Memorial Day Thoughts From A Viet Nam War Veteran Neighbor and Wife

It seems to me that the greatest emotional pain I have seen in others is the pain of a mother or father who has lost a child, or had a child gravely injured during military service to their country. Today Bonney and I honor our wounded and dead veterans who have sacrificed in their service to their country with a US Flag in the front of our home. Our special thoughts go to parents of children who sacrificed their health and lives serving their country.

Three flags honor the Mothers:

Gold Star for the Mothers of those who have died.


Silver Star for Mothers of the maimed and injured.


Blue Star for Mothers whose children are serving our country.


Six Reasons I Think a Cloister Condo is a Good Investment

The Real Estate slump continues and frankly we could not sell our condo for a price covering the inital purchase price plus the improvements we have put into our Cloister home. Yet I still think a Cloister condo is a good investment today.

What does “a good condo investment” mean? Simply, if we sold our condo today at today’s market price, could we buy something better elsewhere for the same money? I think not and here’s why……


    1. Baby Boomers are downsizing as they reach retirement age. Empty nesters don’t need big houses.  In spite of declining home prices,  a big home sale still leaves enough to buy a smaller, lower cost Cloister Condo.
    2. When 2nd story stair climbing gets difficult an elevator or chair lift reduces property values rather than increasing them. Single level living is a better choice.
    3. A Cloister unit has most of the features that allow  seniors to age in place gracefully.
    4. Very few Active Adult Living arrangements have an attached garage with stepless entry versus other choices with entry ramps that reduce property value.
    5. The Cloister at St Henry has an “exclusive use” Clubhouse and outdoor pool. Some other 55+ Active Adult Living communities share Clubhouse facilities and swimming pools with neighboring  subdivisions consisting of families with children. These pools are crowded and noisy.
    6. Property values in the Belle Meade, West Meade 37205 Zip code are considerably higher than most areas of Davidson County, while similar units at Williamson County’s “Reid Hill Commons” in Franklin, TN start at $240,000 but have no swimming pool or convenient access to shopping and healthcare.

To sum it up, the first of the Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age, for certain of them, selling a large home, buying a Cloister home and banking the rest of the money is a good retirement action plan.

Bonney has some good advice when I get restless “Bloom where you are planted.”

Psalm 92:13 ~ They are planted in Yahweh’s house. They will flourish in our God’s courts

Psalm 1:3, Just Like a Tree planted by the waters, I shall not be moved And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.


Jeremiah 17:7-8 ~ Blessed is the man who trusts in Yahweh, and whose trust Yahweh is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, who spreads out its roots by the river, and shall not fear when heat comes, but its leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

Reverse Mortgages May Provide Cash for Living Expenses Beyond Current Income

The  Catholic Diocese of Nashville decided to offer Fee Simple ownership to owners of a condo in The Cloister at St Henry. The cost of Fee Simple purchase has risen by $1000 each year since that initial offer . I have heard people complain that they cannot afford converting to fee simple ownership. But, the Fee Simple ownership now allows possible qualification for a Reverse Mortgage. Reverse Mortgages could provide cash for living expenses beyond pensions, savings, and Social Security. If the market value exceeds what is owed on a home, it’s possible that mortgage payments can be eliminated, most likely a home owner could receive a monthly cash payment rather than having to make a monthly mortgage payment.

A Reverse Mortgage acts like an Annuity except rather than putting in cash you put in the value of your Cloister home remaining after your mortgages are paid up. There are many charges, fees, and requirements but some people may benefit by Reverse Mortgage cash with an improved current living situation.

Reverse mortgages were designed for seniors, senior homeowners over the age of 62 could possibly eliminate their debts (both mortgages and unsecured loans), and have a steady income (or large savings in case of emergency/rainy days). The reverse loan can allow seniors to not only eliminate their debts, but also to have a home, be independent, and have enough income to have a better life in retirement. (you select how you want to receive the proceeds).

Advantages of a Reverse Mortgage

You can receive lifetime monthly income or even select to receive a lump sum or credit line payment from the lender/bank. Purchase of Fee Simple ownership of your Cloister property is necessary to qualify for a Reverse Mortgage. If you meet all the other qualifications you may be able to eliminate mortgage payments and free up cash as inflation of food, energy costs, and taxes increase living expenses:

  • you can pay off your existing mortgage or any other debts if your equity permits
  • you keep ownership of the home (the bank will not own your home)
  • retire without further monthly mortgage payment obligations
  • select how you want to receive your equity income ( never taxed – no risk of not receiving the funds – select between credit line, lump sum, monthly income for life )
  • any current or future equity is yours (if your home increases in value that is your equity)
  • the home can be left for your kids/heirs – and if the home loses value they won’t be responsible to pay back the outstanding debt ( they can keep home or walk away)
  • A Reverse Mortgage is federally insured to protect you from lenders and market conditions (no risk of default from lenders as it is a government backed loan)

What are the disadvantages to a reverse mortgage?

  • Mortgage insurance premium charged by FHA – the program has an upfront insurance premium to protect both lender/borrower and this adds costs to the loan closing fees – you may have to pay up to 2% upfront.
  • this is a loan – the amount of money which would regularly be due as a payment is going to accrue onto the loan ( home prices may increase and offset this)
  • many banks/lenders are now making it tougher to qualify for the reverse loan by introducing income/credit score requirements
  • There are out of pocket reverse mortgage fees involved, roughly $500-$1000 (some seniors who have to make home repairs can include the costs into the loan.)
  • To sum it up, a reverse mortgage is costly, but may be a good option for some.

Who Can Qualify For a Reverse Mortgage?

  • must be at least 62 or older
  • Cloister owners must own their home as Fee Simple property (primary residence must reside 183 days out of the year)
  • have equity in the home ( equity is the difference between what you owe and what the home can appraise for )
  • never have defaulted on government debt

There may be residents at the Cloister who could have a better, more comfortable life using a Reverse Mortgage now made possible because of the Fee Simple Ownership Plan.

Enjoying A Long Held Tradition at The Cloister

There is a long tradition that many of us younger generation have lost, that is the old fashioned church potluck supper. The first residents of The Cloister carried this tradition into the Cloister community. Today 80-100 people come to the monthly covered dish supper at the clubhouse.

On Tuesday, May 8, Bonney and I attended the monthly covered dish supper at the Cloister clubhouse, we haven’t broken bread with our neighbors at this Clubhouse affair for some time. The Community neighbors have met most months of the year, every year, for over twenty years, to share a meal, gossip, and bring each other up to date with current Cloister happenings. Sometimes even politics and religion are discussed. Dixie Frederickson and the “Covered Dish Volunteers” do a fantastic job and make our experience at these suppers top notch!

The schedule is announced in the official monthly “The Cloister News” published by the HOA and edited by Joyce Fort. It was omitted by accident this month so I posted a bulletin along with posting the HOA monthly newsletter. As soon as I receive The Cloister News I scan a copy into “Cloister Living” for your convenience. This month three new residents were introduced to the friendly diners. New people don’t sit at a table alone, there are always people who will join them in neighborly conversation.

Tables were called up by drawing of numbered ping pong balls. Two protein offerings, fried chicken and BBQ pork were served but most of the BBQ was gone before half the tables were served. My wife commented that the main proteins at buffet restaurants are brought out in batches so there is always that food available as a choice. Perhaps this could be done at the Cloister Potluck by bring out a second batch after 1/2 the diners are served. This would leave some choice for those in the last tables called up to select their foods.

Everyone complemented a certain cranberry dish and asked that the donor provide a recipe, at the end of the meal this lovely woman confessed that she had bought it at Kroger already prepared. She even gave instructions about the location in the store where this could be found. What a wonderful idea, to bring delicious food without having to cook it!

People are asked to bring enough food for themselves and several others. Unfortunately most of us bring a casserole dish which can feed a family with some leftovers but winds up completely empty before people in the last few tables arrive at the buffet line. If we are among the early tables to be called to the buffet line many of us take a small sample of the best looking, most flavorful dishes. After 40 people take a small sample, nothing is left for the people at the remaining tables. By then they are faced with a number of empty casserole and pyrex dishes and a limited selection of cold salads like pasta, cole slaw, and deviled eggs and many sweets and desserts. This has been our experience over the years we have attended these events. But this is a very minor issue experienced only by those in the last half of the tables called to the buffet line. But with Bonney’s and my luck, we almost always wind up sitting at a table near the end of those called up.

Bonney and I have discussed this and we decided that we will bring a double or triple quantity of our favorite healthy vegetable dish and an additional protein choice. We have much to be thankful for and feel a need to share more with others.

Regardless of some very minor annoyances, this event is an important happening at The Cloister. It carries on a long standing tradition, it is especially a great opportunity for newer residents to meet more of their neighbors, where we can share our experience, strength, and hope with each other that we may make life in The Cloister fun, pleasurable and rewarding.

Plants, trees and shrubs at The Cloister

During our eight years at The Cloister at St Henry Bonney and I took a number of actions regarding the trees, shrubs and plants surrounding our Cloister home.

    1. Dogwood in Front Yard- This one was starting to die. The lifespan of a Dogwood is 15-30 years. This tree was probably planted in 1984 when our unit was built. I don’t believe in “old growth” if it means having an ugly dying tree in the front yard. We cut it down, removed the roots, and seeded the area; we now have a simple front yard without a tree. And we like it that way. Frankly the front yard is too small to hold a tree.
    2. An overgrown shrub and a Magnolia tree had been planted on each corner of the building- These were small when initially planted but had grown taller than the rooftop and 10 feet wide. Branches were chopped off to the trunk when they grew into the side of the building. Actually we had ¾ of a tree on each corner with a wedge cut out where the trees faced the corner of the building. Roots started to work their way under the slab and into the lawn. We cut both pesky growths down and removed what roots we could get to.
    3. Original Roses at the side of the building looked beautiful but roses take work and careful tending beyond what Bonney was willing to do. They have been removed.
    4. According to the new HOA requirement, the foundation planting areas and bed should not exceed five feet from the front, side, and back of the unit with an 18 inch clearance from the building. The origional Homeowner’s Manual calls for a 12 inch clearance from the building but apparently 12 inches is not enough to give the HOA painters room to work when they paint the outside. Our Holly bushes in the front are weak and scraggly looking, they need a new start. Experts say that Holly type shrubs should be cut back in late Fall.  This fall we will have our landscape helper Mr. Garcia heavily cut back the  shrubs to within 6 inches from the ground, prune away weak or wild-growing canes, by cutting them back to ground level.
    5. Our remaining foundation planting area looks nice and neat with Iris and Day Lilies greeting us in the springtime.  The rest of the planting area has  attractive plantings of  Dusty Millers, Marigolds,  Lantana and other annuals.

Below is “The Cloister News” HOA regulations  section on “PLANTINGS” which is worth reviewing.