Where does the time go?

Four months ago I re-retired.  I am enjoying the time, and feel that I have a better handle on this life phase today than when I retired the first time for six months in 2012.

My primary goal is to have a happy, no-regrets retirement.  I am really committed to that goal.  I hope to have at least 15-20 happy, healthy years ahead of me.  With a timeframe on my mind, it seems natural to look back over my life.

How can it be that I started college 46 years ago, that I got my first graduate degree 39 years ago, and my last nearly 24 years ago?

How can it be that I learned to quilt 33 years ago, and had my first quilt book published 20 years ago and the second 18  years ago?

How can it be that my life has already been long enough to include three significant non-profit career paths with 10 different professional position  – as librarian, teacher, museum professional, and administrator – in eight cities located in five different states?

How can it be that my mother has been gone for nearly 29 years, and my father 13 years last month?

Time passes so quickly, so this is my new thing:  At the end of every day I will take a minute to think deliberately about what I enjoyed about the day, and I will more consciously remember the moment.

I could live my whole life without eating chocolate…

I really could live my whole life without eating chocolate.  I will choose gum drops over chocolate candy, sugar cookies over chocolate chip, white cake over chocolate, and any other flavor of ice cream when it is available.

But I know that lots of people like chocolate, so when I need to bake something for someone else, I have a stash of chocolate recipes.  This brownie recipe appeals to everyone, even me.

Hershey’s Brownies

Cream together: 

1/2 cup soft margarine & 1 cup white sugar

Add and mix well: 

4 beaten eggs, a 16-oz can of Hershey’s chocolate syrup, 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Pour into a greased and floured 9 x 13-inch or 10 x 13-inch baking pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees.  If you use a toothpick to test for doneness, it should come out with a moist (not wet) crumb.  Do not over bake.

Cool and top with our favorite frosting such as:

Chocolate Chip Frosting

Combine 3 Tablespoons margarine, 3 Tablespoons milk, and 3/4 cup white sugar.  Bring to a full boil and boil for 30 seconds.  Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cut chocolate chips.  Beat until blended and creamy.  Spread on cooled brownies.

Store in refrigerator.  Good frozen.

Alternative to Frosting

Omit the nuts from the brownie batter, but top the brownies with chopped nuts and mini chocolate chips before baking.  When testing for doneness, avoid the chocolate chips so you get an accurate reading.

 

 

The Need to feel productive in retirement

When I was sixteen, I got my first job as a waitress in a family restaurant and I have worked pretty much ever since.  There is something about work that makes you feel productive, even if the job could be described as menial.

In chronological order over the past nearly 50 years (how can that be???), my jobs have included:

High school:  waitress, poultry processor, and assembly line worker

Undergrad:  nanny and library aide

Grad student:  research assistant and teaching assistant

Professional:  public library director, technical services librarian, public library system assistant director, public library system director, public library director, assistant professor, exhibition developer, lecturer, public library director, museum assistant director, grant compliance officer, and instructor

After all those years of work (and education), I continue to feel the need to be productive even though I have retired from full-time employment (for the second time.)  I love days when I can stay home and read for hours.  I love that I no longer catch the bus at 7 AM and get home after 5 PM.  I love having time to do whatever I want to do.

But all that freedom is challenging.  I don’t want to waste these good years, so I find that I still need to feel that I have accomplish something most days.  Really, I need a new understanding — perhaps, a new non-work measure — of what it means to use time productively and still be retired.

When are we old?

As I enter my mid-60s I think about what it means to be old.  I wonder – when will I be old?  Like many people my age, I think others would describe me as younger, more active, and healthier than one expects of a 63+ year old woman.

The February/March issue of AARP Magazine featured an article entitled “You’re Old, I’m Not: How Americans Really Feel About Aging.”  This short article tells us that the older we are, the older we think old is.  That is, people in their 40s think that 63 is old while people in their 60s think that 73 is old.  Women think that women are old at age 75, compared to men who think what a 68 year old woman is old.  (Men are wrong on this one!)

I am very happy to read that as we get older we are less likely to feel that our aging bodies hamper us.  In fact only 24% of people in their 40s felt that they had more energy than they expected for their age, compared to 64% of people in their 70s who were asked the same question.  According to the article, the majority of us find that getting older is easier than we thought it would be, and that our health does not prevent us from doing what we want to do.

So, it would appear that I am pretty normal in my perceptions about myself as I age.  It was a relief to learn that I am not old – and won’t be for quite a few years!  Now I just need to continue to use that time well.  I don’t want to waste it.

Volunteering

There are lots of reasons to volunteer, but for me the most important are:

  1. Getting to know nice people with the potential to form new friendships
  2. Learning new subject matter or a new skill
  3. Making a difference in people’s lives
  4. Giving back, that is, doing my share

I have done quite a bit of volunteering in the past few years – as secretary of the quilt guild, secretary of my homeowners association, instructor of an OLLI class, literacy volunteer, and tax preparer.  The reality of my volunteer experiences has included items 2-4, above, but there never seems to be an opportunity to get to know the other volunteers and to have social relationships.

By and large, my volunteer experiences have been responsible, unpaid work.  I have changed my expectations to focus on satisfaction gained from learning a new skill and knowing that the volunteer effort is helping people.  Because these experiences feel like work, I have decided to only make short-term commitments and to live in and enjoy the moment as much as I can.

Winter…not so much!

I was born and raised in Minnesota and spent more than half of my life there.  You would think I would be OK with winter, since  I have experienced a lot of it.  The reality is that I really, really, really dislike cold, wind, snow, and ice.

I don’t like to be cold.  I don’t like to be house bound because I don’t want to go out in the cold or drive in snow or ice.  I don’t like worrying about the power going out in 50 mile an hour winds.  I don’t like worrying about my 24 year old electric furnace, even though the HVAC guys say it’s in good shape.

I think of myself as a generally positive person.  But winter does not bring out the best in me.  This winter really hasn’t been too bad, except for several 7-10 day stretches of really cold (for Nebraska) temperatures.  The forecast if for three inches of snow tonight and highs in the single digits on Sunday.  Thankfully, after this last blast of winter, spring is supposed to come.  I couldn’t be more grateful.

Peanut butter in my soup

It’s soup weather here on the Plains, and this recipe is one of my favorites.  It is so easy that you will have a tasty soup in less than 30 minutes.  It also freezes well.

Moroccan Peanut Butter & Tomato Soup

  • 1 – 28 ounce can finely diced tomatoes with onion & garlic
  • 1/4 cup to 1 cup creamy peanut butter (depending on the number of calories and the intensity of peanut butter flavor you want.  I use 1/4 to 1/3 cup, but the original recipe called for 1 cup.)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder (or less if you like less heat.  I use 1 Tablespoon.)
  • 2 teaspoon cumin (or less if you like less heat.  I use 1 teaspoon.)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups water

INSTRUCTIONS

In a heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients except water.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Then, stir in the water and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Note:  For a smooth soup, use a food mill or “stick” blender to pulverize the tomatoes before mixing them with the other ingredients.