Reverse Mortgages…..

For reasons that aren’t particularly important, the subject of reverse mortgages have been recently discussed among my friends. When I wrote, Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid, I touched briefly on the topic. At that time, reverse mortgages were fairly new and there were some issues that seem to have since been smoothed out. As with any major financial decision, consulting an expert is strongly advised. In general, a reverse mortgage is good for certain categories of individuals and not suitable for others. In a nutshell, a reverse mortgage is sort of what it sounds like. A financial institution “mortgages” your home for a percentage of the appraised value (usually a pretty high percentage). You can take the money of that value in multiple ways which I’ll get to in a moment. You do not repay the mortgage until you move from the home. In the event all individuals who signed the reverse mortgage pass away, the estate is to repay the mortgage. That would ordinarily mean the house is sold by the estate and like any other sale, if the value is greater than the amount owed, the estate keeps the balance. If the market is weak and the property cannot be sold for the amount owed, the financial institution cannot go after any source of payment except the estate. In other words, if you have heirs who don’t want to pay off the mortgage to own the house, they do not assume that debt.

Okay, getting money from the reverse mortgage usually comes with four options; a lump sum for the entire allowed amount; a monthly payment spread out over an agreed-upon time; a line of credit, or a combination of options. It’s important to remember this money is not taxable. Which option suits you will depend on your circumstances. The point to a reverse mortgage though is to allow you to remain in your home and the requirement is you must keep the home maintained, carry insurance and pay your property taxes. So, when deciding how to take the money, you have to make sure you can fund those items.

There are usually three areas that trip people up. There will be some costs to taking out the reverse mortgage just as with any other type of mortgage and this amount is usually subtracting from the final amount allowed. Your home may not be worth what you think it is, and therefore, the final amount may be less than you anticipated. As you age, in all likelihood, you will require more assistance in maintaining the house, and that usually incurs costs. Depending on your age, you could easily remain in your home for 20-30 years. Another important point is the bank cannot “call” the mortgage as long as you maintain the house, insurance and pay your property taxes.So, let us say whatever amount of money you received is spent and you are still in your house. That’s okay as far as not repaying the mortgage goes. If, on the other hand, you have not set aside adequate money for the minimum upkeep, insurances and taxes, the bank can foreclose. When people take the lump sum or even have a multi-year payout, they don’t always apply the money in such a way to ensure they can cover these costs.

All of this is a general overview and everyone’s situation has unique aspects, but if you have no one to leave your house to, a reverse mortgage could be a useful financial tool. The specifics and rules do change, but it might be something worth exploring.


The Scientific Method….

Serious content alert. If I had been good at math (an interesting aspect of my youth I will perhaps address in a future post), I would probably not have followed my sister’s fascination with science and leaned more toward engineering. However, because she not only fixed on science at a young age and had a wonderful female mentor (rather unusual at the time) and she married a scientist, and I went into the military where science and engineering are more prominent than people often realize, I’ve been exposed to quite a bit of science during my life. Generally speaking, in the scientific method, you develop a hypothesis, determine how to test the hypothesis, conduct the tests, gather results, analyze results, either prove or disprove your hypothesis, or determine your testing wasn’t adequate and you “go back to the drawing board”. Another important element is the ability to duplicate results by independent means. If you, as a scientist, “prove” something, any other scientist following what you did should arrive at the same or very similar results. When you have credentialed scientists who give opposite expert opinion about the same matter, a very large “Huh?” should be raised.

Hubby with his background of applied physics and nuclear engineering and I have a standing joke about cold fusion which made quite a splash a number of years ago. It was such an appealing idea, it was written into numerous novels and movie scripts. Since as the TV show “Mythbusters” often demonstrated, “Hollywood physics” are not required to hold up to reality. The cold fusion “success” did not hold up to replication and the joke between Hubby and I is, “Just because it wasn’t true doesn’t mean it can’t ever be true. After all, the laws of physics as we know them might have other secrets waiting to be discovered. (My point, not his).

So, when there are opposing scientific views, the old adage of, “Follow the money”, may very well be appropriate. If sizeable sums from either government or corporate sources are involved in a particular desired outcome, well, how one interprets data may not be entirely objective. As for “soft science”, that is indeed another subject.

This May Sound Really Odd….

Okay, as I have explained in previous posts, I’m cautious when writing my novels to make everything as realistic as possible when crafting different scenes and plot points. The Internet is a terrific asset, and as I bookmark different sites, my “Favorites” list has some very odd combinations. Lord knows if I’m being monitored, I’m probably on a watch list or two. With that said, for reasons that will become apparent when I publish Shades of Deception (scheduled for the fall), I was researching retention of organs after autopsy. I ran across that addresses body and organ donation to science.

Hubby and I have been organ donors for years and intend to be cremated. Last time I visited with my sister, she mentioned they will be leaving their bodies to the medical institute where she has worked for more than forty years. The site I referenced above explains how you can combine both organ and body donation. From the looks of the site, it is incredibly well-organized and there are aspects to this type of donation that never occurred to me. I also did a quick search to see if there were any negative reports around about them and didn’t find any. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, merely that the first pass was clean.

I intend to check into them some more and will re-post if I find anything alarming. If not, we may very well change our end-of-life plans. I totally understand this is not the sort of thing everyone agrees with, but for those of you who are interested, you might want to take a look.

And Four More Days Slip Past…..

Goodness, gracious, I’ve managed to let four more days elapse without posting. I do try to post every three days and more in between if there’s something extra special. Part of it though is I really did fall behind after almost killing my travel notebook computer. As it turned out, I only killed the keyboard and there is an on-screen one I can use. Well, that’s assuming I can adapt to the keyboard, which happens to be another of the technology things I don’t do well with. Hubby, however, is okay with it and now comes one of the interesting aspects of technology. Please excuse the use of name brands this time, but it’s directly applicable to the subject.

When Hubby was trying to decide if he wanted a Surface like I had or an IPad, he gave it a lot of thought and finally decided on the IPad. When my Surface began to have problems, we took a look and unlike technology that normally falls in price as new generations are released, that hasn’t happened with the Surface. So, for me, we swapped instead to a little notebook computer which I enjoyed all of the ten days I owned it. Getting back to me actually killing only the keyboard. Hubby showed me the on-screen keyboard and it quickly became apparent this was not going to work. Since replacing the keyboard would cost about half as much as buying another notebook, he’ll be getting me a new one. However, he’s fine with the on-screen keyboard and the partially crippled notebook computer allows him to do things he couldn’t with the IPad. So, it hasn’t been a complete loss as he now has his IPad and the notebook in addition to his regular desktop and of course we have IPhones. I’m not going to say the house is beginning to look like an electronics shop, but there certainly are a lot of devices and cables around.

And Another Trip…..

I am once again in Louisiana on an unexpected trip. Things are okay with my dad from a physical perspective, but there are some administrative things that need to be taken care of. It might be fairly quickly resolved and it might not be. While Daddy is fine with cognitive aspects – you should see him playing dominos – his short term memory is such that he can’t recall from day-to-day many normal things. It makes it impossible for him to manage tasks he used to routinely do and although he has come to grips with it most days, there are other times when he is perplexed. It is still a much more stable level of Alzhiemers than other friends of mine have had to deal with with regard to their parents, so I can’t complain. It’s never easy of course, but it could definitely be far worse.

We had a long delay in leaving Atlanta and some very bumpy weather. On the other hand, the severe thunderstorms were coming from Louisiana (might have been Texas, too) through Mississippi and Alabama. That meant the delay in arriving here allowed that storm system to have moved east and it was actually quite pleasant when we landed instead of the crappy stuff it would have been. I did take the 6:30 a.m. flight out of Miami though so I’ve been up since 3:30. We’ll see what tomorrow brings and somewhere in the mix, there is likely to be catfish.

When’s The Next Book?….

The other day someone asked about what writing I was involved with. Since the book Mystery of the Last Olympian: Titanic’s Tragic Sister Britannic, ( was released in February 2016 and I publish at least one book a year, it was an understandable question. As some of you who follow the blog know, I was drawn into co-authoring another non-fiction book that I haven’t been at liberty to discuss. There are still a few details to work out and if you are a baseball fan, you’ll be happy. (It’s been quite a stretch for me, but an interesting project.) There has also been activity on the novel side, but I can’t quite explain that yet either. The reason is because it, like Irises to Ashes, or Orchids in the Snow, is a stand-alone book, but is very different from others I have written because it is not in the genre of woman’s fiction.  More explanation of that will soon follow as well.

I have returned to Verde Key and Police Detective Bev Henderson and there are a couple of thorny issues to work out. A murder sequence I intended to follow simply wasn’t flowing as I had hoped and I had to adjust the story accordingly. I think it will get me where I want to go now, but I have to play around with it a bit more before I’m certain. In other words, it’s possible I’ll have the non-fiction and one novel out in late spring and the “Shades” book in late summer. As for the cozy – “Small Town” quilting series, there will be a fourth one although perhaps not until early 2018.

So yes, writing definitely is continuing and more news is forthcoming.

Encouraging Military Service…..

I suppose I should have timed  a previous post for today, but I’ll elaborate instead on a post I did quite a while back. I happened to be part of the Army during the fairly early transition to what was known as VOLAR, the All Volunteer Army. I’m not about to get into the complexities that went into that decision and very fundamental cultural change. The point is with more than thirty years now of a volunteer force, and admittedly concerns for deployment to dangerous places, there can be a reluctance by parents or other adults of influence to encourage young people to go into the military.

I do understand and there are physical requirements of the military that can’t be overcome – some of which are quite odd. Asthma is an example. Some individuals suffer asthma as children, but for whatever reason, the condition disappears. In other cases, asthma is only induced by very specific irritants that do not usually occur in the military and therefore, asthma is not a disqualifier. However, exercise-induced asthma is a permanent disqualifier. And not everyone is emotionally suited for the military. That, however, is a little trickier because there have been a great many individuals where that initial assessment (whether their personal view or someone else’s) was incorrect.

For the sake of this post, those who are physically and emotionally suited for service, should seriously consider it. As always, there is the option of going in as enlisted or going in through ROTC (or one of the service academies) to be an officer. Yes, the option still exists of enlisting, then applying for Officer Training to become an officer. Each of the services have slightly different programs and requirements for that option. Most initial military commitments are four years, although there are variances, to include a mix of active and reserve time. If four years seems “long”, it’s basically the same amount of time as high school. I’m not going to say the military magically transforms everyone – it doesn’t. There are jerks, bullies, and incompetents just as in any given large group. They, however, are the exception and a small percentage. Structurally, the military is not set up for everyone to stay beyond the initial commitment. However, no matter what service is entered and no matter what skill is pursued, at a minimum, there will be some type of training that in general can translate into later employment. More importantly, I can promise the individual will have probably accomplished things he or she might have thought were not possible. There is, of course an element of irony as I write this that our son chose not to enter the military. As I said, it isn’t for everyone.

All That Prep…..

Anyone who follows the blog probably knows by now Hurricane Matthew swung a wider path than anticipated and hit well north of us. We of course feel for those who have borne (and may yet bear) the brunt. We do have a lot of residents who arrived in 2006 or later as we have had calm hurricane seasons. They have not seen trees bent over, rain coming down as if from a fire hose, power lines snapped and arcing sparks and flames across the road, phones and electricity out for days. (And that was with only a Cat 1) The idea we took measures that were not in fact required doesn’t mean it was wasted effort. The problem, as always, is if you wait until the last minute to be sure, you wait too long for certain things. Shutters and food/water provisions are the best examples. If you have bolt-on metal shutters or plywood, they are heavy, difficult to maneuver, and time-consuming to put up. What is more difficult, however, is to try and do so when the wind picks up to 30-40 miles an hour, then increases. Waiting to go to the grocery store means, at a minimum, you’ll be in long lines with less choice (sometimes a lot less) than you would have otherwise.

Unlike tornadoes and earthquakes that come with little, if any, warning, hurricanes and blizzards generally approach over a period of time and you have to make decisions. This really is why having basic items on-hand during whatever the “season” is makes sense. That can in fact minimize what you have to do when threatened. Since items like batteries and non-perishable food can be kept for long periods, buy them at the beginning, then plan to use them in the later months. (Okay, we did forget the case of water in the garage that sat for more than two years, but it was useful for watering plants.)

Sure, it’s irritating to wrestle with something like heavy shutters when it turns out to have been not needed, but it’s a great deal less trouble than dealing with the aftermath of even a Cat 1. In actuality, one of the best “preps” is to sit with someone who genuinely knows how to read the detailed discussions of weather reports such as you get from sites like Weather Underground. It may seem confusing, but once you understand the minutia, you are better equipped to make your own decisions.

When It’s Heartbreakingly Difficult….

Emotionally intense content alert. This is not a new theme for this blog, but recent events of people around me caused me to want to say once again that as Baby Boomers, we face two different, yet related issues. First, if your parent/parents or other aged relatives are still living, the time may come when they are simply not the person you knew. Dementia has a heartbreakingly wide range, not all of which is easily categorized. In some cases, dementia can be combined with terrible pain due to an injury or an illness. In either situation, I would strongly urge you to consult with Hospice. If the individual has left a home setting and is in an appropriate care facility, the facility  is usually linked in with Hospice. As I explained in Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid, there may be multiple hospice organizations in your area. If so, you have a choice as to which one to use. When someone reaches the stage of severe dementia, they may well not be able to make personal choices and the chance of improvement is highly unlikely. Although every individual situation has to be properly diagnosed, everyone over the age of about 60 can be defined as being in a terminal state. Severe dementia is not life-threatening, but most of us have become so accustomed to taking routine medications for conditions such as high blood pressure we don’t even think of that as “artificial means”. (We tend to view “artificial means” as only being hooked to a machine.) Making the decision to cease all medications except for sleep and pain can be heartbreaking and create questions and self-doubt.

This leads me to the second issue which is none of us want to believe this will happen to us. It seems too unfair, too unkind, and surely there will be a treatment/cure before then. There is nothing wrong with hoping for that. It is incredibly important, however, to make your wishes known in the event you do suffer severe dementia. The sentiment of, “I won’t care because I won’t know what’s going on”, can be said cavalierly if you’ve never heard the panicked voice or sobs of a parent/elderly relative who suddenly can’t comprehend where they are or why, “they can’t come home.” It is true that in some cases, severe dementia does not cause distress and an individual can comfortably live in a “time or place” they have mentally created, knowing you less as the person you are and more as someone from their past or simply, “a nice young man/woman”. I urge you to have the courage to address this possibility as clearly as you do the eventuality of an illness or injury that leaves you in a coma. If you can no longer make choices for yourself, be certain whoever is in charge (and legally designate someone) knows what you want done.

The Hard Choice With Pets….

Poignant content alert. It’s been a long time since we had a pet in the house other than taking temporary custody of my friend’s cat after she passed away. I travel so often and we have such erratic schedules, we probably won’t be getting one any time soon. A friend is struggling with the decision about his dog and will probably make the difficult choice next week. It’s the usual dilemma of how long do you wait when there is truly no hope of any kind of recovery, limited eyesight, and virtually no mobility.

Several years ago, my former mother-in-law was faced with the situation and she had finally braced herself. She had called the vet to tell her she would bring the dog in on her way to work. She had petted him, kissed him and gone in to get dressed. Oddly enough, she came out, went to pick him up and realized he was no longer breathing. As she sat and wrapped the afghan around him to take him to the vet (teary-eyed of course), she suddenly realized how grateful she was not to have to take that final step. Interestingly, not long ago another friend discovered one of the vets in town actually provides an in-home service. Yes, it does cost extra, but in the same way as hospice for people, it allows the final moments to be in a familiar setting filled with love. It isn’t something I would ever have thought about, but it does make sense.