Everyone who knows me knows that I am an avid reader and a lifelong learner. At school if anyone recommended a book or provided the grade level team with some reading material which we were encouraged to peruse, my team liked to say, “Give it to Debbie. She’ll actually read it and tell us about it.” They kindly stopped short of calling me the team nerd. Years ago, when our school participated in a study of the book Now, Discover Your Strengths, and each of us took the accompanying online quiz, no one was surprised to discover that my top strength was Learner. In the 5 weeks since I have retired I have read for fun (nothing worth recommending) and for book clubs. In the effort to declutter my mind I have intentionally stayed clear of anything that required much thinking. That intellectual piece of myself that I want to continue to develop during retirement has not been developing, but recovering. But, as is typical of my normal summer vacations, about four weeks after school is out I begin to feel restless and ready for something. It is time for mental stimulation. If I were returning to school in the fall I would be pulling out my books on Professional Learning Communities, formative assessments, using student data, and the myriad of other topics that are the focus of educators today. Instead, I am hunting for books on retirement.
When people find out you are ready to retire, they often have advice. Some of that advice comes from people who have already taken the plunge, some from people who are trying to sell you something, and some from people who are just well meaning friends. Included in the advice given me were two book titles (The New Retirement and Don’t Retire, REWIRE!) When I was suddenly zapped with the desire to read a book on retirement, I logged into my Overdrive account at the library to search for a book to download to my Nook from the comfort of my air conditioned house. My search turned up one of those messages that inform the customer that while the item you want cannot be found here are some other options that might be appealing. That is how I happen to be reading What Color is Your Parachute? for Retirement, Second Edition: Planning a Prosperous, Healthy, and Happy Future. It’s a very readable book, yet has caused me to do some good thinking. I even filled out the worksheet to help me determine my core values, of which there are only nine, then encouraged me to think of my own value words within the values this author defined. The idea is to be sure to incorporate my top three values into my retirement. The core values are quite general, which stands to reason since there are so few. There is a lot of ground left uncovered, in my opinion. I am not sure if I agree with my top three core values unless I reframe them in my own words. There weren’t any values there that strongly seemed to reflect my thinking but there were several that I know I could not claim. What three values were assigned to me after I performed all of the convoluted adding, subtracting, averaging, and dividing that were part of the worksheet formula? My core values according to the worksheet were Universalism, Security, and Achievement. Hmm. I’m still thinking about whether that reflects my values.
Meanwhile, I acquired a shiny copy of Don’t Retire, REWIRE! Once I finish the parachute book I will read this book in order to identify my drivers or motivators to help me figure out what to do with my life. Maybe these will all help me figure out who I am and what I want to be when I grow up!
Five weeks ago today was my last day of employment as a teacher. ( Six weeks ago today was the surgery on my broken finger.) Yesterday I talked about the fact that my injured hand has slowed me down physically. It seems that forced physical rest would provide the perfect opportunity for me to engage in mental activities. Not so. When I was preparing for retirement I told myself that I was going to take a month or two to declutter my brain and declutter my house. Well I haven’t been doing much about the house, but I have enjoyed not taxing my brain, but just doing what I want to do. For the last two or three days, I have begun to think that maybe it is about time to begin exploring my options. Stay tuned.
After planning the the title of the post I researched “The Quote” about the present being a gift – only to find several variations of the quote. I chose this particular one for the graphics.
Beginning my retirement with my hand in a splint really has necessitated that I slow down. Everything takes me at least twice as long as it would take if I could use both hands. I broke my finger because I was so focused on getting to work early that I was not even considering being careful about what I was doing. So often in the past years life has been about tackling the next thing on my agenda in some impossible effort to catch up. I’m not sure what it was that I was trying to catch! Several times in my life I have injured myself by not being in the moment. Now, as I tackle my tasks with the precision of the turtle in the race against the hare, I breathe deeply and intentionally to keep myself in the present. I wonder if the turtle took deep breaths to keep himself on track. I don’t know, but it’s great for me. I am enjoying things without looking at the finish line.
This past weekend, my daughter came in town. She wanted her older brother and sister to come to our house for a belated Father’s Day barbecue. Saturday at noon was the time when the others could come. My daughter and I hit the grocery store Saturday morning, just a few hours before the event, with no menu in mind. We chatted and shopped, came home and chatted and began food preparations. Well, she began preparing food as I was more of a hindrance than a help. We all enjoyed a great meal. Usually my daughter takes off early Sunday so she can get her laundry and shopping finished and be ready for work on Sunday. I usually begin my catch up routine as soon as she leaves. This weekend was a little different. She was not leaving until 4:00 since she was going to a business destination for a Monday morning meeting. Those extra hours were such a gift, I think for her as well as for me. We went on a lengthy shopping trip to a local outlet mall and really enjoyed the excursion. Her sister came back to our house for a while to visit. When every one left I breathed, pushed thoughts of laundry out of my head, and just soaked in the pleasures of the leisurely family time that had been ours over the weekend. WHAT A GIFT!
A number of years ago a parent gave me a paperweight she had painted. She had the creativity to turn a rock into a school house. I distinctly remember thinking that it was pretty amazing that someone could look at a rock and see a school house. Since the year 2006, I have looked at that paperweight and thought, “Someday I want to have the time to look for a school house in a rock!”
Several months ago my husband and I were looking for some rock for our yard and I persuaded him to help me look for rocks that resembled the shape of buildings. He had never seen my paperweight so was a little unsure but he humored me and helped me pick out some building-worthy rocks. He even scrubbed them for me, without my asking, since I could not get my splinted hand wet. My first rock painting project since retirement was a little blue cottage. I learned a lot about skinny lines, a shaky hand, paint, and rocks tumbling onto the side that is wet. Since then I finished a rock church and improved on my technique. I have two more rocks. I have not yet decided how they will look. Stay tuned.
I love having time to notice buildings in rocks!
A few days ago I talked about routines and how important they will be during my retirement. One of the routines I plan on establishing is to blog everyday. It’s obvious to myself and anyone reading this blog that I have not yet disciplined myself to this daily practice. I need to remind myself that it usually takes me most of the summer to establish a routine. But one of the reasons I began the blog was to help me be accountable to myself – to move myself forward, slowly and with precision, in the eight ” disciplines” I have determined are important.
I am considering how to best meld discipline and slower pace. As a teacher I was fairly disciplined. Anyone who has taught within the last five years, maybe anyone who has worked at any job in the last five years, understands that the constant multi-tasking required precludes working at anything other than a quick pace. (Frantic pace was the first phrase that came to mind but that might be too dramatic.)
So, for right now, I am blogging when I feel that I have something to share that will provide insight to myself or others. Maybe the infrequency of my blogs is really not a result of lack of discipline but a sign that I am actually decluttering my mind, as I told friends I would do for the first month of retirement. It could be due to the fact that I hate typing with one hand and when I try to use only my thumb and index finger on my left hand the splint protruding from my other fingers hits some unknown function key which sends my computer into a tailspin which I struggle to untangle. Who knows? But I guess I have all summer to figure it out.
As a teacher, I usually attended about a dozen summer workshops, and some years I taught summer school. Of course I squeezed in all of my doctor and dentist appointments during this ever-shortening break. I tried to catch up with errands and housework. So far my retirement has been just like a normal summer break except for the broken finger which makes most things take twice as long as they otherwise would.
One thing I have learned through the years is that if I establish a loose weekly/daily routine I feel more satisfied and relaxed throughout the summer. I expect that this will be true of retirement also. Usually it takes me most of the summer to get my routine flowing. I have given some thought to what needs to be part of my routine each day or each week so that I feel energized instead of harried, productive instead of mindless and lazy. The experiences that I think are important are for me to continue to develop are:
Home Organization ( Maybe not so much, Hah)
Relaxation (this one shouldn’t be on the list because it is too easy)
I started retirement with the spirituality component by attending the retreat and am working at a daily routine to make sure I don’t neglect this area of my life. Healthy Lifestyle is tough for me but needs to be tackled so that I will be physically able to do the other things I intend to do. I don’t eat as many healthy foods as I should, and the weight I lost last summer crept back on me during the school year. I despise exercise and usually injure some part of my anatomy when I attempt it. I started back to Weight Watchers this week after discovering yet again that just paying the fees without counting the points doesn’t cause the pounds to melt away. Now I need to figure out what time of the day will work best for me to walk and to start building strength in my core and the muscles around my weak knees. I will check in next Friday with myself and whoever reads this blog to see how that is going!
I wrote my first two blog entries knowing that I would be taking a short hiatus from all things electronic for a few days. I participated in a 4 day religious retreat. In January, as I looked toward my retirement, I had the opportunity to begin formation for a retreat that was scheduled for 2 weeks after my last day of school. Several things indicated to me that this would be the perfect way to begin my retirement. A little “spiritual tuneup” is always a good thing. It was a great decision for me and an opportunity for me to slow my pace. One of the women I met on the retreat told me about a great volunteer opportunity that I will keep in mind as I move forward. I find it amazing that whenever I mention my quest for my new calling someone shares with me an opportunity that I can consider. This organization provides city youth with a mentor who meets each week with the student while also connecting with school and home. The mentor works on academics, character, and career prep. It’s called Urban Future. I would love to hear about the experiences of anyone who has been part of this organization.
Memorial Day weekend passed, my husband went back to work, and I was officially retired. This was, for all practical purposes, my first day of retirement. Time to dig in. But, having decided not to attack retirement with the intent of accomplishing all of my life’s dreams in the first month, I decided to let the mood move me. For me, that has to include a lot of reading. That is really not at all different from what I do every summer. I started one fiction book on my Nook and read a few chapters each of two nonfiction books. I felt the urge to pull out some piano music and determine whether my brain could remember the notes and keys that the right hand plays. It’s probably a good thing that my left hand is in a splint since one hand was enough of a challenge! Then I unearthed a book about drawing which I had found on clearance years ago but never had time to explore. When I was in retirement attack mode I had located some art classes at the local community college and was ready to mail in my check. In my new laid back mode I decided to play around a bit with drawing on my own. What fun! For years I have enjoyed a paperweight rock, painted like a school house, that was a gift from a student. I wished that I could see a schoolhouse in a rock. When picking up some landscaping rock a few weeks ago, my husband humored me as we handpicked rocks that could become cottages. My first cottage is now complete and I learned what I will do differently on the next little house. I spent some time in my yard photographing flowers and birds. Photography was something I enjoyed in one of my previous lives, but I think I will hold off on signing up for a class. Breath, slow down, relax! I took some cooking classes with Rachel Ray. She taught me some practical things about cooking I never knew. I think she may become one of my new best friends. Oh yeh! I remembered that a friend had started a blog several years ago and blogging was something I figured I would do some day. I formulated my plan and … here you go. I definitely have not yet figured out what I will do next with my life, but thoroughly enjoyed getting me feet wet in my new reality.
A week before the last day of school – my retirement day – I broke the middle finger of my left hand. This was not one of those “buddy tape your finger and carry on as usual” type breaks. This break required surgery, pins, and therapy. Oh my! So my retirement started differently than I had anticipated. Fortunately, I am right-handed but it still takes me an inordinate amount of time to do simple things. Interestingly, having to slow down because of the break has caused me to step back and take a look at my outlook on retirement.
Several months ago I began considering what I could do, wanted to do, should do when I retire. Then I found myself thinking about preparing for some of these things before the school year ever even ended. I was revved up and getting ready to hit the ground running the day I retired. Fortunately, I realized how misplaced my thinking actually was before I lined up all my prepared items and wrote my plans on my calendar! I was going to “attack” retirement with the same level of energy I put into my job. Start those To-Do lists right away – retirement here I come! Woah!!!!!
Last week was my first week since school let out. How much could I squeeze into that first week of freedom? Not much with one hand in splint and pins to avoid bumping. Not much with a doctor appointment, 2 days of hand therapy, and three or four daily hand exercises followed by ice. Last week I realized that I really was not planning on taking a break after retiring. I was going to keep on working at break-neck speed – just at some unknown something. Hmm.