Every year, about this time, I review my “Death” folder, to make sure it is up to date.
As you can see, it includes instructions for the disposal of my body. It also includes an updated list of bank accounts and insurance policies and who to contact to stop my pension checks. Some years I tinker with the song list for my memorial service. This year I had to add a whole page of instructions on how to help my disabled son.
I do this because I love my children very much and while I can not make my death easy for them, I can make it less difficult by giving them access to the information they will need in the days immediately following my death.
Now on to more fun topics.
I thought I would try my hand a New Year’s resolutions. In the past, I did not bother with them, thinking that if I wanted to initiate a change, I should just do it and not wait for the calendar to catch up with me.
This year, I thought, “What if I am missing out? What if New Year’s resolutions will really improve my life and I never gave them a fair chance?”
But frankly if seems kind of bossy and abusive “for my own good,” kind of like The Biggest Loser TV show where participants enter into a boot camp full of healthy food and vigorous exercise.
This one is more gentle, and a lot more “new agey.” But is also seems pretty complicated and likely doomed to failure if I can’t pull my resolutions up from memory.
How about you all? Any New Year’s resolutions that you would like to share?
My stash of home-made cards was getting pretty low, but I have been waiting to make more. The librarian at our local library told me that she clears out the circulating magazines at the end of the year and they are offered first come, first served to the general public. She even offered to reserve a few for me!
And they did not disappoint! I cut out any photo or illustration that appealed to me. I had purchased a package of 25 blank note cards with envelopes from the local craft store. They were on sale for $5 USD. Based on the size of the note cards, I created a cardboard template from a empty cereal box. I used the template to crop and frame the pictures I liked in a way that appealed to me.
Any two dimensional image can be used. For past cards I have used antique photos, old calendars, used greeting cards, magazines, interesting tags that came on purchased clothing, parts of a playbill, a politically incorrect children’s book that the library was giving away.
I have a file folder where I collect interesting images for this purpose. When I have enough, I buy the blank note cards and get busy!
“Whaatt?” You say. What does shirking all your responsibilities have to do with goals and retirement?
And I say, “Everything. And it is not shirking your responsibilities, but aligning actions with your core purposes. And letting the rest go.” A religious person might describe this as aligning one’s will with the Divine Will, but we don’t want to scare people off…so we can just use New Age language to describe the process.
When I was a working stiff, my days revolved around the routine of working and all the support efforts that kept that lubricated: washing and ironing work clothing, packing work lunches, cooking food for the week on my days off work, using vacations from work to take care of the house and the kids. Anybody else use a Staycation to paint the exterior of their house? Or a travel trip to scope out prospective colleges?
Years ago I noticed that my life was deficient in play and spontaneous joy. And since then I have been finding my way back to that childlike innocent perception of the world that both sees what is true and delights in the variety and consistency of experience.
(Longtime reader Linda who asked about the diet plan is beginning to lose patience, I think.) Let me be as practical as I can be. I think workability is an excellent test for any theory that humans can devise.
Two years ago, I retired from paid employment because I was exhausted and Just. Could. Not. Anymore. I moved in with my mom and threw myself into helping her declutter her home after 46 years of hoarding. I helped entertain her guests and kept trying to figure out how to play. I took classes. I like yoga. I don’t like formal drawing. I don’t like Tai Chi. I don’t like Frisbee Golf. I like walking in the park. I like garden design. I like home design.
Then my son became ill and there was that one horrible week when he was in a hospital in one city and my mother was in a hospital in another city. Play? I have no idea.
But I do. Over the years I have discovered there is a Hansel and Gretel bread-crumb trail from where I am to the place I need to be.
Goals in Retirement (from paid employment-I’m not very retired)
Every day when I wake up, I ask my self first, “What does my son Mike need today to be as successful as he can be?” and secondly I ask myself, “What do I need to be my best and continue to be a good caregiver to Mike?” My counselor tells me I need to reverse the order that I ask these questions. But we have to start wherever we are, right? And let’s be really candid here, usually the first thing I ask is, “Coffee?”
I would like to be around for a couple decades so I start with what promotes personal health.
Sleep– When I retired from nursing, I stopped setting my alarm clock on a daily basis. When I was working, I got up at 5am and went to the gym for a cardio or weight workout before I woke the kiddos and drove them to school and then on to work at 7:30am. Now I let my body wake up when it wants to, which is usually between 7-7:30am. But I am listening to my body in a way I was never able to before. So after spending 3 hours wielding pick-ax on a landscape project, when I overslept the next day to 9am–okay, I get it. I am listening, beloved body.
Eat Healthy-For me this means organic, locally raised plants, which is why we have been members of a local CSA. But my son needs a lot of B vitamins, which are mostly found in animal products. So I try to keep the homestead meeting the needs of all the residents.
Minimizing Drug Ingestion-My favorite drugs are caffeine and wine. I’m glad that they are both legal for someone my age, but I recognize that some of my other goals are hindered by their ingestion.
Regular Movement-Some of us would call this exercise, but to peoples who live in cultures without access to cars, it is just getting on with your day. I want to live in a place that supports normal human movement (walking and more) and sometimes I need an intermediary support like a yoga studio, which supports my movement, local community and connection with others.
Connecting with others-Well, I have this blog, which connects me with you. I have my local church community (Yeah Quakers!), I have local friends I have made since I moved to St. Louis and I have recognized the importance for this introvert for creating down time from all these connections.
Play-Oh My Word…..this has been the most difficult part of the journey. What does “Play” look like for me? I’m completely bored by competition, so a retirement of golf would make me run back to work. It has taken a bit of effort to discern this but for me play includes: 1) a gift of service to community 2) a walk in nature 3) transforming something that is not functioning or beautiful into something that is both–this can be an article of clothing or an abandoned city lot or the decrepit tile situation in my current bathroom. Current arenas of play include: decluttering the Quaker Meeting house, planting native species plants there, hand-sewing projects, creating the zero-energy use house here in St. Louis.
What about all of you? What are your goals in retirement?
You know…when you have a pitchfork and a gothic window, you have to give it a try. For my international readers: this is the famous painting that we are trying to imitate.
This silliness was just a breather from the hard work of getting our 144 native species plants into the ground.
Here is Barbara panting Rose Verbena in the front bed near the street.
While we were prepping the ground for the row of Little Bluestem grasses, a couple of neighborhood kids came by on their bikes and asked if they could help (they told us over lunch that they saw these old ladies working really hard and sweating and thought we could use their assistance.) And boy we sure appreciated it! They worked really hard digging up the Zoysia grass, which has deep roots. Plus we found 2 pennies, a marble and a couple of cool rocks.
Benefits to this landscape change include: native species will support local pollinators (bees, butterflies, moths, humming birds,) the tall grasses will drink up the rain run-off from the parking lot keeping it out of the local water waste system, taller grasses are able to convert more CO2 to oxygen than the low lying ornamental species, the grasses will create a wind block and collect some of the local trash for easy retrieval, it increases the natural elements in the local landscape making things prettily green for a good portion of the year, it increases local habitat for native fauna (though I am still trying to discourage the local squirrels-most other species are welcome).
I will post photos when the planting of the Little bluestem row is complete.
My daughter’s birthday is coming up. She likes to decorate with both live and imitation plants. I won’t see her in person, so I’m mailing it. I boxed it up.
It’s a little scribbly–but enthusiastic. [Don’t tell her it’s on the way]
I had an idea for a piece of fabric art I want to make and I went searching for some green linen for the project. I didn’t find any at the charity shops OR the expensive new fabric store. I did find all this beautiful fabric that I will turn into … I don’t know… something. While there are some design constraints to using not new fabric, I love the sustainability and frugality and required creativity of using found cloth. Just for comparison purposes, that brown linen in the lower left corner is new, one yard and cost $27.00 USD. All the other pieces combined were $13.00 USD. I’ll post completed projects here.
The local Quaker church has an ambitious plan to convert the landscaping from invasive species and alien ornamental species to native plants in order to support the local fauna that depend on them.
We are fortunate that a local foundation, Brightside, provides us with free plants and a lot of information to make our landscape plan successful.
Each summer they put on a symposium with speakers who teach us how to be better native species gardeners. I have learned so much these past two years.
Then they allow not-for-profit organizations to apply for grants of native species plants. Last summer we received a grant of about 140 plants and a hose and sprinkler. This year we are requesting about 130 plants.
This year, we hope to double the size of our butterfly garden.