Saturday, May 29, 2010

My cat Larisa got her haircut yesterday. She'd accumulated a bulky coat so slowly over the months that by the time I realized it, it was out of control. This haircut gives us a chance to start over, with a comb on a short velvety coat.

At work, with 19 more days until I leave my job, I'm divesting myself slowly as well. I've gone through most of my desk drawers - throwing some things away and taking a few items home each day. And on my computer I'm deleting. It feels like I'm getting a work haircut of sorts.

At home, the paperwork frenzy is slowing as the retirement paperwork has reached its destination and the pensions are showing up in the bank account. Next month I'll start going through the file cabinet, shredding old payroll reports and company letters, descriptions of benefits and annual evaluations. And old bank statements and credit card statements now that most of it is online.

Larisa and I are moving more freely now, not so encumbered by stuff we've been lugging around that we don't need.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I have a friend who says, "Don't squander your time in retirement." I've been thinking about that. Here's what I did today - with 21 more work days until I leave my job.

First, I stopped feeling sorry for Larisa, my Siberian forest cat. We got her last June, and she lived indoors until last month when all of a sudden she decided to be an indoor/outdoor, indoor/outdoor, indoor/outdoor cat. She's got long hair and she can't keep up with grooming herself. And I feel guilty when I feel a mat in her coat. Like I ought to be able to fix that. So I comb a section of her every night. But I can't keep up either. So I've squandered enough time feeling guilty, and today I made an appointment for Larisa with the groomer. She's going to get a lion cut. She'll feel like velvet and she'll lose about three pounds of hair and I'll lose about 20 pounds of guilt.

Then, I cancelled my subscription to the magazine, "The Nation". It looked like a magazine I'd like, but there are about six issues in my magazine rack and I don't have the heart to throw them away, but I probably won't read them either. The layout is too dense for me, and the topic is a bit too heavy. So I let go of the guilt, called their Customer Service department, and cancelled the subscription. Several trees will sigh with relief.

Finally - and I admit this is embarassing - I harvested my Farmville grapes and didn't replant. The field is fallow. Farmville (on Facebook) is a safe place, where I have complete control over everything. But I feel guilty when I spend time on my farm. It's pure escape. And my life is interesting enough that I don't need to escape. So - at least for today - I won't be a farmer.

I'm looking at time. I'll have more freed up once I'm not working, but I'll have exactly the same number of hours in a day as I do now. I want to use it well, not squander it on guilt.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Only 24 more work days. I said this to Art last night and he said, "You're talking about it so much, you must be afraid of something." I thought about that.

Possible fears:

1. Not having enough money. Nope, most days I'm okay with what the spreadsheets and the financial advisor tell me.

2. Not having enough to do. Probably not. I'm a lifelong reader. Just this week I bought a Kindle so I don't have to lug books and magazines in my suitcase. Also, I discovered, to my delight, that I can enlarge the font on the display. So "Noah's Compass" is entirely visible. And I have classes to take in teaching English as a Second Language and in mediation. Plus, the web is a constant tool for my continuing curiosity. And we'll be travelling. So far we have eight trips planned between July 1 and May 1 - some only three days, some longer.

3. Not seeing enough people. That's a possibility. Most of the time I'm content to stay in contact with friends via email or blog or Facebook, but at present that might be because I spend my workdays with multiple people around me. I'll need to take myself to places where I can get that same experience. Maybe the public library for a book club.

4. Losing my mental edge. That could eventually happen as I get older. In the meantime, I've promised myself to work a Sudoku daily, to read daily, and to find a way to retain my analysis skills on the computer or in the world. That part is up to me.

So I don't think I'm afraid.

Art and I went to our local cafe for our usual Saturday morning breakfast. I told Voula, the proprietor, about my 24 days and Art's comment about my being afraid. She said, "No, Art. Linda is saying 24 days because SHE CAN HARDLY WAIT."

She's got that right.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Over Labor Day weekend in 2008, Art and I traveled from our home in Seattle to Asheville, NC to attend a seminar called Paths to Creative Retirement. It was a life-shifter for us. I recognized a couple of things: (1) the only thing I don't like about the Pacific Northwest is January. If we are gone during that month, we don't need to move after retirement. A major realization! (2) My fear of being a bag lady was self-imprisonment in a job I no longer enjoyed, but I had options.

Retirement was nearing, and I started planning. I found a website called Second Journey. Their mission is "Mindfulness, Service, and Community in the Second Half of Life." Right up our alley as we prepared for our post-work lives.

The current edition of their newsletter arrived this week. I saw a trip they're offering: Slow Travel in Italy - Orvieto, Assisi and Florence, with an extension to Rome. We'd planned a walking holiday in Italy for next spring, but this October 2010 journey looked irresistible. It includes what are called Conversational Interludes - deliberate conversations to consider these questions: "Who am I?" "What do I love?" "How, then, should I live?" "What is my gift to the Family of the Earth?"

A first trip to Italy is not in our budget for this year. My Bag Lady was laughing out loud. I admitted this today to my friend Sharon. She said, "Tell your Bag Lady where to get off. Ask her whether, when she's old, she'd rather be sitting on her porch with a bunch of memories in her head or a bunch of money in her lap."

What could I say? Art agreed. He said, "We're not always going to want to travel, or even be able to. We should do it now." He doesn't usually have an opinion on these musings of mine - but when he does, I always listen.

I filled out the application and wrote a check for the deposit. We're going to Italy in October!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Art and I are using wood chips to cover bare and weedy areas on our property so we'll have a riparian environment for the neighborhood birds. Some chips are from loads dumped by tree toppers, and some are from branches in our yard processed through our own chipper.

Our neighbors have chickens next to the property line. Two days ago Flower, one of the chickens, died. I was home in the afternoon, and my neighbor Jennie and I discussed over the corpse of the bird what the problem could have been. Both of us Googled unsuccessfully. Today Jennie told me she and her husband Jason had autopsied the hen in their side yard. In the crop of the bird's body they found a mass of wood chips. I remembered we'd chipped branches last weekend and some of the chips had landed in the chicken yard. Several of the hens had begun scratching in the chips immediately. Apparently Flower had eaten some.

We felt terrible and offered to pay for Flower's replacement, but Jennie said no. She'd seen us with the chipper, knew some had gone into the henyard, and done nothing. None of us knew they'd be dangerous for chickens.

We live and learn in our neighborhood.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Today at work I felt invisible. With no client crises, I worked on routine tasks and spent time documenting "what I do" so my teammates can pick up my assignments after June 25. I'm still pretty sure they'll be surprised to find out what I've been doing, and there will be some short-term flailing, but that won't be my concern unless they ask questions between now and when I leave.

Are people ignoring me? My walking buddy Ken says it's human nature to prepare yourself for a departure, so maybe my colleagues have no unfriendly intent and I'm not being deliberately avoided. But that's how it feels. Like high school on a bad day.

For myself, I'd rather be leaving the workplace this Friday rather than six Fridays from now. My reason for staying is the acquisition of 20 years of service so I'll have the option to collect a pension any time between July 1 and three years from now when I turn 65. It's not out of company loyalty, for sure, though it was a good place to work for many years. I wouldn't have been there since 1990 otherwise. If I knew for absolute certainty I wouldn't need a full age-65 pension, I would be gone already. But, non-risk taker that I am, I'm playing it safe - or at least it looks safe to me.

I took a sick leave day yesterday, and I'm taking a vacation day tomorrow. Art and I are already sliding into retirement mode together. We ordered cat doors, and two more Adirondack chairs, and we're looking at the emails that arrive weekly from multiple travel sites. We know our time will mostly be our own. And that is an incredible freedom. So I expect the next six weeks will be a mixed bag of delight and depression.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I'm supposed to train my colleagues before I leave my job. Yesterday we had a meeting to divvy up my work. My two teammates said they'd do it all. And when I asked how they'd like to be trained, they said to just write down what I do!

I'm sure that's not enough. They need to know what I know. I've talked to three people about this since yesterday, and everyone says the same thing. "Write it down and walk away."

At first I was miffed because I thought they'd be doing our clients a disservice by not providing the level of service I have given. But as I thought more about it, I realized it's a matter of pride. I have given three years of my life to this project, and I wish my colleagues wanted to hear what's important. Like if they don't want to hear it now, it's never been important, and neither have I. So, as usual, it's about me. I know what to do when that happens, so I'll do what's been suggested: write it down and walk away.

I'm taking a day of sick leave today, as I won't be paid for it if I leave it unused. This morning Art and I walked to our neighborhood cafe for breakfast, listening to the birds on the otherwise quiet neighborhood streets. I commented that some people take vacations to come to places like this just to experience what we have around us every day at this time of year. After breakfast I sat in my new Adirondack chair on the deck in the morning sun. It's wonderful to think it will be an optional activity for me every day after June 25.

We've planted our spring garden, and our back easement has been cleared of blackberries and buttercups and morning glory and replanted with native species. We have ten pavers and I want to use them to make a curved path to the easement so I can take a chair down there and commune with my neighbors' chickens.

It's very quiet during the day in our neighborhood. I used to avoid quiet. Now I love it. Good thing, too, since I'll be hearing the quiet more often.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I got an Adirondack chair for Mother's Day.

I've wanted one of these chairs for the longest time. I think I sat in one once on a trip to Maine, and I love Maine. I almost ordered one from LL Bean, but then Art found one, unfinished and unpainted, for $29.99 at Home Depot. After he put it together today, I carried it to the upstairs deck and tried it out. It fits me just right.

We had a glorious Pacific Northwest springtime day today - sunny, in the 60s. Now that I'm just about retired, I'm trying to get outside when the sun comes out, and take care of other things - like laundry and the filing - when it's rainy or dark. Today I filled the wheelbarrow seven or so times with wood chips - dumped near the street this week by a tree trimmer who was grateful for a place to put them - and spread them over cardboard on the back of our property. We're reclaiming that part from the blackberries and the buttercups and the other invasive weeds. By the time I'd shoveled and spread seven times, I was tired, so I lay down for half an hour or so, then went to get a haircut. When I got back, I did another two loads. Tonight I'm sore, but boy, do I feel virtuous! I deserve some time in an Adirondack chair.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to have my coffee on the deck, sit in my new chair, and read one of the many magazines stacked up in the basket. Once I stop working next month, I'd like to read a magazine every day until I'm caught up. That will be easy if the magazine is AARP or even Budget Traveler - not so easy if it's The Atlantic or Time. But I don't mind making an effort in the reading department.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I turned in my resignation at work today.

May 4, 2010

Dear Mr. Daybell:

I am writing this letter to inform you of my separation from service from WSIPC. My last day of work will be June 25, 2010.

I have enjoyed working with and learning from my colleagues for the past twenty years, and I'm proud to have served our client community. I am ready to move on to the next phase of my life.

I will be working with my teammates and department management for the next seven weeks to make the transition as smooth as possible.


Linda Granholm Myers

I am so ready!

I talked to my stepdaughter Melissa this afternoon. She and her husband Scott will be coming to visit family over Labor Day. I told her they are welcome to stay with us, as usual. And that Art and I will be available for activities during the day, since we'll both be retired.

And tonight, I ordered two tickets to a play called "The Thin Place" - a world premiere of a play written by a Seattle playwright, about Seattle people. The theatre is small and there's no such thing as a bad seat. I bought the cheapest ones, in deference to my Bag Lady.

Life is good.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I belong to a writers group, and we're currently working on a collaborative project - an "abcdarium". Each of us has committed to write 200-500 words on a state of mind beginning with a particular letter of the alphabet. I wrote on boredom, generosity, loneliness, and vitality.

I had a terrible time with boredom. It took three drafts before I finally have something I can live with. Here it is.


I rarely experience boredom. I made a list recently of what bores me, and I was surprised by what I found. The items are mostly small-talk conversational topics: what people did over the weekend or ate for lunch; cute and original sayings of their kids or grandkids; a great new recipe; their latest needlepoint or quilting or scrapbooking project. I prefer intentional conversations to small talk, and I’m not crafty. So my boredom list makes sense.

When I travel, I get bored after visiting the first couple of cathedrals, museums, pagodas or mosques. Even archaeological excavation sites can be boring after I’ve seen a few. I love to travel, so I’m embarrassed by this admission. But more than once I’ve passed up the opportunity to visit just one more example of something wonderful - and talked to a local instead.

When I’m bored, it’s not because I have nothing to do. I’d just rather be doing something more purposeful.

I’m a busy woman. I live by my to-do list and I get satisfaction from crossing items off the list – and from adding more items to it. The list is a reflection of my active life. Right now my to-list includes updating a spreadsheet of financial resources, ordering season tickets to the theatre, signing up for a fitness program, enrolling in mediation training, making the final payment on a September schooner cruise, writing an article about my potbellied pig, and planning a trip to Nebraska to visit my great grandfather’s family farm.

Recently, I’ve been experimenting on weekends with keeping the to-do list short on purpose, and I’ve found unexpected pleasure in the random activities that come along – walks in new neighborhoods where I chat with people I’ve never met, phone conversations with people I haven’t seen recently, a visit with a neighbor that turns into helping to fertilize a small garden.

The activities I pursue may be planned or spontaneous, but they engage my mind, or pique my curiosity, or exercise my body, or satisfy my spirit. But I know these same activities may be boring to someone else.

I have an old friend who tells me I’m too busy. “You should slow down and relax,” she says. “Why do you always have to be doing something?” She’s been retired for several years and says she’s joined the “idle and proud of it” club. She has a good brain and a healthy body. I would expect her to be as active in her life as I am in mine. From my perspective, her life seems boring. Just out of curiosity, I may ask her what boredom looks like to her. I expect to be surprised!