Where Have I Been and Am I Still Blogging

Yes, I am alive and well. Hiking, retired and ready to start sharing again.

I am L0ngterm. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) in June of 2020. Right in the middle of a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I say “a” because it is not my first walk.

I knew I had PD for several years. I woke up from yet another heart surgery (18 including bypasses, catheterizations, stents, yada, yada, yada) in 2017 and knew something different was wrong. I continued on, something had changed about life but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I was still me but something had shifted in the Matrix.

I tried to retire from work a year early in 2019. Financially we were ready because I had planned to retire at 55 my whole life. Some in my life were too selfish to let me get away from the stress of running companies at the expense of my own health; family, friends and bosses, they all ask me to give more than I could or wanted to. Not theirs to ask of me. But Hey, I’m Superman so why shouldn’t they expect it of me? Because I get to make some decisions in my life for ME.

I kicked around for a year, took a ton of vacation, hiked my ass off and whatever was going on got worse. Finally in early 2020, I said I had enough and retired effective March 1, 2020.  Never looked back. Early retirement is all I ever dreamed it would be. Try it.

PD has no definitive diagnosis until autopsy, that’s one medical test I’m willing to put off a while. You get diagnosed after several years of stress that you are going crazy because those around you think it is in your head. Doctors tell you it is in your head and you need to decrease your stress. If you know you, you know you. No one else does.

Luckily, I progressed enough (lucky to get worse just to get help? Really?) that a new Doctor at the VA (by the way, the VA is great in Nashville!) diagnosed me quickly. What a relief.  Or, is it?

The meds for PD, primarily levodopa, act to replace or enhance your brain’s natural dopamine or at least act as the organic precursor to your own body producing dopamine. Much like diabetes, our bodies do not produce enough of what we need to function. Unlike diabetes, we can’t measure our level of dopamine, the meds take an hour to “kick in” and for a lot of us, that hour is one of pain, discomfort, fatigue, weird symptoms and can last longer than an hour or fail altogether. When it fails, all you can do is wait till your next dose (three hours for me) and hope the next one kicks in.

Enough with what Parkinson’s is, this is about me.

I am alive and well much to some other’s chagrin. I have always taken what life has thrown at me, stood up and overcome. When I had a quadruple bypass at 45, I went backpacking on the AT a month later. Crazy? Maybe. For me it was the best way to prove to myself I was still me.

When I had C3-C7 laminoplasty spinal surgery two years ago in 2020, I fell climbing Mt Katahdin 6 weeks later because I was still weak. The problem isn’t that I fell its’ that I didn’t get back up and keep climbing. Or, the problem is that I thought I should even be attempting to climb Mt Katahdin 6 weeks after major spinal surgery. I’m not Superman, quit trying to act like it.

I’ve been struggling with Parkinson’s Disease much longer than even I thought. I can tell now that a lot of the back pain I’ve had over years was in fact a neurological problem called Dystonia. This is where certain muscles in your body have a faulty signalling and contract in a painful, unrelenting fashion. That pulling can pull spines out of alignment, permanently bend bonds in your foot, cause chronic soft tissue damage from micro-fiber tears in areas such as your rotator cuff hence frozen shoulder could in fact be an early symptom of PD, or not. Only the successful relief from Levodopa will tell if its PD or just an old injury.

I am not going to win this time, you can’t win with PD. But you can trick that sucker and let him walk alongside you. I am the walking man and I will keep walking until my last breath. I am not Superman no matter how I’ve tried to act. I must slow down, learn patience and most of all accept that L0ngterm thru-hiking the AT at a pace of 8 miles a day instead of 20 and maybe, just maybe take 2 or 3 years to finish my next one instead of one season may be the right way to do it and not piss off my friend, Mr Parkie.

Don’t feel sorry for me, envy me for He has given me the strength to stand up and walk. He may be carrying me but my feet are on the ground and I am me again. I have successfully come through the 1st year of Parkinson’s Disease which as I have learned may be the worst year of PD. After that, even though it is progressive and degenerative, you at least know what it is and know what the worse for now is. From there it is all just incremental. Not a cliff.

I can handle incremental, slow change. Isn’t that just aging? PD is more than aging, but I think I’ll just assume PD is a manifestation of everything that is wrong with me conveniently wrapped into a tidy package called my daily burden.

That daily burden is 19 hours of wake time, separated by 6, 3 hours incremental doses of Levodopa. Taking your meds, waiting 45 minutes for it to kick in via a process that I call the “Wave”. This wave feels like the Levedopa enters my brain, and spreads from the middle of my brain in a slowly expanding, slightly warm rush of central nervous system stimulation. Hopefully that doesn’t sound pleasant because it isn’t.

After about 15 minutes, the wave fills my brain and poof a light switch is flipped, and I am “On”. On is when our dose of levodopa is currently relieving our symptoms. Sometimes it kicks in very well and we feel almost normal.

That almost normal feels so good, it is almost as if we don’t have PD. If you get too many of these in a row or too many days in a row, you may start wondering if you were misdiagnosed. The answer is no, you should feel lucky because at some point in the next week that great On response to Levodopa will turn into a failed dose altogether or a couple days of less than good response.

Don’t look at me and think, “Poor guy”. I don’t feel that way. I am dealing with what I have in front of me today but trust me it is in eager anticipation to the good days that I know always return. Ever the optimist, I have always been. No other choice. I’m glad to be alive.

What is the opposite of “On”? well “Off” of course. In PD, Off is a no, no. At all costs, healthcare should assume Off is bad, throw tons of dollars at finding drugs that reduce or eliminate Off time. That isn’t going to happen. Drugs come with side effects. Side effects or as I start to call them, unintended symptoms.

Just remember, I am still here! It may not be about you now. I have no choice. You do! Don’t let it be one of regret, I have none. I sought happiness so I walk. I found contentment, that is more than I expected. Everything isn’t great in life, yours or mine but I wake up every single day and KNOW I will try to treat each person I encounter like I expect to be treated. Im still shocked how people can treat others. I will not behave like them. I will remove them from my life.

Want to know a little more about PD? Here are a couple of links to get you started. Not from a disease perspective but from a experience perspective.




Portfolio tracking will resume as soon as it is divorce safe to do so.

Remember, “Malignant Parent Syndrome” is real. If you know someone whose parent is lying to them about their other parent, you have a responsibility as a friend, family member, fiancée, boyfriend, girlfriend or whatever to make sure your friend or significant other knows that in a marriage there are always two sides. Does one side being different make the other side wrong? No, they are sides of the same coin. Likewise if the child, especially if they are an adult, “picks a parent” to side with, you have an obligation to speak up or you enable future mental health issues.

Leaving an unsupportive spouse is not wrong, especially if you have the only Biblical acceptable reason for divorce.

Love is love, you can’t change the definition to suit you. Always be honest with those you love or be prepared to comfort them when you can’t answer their questions as to why they let it happen to them, they didn’t you did.

Love is honesty. Lies grow in dark, Truth allows the light to shine.

Hike On!

Freedom Portfolio Income January 2021

January dividends are in. $2,464.24 total. Another great month!

January dividends are in and it’s another great month! Hopefully now that the election is over (no comment) and with the New Year we can all settle down, focus on our finances, and enjoy the journey to financial independence.

On to the dividends:

O (Realty Income)    $60.57

MO (Altria)   $969.99

PM (Philip Morris)  $742.58

IRM (Iron Mountain) $691.10

Total: $2,464.24

As you can see, I like the tobacco stocks. Great income and I am confident it will continue for a long time.

Iron Mountain is one of my favorites. I was a customer for a long time, so I understand their business well. That understanding is important to make such a large bet. I believe even with the recent trend towards Cloud Computing, Iron Mountain will remain viable. Too many companies will still need data centers and a lot are going to want to remain independent of the big guys.

These dividends are reinvesting so stay tuned as we watch them grow and grow until I need them at least 5 years from now.

How did you do this month?

What are your income goals and how are you building a portfolio to reach them?

What macro-economic factors are you looking at as it pertains to your holdings?

Thanks for reading!

How I let Diversification Suffer for a Stronger Portfolio

Diversification isn’t always the goal. Successful investing is. Read how I let one holding represent 25% of the Freedom Portfolio.

I believe in and have told others to diversify, diversify, diversity their portfolios. I understand the need for multiple holdings, multiple industries and even (maybe) multiple countries for my positions.

I now find myself in a position of what I call strength in my portfolio in that I am highly confident it will meet my financial goals and continue my enjoyment of life with Financial Independence. That strength and confidence comes from VIOLATING the principal of diversification.

Warren Buffet is famously quoted as saying, “Diversification is protection against ignorance. It makes little sense if you know what you are doing.” I am not saying I am an expert, but I do think I’ve spent enough time analyzing my holdings, their industries and the markets that I’m comfortable with ONEOK, Inc. (OKE) representing 25.37% of the Freedom Portfolio.

I bought my first position in OKE in April of 2016 as a new position when I bought 342 shares at $28.92 for a $9,890.64 investment. I thought of a position back then as a $10k holding. I figured getting into each position at $10k would be guard rails insuring diversification.

What happened? I watched ONEOK as an equity position increase in price from that initial $28.92 per share to a high of $74.87 in December of 2019. A 250% return on a dividend investment in three years. Awesome!

During that 3 years OKE also returned $2,568.74 in dividends. For holding it just 3 years and a quarter, OKE returned a quarter of my investment in income. Income I reinvested each quarter compounding my returns.

Fast forward to this year, OKE crashed just like the rest of the market and hit a low of $21.81 per share. A horrible event if I had sold. Instead, I took a hard look at the company again, read a lot from the community and decided to invest more. This time I was going in hard and invested $69,971.56 for another 2,564 shares at $27.29. Was I crazy? I just threw everything I knew about diversification out the window.  I also thought I was making a critical move for my family’s wealth building future.

In June of this year, I invested another chunk and bought another 315 shares at $31.58 for a total of $9,947.70. I just could not resist the 12-14% percent yield on a company I was willing to buy at a 5% yield. Talk about cheap. This fit all my criteria for what I consider a core holding.

Altogether, I have $89,809.90 invested in OKE right now representing 3,577.7094 shares including 356.709 from reinvesting dividends. OKE is currently trading at ~$38-42 range per share giving me a total position around $143k for a 62% total return in just 4 and a half years. ON A DIVIDEND INVESTMENT!

Folks, that is winning.

Looking forward, I see no real issues with OKE continuing to meet their dividend. Each Quarter I will see almost another 100 shares through reinvestment or $3,500 per quarter moving forward in dividend income. I will keep reinvesting for the next five years until I start drawing the income from the Freedom Portfolio.

If OKE reaches a price that would push the yield down to a more normal 3-6% range, I would probably find other stocks to reinvest the dividends into but for now I’ll stick with the 10% yield. If some information comes up that would change my mind about OKE’s prospects in their business or they cut their dividend I’d probably consider rebalancing but for now I have the confidence OKE will continue to be a very large part of my life in Financial Independence.

What are your thoughts on diversification?

Do you think you would ever let a single holding represent a Quarter of your portfolio?

Got a similar story of a home run you’ve hit?

Did the downturn in the Spring help or hurt you in the long run?

Thanks for reading.

Deep dive into the Freedom Portfolio

My Freedom Portfolio is an IRA made up of the rollover balances from my last two employers’ 401k plans. Since I just retired March 1st, I had a particularly good opportunity to buy in near the bottom of the Spring decline in the markets by rolling over my last 401k in early April. That has solidified my personal projections guiding my retirement income.

I purposely chose my IRA to make public because I feel most people have or will experience a similar scenario nearing and in retirement. Transactions inside this portfolio have no tax consequences so some decisions are easier.

The current market value (fluctuates daily with the market) is $547,040.36. There are 17 equity positions in well known, successful businesses. The current yield based on 2020 projected (mostly actual) dividend income is 5.1%. That 5.1% represents over $28 thousand dollars in dividend income I will receive by the end of this year.

All this income was and will continue to be re-invested for the next 5 years at a minimum. I will start tapping into it when I turn 60. By that time I anticipate the income to grow way more than double its current amount. Stick around and watch it grow in real time as I blog about it each month.

Here are current positions along with market values and projected current year dividend income:

Position                                                         Mkt Value          Annual Dividend 2020

T (AT&T Inc)                                                  $59,013.25         $3,467.38

ABBV (Abbie Inc)                                          $47,219.02         $1,536.24

MO (Altria Group Inc.)                                $45,138.41         $2,104.61

ADM (Archer Daniels Midland)                 $15,169.74         $435.03

CVX (Chevron Corp)                                    $22,125.10         $1,086.61

CHCT (Community Healthcare Trust)       $2,158.89           $78.40

DOW (Dow Inc)                                            $20,287.03         $612.14

EMR (Emerson Electric Co.)                       $15,719.78         $408.60

XOM (Exxon Mobile Corp)                         $10,653.70         $915.46

IRM (Iron Mountain Inc REIT)                   $30,660.74         $1,241.96

JNJ (Johnson & Johnson)                           $14,994.54         $398.17

LMT (Lockheed Martin Corp)                    $6,055.60           $158.87

OKE (Oneok Inc)                                          $134,056.77       $9,553.30

PM (Philip Morris Intl)                                $48,311.07         $2,109.06

O (Realty Income Corp REIT)                     $15,641.39         $703.83

RDS.B (Royal Dutch Shell)                          $34,650.00         $1,514.56

SO (Southern Co.)                                       $25,179.41         $1,013.50

Total                                                              $547,034.44       $28,109.17             

Looking at the Freedom portfolio one quickly notices that 24.5% is represented by one holding OKE (Oneok Inc). I did not intend to overweight this much in one company and may need to think about rebalancing in the future but right now I am confident in this investment. I have huge capital gains on it, I have huge dividend yields and I feel the dividend is safe, so I am letting it ride into retirement.

The other serious weighting is by industry. The freedom portfolio has $201,485.57 in Oil and Gas representing 38.5% of the total.

I spend a lot of time on this portfolio, following the businesses, listening to the community and right now I am comfortable with these decisions. This portfolio is a key to my retirement, and I like it.

Of course, all these numbers fluctuate daily as the market churns with volatility. A patient investor can look past a 30% market drop like we had earlier in the year and watch their investments rise as it recovers. Whether that takes one year or many years, as long as the dividend is paid, I’m happy. My job is to assess the business as events occur as best I can. Not rocket science but does take some diligence that pays off with multi-generational financial independence.

That is all for now. Ill do one of these deep dives once a Quarter or so. Future ones will allow some comparisons by Quarter etc. They will also give readers a good sense of managing a real portfolio and hopefully motivate you to your own dividend success.

Thanks for reading.