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?