Posts Tagged With: friends

Thursday Thoughts on Balancing Blogging, Other Writing, and Life

I haven’t been writing the blog every day — and was worrying about that.  But then I realized that my worrying was pretty stupid, really.

I mean, the goal of daily writing was my own.  It works out sometimes, but lately it hasn’t.  I’ve been running the road, and then I’ve been cocooning.  Sometimes I don’t have anything to write about, and to push it would be ridiculous.  My schedule, after all, is my own — and so are my goals.  It’s okay, I’ve admitted, to take short breaks from some things, like blogging.

What really is the purpose of the blog?  Communication, mainly.  And my needs to communicate aren’t always the same.  Nor are my days always the same.  Or my ability to get internet service.

I guess I’m saying I am adapting yet once more to myself and my life.

There are so many things to consider, to discuss with friends, to do.  Time to visit and linger.  Time for crafts and hobbies.  Time for family.  For travel. And many things to write about.

But some days, like today, I’m just sort of blank.  This week has been about so many little things.  That’s not bad, not at all.  I have time for all of those “little things” now, time that doesn’t have to be carved from precious spare time, from teaching and grading.  Sometimes, even in retirement, a little break is absolutely necessary.

I’ve been doing a bit of housework.  I’ve had regular doctors’ appointments to keep, meetings to make.  I’ve met my friend Myra to make jewelry (and will again this afternoon).  I’ve been meaning to call and schedule a repairman/service call for my refrigerator because the freezer isn’t working properly, but I’ve put it off until today — when the washer decided to join the “I don’t want to work” list.  The agitator isn’t agitating.  It just jerks.  So I made the call — for the two jobs — and next Thursday I’ll be waiting.  I want to apply for my Social Security benefits, so I looked for my Social Security card, which I’ve had for decades.  Can’t find it.  It’s put up somewhere so safe that it is hiding from me.  But I can’t get a replacement card because of the government shut-down.  However, I can still make an appointment and apply for benefits without it, so I did.  

Some days, I think I spend more time scheduling things or making phone calls than anything else.  Sometimes I can’t even manage that — for example, I’ve been trying to call my pharmacy to order refills for two hours now, but when I try, the line is always busy.  

This is a week where I’ve frantically searched for missing things — like my Social Security card — without any luck.  That list includes two rings that are very precious to me, not for their actual value but for sentimental reasons.  My frustration level has not eased.  I am berating myself pretty regularly for my carelessness. On the other hand, I’ve found the legal papers I was looking for. Guess I’m batting .300 or so, at least this week.  Some weeks it’s better; some it’s worse.

Organizing and straightening always occupy part of my time.  This week has been no different.  I spent some time in the office trying to group together things, trying to label things so that I can easily put my hands on them.  But when you couple that with looking for items you can’t locate . . . doubly frustrating.  I don’t want to destroy the place looking for things, so I try to be methodical and organize as I go.  Mild success, as in Monopoly where I at least Pass Go.

In the meantime, I’ve managed to read a lot.  I’ve worked on jewelry and made some things with the precious metal clay. Last night I went to the first monthly meeting of our new local Silver Clay group.  We hope to share our learning and our new addiction.  Yesterday,  my second kiln firing was both success and failure — thus an opportunity for learning more.  I fired six pieces at the same time yesterday — two pendant and earrings sets.  One pendant broke, as did two earrings — but not a matching set.  I’ve kept the pieces so that I can try to find out what caused this.  I am, after all, a rank newbie at this, and not having a digital kiln is a handicap.  I can see a purchase in the future. . . but for now I’m waiting for a digital pyrometer that I ordered.  In the meantime, I’ll make some more things and use the butane torch.  It’s all part of the learning curve.  Plus I’m keeping a notebook about this so that I can see what I’ve done, what works, and what doesn’t.  Without analysis, how will I know?  My analytical mind at least still functions, trained in decades of teaching and grading.  This afternoon, I’ll meet Myra and take my wires and stones and work on earrings as well as wire-wrapping stones and cabochons. 

Regular domestic chores, playtime, visiting with friends, planning on family weekend and shopping for cooking for that.  That’s this week.  Tonight I’ll have to cook and chop chicken breasts for chicken salad as well as boil potatoes for potato salad — both of which I’ll actually finally put together at the farm after I get there tomorrow.  At least nine of us will show up there tomorrow, so the small kitchen gets crowded fast.  Using the stove and oven gets to be a trick with all of us working.  If I arrive with the cooking part done, then all I have to do is assemble the two salads, which can then be refrigerated.  The potato salad will actually get assembled on Saturday morning, right before the reunion, which is at lunchtime.  

I’ve got to pack for the weekend too, and load that into the truck.  Since I’ll be hauling back a riding lawn mower, I need the truck and tie-downs for this trip — and then on Sunday I’ll drive to Egan to unload the mower.  And switch vehicles.

Not that I’m complaining — I’m just amazed, as I frequently am:  just how, I often ponder, did I manage to work?  Of course then my stress levels were at DANGER WILL ROBINSON level — there isn’t a red color strong enough to label my stress levels.  Those are nearly non-existent now.  It’s funny — I always heard people saying this, and now I’m one of those people.  But it’s true, you know?  Time is now mine — but it fills up so fast!  And the calendar has dates filled in; nearly every week has something to prepare for.

In the end, though, I’m savoring all of it.  That I can wake up, decide to go back to sleep, and just get up when I’m ready still is such a treat.  That I can stay up all night reading — without having to haul myself out of bed the next morning to teach classes and go to the office — is a joy.  If I want to come here to my home office, type or work on papers or bills or make phone calls and notes — fine.  The pets follow me and keep me company.  If I want to wash dishes or put on laundry — I can do that whenever (except now, when the washer’s gone on shutdown along with the government).  Some days the sheer opportunity to live in my house, to go from room to room and chore to chore, with breaks for reading or naps — just a new and wonderful experience.  Before May 2011, I still had chores and personal errands and appointments, but I also had to teach and grade and see students and take care of Dad.  

Now — for the first time ever, I think, other than occasional vacation weeks or weekends — I am simply living in my house.  It isn’t a place where I sleep and crash after work and/or between semesters.  No it is part of my life in a very different and interesting way.  It’s easy to fall into the hibernation mode where I stay home and work and sleep and play.  Sometimes, I think if I didn’t have to get to the grocery store and pet store I might never leave the house.  Sometimes, I joke (sort of), I know that I could be one of those cat-ladies who never leave home.  I’d just have to have dogs with my cats.  

My hibernation mode never lasts more than a week at best, and usually only a few days — but now I can indulge it.  Home is, for the first time, truly the center of my life.  I go out from it to the world, and come back to it, and it’s all new.

I’m sure I’ll write most days, though perhaps not on the blog every day.  The blog is still an important part of my new life.  I have manuscripts I want to revise, too, and submit.  And editing/writing jobs occasionally.  But the blog is a kind of publication, really, one that is welcome.

Balancing all the elements that make up my life is an ever-changing, on-going process.  But without the element of teaching/grading/working for a living — not really stressful.  

I’ve blithered on enough for today about blogging and life. 

Time to gather up my supplies and go outside, get in the truck, and head for McDonald’s to meet Myra.  Then grocery store time so that I can cook tonight while I watch television and pack.

Since the farm seems to exist in a near-black hole as far as cell towers are concerned, I hope to blog from there.  If I can’t manage that, I’ll be back on Monday.

Blog on.




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It’s All Relative and Friendly

It’s Labor Day weekend, and I’m at Crystal Beach, enjoying the beach house that my sister and I rebuilt last year. One of the pleasures — even joys — of having this new place is more room — and private room — to host family and friends.

Not that I couldn’t do that in the previous one, but it was only about 650 square feet in one room with a kitchen in it and a bathroom. You know the term “open concept”? That was the layout. It had a double bed, two twin beds, and a futon. If you wanted privacy, forget it. You just had to retreat into a book and your own head.

Here, though, in 825 square feet, Kay and I have 3 bedrooms, one bath, and a kitchen/living room. With a double bed in each bedroom (and a sleeper chair in addition, in one), and a double-size sleeper sofa, we can accommodate 9, depending on sleeping arrangements.

Sometimes we are here together, as this Labor Day weekend. Sometimes, Kay comes down. Other times, I’m here. We’ve both had friends stay with us.

And this time, we have had not only a friend but relatives.

I came over on Thursday, and our cousin Barbara and her husband Herb followed me; they’d been in Lake Charles overnight. Kay arrived a couple of hours after we did. Barbara and Herb and I had lunch, then rode down the beach for miles, looking at the beach houses and observing the many flocks of brown pelicans up and down the beach. Some groups of them were on the beach with terns and cow-birds. Others swirled overhead, dive-bombing into the Gulf to snatch fish out of the schools near the surface.

We rode, we stopped, we looked. We laughed a lot. There was a running commentary about the houses, the colors, the designs.

Kay had brought homemade tamales from Zwolle, Louisiana (home of the Zwolle Tamale Festival). We feasted.

Friday morning, coffee and doughnuts from Dannay’s. More laughter, more fun. Barbara and Herb packed up and left for Houston, where they were going to see their son play with the band he’s in.

By mid-afternoon, our friend Charles drove up. I’ve known Charles for 56 years — we moved into the Egan SunOil camp on his birthday in 1957. We started first grade together; we graduated high school together. Our parents moved houses onto lots across the street from each other when the camp was broken up. Now that all our parents are dead, we still have those houses.

Lots of time for tamales and cheese dip, naps, and various adult beverages.

Saturday was very slow and lazy. We did some shopping. We visited. We sat on the deck. But mainly we just hung out together. Didn’t want to waste our energy — we knew we’d be going to Galveston. That’s because last night we had tickets for a concert in Galveston. Going over about 5:30 was perfect — no lines. The concert was at 8; Robert Earl Keen played a solid two hours. By 11 we were back at Crystal Beach — again, no lines at all at the ferry. The timing was perfect — we drove right onto the ferry with no wait.

Over the last couple of days, lots of people have crowded the beaches here, seeking the last free weekend before schools really absorb them. I’ve avoided the beach — too crowded. Many of our neighbors have also come in, pulling out their golf carts and firing up grills. Music wafts in from many streets away at times. It’s lively, to say the least.

But us? We’re pretty low-key. We talk and laugh and eat and nap.

Today, we woke up whenever we wanted, drank coffee an diet Coke, munched on breakfast stuff. There was no agenda, other than a visit from another cousin.

For lunch, my cousin Carolyn and her husband Larry drove over from League City. Again more laughter and lots of chatter. We told stories about our family, about our mothers, our grandmother. Carolyn and Larry decided not to fight the long multiple lanes of waiting lines at the ferry and left to drive back via I-10 instead.

You can roast in those lines. And spent far more times than you want. I know; I’ve done it before, and will do it again, when necessary. Obviously, there were lots of people heading over here to the beach today. Another reason I’ve stayed home today, other than going out to lunch.

By afternoon, I was sleepy. I took my iPad and lay down under a quilt, read for a while, and dozed. Periodically, I’d get up, wander to the bathroom or kitchen. By six, it was time to rise and join the world.

In between, we watched television. This afternoon, for instance, we’ve watched several Alfred Hitchcock films. At least Kay and Charles have; I’ve napped. Dinner is over.

And Psycho is now on. Can’t stand the shower scene. But I watch nonetheless.

Tomorrow we’ll pack up, clean the house, and leave for now. Others will be doing the same. I know I’ll be back next weekend.

This house was built for such times. Not only for Kay and me. It’s a place where we relax completely. And we entertain.

Our house doesn’t compare to some others — even on our street. It’s modest. Others are much larger, more ornate, more expensive. But it suits us. Not too much to maintain.
One of the reasons I bought the original place in 1997 was that I could sit on the street in my car and hear the surf. I could see the beach. Once I saw the place from inside and the deck, I could seek the potential. True, there was no insulation. The plywood walls were dark. But it was close enough to the beach. And I could paint.

And so the place came to be mine. The furniture came with it. I painted. I bought some new dishes and brought things to make it mine. I bought sheets and bedspreads. With a television, a DVR, and a CD player/radio, it offered entertainment too.

I spent New Years 1999/2000 here with friends, watching fireworks and drinking champagne. Dad spent time here with me, with Kay. I have wonderful memories of our family here.

When Hurricane Ike hit here and left me with what I called “the lovely slab,” I didn’t really want to rebuild. Not then. But I didn’t sell the lot, either. I couldn’t afford to, and I didn’t really want to. I loved coming here; I always had. So I kept the lot, eventually bought a used camper trailer, moved it here, and enjoyed more beach time with Dad and Kay.

Many times Kay and I talked about rebuilding, and though we didn’t we knew that one day that would happen. Dad knew too.

So last year, we did. And we spent our first Christmas without Dad here, beginning a new family tradition.

This place is new, but it’s filled with old memories — from summers with my grandmother who used to rent down here, from the times spent here until Ike wiped it out. The furniture is a mixture of old, new, and repurposed from flea markets and estate sales and antique stores. When Kay asks about moving something here that one of us already owns, I ask here whether she can stand to watch it wash away or disappear (after all, another hurricane is always a possibility). Usually, she decides not to move it here if it’s really something sentimental.

Now, though– we continue to put our touches on this place. Today, for example, we got a wrench — didn’t have one, but we didn’t need one either. We’ve got a drill, but I know we need a set of tools here. That’s on the list of “things to get,” which grows.

But we fill the place with new memories too. Every time we visit, together or alone. With friends. With relatives.

Whether the houses around us are large or small, ornate or plain, this area has rebuilt. It’s living again. It’s got its groove back.

Tomorrow I’ll head back to Lake Charles.

It’s only a two-hour drive, and the road runs both ways. There’s always more time, more time for visits with family and friends.

Barbara and I are already planning on a visit when she and Herb will come down to meet me here — with their daughter, her husband, and their two babies. We’ll hope to get her brother Jim here too since he lives on the island.

Time to savor those family ties, those friendships.


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Baby Boomer Caregiving

My friend Charles and I are not alone. We were the primary caregivers for our respective parents. I had sibling help — my sister Kay was my much-valued tag-team caregiver. Charles, though, is an only child.

Charles is six months older than I; we’ve been friends since his sixth birthday in January 1957, when my family moved to the Sun Oil camp in Egan, Louisiana. We started school together; we graduated high school together. Our parents ended up buying land and moving houses, living across the street from each other. My mother died in July 1993; his dad died in December that year. He became a full-time caregiver for his mother in 2009 or so. I was part-time caregiver for my dad at that point, but became full-time by 2010.

My point? We were born in 1951. We’re baby boomers. Between 1946-1964 nearly 74 million of us were born. In 2011, the first baby boomers turned 65. We’re living longer. We’re redefining retirement.

We’re also increasingly part-time or full-time caregivers for our parents (or other relatives). According to the MetLife Study of Caregiving (, almost 10 million adult children over 50 are now caregivers for aging parents, and the number grows daily.

It’s an interesting study, one well worth spending time with. Lots of statistics there might surprise a reader. Certainly an eye-opener is the financial cost for caregivers: nearly thee trillion dollars in estimated lost wages, pension and Social Security benefits. That’s startling. I was more fortunate than many: I was close enough to live with Dad and commute to work for a number of months before I retired and moved in full-time. I had a flexible job (teaching at university). I had the support system available in the small town I grew up in. My sister lives 3 hours away and was (and is) still working. She was my tag-team partner.

We had no long-term care insurance, but Dad had Medicare and Social Security and no mortgage. Charles’s mother had long-term care insurance that had been beneficial but was eventually not renewable (she had purchased it when it was a new product, and terms have since changed). Her savings and Social Security and Medicare then filled in.

By the time Charles retired, he needed to live with his mother to help defray hired caregivers. As he puts it, he had “the night shift.”

I never got to the point of having to look for hired caregivers — Dad was still mobile, still driving, for quite a while. When he was no longer able to drive to dialysis, I had help from a friend. I was lucky — the caregivers I knew were actually already working, for Charles.

Having friends so close was wonderful. We were (and continue to be) each other’s support system, or at least part of it. We shared stories, suggestions, talked about Home Health care and hospice. We shared mowing equipment. We shared laughter.

In addition, I spent a lot of time on the internet while Dad was sleeping or in dialysis. I read for pleasure, certainly. I played word games like Scrabble or Words with Friends. However, I also searched out what I could find from other caregivers’ stories online.

Many baby boomer children don’t live as close in proximity to their aging parents, and thus have to arrange many things long-distance, relying on others, hired and otherwise. They must take time off from work and travel to their parents’ homes. And if, as is the case, many of them are also caring for their children, they are what are known as “the sandwich generation.” That would be where my sister fits in. I lived 45 minutes away from Dad. While he was working, Charles lived in Houston, several hours away from Egan. Between us, we fit a lot of different descriptions for baby-boomer caregivers.

I still look at websites about caregiving; I still read about it. While I am no longer a caregiver, I still have residual interests and issues that are directly related to it.

Once you’ve been a caregiver, I think, you’re changed, for better or worse. For both, if I’m honest. Certainly there are difficult times, physically, financially, and emotionally. If parents don’t have adequate secondary health insurance in addition to Medicare, their children often pick up financial responsibilities. Second mortgages on homes may result. Savings get tapped into. Searching for various agencies that provide assistance can be frustrating.

Becoming a caregiver is often gradual. Certainly that was my case. My dad was fiercely independent. Even in his 80s, on dialysis, he drove himself three times a week for the three-plus hours that kept him alive. He had stents. He had triple-bypass surgery. And three months after that triple-bypass surgery, he was in a ground deer-blind, with his gun, ready to hunt. He didn’t get anything, but that wasn’t the point. He was determined to keep as much of his life in control as possible.

He knew he was slowing down. His attitude was frankly amazing, though — good-hearted, with humor, and a no-bullshit approach to reality. He didn’t have to like it, and he’d express frustration. As he weakened, he was more vocal about being “useless” when he couldn’t help out with yardwork, or climbing a ladder, or doing something he was used to doing.

He was more forgetful — I began going to doctor’s appointments with him. I had power of attorney. I kept track of medicine. I managed more and more. By the time he was on oxygen and had to carry his tank with him everywhere, I was the driver. I’d drive us to the family farm in East Texas. As I’d drive, we’d talk and laugh if he didn’t nap. It was nice, he admitted, to be the passenger for a change — he got to enjoy the scenery. He’d grin and chuckle – – telling me he had a pretty good chauffeur.

I am only one of millions of baby boomer caregivers. Yet I wonder about what will happen when it’s my turn: I have no children. Some of my friends and I laugh about needing to set up our own commune (yes, you can tell we’re baby boomers!), complete with an on-site nurse. Yet it’s a serious concern, one worth planning for. I don’t have long-term care insurance. I’ve got a defined pension. I’ll have Medicare and my state insurance will become secondary. I’ll have a tiny bit of Social Security (because I worked for Louisiana, which doesn’t contribute to Social Security, I will have my minimum Social Security benefits that I qualify for docked at least 40%). I have a house with no mortgage, and other real estate that I could, if necessary, liquidate. I have an IRA. I’ve bought an annuity. Somehow, I hope, I’ll be able to piece together enough for my own care. And I would be willing to live in a retirement center, if necessary.

That’s long-term, I hope. Dad was not quite 90 when he died. His older sister is 92 now, and still lives alone. Their last aunt died in 2010, nearly 105 years old. She lived by herself until her 99th year.

I hope that I can approach my life (and my death) with the fortitude, honesty, and attitude that my dad did. With the patience and lack of complaint that my mother did. That would be honoring them and their examples.

And I hope I can continue to laugh, as they did, almost to the end. Oh, and dance around the house (even if it’s more like shuffling after awhile) while I clean house or cook — listening to music and singing — as my grandmother did.

Pretty amazing examples, when I think of it.

Time for some music, I think.

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My House is a Very, Very, Very Fine House

Post-retirement, I am discovering that my house is new to me again.  I’ve lived in this house for almost 27 years now, longer than I’ve ever lived in any house.  It’s different now.  In a good way, but different.  Being in a place all the time means that you relate to it in a wholly new and total manner.

My house is a 1920s cottage, on piers.  Its floors aren’t quite even.  Nothing’s exact.  The ceilings are 10 1/2 feet tall.  Some rooms have oak floors.  Some have linoleum or vinyl.  The original clawfoot bathtub is still here.

It’s not just that there’s new siding (three years ago), or a new addition (six years ago), or a new roof.  It’s not just the color (it’s now neutral beige, the color of the siding, but will be painted soon in a color similar to the original).  It’s not the new insulation, or the completely new pipes.  Or the central air/heat (I had that put in sometime in the 1990s). It’s not the new low-e windows that replaced the old windows.

Nor is it the ongoing renovations inside (sometimes I think they’ll never end).  Right now, the kitchen renovation is in a holding pattern.  One of the two new kitchen wall cabinets is sitting in my living room; the other is in a workshop.  At some point in the next month (I hope), these will replace the ones on the wall.  They look similar, but are sturdier and will be fresher.

No, it’s not the physical house itself, not at all.  It’s me.  Or rather, it’s me in the house now, post-retirement, as in no longer working.  The closest I’ve come is when I’ve been home between semesters or in summers.  Those times, though, were mere tastes of what it is like now.

I am in the house now full-time, without having to dress and drive to school, operating out of my office.  Now, I can wake up as I wish, dress when I need to do so, and leave only when I want/need to.  Sometimes, I get up and meet friends for breakfast at McDonald’s, or for coffee at Starbucks.  I can stay home all day if I want.  I don’t leave the animals alone day after day while I teach.  I’m with them a lot.  My life is in this house, with some time spent out to socialize.  But not to work somewhere else.  If I work (on a writing project, on jewelry, on a lecture-discussion series), I am usually here (though not always).

Mostly, I find that I wake up maybe by 7 or 8 a.m. and read CNN and The New York Times and The Times of London online.  I put clothes on to wash and dry.  I sweep and mop the dog room; I deal with kitty litter.  Maybe I wash dishes.  Sometimes I crawl back into bed to read.  Sometimes I watch television.

Today that’s just what I did.  Plus call in refills at the pharmacy.  And then I finished sorting three months’ worth of mail.  Now I just have to haul the garbage bag of mail detritus out to the garbage can, along with other garbage bags from house-cleaning.

At some point, I move to my office (where I am now) and work on my blog, or on other writing projects.  Right now, I’ve started re-organizing my office.  While I was gone, my friend Patty (who watched the house and the cats several times a week) moved some furniture for me (thanks to her son Mark, who added more muscle).  Now I’m re-organizing what I need to fit into the bookcase and wall unit.  And straightening out my lovely new desk (thanks to Adam Williams, my friend who built it).  Once that desk is straight, I’ll move on to the desk I use for jewelry projects. Right now it’s just a landing zone.  Progress is slow, but the office I envision is emerging.  Yesterday I cleared off the shelves in the bookcase and wall unit.  Some boxes and cases are back on the wall unit.  Now there are some boxes on the floor (which was clear), but those are today’s project.

My bedroom will get some attention too — I’ll make the bed up before I leave.  It’s always a treat to come home to a neat bed.  In the past, I often didn’t have the time (or get up early enough) to manage that.  I’ve already started putting up clean clothes.  Today, though, I need to pack for a few days at the beach.

My friend Connie and are were talking about this yesterday, when I dropped over to visit her briefly.  Now that we’re retired, we decided, we actually live in our places.  Full-time.

And I’m discovering that I really like that difference.  I am here, full-on, and enjoying being here, as opposed to in an office at school, or at work.

It’s an indulgence I’ve never had.  Maybe I wouldn’t have liked it if I’d always been a stay-at-home person, but that wasn’t my lot.  Now I appreciate the place and the time and the opportunity to just be here in my own home.

One of the things I’ve always loved about my house is the space and the large windows that let in lots of light.  In my years here, I’ve had many parties and entertained many friends.  That stopped for a long time, when I simply didn’t have the energy.  Those were the years when my mother and brother were ill, and after they died.  Sometimes I’d have a few people over, but not on the regular basis that I once did.

And I don’t really want huge parties here.  I do want to have friends over, with music pouring out and food and laughter.  That’s one of the things this house seems made for.

Years ago, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young recorded “Our House” on their album Deja Vu, and these lyrics have always resonated for me:

“Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy. . . .”

Their lyrics really captured what I always saw as my ideal house — comfortable, eclectic, with pets and friends and food and music.  A place where all my friends felt welcome to drop in.  When I saw this house the first time, viewing it as a prospective buyer, I heard those lines in my head and knew it was my house.  The light hit just right.  I felt at home.

It was my joy to have parties, to entertain.  Friends came over for dinner.  I had barbeques in the backyard.  I had Christmas-tree-trimming parties.  Friends brought their children for Halloween trick-or-treating; adults came for what my friends Pam and Frank call Trick-or-Drinking.  Decorating was fun.  Nothing was too matchy-matchy.  Most of my furniture was hand-me-downs from family.  Occasionally I bought furniture.

When I felt like it, I’d move not only furniture within a room, but sometimes simply move entire rooms of furniture, deciding that I wanted my bedroom in another room, or that I wanted the dining table somewhere else.  I balanced work and living here, finding time to clean when I could.

Somewhere along the way, it became a place where I lived — slept, ate, and existed.  Things piled up.  I didn’t entertain much.  It was always a refuge, though, from the outer world, from some stress and chaos.  But the joy was gone, and for a long time.  However, that joy has been returning for a few years.  It’s been something I’ve had to work at actively, and with some therapy, and with housekeeping help.  The years of neglect have gone.  I am finding order and comfort here once more.  Sorting through so much stuff has freed me.  I’ve tossed a lot.  I’ve got more to toss.  I’ve stored some.  More boxes await sorting and purging.

And I’ve started renovating, finally, now that I have time again, having moved back to Lake Charles full-time from Egan.  I’d like to play the twitch-your-nose-and-it’s-done game (as Samantha did in Bewitched), but that’s not happening.  Instead, it happens in bits, in spurts of time, as I have money and my handyman has time.  And I’m learning to be satisfied with the progress.

As I’ve had the opportunity to renovate, I’ve found even more joy in the opportunity to create my refuge.

Retirement truly has awakened me.  It has awakened this house for me, but it has also made it new for me.

It’s my new life.  In my old house. With three cats and two dogs.  With candles.  With music.   My very very very fine house.

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Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

This gentle tune has been floating in my head now for weeks, probably for all sorts of reasons.

I start to do something and then discover, days or even weeks later, that I haven’t finished or completed it.  I start to call friends and get interrupted, only to realize that I didn’t, and in fact haven’t talked to them in weeks.

I understood why this went on during Dad’s last months, and in the months immediately following his death.  But now?  Now when I think I’ve awakened from some kind of protective hibernation?

The last post is an example of this:  I actually wrote and posted it last month, except for some reason it didn’t appear.  I kept thinking I needed to log on and take care of the problem, but something always happened.  Today, though, as February is almost over, I actually did it.  One click and it’s posted.  Finally.

Some projects take my time — simultaneously I manage to play with my jewelry and crafts at times, sometimes with friends, but most often alone.  I manage this while the major project goes on around me:  kitchen renovations.

My kitchen was one of those projects that started 3 years ago and died a painful death.  I stopped because I ran out of money and time.  I was still teaching.  I was commuting more.  Then I was retired and living mostly in Egan with Dad.  It just remained an ugly eyesore in a house that screamed at me that it was being neglected.

It’s taken me months to locate someone (a) who could handle that and the porch project that must also get done and (b) who could be trusted.  Finally, after I forget how many phone calls and attempts to find someone, after the “I’ll call you back with an estimate” disappeared ones, I have found a gem.  Thanks, Sarah, for the recommendation!

That progress simply brightens everything — not just the house, but me as well.  I am moving on.  I am working on MY house.  The kitchen and the porch must be finished before I leave in late April for nearly 3 months in Greece. The other “fix me” calls will be answered, probably in order, but not until I return in July.

As Fred works, I sit at the dining room table (amidst cups and saucers and mail) and read.  Or play Words with Friends, or Scramble, or Word Warp.  Sometimes I look at catalogs.  Sometimes I look online for paint colors or sheet vinyl patterns or explore the merits of quartz vs. granite.  I spend a lot of time thinking and making lists, too.

I don’t have papers to grade or classes to prepare for, so all of those old deadlines are retired (along with me).

At other times, friends come over and visit.

Some days, the time slips by and there’s minimally visible progress in the kitchen, though a lot of prep work has gone into it.  Hours have passed and I have read newspapers and parts of books and surfed the net.  Then after Fred leaves I quickly run an errand or two.

At night I watch some television and/or read, dogs and cats curled with me on the bed.  I forget that I can use the telephone — a hangover from months with Dad, when talking on the phone could disturb him, when I slept as I could.

So for just over a month now, time has slipped away even more.  Peacefully, even enjoyably.  Yet it slips away nonetheless.

And here it is, only hours away from March 1, and in taking stock of myself and my life I hear Judy Collins in my head wondering about the time.

I can tick off some things on my to-do list.  Taxes?  Started, but waiting for more documents.  Clearing the house?  Only a bit.  Yesterday I managed to clear out the living room, sorting into three rooms.  Today?  I’ve sent some vital emails for insurance and taxes.  I’ve started clearing the office (which will take days, but if I work a little bit every day . . . .).

Each day I rise (eventually) and immediately make the bed.  Somehow that’s necessary.  I may hang around the house in sweats and a t-shirt, but if I want to crawl back into bed (and sometimes I do), I have to make an effort for that.  When Fred texts that he’s coming over to work, I corral the pets in the back and close the door.  Of course, then I hear them scratching and barking and purring for release.  Occasionally, too, Homer the Greek Goddess (from the island of Spetses) actually gets the door open and frees her companions.  She’s a street-smart Greek cat and knows how to manage.  I return the escapees to the back of the house once more and secure the door, preventing further escapes. When the mail drops through the door slot, I get it and go through it, sorting some to keep, some to toss.

So my days go.

Yet in the past six weeks or so, I’ve done road trips, too — gone to see Willie Nelson with friends and spent a night at the beach house, gone to see Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen with my sister and spent a couple of nights at the beach, gone to Baton Rouge, gone to Crowley for business, to Egan and Lafayette for family and friends.  My cousin and her husband have come to the area casinos and we’ve had good visits. I’ve done some visiting here, but not what I need/want to do.  And tomorrow I’ll head to the farm in East Texas for a family weekend of laughter, food, and work.

March is slipping in and as February slips away, I put away Mardi Gras finery and begin to sort through closets and clothes.  Spring cleaning and sorting has begun.  Yet the weather hasn’t yet warmed up permanently, so I need flip-flops and sandals and shoes, sweatpants and shorts, t-shirts and sweaters.  A “cold” front has come in (far from snow, but “cold” for us here on the Gulf Coast).  I’m enjoying it, truly, because all too soon the heat will begin to rise. And rise.  And rise.  Along with the humidity.

Next week, I’ll tackle the back room of the house, sorting boxes of stuff (I have no idea what’s in some boxes) for keeping, for storing, for giving away, for junking.  That will be a marathon job, and I really look forward to it.  It’s the only way I can imagine tackling it, frankly.

Business done, business to do.  Mardi Gras over.  St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans to come in a couple of weeks.  Planning a 3-week library series for the first three Tuesdays in April.

And the suitcase(s) for Greece will come out soon and begin to fill.

It’s 1:15 p.m on a Thursday and I haven’t been out of the house today.  I probably will, later, but I’m still figuring out time management.  And realizing that all time is precious, that time that slips away isn’t necessarily wasted.  That some things I’ve let slip need attending to — friends and time with them, not to be lost.

Who knows where the time goes?

I’m just glad I have time.  And enjoy every minute of it.

Maybe I’ll call some friends to meet me for coffee today.

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