Retirement for better or for worse

Dream: Retire and Relax

Dream: Retire and Relax

How you adjust when your partner retires and you continue to work? How do you adapt when your life has followed pretty much the same routine for over 45 years and the pattern changes abruptly? When you’ve had to tiptoe around and silence the phone, not to mention keeping the kids quiet while they were home, for fear of waking him, when he had only five hours or less to sleep before going back to work? Leaving parties early or missing them altogether because on Friday and Saturday nights he struggled, usually in vain, to stay awake? (Now he’s up till 1:00, no problem.) He was always home for our early dinners, and always absent for breakfast — his workday still less than halfway through at that hour.

The children and I had to adapt our lives to his schedule. We all knew the drill.

Flash forward. Suddenly, with little warning, he’s home all day. The children are gone and I work at home. I try to work, but it’s not easy when I am constantly interrupted. He can make pizza rustica with his eyes closed and in his sleep, a marinara sauce that makes me swoon, but what I think of as routine tasks on the computer, not so much. I hear my name called a lot. I want to be patient, because I know this transition is much more difficult for him than it is for me.

There are also definite upsides: he’s a marvelous cook who knows how to please everyone. That part is very nice. It means that I can work longer while he is busy in the kitchen. And we eat so well! I am always misplacing things, and he either knows where they are or is much better at locating them than I am. I have company. I don’t wake up alone. He found the picture for this post. Now we can explore the city, doing all the things we could never do before because of his work routine. We can travel more.

It also means he expects to have breakfast, lunch and dinner at regular times, every day, and I’m not used to that. When I’m on deadline, I work furiously until either the hunger pangs begin to distract me in the afternoon, or it’s time to work out.

He was very low, even depressed. But now, three weeks in, things are looking up. I have accepted and understood why he continues to go into the office once a week. You can’t hurtle forward for 66 years and then stop on a dime. A lot of stuff accumulated during that time, and now he is going through old photographs and documents and mementos that have special meanings.

All in all, a work in progress. Some back and forth, but mostly forward.

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Filed under Personal, Retirement, Women

Cuban nostalgia

I want to go back to Cuba. “Nostalgia” in Greek is literally “an aching for a return home.”

DCP_1055I have been exiled for all of my adult life from the place where I spent the happiest days of my childhood. I lost my grandmother, my cousins and my indulgent aunts — half my family was snatched away. And my loss was minuscule next to that of my friends.

The “lucky” ones were sent by their parents to the U.S. as children to escape indoctrination and hardship. Some of these “Peter Pan” kids were sent to relatives, but others to institutions, because there was no one to care for them.

HavanaDecay Now the gates that had been slammed so tightly shut are beginning to reopen. And yet, I will return with trepidation rather than eager anticipation, for I will not see my grandmother or my aunts; I will not be able to return to the place I knew. You really can’t go home again, even though some aspects of Cuban life are in a time warp — the American cars of the 50s, carefully maintained way, way past their lifespan because they were irreplaceable.  There were no new cars to take their place.

Much of Havana is the same. Sort of. The houses and buildings are still standing, but they tend to be ramshackle and ill-cared for. The Spanish colonial façades are familiar and still beautiful, but they barely conceal the decay inside.

Twelve years ago I went back, so I know what to expect. Despite the hardships they have endured, Cubans are irrepressible and spontaneous — they haven’t lost their good humor — it’s what enables them to keep going. They paint and dance, write and sing — the arts cannot be shackled.

Twelve years ago I didn’t want to go back — I didn’t want my cherished memories to be ravaged by the present. Today, I do. I want to see my compatriots hopeful, optimistic, their indomitable spirit allowed at last to fly free.

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Pluto: the new world

New data from Pluto is blowing the minds of NASA scientists

Pluto Dazzles in False Color Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this enhanced color global view of Pluto.

Pluto Dazzles in False Color
Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this enhanced color global view of Pluto.

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A remarkable week in June

What a week!

It began with the mourners for the Charleston massacre victims. Their appeal to take down the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s state capitol swelled to a national demand to remove all symbols that glorify the Confederacy and tacitly condone slavery.

The Supreme Court handed down two momentous, life-altering decisions. The first, King v. Burwell, upheld the Affordable Care Act, saving it from a precipitous collapse that would have snatched healthcare away from the millions who were previously uninsured. It also ensured a significant legacy for President Obama. The following day, on Friday, June 26, the Court affirmed in Obergefell v.Hodges  that LGBTQ citizens will no longer be treated as second-class citizens, denied the right to marry anyone of their choosing. The Constitution’s guarantee of equal rights, the Court ruled, applies to all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation.

The week was capped by the Charleston tragedy, as President Obama gave the eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney. After he spoke, Obama grew silent, then gave a plaintive rendition of “Amazing Grace” that will not soon be forgotten.

From mourning to celebration: June comes full circle to a fitting close. Gay Pride parades and festivals mark the Stonewall Riots that propelled gay activism and culminated in a victory unforeseen in 1969.

Democracy is not dead in the U.S., as many fear. This week it made a stunning recovery.

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Filed under American Society, People, Politics, Race, Shooting

It Is Accomplished

Diane Vacca:

Andrew Sullivan, eloquent as always, resurrects the Dish to rejoice and celebrate SCOTUS same-sex marriage decision

Originally posted on The Dish:


As Gandhi never quite said,

First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win.

I remember one of the first TV debates I had on the then-strange question of civil marriage for gay couples. It was Crossfire, as I recall, and Gary Bauer’s response to my rather earnest argument after my TNR cover-story on the matter was laughter. “This is the loopiest idea ever to come down the pike,” he joked. “Why are we even discussing it?”

Those were isolating  days. A young fellow named Evan Wolfson who had written a dissertation on the subject in 1983 got in touch, and the world immediately felt less lonely. Then a breakthrough in Hawaii, where the state supreme court ruled for marriage equality on gender equality grounds. No gay group had agreed to support the case, which was regarded at best as hopeless and at…

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SCOTUS rules


Gay marriage cake by Giovanni Dall’Orto

The liberal wing of the Supreme Court, notably including swing Justice Anthony Kennedy, today made same-sex marriage legal in every state of the Union. Millions, gay and straight, rejoiced.

Writing the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy acknowledged that the Constitution says nothing about gay people, let alone gay marriage, because when it was written there was no visible gay population. Same-sex marriage was not an issue. Justice Kennedy explains:

The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.

To which Chief Justice John Roberts replies in his dissent:

… as a judge, I find the majority’s position indefensible as a matter of constitutional law….

He reads the opinion as a strict constructionist.

The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent. The majority expressly disclaims judicial “caution” and omits even a pretense of humility, openly relying on its desire to remake society according to its own “new insight” into the “nature of injustice.” Ante, at 11, 23. As a result, the Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are?

I find Roberts’s adherence to the letter of the law in the case of same-sex marriage very interesting, in view of his majority opinion in yesterday’s landmark decision, King v. Burwell. The case against Obamacare hinged on six words out of more than 200,000. The dissenters (Justices Scalia, Alito, Thomas) clung to those words, but Roberts ruled that they must be read in context. Clearly, one short phrase was not meant to undo over 900 pages of legislation.

The Preamble to the Constitution declares that Americans have “certain unalienable Rights … Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Today the Court restored those rights to a not insignificant number of the population. (Estimates of the LGBT population vary widely, from 10 to four percent, at least 9 million.)

The backbone of today’s decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, is the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. It prohibits any state from “abridg[ing] the privileges or immunities of citizens.” It also mandates the “equal protection of the laws” to every person.

Judging by their refusal acknowledge the rights and humanity of members of the LGBT communities, some contemporary jurists, conservatives, and self-proclaimed religious individuals apparently do not consider gays to be persons, let alone citizens. They insist that gays have neither the right to marry whom they choose nor even to the “pursuit of happiness,” since sharing one’s life with the beloved is a fundamental happiness.

Justice Roberts accuses the majority of writing the law, a function of the legislature, rather than interpreting it, the duty the court. I agree that it would have been ideal for each individual state to legalize same-sex marriage, but that wasn’t going to happen, and people are suffering now. “For them and their children the childhood years will pass all too soon,” writes Kennedy. A law that radically alters custom should rise from the people. The same was true in Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion nationwide.  The states are having their say now, as many of them pass ever-more-severe restrictions that in some cases make abortion all but impossible.

Justice Antonin Scalia, the fiery and outspoken conservative, does not hold back:

This is a naked judicial claim to legislative — indeed, super-legislative — power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ “reasoned judgment.” A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.

But neither can a system be called a democracy where Citizens United holds sway, when elective office costs millions and high office billions. It is a plutocracy, where money rules, and consequently, an oligarchy, where an exalted few multibillionaires call the shots. They are enabled by five unelected lawyers, including Antonin Scalia.

Let the wedding bells ring!





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Obamacare survives SCOTUS


Reporters running with the news that Obamacare survived trial by SCOTUS

At last! the decision that all Americans — for different reasons — have been waiting for. The Supreme Court has kept the Affordable Care Act viable, at least until the next assault. Justices Kennedy and Roberts joined the progressives on the Court in the 6-3 decision. The ruling affirmed that subsidies for eligible poor and middle-class individuals are legal in federal exchanges. It is estimated that as many as 9.6 million people would have lost their coverage if the Court had upheld the challenge to the ACA, although the Court could not take that effect into account in its analysis of the wording of the law. Mother Jones has a clear and succinct summary of how the ACA works, the case against it and the ruling that saves it.

The argument against the healthcare law was based on six words (“an Exchange established by the State”) that would rule out federal subsidies in states (34 as of now) that didn’t establish their own exchanges (insurance marketplaces that enable consumers to price and compare plans).

Does it make sense that those six words out of 235,000 in 906 pages of legal text were deliberately written with the purpose of invalidating the entire act? Republicans think so. Sen. Rand Paul, presidential hopeful from Kentucky, said, “This decision turns both the rule of law and common sense on its head.”

Justice Antonin Scalia, author of the dissent, characterized the majority opinion as “”interpretive jiggery-pokery,” a “defense of the indefensible,” “pure applesauce,” and “interpretive somersaults.”

Chief Justice Roberts, enraging conservatives by rescuing the ACA for a second time, did not agree with his conservative colleagues. He crystallized the logical underpinning of the majority opinion:

Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.

The Republican reaction? Knowing that while Obama is president he will never sign a law that undermines or repeals one of his signature achievements; and that Democrats, though in the minority, would not help them to override Obama’s hypothetical veto, Republicans have a simple strategy for overturning the SCOTUS decision: elect a Republican president and maintain the congressional Republican majority to repeal Obamacare.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) of Wyoming, the Republican tasked to head the Senate’s response to the ruling: “We will continue to try to pull parts of the law down, but we need a willing partner in the White House to accomplish these things.”

Jeb Bush: “disappointed … but not the end of the fight against Obamacare…”

Marco Rubio: “ObamaCare is still a bad law that is having a negative impact on our country and on millions of Americans. I remain committed to repealing this bad law and replacing it…”

Republican presidential candidates have a ready-made issue: Obamacare is bad; elect me and I’ll repeal it or replace it. They no longer have to contend with the Democratic argument that they will deny healthcare to millions of people.

Today’s favorable decision on Obamacare was critical, but it’s obvious that the ACA is not necessarily here to stay. It is on firm ground until the next president takes the oath of office in a year and a half. If Republicans were to give up their idée fixe of dismantling the ACA or nullifying it completely and instead collaborated with Democrats to improve it … Ah, well. In another life.

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