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On being retired...

Continuing my revisiting of things written long ago, this one was from March of 2011. In the years since then, I can say honestly that I still have trouble saying No, cooking lost its charm early on, I still have calendar issues, routine can become a rut if you're not careful, and that 15 minutes is plenty for housework. Part-time jobs are fun and I have one and no matter how much stuff you get rid of, more grows in its place. I can also say without qualification that I love being retired, but that the learning curve mentioned below continues to steepen.


I like learning, which is a good thing, because there’s a definite learning curve to being retired.

First thing you need to figure out, said my friend Cindy, is to say No. If the request is for something you don’t want to do, just don’t do it. This would be a whole lot easier, I’ve discovered, if I didn’t want to do everything at least once. So far, I haven’t had to say No because I haven’t wanted to. (Except for when another friend, Debby, suggested skydiving. I have a vein of cowardice that runs full width and very deep.)

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When she was young, before she had formula stains on her clothes or crows’ feet around her eyes or stretch marks, your mother had dreams. In those dreams, she was a singer or artist or engineer or a CEO. She wore designer clothes and her hair was always perfect and she always had a healthy bank balance—no one ever looked at her debit card with disdain. Her vacation plans never included fast food or Motel 6.

For many mothers, there was a man in those dreams. Strong, handsome, intelligent, and sensitive, he never left his dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, never left the seat up, and never forgot her birthday. Depending on whose dream it was, he liked to eat out a lot, never told her how to drive, and wasn’t as scared of spiders as she was.

Sometimes there were children in the dreams, ones who behaved well and stayed clean and ate their vegetables without complaining. They did their homework and turned it in on time and never watched crummy television or listened to music that made her ears hurt. Even after she gave birth to these children (painlessly, with hair and makeup intact) she regained her figure instantly and never looked like death-warmed-over because her babies were the kind who slept through the night and whose teeth appeared miraculously straight and without pain.

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Our neighbor passed away on April 18th. She was nearly 100 years old. She hadn’t lived in her house up the road with its peonies and pristine white outbuildings for several years. A beautiful young family lives there now, but it’s still “Marabel’s” when we drive past. When we went to the funeral home, we saw more neighbors there, talked to her family, and looked at the photographs on display. Lots were of her grandkids—Marabel did love those grandkids—and even more were of other kids. Picture after picture after picture of first grade classes with a few third and fourth grades thrown in there, too. All hers. I can remember her using the term “one of mine.”

I interviewed a retired teacher for a newspaper article once. She showed me gifts from students that spanned the decades, picked individuals out of pictures and laughed over memories. Spoke in grief and through tears of one recently lost to cancer. It had been twenty-some years since she’d taught her, but she was still one of hers.

I’ve written about him before, but Joe Wildermuth taught me as much about algebra as he could (it wasn’t much) and a lot about being a good person. About standing up when giving up would be easier. When my first book was published, he brought me flowers. Because I was one of his.

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What the World Needs Now…

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone. - Jackie DeShannon

It’s hard not to write about politics or religion these days, since everyone else does and because opinions and conclusions (whether or not they are based on fact) are all over social media and in magazine articles and opinion pieces on news sources. I am, I admit, tired of being called names, having everything I stand for denigrated, and having my faith called into question. But there’s another part to that―I’m equally tired of having other people being called names, their values vilified, and their faith being anyone’s business but their own.

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My friend Nan and I were talking about weight the other day. Actually, she was probably talking about it and I was obsessing about it. Which I’ve been doing since I was in the seventh grade and was consistently bigger than Linda, who lived down the road. I’m fairly certain I still am.

I have lost the equivalent of several versions of myself over the years. Fifteen pounds for class reunion, 25 for our daughter’s wedding, an enthralling 40-some the year I retired. A couple of years in the 80s, I lost weight to wear a two-piece swimsuit in Florida; once it was to wear my favorite-ever black-and-white polka-dotted dress to our younger son’s graduation.

I’ve gained it back. Usually plus some. Every time. I do not, as my friend suggested, accept myself as I am. But I also do not eat sensibly or exercise enough. I don’t tell the truth about my weight on my driver’s license and I cringe at every doctor’s visit because there’s always that stop in the hallway between the waiting room and the examination room.

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The sounds of the earth

This is from last year sometime. It's been a week of feeling puny and being behind, so my apologies if you've read this too lately to enjoy it again. The sun's shining today and I'm feeling blessed. Hope you are, too.

Oh the sounds of the earth are like music
The breeze is so busy, it don't miss a tree

An' a ol' weepin' willer is laughin' at me -

                                 -Richard Rodgers

I’m not a movie person, but the quote above is from Oklahoma. I used it because I love what he was able to do with a few words that give voice to how I feel. But, about movies--I have trouble sitting in one place for two hours and the truth is, I don't like very many new movies--although there are some exceptions to that. I don't like violence, I don't think sex is a spectator sport, and I still flinch at four-letter words, especially when there are a dozen of them in a sentence. I’m not crazy about animation and I hate stupid, so it really cuts down on things to watch.

I am a theatre person. If it’s on stage, I’m probably going to like it. Worse than that for anyone around me, if it’s a musical, I’m going to sing with it.

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At a meeting of churchwomen this week, Rhonda Miller read a devotion about gifts we are given. It served as a good reminder that we all have gifts, that we don’t get to choose what our gifts are, and that we should use them to the greater good. The reading indicated we might not always have the same ones―that they changed all the time. I must admit that was something I’d never considered.

Although I am profoundly lacking in more areas than I want to talk about here, writing has been a gift to me since my age was still in the single digits. It was not a skill that made me popular, thin, or well-dressed, and I didn’t appreciate it until I was old enough to find out there was no better place for me to find a “room of my own” than between the covers of a notebook. I was older yet when I finally got the courage to share the gift by seeking publication. The first six letters of that word, you might notice, spell “public.”

Making any part of yourself public can be hard, but when you are putting the gift you’ve been given out there for people to like or dislike is downright scary. I used to obsess over bad reviews or other negative comments about things I’d written. I saw the criticisms as personal attacks. (I still do sometimes, although for the sake of this column, I don’t want to admit it.) I equated someone not liking what I wrote to not liking me. “They don’t even know me,” I said, and it’s true that they didn’t. They did, however, know my gift because, after all, right there it was in black and white. I am so grateful to the ones who have liked the things I’ve written and also to the ones who haven’t. My point in making my writing public—and it’s only taken me half my life to figure this out—isn’t so people will like me; my point is to have my work read.

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On this Day…

It’s wet outside today. I think there’s green pushing its way into the grass, but mostly everything is still brown. It’s hard to write when it’s like this. Actually, it’s hard to do much of anything when it’s like this. I know, because it’s fairly warm outside, that spring is on its way. The calendar says it’s already here, but my sinuses and the joints in my hands say no, it’s just wet.

I don’t always put much stock in the calendar anyway, do you? Or do you sometimes, like on birthdays or getting your taxes in before April 15 or when it’s So Many Shopping Days till Christmas?

Do you have days like Nine Eleven, or other days of loss, that fill you with dread? Or ones like the anniversary of when you went to your first real concert or the first time you saw your husband and thought, hmm… even though he was looking right through you and not seeing you at all. Do you have weeks when every block on the calendar is filled with things you have to do but the next two weeks don’t offer anything more exciting than waiting for the UPS man?