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Everything I Needed to Know I Learned on the School Bus
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz

It was a very cold morning. Bitter cold. And I didn’t have to go to work. Smug and delighted, I closed my eyes and enjoyed one of the greatest benefits of retirement: time. And with this time I began to make connections on what I had become and why and how. The quilted bed cover couldn’t hide the underlining commonality of my choices. Yes, after seven decades of life the unifying theme, the force that created my life style, paid for my childrens’ education, home, and way of living was the yellow school bus.

From kindergarten through junior college the stodgy, sometimes packed school bus carried me to my destination without fail. And, as a teacher of 40 years plus years, I watched my students use the same style school buses. All told, after 70 years of life, the one constant was the school bus. Remarkable, in that time they essentially have not changed. The seats are the same, the ride the same, and the doors are the same. Sometimes I even wonder if bus drivers are not cloned with the same personality and demeanor.

The bus is above all steadfast. You were always eager to see it come and eager to see it leave. So the first thing the school bus taught me was to be consistent and on-time. So lesson number one, in life, as at the bus stop, don’t be tardy or, to coin a phrase, you are going to miss the bus. Many a homework assignment that was not eaten by the family dog has been forgotten in the rush for the bus.

I believe of all the institutions we honor the school bus is the most under appreciated. Put it in the public service category. It is expected to be there and it is, rain or shine. But what is most appealing about the yellow school bus is that it is also the most respected of all vehicles. Police cars and ambulances and fire trucks need blaring sirens and bright lights to get respect. The school bus just has yellow paint and it works. So lesson number two is that what you wear is important to others regardless of your thoughts on the subject. Indeed, it does not matter what you really are, it is the perception that counts. You don’t have to call attention to yourself what you really need is to be yourself. If you are successful at this people will see you for what you are and that is how respect is earned.

The bus teaches us lessons, but so do its riders. Jerking open, the school bus door opens to expose to the riders even more important lessons. Those huge entry bus steps are an entry to a stage. For a few brief moments you are the center of center of attention. Before you spreads mankind and it can be intimidating. You can accept the honor and quietly look for an empty seat or a friend, or you can call attention to yourself with some wit or action. Regardless, you will blend into the masses and your journey begins. Consider your entry a job interview. Prepare yourself for acceptance as well as rejection. So lesson number three is to be accepting of others as some days they may return that favor.

The school bus neutralizes any individuality with a set of strict rules. The bus driver is the enforcer and dictates the rules. The driver is the fascist government using the mirrors to watch you at all times and the operator even has the authority to stop traffic. Anything considered anti-social is considered cause for alarm. If the bus driver gets up and walks through the masses something needs correction. The Constitution is on longer in effect. So lesson three is that the driver represents society and is there to interpret norms. A prank, well placed blow, hair pull, or even an “accidental” trip are felonies on the bus.
This obedience to a dictator is also reflected on what school is designed to do: follow the rules. Indeed, by the third grade the damage has been done. Line up, sit down, be quiet, play nice at recess, and don’t offend. In other words bow to authority. Since a substitute teacher has not really earned that authority all bets are off and anarchy can rule for a while.

When you enter a school bus your initial concerns are where to sit, who is going to sit next to you, and what happens if you are sitting next to someone of the other sex. Unless you are a late arrival, you usual have a choice. On a good day a friend is waving to you. On an average day you take an empty seat and make yourself look at big as you can so there isn’t room for anyone else. On a so-so day you have to sit beside another of the same sex. On an almost horrible day you have to sit beside someone of the other sex and that person is just as unhappy as you are. On a really terrible day you are the third person on that seat and brace yourself with your foot in the aisle. As in life, you are not always able to control who you work for or your neighbors. The school bus seating is thus lesson number three: always be thankful you are on the bus and make it a learning opportunity.

The bus ride can be anywhere from a half-hour to several hours and just sitting there is a lost opportunity. Sharing and learning from others adds spice to your life. An old friend can be trusted to help you. Trying to hog the whole seat is a missed opportunity, even if it is more comfortable for some people to be by themselves. Sitting next to someone of either sex is a chance to share and learn. If that person happens to be attracted to you or vice versa the opportunities to practice small talk are precursors to finding a significant other. In fact, sitting on the bus is unique in that that person is essentially trapped by you. You have their attention for long periods of time and there is little they can do to avoid it. For example, let’s say you aren’t the most beautiful creature to walk the Earth and don’t have much confidence. The bus seat is the perfect place to prove that looks aren’t everything. Your charm, humor, intelligence, and general ah-shucks effectiveness can all be practiced. And unlike airline seats, where the person can get up to go to the bathroom and disappear for most of the trip, the school bus is as close as you are ever going to get to a captive audience. So lesson number four is the bus is the perfect place to learn how to deal with different people.

The bus is where you can gauge your popularity. If you take a quick look around and there isn’t anyone signaling to you to share a seat the odds are you really haven’t tried to make friend. After all, this is the same bus you have been taking all year. Okay, for the first couple of week’s maybe strangers, but after that you should have found your pack. Most people accept their fate and sit silently with a stranger. Mistake. The bus has given you the opportunity to learn about new people. So lesson number five is that the ride is a chance to turn a stranger into a friend, and, with luck, someone who will welcome you aboard in the future. So the next lesson is to consider each bus trip your chance to see what it is like to be the president. You don’t have to be yourself, but you better be significant even if that requires a few Fox News like “facts” to enhance your street cred.

Sitting with your friends brings about another aspect of your growth, the ability to bullshit and see if it sticks. Any rumor with sex is especially  ripe for repeating. Teacher rumors, who is going with whom, and funny stories are all part of bus conversation. So lesson number six is to practice your ability to develop a rapport with facts that suit you and prefect your small talk.

The last ones on a crowded bus are the beggars. With all the seats taken they had to look for the least likely to hate you for being the third one on the seat. If you were fat you knew immediately that everyone on the bus feared you would choice their seat. With luck there were two skinny girls and you could at least get one cheek on the seat and brace yourself with your aisle leg. The beggars taught you three things that could help you in the future all wrapped up in one lesson. First, look at people in the eyes. If they divert their attention they are yours. If they stare back they are up to your challenge. Secondly, don’t trust friends to move over for you. They may be your friend, but that doesn’t have to mean that they want to share with you. Thirdly, being in the aisle, being uncomfortable, isn’t always a disadvantage. When the bus stops you are the first out. You are now in control. You can slow up a busload of students as they cue up behind you looking longingly for a way to pass. So turning negatives to positives is something that can prove valuable in life and is lesson number nine.

A bus full of students can be a torture zone if just one of them has a hygiene or a gas problem. Telling someone they smell can be considered bullying. Being clean is not everyone priority and some resort to chemical weapons; cheap after shave or perfume to mask the odor. You have three choices. First, if there is room you can move to a vacant seat. Secondly, you can let your eyes water and bear it. Finally, you can tell the person about their problem. The latter requires a sophisticate approach best left to the diplomats or self-assured girls. So lesson number ten is the fact that the bus teaches you problem solving and people skills.

Lesson number eleven is that regardless of how confident you are getting on the bus you may be defeated by the caste system. This system is based on an unwritten rule that those of your caste sit in certain parts of the bus. The most dangerous is the backseat caste based on the fact that distance from the bus driver builds boldness and a breakdown in discipline. Being forced to sit in a different caste area is as close to death as you can come unless your mom visits your classroom. So the lesson to be learned here is to be flexible and hopefully, learn to be tolerant of others.

Lesson twelve is two-fold. First, making friends with the bus driver is time well spent. The person in charge can give you confidence and even allow you to adjust the windows. That is power. So the lessons to be learned here are to try and control the situation, give kudos to those that can help make your day, and the importance of taking the responsibility of making friends with the leader.

The emergency door and practicing emergency procedures is lesson thirteen. Basically, the bus is offering you the knowledge that having an emergency plan is vital in life. You want to be prepared.

Perhaps the most important lesson the bus ride can teach you is how to deal with rejection. You are among the first on the bus get a primo seat and make yourself as big as possible. Suddenly the doors swing open and there is the person you have a crush on. You make eye contact, you slide over, and nothing. You know the person saw you, and yet there was clear rejection to your offering. Within the confines of the bus ride there was nothing that you could do. You have but one choice, except defeat and move on to another prospect. So lesson number fourteen is that the bus is teaching you is that love may be fleeting, but there is always another bus ride. And always remember that Rosa Parks turned a bus ride into a national movement.

Finally, the bus teaches you to plan ahead. You must stay alert, know where you are, and realize that if you miss your bus stop it might take you longer to get where you want to go.

SUVS of a Lesser God: VW vs Infiniti
by The Car Family

For more reviews go to https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/

Two flagships, both loaded, the VW Touareg and Infiniti QX60 are not your mainstream SUVs and yet each deserves consumer respect with high marks for safety and useability. The major differences between these two stalwarts is that although they are priced similarly they are world’s apart in spirit. The Volkswagen is tough as nails, ready to handle any terrain while the Infiniti is spacious, and smooth. Both test vehicles cost in the mid $50,000 range, but were heavily optioned.

2017_touareg_6458

NASHVILLE (Dec. 15, 2016) – Infiniti has comprehensively enhanced its versatile QX60 premium crossover for 2016, introducing a wide range of changes that improve the seven-seater’s exterior design and its driving dynamics, while showcasing new features and technologies that improve comfort, convenience and safety.

NASHVILLE (Dec. 15, 2016) – Infiniti has comprehensively enhanced its versatile QX60 premium crossover for 2016, introducing a wide range of changes that improve the seven-seater’s exterior design and its driving dynamics, while showcasing new features and technologies that improve comfort, convenience and safety.

The loaded Volkswagen Wolfsburg edition is the more rugged performer, but it is not by any means without its comforts. There is a 7700 pound towing rate, fine interior styling, nice handling despite its height, adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera, a trailer hitch, an 8-inch touchscreen, and more. It does not have a third row seat as the Infiniti does and the engine is not as responsive as its Japanese counterpart. The Volkswagen impressed us with its quiet demeanor while still offering a capable off-road ability that would make it ideal for 909 readers who are tempted by moutain and desert drives as well as the dangers of torrential rainfall.
2017_touareg_int

Infiniti’s QX60 was more luxurious with a smooth ride and a new 3.5 liter V6 that gave us 22 mpg and never lacked for effort, unless you selected the Eco mode which neutralized the performance in the interest of better fuel economy. The Touareg average a bit less, at 20 mpg.

Mom’s view: I would choose the Infiniti if I needed the third row of seats. The interior appointments were lush and the ride more cushioned. The Volkswagen had a more modern interior design and was easier to park, although I loved the QX60’s monitor that displayed an aerial imagery that showed you what was around you.The brakes in the Volkswagen were superb. Both vehicles did well in crash tests, although you need to order the forward collision warning on the Infiniti. The Infiniti’s third row seat is fairly easy for youngsters to access as the second row seats fold down. The Touareg is strictly a two-row, five-passenger SUV, but its rear seat is roomy, with reclining seatbacks and sliding seat travel. There is 64 cubic feet of room with the rear seats down in the VW while larger Infiniti has 76.5 cubic feet. As 909 reader know well traffic is getting worse. Thus I recommend as many safety features as you can afford of which both of these vehicles have an abundance.

Dad’s view: The Volkswagen Touareg comes with a 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 280 horsepower driving through an eight-speed automatic transmission to a 4Motion all-wheel drive. It was an enjoyable vehicle, but the engine does let you know when you poke it. On the road it is pleasant even over rough roads. The Infiniti V6 was a bit smoother and stronger with 295 horsepower. It has a continuously variable automatic transmission and our Q also had all-wheel drive. The QX60 V-6 is rated to tow up to 5000 pounds. The Infiniti is all about traveling in luxury and so there is much less road feel in the QX. The seats in both vehicles were excellent with a fairly low step-in height. As similar as these two SUVs are in cost there is no question that the Infiniti is designed for those who like to be coddled whereas the Touareg is a tough customer ready for whatever comes your way.

2016 Infiniti QX60

2016 Infiniti QX60

Young working man’s view: The Infiniti offers an infotainment system and some nice graphics with the always handy buttons to make navigating fairly easy. The telematics can locate the vehicle if it is missing and can even unlock it. If you have teenagers you can set the car up so that it will notify them if they are going to fast or leaving an area you don’t want them to leave. The sound system in both vehicles was satisfactory, but you should consider upgrades. The WolfsburgTouareg offers Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an 8-inch touchscreen interface, a navigation system, an eight-speaker sound system with HD and satellite radio, and a CD player. Touareg’s infotainment system functions well, however the Infiniti offers more including an available Theater Package.

Young working woman’s view: Standard features are abundant in the Volkswagen such as LED cabin lighting, VW’s Driver Assist package and Park Distance Control, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, HID headlights and rearview camera. Volkswagen also offers an eight-inch touchscreen, a Dynaudio premium audio system, a hands-free power liftgate, rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic braking, lane departure warning, and a Car-Net telematics system which notifies roadside assistance if you need help. On the other hand, Infiniti has HID headlights, a post-collision safety system and a remote anti-theft alarm. Also offered are a Driver Assistance package that includes forward and reverse collision warnings, automatic braking, blind-spot alerts, and Active Trace Control. I found the Infiniti softer and more relaxing to drive. The Volkswagen more eager, but not as comforting.

Family conference. The Infiniti and Volkswagen appeal to those who march to a different drummer. They are competent and durable, but lack the cachet of the mainstream SUVs. To this end the rugged Volkswagen Touareg and Infiniti QX60 offer owners the advantage of owning a unique vehicle that can handle whatever is thrown at them while still proving comfort and safety.

“If you are not learning, you are dying.”
Albert Einstein

10 Crucial Errors: A Retired Teacher’s Guide for Retiring Teachers
by Alan Haskvitz, retired

I am not a financial expert or psychologist. What I am is a retired teacher and so the information that I am presenting is advice that I have learned from the often times wondrous and sometimes daunting task of retiring from a profession that, until recently, was my life.

Do Not Look Back

The first rule is do not lament. Yes, you may miss the students and the identity, but saying to yourself I could go one more year solves nothing. When someone asks what you do take pride in telling them you are retired. It is a noble task. You have done your best and time to take a brief rest. A brief rest. And, by the way, you are not alone. Every year there are about 75,000 teachers retiring for one reason or another. To help you avoid living in the past, you should take all those letters from students, awards, photos, and the like and give yourself one day a year to look them over. Just one day. After a few years it won’t take that long.

However, all those lesson plans you have created could be worth gold. There are sites where you can offer them for sale such as http://teacherlingo.com/. Here is an article on how to do it https://edsource.org/2015/teachers-become-entrepreneurs-by-selling-classroom-materials-online/86500

Every time you go by a school you may look at and wonder if they need help. The answer is probably yes. However, be aware that you are no longer going to be in charge of the situation and you may not like what you see. So, if you have time consider volunteering there are several sites that offer such opportunities, but I have found that those in need of tutoring are usually the most rewarding based on my skills.

So, to summarize, living in the past is a hobby that does not bode well for your future. You were a good teacher and had a long run, now is the time to capitalize on your investment in education and spend some time developing new interests and refilling your bucket list.

Build a New Life

That leads us to the second rule, your social life. Females don’t seem to have as much of a problem as males in making new friends, but regardless it is best to start cultivating new acquaintances. Expanding your social realm helps you gain new insights into what is happening and new opportunities to share. I participate in the Senior Olympics program that is offered in most states. You can participate in a variety of sports and doing so helps you meet new people and set fresh goals. No matter how uncoordinated you are or how long is has been since you have been in a sporting activity, here is your chance. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Read the newspaper looking for new clubs or social events. Go to city council meetings and look into becoming involved in organizations. These can result in opportunities to meet others. There may even be retired teacher groups in your area. There are senior centers in most communities where you can meet and greet a variety of people as well as participate in activities. The point is your social life is important because it provides you with an outlet, a place to learn and share, that keeps you in balance and provides that push you may need to get off the couch and away from the television. The most dangerous thing you can do is to become withdrawn and spend too much time thinking of what was instead of what could be. Remember that a successful retirement requires two main ingredients, patience and the desire to develop new habits knowing it takes 66 days to change a habit.

Ban the Nap

The third rule is your health. Go to a doctor and get a complete physical. Ask the doctor what you can do to improve your health and abide by that advise. I have high blood pressure. I joined a running club and found my blood pressure was back to normal after just a few months of walking and jogging. Do I run, barely, but I enter the frequent 5K runs knowing I can write-off the entry fee on my taxes. I am not competitive, but I set a goal for myself and try to get better little by very little. And, you don’t have to run. You can walk in these events and some even allow you to take a well behaved dog There are friends to be made and your health is going to improve if you pace yourself. Another item to be aware of is eating too much. While at school you had to eat when the students did. Now you can raid the refrigerator whenever you want. The result can be bad for your wardrobe and health. Set yourself some goals about what you are going to eat. I have found that a walk around the block or longer is excellent after eating. Perhaps the most dangerous thing you can do for your health, outside of eating too much, is watching television or spending too much time in front of a computer. Sitting too long can even contribute to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. So keep a record of when you started working on a computer or watching television and when you stopped. You are probably going to be shocked at how easy it is to waste away hours without challenging yourself.

Another aspect of health is your health coverage. Make a list of any medications you need and take it to the pharmacy. Ask them what company offers the best coverage for those drugs. By the way, remembering to take your drugs can be a real problem. I would buy one of those plastic containers with each day of the week on individual compartments and put your daily doses in them every Sunday. It is so easy to get busy and forget them and this method helps contradict that concern. Match that with your medical conditions and you can have a better way to shop the various health plans. Some medical plans also offer free health club memberships. Take it. Another important element of health care is too keep track of your body. Keep a log of your weight and check for new skin moles that might be cancerous. If you are brave, try doing the Five Tibetans. This is a series of exercises you can do every day that limber up your body. However, they aren’t easy so at first instead of doing the recommended 21 try just doing a couple.

Take a hard look at the weight scale. As you get older it becomes much harder to control your weight. There are two ways to lose weight. First, eat better and, secondly, exercise more. The first is totally a personal choice and may require some sacrifices such as your favorite ice cream. The exercise part is the hardest because it means you have to do something whereas eating less is not doing something.

With your doctor’s permission consider taking vitamins. Vitamin B12 is important for creating red blood cells and DNA, and for maintaining healthy nerve function. Also check your intake of calcium vitamin D, potassium, magnesium, fiber, and omega-3 fats. There is evidence that omega-3s may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and keeps the brain sharper.

Water is literally life. My wife is always telling me to hydrate. Constipated, hydrate. Dizzy, hydrate. Dehydration can cause a headache, dryness in the mouth, lips, tongue, and skin, fatigue, dark urine confusion, and chest pain. It helps regulate your body temperature, improves providing organs with sufficient oxygen, and bone and joint lubrication. It also affects the balance of electrolytes, vitamins and minerals are essential for the body to function, including brain signaling. Dehydration can cause both internal and external aging especially in the condition of your skin. So drink water frequently and make sure to tell my wife she is right.
Finally, work on your balance. Here are some statistics that should get your attention from the National Council on Aging: One-fourth of Americans aged 65+ falls each year. Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall. Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/falls-prevention-facts/

You should dedicate five to ten minutes every day on balance exercises. They can be as easy as you want, but they need to be tried with your doctor’s permission. Here are some examples, stand on one foot for ten seconds and switch to other foot. You can hold on to a chair if you wish. Walk heel to toe for several steps. Raise one leg towards the back and see if you can hold this position for a few seconds. Always use a chair to hold onto when you are just getting the hang of it. You can also raise your leg to the side or back. Slow and steady is the key. As you get better you can invent ways to improve your balance such as walking on a plank. Of note, vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to increased risk of falling.

Fight Forgetfulness

The fourth area to improve is your scheduling. All that time you used to work needs to be accounted for in a positive way. You need to keep a calendar of events and make sure there is something recorded every day for you to do. It can be as simple as walking the dog, washing the car, going to the library, shopping, or even writing letters. Now scheduling requires due diligence so don’t just write it down, do it. And, spending time on social media is not a scheduling inclusion. Scheduling is not keeping a diary, that is past tense. You want to be pushing forward in your planing and thinking. For example, tomorrow is Monday. What do I have planned. Nothing. Well, what could I do? Organize the photo books, weed the flower bed, wash the windows, write letters to the children, make a list of local organizations where I could donate my old books? Something often forgotten in scheduling is to take time every day to ponder, think, let your mind wander. Make it a habit. Just do it.
Take the time to write
The fifth area to work on is writing. It cost nothing to start a blog and they are easy to start and update. You can use a blog to post your thoughts, add photos, and create. We all have funny stories about incidents we survived while teaching and you can put them in writing. Make time daily or weekly to add something. It could be a poem, or your thoughts on investing, or a joke you heard or made up. Write a book about the story of your life and add to it on a regular basis. Regardless, writing is very therapeutic for your mind. In order to write you have to observe, restate what you are thinking, select the words that you want to use to communicate, and finally, after the work is written, to evaluate it. Here is a free site that I use: https://wordpress.com/ Above all don’t say you can’t do it. Remember that you may be helping others as well as yourself by sharing.

Let Your Mind Loose
The fifth area, and probably the most overlooked, is to work on your fantasies. I am not writing about those fantasies, but possible ones. Fantasies are important to the growing mind and provides you room to roam and let your thinking loose on the universe. Spending a dollar on a lottery ticket is essentially money thrown away from a practical standpoint. But in the days or weeks before the numbers are released you can spend hours of time planning how the money is to be used. As well, go to the library and read magazines that feature travel or science, or whatever. The point is it keeps your mind active and leads to the one item that every retiree should have, a bucket list. This acculturation of dreams and wants and perhaps a need or two can constantly be updated. The list does not have to make sense, it could include being the first person on Mars. Who knows when NASA is going to look for a well educated older person to help a young team solve problems.

Organize your affairs
The sixth area is legal in nature. If you don’t have a trust create one now. It will help your survivors when you die, prevent legal and financial headaches, and you can even do it yourself. This is a site that explains why and how it can be done. http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/making-living-trust-yourself-29736.html While you are working in the legal area you might want to take a look at how your investments, if any, are doing. I am not going to spend a lot of time on this basically because I don’t know a hill of beans about it. Here is what I know. I have a pension and a small 401k and a saving account. I am making zilch on the savings, not much on the 401k, and the pension is static and thus fixed so if inflation rises I am a sitting duck. I am sure others know more, but I can offer you one suggestion, don’t let this area go without tending to it on a regular basis. Ask questions, search for better rates, and try to have enough for emergencies. Emergencies are real and expensive and can remove you from a life of leisure to one fraught with constant worry. You must have a good health insurance plan. Period. If you are young enough to qualify for a long term care plan that also would be advisable. But beware that these plans are very limited so you may need help. Here is a good site for that data: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/08/long-term-care-insurance/index.htm
If you are too old or do not qualify for this insurance, I highly advocate you start a saving or other type of account to cover assisted living costs for at least a year between in excess of $40,000 and nursing home care is about $75,000 a year. You might want to examine all your insurance policies and see if they cover what you want. The rates might have even gone down so check it out and get the policies organized.
Polish Your Knowledge
The seventh area is to become an expert at something. If you have enough room plant some milk weed plants and watch the Monarch butterflies appear as they journey from Mexico and back taking five generations to make the trip. Or start a vegetable garden even if you have to use large patio type containers. Learn about astronomy and buy a telescope or become an expert on geology. There are countless areas that you can study and, in doing so, strengthen your mind and body. I recommend auditing college classes in various subjects to expand your knowledge base. Online cases are another way to acquire new knowledge.
Simplify
The eighth area to consider is downsizing. Selling your house for a smaller one or condo or even moving into an apartment are considerations. However, most retirees are comfortable where they are especially if they have a one story home. Besides why move from what you know? There are also tax considerations if you own an expensive home and move to a less costly one you may need to pay a gains tax. There are a great many lists of what states have better tax advantages for retired people. However, if you are on a teachers retirement plan and, perhaps, Social Security, you may not find the saving enough of a motivation to move. While downsizing also consider your accumulated clutter. Many charitable groups can take that outfit you have owned for three decades and sell it to someone who actually feels it is stylish. The same goes for those student gifts and left over dog toys. Walk around your home and if you have not used something in a year make a decision as to whether to hold a garage or yard sale or get the tax deduction receipt for the donation. Something that is often forgotten when moving is to look for a place where the sun can shine in the windows or at least make it easy for you to go out into the sun. Research has shown that vitamin D, made when your skin is exposed to sunlight, plays a role in activating white blood cells and help protect you from flu, food poisoning and even cancer.
Expand your vision
The ninth area is travel. You may consider retirement as your time to see the world, or at least get those good off-season rates. Be warned that traveling may not be as glamorous as it seemed on a rainy day in the classroom. For example, if you are taking a tour that means you may be with people you just do not like. So what I recommend is what Larry Martz in his book, Making Schools Better, coined; the small bites approach. Start small. A day or week long trip and see how that goes. However, whatever you do don’t write off traveling. It is stretching your mind making you figure out everything from exchange rates to communicating in a different language to remembering where you are going on how to get back. If you enjoy driving and have the funds, you may want to check out a later model car that features a great many safety items such as blind spot warnings, automatic emergency autonomous braking, stability control, even adaptive cruise control. All these updates can save your life and those of others. Seniors have the highest death rate in vehicle accidents outside of teenagers so consider a safer car a good investment regardless of its residual rate. Here is the site with great reviews: https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/
A final area to help you with retirement is to reconstruct your work space. Take an inventory of what you have, what you want to keep, and what might be discarded or donated. Give your work area a fresh look and you can always do some research on Feng Shui decorating to give it more energy. Perhaps a new plant or reworking your file cabinets could be a start. You may also want to take an inventory of what is in each room of your dwelling including a garage if one available. Taking pictures or a video of the items would help as well. Replacing fire alarms, lubricating hinges and locks are all jobs that can help you assess what you have, need, and could sell or donate.
In conclusion, you want to avoid becoming lazy. Thinking, “I did my time, now I can relax, “is okay for a day or two, but what about the coming years? Take control of your free time and use it to your advantage. You do not want to be a would have, could have, should have type of retiree.

What would the person you were think about the person you are now.
As a 75-year-old retired educator I have a life expectancy of about 10 more years and women have close to 13 more years of life on average. With that in mind your motto and mine from here on in should be that retirement isn’t how long you live, but how well you live.
About the author: Alan Haskvitz is a National Hall of Fame educator who has received over 30 state, national and international teaching awards including being selected as a Reader’s Digest Hero in Education. Haskvitz worked in education for 45 years and is now a writer, athlete, and speaker.

Mazda’s CX-9: Seating for Seven
by The Car Family
for more reviews go to https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/

Mazda, perhaps most renowned for building smaller, agile vehicles, is starting to expand its appeal by offering a new flagship, the seven passenger CX-9. The result is encouraging for SUV buyers as it combines a refined interior, good fuel mileage, and an abundance of safety features. Perhaps the most notable feature is that this well loaded, family oriented vehicle places the emphasis on utility and enhances it with the interior of a luxury vehicle. In fact, if you opt for the Signature edition no one is ever going to know you are not driving around in an upscale European model.

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Adding to the uniqueness of the CX-9 is the fact it has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine while most competitors offer a six cylinder alternative. Don’t fret, the Mazda is plenty potent for two lane road passing or freeway merging thanks to its SkyActiv technology and smooth six-speed automatic transmission that keeps everything at peak efficiency. Even better our mpg average was 24 in mixed driving with 27 mpg on a quick trip to San Diego. As an aside, four cylinder engines are becoming the engine of choice as manufactures work to meet ever increasing environmental standards as such lxuru brands as Audi, Lexus, and Cadillac now offer these hard working units to consumers.

Mom’s view: If looks matter, Mazda is going to sell a lot of Mazda CX-9s and the good news is that the beauty of this SUV goes beyond appearances. You can get it with a full range of safety options including blind-spot monitoring, radar-based cruise control, and lane-departure warning that activate the adjustable collision-warning system and uses the automatic emergency braking system to avoid problems. The interior is splendid and feels scrumptious using real rose wood and aluminum accents as well as leather seats, and the exterior is snappy looking as well. This is not your typical SUV appliance. The ergonomics are easy to master and visibility is good, the automatic rear hatch gentle to use, and interior lighting is excellent. Even with the base Sport model you get three zone climate control, rear view camera, and seven-inch monitor with Mazda Connect, Bluetooth, and inputs. The CX-9 height helps eliminate worry when entering or leaving the vehicle and the ancillary controls on the steering wheel can be used easily even with long nails. It took me a while to get used to the accelerator’s need for a gentle touch as I am a bit of a lead foot, but once mastered it was pleasant to drive at any speed.

Dad’s view: The big news is how responsive the new 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder is thanks to some creative engineering to combat turbo lag. Mazda uses three values in the intake manifold that can close to force more pressure into the system creating more power at low rpms. The engineers have also devised a better way to harvest gases from the exhaust to keep the turbo on task consistently. The result is an engine that thrives while producing 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft. of torque. The result is plenty of pep, even for mountain driving. You can order an optional all wheel drive, but it was standard on our Signature model. The ride was similar to a much more expensive luxury vehicle and acceleration to 60 mph took around eight second seconds. Touch the accelerator and the CX-9 is ready to play right now with no noticeable turbo lag to hamper its class leading mpg rating. Steering is a bit light, but perfect for tight parking spots, and the overall feel is of a much smaller, lighter on its feet, SUV especially when in sport mode. The CX-9 is impressive, especially when given its pricing and features.

Young working male’s view: There is plenty of standard equipment, but Mazda does offer some interesting options. My suggestion is to go for the loaded versions such as the Signature or Grand Touring models, which feature a power front seat, power liftgate, eight inch monitor, navigation, 12 speaker Bose system, heated front seats and all types of safety equipment. The dash has a variety of analog dials that work well, but when is the most startling is that one of them carries a color LCD screen that can display trip-computer information and a compass. The eight-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard was a long reach, but what I liked was the fact you didn’t have to use it to control functions as there was a large knob located near the console mounted gear shift that helped with imputing data. Mazda isn’t at the cutting edge of electronics, but its meat and potatoes approach should appease all but the most dedicated gadget break.

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Young working woman’s view: There are several models of the CX-9 to choice from, but the Grand Touring and Signature are worth the extra cost because of the added features. Mazda’s price range is from just over $32,000 to around $45,000 so do your homework. Inside, the second row has ample room and the seats slide and are foldable so there is easy access to the third row of seats, which are best used for children. Cargo space varies from 14 cubic feet of space to 38 to 71 depending on which seats are folded down. I greatly love the Mazda 6 and find it better looking, better handling then the competition. The same goes for this Mazda.

Family conference: The Mazda CX-9 is enjoyable, useful, and well priced being a significant value over the more expensive seven seat models from Honda and Ford, among others. Just a fun family vehicle with a heaping helping of value over a topping of exceptional styling. It may not go Zoom Zoom so Mazda might change its theme to Room Room.

Fiat’s Playful Pair
by The Car Family
for more reviews go to https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/

When you think Italian you think chic, voguish, trendy and all those words rightly describe Fiat’s retro styled vehicles, including the station-wagonish L and the cuddly C convertible models. Both are loaded with a plethora of goodies to entice those searching for value and utility. We tested the Fiat L Trekking and Fiat C convertible and found them fun and frugal. Base prices start in the teens and low $20,000 range. Add to that good safety scores and exceptional fuel mileage and you have vehicles that just don’t appeal to the daring, but to those who looking to make a change from the same old to the playful new.

Fiat offers a plethora of other model as well with the daddy sized, SUVish X, zippy Abarth 500, battery powered E model, and new 124 Spyder. All of them have a few things in common besides being cute and that is a vibrant color palette and playful attitude.

Mom’s view: The Fiat L’s interior design is excellent with ancillary controls on the steering wheel and air, heat and radio controls where you can easily reach them. The standard five-inch monitor does not bleach out when the sun shines in as happens in most of the competition. Everything is easy to use, although the emergency brake location is difficult to reach when wearing a bracelet unless the slim center console is raised. The L has a heavy rear hatch and opens very high so be warned, especially if you are wearing a short dress. The side doors swing wide and you simply slide into the comfortable seats. Attaching a child’s seat is easy thanks the height of the L. Outward visibility in all directions is unmatched in the L. The dual glove boxes are handy and the rear seats are cleverly positioned even higher than the fronts. Fiat states that there are over 1000 possible seating combinations, including sliding the front passenger side forward to be used as a picnic table, and over 20 cubbyholes for storage. You really have to spend some time in one to appreciate its usefulness.

2016 Fiat 500L

2016 Fiat 500L

Dad’s view: Fiat’s C is one of the most fun cars you can have for trips to the mountains or sea-shore thanks to its nifty handling, spunky driveability, and feisty attitude. It is perfect for wamt the benefit of an easy to park vehicle, over 30 mpg, and the ability to go topless in seconds. If it rains, it could happen, the top is a snap to raise. The C handles like a go-cart with good brakes and sharp, if a bit heavy, steering. A manual transmission is available, but we much prefer the new six-speed automatic when coupled to the base 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with its 101 horsepower. There is also a 135 horsepower Turbo model.

Our L Trekking had a MultiAir turbocharged inline-4 providing 160 horsepower with an mpg overall rating of 25. Passing and on-ramps were no problem, but there is torque steer evident when accelerating hard from a stop, and the engine can sound gruff when pushed. The L isn’t a slouch, but Fiat really designed it for transporting the family. The rear seats can recline, there is an optional large sunroof that covers both front and rear passengers, and 22.4 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats and 68 cubic feet with them folded. Interior space is nearly identical with a Ford Escape. I enjoyed the L. It grew on me because it was so maneuverable and handy thanks to the Koni suspension components. However, I recommend you test the Fiat X with its all wheel drive capabilities and similar dimensions and stick with the convertible if you are a fashionista.

Young male’s view: The front-wheel-drive Fiat 500 C has a cute rump and comes in several flavors based on your option selections. They are babe magnets and economical as well. However, there isn’t much interior space. For that you need the L. Either way, Fiat offers a standard Uconnect infotainment system with a USB port and Bluetooth connectivity. You can connect your phone to the system and reply to texts using voice commands. The fonts are easy to see and the system works as well as those on a Mercedes. The L offers a Beats audio system that I recommend. Other options include automatic climate control, rearview camera, rear parking sensors and 6.5-inch touch screen. My choice is the 500 C, but if you want something more wicked get the 500 Abarth.

2016 Fiat 500c Pop (left) with 1962 Fiat 500 (center) and 2016 Fiat 500c Lounge (right)

2016 Fiat 500c Pop (left) with 1962 Fiat 500 (center) and 2016 Fiat 500c Lounge (right)

Young working woman’s viewpoint: Fiat is for those brave enough to leave the safety of same-old for the challenges of change. To that end Fiat has priced their vehicles very aggressively. To assuage quality worries, Fiat Chrysler of America offers a 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with roadside assistance and a 3-year/36,000-mile no-cost maintenance package. There are a variety of C models from the more basic Pop to the loaded Lounge. The L comes in several flavors as well with the Pop, Easy, Trekking, Urbana, and Lounge each adding new levels of considerations. Standard safety features include seven airbags and more, but be warned, ladies, that getting in and out of the C takes modesty practice.

Family conference: Fiats are unique and may not appeal to everyone, but they do offer consumers the safety of a good warranty, friendly ergonomics, and some exceptional lease deals and incentives. There is also an extensive option list to make them easy to individualize. Fiat also offers through its website a Mix and Mingle program that brings users together. In essence, owners have made Fiat a life-style choice and well worth a look for those seeking a little Italian to call their own. Ciao.

Toyota’s Top Hybrids: Prius and RAV4
by The Car Family
for more reviews go to https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/
Toyota RAV 4 and the Prius have provided consumers with a nice combination of utility and frugality with both cars offering room for a young family and exceptional fuel mileage. Both vehicles have a lot in common from pricing, to Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrains to class leading fuel mileage in the over 50 mpg for the Prius and 30 for the RAV. Indeed, if you are after economical travel these two are tough to top.

Prius Tourning

Prius Tourning

RAV4 Hybrid

RAV4 Hybrid

Of course, the real reason hybrids are popular is their fuel mileage. However, buyers need to do some math homework with several important variables to consider. First, how much more is the hybrid going to cost over a similar vehicle. The government has a handy site that simplifies this math at fueleconomy.gov.
With that in mind we tested two of the best hybrids from the most successful hybrid company in the world, Toyota. We weren’t disappointed.
Mom’s view: The RAV4 hybrid is easy to drive, park, and use. It can seat five, but is only available in the more expensive trim models. I wasn’t impressed with the RAV’s interior as it just looks and feels dated. I did like the utility tray and storage areas and the easy to use automatic rear hatch. You loose a little cargo area with the hybrid, but still get between 35 to 70 cubic feet of room depending if the rear seat is lowered. Safety wise, the RAV4 top of the line Limited includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, full-length airbags, a driver knee airbag, rearview camera, blind-spot warning system and rear cross-traffic alert. An optional Advanced Technology package that includes an 11-speaker JBL premium audio system with a top-down-view parking camera system is also worth considering. We tested the Prius Four Touring model that has a much improved electronics and is loaded with safety features, too, with a blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and air-bags most everywhere. My only problem with the new Prius was the white, really white, center console, and losing some rear seat leg room due to the placement of the batteries. Otherwise a really great car. My opinion is that the RAV4 is an excellent all-around family vehicle and the Prius, and I hate to write this, a really fun sedan. Both cars have excellent quality scores.

Dad’s view: The RAV 4 hybrid is all wheel drive and is the most fuel efficient vehicle in its class. The ride is excellent and, best of all, aggressive pricing makes it difficult to pass by for bargain hunters. The brakes take a bit to get used to as they are regenerative, but almost all hybrids have a similar feel. The RAV4 has the same system as Lexus NX uses and it shows. This is the best hybrid in its class for cargo and mileage. The ride is smooth and fairly quiet, but can be rough over tax-money deprived roads Driving the hybrid is enjoyable once you get used to the thrust the electric motors provide. All in all the RAV4 is a tidy SUV with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, electric motors front and rear and a continuously variable transmission. The result is 194 horsepower SUV that uses front-wheel drive in normal operation, but automatically engages the electrically driven rear wheels when needed. In other words, a perfect vehicle for readers who want to be prepared for whatever nature throws at them while still being fuel frugal. The Prius is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine aided by a pair of electric motor/generators. Using the console mounted power button maximizes thrust making it easier to pass and merge. In fact, it is addicting. However, the best feature in this new Prius is its improved brakes, suspension and driving dynamics. My choice would be the Prius because it is fun to drive and consistently get 50 plus mpg. With its 11 gallon gas tank full of unleaded a 500 mile trip will cost under $25 and no TSA waiting line.

Young working girls’ view: Neither car is beautiful, but both have an inner beauty and that is reliability. The RAV4 is spacious and honest and doesn’t try to fool you into thinking you are driving a luxury car. I found the Prius too difficult to get into with its lower entry and the unique center gauge placement wasn’t to my taste. The RAV4 hybrid was much easier and, with certain options, was a breeze to park. I would definitely get Toyota Safety Sense that includes collision alert, lane departure warning, pedestrian detection, radar cruise control and more. I really liked the intelligent park assist that can be used for both perpendicular and parallel parking especially living in a parking challenged city. The cargo space is very generous and rear seat room was ample. A perfect SUV for a single or young family who love to travel winter or summer.
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Young working male’s view: Both hybrids are loaded with electronic choices that make option selections difficult. For example, one package includes larger wheels, parking senors, and heated seats. No substitutions allowed. One thing I would get is Toyota’s Entune with the bigger 7-inch screen, smartphone-connected services,and a navigation. Not the best, but much improved, and make sure you get help with the set-up and tie-in with your cell phone. As much as I liked the vastly improved Prius driveability, the RAV just appealed to me more for its usefulness.

RAV4 Interior

RAV4 Interior

Family conference: Loaded with safety features, both priced similarly, the choice between the RAV 4 and Prius Touring hybrids is basically perception. Are you bold enough to make the Prius your daily driver or does the utility of the RAV4 hold sway. Either way they are unique and family friendly.

Audi A7 vs. Lexus LS 460
by The Car Family
for more reviews go to https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/

Two expensive luxury vehicles with quiet energy, amply girth, and the newest in electronic aids offer buyers a radically different choice in sedans in the upper $70,000 range. For as much as the basics are the same, the manufacturers clearly have two different buyers in mind. The Lexus LS is lush with comfort and effortless performance in mind. The Audi A7 is ready to play and offers passengers a stunning interior and an exterior that are contemporary and eye-catching. The Audi is sleek with substance and style the Lexus LS is conservative with comfort and solitude in mind. So we have two exceedingly contrasting tacts on luxury sedans that offer consumers a rich choice.

Lexus LS

Lexus LS

Audi A7

Performance
We tested the Audi A7’s 333 horsepower, supercharged, V6 engine and it was very responsive, nearly turbine like in feel. The Audi came with with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed transmission. Acceleration to 60 mph came in under six seconds and delivered well over 25 mpg in mixed driving. Our rear-drive Lexus LS was powered by a 4.6-liter V8 engine that produced 386 horsepower, although all-wheel drive is an option. An eight-speed transmission is standard. The Lexus is a little slower and gets about 21 mpg in mixed driving. Both engines are serene and smooth. Advantage Audi 7 based on its better fuel mileage and quicker performance.

Interior
Audi has a knack for creating beautiful interiors and its infotainment system is easy to master with
a dash-mounted pop-up screen as well as knob and buttons on the center console and a touchpad that enables you to use handwriting. Not the easiest system, but works quickly. Audi Connect offers mobile WiFi for several devices. The best feature is a navigation system that uses Google Earth data. The GPS is fairly easy to operate. The slope of the sedan’s roof does limit rear headroom some, but legroom is generous. The trunk is large and the rear seats fold down. There are lots of storage areas and the interior is understated and useful without being garish. Audi has standard quad-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof, Bluetooth, a 10-speaker audio system, satellite radio, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, an 8-inch display screen, navigation, and two USB ports. The Lexus is quietly elegant with exceptional materials and fit. A computer mouselike devise controls a variety of functions displayed on the giant 12.3-inch monitor. It is a little complicated, but can be mastered easily with practice. Trunk space is a bit shy of the Audi’s but quite ample. The Lexus rear seats do not fold down. Advantage Lexus based on monitor size and improved electronics.
Safety features
We always recommend getting every safety feature you can afford and the Audi offers a plethora of items including adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, a night vision camera, a corner-view camera, forward collision warning with automatic braking, antilock disc brakes, stability control, a blind-spot warning system, front and rear parking sensors, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, front knee airbags, rear side airbags, and a Pre-Sense Plus system that can tighten the seatbelts and apply the brakes in an impending crash. Good brakes just add to the secure feeling the A7 offers. Not to be outdone, the Lexus LS offers nearly identical safety features with rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control which can also prepare the vehicle for potential crashes. Good brakes and crash scores and even top scores for rear passenger whiplash protection are Lexus attributes Advantage: tie.
Driving
The Audi is very much a driver’s car with your choose of Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual settings. The A7 has a great feel to it, handles well, and has enough grunt to make passing less stressful. Add to this its exceptional fuel mileage, ample trunk, and good looks makes it a top luxury car sedan pick. The Lexus LS is quiet, reassuring, and has an huge centrally located monitor. It isn’t as quick as the Audi, but plenty fast overall. The build quality, exceptional customer reviews and top ranking for Lexus owners make it a safe bet. If you want more “feel” just use the Drive Mode Select knob that can alter engine, suspension and steering settings to your mood or you can opt for the F model which offers a sportier feel. Advantage Audi.
Family conference: Comparing the Lexus to the Audi put us in a quandary because they are so different and yet appeal to the same socioeconomic luxury sedan buyer. The Lexus is quiet, spacious, and gentle. You want to sit back and relax during your travels, the LS can do that with ease. And with dealer service ratings at the top of the grid, it means ownership can be even more relaxing. If you want a bit more attention and a bit more sport in your daily drives, the Audi A7 can provide that dish and throw in some great gas mileage as well. Some notable differences are that the Lexus has a tidier turning radius making parking easier in tight situations. Audi has a shorter powertrain warranty, 50,000/4years to the Lexus 70,000/6years and the fuel tank is larger. The Audi’s hatchback design makes it easier to haul larger items and the variety of engines the A7 comes with can also alter its personality with your mood from the base 333 V6 to the optional Audi RS 7 that generates upwards of 560 horsepower, but that’s another story. Bottom line: The Audi A7 is trendy, exciting, and tempting. The Lexus LS 460 is old school, but not old. It does everything well and doesn’t make a fuss. Advantage consumer.

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