Adaptable

I’ve never been a very adaptable person.  I don’t handle change well. I am hard-wired to avoid it.  When I was working, people often called me “stubborn” because I was usually the last to let go of an old philosophy or procedure. I clung to the last scrap of past practices like a drowning woman clings to a life preserver.  It wasn’t stubbornness.  It was sheer terror.

In the years since my retirement, I’ve thrown caution, if not to the wind, at least to the strong breeze.  I plowed my way through the numerous changes involved in retiring, moving to Florida, caring for my mother, and other such challenges of life.  Most of the time, I survived by closing my eyes and pretending it wasn’t happening.  Kind of like a root canal.  At least with the root canal, they gave me laughing gas. 

Despite my best efforts, I have learned a few things about responding to change in my post retirement life.  The other day, I experienced living proof of my increased ability to adapt.  Actually, it was a bit too living, if you ask me.

I was outside spraying the weeds around my house with Round-up.  This is a routine summer activity.  In fact, during the summer months, spraying weeds is something like painting the Golden Gate Bridge.  By the time I circle the house once, more weeds have sprouted and I could just go around again.  If I didn’t call a halt to the madness, I’d be spraying perpetually.  I limit myself to one circumnavigation of the house per spraying episode.

What I would not call exactly routine is that I saw a snake outside our lanai. That never happened in California.  In Florida, it isn’t exactly abnormal, but it is not an everyday occurrence.  It happens a couple of times each year.  This guy was a big fellow, though.  He was about six feet long and about as big around as a garden hose.  I don’t think he was a poisonous variety, but seeing any variety of snake around the house always creeped me out in the past (please see  http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/07/the-great-snake-chase/ and http://www.terrilabonte.com/2019/01/snakes-why-did-it-have-to-be-snakes/).

The evidence of my new adaptability is that the noise I emitted when I saw the enormous black snake was more like a startled “eek” and less like the screeching gurgle of someone whose throat has just been slit.  I was immensely proud of myself when I realized the progress I’ve made on the adaptability front. 

Really, though, does a more measured reaction to a snake sighting mean that I’ve learned to adapt to change?  Or is it just that seeing the occasional reptile no longer constitutes “change” for me?  That is a frightening thought. 

I’ve always thought that “adaptability” meant “flexibility.”  That may be going too far.  I don’t think my “startled eek” demonstrated any Gumbyesque ability to morph effortlessly into whatever shape is necessary for survival and thrive-al.  Truth be told, I’m still not very good at adjusting to new situations.  Gumby and I have little in common.  My approach to adaptability is more like the little boy who sculpted animals from rocks and sold them on the side of the road.  A lady once marveled at one of his cute little renditions of a donkey.  She asked him, “How do you make these beautiful carvings?”  He replied, “I pick up a rock and chip away anything that doesn’t look like a donkey.”

That’s me.  My ability to adapt is not immediate and beautiful.  I don’t transform myself gracefully and fluidly and effortlessly.  I just doggedly chip away the parts of me that don’t serve my new reality.  The new version of me I create is fairly rough and primitive.  So far, though, I seem to be able to churn out the donkeys when I need them. 

What pieces of your life have you chipped away because they “don’t look like a donkey” in retirement?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a flexible day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The Stealthfulness Of Grief

Nobody tells you how sneaky grief is. 

For the first five months or so after my mom’s stroke, I rode the emotional roller coaster all the time.  It was understandable.  So much was happening and changing on an hourly basis.  Of course my emotional reactions fluctuated. 

After about five months, my mother’s condition plateaued.  She was not improving, but neither was she undergoing stressful medical procedures.  I got her settled in the nursing facility.  I resolved the financial side of things.  I sold her mobile home. Once her status quo seemed to be pretty stable, I thought I might be able to begin to stabilize myself and start learning to cope with my own feelings. 

For the most part, I thought I was doing pretty well.  I was figuring out how to accept the new reality. I was even starting to carve out a “mini life” for myself.  I was regularly spending some time without being engulfed in my mother’s condition and care.  None of it was easy.  I certainly can’t say I was truly “okay,” but I felt I was gradually repairing my shattered psyche.  Both my mother and I seem to be living in the now with a little more good grace and good cheer.  Our relationship is certainly not what it was in the pre-stroke days, but we are starting to find our footing in our new one.  We both seem to be recognizing each other again and are acting more like ourselves.  Things are far from “okay,” but, for right now, they are better than I can expect.  So there is every reason for me to put on my big girl panties and get on with life.   

Still, every now and again, I am just floored by sadness.  There isn’t even necessarily a reason or a trigger I can identify.  I’m fine…  and then I’m not.   

The other day, I was walking up to the door of the nursing facility.  I was carrying my purse, a case containing a portable DVD player that I bring to show my mom home movies, and a milkshake.  I don’t quite know how it happened, but I tripped on a warped place in the pavement. I might have been trying a new technique for long-jumping, except that I think you are supposed to land on your butt when long jumping, not forward onto your face.   It was as if I really believed I was Tinker Bell and had sprouted wings.  News flash- I had not.  

Luckily, I didn’t really hurt myself.  As I lay on the sidewalk, stunned, all I could think about was the milkshake that was now spilled all over the cement and the DVD player that might have been much more disabled by the fall than I was.  For some reason, that milkshake spill just demoralized me beyond almost anything I’ve experienced in life.  I felt so defeated that I kind of just wanted to lie there and hope the world would end.  It was a weird sensation of knowing that I was reacting beyond all rational thought but not caring.   

I knew the reaction wasn’t really about the milkshake.  It wasn’t about the DVD player (which, remarkably, was unharmed by its flight).  It wasn’t even about the fall.  It was the same old grief and stress that I thought I was conquering.  The reaction was about the fact that my mother is so compromised and I can’t fix it.  I thought I was coming to terms with that reality, but the sadness came crashing back out of nowhere.   

A very nice gardener guy helped me to my feet.  I stared at the mess I had left in my wake.  The gardener guy asked if I was all right and I said, “yes, but the milkshake is all over the ground and it is ruined.  Besides, there will be bees and people might slip on it.”  The gardener guy looked at me strangely and mumbled some sort of embarrassed response.  Still a little in shock, I made my way into the facility and into my mother’s room, where I greeted her sans milkshake.  I burst into tears when I saw her, apologizing profusely for the lack of ice cream.  I think I kind of alarmed her.  She kept telling me to go home but I wouldn’t.  I didn’t want the fall to win.   

When I did leave the nursing home, still feeling unspeakably sad, I noticed the milkshake mess was mysteriously gone.  I am sure that my nice gardener guy cleaned it up for me.  Thank you, nice gardener guy.   

I read somewhere that sometimes you don’t have to get over things; you just have to get through them.  Maybe the “getting through them” isn’t always by a straight path. 

Has grief ever “snuck up” on you?  How do you cope?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a thoughtful day!

Terri 🙂

Still Alive and Kicking

Based on the Holmes Rahe scale, I’m lucky I’m not dead yet.  The Holmes Rahe stress scale is a list of 43 stressful life events that can contribute to illness.  These stressors are not limited to negative events, but simply represent situations that typically cause change or a need for readjustment in a person’s life.  They range from the relatively benign (experiencing a major holiday, for instance) to the more cataclysmic (such as the death of a spouse.)  The scale assigns each event a weighted score and measures the combined score of all the identified life events a person experiences in a year.  Psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe conducted a scientifically valid study that resulted in a correlation between life events, as measured by stress scale scores, and illness.   

A score of over 300 indicates a significant risk of serious illness.  Even before my mother’s stroke, my score was 344.  In the year that included my retirement, the life events I’d experienced included but were not limited to:  changing jobs twice, retiring, moving across country, changing my entire financial situation, and taking responsibility for my ailing mother’s care, along with a few other more garden variety stressful life events like Christmas and a vacation.  And my elevated stress scale score doesn’t even include any events not included in the good doctors’ research…  like selling a home, moving my mother 3000 miles across the country, or finding snakes in the garage.      

Even with this empirical evidence to explain my feelings of stress, it still felt vaguely shameful to talk about that stress with family and friends.  After all, I RETIRED.  That should have been the end of my need for sympathy from them.  Obviously, if I am no longer working, I must have nothing about which to feel stressed.  It’s like I’ve lost my membership card to the Forever Frenzied Federation and am no longer entitled to vent about the frustrations and fears of my existence. 

When I think back about what the pace of life was like before I retired, it does seem silly to even think about my post-retirement stressors, especially before my mother’s stroke.  When I was working, I was constantly tossed and tousled by a hurricane at sea.  I was always struggling against drowning.  For some time after retirement, I waded at the edges of a still ocean.  Sometimes, a wave lapped a little too high on my leg and my pants got wet.  Certainly, not much comparison.  Still, the events in the year after my retirement truly were significant in their own right.   It would behoove me to pay attention to their impact, especially now that the cataclysm of my mother’s illness has caused a whole new type of storm in my world. 

So, what do I do?  Obviously, I can’t undo the life events and spread them out over a more reasonable time period. The damage is already done.   But maybe it is time to stand still for a while.  It is tempting, now, to invest any time and energy I can muster into pleasurable and fun activities.  When I take a day off from visiting my mother in the nursing facility, I tend to want to go somewhere and do something to divert my attention.  Running off in search of amusement whenever I have a spare moment may not be the healthiest strategy.  I think the situation calls for a little boredom to quell my overactive nervous system and dilute the overabundance of stress hormones in my blood stream.  Constant excitement, while entertaining, may not be all it is cracked up to be.   

So let’s hear it for monotony!  Sometimes it is better to lie down and yawn rather than to stand up and cheer.

Did any of you have a hard time responding to stress after you retired?  Did it feel like you somehow weren’t “entitled” to feel stressed once you weren’t working?  How did you cope with the situation?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a reasonably stress-free day!

Terri 🙂

PS I hope I didn’t throw anyone off by this early posting for the week.  I have a date with a dolphin tomorrow and must be on my way very early, so I thought I’d post tonight and save some time in the morning.  More about the dolphin day soon, I promise!  In the meantime, I’ll be back to posting on the regular day next Wednesday.

 

 

Springing Forward

The hospice nurse says my mother no longer experiences time in the same way most people do.  Do you think it might be contagious? 

Never before in my life have I messed anything up because of the beginning of Daylight Savings Time.  Last Sunday, I was getting ready to go to church.  I happened to look down at my phone and noticed it said the time was an hour later than I thought it was.  I wondered what was wrong with my phone.  As it turns out, nothing. 

I went to church, still operating firmly in Eastern Standard Time despite all iPhone indications to the contrary.  I thought I was arriving early for Sunday School and was surprised at how full the parking lot already was.  I noticed some folks going into the church and wondered at that.  By Terri Time, it was just about an hour before the service was to start and people usually don’t arrive that early.  Finally, out of nowhere (or, maybe, out of the numerous hints that my brain was consuming but apparently not digesting very quickly), I realized that Daylight Savings Time might just have started at 2:00 o’clock that morning.   

So, I did not have a spring forward this year.  It was more like a stumble forward.  Maybe I was actually pushed directly into the path of an oncoming time change.  I think there might be a message for me in this. 

I think I may have become a little stuck in flux during this past season.  Is that an oxymoron?  Can one be “stuck” if one is in a state of “flux?”  All I know is that I think my brain has been wallowing in some sort of disagreeable sludge ever since my mom had her stroke.  I have become used to living in a nearly constant mood of sadness, anxiety, fear, and inadequacy. It has become a comfortable ooze, if not a pleasant one.  I tend to sink deeper into it rather than exerting the effort to lumber out of it.  Yes, this whole journey started back in the last Daylight Savings Time.  Theoretically, I’ve had a couple of time changes to adapt to my new circumstances. I’m not sure my transmission is that good, though.  It tends to slip.  Given my sinister slide into the emotional muck, I’d say I had no trouble at all “falling back.” 

Now that spring is here (whether I sprung with it or not), it might be a good time to recognize and acknowledge new birth.  There has been a lot of growing inside me recently.  I’ve graduated from my perception that retirement is simply well-earned rest.  I’m now seeing how retirement can and should be enriching, as well as restful.    More than two years after my move, I have started thinking of Florida as “home.”  It no longer feels disloyal to prefer my life in Florida to what I was experiencing back in California.  I believe I have learned more about myself in the past two years than in the prior 30 plus “career” years put together.  The best news about that self-education is that I am figuring out how to appreciate myself.  I’m not saying that I am all that and a bag of chips, but I think I can now safely say that I am at least the bag of chips.  

In addition to recognizing and acknowledging the new beginnings I’ve birthed since my retirement, spring seems a good time to nurture the seedlings that are beginning to sprout for other changes.  I know I’ll never be okay with my mother’s condition, but I do sometimes feel the stirrings of acceptance and reconciliation.  This spring, I want to be a gardener.  I want to tend to my mother’s heart- to fill it with beautiful flowers and plants and lovely scents to remind her how much she is loved.  I also want to tend my own heart- to heal it and love it and remind it of how much I love. 

Is spring growing season for you?  Any particular “gardening” you are planning for this year?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Happy almost spring!

Terri 🙂

Practice Makes Perfect

Awhile back, I happened to look at the calendar and realized, with a start, that I was attending a wedding exactly 35 years ago that day. My own.
I remember that period around the middle of 1980 through the end of 1981. It was the last time, before my recent retirement and move across the country, that I navigated multiple life-altering changes in a relatively short period of time.

My parents sold the house where I grew up in mid-1980. They always wanted to sell the house and travel around the country when they retired. My younger brother had moved out on his own (well, on his own and about a hundred roommates, but that’s a story for a different day), but I still had a year or so of college to finish. My parents, two basset hounds, and I moved into a 27-foot travel trailer. We lived in the trailer full time in a campground across the street from Disneyland. I went to school, studied, worked a job part-time, tried to apply for and interview for post-graduation “career type jobs,” and planned my wedding from that travel trailer. We all lived together, ate together, watched television together for a year. There was no place to put anything (which was a special challenge when one considers the incredible amount of paraphernalia involved in organizing a wedding). Most of my worldly goods resided in a storage facility. There was no privacy. My “bedroom” was the dinette area that converted to a bed once any of the three of us decided it was time to go to sleep.

People thought our living situation was kind of weird, but it did make some sense in the big picture. My parents were beginning to live their “live in a camper and travel the nation” dream, albeit without the “travel the nation” part of it… yet. “As soon as we get rid of Terri,” (as they told anyone and everyone for the entire year of this limbo), “we are going to take off and be on our way.”

Between the end of May and the middle of August in 1981, I graduated from college, started working full-time at my college job, got married, and switched jobs to an extremely responsible “career type” government position (which, despite the fact that it involved constantly making decisions that impacted on people’s actual lives, paid virtually the same amount as my college “undersecretary clerical gopher” job). My parents hit the road, literally and figuratively. These were the days before cell phones, social media, and email. For about six months, my only communication with them were occasional letters (you remember, with the folded paper and envelope?) and cassette tapes we would make to send each other.

By the end of 1981, I think I already knew my marriage had been a horrible mistake and I was absorbed in the exhausting work of trying to pretend I didn’t already know it.

That interlude in 1980-1981 was the last time I went through multiple major changes in my life. Yes, certainly I navigated changes since then- a divorce, two moves, a couple of different jobs. All those changes, though, came more-or-less, one at a time. Each change was more like someone throwing a pebble into my life and watching the mild ripples rather than having changes crash unrelenting like waves on the shore of my life. The good news about singular changes is that they can become the focus of your life for a time. You can cogitate, analyze, grieve, and strategize about how to deal with them. You can reach out for sympathy. You can even turn your life into your own little soap opera for awhile, if you want. The bad news about singular changes is that you can also obsess over every little detail and become the object of pity.

When you find yourself in the tornado alley of change, you don’t really have the time to analyze and react to each one individually. Sometimes, the more you try to get your feet back under you and control things, the more changes seem to occur. Instead of focusing on the individual change and figuring out how you feel about it and how you are going to react, you tend to focus on the general whirlwind. Your brain begins to feel like a tornado itself. You feel too dizzy to see any way out. You have to seem pitiful, even to the point of tedium, to your friends. Let’s face it, even the best friends have some point at which they can no longer stand doling out sympathy and advice that doesn’t seem to be doing you any good.

Interesting that I’m finally able to “compare and contrast” the single change experience with the multi-leveled change twister. It has been over a two years since I plowed my way through the tornado alley of retiring, moving, and taking over my mother’s caretaking. I’m starting to feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  Maybe, in some small ways, I’ve finally come through the storms and the house of my life has landed back on the ground. I’m wary when I say it, but I think I’ve managed my way through the worst of it. It has been an exhausting ride. Even though most of these changes were the result of my own choices, the stress has been way more than I ever imagined.

Why has it been so difficult? I think I’ve just figured it out. The last time I handled this sort of life-altering multi-level change was 35 years ago. When it came to facing the changes of the past couple of years, I clearly lacked practice!

So what do you think? Have you gotten better at managing change with practice? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can leave me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Hope your topsy-turvies don’t leave you upside down today!
Terri

The Next New Job

People ask me what it feels like to be retired. The closest analogy I have come up with is that it is like the experience you have when you are pursuing a new job.

At one point in my career, I was preparing myself to compete for my first job in middle management. You could say that getting the job was sort of the pinnacle of my career. I had several other jobs after holding that position, but all the subsequent positions were offshoots of that first middle management job.

Before I got the middle management position, I spent literally years developing myself for consideration. I was doing all kinds of things to build my skills and to enhance my visibility within the organization. I wanted the folks above me to recognize my name and think of me as a strong candidate. More importantly, I wanted to have the talent and experience to actually BE a strong candidate. I was a first line manager for almost twenty years and I spent all that time growing my skillset.  I learned from my experience and from my leaders.  I tried to take the best of myself and my various managers to create a quirky cocktail of a leadership style that I employed in all my first line management positions.  When I began preparing for the next level in earnest, I took classes, read books, took on extra assignments, and put myself in challenging situations to grow my abilities. I applied for, was accepted into, and graduated from a “readiness” program- which is sort of like rush week and hazing for management jobs in my agency.   In short, trying to get the middle management job became nearly as much of a job as my “real” job at the time.

Ultimately, I succeeded. I competed for and got that first middle management position. There may not have been a ticker tape parade exactly, but there was celebration and rejoicing.  I seem to recall balloons being involved.  Everyone congratulated me and wished me much happiness. Colleagues and mentors who had been helping me in my development breathed a collective sigh of relief to finally be able to wash their hands of me and let me float on my own.  It was thrilling and I was quite giddy.

For the next several weeks, I became engrossed in the practicalities of getting a new job.  I finished up projects and tasks that I was doing in my current position.  I prepared the person who would be acting in that position until the agency selected a new permanent manager.  I packed my stuff and moved to the new office.  I did the administrivia necessary to get authorized on the new computer systems I would need in my new job.  I explored the lay of the land in my new office.

Once I completed all this “changing of the guard” work, I found myself in a difficult situation.  I had held the front line manager position, in one form or another, for such a long time.  I realized that I had become a master at it.  It wasn’t that it was easy for me or anything, but I certainly had developed a certain facility and confidence and momentum in executing my responsibilities on a day-to-day basis.  By the time I was selected for the target middle management position, it could even be said that I had become a master at the job of getting this job. Now that I had it and the novelty had worn off, I was back to square one. I was faced with the whole new challenge of actually having to DO the job!

All of sudden, “routine” tasks and decisions were not routine.  Instead of tumbling through a day of problem solving and getting things done, as I had for years in my front line management position, I found myself stumbling over each step because I found all the steps to be new to me.  The steps were all in unfamiliar places now, steeper, and made of different materials than I had experienced in my former job.   In my front line position, I easily contemplated the possible strategies for addressing each issue of the day and experimented with reasonable confidence that I would find a way to success.  In this new position, my mind felt tight and restricted when I tried to percolate new ideas.  The stakes were higher and I seemed to have less mental resources and agility to propel me towards success.  As certain as I had been that I would succeed as a first line manager, I was often as certain that I would fail as a middle manager.  After all, you can only use the excuse “I’m new” for a short time.  As I struggled with problem-solving and fueling effective operations, I was well aware that I couldn’t just try any strategies.  I had to try the right strategies to produce results.  I knew that, as some point, I would have to produce the results expected of me or I would have to face the fact that I had failed… no matter how hard I had worked or how many creative strategies I tried.

Retirement was kind of like that for me. I aspired to retirement for years. I thoughtfully and strategically set up my life to prepare myself to retire. When it finally happened, there was all manner of celebrating and well-wishing. For a few weeks, my life was a whirlwind of “getting set-up.” Just like when I changed jobs and had to deal with the pragmatics and tactics such as getting on necessary computer systems and arranging my office, I spent the beginning of my retirement packing and moving and making sure the processes of my new life were in place.

After that first flurry of activity, I came face to face with the same reality I did when I actually started my first middle management position. I had no real idea of how to “work” retirement on a day-to-day basis any more than I had any idea how to “work” the middle management job on a day-to-day basis.

It wasn’t that I was unhappy in either case or that I regretted my decisions to pursue the career-defining job or to retire. In both situations, I was excited and joyful. It is just that, in both situations, I was disoriented and lacked confidence that I would ultimately right my ship and sail somewhere wonderful.

In the middle management position, I may not have hung the moon and the stars, but I think I did succeed. I am proud of my little legacy.

As time passes in my retirement, I find myself experimenting with numerous strategies and approaches to craft a success of my retirement life. I think it is working. I am less disoriented and my confidence is growing all the time. I feel like I am clicking along well on all cylinders now.

I have learned that, in retirement, unlike in that next new job, the creative strategies I employ to succeed cannot fail as long as I satisfy myself.

 

So what do you think?  Did your retirement feel similar to transitioning to a new job?  Or was your experience different?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you an email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. Have an exciting (in a good way!) day!

Terri

 

I’ve Got That Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart

Easter reminds me that my race is not yet run.

 When I started working, I did not select my career with my Christianity in mind. To be honest, I’m not sure I selected it at all. I had just finished college with a fresh out of the oven degree in English. I was working at my minimum wage college job. I had a brand new husband, who was a full time graduate student.  He needed brand new food every brand new day. When the chance for federal employment was offered, I took the job for purely temporal reasons.

That doesn’t mean that, for the 33 plus years I worked, I left my faith at the door. While my job description wasn’t particularly missionary, I believed that God expected me to live a mission. I spent my career purposely, consciously, and genuinely trying to make each decision from a place of goodness and to be a light in the world to the people I encountered. The fuel for that light was Jesus. I often fell short. I was not always a good example or a beacon of Christ’s light. I simply trusted that, when I did succeed in my mission through the wisdom and grace God granted me, the Lord would use that work to let others see Him and His love.

 When I retired, I was tired and worn down in my very soul. I looked forward to my retirement as a period of rest and relaxation, my years of work being done. I did rest and it has taken a very long time for my spirit to relax. Now, I realize my work is not done. My workplace is different and the conditions are unfamiliar, but I am sure God still has a mission for me.

 I believe I am called, like St. Therese of Lisieux, to live an ordinary life with extraordinary love. There is still some life left for me to fill, using God’s grace, with extraordinary love.

 I am writing about reinventing myself in retirement. This Easter season, I have been journeying towards a spiritual reinvention, or, at least, a spiritual reinvigoration. I’ve been participating in a Best Lent Ever program.  It is a series of daily email video reflections. It is offered through www.dynamiccatholic.com.  You might want to check it out. Even non Catholics might be interested.  Really, anyone with a spiritual orientation that includes Jesus, even tangentially, might find it useful.

 In working on my spiritual reinvention this Lent, www.dynamiccatholic has helped me remember some valuable lessons.

 When I give in to shyness and avoid people, I put my Jesus light under a bushel and miss potential opportunities to provide comfort and extraordinary love.

When I get impatient and rushed, I miss the opportunity to be absolutely present in the moment, to cherish the joy that God gives that moment.

When my heart flashes with irritation and anger, I miss the opportunity to gain understanding and closeness. 

 Moving forward, I know that I will forget these lessons and will fall short. I also know that God has more lessons for me.  I will try to keep an open heart and be available to His teaching, as I strive to be a carrier of extraordinary love.

The real lesson of Easter, though, is that, no matter how many times I fail, I am forgiven. Jesus saw to that.

Happy Resurrection!  I know that not everyone believes as I do, but Easter seems like a great time to remind ourselves that reinvention can be sacred as well as secular.

What do you think?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Have a happy and blessed Easter!

Terri 🙂

Domestic Deity

I really rock at cleaning floors.

 To understand the full impact of this statement, you need to understand that I grew up in a home where cleaning house meant company was coming.  My mother has many, many wonderful traits, but she was a homemaker and not a housekeeper. My childhood memory of “home” is warm and loving and fun, but not clean, neat, or tidy.  I don’t think anyone would ever describe my mom as a “domestic goddess.”

 It wasn’t that we were too lazy to clean house.  It was just that there were way too many more interesting things to do than dust, wash, polish, or sweep anything that needed dusting, washing, polishing, or sweeping. We didn’t live in squalor or anything, but having clean floors wasn’t ever a dream that seemed worth pursuing.  Dog hair tended to be part of the décor.  If there were too many dirty dishes in the sink, we could always use the oven to whisk them out of sight.   We also were the kind of people who formed sentimental attachments to just about everything we touched, so there was always souvenirs of vacations, questionably adorable figurines, crumbling old furniture, children’s art projects, clothes worn for momentous occasions (like my first day of second grade or something), etc. hanging around creating clutter and dust bunnies. 

My mother was a working mother before it was fashionable. Before that, she volunteered with the Parent Teacher Association for more hours a week than most people spend at a real job.   While I think she enjoyed working outside the home, I have a sneaking suspicion that part of her motivation for getting a job was to have a socially acceptable excuse to not do something as boring as housework. 

 When I began living on my own, I intended to replicate the housekeeping habits of the women I saw on reruns of 1950s television shows.  Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that I was failing miserably.  I either missed the housekeeping gene or just never learned how to do housework in a way that would efficiently and effectively result in a clean, tidy house.  Who knows if it was nature or nurture, but I began storing dirty dishes in the oven within an embarrassingly short time.  I spent most of my adult life trying to do better, with almost no success.

 When I retired and was getting ready to move, I was a little worried.  I was going from a tiny one-bedroom, one-bathroom 600 square foot condominium to a 1500 square foot, 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house.  Since I was never very successful in keeping 600 square feet clean, how would I cope with so much more space?

 As it turns out, the answer is pretty darn well.  I have found that having the extra space is actually helpful.  There are more places to put things.  Our clothes actually fit in the closets and bureaus and don’t end up on the floor.  The garage can not only house two cars, but has shelving for items such as Christmas decorations.   Being retired also means that taking half an hour to clean a bathroom or an hour to dust isn’t anywhere near as onerous as when I was working for a living and really resented housework for eating up my few moments of unscheduled time. 

 And the floors.  In my little condo, I had carpet through most of the rooms.   There is very little satisfaction in vacuuming carpeting.  Pretty much, the floors look the same after you vacuum as they did before.  You never really know if the carpets are clean.  My new home has hardwood in most of the rooms.  When we first moved in, I was a little intimidated by those floors and put off doing anything other than sweeping them.  Finally, I decided to just throw caution to the wind and try to do a deeper cleaning.  I swept, dust-mopped, applied hardwood floor cleaner, and, ultimately, hardwood floor restorer and polisher.  Those floors absolutely glowed when I was done.  I felt soooo accomplished.  I was taking pictures of the newly cleaned floors and sending them to everyone who knew me.  I faced my fear of housework and prevailed. 

 The really big lesson in my journey to becoming a domestic goddess is something I learned in the workplace years ago.  Quality is “fit for use.”  In other words, if my home is reasonably sanitary and the air is breathable and the occupants feel comfy and happy, whatever level of housework that has been done is quality.   I am the queen of my own domesticity and, if I can look out over my realm and be happy, that is the triumph.

 Maybe my mother was a domestic goddess after all.

What are your thoughts?  I’d love to hear your perspective.  Please leave a comment and share your perspective.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Have a terrific day!

Terri 🙂

Should Shoulder Rolls Be Audible?

One of my goals in retirement was to get more exercise.  Despite the fact that I am a middle aged, mostly sedentary, overweight diabetic, whose preferred form of exercise is pushing buttons on the TV remote control, I decided that retirement was going to be my motivation to become the picture of health- eating right, moving my body, soaking in the sunshine, and fairly glowing with righteous wholesomeness.  Well, not so much.  Still, I thought it was time to exercise more than just my imagination. 

I joined a water aerobics class when I moved to my new home in the sticks.  For some bizarre reason, I decided to begin in January.  The morning temperature when I scurried from the car to the pool was about 45 degrees.  The pool is indoors and heated (I’m not completely crackers), but there was still the commute from car to pool and pool to car with which to contend.  The commute from the pool to the car was infinitely more difficult because, even though the temperature was an hour warmer, I was an hour wetter. The class consisted of about 6 die-hards that participated as long as the temperature was over 40 degrees at the time the class began.  There is one attendee, who I have dubbed “The Woman Who Never Shuts Up,” who barely moves any part of her body except her mouth during the hour long class.  Two or three other attendees sway a little bit, but are obviously there to listen with rapt attention to every story and pearl of wisdom she spews forth while the instructor soldiers on, trying to make her directions heard over the din.  

For a little while, I sort of alternated between the water aerobics and a “dry land” walking aerobics class the community also offered.  In the minds of most sane people, I’m sure walking around a climate controlled auditorium to music seems the more reasonable option when the temperature is 45 degrees.  However, one main factor settled me finally on the water aerobics class.  You don’t sweat in the water.

The class is offered three times a week.  I average once a week, despite my best intentions.  Still, as time marches on and the class expands (now that the temperature has warmed up, there are about 15-20 attendees), I can feel some results.  The Woman Who Never Shuts Up still, well, never shuts up. It just doesn’t bother me as much.    I understand now that the time goes quicker when people chat during the class.  Also, now that there are more people actually exercising, I have more people to watch to learn the movements.  I think I’m probably exercising more efficiently and flaying about less.  I do feel a modicum of strength and endurance that I haven’t felt for some time.  I feel muscles stretching and expanding as I do the exercises.  When I finish a session, I feel more relaxed and healthy. 

This is not to say that I am the well-oiled machine I visualized.  There is one stretching exercise that involves bending a knee back behind me and holding my ankle with my hand to keep my foot firmly against my butt.  This seems physiologically impossible for me.  I am pretty sure I am not meant to grow a bigger butt to reach the foot and I think my days of growing longer legs to reach my butt are- you should excuse the expression- behind me.

 Then there is the series of “bottle exercises.”  The idea is to use an empty half-gallon milk bottle in each hand and do some exercises while floating on the water.  I have a sneaking suspicion that, if one has any level of firmness in the core muscles, one will remain in pretty much the same location while doing these “bottle exercises.”  After maneuvering around the whole pool numerous times while attempting to do the movements without drowning, I capitulated and started hanging on to the side of the pool behind me while doing the exercises.

And then there are the shoulder rolls.  Among the stretches we do at the beginning and end of class are shoulder rolls.  As I roll my shoulders in little circles to the front and to the back, I am first struck by how good it feels.  Then, to my horror, I realize I CAN HEAR THEM!  Click, click, click.  I am pretty certain you aren’t supposed to be able to hear your muscles move.  When did this happen?  Maybe it is Morse code for something.  Maybe something like…. This is what happens when your preferred form of exercise for 30 some years is pushing buttons on the TV remote control!

So what do you think?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Terri 🙂

Shangri-la-dee-da

Realtors never show you the local Walmarts.

When I was searching for a house in 2012, the real estate agent took us along a picturesque road that actually drove over a lake.  She avoided the main commercial drag through town. She pointed out the quaint fairy tale German bakery in the woods. She didn’t mention the dozens of boarded up failed restaurants in town.  She steered us to the lush green spaces that lined the residential roads. She did not tarry over the broken expanses of cracked asphalt on the aging strip malls.  She proudly identified the huge modern hospital.  She spent no time at all on the rather suspect-looking corner “pharmacies.” All in all, the real estate agent presented us with a vision of charming Smalltown, USA.

One of our main reasons for moving from our old state was to escape a declining neighborhood. Now that we have actually moved to this Shangri-la-dee-da, I’m not certain that we have taken that much of a step up.

Our new neighbors quickly identified one of the three Walmarts in easy driving distance (which probably tells you something right there), as “the bad Walmart.” Apparently, people who wish to avoid everyday low prices on muggings and carjackings steer clear of this one.

I can’t say that I love the town. I’m not saying for sure, but Shangri-la-dee-da may just be the thrift store capital of the world.  Oh, sure, they have cute little names with pretentions of charm, like Gift Shoppe and Treasure Trove. They still sell other people’s junk.  We have our share of homeless people and seedy motels. There are many empty storefronts in tired old strip malls that seem to actually be decaying before the very eye.  It is also pretty common to see signs wistfully announcing “closed temporarily for refurbishment” on obviously abandoned restaurants.    We have an extra collection at church periodically to pay for the off-duty sheriff deputies who guard the parking lot while we worship.  Websites that report crime statistics advise that the crime rate in the town of Shangri-la-dee-da is pretty high for a city of its size (note to self: if I ever get a notion to move again, check the crime statistics BEFORE purchasing a house instead of after).

About fifteen years ago, a developer created a mega senior citizen community about ten miles from my town. It spans over parts of three different cities in three different counties. The community includes nearly every kind of housing, service, dining, and entertainment option known to man. Everything in the community is brand spanking new, shiny, and clean. Some of the shopertainment areas are even themed. And almost everything in the community is accessible by golf cart. It is one of the fastest growing towns in the country. All the cool senior citizens live there.   I believe the growth of this Disney World for oldsters put something of a damper on the vitality of other towns in the area, including my new town of Shangri-la-dee-da. In addition, there was a freakishly bad hurricane season about ten years ago. I don’t think businesses had a chance to bounce back from that before the economic collapse in 2007.

So, in general, Shangri-la-dee-da feels sort of fragile and shell-shocked. I’m afraid I can’t find that vision of Smalltown, USA that I had in 2012 when I bought the house.

On the other hand, the crime statistics also report that my neighborhood is the safest in the city and is known for peace and quiet. We don’t really live right in the midst of Shangri-la-dee-da.  We actually live kind of out in the country, just barely within the town. In fact, if you sneezed in my community, someone right outside the city limits might yell gesundheit. I love my little house and I love the development where I live.  Driving into the development, you pass through a natural arched canopy of huge heritage trees.  Those trees absolutely drip with streaming Spanish moss, like tinsel on Christmas trees decorated by enthusiastic, ham-handed toddlers. It looks like the entryway to Twelve Oaks in Gone With the Wind.  The planned landscaping is lovely and serene, but there is space for God’s landscaping as well.   There are conservation zones throughout the community, filled with wild foliage and waterways. Herons and egrets nestle on the shores. Sandhill cranes yodel to each other. The neighbors are wonderful.  People look out for each other.  People walk and ride bikes and enjoy the fresh air.  We are about a mile away from grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations that seem safe and clean. Perhaps I should focus my search for Smalltown, USA on that area rather than trying to paint a city of 14,000 with the same brush.  That focus can widen in time.  I am finding, as time goes by, that places that initially seemed a bit scary to me now feel a lot more comfortable.

But that realization is true of a lot more than just geography. Living through transition is showing me that the unfamiliar can take on a somewhat sinister quality simply because it is unfamiliar, but that sense diminishes with time until what once seemed scary seems second nature.

So what do you think?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Terri 🙂