Monday, August 17, 2015

Still getting used to this retirement thing

I've been retired for a little more than a year now, and my new lifestyle is still evolving. A few activities have fallen by the wayside completely (Wild Walkers), some are worth doing but not so often (volunteering at Salomon Farm), some I want to do more (senior yoga and golf), and there are yet more things to try (memoir writing, shibori). I'm still knitting and gardening, cooking less, reading more, and grandma'ing as needed.

I've read several columns lately that could have been written by me. One celebrates the idea of being "too old for this", and by "this", the author means things like feeling insecure about one's looks or worrying about other people's opinions. Another is by Gina Barreca, who is cultivating the art of not caring about things like fashion (comfort trumps beauty), toned arms, and symmetrical eyebrows. I haven't cared about a lot of these for a long time, but something clicks once one reaches a certain, ahem, maturity that solidifies all this not-caring. It's very liberating.

So now I wear skirts that don't hide my varicose veins (they stop at the knee instead of descending toward my ankles, thus avoiding the member-of-an-evangelical-cult look), am growing my hair out (tough right now in the heat and humidity of August), and I talk back to my doctor. I still pluck chin hairs but am more lackadaisical about hair that grows elsewhere on my body. I would still like to lose 30+ pounds, but (Whole30 or not) I'm not giving up the occasional dish of ice cream or bottle of beer to do so.

I am also abandoning attempts to like activities or support causes that don't really interest or move me. It isn't that these things are not worthy; I'd simply rather focus my energies and money elsewhere, guilt free. Life is too short for "shoulds".

Life is also too short for fear. I hope I do not turn into one of those oldsters who is afraid all the time. Not that I don't nurse my share of fears, irrational and otherwise, but I don't want them to rule my life. At least, not yet.

Saturday, July 11, 2015


I've been calling the cat-with-no-name "Beau", which rhymes with "NO!"

Some days, Finn and Beau get along fine. Other times, I think Finn is going to kill Beau, pinning him to the floor and administering some punishing bites. And yet, Beau keeps coming back for more.

Beau is an indoor cat, so Finn gets respite by going out most nights. I put them in separate parts of the house when I am going out. But I wonder what will happen when Beau reaches his full size.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Whole30, more or less

My daughter lost 15 pounds following the Whole30 way of eating, so I gave it a try. The first time, I lasted about two days. The second time, I kind of eased into it, but still could not make it all the way through 30 days. And I lost only 2 pounds. Nevertheless, I continue to eat Whole30 sorta - consuming lots of vegetables (averaging 2 cups at each meal) with animal protein and fruit on the side, avoiding processed foods, avoiding sweeteners (artificial and otherwise), avoiding grains and legumes, making my own mayonnaise using olive oil, etc. - because it feels like a healthy way to eat.

And now I have pseudo proof that it is good for me: my total cholesterol dropped 40 points and LDL fell 30 points, as compared to last year. Whoohoo! So often we do this or that, because someone somewhere says it is the healthy thing to do, but rarely do we see direct results from our efforts. While there may be other factors at work in these results (e.g. my life is less stressful since I retired), I am choosing to believe my new way of eating has a lot to do with it.

My doctor was not impressed, however. True, my numbers are still too high, but I received no kudos for my accomplishment, no questions about how I did it. Instead, I received the Statin Lecture (and a few other lectures - I'm a non-compliant patient). I held out, but left the office rather upset with the doctor.

Two days later, I think I have figured out why she was so adamant about statins, when in the past her attitude has been "You have no other risk factors, so I wouldn't worry about it": the Affordable Care Act. It is my understanding that doctors are now being held responsible for the outcomes of their treatments, just as teachers are being held accountable for their students' success. I'm generally in favor of the ACA, just as I am generally pro-education reform. However, I take issue with how they measure accountability. I don't know how best to measure accountability, but using test results, be they medical or educational, does not make sense to me.

Now excuse me while I go eat a bit of BBQ beef and a whole lot of cole slaw.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Back home in Indiana

My SO and I visited New York City recently and ran ourselves ragged. For one thing, the city radiates energy, so it's hard to act laid back. Also, people walk really fast on crowded sidewalks, so you either keep up or get out of the way. Then there were the steps in the subways.

In three days, we put 92 flights of stairs on our Fitbits. Not for the faint of heart. The walking and stairs also explain why NYers are so thin. Not sure why we saw very few tattoos.

Getting there:

Our flight out of FW was delayed, but Delta automatically booked us on a later flight out of Detroit. Our original flight from Detroit was also delayed, so we made it to NYC almost as expected. We were happy to leave the driving to the professional cabbie who got us to the Hampton Inn Manhattan/UN in one piece.

This was Midtown, not as swanky as other parts of the city, but plenty busy and lively. After a nap in our tiny but nicely appointed hotel room, we started walking south, toward the Strand. LOTS of places to eat (we ate at the Shake Shack), plus street vendors selling fruit. We didn't make it all the way to the Strand, which clued us into the fact our idea about walking across Manhattan to the Highline was just crazy talk.

Although we've never had a bad experience at any Hampton Inn, the service at this one was above average, presumably due to the diplomatic clientele. It also had the smallest footprint of any hotel I have been in, just eight (smallish) rooms per floor, 21 floors, no 13th.

Except for the construction next door, the neighborhood was relatively quiet, populated mostly by foreign missions. In previous visits to NYC, I've had to sleep with earplugs to deaden the nightlong sounds of honking cars and garbage trucks in reverse (BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!) This time they served to muffle my bedmate's snoring.

Day 1:

After sleeping in, we ate breakfast at the Comfort Diner. I had the red flannel hash breakfast, made with corned beef and sweet potatoes (vegetables ARE for breakfast). It was very good especially with fresh squeezed orange juice. There were lamps made with sports trophies, like a tennis trophy and a bowling trophy; I could make something like that with my bowling trophy. There were also these weird children's book covers on the wall, like Little Bobbby's Drunk Again and It's Not Going to Get Any Better when You Grow Up. (These are for real.)

We decided to do the Whitney before the Highline, which was a smart move. There was a lot to see there. I did not like that the descriptions of the sculptures were on the wall instead of near the works themselves. The Vietnam Era work brought me to tears; wasted young lives. My favorite piece was constructed of handmade stuff like crocheted afghans, macrame, yarn octopus dolls, etc. It reflected my life in crafting, and made me want to go home and make something with my old afghans. Photos here.

My SO was really good at knowing which artists did what. We also discussed how I could turn my pile of old computer equipment into a work of art: my career in IT. We were sitting under the stairway to the Highline at the time.

We walked part of the Highline, but SO's feet gave out because he bought new sandals for the trip too soon to break them in. I was disappointed that we didn't do the whole thing, but we went back the next day, primarily to see the the sculptures. I liked how they incorporated the old rails and the idea of rails into the design. There were lots of places to sit.

We were also stopped by a tiny (presumably) Buddhist nun who (for a donation) gave us malas. They smelled like sandalwood. The malas proved useful for waving off similarly dressed monks.

Once we were off the Highline, we stopped at the Empire Diner for some dessert. I had the Dulce de Leche, which was WONDERFUL. Then back to the hotel for a rest. Then out again, to see the UN building. We ended up walking north to 50th Street, then west to Fifth Ave. Lots of tourists.

Day 2:

Breakfast at Pershing Square, right across from Grand Central Station. The place was busy, but FAST. The food was not as good as Comfort, but perfectly adequate for breakfast. Then we (well, mostly SO) took photos in the train station.

We expected to spend the day in Brooklyn, but it was a bit of a bust. For one thing, neither of us slept well. For another, it was school field trip day at the Botanical Gardens. And it was HOT. We did take in their bonsai collection, plus wandered the Japanese garden a bit.

Since the Green-Wood Cemetery (another planned destination in Brooklyn) was too far to walk to, we came back to Manhattan and went to the NY Public Library to see a photo exhibit. We got there in time for the lecture, which was useful. Then we pooped out and grabbed some sandwiches from Fresh & Co to take back to the room. Time for a nap.

Up and at 'em to return to the Highline. This time we worked our way from north to south, seeing all the neat sculptures. Then back toward the hotel. We were getting tired of restaurant food, but we ate at Scotty's where we could order pleasantly bland pot roast and chicken pot pie. It wasn't all that great, but at least it was quiet.

Day 3:

We decided we were trying to do too much, so we skipped the Frida exhibition in the Bronx (too difficult to get to and too expensive) and went to the Guggenheim (which was between shows, so not much to see there), then hung out in Central Park.

We even visited Strawberry Fields, which was more meaningful than we expected. Everyday there are flowers and music.

To get to the Upper East Side, we gave the bus a try, thinking we would see more besides subway tunnel walls. Big FAIL. It took a long time for the right bus to arrive at our stop, then we had to stand up in the back and couldn't see out the windows very well. We were traveling up Madison Ave, so I watched designer names roll by. To get back, we took the subway.

Home sweet home smells like dirty cat litter:

We really liked the hotel. We were able to print the boarding passes in their business center. We used their car service to get to the airport (nice but a bit pricey). I left a note for the maid requesting coffee sleeves, with a drawing of a coffee cup in case they couldn't read English. They left lots of coffee and extra cups, but no sleeves. Must be my lousy artwork.

The trip home was uneventful, just the way we like it. If I hadn't been so tired, I might have tried to negotiate an earlier flight, as we were at the airport in time to catch the Detroit bound flight before ours, but I just could not summon the strength.


When in NYC, I carry what I call "bum money" (I know - not very PC). It's for when someone is sitting on the sidewalk with a cup or is playing music with an open instrument case or is explaining their plight to a captive audience in a subway car or is offering a mala in exchange for hopes for peace. The money is folded and stacked individually in my pocket so I can pull out a single bill without effort. I know some (all?) of those requesting funds are not homeless or even in need. I consider it performance art, for which I'm happy to drop a buck.

Never on any of our trips to NYC have we been mistreated by the so-called locals (there are so many languages and so many people speaking in accented English, the city feels almost exotic). Unlike here, where strangers make eye contact and smile and say hello on the street, NYers ignore each other with aplomb. Yet we saw random, anonymous, impersonal acts of kindness. NYC really is a wonderful city to visit.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A cat with no name

I don't miss having a dog, but I do miss Betsy. Finn is a wonderful cat, but he stays out all night and sleeps all day, so sometimes it is like not having a cat at all. Hence, I was weak when I met the cat formerly known as Mr. B.

They call me MISTER Banks

A friend of a friend of my daughter's found Finn. A friend of a friend of my son's found Mr. B. No sense in my looking for cats when they seem to find me through my children.

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you...

The name he came with is an issue. I don't quite understand the evolution to "Mr. B" but the B stands for "Banks". I have tried calling him that, but half the time it comes out "Bates" (from Downton Abby). A few other names have been sampled, and right now I am leaning toward Puff (short for Pufferbelly - he hisses a lot).

He's so cute when he's asleep

Puff is ostensibly neutered although he does not look it, nor does he act it; I may have that double checked by my vet. He appears to be about eight months old, so I thought Finn would be tolerant of a kitten. Turns out Finn is not the problem. Puff is the confrontational one, and when Finn tries to walk away, Puff chases him down. Finn is about twice Puff's size, but it doesn't seem to matter. (Finn's reluctance to fight may also explain why he is remarkably unscarred for an outdoor cat.)

I predict a cat spat will follow this meal

Puff is more of a companion, albeit not a cuddly one (yet), than Finn. He loves to follow me around while I do household chores. The vacuum cleaner barely fazes him. He is full of energy and always ready to play. He is also litter trained, but needs to learn to keep off the counters/tables/dresser/plant stand/etc.

Why it is better to adopt an ADULT cat

My hope is that, with time and maturity, not only will Puff settle down but will entertain Finn during the winter when he drives me nuts with his incessant requests to go out/come in/go out/come in. Puff will be an indoor cat, though.

Two cats playing (sort of)

A few days after Puff arrived, I found a cat crawling across a busy street, obvious the victim of a hit-and-run. I stopped the car and scooped him up and took him to Animal Control. Three legs were still functional, so they took him in and posted his picture on the lost and found page, but I doubt anyone will claim him.

Invitation to a belly rub

I wanted to adopt him too, but my daughter talked me down from that crazy cat lady ledge. I felt bad but later realized I have all the cat I can handle right now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Work-life balance when there is no work

Joining the Wild Walkers was a good idea, but lately Grandma duty has interfered. So far, this has been fine with me, as I have discovered I am a "fair weather" hiker. Once pre-school is over, I should be able to participate more frequently... assuming I can tolerate the mosquitoes and deer flies.

Meanwhile, other opportunities for human interaction have cropped up. The local parks department has a plethora of activities, many geared toward seniors. I attended a free estate planning session which was both informative and entertaining, as some of the other participants were real characters. Last week I started Yoga for Seniors, which is WAY more my style these days; instead of being pushed to perform like a skinny 20-something yogini, we are encouraged to make allowances for our various levels of decrepitude. Next week I start Golf Lessons for Women (I'm trying to get back in touch with my inner jock). And I'm volunteering at Salomon Farm, helping take care of the farm animals. Chickens and donkeys and pigs - OH MY!

When I was still employed, I balanced work with hobbies like gardening and fiber arts which I squeezed into evenings and weekends with more than a little desperation. They kept me sane. Now that work is no longer in the equation, the hobbies don't figure as large in my day-to-day life. I still knit, but not so obsessively. I still garden (or I would, if the weather would cooperate), but now it's more fun than frantic. I exercise more (a real necessity once one is past 60). I read more, and more widely (still pursuing the Stoic thing). My SO and I are even going to travel a bit.

A friend told me it took her about 18 months to rediscover her Self after she retired. The retired Me is not who I expected, and she keep evolving. How lucky I am to experience this stage of life!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The tribe gathers

My dad died last December. We did little to mark his passing then other than inter the ashes, opting instead for a gathering this spring. As weird as some family events can be, this one was nothing but wonderful.

Over 40 of us (including some cousin/spouse pairs we had not seen for over 25 years) congregated at Graceland Cemetery, first by my dad's parents' graves before shifting over to where my mom and dad are buried. Dad was not a religious man, so no prayers were said, no minister presided. Instead, we stood around and shared stories and memories. This loose format worked well because enough time had elapsed since his death we were not mired in grief, although a few tears were shed just the same. Even my younger brother, who intended to remain silent, spoke up.

Then we repaired to my niece's home a few miles away, for the usual post-funereal repast and family reunion. The youngest cousins played, the oldest cousins swapped tales about growing up in Chicago, the family tree was examined (one line traces back to the Mayflower even though we are basically northern European mutts). It truly was a fitting send off for my Dad.

The only sad part occurred when I arrived home and had the urge to call Dad on the phone and tell him all about it. He would have loved it, would have loved being there. He definitely was present in spirit.