I’m late, I’m late!

Actually, I’m a punctual person and rarely late. I’m not sure if it’s a character trait or a skill that’s learned. I was talking to someone recently about the skill of getting a good night’s sleep. Many of my friends don’t sleep well. I’m blessed. I consistently get eight hours’ uninterrupted sleep a night and I wonder if it’s the one positive result of going to boarding school. But back to the skill of being punctual. Although I’m not late, I often feel a bit frantic like the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. It’s all self imposed. Now, in addition to all my retirement projects, I’m taking two free online yoga classes; leading a weekly Bible study on the book of Jeremiah; and making ricotta cheese. I also bought an annual subscription to the High Museum, which means I must go several times to get my money’s worth. It was worth it already, though – I saw the Winnie the Pooh exhibition, on loan from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. It was wonderful. I came home and pulled out all our Winnie the Pooh books. It was amazing to look at the pictures and know that I’d seen the originals that morning, some with the perforations down the side of the paper that had been pulled out of a notebook. On several images, you could see the faint outline of the original draft.
And I bought TWO, yes, TWO new sewing machines.
Let’s start with yoga. I’m terrible. I think I’m more pitiful at yoga than I am at playing the piano, so that means I am actually improving at the latter. My dear teacher, Nancy, comes every two weeks and says she can see improvement although my timing is abysmal and I might have to buy a metronome. She has so far avoided slapping my wrists, but I can see her hands twitch when I play a crochet instead of a quaver or whatever. But it is sort of miraculous that I am playing recognizable tunes and, more important, I am absolutely loving it and practice every single day – scales, arpeggios and even Beethoven – albeit, very very simple arrangements. But the yoga is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and that’s probably why I’ve never taken it up. I regret not having taken more interest in the yoga classes offered at school – goodness, I could be an instructor after all these years. I have never been very flexible, so the poses are very challenging, but I will persevere and the classes are for a month, so we’ll see. Jeremiah is also challenging. Perhaps if he’d done yoga, he wouldn’t have been so miserable all the time. I keep telling the Women’s Bible Study Group that I am leading not teaching, which lets me off the hook a bit. And that will be completed at the end of August, although I have a sneaking suspicion I will get volunteered to lead another study. They all think I know everything about the Old Testament and I keep telling them that I rely totally on my Study Bibles and the Internet. I think it’s my British accent – they think I know what I’m talking about! The ricotta cheese is brilliant – the hardest part is bringing a half-gallon of milk to almost boiling without scalding the bottom. Then add a quarter cup lemon juice. Let sit about five minutes; strain; and that’s it. And then the sewing. I traded in one sick machine for a super duper new one and then I saw an amazing tote bag on display in the store, made on a serger – so I came out with two machines. Sewing machines are like shoes – you can never have enough.
So, retirement is not slowing down at all. I had lofty ideas of updating this blog frequently and often. Then I thought, maybe every week … then once a month. Goodness, at this rate, it’s going to be annual so I might just rely on my Christmas newsletter. When I was researching a name for my blog, every catchy name with the word retirement as part of the blog name was already taken. But the last entry on almost every blog I looked at was at least one or two years old. I couldn’t figure it out – why start a blog and then have it fizzle out? Ha, now I understand totally – who has the time?

The power of prayer

If you are not a Christian or don’t, can’t or won’t pray, feel free to skip this post: My feelings won’t be hurt.

There’s a lovely walking trail on our apartment campus. It winds up and down for a mile or so with plenty of space each side for dogs to run. It doesn’t go anywhere – there’s a bench at the top where we turn and head back. It’s a great gathering place for anyone walking their dogs and we send group texts when we head out. Savannah and I rarely walk alone.

This evening, as I headed up the first curve, one of my favorite neighbors overtook me. He’s young, very handsome, which is neither here nor there of course, and a member of the Atlanta Police Department. He’s the complex courtesy officer so we can call on him if we are concerned about anything on site.

I asked Justin where Jack was. Jack is a young pure white German Shepherd – a pet, not a K-9 officer. Justin waved a key fob at me and said he had just walked Jack and had dropped a similar fob on the path. The fob was attached to an orange cartoon character key chain about two inches long. He was on his way back up the path hoping to find it. I promised to keep an eye out and started to pray. Although I knew that a trained police officer was much more likely to find anything that small than I was, I asked that I be of help to this fine young man who gives so much every day to our community. I asked that my eyes and hands be of help to him.

Justin was soon way ahead, walking from side to side and I met him on his way back as he ventured onto the grassy bank where he said he had been throwing a ball for Jack. I prayed harder. Suddenly, right there on the edge of the grass the orange key chain almost leaped into the air. I reached down and grabbed it and yelled for Justin. When I handed the fob to him, I told him I had prayed about it and he said he had been praying, too! Neither of us needed any more explanations – just the Power of Prayer at work again.

Have you ever tasted hippopotamus pee?

No, neither have I, but today I tried something that tasted remarkably similar to what I’m sure hippopotamus pee tastes like. I bought a can of Matcha Green Tea from Trader Joe’s. I love Trader Joe’s and the tea sounded healthy. It promised a bold, smooth flavor and when I read that it was produced in Japan, I was sucked in. I poured it into a nice clear glass. The color was a dingy greenish brown, the color of a river where hippopotami play. It was murky with bits in it – maybe tea leaves? I took a sip. Yuk. I was too mean not to drink the whole glass but when Cedric asked me what it tasted like, I said the only way to describe it is hippopotamus pee. The description was perfect and he didn’t question me further. I guess he used to drink hippopotamus pee when he was young … all Englishmen do.

Halfway up, I met the barrel coming down …

If you haven’t read The Bricklayer’s Story by Gerard Hoffnung, do look it up. I had my own encounter with a barrel of sorts this morning, and Hoffnung’s monologue immediately came to mind.

I woke early especially for a Sunday morning, which is neither here nor there since every morning is ostensibly Sunday morning. My routine never varies: shuffle into the kitchen, press the brew switch on the coffee machine, pour milk into the milk frother, unload the dishwasher while waiting. My timing is impeccable. I also look cute. I have new pajamas. My husband, who never criticizes me, the love, gently suggested that I buy some pajamas and forsake the Home Depot T-shirt that has been my nightwear recently. Now I have some adorable cotton PJs – a pin-tucked top with spaghetti straps and cute billowy pants that make me feel like I am wafting through the Arabian Nights.

This morning, I had an extra task. I made yogurt last night. I know you are not surprised to learn that I make my own yogurt, but don’t be too impressed. All I do is pour milk into the container, add yogurt and press the button. It takes 10 hours and even has a chill cycle in case I sleep more than 10 hours. I feel about making yogurt much as I feel about using the slow cooker. I always tell people that slow cooking is not cooking, it’s just putting … you put the ingredients in the cooker and press start.

The yogurt maker sits on the shelf above the washer/dryer. It’s not very heavy and the shelf is not very high but it was definitely too early to be doing anything more strenuous than lifting a coffee mug. I stretched up to put the yogurt maker back in its spot, dislodging the pack of 10 paper towels balanced on the slow cooker that also sits on the shelf. Shielding my head as I let go of the yogurt maker, mercifully onto the shelf, I knocked off four packets of table napkins … bump, bump, bump, bump. Yes, I buy several packets at once. Again, mercifully, they were not heavy but the act of hitting my head made each of them drop over the edge of the washing machine. 170 disposable wipes followed – I buy in bulk on Amazon as it’s much cheaper!

So now I have a problem. I can’t reach over the machine because the sliding doors won’t let me and the angle prevents me from using a long wooden spoon or hanger to nudge the items up. I grab some tongs … remember, I’m still in my cute PJs and not feeling cute as I lie on top of the washing machine and gaze over the edge. I manage to get most of the wipes by judiciously grabbing them with the tongs. But all my lovely packets of table napkins are stuck. I have a beautiful beechwood 15-inch long dough whisk. It’s made in Poland, which is why I paid so much for it. Why can’t we make dough whisks here? Never mind, that’s a discussion for another time. I lean over and use the whisk to push one packet close to the tiny gap between the washing machine and the sliding door. Then I grab a large two-pronged fork from a carving set. I poke the plastic wrap with the sharp prongs and slowly inch the packet up until I can grab it. I do the same with the other three packets.

By this time, my coffee is cold. Cedric and Savannah are still blissfully asleep.

I’m still here!

FullSizeRender-7Party animal that I am, (friends will know immediately how unlikely that description is) I had two events last night. The first was a farewell to someone I worked with at The Home Depot, a smart, funny young girl who orchestrated the memory book the team gave me when I retired. The next event was a girls’ dinner – seven of us who are neighbors and two who have since moved. Do you know what an accomplishment it is to get nine gals together for dinner with not one bowing out at the last minute? At the first event, someone asked me if I had updated my blog recently. Nope! I must try to do better. It’s not that nothing exciting happens any more, it’s just that I don’t carve out time in a week to focus on writing. I’m too busy playing the piano – yes, really. I practice every day and my piano teacher, Nancy, comes every two weeks. I’ve graduated from Puff the Magic Dragon to Do-Re-Mi with both hands and sometimes as many as THREE notes at the same time on one hand. Thats big! Nancy says I won’t be ready for Carnegie Hall next year, but perhaps the following one.
Most of our lives are defined by milestones. Mine certainly falls into the pre- and post-Big R. It was wonderful to see my pre-Big R friends last night. I always feel like a rock star! Several new faces have joined the team and I love hearing what everyone is up to in their personal lives – new homes, relationships, even babies. It’s also fun to meet people who don’t know how important I used to be! And now I have a new group of friends – post-Big R friends, who I wouldn’t have met if I was still working every day. We share different priorities and everyone has a story to tell.
I have to admit, I did wake up with a faint hangover this morning. But what a joy to be able to turn over and sleep for another couple of hours. I’m now well into my second year of retirement and I’ve made some changes. I’ve stopped reading the newspaper every day. If Cedric thinks there’s something I’ll be interested in, he cuts the article out – my personal press cutting service. I also limit reading the news online and have banished my iPhone from the bedside table to the kitchen. I used to check email and news first thing in the morning with my coffee while still in bed. When I read that on average, Americans touch their cell phones 2,000 times a day, I knew it was time for a change. One suggestion from that article recommended buying an old fashioned alarm clock and that’s exactly what we did. Now, if I want to know the time when I wake up, I can see a lovely clock face with hands, the little hand on one number and the big hand on another. It has an alarm setting and although I know for working people that’s probably not accurate enough, it’s perfect for retirees like me when every day is Sunday.
The hummingbirds are back, too. We were worried for a while but I think the cold, wet spring confused them. Gotta go, this party animal is meeting a friend for lunch!

Retirement Recommendations

I wanted to title this “Retirement Advice” but a long time ago, I read the best advice ever: “My advice is never to give advice.” I thought it was a quote from Margaret Thatcher, but it could be from any number of wise people. So I’ll go with recommendations and, as I approach the one-year anniversary of my retirement, it’s as good a time as ever to take stock of the first year.

– Get the things on your bucket list done in the first six months. I’ve talked before of the retirement fog that descends and steals several hours out of each day. Each month, the fog lasts longer. If I don’t get something done by noon, it’s 6 p.m. before I regain consciousness.
– Stock up on toilet paper. When you’re home every day, it gets used up five times as quickly.
– Don’t make a housework schedule – it won’t work. I had lofty ideas of cleaning bathrooms on Monday, the kitchen on Tuesday, and so on. I even bought a fancy ceiling fan brush. I do far less housework than I thought I would. It’s not exactly to the point that I wait until I can write my name in the dust, but almost.
– I do far more laundry than I ever thought possible. It’s quicker to toss clothes in the laundry basket than fold and rehang. But I did learn one very important lesson: Modern fabric rarely runs. I no longer sort laundry into lights and darks. Whatever’s in the basket goes into the machine and I’ve been lucky so far and Cedric doesn’t yet have any splotchy T-shirts. That fact revolutionized my life, actually.
– Don’t upgrade to a new computer; or if you do, do so before your current machine becomes an antique (i.e. no more than five years). I blogged before about my Apple migration issues and they didn’t completely resolve. Having a dedicated Apple techie was a big help and I was impressed that I could email Anthony direct and ask him to call me at a specific time but I still had to move a lot to a hard drive. He told me he was confident I could do that myself without having to go to an Apple store, so I spent a whole afternoon moving photos, documents and music onto the drive. Unfortunately, the music albums had to be moved one at a time but then populated individually, so I have thousands of songs not grouped by album. As I didn’t remember even having most of the music, it’s not a big deal.
– You can recycle your old Apple devices. After wiping my old laptop, I have sent it off and eagerly await receipt of some dollars once the recycle company determines if there is any value left. The exercise was very easy; they send you a box and free shipping label; and easy-to-follow instructions. I only had to call them once … the last instruction shows you a screen shot of what you should finally see, but that’s it. They should add – Then Switch Off. Faced with a screen that asked me to log in, I wasn’t sure what to do.
– Once your body clock adjusts, make sure to set your alarm if you have to be anywhere before 10 a.m.

Retirement Accomplishments

– There’s a check mark against most of my bucket list items. I sorted my baking pans; tossed numerous measuring spoons (quite why I had so many, I don’t know); purged my recipe folders (quite why I cut every recipe out of the newspaper when I have so many cookbooks, I don’t know); made a new cover for my beloved ironing board; finished my Gypsy Wife Quilt, including the backing (typically you use just one fabric for the backing of a quilt but I pieced lots of bits of fabric together to use up more scraps (quite why I had so much fabric, I don’t know – except that with quilters, she who dies with the most fabric wins); purged hangers (I know, I know – she who dies with the most etc. etc.).
– I’m reading Les Miserables in a marvelous translation. There are more than 300 chapters so I followed a recommendation to read one chapter a day and finish it in a year. I’ll miss my target but plan to finish during 2018.
– I’ve found an outlet for my love of baking. I missed taking goodies into the office, but I’ve joined a Women’s Bible Study group and they are delighted when I bring in yummies each week.
– One of my biggest accomplishments is taking piano lessons. I just started and will have my third lesson this week. It’s pretty pitiful so far but I can gingerly plonk away at Jingle Bells, Puff the Magic Dragon and a couple of other simple tunes. I waited for a wonderful singer/pianist, Nancy, to retire from her day job. We met Nancy a long time ago when she was the music director at the first church we attended when we moved to Atlanta. She did give me one bit of advice: Just enjoy it. And I’m taking that advice wholeheartedly and following it every day of my enjoyable retirement.

Transferring affection from one Big A to another

This week, I’ve formally transferred my affection from one Big A to another. I’ve weaned myself off my one-click addiction with Amazon and spent more time talking to Apple than to Cedric. My geriatric (in techie-speak) Apple laptop threatened to die on the job so it was definitely time to retire it. I remember when I bought it in 2009 and asked how long it would last, I balked at the answer of “three years.” When I questioned why so soon, they explained that in three years, I would be ready to upgrade because technology was moving so fast. They were right – so after nine years, I didn’t have a hope. It’s hard to change something when it’s not actually broken, but when I pressed the power button (now there is NO power button), I could go into the kitchen and make coffee before it groaned into life. I couldn’t watch videos and none of the software was supported. And, gasp, it even has a built-in DVD/CD slot.

So, off to Apple we went. Nine years ago, they migrated all the information from another laptop onto the new Apple and I went back two days later to pick it up. Now, they don’t even offer to do that. If I’d known they would just hand me the laptop and expect me to walk away and do it myself, I would have ordered online. The mighty Apple system at the store sadly didn’t work as planned and the 20-minute wait time they forecast turned into an hour. I think the issue might have been that they describe what you are wearing so the next techie comes out and looks for you. I was wearing a black leather jacket – mistake! I think someone wearing a leather jacket jumped the line by answering to my name. Next time, I will wear fluorescent fuchsia.

In any event, we walked out with various bits and pieces in addition to the laptop. The tech world is apparently in the process of changing USB ports so you need extra connection cords for everything …. uh huh! And then of course I need a DVD player now. Back home, I first backed up my old laptop to a hard drive. At the store, the techie used a good analogy recommending that I first purge my old laptop. He said it was like moving house – you want to toss junk first so that you aren’t moving it. My delete button worked overtime. But unfortunately, I had something highlighted in iTunes and I deleted a whole lot of albums when I thought I was just deleting one song – oops! I plugged in the hard drive. When nothing happened, I made my first call to Apple Support. She helped me format the drive. Hmmm, who knew it needed formatting? Apple did, I guess. I left it running. The next time I looked, it was chastising me because the hard drive was full. I subsequently learned that the hard drive has 1TB of memory – I get a bit confused with MGs and GBs, but I understand that TBs are huge. I made my second call. He helped me erase everything on the hard drive – all 1TB of it – whatever “it” was because somehow it was already full out of the box. That happens apparently. So I proceeded to run the hard drive back-up.

This was still Monday. By Thursday, and many, many calls later, I was still no closer to migrating my information. Finally, at 1 p.m. the techie admitted he was at a loss and looped in a supervisor. On the line came Anthony and I was on the phone with dear Anthony until 5 p.m. During that time, while various pieces were restoring and backing up, Anthony took at least one break, Amanda took several breaks to spend a penny, took Savannah out, made tea and got out her knitting. In between, Anthony and I had the phone line open and he was sharing screens on my laptop, phone and iPad. Finally, at 5 p.m. all my Apple devices were syncing and I was good to go. The issue apparently was that my old laptop was exactly that – old, and none of the inner instructions worked as nothing recognized the old stuff. In fact, one techie kept telling me she felt helpless as she had never been asked about such an old machine. Anthony is now my dedicated techie – they give you one when the system triggers you as loyal, exhausted, dedicated and deserving of a medal. I even have his extension number. And I’m so special that this Tuesday, he will call me to check in and make sure everything is working. Gotta love Apple! And I do love my new MacBook Pro with touch bar … it’s so purty!!!!!