Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

Upon reviewing my last blog post, I question my sanity.  Relaxation over the holidays, really?  Since that writing, we have been crazy busy, but I wanted to get in one more post before the new year which is why I'm up at the crack of dawn on New Year's Eve.  Ok, there is also a lot of work to do to prepare for a small New Year's Eve party tonight at our house...Who needs sleep anyway?

We had a great Christmas with family and friends!  We went to a fabulous dinner with our friend John at a new restaurant where we possibly over stayed our welcome with great food and conversation!  The Nash family Christmas was so much fun.  It's definitely our second family, and we've come to love these Christmas Eve gatherings.

Christmas Eve vigil Mass was beautiful, and this was followed with me filming Mike opening his Christmas gift of a Tascam 24 track recorder.  B&H photo has a contest on opening their boxes, and Mike's involved cleavers and swords.  What can I say except that it's pretty funny, and Mike's kind of weird!  On Christmas Days we headed to my mom's house where we had a great feast of Gary's "Green Egg Ham" (just sounds like Dr. Seuss but a Green Egg is also a grill), Peggy's famous cheese ball, Ange's potato soup and my chili.    It was a great family visit with stories, laughter, and Rhys, Dane and Adam throwing balls through the living room.  The Christmas tree survived, and I loved the look of surprise on mom's face when Rhys threw a ball her way and she actually caught it!

Our Christmas vacation also included some target shooting at a local range.  After at least a 7 year hiatus, I was pleasantly surprised to handle my gun well and actually get shots on the target.  It's possible that age is playing tricks on me though because I don't remember guns being so loud when I shot in the past.  Even with good hearing protection, some of the guns in the range sounded like cannons.  I have to admit that I never got past flinching when these guns were shot, and I was a bit nervous with all the first timers in the range.  There seemed to be a lot of people being taught to use their new Christmas gifts. Scary!  We won't wait so long before target shooting again, but we will certainly look for a bigger and possibly outdoor range where there is a bit more elbow room and less noise.

Later in the week we had a great lunch with my niece Diane and her husband Andrew.   It's been a couple of years since we had some quality time with them, and it was fun to catch up on their lives including Diane's pregnancy.  Stories and laughter flowed, and we had a wonderful time re-connecting.

Now we are on to preparing for a tapas dinner this evening.  This sounded like a good idea when we came up with the idea last week at the Red Key Tavern, and as long as our guests don't mind us experimenting on them we will be fine.   We are cooking 5 new recipes for this meal, and I am hopeful most of the prep work will be done today before our friends arrive.  It adds a bit of stress to the last day of the year, but I am sure we will have fun preparing Singapore samosas, prosciutto and cheese croquettes, Spanish chorizo , patatas bravas,  stuffed mushrooms and bacon wrapped chicken. Mike and I love food, and retirement has given us some time to explore this new world of cooking.

As I look ahead to 2012, I like to think about "wishes" instead of resolutions.  I was never very good at making resolutions, but there are definitely things I hope and pray for.  Mike and I talked about this yesterday, and health was at the top of our list for both of us and friends and family.  We have been through so much together recently that we realize how this can impact everything else in life.  We also selfishly hope that my house will sell quickly and we can live into one home.  In some ways, that's when retirement really begins, and I hope that I will settle well into a new routine.

I recently came across the following words of wisdom submitted by Maria Shriver in a magazine, and I think this is a good reflection as we approach a new year.

"May today there be peace within.  
May you trust God that
you are exactly where you are 
meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite 
possibilities that are born of faith.

May you use those gifts that
you have received, 
and pass on the love that has
been given to you.

May you be content knowing 
you are a child of God.

Let this presence settle into 
your bones and allow
your soul the freedom to sing,
dance, praise and love.

It is there for each and every
one of us."

I hope that each of us find this contentment in the new year.  Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Relax during the holidays?

As we scramble to finish the last of our shopping, wrap gifts and prepare for holiday meals, I have been challenging myself to relax during the holidays.  Much to my surprise I have been making time to kick back.

We decided to put house stuff on hold for the last couple of weeks of the year. YAY!  It's a relief to set the planning and worrying aside and instead focus on the holidays.  So far this week, we've had breakfast with our friend John, a great holiday party at Pat's house, Mike's holiday lunch with former co-workers at Equipment Development Group, dinner with friends Kevin and Kathy,  and the final BNO (Boys Night Out) of the year.  This was the first year the women were invited to this "prestigious" event at a small dive tavern, and there were enough stories and laughter to fill another blog entry.  Ok, possibly some of these stories shouldn't be repeated, especially the details of Pat's account of the holiday adventure with the family's septic system that would rival any Chevy Chase vacation movie.

From a schedule perspective this may not sound relaxing, but then again our "agenda" is pretty simple:

Christmas meeting agenda:
1. Have fun
2. Eat and drink

But even with this "tough" schedule with a repeat agenda, I made some time for me.  I have been reading The Passage by Justin Cronin, a great apocalyptic book that has been scaring the hell out of me as 2012 approaches.   I am walking outside in 50 degree weather in December WITHOUT SNOW!  And my creative side has been flourishing with bead work and painting.  It's been a delightful break after a couple of very busy months of work on our houses.

I have been getting a lot of great sleep which may be related to relaxation, but truth be told it's more likely related to my body fighting off a lingering ear infection.  I've lost hearing in one ear for about 2 weeks now; ok maybe that's not true as my constant companion is a high pitch buzzing noise.  Besides sleep, the other upside  is that now I have an excuse when I tell Mike ""I didn't hear you say that".

So I encourage you to give yourself a present for the holidays.  Take some time to relax with a good book, a movie or  some quiet time outdoors.  It's a great time to recharge before the new year!


Friday, December 16, 2011

A Tale of Two Cities

Ok, I took a long break since my Thanksgiving musings.  It's been a whirlwind of activity traveling between my house and Mike's house.  I can't even tell you how many times we have made this trip since Thanksgiving, but it definitely been lots of travel.  One of Mike's friends made the comment that when you are retired, every day is Saturday except Sunday.   I would have to agree that not only is it difficult to keep track of what day it is, but it's also difficult to keep track of what city I'm in.

At my house we are remediating water problems from the past couple of years.  Sump pumps, drywall work, air duct cleaning and the list goes on.  And then there's the issue of contract labor including who does the work, who calls you back, and who gives estimates, not to mention the scheduling.

Clearly my goal of getting the house on the market by year end was a bit crazy!  I always said I wanted to be the person who set the arbitrary project delivery date, and I finally got to do that.  Not meeting a date, even on this side of the fence, isn't any fun.  And this just reiterates that setting a date without a plan doesn't work under any scenario: project management 101 rears its' head again!

At Mike's house, we continue to move and get rid of stuff to prepare room for me.  Sounds easy, but for anyone who had to combine two complete homes into one, you know how difficult this is.  Basically you have to be ruthless about getting rid of things you don't need.  Goodwill folks in both cities now know me by name.   It's made me take a hard look at consumerism in my own life.  I really pause now before buying more stuff asking myself the question of whether I really need it.

As we begin to reflect about this year and all that happened, Mike and I are very happy about our year of "friends and family".  After being out of commission for a solid chunk of 2010 with health issues, we set out in 2011 to make time for friends and family. We spent vacation time and retirement time visiting people and reconnecting, and it's been richly rewarding. Whether we simply enjoyed meals together, attended concerts (Jethro Tull with Adrienne and Tony), had fun at parties (Kentucky Derby at Chuck and Melanie's and Halloween at our house), went camping (with Gretchen and Craig), attended BNO (Boys Night Out that Pat organized), attended SWOM (Second Wed. Of the Month club that Kristi organized for the girls) or spent time making hundreds of cookies (with Mom, Ange, Pam and Alex), we were blessed to have great people in our lives.

Retirement has made it easier to attend these events in each city (though perhaps with an adverse impact to selling a house).  We basically set up a shared calendar on line, and our travels are often dictated by what is going on in each place.  We recognize that this is a crazy approach, but it is working for us.
Although the year of friends and family is coming to a close, we will continue this tradition in future years.  Dealing with cancer last year taught me some important lessons about what is important: people, health and faith.  This year I focused on living these values, and choosing to retire was a decision borne of these values. It's been a good choice for us, and I haven't looked back.  Of course I do have one final question today:  Does anyone want to buy a house?


Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I would like to take a brief pause to talk about Thanksgiving.  Ok, I realize this is a retirement blog, and any connection between retirement and Thanksgiving is tenuous at best.  For those readers who come here to learn about retirement, I will try to come up with a couple of weak links to retirement, but this entry is really about a great Thanksgiving and some wonderful memories.

Mike and I spent Thanksgiving Day at mom’s house with family and friends.  As people were gathering and we waited for everyone to arrive for dinner, my sister Ange began asking questions from a list of Thanksgiving Story Starters” that Mike got from of AARP magazine (ok, here is the first retirement connection!).  It was a great conversation piece, and we laughed long and hard at some of the answers. 

When asked about how he remembered his grandparents, my nephew Dane thoughtfully answered, "caring".   Ange answered the question about her first music player with “record player” and lots of John Denver songs.  Apparently this was the small cue her husband Eric needed to start singing a John Denver song.  When my sister-in-law Peggy couldn’t recall a time she was in hot water, my brother Gary helped her out.  He reminded her of a time she let a dish boil dry and the Teflon pan began to melt.  And this is just one of her cooking stories…

Mike asked a question about what was our first memory.  Mom talked about goats chasing her in a pasture when she was very young.  She said that to this day she does not like goats.  Mike said the earliest thing he remembered was hearing the song “Witch Doctor” and crooning along with it from his crib.  Dane said his first memory was his 4th birthday when our family was on an Alaskan cruise. 

Ange mentioned breaking her leg when she was on the back of a bike my mom was riding. She reckoned that mom had not heard her from the back of the bike asking, “is it ok if I put my foot down”?   This is the first time I heard the reason she broke her leg.   I recounted one of my earliest memories when dad took me, Judy and Pam on a walk to our grandparent’s house through the woods and across the creek. I mentioned how dad kept walking along the creek until he found a place we could safely cross.  Mom said this story was news to her!

We talked about things we were thankful for. Everyone mentioned family and friends and no major health problems.  After the past year, this was definitely a blessing.  Gary was thankful for a new job on day shift, and I was thankful for no job (retirement, what can I say?).  We each remembered dad in some way during this dinner.  He had a strong presence at the table, and he was never far from our thoughts.

I don’t know about you, but there are some lessons I learn over and over in my life (possibly I’m just a slow learner).  One of those lessons is that people are more important than anything else in life.  People, memories, laughter (and maybe a few tears). I was blessed with this lesson once again on Thanksgiving Day.


Saturday, November 19, 2011


Mike told me a story earlier this week about a priest who traveled without his traditional priest garb so as to not draw attention to himself.  This allowed him to blend into the crowd like any other traveler.  Sometimes when he was on a plane,  the passenger next to him would ask him the inevitable question,  "what do you do"?  The answer that he was a Catholic priest would often stop the conversation cold.

This story stuck with me this week and played out in a couple of settings. How would I answer this question "what do you do?"  First of  all I was thinking about business cards after an event a couple of weeks ago at the zoo;  I was handed a business card and awkwardly had nothing to return. How would that person get in touch with me if I couldn't provide contact information?  And what do you put on a business card if you are retired?  (Answers found through Google say you need two business cards: one for social contacts and the other for prospective business opportunities).

The second occurrence was at an alumni event at my Alma mater.  Immediately after introducing myself came the same, inevitable question.  I tentatively answered "recently retired" as if I didn't know what that meant.  Depending on the age of the person I met, I perceived different responses. If the person was retired, there was an understanding nod, but the person was working, I assumed they thought "old person".

I guess I've always had trouble with labels.  When I was working, I seldom used my title when introducing myself because I thought it might appear pretentious.  Besides, the title didn't really tell anyone what I did; it just described a certain role or status.  More recently comes another title which I don't care for, "breast cancer survivor".  Clearly I'm OK with the survivor part, but breast cancer doesn't define me;  it's something I've gone through.  This week while at the doctor's office, the nurse took my health history and told me she was happy to meet "another breast cancer survivor".  Although I am certain she meant this in a very positive way,  my warped brain thought that meeting a survivor was definitely better than meeting the alternative.

And now comes the "retiree" label.  Perhaps it's just adjusting to change, but I'm still not sure I'm ready to jump into this demographic.  First, there's AARP,  which I never joined but unhappily realized  that Mike signed me up as part of a "family plan".  My membership card is proudly displayed behind another card in my wallet.  While perusing the menu at a Mexican restaurant this week, I noticed a one page "senior menu";   I was pleasantly surprised that it was for  people over 60!  And then there's the Wednesday "senior discount" at Goodwill. For those of you who know Mike and his quest for the deal, you will understand how I know about this discount.  OK, in the interest of full disclosure, I admit finding a few deals myself on Wednesdays...

Seriously, though, I don't like labels. They make it too easy to take an entire person and wrap them up into a single word.  I cannot think of two people who are alike despite a common label of a religion, a race or whether a person is working or not.

To me the retiree label infers that your productive, creative years are behind you, and now you are going to rest.  I prefer to think about the road ahead as another type of creativity-one that is less bound by dollars and cents.  As my sister Jude said about my retirement, " this is the time to write a new chapter called Diane."

So, unless I am gainfully employed again, I recognize that I should learn to gracefully accept this new label.  But be forewarned that if you ask what I do, you might as well take a seat and get comfortable because you won't be getting the Reader's Digest version...


Monday, November 14, 2011

Play before work

This past week has been a great one for visiting friends and catching up.  Lunch with a couple of friends, a ladies night out and a small art party got me reconnected with people I care about.  It's funny that when I was working, I often saw people in the hallway but didn't take time away from work to have lunch or get together.

I am finding that in retirement it's exactly the opposite: time with friends is the first thing on the calendar and completing my to do list is secondary.  It's really the only way to keep important people in my life since I don't see them regularly.  Mike has followed this approach since he retired several years ago, but I didn't get it until now.  It's ok for play to come before work!  It's but another example of taking a whole lifetime to get my priorities straight.

Of course my midwestern work ethic and Catholic guilt don't make this new approach easy. Getting a house ready to sell is a heavy burden, and I beat myself up because it's not moving fast enough since I'm obviously not working hard or long enough.  It's a weird thing really because we are making progress. Many things on the to-do list are getting done but we're just not at the finish line yet.  I know, remember it's the journey and not the destination.   And maybe the title of this posting should be "Play but still work".

I've been cleaning up years worth of clutter the past few weeks.  Someone recently told me that anytime they buy or bring one more new thing into their house, they get rid of two other items.  That philosophy along with moving every 3 years keeps their "stuff" in check.  Guess I might have screwed this up by staying in one place 16 years...

Books are my focus right now. Pack boxes with books, lift boxes into car, lift boxes out of car and deliver to Half Price Books. It 's not making me rich, but it is building strong arm muscles.  From today's perspective of e-books, it seems crazy to have collected so many books.

Looking through these books and the phases of favorite authors is like replaying my life on an old phonograph. As I pick up and look at these books I remember the Robert Heinlein phase, the Stephen King phase, the Pat Conroy phase, the Patricia Cornwell phase and the Jonathan Kellerman phase to name a few.  Ok, I am keeping more books than planned, some for historical reasons and some because I love the writing style.  Plus, I can't go cold turkey and get rid of everything.  Hey, this is my life we're talking about here!  

So the adjusting to retirement continues.   I don't know that I have figured out how to optimally use this gift of time, but I don't take for granted the freedom to choose how to spend each day.  I continue to learn and enjoy this new and interesting journey.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Losing track of time

Unfortunately this blog doesn't write itself based on how often I think about it.  So here I am trying to catch up on what's happened over the past week.  Oddly enough after a lifetime of dates, meetings and deadlines I am losing track of what I did each day.  And though I hate to admit it, there was one time this week when I had to think about which day it was.  I am certain this is related to freedom of schedule and not that memory thing...

It's clear to me that you have to set your own goals on what you want to accomplish each day and week.  I realize now, through Mike's eyes, that I am obsessive about lists.  I should have stock in post it notes since I have them everywhere. On the kitchen counter are grocery lists, task lists like send a sympathy card and a note to "WRITE A BLOG".  When we had a Halloween party last week, I had a list of all the food to serve so I wouldn't forget anything.  Mike pointed out how that seemed a bit over the top.  Maybe this list thing will go away the farther I get from the working world.

I can't really say I have any type of schedule.  Meals are whenever I get hungry, walks are whenever I want to take a break from something else, and okay, naps occur when I get tired.   I really like having my day open.  In the past one of my favorite things was waking up on a Saturday with nothing planned.  I would go through all the possibilities in my head, and this feeling of being able to do whatever I wanted was pure delight.  Now, most days are just like this!

This week was busy and varied.  I visited my financial planner, helped take cats to the vet, took a friend to the doctor for a follow-up appointment for rotator cuff surgery and spent hours sorting and cleaning in the "scary room".   We call it the "scary room" because a lot of the stuff is memorabilia from Mike's parents and grandparents which makes us sad that they're no longer around.  I have looked at so many pictures of people from the past, and  it saddens me that all of these people died even though I didn't know them.

I am condensing all of these wedding pictures, golden wedding pictures and obituaries for Mike to review when he has time.  The last time we tried to tackle this task was a couple of years ago at Christmas time, and both of us were in tears. So we shut the door and didn't open it again until this week.
My biggest "take-away" from this is to list names on pictures, whether digital or prints.

I've had some wonderful walks this week as the air turns colder and leaves are flying off the trees.  It has been absolutely beautiful to wander through the neighborhood while my mind meanders from topic to topic.  Although I'm not walking that far yet, I love the fresh air and beauty of the outdoors.

It's been a month now since I retired.  Wow, the time flew by.  I guess that's one thing that hasn't changed.  I am absolutely loving this gift of time.  I am sure I'm still adjusting to many things especially being called a "retiree" which sounds incredibly old.  Guess I need to get over this, huh?


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Leaving racing behind?

OK, I would like to say that I am leaving racing and multi-tasking behind me, but that's only partially true.

I've had time this week to walk and observe God's paintbrush at work.  I've walked in the neighborhood, and Mike and I had a wonderful trek through the park.  Whether walking in bright sunshine or under dark, heavy clouds, each tree is more beautiful than the last.  Tonight when I returned from a walk, the sky turned this light pink color, and I realized that maybe I'm noticing color again after years of racing to and from work.

I noticed another interesting thing about time and pace while doing some errands mid-day during the work week.  First of all, it's not very crowded.  Secondly, the people don't have that harried look of people doing errands after work or on weekends. Instead they have this calm about them as if they had all the time in the world. On Tuesday I went out for a late lunch and some leisurely reading. I was eavesdropping and heard a retired couple next to me discussing else they had coming up this week, and  they didn't have anything until Thursday!  At another table were two women talking and drinking iced tea, and it was obvious they were enjoying some time chatting long after their lunch ended.

The flip side is that I have been attacking chores and cleaning with a vengeance.  I am a woman on a mission to get rid of clutter and create wide open spaces.  Mike says I "am taking over" his house.  I respond saying that I am merely putting some "Diane touches" on it so it feels like my own space.  We are supposed to be cleaning for an upcoming Halloween party, but I've been cleaning with a different purpose-living here!  It feels great to be making progress and seeing the house with different eyes.

So, I am a bit crazy this week: racing ahead on the chores and purposely slowing down to the pace of the world around me.  Or said another way, I am getting my chores done quickly so I can play!  However I spin it, there are parts of my world that are slowing down, and I am truly enjoying some time and space after a lifetime of racing..


Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 1 of the blog

Ok, this is something new for me:  writing a blog.   As I approached retirement, I thought it would be interesting to catalog my thoughts and experiences.  Of course if all you do is just think about it, nothing happens. So after some encouragement from my niece, Diane, who is writing a blog about her pregnancy, I decided to give it a try.  So here goes this new chapter...

The first thing that is noticeable is that I don't have a schedule. I get to choose what each day holds-pretty amazing after many, many years of a full schedule.  And the best part is NO ALARM CLOCK to wake me up before 6 am anymore.  I've loved catching up on some sleep and waking up on my own without that blasted device.

I still have my to do lists, and with trying to get a house on the market, the list is very long.  But the difference now is that Mike and I choose the deadlines for these tasks.  So each day we choose how much work to do and how much to play.  In the past few weeks, we've had some of both. We've traveled to a studio art tour in NE Iowa which got the creative juices flowing. We had a great time visiting family and catching up again. We also hit the house stuff pretty hard. Mike is busy with the deck and siding repair, and I'm cleaning closets and bookshelves resulting in many trips to Goodwill and Half Price Books.

I also got in some great visits with my friends Kelly, and Emily and Brian.  It's good to stay connected and grounded with people who have known me for awhile as I start out on this new path.

It's interesting that I don't miss work at all.  I miss the people at work, but not the tasks and all the things that had been annoying me lately.  I keep asking Mike if I'm doing ok, and he smiles and generally says "yes".  Although I know there are still times I'm pretty intense, I feel like my spring is unwinding in a major way.

Starting my 3rd week of retirement, it's another clean slate.  More house work to do, this time at Mike's house, but also some more time relaxing, exploring art and exercising is in the high level plans(not on paper yet).

So, stay tuned for the adventures that await...