD.

Later that same day

I returned to Bumrungrad and had my post-consultation with the orthopedic Doctor, received my free CD and written report.

Unfortunately, this time I had to wait 40 minutes or so to see the doc, which is very rare here.  Usually one waits less than 5 minutes!  Still, I was out of my appointment in about an hour, CD and report in hand.

I could see the pictures on the monitor. Quite a few were taken and they gave many angles. All were very sharp, and clearly indicated where the problems are.

Unexpected bonus

When I went to settle up my bill at the cashier’s, rather than be charged more for this second appointment, I was given a refund of $70, bringing the total cost of the MRI, consults, CD, report and insurance documentation to $470.

Overall I am pleased with what I got and with the amazing efficiency of this hospital!


For more information on Medical Tourism, Click Here

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