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?