Friday, December 28, 2012

Lost in A Holidaze

Somewhere around the middle of December, shortly after my last post, I fell into the time-warp
of prepping for and participating in the ritual that is Christmas. All chocolate and sugar. Fun and disappointed expectations. Actually not that different than when I was working for myself in the 90's. More time to deal with it all. And the week between Christmas and New Years has always been an odd in-between time. But I'm starting to emerge. Nothing like driving in LA traffic to snap you out of a daze.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pop Psych Aerobics

I’m good enough. I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me. Oh, sorry. Just got back from an IntenSati workout and I’m channeling Stuart Smalley.

Who knew there was anything left at the confluence of calisthenics, yoga and pop-psych therapy? Enter: IntenSati. They started offering it at the Pilates studio I frequent and being in need of some fat-burning, I gave it a try. It’s a good workout, but not sure about the affirmations. Good, I guess. Although I didn’t get this far in life without believing in myself, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. But I put the cynic in me aside and went with it. “I’m strong. I’m confident. I want to live a life I love. I want it. I want it. I really, really want it.” (I’m not kidding with this.)
As I’m mouthing the words I’m thinking I’m grateful I can go home and have a  middle-aged cocktail (depending on the time of day, either a glass of wine or cup of coffee, with a couple ibuprofen) and soak in the tub. Oh okay. I AM grateful to still be able to do this stuff. And have the time to do it. Pretty much kicked my butt though – which I realized I need if I’m going to really get into shape - build stamina - for my Himalayan trek. So while I can’t get Stuart’s image out of my head, I’m going to keep this up for a while. “I want it, I want it …… “

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mom Rides Shotgun

I have an aunt in the LA area who decorates every inch of the interior of her house for Christmas. Or so my mom says. I haven’t seen it (although I’m perversely curious). My aunt was extolling her delight to my mom and they mused about the possibility of my mom coming over after Christmas for a few days. My mom mentioned it to me.  And did I have any interest in going? Hmmmmm. Hadn’t I just vowed to moderate my fun-travel quotient? (See Breaking the Fun Barrier post) Yet I’m intrigued by the idea of seeing cousins I haven’t seen in long time and kids of cousins I’ve never seen.  And I realized that breaking the fun barrier over Thanksgiving was more about over-spent. If this trip was going to happen, it would have to be on a bargain-basement budget. Staying with relatives is as cheap as it gets. So far so good.
I checked flights. Way too expensive to buy and too many frequent flyer miles for such a short trip.  I contemplate: what about driving (“It’s only eight hours” I hear myself saying). Uh-oh.  I feel another road trip coming on. I’m always lured by the road. And it is not lost on me how great it is to be able to take little trips with a minimum of planning and on whatever days suit me. I get a “look-at-me (although no one is looking) - aren’t - I - lucky pleasure jolt … which dims memories of the downside of long hours in the car.  Nevertheless, the thought of eight hours of interstate highway driving did seem a bit much. Yuma is a good half-way point and last time I was there (a decade ago - as the gateway to a somewhat ill-fated kayak trip down the lower Colorado) I discovered it had a fab retro downtown. I jump on the net to see what the cheap motel offerings might be and I discover: the Yuma Cabana Motel. They had me at the neon sign.  And completely affordable.  Done. This trip is a go!

We’re not Seth Rogan and Barbara Streisand, so this is going to be closer to Driving Miss Daisy than Guilt Trip. Except my mother will be riding shotgun. All the way to Kristmas Kitsch and LA-LA land.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Belief in Abundance Stares Down Financial Picture

I’ve always had that single-woman-fear-of-becoming-a-bag-lady syndrome (yes, even when I wasn’t single). Although now that I’ve made it this far, I can see that that is pretty unlikely. Nevertheless I still have to cultivate a belief in abundance – especially now that I don’t get a paycheck every two weeks. I pay myself, mostly. Just as I was going to write something about that -  all fear-based and doubting - this happened: my aforementioned foray into computer-fix hell resulted in two weeks of  free internet and thirty percent off six months of internet (a' la Cox Cable), a wireless mouse and  keyboard (typing on it right now. nice figure action) (a' la Dell). But even more manna from abundance land: I’m going to take a little day trip with some girlfriends that includes crossing the border. I get out my usual passport-holding wallet-y thing and notice that there is some cash in one of the pockets. I count out: ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty,  sixty, five, seventy dollars.  Free money. 

I decided to let go of the stare-down and just go with abundance. Might as well. So If you see me shuffling along with a shopping cart full of my possessions sometime in the future, you’ll know how I got there. And please drop a coin in the can.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Right to Remain Silent

As I was falling asleep last night I realized that I had not spoken to anyone all day. Had not uttered a word.

After 10 days excursions/ travel, a social Friday and full Saturday, I was tired. A quiet day at home reading the NY Times in-between mundane tasks and mindless internet surfing was just what I needed apparently.  In the later afternoon I was laying on the couch reading. A feeling of contentment settled on me. Finally rested. Headache gone. Beautiful light and fresh air streaming in. No worries that needed to be attended to. Peace.

All in contrast to today. I have spent two hours in new-computer-doesn't-connect-to-the-internet-Dell-tech-support alternate reality. I’ll spare you the details as most of you have been to that communication-challenged, frustrating, tedious land. I could feel the cortisol levels rising as the supposed fixes became more complex, yet still unproductive. But that hasn't stuck with me, as it would have when I was functioning at a higher stress level. I’m quickly returning to homeostasis.

Yesterday helped. It was right to remain silent. I may try that again. Next time on purpose.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Breaking the Fun Barrier

Remember when I said that the methodology I've been using to discover what comes next is following interests till something sticks? (Of course you do because you are hanging on my every word. In case not, see the Anything Could Happen post.) Another part of the methodology has been saying “yes” to just about everything that comes my way… because you never know what could happen…where it could lead. I think I have now reached the limits of that.

In August, shortly after I retired and was deep into the just-say-yes-to-anything-that-sounds-fun philosophy, I said yes to being tour guide for an east-coast amiga who wanted to make Tucson (and around) her fall vacation. So, I’m just back from about 1300 miles/10 days of in-town and out-of-town excursions. Got to go back to beautiful places I hadn't been in a long time - and do a few new things, including living like a rich person for three days in Sedona Arizona amongst spectacular scenery in a cabin that afforded a close-up view of tree tops from my pillow.

I’m glad I did that. But I didn't really need to do it. I’m feeling kind of over-indulged now (and over-spent) … ready to be more circumspect … hone in on what I really need to be doing to move forward. There will still be plenty of fun, of course. I'm no Puritan.

And just as a reminder of how important simple fun can be -  watch this

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wicked Witch Takes It On...With Dorothy

The Wicked Witch might be a great image for riding along upright in a skirt (see the other Wicked Witch post) but I bet she doesn't know how to change a tire or adjust a derailleur. I figured before I go too far afield, I had best know these things, there being no bike equivalent of AAA. (Entrepreneurial idea anyone? It’s yours.) Luckily, our county government offers bike safety, maintenance and other classes – for free! Call me part of the demographic that Bill O’Rielly thinks just wants “stuff” from the government, but a free bike maintenance class was much appreciated. It was a “for women” class, which made it particularly enjoyable - because? -  for the most part, women are great. Learning new things felt really good – as did being the oldest person in a room full of mostly twenty/thirty somethings and fitting in.  

And I’m taking it on in other ways - projects, fitness, etc. I’m losing that “before and after” retirement perspective. Days flow one to the next. Full of the mundane or unusual or both. Most notably, a sense of curiosity and possibility and spontaneity has returned. As I was struggling to pull this together, this popped up in a friend’s Facebook post: “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no sure for curiosity.” Amen. Thank you Dorothy Parker.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Anything Could Happen

The methodology (if you can even call it that) I’ve been using to discover what comes next is: Web-researching/reading/social media about things that interest me. Getting out there...following a trail...seeing what develops. I’m planning to do this until something gets traction.

So this weekend I went to a number of Tucson Modernism Week events. I used to wear, when I was a waitress, vintage clothing and accessories and I still have a decent collection. My house is late 50’s/early 60’s furniture and décor. This is one of the interests I’m resurrecting.  A highlight of the weekend events was a cool pop-up shop with vendors of beautiful, mostly name-brand, mid-century furniture – all beyond my spending price point. (I’m into affordable knock-offs. From thrift stores, if possible). So to scratch the itch, and as a diversion between events, I drove over for a quick look-see at the close out sale of a retro shop that used to be downtown. 

I was browsing the small stuff. Picked up a baggie with about eight vintage lighters in it. I have a few already and saw a couple in the bag that looked like pretty good additions to the collection. So I let go of the eight bucks (and twenty more, truth be told).

I get home; spill them out, superficially eyeing what I actually got. Out rolled a little rectangular engraved nameplate that had come off of a red leather lighter. See what was on it?

My name. What are the chances of that? Yet, it happened. I’m embracing this. It’s a sign, right? If I get out there ... follow my interests wherever they lead, anything could - something’s gonna - happen. Eventually.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Soul Searching

Tonight I’m going to the All Souls Procession. This has been a yearly community-driven event in Tucson for decades and is inspired by the Dia de los Muertos celebrated in Latin America. It celebrates and honors those whom we have lost.  A couple of my friends don't like it – death, skeletons and all. But I understand it differently:  as the possibility of rebirth. I see it as representative of the birth/death/birth cycle that is life – in the big picture and the small; the physical and psychological.

The folk story about Skeleton Woman (Lady Death) raises this important question: what needs to die (an attitude, a belief, a way of being) so something can live? I have returned to this question over the decades whenever I’m feeling discontent, ill-at-ease. It is a question at the root of personal change and transformation – a catalyst for moving forward. For letting go and calling in … and embracing. I’m living this question as I transition from who I was in the world as a person tied to many hours of work and a work identity to a person who is not. A person free to explore what needs to die so something can live. Namely: the authentic me. Skeleton Woman is my date for the evening.

P.S. (a couple months later): A documentary about the All Souls Procession is being made. Here is a piece of film, part of which will be included:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Wicked Witch Meets 1950’s Americana

I got a bike. I know. This is about as momentous as my pronouncement about having read a book. But to me it is an accomplishment – something that I have wanted to do for a long time and something that was at the top of my “when I retire” list.

I used a bike as my primary transportation in college and then when I was a VISTA volunteer in Yakima Washington in the early 70’s. In the early 90’s I had a boyfriend who had just come off the amateur racing circuit, so I tried to be into cycling. But I was never really comfortable -   leaning over the handlebars, craning my neck,  skinny seat all up in there.  And the bikes – like riding a paperclip. This required way too much finesse for me - although guys with exquisite leg muscles in tight shorts was motivating.  I was glad when “cruisers” got stylish. I remembered riding one handed down from an aunt when I was about 10. It was a 1940's vintage - heavy - fat, fat tires. I used to stand (yes, stand) on the seat while it was moving. Circus girl. I can still draw that feeling into my sensory and visual memory. So, I got a sit-up-straight girly bike. Retro styling of course. I love it.

Last night I went on my first outing. With the Tucson Bicycle Belles to see the Diana Vreeland documentary at the Loft. She is such an inspiration for being exactly who you are. I wore a 60’s LBD (little black dress – although not so little on me) and pearls - a Vreeland must. It was so fun. As I rode home by myself, the huge moon illuminated my way and cast that eerie blue-ish light. It was invigorating - both the slight coolness in the air and that feeling of “doing it”.

Sitting up, pedaling along in a skirt, I couldn’t help but have this music in my head. It is the time of the witches after all. Next on my list: a wicker bike basket and a small black dog.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Vacuuming With Leonard Cohen

… is a metaphor for the last several days: ennui and productivity - despite recent postings about hitting my stride and finding a rhythm.  That was short lived. Another myth busted. I thought by now I’d have a lovely rhythm – a bit of a balanced routine … that the feeling of grounded-ness and engagement would sustain. Maybe at some point. But now, no. Now I see that it is more like fits and starts. Today I got up on a roof to do some patching, varnished a door, hauled some stuff, picked up a loaner bike from a friend, did some housework - all long on the list  - and all by 2pm. This in contrast to two previous days of … ennui … a “is this it?” feeling and general lethargy (dare I use the “B” word?). And getting into the Halloween candy.

So I’m seeing that, just like when I was working, some days are as much about perseverance as anything. Hanging with that feeling of discontent till something shifts (energy level, attitude, external circumstances).

Leonard is talking to me as I write:

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in.

Thank you. I needed that reminder.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An Apology my former husband and significant others: I was so caught up. Trying to figure out myself and my life. Trying to make a living in a meaningful and financially sustaining way. Couldn’t pay proper attention. Hectic. Stressed. Not present. I’m better now. Sorry.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Re: Grounding

Just got back from four days of camp, hike, natural hot springs – mostly in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. I went through the eastern part on the last day of my road trip and made a note to come back as soon as I could. So when my friend Chris asked if I was up for a trip I jumped on it. (See some details and sound recordings from the Chiricahua night on Chris’ blog: Wild Mountain Echoes

It was cold at night and in the mornings. I knew when I left Tucson it would be and I brought layers. But the actual experience of 40 degrees can be a shock to the system when you live in the desert. It was perfect hike weather/temp in the daytime though. We did several 3 mile-or-so hikes, which, in the Gila, means innumerable river crossings. The Gila River would be called a stream or creek in the Midwest – but out here, it’s a river – about 40 feet wide and knee deep. So you’re walking through it (cold yet refreshing) and in the rich black mud on the banks as you step in and out of the river. And so green and lush – reeds, cattails, moss. I felt really “there”. In it. Literally in it when we got to a hot spring seeping out of the rocks, pooled up by a primitive rock wall.

So, with a really decent hike last week and four days/three nights out there this week, I’m really starting to get re-grounded. When I was working I was grounded in work and home – and work travel. When I had a different lifestyle in the early 90’s I was grounded in home and the natural world - work fit in-between. Just a different orientation to life and myself. (See the August 7, 2012 post: Getting “Out There” Again for more about that.) I’m getting that back. I’m more grounded  - centered - when I come home. Deeper each time I get out. And when I’m out there, I’m getting my legs under me again. Remembering what I need to be in the natural world safely and comfortably.

All-in-all, I’m starting to get into a rhythm - the rhythm of a balanced, well-lived life. I’m getting a glimpse of what Mahatma Gandhi promised:

Every moment of your life is infinitely creative and the universe is endlessly bountiful. Just put forth a clear enough request and everything your heart desires must come to you.

He was a former lawyer too you know. Although I doubt you’ll be seeing me in a linen diapery type thing.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hitting My Stride

Interesting (to me anyway). Just as I had revised my attitude to changes happening in their own time and extended my perspective on what is a long time to accomplish things, I seem to be hitting my stride. I think it was jump-started by an uptick in my physical activity so that I’m doing at least one thing, and some days, two things, that contribute to enhanced fitness. Seems like that is the key for me. Metabolism calibrating up a bit. A bit of an endorphin infusion. That, and fun things to look forward to have appeared without much effort (I’m so lucky to have friends with a variety of interests). So, I have more energy and momentum. Yet still a sense of calm. Yep. This is good.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Just the Beginning

In contrast to my new-ish “in their own time” attitude about the  longer term lifestyle (and me-style ) changes, I’m still amazed at how long it takes me to get task-like things done (big and little) . For example, I’ve had a stack of things to drop off at the Goodwill drop box by the front door for almost two weeks. (Is that long? Seems like it in that there weren’t 40+ hours of work in those weeks.) 

Starting out, I had some vague notion that by six weeks in, I’d have picked up the pace a bit. So I keep expecting that any day now I will (or should) be noticeably working through that to-do list. Why. I don’t need to. That is so work-world thinking; so time-urgency perception. And I actually have gotten quite a bit done bit-by-bit. I guess I’m thinking that I’ll be “done” at some point. That’s silly. I will get through some of the extraordinary things that have been on the list for years (e.g. gutters and water caching system) but there will always be on-going.

My friend Jane said I'm still recuperating. She's had friends who mostly slept ... for months. Indeed, there is an urban myth/folklore that it takes about two years to settle in after retirement. I’m not sure where I’ve read or heard it, but I’ve repeated it to others as fact so it must be true. So barely six weeks, part of which I was on a road trip, isn’t very long really. I think I need a change of perspective on what is a long time. I need to see this as just the beginning of a long next phase of my life. I had better work on a shift of thinking. I need to re-read the Many Things in Their Own Time post! 

Not A Typical Couple of Days – or Is It?

Today I got up. Did some emailing. Went to Pilates. Ran some errands.  Did hours of yard work.  All by 1:30. Then cleaned-up. Made a finance-related call and filed a few papers. Did some more emailing. Went to intro Flamenco class (second class). Picked up a couple things I needed for a hike tomorrow. Made an actual dinner - with organic chard I got today. And watched Snow White and the Huntsman (Kristen Stewart displays all three of her facial expressions and her characteristic chest heaving. Charlize Theron is delicious as the evil queen. The guy playing the Huntsman is Heath Ledger’s heir apparent. The dwarves are heroic. And they all inhabit a medieval world a few valleys over from the Lord of the Rings folks – dark, dirty and wet - with fairies in one of the forests.  It was worth the one dollar Redbox rental. Just thought you might want to know.) Tomorrow I’m going on a decent day hike in the Huachucas. Like I said in my last  post: This is getting really good!

Many Things in Their Own Time

Things happen as they will. Should. In there own time. Not on a time-table, in snippets wedged between workdays or travel. For example, enhancing my fitness. This is gradual. I’m tired when I do what used to be not that much cardio work. So what. I’ll just keep doing more. Gradually. Over time. It will get (is getting) better. Maybe this is true of many things. I thought I’d dive into cooking after years of “assembling” and microwaving what can hardly be called meals. Instead I have slowly, steadily started making this and that - experimenting a little. These things happen as and when they are meant to happen. Not urgent. Not forced. Yet my effort - initiation - is needed. Wrenching me out of habits of many years that are no longer fit for how I want to live (and who I want to be) now. This is starting to get really good.

Friday, October 5, 2012

I Read A Book

There is nothing very momentous about this that warrants such a pronouncement but
if you have been following my progression from magazine article to short stories, you know it is an accomplishment… a culmination of the expansion of my formerly minuscule attention span for reading.  I read a whole book, by which I mean a novel. I read instead of listening to news. I read instead of puttering in the morning. I read instead of watching TV in the evening (post road trip I seem to have kicked that habit - yay).

It was about nuns. Don’t ask. It was one of those books given to me randomly a couple years ago so I picked it up. Had study group questions in the back, so must have been popular when it came out a few years ago. Takes place in 1570 when not a small number of women were conscripted to the convent by their families because of their weak marriage prospects by reasons of dowry, deformity or temperament, so it was as much about historical context as the actual story. It was intriguing enough to pull me along to the end. Almost lost me half-way through when the main character (a novice nun) was about to escape to be with her love and then was caught. I thought it was heading toward a story of them on the lam. But no.

Anyway, I know this isn't a book report. The point being: I actually read an entire book in the span of less than a week. And now I’m hooked. So, if you have any recommendations, please let me know. I have had enough about nuns though.

Wine With Lunch

I didn’t sleep well last night for whatever reason and had to get up a bit earlier than usual to meet a friend for coffee. I came back to an email that meant well but touched some old hurts. So, I was cranky.  Last night I had picked up a book I started quite some time ago: An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler. It’s not so much a cookbook, although there are plenty of recipes, as a book about cooking and food. I was inspired. I cooked some brown rice. I put it in a bowl with some parmesan cheese and snipped in some fresh parsley. As I was enjoying it at my light-filled kitchen table, I thought “This reminds me of Italy.  And it calls for some wine – I can have some wine!” (I never had alcohol at lunch while working) So I included a (small) glass of inexpensive pinot grigio I had on hand for whatever.

And I happen to be reading the chapter on the balm of connecting with food and sense-memories when feeling resentful or otherwise out-of-sorts and the author includes this quote from Hemmingway:

As I ate the oyster with  strong tastes of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans

It wasn’t oysters on my plate, but I could totally relate.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Road Trip Highlights Having Little to do with Retirement

Being on this road trip wasn’t much different that trips I had taken before, except that my mind didn’t occasionally wonder to work issues and I had more flexibility in planning when to go and to come home. But I have retained the visuals and sense of the experience longer than I was able to when working. So I thought I’d share some highlights – in order of appearance.

  • Once I hit Flagstaff, there were bright yellow roadside flowers and flowering bushes, some spreading all the way into the forest, all along the northern part of the trip.

  • Peering into the Grand Canyon with crowds of tourists, most of whom were speaking languages other than English – and some I didn’t recognize. This, coupled with just looking in, rather than hiking in as I had done before, made for a somewhat odd experience.

  • I drove out of the Grand Canyon NP by the eastern route for the first time. Reeeaallly beautiful. You see the Canyon become shallower and the river more accessible. And an unfamiliar set of outcroppings and features.

  • The first quietest night in memory: In Navajo. About 15 miles NW of Ganado. The landscape was flat and, with recent rains, green – that grey-ish sagy green made up of bunches of grasses and sage, close to the ground. In the surrounding distance were bluffs and mesas of deep earthy reds, browns, burnt sienna. My friend’s Aunt lives in a small house with solar electricity, and the most luxurious outdoor privy I’ve been in, with a number of dogs, a large white pet goat (sleeps on the porch) and a small heard of sheep. And several out-buildings and a hogan (traditional Navajo dwelling). I slept out in my truck (I have a camper shell and comfy air mattress). It was so quiet it was almost unnerving. Not. A sound. The stars were stunning. I could see the whole Milky Way like a cloud across the sky. I don’t know if it was road buzz, the occasional barking of the dogs, or having read too much Carlos Castaneda in the early 70’s (Yaqui not Navajo, I know) but I had a hard time falling asleep.

  • Counter Culture (not a movement – a café a short walking distance from my friends’ house in Santa Fe). Order at the counter (of course) and take a number. I sat at a small table on the patio. Groups of stylish, attractive middle-aged men having conversations. With each other. About what I’m not sure but I’m pretty confident it wasn’t about sports. An array of beautiful middle-aged (and beyond) women. Some of them in what I call the five-hundred-dollar-disheveled-artist look.

  • I saw Robert Redford close up at a gallery opening (of his wife’s work). You know that saying that people look “larger than life” in their movie roles. It’s true. Still hanging in though, for a 76 year old guy.

  • Did a nine-mile hike. Fairly little up and down. But still – pretty good. Aspen colors were half-way between green and yellow.

  • The second quietest night in memory: My Santa Fe friends have a long strip of property (used to be a bean field) up a hill from a small town near Las Trampas/Tuchas NM - literally where the Milagro Bean Field War movie was filmed (speaking of Robert Redford). There is a “cabin” and studio building – built by the husband half. Think something out of Dwell. Beautifully designed so that the small, compact space is used to best advantage like on a boat or a train. Clean lines. No electricity. Lots of windows and glass in the doors. I slept in the studio.  It was so quiet that I could hear the sound made by those huge black ravens as their wings flap against the air. Woosh. Woosh. Woosh. Heaven.

  • Much anticipated watercolor lesson from same said husband (a talented and accomplished artist) while we were up there. I thought he’d give me a brush, paper and few tips so I could attempt to recreate the scene before me. No. We painted squares and lines just to get the feel of the paint, understand the differences in each color (which have different properties because they are made of different things). It was fab-u-lous. I learned so much in that hour. There is a lot to watercolor painting. So next time you think “I could have done that”: think again. No, you couldn’t. 
So, thanks for indulging me in my little travelogue (and a somewhat long post). We’ll be back to the topic at hand soon enough. The post-trip centeredness is really setting in.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Loosing My Edge?

Even when I was working and would take a trip, I was good at getting away – especially with foreign trips. I’d come back and couldn’t remember passwords or what was at the top of the list of things that seemed kind of urgent when I left. But then I’d go back to work, the onslaught would resume, and by the second day, I’d feel like “what vacation?” With this recent trip, especially with the continued hiatus from the news, minimal TV and parsing out the paperwork to-dos, I’ve managed to stretch that vacation feeling out. You know how you can see the familiar with new eyes for a little while after you come back from being away? That. And you are bit more centered. That too. All that has gone on longer and feels more permanent. Like a bit of a real shift.

Some perspectives have changed. For example, I sat down in front of the TV at the end of a day; winding down, not actually watching, channel surfing - which I used to do a lot of. Hoarders, Toddlers and Tiaras… I used to linger there out of warped curiosity. Now, I can’t spend any time there. Click. Off. Bed instead. As I become more present in my life - more balanced (there are other places to live than in my head) … I don’t need the visual sedative….no longer need the mental babysitter … the visual accompaniment to vegging-out … or the vegging-out itself.

Maybe I AM getting all zen, like I kind of wanted to. So now, because I’m a little neurotic (just a little, right?) I wonder if I’m losing my edge. What will happen without that little bite to my perspective? I won’t be funny anymore. Just calm, kind and companionate. Those of you who know me are probably chuckling - yah, right. But it could happen.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Truth About Truth or Consequences

I’ve driven by the turnoff to T or C (as it is called locally) a number of times and wondered: what the ?? And, quite awhile ago,  I read an article in the New York Times Travel Section and another blurb in Sunset so I thought I’d check it out on my way home. The drive from Santa Fe to Tucson is about eight hours and five is about my limit now. I have a couple friends who use T or C as an overnight stop point. So I booked myself a room at the Pelican Spa mentioned in the article:  It looked sufficiently funky yet serviceable. And it was. Fifty-five dollars for a little living room (with retro couch), bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. And a pretty big TV. All I needed, and more.

Like much of New Mexico, T or C touts many places for hot springs soaks (the best, in my opinion, are in and near the Gila National Forest - natural, outdoors and clothing optional) and the Pelican had deep cement/tile tubs in little private rooms for guest-use only. So I had a good long mineral water soak before fully utilizing that big TV watching the Emmys…and a spectacular sunset out the window. A really lovely last evening.

That said though, I thought T or C would be kind of like Silver City but it was more like Benson (sorry for the local references, but that is the best shorthand descriptor) with a couple blocks of businesses/shops.  Most closed. Reeeeally quiet. Maybe because it was Sunday and then Monday morning, but barely a soul in sight.  However, the Black Cat Bookstore and Coffee was engaging and memorable. Lots of great used books, all organized, and 1950’s tables and chairs interspersed in the rooms so you could sit and have your coffee and browse. My Santa Fe friends know the owner, who was serving up the coffee that day, so I had a momentary connection there. Which was nice as it can have a lonely-town-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-ish vibe.

So, that’s the truth about T or C as I see it. Not sure I would stop over there again. There  is still Faywood Hot Springs  near City of Rocks, both of  which have been on my list for years. Next time. Looking forward to meeting Isis (see the video on the site to sate your curiosity: What a hoot. Can’t wait.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

(Not) Writing from the Road

I had little connection to electronics while on the road – just a quick email check here and there – thus, the break from blogging (I hoped you’d all still be there when I got back). I really wanted it all to just … be … unfold … flow. And it pretty much did. Reaching the last days, I still had a need to get back, driven by different considerations than when I was working (meaning I needed to get back for the Bonnie Raitt concert and some other things).

But the exact when was a little flexible by a couple days - so on my last day I could take a "detour". I left Truth or Consequences (more on that later) and was barreling south down I-25 (not all that scenic at that point, comparably) like I had done a number of times before - with my foot to the pedal to “get home”. Then I saw the cutoff that goes through the Gila National Forest on a very (very) winding road that ends in Silver City (a cool former mining town, turned arty and foody, but not pretentious – one of my favorite second-hand stores is there). And I thought – what am I doing? I could be enjoying this last day rather than looking to the end point (a metaphor for some corny life-lesson?) so I took the turn-off and enjoyed the twists and turns (another metaphor? – geez) and, because I was by myself, I could take them at my preferred speed – which usually makes passengers a little queasy.

Anyway, I enjoyed a little time in Silver (that’s what the locals call it, FYI) and then back on the road that goes down to I-10, which would take me all the way into Tucson. There is a point on that road where you come over a rise and laying below is a vast - vast - landscape of grasslands, yuccas, the Lordsburg playa (an ancient lake bed/large area of sandy soil that fills up with shallow water when it rains and will be a stopover for Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese in the winter) and many mountain ranges all the way into Mexico. That rise, and that view, including the light streaming through massive clouds in a blue, blue sky  (I call it “religious-picture” light)  marks the shift to familiar landscape and  “close to home”. It was beautiful, inspiring and welcoming. I descended into it, turned west on I-10 and rolled my way to my front door. All was well - including me - when I got there.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vacation from Staycation

I'm back from a 10-day road trip. Did you miss me?

In the months before I retired I planned to take a road trip within the first couple months. I’ve always found being on the road by myself - tunes turned up, wide-open vistas - to be very mind-clearing and centering. I’m not sure what I expected to get out of the trip, but it seemed a good marker of renewal - especially since I planned to go friend to friend in northern Arizona and New Mexico. So, that’s what I did – with a little camp and motel time in-between.

And it was really good. It didn’t feel that much different from road trips I’d taken while working, which tells me that I was pretty good at letting it all go even then. And now, without much to keep up with, I could really have a mind-rest -  stay here-and-now with the continuous windshield movie of gorgeous scenery going by. It took a couple days to get into the rhythm - to just be. But everything faded in the rearview mirror soon enough.

It was especially good to be away from the to-do list, electronics/TV, the news and the heat. And I’ve stayed away from the news. Absence of the incessant onslaught of vitriol, and opinions about vitriol, has contributed to sustaining an increased level of calm and well-being. When I turn the news on now, it grates - like fingers on a blackboard. We’ll see how long that lasts. I figure I have political-junkie friends on Facebook, so I won’t miss anything important.

In the following days I’ll be adding some details (like the two quietest nights in memory and the truth about Truth or Consequences, New Mexico). For now, it is good to be. Home.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Petty Annoyances

Yes, petty annoyances are still part of life.  For example, in some views of this blog,  about nine posts from August are missing and the Google blogger “help” function definitely needs to be in quotes. I had to call three times to the automated phone system and navigate about 10 choices just to change the credit card to which an automatic payment goes. I was thwarted in making arrangements for a trip because of two-night minimums. Mechanical and electronic things don’t work correctly.

Before retirement there were annoyances - petty and not-so. That was sort of pervasive and blended in with the generalized noise of life.  Now they stand out... and I seem to resent them more. I’m surprised by that. I thought that without work stress and drain, I’d be all zen. But, as it turns out, some of this stuff is about me in any situation and for some things to change I’m going to have to change. The personal-ways-of-being-that-have-nothing-to-do-with-work-and-need-to-be-addressed list is growing. Now that is annoying.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Playing the Game and Following the Rules

Finally watched The Hunger Games (didn’t read the book). Apparently in the future the elite dress like they are in a Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland movie and attractive black men who look just like Lenny Kravitz wear white eyeliner. The working-class people dress like it is 1930s Appalachia, but have high-end electronics. Who knew? Oh, and the earth is still verdant and full of wildlife. That’s good.

The movie struck me as a combo between gladiators, the Olympics and a Miss America pageant. It got me thinking about the necessity of playing by the rules of the game to survive. In the workplace where there is any kind of hierarchy one must turn a bit of a blind eye in order to survive. It’s not worth it or productive to take everything on, so it is sometimes necessary to pretend that things are different than they are.  Of course this is a matter of degree, but it really became a strain for me because I have a finely tuned BS detector and really low tolerance. 

There is very little of that in retirement. There just aren’t any stakes that require  pretending. And there is much more control over what you do, and don’t do, and with whom.

Now I am playing a different game. The “no more excuses, be the best you can be” game. Maybe I’ll get a gold medal.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I’m Forty Years Old in Here

This blog is supposed to be about the transition from work to retirement and whatever comes next, and it is about that. But of course it has to be about getting older. It can’t be denied. Yet it is so surreal. That’s part of the Zen part. What I look like and who I am are not necessarily the same. I have no kids and no husband (by choice). Good health and relatively good fitness. You may look at me and see 60 – or maybe thereabouts…on a good day. But inside here, I’m about 40, looking out.

I have more in common with 40 year olds (or even younger when it comes to lifestyle) than most 60 year olds. Except my relationship to time. When I was younger the future expanse of time - that road - stretched out long - couldn’t really see the end of it. There seemed to be a lot of time to do and be, to spend as well as I could and to take care of myself financially.  As time passed, that end point started to come into focus. And my perceptive on time moved closer and closer to the here-and-now as the questions  - unknowns - about my life and my future were answered – especially, how can I do meaningful work and still be financially stable. I somehow managed to do that, because of risks taken and despite some really lean years. And that allows a certain peace that I didn’t have when I was younger.

Neil Young’s Old Man just came up on my Pandora Leonard Cohen radio mix and I almost teared up remembering what my life was like when it came out in 1972. I was twenty years old and the world seemed quite a mess. But life was full of promise because I believed it could and would get better as long as “we” continued to do things to move us towards more understanding, inclusion, equality, valuing the natural world and all that. I’m not sure how we got where we are – I’m pretty disillusioned with much of the human race. But now that I am “free” I still feel life full of promise - but in a personal-to-me sense. Part of the decision to retire was to make the best use of my time that I can. Perhaps as the workplace fades in the rearview mirror, I’ll find a way to contribute again. 

I’m 40 years old in here …without the angst of making a living. If I start whining about anything, remind me that I have no excuse for being anything but ecstatic.

Friday, August 31, 2012

I'm Not Annie Oakley, But...

I went horseback riding today. What a privilege. I have a friend who lives outside Elgin Arizona (about an hour and half southeast of Tucson. 3,000 feet higher and 10 degrees cooler) on her horse property/ranch (aka "paradise") with three horses, two dogs, a cat and some very loud cicadas. We had been talking about doing this ever since we met on a trip to Tanzania two-and-a-half years ago. 

I haven’t been riding in years and I’ve always been a novice (although pretty comfortable and I have managed to stay on at a full gallop not of my choosing). So we decided to try a “trial trail” ride. It was great. 

The first half of the ride was in a flat bottom ravine full of mesquite trees. Then we went up (nothing dramatic) to the (gentle) ridge top for the way back. Gorgeous. Have you ever seen those western paintings or post cards – rolling grasslands dotted with scrub oak, wide-open vistas, 360 degrees of mountain ranges - layering all the way into Mexico, bright  blue sky with huge white clouds? It was like that. Only way better. I was actually there. Stunning. Southeastern Arizona is grasslands and with the above-average rains we’ve had it was green everywhere – not Ireland green, but that soft, well...grass green. Truly lovely.

Susan gave me all kinds of tips (she is a real horse woman and runs outfitter/trips in Copper Canyon in  Mexico so she’s really good at pointers). There is a lot to pay attention when riding a horse in regards to what you are doing with your body and the reins and the effect on your steed (Arabian/Quarter Horse mix – smart, responsive, heat-tolerant and just the right size – not so small that I feel like a burden and so big that it looks like a ladder is needed to get up there). And you need to pay attention to where you are going. With all that, and the stunning (did I say gorgeous) views, it was really mind-clearing…very in-the-moment.

Susan said I did good. Which is great for me because I kinda have a crush on DC (the horse to which I refer) and I want to do that again. Horseback riding on a week day. Now THAT's my idea of living.  Cowgirl up!

 P.S. I met Susan through my friend Chris, from whom I have learned and experienced much about the natural world. Chris just started a kick-ass blog: Wild Mountain Soundscapes. I’d like to think I inspired her just a teensy bit. Check it out:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Not to Worry

OK. Just in case you were wondering, I’m over my panic attack freak-out brought on by packing way too many work-like tasks together. A couple days of no real thinking and I’m pretty fine. Enjoying doing this and that, puttering, reading, socializing (calls with friends and lunch with my mom) and getting some sleep. Good to know I can bounce back farily quickly with a dose of relax (mentally and physically). Now that I’ve got the backlog cleared out, I’m going to parse work-like things out, doing a bit here and there. I know I’m not recovered. Gotta stay away from the stuff. Also realized that a number of the tasks had to do with money. Always a button-pusher for me, especially now that it is mostly going out, not coming in like it used too.

Hanging out in the middle of “what was” and “what comes next” takes some fortitude…and attitude control. I’m learning. Although I still get confused about the difference between worry and thinking ahead.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Rehab2: Dry Drunk

AA concepts include the dry drunk - someone who has stopped drinking but hasn’t dealt with any of the underlying issues that precipitate additive drinking. They still exhibit the same unproductive attitudes and behaviors of a drinking alcoholic. They aren’t a recovering alcoholic. They are just an ex-drinker.

I feel like a dry worker. An ex-worker. I’m no longer working, but many of the underlying patterns associated with my last years of work are still there. I experienced a tinge of that a week in, and then a couple weeks ago when I was forestalling doing anything work-like during the “doing nothing/rest” phase. (see the Unexpected Emotion; Pacing, Pavlov and Work/Not-Work; and Rehab posts)

But things changed last week. I switched back into work mode to do some tasks that had accumulated and that had to be addressed - some because of deadlines (review and critique a 60 page report, taxes, and insurance stuff) - others because they meant money received or saved (compare options and switch internet/phone/cable provider, navigate the federal information labyrinth regarding retirement benefits payment), and a quasi-medical procedure that limits my exercise a bit, and other miscellanea. Finally got the bulk of it done today.

It felt like a week of work. And I felt the same frustration, anxiety, stress. Add in lots of little changes, ambiguity, and uncertainty and the result is a two-day headache and that queasy feeling, just now receding.

I see that I need another stint of in-house treatment…a loooooong stint, without a backlog hanging over my head to be accomplished, so I can really detox. Truly get it out of my system. Move from being an ex-worker to a recovering worker. Maybe before too long I’ll be a recovered worker.  I wonder what  - and how long - that will take.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Revelations Probably Already Known to Others

I’m developing a whole new relationship to online. Now I understand what people mean when they talk about the “time-sink” of online activity. That seems OK if you have time, which I do. And, like so many things, it’s about balance.

Time online has become part of my day. Something I “do”. I have had time to figure things out (Do you know how to get favorites to display in alpha order? Or set a number of tabs to open up at once when you connect to the net? I do. These are probably examples of revelations already know to others).

I spend more time on Facebook. It’s become an adjunct to life-out-there: life in the mind. Kinda weird and kinda cool. Time will tell how much of which. Before, I kept up with personal email and Facebook in-between everything else or as short breaks from work during the day in my last months of work. But I never really read anything in the links my politically and socially read friends posted. Yah. They are actually my friends. One of my Facebook rules is that just like real life, you have to be circumspect about who your friends are. So only people I know and would have a conversation with in real life are FB friends. Kinda old-school, if that term is even applicable here, but it works for me. It’s a pretty diverse bunch so I keep up with all kinds of things being talked about and going on in Tucson, the country and the world. Art. Politics. Events. Totally silly stuff too, of course. For two of my favorites, see the links below (Ok, so I think anthropomorphizing
animals is funny … sometimes.)

And there is so much content on the web – writings, news, good stories in friend’s blogs, TV shows, instructional  (and entertaining) YouTube snippets, movies (and I don’t mean Netflix, which became a non-friend when I discovered that my local, independently owned, pretty cool video store had new releases many weeks before Netflix and my “saved” list was on perpetual save).

Anyway, I hope you think that reading this blog is a somehow useful or entertaining part of your online time-sink or momentary diversion. And forgive me if these are revelations already known to you. And probably just about the whole even slightly industrialized (or should I say electronified) world.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Time/Energy/Motivation Quotient

Even though I’ve talked about “having time” - I’m realizing how much it is about having energy.  I did have time for myself before…but not always energy during that time. I was often brain-drained during the week from the multi-tasking, detail-oriented, and just demanding nature of the work. Saturated. Too many synapses firing. (Did I mention that I did conflict resolution/collaboration for environmental issues where federal agencies were involved? Enough said about the “demanding” part). And I was generally tired - worn down - from repetitive, unresolved work-place aspects that didn’t work for me.  
That mental burnt-out created a physical drag. I was tired from keeping up. (And I’m single, no kids. I have NO idea how most others do it. I’m in awe of them - you?). So, I “wasted” a lot of time on weekends recuperating.

I also traveled quite a bit (for work and a couple personal trips a year) and that probably contributed. Almost always running up to a trip or re-grouping after - including a couple days of a little jet lag. Hard to settle, have a routine for any length of time. I probably was a little disconnected a good bit of the time.   

Before, I kept up with priorities: work, travel, friends, family, a little exercise and household stuff like bill paying, grocery shopping and laundry. In the last couple weeks after retiring, when I have had nothing but time,  I reconnected with many friends, slept, read, but got little else done because of  low energy from the need to de-compress and recuperate.

And there is motivation to factor in. Seems as though I could – and still can – muster up the energy when I WANT to do whatever (or need to, because there are deadlines - with consequences -  that make me “want to”.)

I’m sure there is a formula that could conjugate the Time/Energy/Motivation quotient for a given task or event or lifestyle or ... whatever.  It would go something like this:

Before retiring:

Some time + stress/burn-out = low energy - motivation + disconnectedness = the essentials get done and a lot of time is “wasted” recuperating

Shortly after retiring:

A lot of time - energy - motivation =  a lot of reading, resting and socializing

What’s beginning to happen now (three weeks out):

  • A lot of time - energy + motivation  =  energy kicks in and some things get done
  • Little time (a deadline) = motivation = energy = essential tasks are slowly getting done
  • A lot of motivation = energy = things get done no matter how much time there is.
I wish I was good at math so I could get all clever and create a formula that pulls these all together. But suffice it to say that having a balanced, meaningful and happy life is not all about “having time”. And then there is attitude to factor in.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Legitimacy of Weather as an Excuse: Part 2

I just got in from two hours of yard work - trimmed 20 feet of oleanders (which required three tools, including a saw). Sawed off three branches from a dead tree. And cleaned out debris. It is 88 degrees out with 46% humidity. I’m not sure what this says for weather as an excuse and the primacy of energy. And motivation: brush and bulky pick-up tomorrow and I needed to burn some cals today. I've been thinking about the time/energy continuum. Now I see I need to factor motivation in to that. More on all this another time. Right now I’m in need of a shower and a few hours with the Sunday Times. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get out there again this evening (she says skeptically, yet hopeful).

Post Script 1: I decided that 105 degrees is still a good excuse.

Post Script 2: A Tucson friend said she is amazed I was out there at all. Weather excuse: vindicated and validated!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Legitimacy of Weather as an Excuse

When I first started thinking about this a few days ago, it was a question. I had just scalded myself with water that was in the hose in my back yard. I’m not kidding. Could have cooked pasta in it. It had been plus/minus of 106 for several days – and almost as hot for weeks before that. And I thought: This is the reason I have not gotten to my priority household to-dos (primarily cutting back the oleander hedge which has been neglected for years) and many other tasks. Because it's hot outside. You’d buy that, right?

Now, several days later and after a couple days of lower temps (like mid-80s) I’m vindicated. I have had more energy and motivation in the last two days than any of the previous couple weeks. Might even get out there and trim the oleanders. Or maybe I just needed a couple weeks of vegging. Whatever, I am starting to recover a new homeostasis.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Morning Ritual

I’ve always made coffee in a ritualistic sort of way, even when I had limited time in the morning to get out. Boil water, grind beans, French press, heat milk. But now the place of this ritual has shifted. Lying in bed after waking up, but not getting up. On the brink of a relapse to a dream or putting feet on the floor, this ritual calls…this is what I will “do” least the first thing. It is the divide between kind of asleep and awake. Between waking up and being up. An actual morning event. To create some momentum. And it has been working these last couple days to get me going ... to some actual tasks that needed to be accomplished.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Long Way to Go

How I’ll get into shape for my Himalayan trek is on my mind. It kinda nags at me. Getting back to hiking seems the best. How to make that happen? I got a start last week (See Getting “Out There” Again).  But was I motivated enough to get myself out there on a regular basis, especially since that probably means solo hikes.

A few days ago a friend emailed to ask if I wanted to go to Wilcox (about an hour and a half east of Tucson. Ag area) to get some peaches, as we have done in years past. Sure. Then she emails – do I want to go to the Chiricahuas (another hour and a half past Wilcox) and hike to a raspberry patch we know about from camping nearby in Rustlers Park and to check out what it looks like a year post-fire. It’s a bit far to go for a day-hike, but curiosity and the need to get out there motivated.  Of course, I say.

As we're driving up and get to the burn area we see hillsides and patches of the blackest black charred sticks, many burned into modern art sculptures, as well as patches of untouched forest. What I didn’t expect was that, with recent rains, there were two and three feet of bright green understory setting it all off visually. Stunning. Surreal. Beautiful in its own way. And even more unexpected was a riot of color – large patches of vibrant yellow and magenta wildflowers. I bet we saw 30 different flowers as we hiked through waist-high greenery. Some I’ve rarely seen. We also saw quite a bit of bear scat, some with raspberry seeds in it (I still can’t fathom how an animal that large exists on berries and bugs). And then the raspberry patch (no bears). The berries were small but sweeeet. Thunder cracked as we hustled out, but we managed to dodge the rain.

Four and a half round-trip miles of relatively gradual up and then downhill used to be a stroll in the park for me. But I was pooped last night and can still feel it this morning. I can see I have a long way to go before I’m ready for my trip. And that getting there is going to be really good for me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

More on Re-learning to Read…and Write

Before, I read superficially….skating over the tops of sentences. Scanning for the “gist”. Now, I read. each. word. Instead of skimming headlines, I read newspaper articles (and links to them). There is so much to know. Work focuses on a narrower, deeper band of knowledge. Not-work allows time and head-space for knowing more about more. And no longer needing to know about some things - like how to navigate the labyrinth to renew your federal ID or how to write an information collection request (under the Paperwork Reduction Act – which, until recently, required a LOT of paper.)

Same with my handwriting … it had become eligible. Even to me sometimes.  It devolved to a sort of shorthand that collapsed letters together, omitted some, and generally was more pieces than whole words. Now I actually form each of the letters, creating complete words that can be read and understood later. For the most part.

My typing is still lousy. But a slower pace means a more judicious use of spell-check and actually seeing non-words. For the most part. Bare with me on that.

I’m not completely recovered from speed-reeding, writng and toping.

Monday, August 13, 2012


What is it with this underlying, free-floating guilt-ish kind of feeling that occasionally surfaces in my otherwise pretty contented sea of existence? I really don’t want to do much in a day. And I don’t need to, but some part of me must think I should be more productive.

When I was working I would stay up late. Way too late. I was reluctant to let go of the only part of the day that was mine. That habit is still with me. And I still wake up around 6:30.  I never did learn to nap. So, I can be physically tired from doing … not much. Before, I was probably tired much of the time, but I had that steady low-dose cortisol (the “stress hormone”) drip that kept me going.  

A friend said I’m “de-toxing”. I think that’s it. I’m in rehab. I’m doing a stint at my own little at-home Sierra Tucson. In-house treatment. Getting that drug out of my system.

I know, I think I’ll redefine reading as “being productive”. 

I think this little talk has gone rather well, don’t you?  Thank you for listening. I feel better now.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pacing, Pavlov and Work/Not-Work

My mom used to say “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person”. While I understood what that meant before, now that I’m not-busy, I really get it. When I was working, I could just add another thing into my perpetual motion forward. Now, getting something done requires gearing-up - getting the momentum going again.

Granted, my days have slowed from the frenetic pace of work/life – for the most part. But when I have something “business/work-like” to deal with, I slip into the frenetic energy … moving faster, eating faster. The internal meter gets turned up. Pavlovian response to performance expectations kicks in – even though no one is watching, expecting, judging. Slight flight or fight response. Like a post traumatic stress response - triggered by anything that hints of details, brain-power, decision-making, rule-following - especially if it is a follow-on communication of any sort from my previous workplace.

I thought I had left that behind. Who knew these responses had become so engrained – that I had become so conditioned. I can see I will need to differentiate the personal business-like tasks from the actual work experience. That trigger switch has gotta get re-programmed. I need a new mantra.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cinema Para dias

Yesterday I watched the rest of a movie while I ate breakfast mid-morning. Started it the night before but was falling asleep and since it was a one-nighter,  and I had social stuff yesterday afternoon and evening, thought I had best finish it. Bel Ami. 1890s – kinda superficial story, but great costuming and interiors. Good to see Robert Pattinson be something other than a pasty-faced vampire – although he's still playing a brooding lady-killer (not literally, but definitely a guy who gets by on his looks).

Besides it’s been 105 degrees or more. Staying inside with shades drawn seems like the only sane thing to do (yes, 105 is hot even for us – this isn’t Phoenix. Or Death Valley). Actually, going to dark, chilly movie theaters in the daytime in the summer in Tucson used to be a survival strategy. I may have to bring that back.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What Goes On In the Daytime

I’m an anthologist from another land observing “the people who aren’t at work in the daytime”. It had been years since I’ve been out and about, or inside with the TV, on  a weekday. Teachers get a glimpse of this in the summer, but to those of us working in offices all year long, “what goes on in the daytime” is a mystery.

Initial observations:

  • Daytime TV ads – reflecting who they think is watching
    • The injured/disabled: Structured annuity payouts (as a former lawyer and mediator of catastrophic personal injury claims, I believe this is a screw-job for the annuitant – gain in the short-term, loss in the long-term. Probably resonates with – or is an unfortunate necessity for - many Americans.)
    • Still-using addicts: Treatment Centers
    • The elderly (which they probably think is me now): Term Life Insurance. 50K to cover medical bills, funeral expenses and “something for the kids"? I don’t think so.

  • Traffic is just as bad. Even before the student influx (I live near U of A). What gives? Who are all these people and where are they going.

  • Trader Joe’s/Safeway: All kinds of non-old people. And they’re not college kids with “Juicy” on their butts – not yet anyway. Maybe because it is summer and teachers and others are off? Others on staycation? Someone still in their hospital garb – that makes sense. Not everyone works 9 to 5. But what DO they do and why are they out and about in the daytime on a weekday?  I’d love to do a survey just out of curiosity.

  • There are very few customers in Home Depot at 7:30 a.m. No one to help you though, as usual.

Not exactly Jane Goodall, but, hey, I’m an amateur.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Spontaneous Repairs

In 2008 when houses had recovered a bit from their owner’s delusions of grandeur and prices had regained a modicum of sanity - and before the crash -  I bought a house. I re-habbed the 760 sq. ft. baked-adobe Mission Revival house I bought when I was a waitress and  had been living in for about 30 years.  I wanted a bit more space – a place for visiting friends to stay over, a place for a dining room table so more than four people could eat together, and something that wasn’t across from what had turned into a quasi-industrial vibe (it used to be more like a park, before the county decided to cut down all the trees and recess the ball fields to make a retention basin for the 100 year flood – but that is another story).

Anyway, yesterday I got up with what is becoming the usual no-plan. Phone rang. It was my renter. I always have teensy panic when I see the phone number on the caller ID. I’m thinking: “Uh-oh, I’m going to have to think...and do something”. There was a small water drip starting under the kitchen sink. Whew. I have great renters – they call at the first sign rather than wait for it to become an emergency. “Sure, no-problem. I’ll call my handy man” thinking he can fix that and few things I’ve had on a list over here at my house for, oh, I don’t know, six months? But that was enough thinking. Spent the rest of the day mostly reading.

Today I wake expecting that  I’m going to have another day of no-thinking, but maybe I can at least rally enough to make the call. I do. He can to it – today, now. One call to renters to check that out and the repair is done an hour later. Over here, after two trips to Home Depot, done also. While my guy did his stuff I repaired the arm on a vintage chair that just came off (with just a small assist from his higher-quality drill). There was no swearing involved.

So, a lot got accomplished today. In spite of myself.

Before, when my time was more limited, this would have taken a number of calls, phone messages, planning, communicating…and perhaps a week to get scheduled and accomplished. And been an added stress.

Maybe life is going to be more like this now. I’ll have to recalibrate the home repair/timeline/frustration quotient.

Re-learning to Read and to Imagine

I did something unusual a few days ago - I read (part of) a book. I’m re-training my attention span for reading, which had become miniscule. With my head in email all day at work, a magazine article was about my limit. Going Alone: Women’s Adventures in the Wild, given to me by a friend who understands these things. It is a collection of short stories, so not too much of a first outing.

Got me imagining. Remembering (more of that early 90’s/early 40’s I talked about in “Getting Out There Again”). Pico de Orizaba in southeastern Mexico. Summit 18,500 feet. What do you think was up there? An iron lattice cross twice as tall as I am and a sizeable statue of La Virgen de Guadalupe. And incredible views and exhilaration.

As I was getting away from that lifestyle, I told myself “I want to do one more climb”. That never happened but the idea never really died, even as my age advanced and my fitness level waned.

I’ve kept up the basics, but one of my priorities for retirement is to regain a level of fitness I had abandoned. I’ve always done better with a reason to get/stay fit rather than exercise in-and-of-itself. Rock climbing, back-packing were always good incentives for whatever fitness regime I was engaging in in town during the week.

I also am in need of an adventure. An “outside the comfort zone” experience. I had been saving flight points for this, not really knowing where exactly. Several months ago I got an email from an outdoor adventure company I had traveled with before: they were running Himalayan trek trips. That stuck. I fanaticized. I researched. I doubted (are my knees up to this?).  November (the primary season) was just too soon. Trips take a lot of researching and planning and I wanted … rest.

The second season - spring, rhododendrons, fewer tourist (something I had usually opted for anyway). I doubted some more. A price deal arose – short timeline. So that last weekend between my last days of work (when I had A.D.D. – see “The Final Run-up” post) – deadline looming, I signed up.

Once on a trip to Chilean Patagonia (highly recommended, by the way) I had a casual conversation with a woman – probably around my age at the time – 41. She was working as a cook on a cargo ship that went from Punta Arenas (where we were) to Tierra del Fuego. That sounded so cool to me. Still does. I soooo wanted to just keep going even further south. Tierra del Fuego…Antarctica. I like to go to places with exotic names - part of the draw to Nepal – “Kathmandu”… “Annapurna” … how can these places NOT capture the imagination.

So, I’m re-learning to read. And to imagine. And to do what I imagine.