Retirement Life

If you had told me a few years ago, before I retired myself, that retirement life could be so busy that you don’t have enough time, I would have scoffed and mumbled under my breath, “right, you just don’t manage your time well.” Now that I am retired, I realize that the beauty of it is… I don’t have to manage my time well. Such as it has been these past couple weeks. When I started this blog, I committed to publish a post every week. I love to write. It helps me breathe. However, these past couple weeks have left me with little extra time to write a blog post. What could keep this retired person so busy? Well, quite a lot really.

Spring cleaning and decorating

The sunshine shows all of the dust and smudge prints that have accumulated over the long, dark winter, so it was time to do a little spring cleaning. Chores do not go away once you are retired, unless you hire out to have them done, which I have a hard time doing because, well…I am retired after all. Besides, it always feels good to take down the winter decorations and freshen the house up a bit for spring.

Grandkids

It is wonderful to have relaxed time to be a grandparent. When we were raising our own kids, it felt like I was always rushing or multitasking. Now I can enjoy uninterrupted time with my grands. I have been watching our new grandbaby for a few hours every week while my DIL returns to work. Precious time where I just focus on her.

My other granddaughter turned eight last week. We celebrated with a grandma nana date. I took her out for a high tea. We both dressed up and enjoyed tea with cream and sugar, little tea sandwiches and scones with clotted cream and jam. We learned a little bit about the history of high tea. Precious uninterrupted time together.

We have been able to attend several of my grandson’s wrestling matches, which can be all-day events. I am glad we have the time to do this – we missed too many when we spent the month of February in Florida. It is so fun to watch him enjoy and compete at the same sport his dad excelled at.

Travel

The weather has been sketchy at home and Scottsdale promised to be sunny and in the 80’s last week. We are retired, so why not make a quick trip down there to enjoy the sunshine? On a last-minute whim we packed up and made the short 2 1/2-hour flight. So glad we did. We have been hiking, riding bikes, enjoying the sunshine and pool all week. I spent a few hours in a bookstore, just nosing around the stacks without an agenda. This is a pretty cheap trip for us because we stayed at my son’s condo, since it was available for the week, and we used our free fly miles to travel back and forth. Our biggest expense was a car rental, which we got for a surprising $18.00/day.

“Once she stopped rushing through life, she was amazed how much more life she had time for.”

Filling the Jars

So, there you have it. Life has been too chock full of fun stuff to write a real blog post this week. I had to settle for this quick recap of the last few weeks in the life of a retiree. I hope that you are able to NOT manage some of your time this week as well. It opens doors for the fun stuff.

Spring “get to do” List

Gift lists.  Chore lists. Grocery lists.  Party planning lists.  Prayer lists.  Short term to do lists.  Long term to do lists.  You name it and I have a list for it.  I am one of those people that, even when I finish a task that I did not have on my list, I will add it…just for the satisfaction of crossing it off.  Weirdo. 

Lists keep me organized and on track.  They make me much more productive.  However, by the time I get through my self-imposed “to do” list for the day, there is precious little time left over for the fun stuff.   By the time I finish my list, it is either getting cloudy and cold or too dark outside.   (Who am I kidding, I never finish my list.  It just flows over to the next day.)  We had a few beautiful sunny days lately and I did not even get outside to enjoy the first couple of them. This failure at enjoying life, despite the fact that I am retired, prompted me to create a spring “to do” list. It is a list of the things I love about spring and want to make sure I take time to enjoy during this brief season of new growth.  Things I don’t want to miss out on or put off until summer. Maybe I should call it my spring “get to do” list. 

My spring “get to do” list

1.) Get the tires pumped up on my bike after the long winter of sitting in the garage and take my first bike ride of the season.  This requires that we have the little converter thingamajig to use on our air compressor to pump up my bike tires.  And of course, we lost the one from last year, so I had to remember to stop and get one.  And I did not put that on my list… so you know how that goes.  But I finally remembered to pick it up, the very same day that Mr. U also remembered to stop by and get one.  Good thing we have two.  So, I finally took my first bike ride of the year last week.  I rode along the river, swelling from the spring run-off.   I packed a tuna sandwich and enjoyed it while sitting on a rock watching the river rush by.  Loveleee.   

First bike ride of the season.

2.) Dust off my kayak and take it out for the first paddle of the year.  There is a fine line between taking your kayak out early in the spring and taking the risk of freezing to death, especially if you tip it.  Worse yet, drowning because you have so many clothes on just to keep warm enough.  I have not unearthed my kayak from the bowels of the shop yet this year.

3.) Sit around a spring slash fire with Mr. U and sip an IPA beer.  That is how we do it around here.   We did this just a little over a week ago.  There is nothing better than the smell of a smokey slash fire, unless you can still smell it in your hair hours later (if you know, you know). We desperately needed to clean up outside before the Easter egg hunt on our property.  It was well worth the clean-up effort, as the kids had a great time scrambling for eggs.  Although I am not sure who had more fun, the hiders or the seekers.    

Beautiful day for a spring slash fire.

4.) Go to one of the local Farmer’s Markets at least twice this spring.  It is a feast for the senses:  fresh baked bread, the spicy aroma of paella simmering in an oversized pan, fresh herb starts, homemade crafts and colorful spring flower bouquets.  I always think I will get there and then something comes up. But now it is on my spring “get to do” list, so it is happening. If for no other reason, then I will get to check it off the list.  Unfortunately, because of our precarious spring weather, our farmer’s markets do not open for a few more weeks, so it is still sitting on my list.

5.) Gather some Roadsidea to decorate the house with a touch of spring.  I just did that this week.  My sister and I loaded up the car with a rake and trimmers and headed out to our favorite spot to pick pussy willows.  I can’t tell you where it is or else I would have to kill you (they get picked through all too quickly).  We each got a small bouquet of spring to bring inside. 

6.) Eat my first alfresco meal of the season.  We did this on our trip to Florida but that doesn’t count because this is my list for here at home. Ditto for kayaking and riding bike. We have not eaten outside yet, unless you count the sandwich I took with me on my bike ride.  My sister and I did enjoy a glass of wine outside at a lovely little wine bar as a reward for getting our haul of pussy willows though. 

7.) Find an abandoned bird nest and bring it in to decorate with.  I am obsessed with bird nests.  They are such an amazing feat of nature.  We watch our feathered friends going in and out of a couple bird houses we have on the back patio, mesmerized as they haul sticks, mud, and debris in their awkward little beaks to create a cozy home for their future offspring.   And the nests turn out perfect.  I have my eye on a couple nests out in the bushes, but I want to make sure the birds do not come back to nest in them again this year before I remove them from the branches they are nestled in.  So, I am still waiting to do this one.

8.) Lay out in the sunshine and read.  There are few things as relaxing as reading in the hammock under the filtered sunlight from the tall pines. But I still haven’t mastered the fine art of enjoying reading for pleasure during the middle of the day.  I keep reminding myself that I am retired, and I can give myself permission to do this, but it still feels frivolous.  It could be connected to my whole “to do” list problem, but I blame Mr. U because he has not put the hammock up yet this year. 

9.) Discover some wildflowers.  I remember going out every April and picking a bouquet of wild Easter lilies for my mom for her birthday.  Wildflowers will always remind me of her.  We used to get quite a few wildflowers on our property.  Unfortunately, the deer have eaten most of them.  It would not be a problem if they just trimmed them off, but they pull them up by the roots to eat them, root and all.  So, they are slowly dying off.  The flowers, not the deer.  Although we have considered eliminating a few deer that are always in our yard eating our potted plants and flowers. 

10.) Get the outdoor pizza oven fired up and make the first pizza of the season. We have not used the oven yet this year, but we did get it uncovered and the gathering place is set up. I am looking forward to experimenting with some different pizzas. I also plan to perfect the art of baking bread in the outdoor oven. It may take me all summer to get this down, so I need to start as early in the spring as possible.

I got a bonus that wasn’t even on my spring “get to do” list… we found an egg on our property!  Not one of the leftover plastic eggs that our Easter egg hunters missed, (although we have already found a couple of those too) but a real live egg, just sitting on the ground.  We assume it is from a turkey, since we have an abundance of them around here, but we weren’t sure, so I consulted my researcher (aka – Google it) and I am still not totally sure. 

So far, I have checked four of the ten items off of my list.  That is a lousy 40% grade. But if you add my bonus, it ups the grade to 50%. (Thank goodness for extra credit.) However, spring is not over yet, so I still have time to redeem myself. It is probably more than I would have taken the time to do this early in the season if I had not put them on my spring “get to do” list.  I hope that you are taking the time to do things you enjoy about this season.  If not, make a list and start chipping away at it.  Life is too short not to make time for the things that make our hearts sing.

Living Like a Kid Again

What did you love to do as a child? A time before puberty when you felt totally free and unencumbered by adult responsibilities and commitments.  A time before you were concerned about what your friends thought of you. A time when judgement was irrelevant to your colorful world of imagination.

Most of us gave up our childhood interests and play for the adult pursuits of building a career, raising a family and “adulting.” There wasn’t enough time, or money, for hobbies. We had more important things to do. Significant things. We were out changing the world. Then we retired and it was just ourselves again without all of the distractions and trappings of work and building our lives. Similar to when we were kids. We have to learn to be at peace with ourselves again. And we have to learn what brings us deep rooted joy. Not what looks good to others. Not what we “should” do. Not what we need to do to fit in.

How to do you decide what to do with all of this newfound freedom? A good place to start is by looking back. Think back to when you were a child. What were you drawn to before you worried about what others thought? Once we get into middle school, we begin to filter what we say and do through the lens of our peers. Our interests become more about what everyone else is doing, or what is accepted and cool. So, what you liked to do prior to those years can be a more honest and raw reflection of who you are and what you truly enjoy. Taking up childhood hobbies as an adult has been one of the best things I have done in retirement.  The three that really resonate with me are being on the water, writing and riding bike.

Being on the water

Drifting.  My mind wanders with no push/pull on my time.  No “to do” list piling up in my brain as I let the waves gently move me towards shore.  I spent my childhood summers on an inner tube in the water at our lake house.  My siblings long abandoned the afternoon of splashing in the water, hurling off the dock and playing king of the inner tube for other pursuits.  But I lingered on that tube, daydreaming, drifting on the water until the afternoon shadows grew long and my mom called me in for dinner.

In a large family of six kids, that was my time.  It still is.  Those carefree childhood days at the lake gave way to adult responsibilities, and the charcoal black inner tube has been replaced by my bright yellow kayak.  But when I am out on the water, my heartbeat still slows to the rhythm of the waves.  I let adult concerns drift away as I am taken back to a gentler time.  

Writing

When I was in early grade school, I voluntarily entered a couple of writing contests. To my surprise, I even won one of them. Emboldened by that experience, I decided to take journalism as an elective in 9th grade. I did not get a coveted page editor spot until the page four editor quit and there was no one else to fill it. Then in high school I signed up for an elective creative writing class. My teacher clearly did not feel like I had as much talent as I did and my dream of being a journalist was squashed, along with a few bruises to my ego. In his defense, I was a little more into having fun than producing anything worthwhile.

Then life got in the way with college, marriage, raising four kids and working. For several years my writing was limited to emails, nursing chart records, reports, a few scratches in my journal and notes for my kids (before cell phones and texting). Fast forward to retirement and I decided to start this blog to feed my latent interest in writing. My teacher was probably pretty accurate on my creative writing abilities, but I don’t have to answer to him anymore and I can just enjoy the process and the interactions with wonderful readers. It has been a fun, creative retirement hobby.

Riding bike

Being the fifth child in a family of six kids, I got a lot of hand-me-downs. While I wasn’t too happy with most of them, I was thrilled when my sister outgrew her blue Schwinn bike and passed it on to me. I was constantly begging my mom to let me hop on that bike and go for a ride. “As long as you stay where I can see you” she reminded me. The problem was that our house was situated in the middle of the bay on a small lake. That meant that I could ride on the road about 300 yards to the bend in the bay, turn around and ride to the other end of the bay. Back and forth. Over and over again. As a parent, and now grandparent, I get it. At the time, it felt limiting. However, if it meant that I could ride my bike with the wind in my hair and a song on my lips, I was O.K. with it.

When I turned 15, I parked that worn bike in the depths of the garage and I traded in handlebars for car keys. But once again, life got in the way, and I did not own or ride a bike for years. As my kids slowly left the nest and I had more time on my hands, I began to think about that wonderful feeling of freedom with the wind in my hair. It was time to treat myself to a brand-new bike. The days of riding circles with the blue hand-me-down Schwinn have been replaced with a sleek black Specialized Diverge road bike. Fortunately, the sayings, “it is just like riding a bike” is true and it was easy to pick back up. Now I am free to go beyond the limits of the bay and explore the great bike trails in our area. When we travel, I usually see if the place we are staying has bikes to use or if there is a place to rent them. Riding bikes when you travel is a great way to explore the area.

Retirement is like being a kid again

A couple weeks ago I went with my DIL and seven-year-old granddaughter on a “girls’ trip.” My granddaughter was competing in a gymnastics meet about 400 miles away and my son was taking their son to a wrestling tournament that same weekend. So, my DIL graciously let me tag along with the two of them for the weekend. (The feature photo of this post is my granddaughter and I on our girl’s trip.)

The evening before her meet, the three of us sprawled out on the hotel bed with a rainbow of colorful pens and detailed coloring books.  We peacefully listened to a book on tape and colored in flowers, fish, and obscure designs, stopping to admire each other’s work along the way.   It was a magical, carefree moment and a wonderful way to relax before bed.  It reminded me how much retirement is like being a kid again – free to create without time pressures or fear of judgement. I wanted to tell my sweet granddaughter not to let the opinions of careless people and the need to fit in ever crush her creative, carefree spirit. But of course, I couldn’t. Everyone has to learn that for themselves. It is part of growing up.

“Honor that girl inside of you. Remember who you were before you cared for what you looked like. Before you knew the sting of rejection. Before you were told that you couldn’t, or that you weren’t or that you hadn’t. You are still that girl – before the roles, the labels, the pains, that girl lives on…”

S. C. Lourie

So, I have come full circle and am enjoying some of the very same hobbies that I did as a kid. Have you picked up a childhood hobby or interest again in retirement? If not, consider giving it a try. It has made my retirement so much more enjoyable and satisfying.

Who Helped Build You?

We all have them. People we met during our impressionable years that made an impact on our lives. Those rare souls that influenced our major life decisions without even realizing that they were doing it. Special people that came into our paths, beyond the obvious family members. I know that I have a few. People that helped shape and build me without even knowing that they made such an impact on my life. I fully realize that there are many, many people who grew up with horrible adult influences in their lives, but this post is about the good in humanity.

When I look back on my growing up years, several people come to mind. The kindly bus driver that delivered a big basket of fruit to my house when I was out sick with the Chickenpox in second grade. My sweet neighbor and Godmother that patiently taught me how to sew and emphasized that the most important thing was pressing as you went. (She was right.) Then there was gentle, kindhearted Father Jennings. I grew up Catholic and my mom would invite this “elderly” priest (he was probably only in his 60’s… smile) over for a homemade dinner every so often. He gave me a huge box of Almond Joy bars when I was out sick with pneumonia as a kid. That was unheard of because the only sweets we had growing up were homemade. When all of the issues came up with the priests in the Catholic church, his friendship helped me to know that there were also a lot of Godly, kind priests out there that would never abuse a child. These adults that came into my young life gave me faith in mankind. They helped me believe that I was worthy of kindness and love, without having to earn it. But one person stands out in particular.

Let me give you a little background first

From the time you can talk, people constantly ask what you want to be when you grow up. I would confidently explain to them that I was going to be a model. Well that never panned out, for obvious reasons. By high school, I had reasonably narrowed my focus a little more. I decided that I wanted to be either a journalist, an interior decorator or a boss lady that worked in business. It did not matter what business as long as I could wear fashionable suits and heels to work every day. When I made the obligatory visit to the high school counselor to discuss a career path, she quickly squashed my idea of being an interior decorator. There were just not enough jobs in that field she explained. Wet banket.

That left journalism or business. I figured that I would need typing skills for either of these career paths, so I took an elective business course my junior year of high school. Never mind that the course included how to take dictation by hand and was geared more to being a secretary (that is what we called them back then) than a boss lady. The best thing about this course was that they would help place you in a part-time job to apply your new skills. I was given the opportunity to work in a local ophthalmologist’s office to type and file patient records. It was a huge step up from taking food orders and making ice cream cones at Topper Too, although I really enjoyed that job. Working as a file girl at an office was a big girl job!

Ophthalmologists, with their vast knowledge, framed medical degrees and certifications on the wall, can feel very intimidating to a naive teenager. The founder and owner of the clinic was Dr. Toyama. He was a smart, kind, gentle man. He and the staff took me under their wings and kept giving me increasing responsibilities until eventually I was promoted from a file clerk to an ophthalmic assistant. I continued to work there through high school, but I had to quit when I left for college. However, Dr. T generously allowed me to work there in the summer when I was home from college. Looking back, I am quite sure they did not need my vital assistance but were just helping me out with college expenses. That is the kind of person Dr. T was.

The year I went off to college, I sold my car. So, when I worked at the clinic that summer, my mom would give me a ride there and my dad would pick me up afterwards on his motorcycle. I think we made quite the scene with me in my white uniform and helmet puttering down the road. Did I mention that my dad is a fun saint?

I clearly remember one day when they were training me in the minor surgery room to assist with a simple removal of a cyst on an eyelid. Dr. T made a clean, precise cut on the lid when suddenly the room got fuzzy, and I dropped down to the floor with a thud. I recall waking up to the whiff of an ammonia capsule under my nose and Dr. T smiling. He never let me forget that experience. Nor the fact that I did not faint when I observed Dr. W doing a minor surgery the week before.

Their kind influence, encouragement, and positive exposure to the healthcare field is what made me to decide to become a nurse. Well, that and the fact that I took a beginning accounting class my first two weeks of college and promptly dropped it when I realized I hated working with numbers. So much for being the business boss lady. I ended up trading business suits and heels for scrubs and white Crocks and never looked back, all because of Dr. T and some wonderful ladies that worked for him.

Thank you Dr. T

This morning, while scanning the obituaries in our small city paper, I read that Dr. T passed away at the age of 98. My heart sank as I reminisced on what a great man he was and what he did for me. He was one of the good ones. The obituary said that he was a World War II veteran. I never knew that. As a self-absorbed teenager I never thought to ask him about his life. Several years ago, I sent him a note and thanked him for his kindness and influence in my life. But I wish I had another chance to say, thank you for being the kind of man, and doctor, that changed a young, insecure teenager’s life for the better. So today, I shed a few tears for the loss of a great man. And I vowed, in a world full of sharp edges, to be that positive influence for younger people. Who helped build you or influenced your career choice? If they are still alive, be sure to take the opportunity to thank them while you still can.

On the home front

We are busy getting ready for Easter around here. We host an extended family brunch and egg hunt on our property. My mom started the tradition years ago when her grandkids were small. Now they are hiding eggs for their own kids. It has grown to about 35 people. It is wonderful, fun chaos. The stuff that family memories are made of for the kids and their cousins.

And in case you have not noticed…it is March Madness baby! Our beloved Zags have made it to the “Sweet 16” for the 9th time in a row. We are excited to watch them play Purdue next weekend. Gonzaga (aka Zags) played Purdue earlier this year and lost by 10, so it will be a fun match up. Mr. U and I made the five-hour drive over to Seattle to watch that game in November.

I hope you have a great week and go Zags!

The New Early Bird Special

Admit it. You have done it too. At some point in your life, you have poked fun at the early bird special. It is what the old folks with gray hair and sagging skin do for dinner out. We would scoff that they just couldn’t stay up that late, or it was the cheap way to go out to dinner, or they needed to get home early enough to watch the Lawrence Welk Show. Old fogies. Now…we are them.

I was born at the tail end of the baby boomer generation. The boomers have always paved new ways of doing life and so I have benefited from the earlier boomer trailblazers. It is no surprise that the very generation that led the charge for social change in the 60’s would also be changing the way society sees retirees in the 21st century. That is what boomers do. They force the change that society needs. Not the least of these, or maybe I should say, one of the least of these – is the early bird special. I will leave the weightier topics on how the boomers changed society for the anthropologists.

So why is the early bird special so appealing as we get older? It is not just that we can’t stay up that late, although we don’t want to anymore. And it is not just that it is less expensive, although that is a definite benefit. And we definitely don’t want to get home to watch the Lawrence Welk Show, although I would like to catch a couple more episodes of Yellowstone before bed. The biggest reason that we like the early bird special is that we just can’t eat late at night anymore. If I eat later in the evening it doesn’t settle well when I go to bed. Think reflux and heartburn. The sing/song commercial “pop pop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is” makes a lot more sense now. Unfortunately, I can’t eat as much as I used to either. Remember the all-you-can eat buffets? You remember…pre-COVID? I loved having a smorgasbord of options to choose from. That was one of the fun things about going on a cruise, the buffets. I wanted to try everything. I used to get my money out of an all-you-can eat buffet. Now the only thing I get from it is indigestion.

As the baby boomers age, we want to eat earlier in the evening, but we do not want to be the old fogies that stand in line for the early bird special. So, what did the baby boomers do? Well, we had to put a new twist on the early bird special. It needed social change. Happy hour is the new early bird special! It is perfect. It has all of the benefits of the early bird special, but it is cool. It is earlier in the day; it is less expensive than a full dinner out and it is not so much food.

Duval’s in Sarasota had a great happy hour menu. We ordered the crispy calamari to share, and each had a 1/2 shrimp po’boy sandwich for dinner. Perfect.

Happy hour originated from restaurants and bars trying to draw in more customers during their slower times. It is typically offered before and after the peak dinner hours. I will leave the later happy hour times for the younger crowd. It seems that happy hour is extending beyond restaurants and bars now. I went to wash my car recently and the below sign was sitting at the entrance to the car wash. Apparently, there are peak times at the carwash too. Who knew?

We have a friend that is the king of happy hour. He knows and frequents all of the great happy hours where he lives. When he travels, he Googles the area ahead of time and researches the best happy hour places. This might surprise you, but he is a baby boomer too. He has found so many great places that have a lovely atmosphere and an excellent happy hour, that he has made us believers.

So, I salute all of the early baby boomers that went before me and changed society, particularly the change from the early bird special to a much more socially acceptable happy hour. Cool beans man!

Cheers to the retirement years!