Sunday, October 30, 2011

Busy, lucky me

I am working steadily on getting our book ready to send to the publisher. I've done due diligence on all the people mentioned in the book, making sure what we've said about them is okay. I've sent a draft of the manuscript to six people for their comments and have heard back from three of them. I've worked with my sister Alyx on a cover and have sent the materials to a friend for his input. I've written the "about the authors" and "about the book" sections. Tomorrow I will go through the pages and make changes suggested by my niece/friend Colleen. It reminds me of a major project for a class. Spending three hours a day on this project has been typical during the past week. I'm at the "I'm sick of working on this" phase. By Friday the first round should be out of my hands.

I also took a three-day mediation training class on family mediation, which will qualify me to help divorcing couples prepare a parenting plan. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 8:30 to 5:30. I'm about halfway through my certification program, hours-wise.

The mail is piling up, the magazine rack is acquiring a stack of reading. We need to fill out our ballots, select our medical plans for the upcoming year, and pay the bills for November. And take a walk, get to the gym, take an online Spanish session or two. Do the laundry, brush the cat, carve the Halloween pumpkins. Get a massage.

When my mother was my age, she was a widow and she spent her time playing bridge and shopping. Retirements sure can look different, can't they?

Actually, I'm so gratified by the things in my life. The idea that we live in a time when I can decide to get a book published and not have to send out query letters and get rejections and send out more letters and then wait. I can choose a publisher, sign a contract, pay some money and be guided through the process. That I can find a post-worklife passion and pursue it. That I can go to a neighborhood restaurant for an early-bird dinner and be greeted by the owner and the server because they know me. That I can have a cat even though my husband has allergies because there is a breed that's hypoallergenic, and that I have the money to buy such a cat. That there are supplements and light boxes and dawn simulators to give me a hand with the winter blues. That I can drive through my neighborhood and watch trees of all colors dropping their leaves.

I'm a lucky woman.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Taking my own advice

So this week I spent more time thinking about my five priorities: spirituality, community, curiosity, purpose, and exercise. They're actually pretty good guidelines for making decisions and spending time.

Spirituality is one where I can be a slacker. I do have spiritual beliefs that make a large difference in my life, but they can conflict with my Type-A personality. A core of my spirituality is acceptance of things I can't change and trust that things will work out as they're intended to. I often think I can change just about everything, which has gotten me into trouble many, many times in the past. It can look like I'm trying to control other people - which still happens from time to time, though not nearly as often these days. Also, it's my tendency to have a do-it-myself attitude toward challenges, which I sometimes pursue until I'm backed into a corner with angry barking dogs penning me in. I'm hoping that as I progress along my spiritual path I'll achieve acceptance before the dogs show up.

Community isn't too easy, either. I have a community of bloggers, a community of writers, a community of mediators, a community of 12-step program people, and a neighborhood. My family of origin is nearly gone now except for my sister and some cousins, and we have become a community of sorts in the past couple of years. But I can't say I have a community of girlfriends - you know, good friends you have known forever, and you hang out and take trips and celebrate birthdays and such. For some reason, I think I should have that too. But the fact is, I don't enjoy hanging out like that. I'm much better one on one, and most of my friends don't even know each other. It's always been like that for me. I'm wondering, in my times of future-tripping, how I would do as a widow. My husband and I do so much together. How would I be if I lived alone? I'm thinking maybe expanding my community now would be a hedge against that time. But I'm not sure I want to make the effort! Go figure.

Curiosity is easy. I actually ought to cut back on the pursuit of new stuff. Or maybe I should look at this one as a priority I have well in hand.

And purpose. I'm lucky to have multiple opportunities to be of service. Just yesterday I attended a mediation in-service with a county commissioner talking about parenting plans - how they always need to be child-centered. I'm so looking forward to volunteering at the dispute resolution center once I'm certified.

Exercise. Well, that's always an annoying one. I like to walk, but since I hurt my back my feet aren't comfortable in walking shoes. I actually have to put exercise on my daily to-do list. I am pretty good about the strengthening exercises I do, and the gym routine. But I must admit that one of the good things about the cold I've had all week is that I could justify not going to the gym! I can rationalize with the best of them.

On a different topic, I'm putting the finishing touches on my book. I told the publisher I'd have the materials to them by a week from this Friday. Reminds me of a project at work, and just as nerve wracking. My words, my experience out there in the world, instead of just on my computer. Scary and exciting at the same time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Retirement, Year 2

I left my workplace in June 2010. My priorities for that first year were clear: get started on my bucket list and travel a bunch. It was like I was making up for all my time- and travel-starved years.

And I did that. We took 14 trips. I got to hear Warren Buffett speak, learned to ride a Segway, and helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity. I took a class in teaching English as a second language, found out it wasn't something I wanted to do - and took a class in mediation, finding out it was something I wanted to do very much.

Now I'm into year 2 of not working, and my priorities are different. I realized on a recent 10-day trip to Alberta and Idaho that I've got five priorities: spirituality, community, curiosity, purpose, and exercise.

By spirituality I mean developing the habit of connection to a higher power of my understanding. Listening to what the universe has to tell me, spending time with a quieted mind. That's hard for me - I have a hamster running in my head most of the time, and the hamster apparently sleeps only when I do. I've learned that if I don't listen to the universe, I get off track in what I'm about.

By community I mean nurturing the habit of connecting with people in my household, my neighborhood and my larger community. It's easy to spend most of my time at home, on the computer or reading. I'm sociable, but not an extrovert - I'm not usually energized by being around a bunch of people. That usually happens in one-on-one conversation or in a small group. When I follow my own instincts I tend to isolate - which the hamster in my head loves.

Curiosity means engaging my mind to learn. To read, explore, ask questions. In my mediation training I'm learning to keep an open mind and a spirit of curiosity, because everyone's story in a conflict makes sense if I'm able to hear it.

Purpose means looking for opportunities to be useful, to be of service, to make a contribution to the wider world. Becoming a certified mediator will qualify for that. So will taking the steps necessary to get my book published. I've got a good mind and a reasonable amount of energy and there's no reason why I shouldn't use them both for the greater good.

And exercise. I've been a walker for years, but when I hurt my back in May and developed tingling feet, I stopped walking for a couple of months. Now I'm back at it - plus core strengthening exercises and light aerobics.

What can happen to me if I don't pursue all five of my priorities is that I get depressed or anxious. I become self-absorbed. I obsess about every physical symptom. I make myself miserable. My doctor tells me I'm healthy, but I'm 63 now and it's my job to take the best care of myself that I can.

I have friends in the real world and in the blogging community who love to spend time knitting, or reading, or quilting, or taking pictures, or doing nothing. So far that's on my wish list, but it hasn't happened yet. Maybe it will, if I remember my priorities.

This morning Art and I took a two-hour drive in a rural area. We were looking for a patch of chanterelle mushrooms he remembered from 20 years ago. We must have driven every road in a five-mile radius. We didn't find them. But we saw morning fog, hunters out for the opening day of the season, huge abandoned houses, and trailers at the end of dirt roads. We had good conversation and the company of each other. I barely noticed my tingling feet. That's a good thing.

Time now to go exercise!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Time Away

We left home a week ago today for a short visit with old friends and a few days at a rural timeshare. It's been a good time away.

We spent three days in Lethbridge, Alberta with two college roommates of mine and their spouses. We visited Waterton National Park (Glacier National Park on the US side). My friend Sharon took this picture of the six of us.

I used to tell her she could only take five pictures of us per visit. We've been meeting up from time to time for over 20 years. She has become a better photographer, and I have finally found my "pose smile".

Sharon and Ann and I were roommates our senior year at UC Santa Barbara. We found each other through the want ads but we got along pretty well. We all married shortly after graduation, and we knew each other's husbands. Eventually we all got divorced. The three men in this picture are our second spouses. We think we all made pretty good choices the second time around. Sharon and Bob live in Massachusetts, Ann and Larry live in Toronto, and we live in Seattle. We've met up in half a dozen places over the years. We eat, watch TV, read, and go on outings. These days, we also talk a bit about our grandchildren.

Our timeshare for the second half of our trip is in Blanchard, Idaho. Art and I are having a quiet time here. We'd planned on putting the finishing touches on my soon-to-be-published book, and we have spent a few hours each day at the dining table with the computer. We've also gone mushroom hunting at Priest Lake (about 80 miles north of here) and, today, attended the Apple Festival at Green Bluff, Washington (about 40 miles southwest of here). The weather was in the 50s and cloudy both days, which is fine with us.

At the mushroom hunt we found four mushrooms which we left behind for another hunter. At the Apple Festival we bought two bottles of flavored balsamic vinegar from the woman who made it, an acorn squash and an apple for 66 cents from the farmer who grew them, two bunches of yellow beets for a dollar a bunch, a wood and metal bird feeder from the man who made it, two pulled pork sandwiches with potato salad, and a medium-sized bag of kettle corn which will probably be gone by bedtime. Art says he doesn't want any so I get a small bowl for myself, and then he assists in eating it.

We forgot to bring a road map of rural Washington and rural Idaho. We have a GPS in our Prius, and I have an iPad, but some of the roads were quite remote and the iPad frequently had no signal. So we ended up on some very rural back roads, and going the wrong direction. It was all fine, though. We knew we'd eventually come to the Canadian border or I-90, and we knew our way home from either place.

Tomorrow we'll be visiting one of Art's sisters and her husband who live down the road half an hour or so. And Tuesday we head home.

I've had thinking time on the long drives and in the quiet condo. From time to time I need to reevaluate what I'm doing. I clarified my priorities this week in the light dreams that happen just before final waking in the morning: spirituality, community, curiosity, purpose, and exercise. I get off track sometimes. When I got up, I deleted a game I'd been playing on the computer; it was stressful and serving no purpose other than wasting time. I felt better already.

I love traveling with Art. He can be quiet for long periods of time. He can pick up a book or two in a "take one, leave one" library and be content. But he's always up for a walk or an outing. And so am I. When we're home we're busier and more distracted.

Tonight we're having a simple meal: broccoli and cheese soup, baked acorn squash and a simple salad with beets on top. That sounds really good to me.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Colors

I live in Western Washington, so I'm accustomed to green. Grass, trees, mountainsides. I love green. It makes me feel cozy.

This week we're in Lethbridge, Alberta. It's prairie country. Outside the city, the crops have been harvested and the fields are yellow with stubble. When it's cloudy, the yellow is pale; when the sun breaks through, for a moment or an hour, the yellow is bright, vivid. "Amber waves of grain". Like the song.

Where I live the sky is blue sometimes. The evergreens reach skyward and the the hills also. So the sky, whether blue or gray, is accented by green, and it's a small sky.

Here in Alberta the sky is blue or gray also, but there are few trees and few hills. The sky is enormous, reaching from horizon to horizon. I feel like I'm under a vast bowl.

I've read poems about these skies and these hills, but there's nothing like seeing them. Every time I'm in a place like this - Alberta, Iowa, Nebraska were this year's places - I wish I could live here longer.

I won't, though. I like cozy green too much.

I'd like to trade houses with a prairie person for a month or two sometime. To see that sky, those fields, every day.