Thursday, November 24, 2011

There will be stormy days ahead...

All your life, you stand around with your friends and you practice, and anticipate your role.
You do your best to lay out the next moment, and the next hour, and the next performance.
You practice the tune and are ready to play your part, at the right moment.

Sometimes, at the time when you need to come in, you choke up, you stop breathing, you get a cough, you freeze. Your friends cover for you, and you're safe for now. But you know, deep down, that this can happen again. You know this and you are ashamed and mortified at what happened, and how you couldn't play when your time came up.

You suffered a crisis of confidence. A crisis of identity too. You thought you had done your best to prepare yourself for this moment. And yet...

If your friends and teachers and parents didn't support you and encouraged you through these crises, you would never play an instrument, give a speech, try out for a part, and face challenges that frighten you. No matter your age, you will find that new challenges will be creeping in from all sides, asking you to keep re-tooling, change your manners, learn new ways.

You can't quit every time something feels uncomfortable.

I just faced a new challenge just this week. My husband had minor surgery and before  being sent home the nurse wanted to show me how to apply a wet-to-dry bandaging.  I tend to pass out when needles or blood is involved, and told her so. She insisted it was easy to do. Just as she revealed the open wound (yes, an open wound, hence the wet-to-dry instructions) I broke down.

I can't be afraid of a wound that needs bandaging. There will be more of these ahead as we both grow weaker and sicker. Though we know that Hubby needs to face housework and cooking without me, and I need to face handling technical matters and nursing matters without flinching, there is a whole lot of complications and health issues that we may not anticipate at all.

This new stage of our lives is all about facing our darkest fears. Our parents didn't live this long.  Now that the health industry has so many new procedures to prolong life and good living, we have new challenges to anticipate too, challenges that might frighten us, break us down if we are not prepared.

As for me, I'm taking a nursing course next semester, needles or not.

Friday, November 18, 2011


There is a family of squirrels running  these rails all day long, from one tree to another. Newkie is attentive and patient, measuring every movement to maximize her chances of catching one of them. She has been in the Northwest with us for a few months, experiencing Summer, and Autumn, and today,  a Pacific storm with waves crushing on the rocks sounding like trains changing tracks kept her from venturing out.

She sat and waited, and noticed birds and squirrels ignoring the sound of the waves. She ventured out for a while until hail and snow flurries sent her back in.  Again, she sat by the window and watched and waited.

When she finally saw birds and squirrels on the deck, she asked to be let out again.
The deck was crunchy with hail.
She chose to move around under the chairs and tables before rushing after a squirrel.

I guess if we want something bad enough, we  ignore the discomforts afoot.
She'll adapt to the rain, the wind and the heavy noises soon enough.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The unconditional condition of the present.

(pictured above: The Port Orford Lifeguard Station, now a Heritage building, full of old memorabilia.)

We used to dream about palaces, big houses with many rooms, for all the things we were going to be! Two, three stories tall, with grounds and gardens and pools. We pulled pictures out of magazines and drooled over them. We dreamed hard; we worked hard; we played at what we would become before we became. We lived on two coasts, the Atlantic and the Pacific. We, Hubby and I, supported each other through our early marriage years, putting each other through school, graduate degrees, post-graduate fellowships, taking turns taking care of our babies or making a living. We hobnobbed with Nobel Laureates, sipped imported wines while eating French food served by butlers, and knew what art to buy, and who wrote the latest bestseller.

Both of us were first-generation college graduates. We were self-made and proud of it!
Our money bought us books, good wine, tickets to the theater.

But our ambition was always bigger than our pocketbook.
If we just paid off the car, then...
When we get the next raise we could...
After the braces and the  music lessons, we might...

When we linger over those days, we can easily slip into a funk. We have to be kind and supportive to our old selves.  We have a lot, we tell ourselves. We did more than we anticipated. We raised beautiful children who grew up to be wonderful adults.

We had real muchness in  our lives.

We have always been clear-headed and resourceful. Now, at this time in our lives, we know what needs to be done and no magazine picture or expert opinion is necessary.
Our health will be our dominant motivation.
If we stay focused, our present will be just as exciting and as rich as our past.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In the mood...

(photo: Atelier de Campagne)

Another 'dream' picture, this one for a sun room/garden room. When I lived in Southern California, sunshine pouring in from everywhere, I knew nothing of long grey days, wet and windy days that would keep us indoors for hours.  Now, I need to pretend that the sun will come out soon, and green things can grow anywhere.

Hence, a sun room necessity for the Northwest. Ours is full of outdoor furniture and odds and ends we move around and can't bear  to throw away.  My project this winter is to clear out and keep just the things that put me in a good mood:

This is what I want:

1. Benches and tables.
2. Pots and vases.
3. Snips of Provence in bistro chairs and distressed wood.
4. Plants: cuttings, seeds, starters, full grown olive and fig trees.
5. Watering cans.
6. Dry bouquets of herbs, roses, lavender, assorted flowers.
7. Naked branches and dried grasses for assembling and displaying with some seasonal flair.
8. Easels and paint and paintbrushes for when the mood strikes me.
9. Catalogues and pictures to inspire the gardener, the painter, the naturalist.
10. And last, but not least, a cozy place to nap on, with the sun on my face.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Before and After.

The After picture!
After retiring:
Real woods.
Real planks cut out from those trees out there.
Real weeds.
Real birds and assorted animals.

Real weather.

Before Retiring:
Copied picture of a state of desire:
Bird cages nailed on a wall.
Benches made out of polished veneers.
Imitation birds.
Rustic Dream.

These are the changes that we can control.

(My apologies to the designer/photographer of this lovely vignette.)

Friday, November 4, 2011

We love a good fairy tale.

Newkie stiffened up,eyes grew wide and she posed for attack.
There was a family of deer out the window, and her whole body paid attention.
I pulled my camera and shot this,deer hardly visible among all the shrubbery.

Newkie was itching to go out. I kept her in until the deer passed. She is a city cat; knows only about cars and trucks and dogs, and an occasional stray cat or mouse.

Here, she could encounter raccoon, mountain lions, bears, and hawks. Like her, they have territories to explore, and they too hunt and are hunted.

She thought the place belonged to her alone. On  the first  day of her outdoor adventure, a neighbor's cat ticked her off, and she busted back in the house all furious and wild-eyed. From that day on, she circles around the house with a hunter's confidence, but keeping her options open, retreating quickly to the comfort of a warm house.

We imagine a perfect state of being for ourselves and our families. We forget the wild nature of things. Pets remind us of how far we have come.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

How retirees spend their time.

1. They eat at home, so they prepare many meals from scratch, as I do, and as these tomatoes  ready to be roasted can attest. ( I have a food blog where these will star many times!)

2. They take up hobbies full time. My neighbors are golfers, fishermen, quilters, gardeners.  Many more are painters, sculptors, writers.

3. They join clubs. Here in our small town, Rotary is the premier 'club'. The Lions, the Masons, and many other groups recruit and invite people to join. Find a club that meets your mission in life. Many ladies belong to the Red Hat Society.  I'm not sure what they do, but they look great, in their red hats when I see them at lunches.

4. They volunteer.  Look around and ask the residents about volunteer activities. Hubby and I have been involved in many groups. Schools, libraries, senior centers, hospitals all need volunteers.

5. They organize events. My neighbors are busy with projects all the time, fundraisers for different groups that need money or support.

6. Support causes or political events.  Hubby and I worked as Precinct Captains, going door to door to encourage people to take a stand on various issues. We happen to be democrats, but every party has Precinct Captains.

7. Run for office. I am serving my second term as a school board trustee. I served as president and vice-president, at times very busy.

8. Start a business. Many people open up a small business as a part time occupation in something they are really proficient in.  With on-line support, you too can succeed at your new endeavor.

9. Plan home-improvements projects that you can manage. Be sure you get the proper permits, and the proper consultations. Different states have different rules on what can be done by non-professionals.

10. Let your family know you are willing to house-sit, dog sit, baby-sit or fill in for them as they need you.  Many times, younger people hesitate asking you thinking you are too tired, or living too far away to be of help to them.  Let them know you are willing to assist them, and negotiate the how and the when.  You will feel useful and the family will appreciate your help.