Monthly Archives: June 2015

Feeding My Creative Side

I have always enjoyed various forms of arts and crafts.  Since I was 5 and my mother taught me to use embroidery thread to outline the apple she drew on a hopsacking dishtowel, I have always had some kind of “project” in process. Sewing and other needle arts were always among my favorites, but I’ve also done my share of scrapbooking and beading through the years.  In retirement I was hoping to explore some new creative paths.

Before retirement, the only drawings I had done were in my school notebooks.  I doodled as I took notes in high school, college, grad school, and faculty meetings.  I had a particular form of brainless squiggles that required little thought and fit nicely in the margins.  Standing in line one day at a local craft store I noticed a $25 book which teaches how to do similar doodles.  This art form is considered meditative and is called zentangle.  I never knew!   I explored zentangle on the internet and I have learned many new interesting doodle patterns that I enjoy trying.


I also enjoyed drawing facial profiles and naked trees (as in leafless winter trees) in the middle of my notes.  Last spring I unearthed the graphite pencils and sketch pads that I had purchased years ago. I again searched the web for tutorials and videos. I began my exploration of drawing.  I learned more about ways to draw the trees I always found so fascinating and even learned techniques for adding leaves.  During my doodling days, facial profiles were all I would attempt.  Now I am practicing drawing faces from the front and am making progress in creating some dimension.  Because I date all my drawings, I am able to refer back to some of my earlier work and see my growth.  I draw almost every evening while my husband and I sit in front of the television shows we only half watch.  Sometimes a face can take me three or four hours over several nights!  It is more relaxing to create my own faces than to try to copy a face from a photograph, but my copies are improving( except in the case of self-portraits.) Most of my work is in graphite and I have enjoyed experimenting with different pencils.

Portraits and trees

Charcoal is a medium that I had never tried in the past.  When I took a basic drawing class at the community college, almost all of our work was done with charcoal.  It’s pretty messy! I probably should say I am pretty messy when using it, as some of the others in the class did not get quite as covered in sooty smudge as I did.  I enjoyed working with charcoal someplace other than my own house and learned a lot in that class about training my hands and eyes to copy a live model or still life.  My plans are to take the same class over, as many people do, once my construction project allows me the freedom to leave my house.

For Christmas, I received a set of 200 colored pencils.  I once again visited the school of YouTube to learn about blending colors and shading with colored pencils.  Once again I can see progress in what I am producing.  At this point, I find drawing with graphite pencils to be the most relaxing.

colored pencil

My daughter is getting married next year and asked if I would learn calligraphy to address her envelopes.  That art is one I had considered learning before I had the gift of time offered by retirement.  I bought an inexpensive calligraphy kit and supplemented the included directions with internet videos.  If I continue practicing a little every week  I should be able to address envelopes without too much difficulty.

Mixed media is also something I have been noticing on the internet.  It seems like a good way to make use of the scrapbooking supplies that fill my closets. I enjoyed making a recipe Smash Book for my youngest.  I have gathered some supplies to make a quote book incorporating mixed media and calligraphy.  This will be a fun activity while I am stuck at home with “the construction project.”

Of course, I also have a knitting project in process.  I usually buy yarn every winter and make a scarf for someone.  This year I did not complete my scarf, however, since I spent most of my free time drawing.  My left hand is still not functioning as it did in the past.  I can knit fairly easily, but my hand gets tired. I believe some of the strength will return.  I was able to repair a tear in a crocheted afghan but struggled with achieving uniform tension since I have always controlled the yarn with fingers that are not as flexible and will probably never be. When I am ready to crochet something, I will need to practice controlling the tension differently.  Currently, however, drawing is my creative interest.

It appears that I need to work a bit on my photographic skills and improve on photographic clarity when posting!  By the time a manipulated the photos, put them in a slide show, screen captured slides and posted them, they lost something. I din’t want to post a dozen pictures and couldn’t think of a more direct way to post them.  My apologies.



Retired and Gardening

Through the years, the gardens in my yard have grown in size and number.  When the weather breaks each spring, I am ready to get out and begin the spring cleanup.  In the past I had to work around rainy weekends.  One of the perks of retirement has been the freedom to work in the garden whenever the urge strikes.


Last spring, a week before retirement, I injured my hand and underwent surgery.  I couldn’t get my hand wet for almost 2 months so gardening was not a good option.  I am the kind of gardener who always has dirt under her fingernails on both hands in spite of wearing gloves and using only one hand!  I forced myself to stay away from the gardens … most of the time. As a result of  neglect, my aggressive perennials began to smother some of my other plants.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to uproot these intruders early and frequently this spring.  Crowd control in my garden is a continual issue since I don’t have the heart to totally eliminate some of these pretty invaders.  My gardening philosophy is simple.  If a plant thrives in my claylike garden filled with tree roots it has earned a place there.  If I try a beautiful plant several times and it dies each time, it doesn’t belong in my garden.  Why fight mother nature?  But if my aggressive tall phlox don’t stop popping up in the middle of my hydrangeas they may lose a spot in my gardens forever!

There was one fortunate gardening result that came from my neglect last year.  I had intended to redo my front beds after retiring.  I have a beautiful old magnolia tree which nicely shaded my hostas, astilbe and ferns for many years.  Unfortunately the higher limbs rested on the roof and the lower limbs attacked my husband when he mowed.  Several years ago, when I was not at home, he helpfully limbed up the tree “so the plants would get more sun.”  Everything suffered, including my husband who listened to me tell the story of his “help” many times.  Once the sun entered the picture another of my aggressive beauties, phystostegia, started taking over. My front garden is the only garden in my yard that I have tried to keep somewhat formal looking, so it needed an extreme makeover.  As retirement gifts from friends and students I received several nice gift certificates which were all to the same local garden center.  I realized I would need to wait a year to spend them.  That was a fortunate situation.  When our sewer backed up in the fall it was determined that we needed to have lateral sewer repair done which entailed bulldozing much of that garden. It would have been very sad to have destroyed several hundred dollars in new plantings.  By the way, the bulldozer didn’t fit under the magnolia tree so now there are a few more limbs missing.

The Learner in Me

At the onset of my retirement I was determined to keep my mind active and stimulate myself intellectually.  I feel that I have accomplished my goals in this area.  I have engaged in quite a few activities that keep me thinking!

I have always been an avid reader.  Some of my fondest summer memories are of sitting on my driveway on bookmobile day.  I would listen for the announcement “This is your St. Louis County Bookmobile…..” as the library on wheels wended its way through the subdivision before setting up shop.  Now, I sit on my computer and click on books to request or borrow for my Nook.  I make occasional forays into the brick and mortar library to see and borrow the real deal also.   The true bliss of retirement for me has been having the opportunity to read whatever and whenever I want.  There are books I have pursued leisurely and others I have attacked.  There are weeks in which I have read only at lunch and weeks in which I have devoured 700 page books in two or three days.  At some point I decided to keep a list of the books I have read so that I could remember which books to recommend to friends.  My list now contains twenty titles.

Attending classes had always been something I enjoy so of course I have signed up for a few.  There are opportunities in my area for those of us over 60 to get reduced rates on classes either through my local school district or through the community college.   During my second semester of Tai Chi I realized that my knees were not tolerating this form of exercise so I stopped that.  I loved the basic drawing class I took and enjoyed the time spent with the other students, most of whom were also retired.  I am waiting until some construction work is finished around our house so that I can take another drawing class. My dog and I also took the last series of classes for her to try to become a therapy dog.  That’s a story for another post.

I have not been doing as much writing as I hoped I might.  Most of my writing in the past has been limited to graduate papers and projects. I would like to experiment with some more creative forms of written expression.  Since retiring I posted a few times to this blog and I wrote a few short chapters in what might become a book of teacher stories. A few months ago I ordered a video and book on creative non-fiction writing.  The 24 lectures are presented by a college professor.  Those I have watched are interesting and helpful but it feels odd to write to a prompt and have no one provide feedback.  I stopped the classes once the weather became nice enough to garden but look forward to going back to them now that it is too hot to spend much time in the garden.

I have also discovered the school of YouTube!  I now realize that I can learn anything from these videos.  I have viewed many drawing videos which have really taught me a lot about various facets of drawing.  I learned about Smash Books and made a recipe Smash Book for my daughter for Christmas.  I have recently been watching videos on creating “mixed media” projects.  It’s an art form that creatively pulls together a number of arts that I already know how to do. I have gathered materials to begin a lengthy project when the aforementioned construction work ties me to the house for a month.

Penny Press and Dell puzzle books are stacked next to my comfy chair.  I love logic problems, Sudoku, cryptograms, and various other puzzles.   When working in Sudoku books I usually skip ahead to the challenging puzzles but have discovered that I am missing some strategies.  I took time to read a few more chapters from The Mensa Guide to Solving Sudoku and learned some useful new techniques.  I find all of these puzzles provide good mental challenge as well as being fun.

Retirement so far has been great.  I know I will continue to keep mentally active and look for new learning opportunities.  I can’t wait to see what other things I can learn!


Reflections on a Year of Retirement

The school year ended a few weeks ago and for the first time in many years I did not have to worry about packing my room, filling out report cards, and completing files. Nor did I experience the traditional and bittersweet end of year wave as buses waited to pull away until all staff members, tissues in hand, gathered at the front of the line of buses. I didn’t cry as kids screamed goodbye and waved out open windows (in flagrant violation of normal bus policy) and staff smiled as they moved their hand back and forth like riders on a float, calling back their own goodbyes. I didn’t heave that grateful sigh of exhausted relief as the blare of honking horns died down and the staff all headed back into the quiet building. I actually considered showing up at school for the wave but knew it wouldn’t mean much without my first having hugged each of my own special people before they got on those buses.
While I did not miss the task of filling out end of the year report cards, I remembered all of the reflection that is part of year end. Each year, as I filled out those grades and typed in comments I would consider each student’s progress, ways in which I had aided or hindered that progress, and what I would do differently the following year. It seemed appropriate for me to reflect on my own journey during my first year of retirement.
I looked back at this blog to remind myself of my eight fields of growth. And now I begin my reflection. I am laughing to myself as I am typing this. Ten months have passed since I last posted on my blog. I abandoned my blog for several reasons, including the splint on my hand. I also realized that blogging for only myself or for strangers (or maybe virtual friends) was a completely different experience than blogging with my second graders, whom I knew well. I also considered that my own thoughts and ideas were probably not of much interest to most people. Blogging was just one of the things I wanted to try when I retired. Nine posts later and …..
Blogging was fun for a bit and maybe also necessary for my transition from being a teacher to being a retired person who was excited but also a little frightened and worried about what would come next. It really helped me think about what I hope to get out of my retirement. Searching for and reaching out to other bloggers that are retired was also beneficial to me. I still read some of their blogs even though I don’t comment. Writing posts provided me with an opportunity to hone my writing skills. I was able to check something off my bucket list. Blogging was part of “exploring my new reality.” So as I write this post I am laughing because I envision myself creating nine posts – this one and one for each of the eight areas in which I wanted to grow. Then, who knows? Maybe as every school year ends I will reflect and blog. We will see!