Sunday, September 25, 2011


My first week of retirement ended with my getting a cold. I feel awful. I don't feel like doing anything except curling up into a ball and sleeping the misery away. And yet, I have SO much I need to do! I keep reminding myself that I am retired and it's okay to baby myself for a day or two if I need it, but my conscience nags at me about getting the house cleaned for Liese's visit on the 6th. We still have a lot to do to get ready! Also, I have a ton of work to do on the energy grants. Ah, me!
At least I don't have to go to work tomorrow. That is a huge relief. I've been drinking lots of water, taking vitamin C, and trying to rest and relax. Here's hoping tomorrow is better!

Friday, September 23, 2011


I just deposited my 401K check today. It was a fairly small sum...might get me through a year without income, but just barely. As soon as I got home from the bank, I logged onto my last outstanding credit card account and scheduled a final balance payment for Monday. It took more than half my 401K, but it feels SO damn good!
It's not just that it pained me to pay $100 or more per month in interest charges to the banks I helped bail out. Not giving them that money will feel great! And it isn't all about getting out of the stock market by cashing in the 401K before things go bad again. If you don't sell in a blind panic, there is usually a decent recovery.
No. What makes me the happiest is that I feel like I'm a pioneer in a new economy that is just taking shape.
I switched my banking to a community bank last year. There's only one branch, so it's not exactly convenient, but I know this bank supports local businesses. I charge things on my debit card with them. Which means that I don't go into debt.
Last week, I spent a fair amount of money buying thermal window curtains and a comforter set. I had to search online for days to find products that were made in the USA and affordable. I feel like I'm supporting the US economy, reducing energy consumption with my new curtains, and doing something concrete to help America rebuild. I'll try to get cushions and pillows made locally if possible.
We also just had an energy audit and almost $3,000 worth of tightening up/insulation work done on the house this past month. Most of it was paid for through a grant with PSNH. Our cost was about $1200. The money I save on oil will go right into new projects like solar hot water and a pellet stove. I plan to track and blog on it throughout this winter. I took lots of pictures of the work during the final inspection. Energy savings measures are better than money in the bank...they are practically organic because the more oil prices increase, the bigger your return on investment.
I am a happy woman tonight.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What's so bad about retirement?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing that I can tell so far. I am enjoying myself completely and utterly.
I know that some people are craftsmen, artists, teachers, or scientists who are just following their bliss and lucky enough to get paid for it. These last several years I have worked for much less than I did at the peak of my engineering career. In part because my interests changed in directions that weren't as lucrative, but also because the design jobs weren't there for me. Maybe I lost my heart for it? I didn't seem to fit in anywhere I worked. People were nice to me. The work should have been interesting to me. I just couldn't find the beam.
I used to go to sleep at night picturing streams of bits hitting gates, filling registers and then being read or reset at just the right moment. The logical sculpture or, perhaps choreography, just stopped happening inside my head.
You know, I worried that I just couldn't "think" like an engineer anymore, but I took computer science graduate courses and did very well. I liked the programming, but I just wasn't passionate about it. I was more methodical about it than I was with hardware and probably less inventive.
It is sad really. When your career passion leaves you...for whatever is as bad as having a 20 year marriage end. Maybe it is you? Your love no longer excites you, but you can't quite figure out when that changed. Maybe you just aren't trying hard enough? You're spoiled and you expect too much?
And, just maybe, the jobs weren't there anymore?
So, just like a divorcee in mid-life, you look for a new passion. I went for nursing. In retrospect, I wish I had pursued either recreational or occupational therapy. But then, you don't always know until you try. I got a lot of good things out of the 10 years or so that I worked as a part-time nurse. I made some very good friends. But, like dating someone for 10 years without making plans to stay together, I've let my nursing license lapse.
For the last five years, I've worked in IT. I don't have any formal IT training. Honestly, when it wasn't heartstoppingly critical, it was boring as all hell to me. I loved/hated when things broke and I had to figure out how to make them work again. The hate came from the fear that I wouldn't be able to fix the problem, but mostly I loved, loved, loved troubleshooting. I know there was a lot more I could have done to be good in IT. I just wasn't interested. I think, in part, it was because I was working alone all day and so there was no one to get into trouble one to play with. I am happier as part of a team.
Another factor is that when I got the IT job at age 57, I figured it was the best I could do without driving 50 miles each way to work in Concord or Massachusetts. It didn't pay well, but better than my nursing work and the work was much easier. Inertia is not a good excuse, but it kept me at that job.
I don't think I'm done though. I am glad that I got to retire. It is an incredible gift to be able to re-tire myself for the rest of the trip to the end of days.
I know the beam with my name on it is out there somewhere. I just have to find it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

First Day of Retirement and Battling the JBS!

My friend from work did call last night. We had a good talk. She understands that the people at work (she's known them for 15 years!) confronted this guy because they love her and she doesn't have family around.
I sent an email to one of the group and told her that we have to accept the fact that she is entitled to spend her money anyway she wants and to be friends with anyone she wants. But I also thanked her for acting like a good daughter.
I actually feel some relief knowing that it is out in the open and that they will be looking out for her. I don't think she will listen to them, never know!
So, my first real day of retirement... What can I say? I didn't get up as early as I wanted to and opted not to go to the Writers' Group meeting this morning. Instead I went to the opening of Sherry's new Zumba Studio.
I really hope this takes off for her! I signed up for 2 classes a week for $35. That's a great deal!
After that, I went to the weekly peace vigil on the steps of the Peterborough Town House. There were five of us today. Most people honk and wave. One guys yelled out the window, "Neville Chamberlain for President!" Jim Giddings, the person who started the peace vigil over ten years ago, said that he thought the guy was making a reference to some who feel that Neville Chamberlain was traitorous or at least, an appeaser. I suppose...
Next I dropped off most of a closet full of clothes. Suits, dresses, skirts, shirts I no longer the swap shop in town. I have all my clothes down to one closet ( costumes wound up in the hall closet, but close enough!) I plan to do more whittling of possessions. The hardest thing to let go was a blue sweater I got when I was in high school. It's some kind of synthetic material, so it's lasted almost 50 years! I may pick something else out of my closet and go back to trade it. LOL!! I never wear it, but...
Danny and I spent a couple of hours trying to get paint off the deck. He finally pulled out the power washer and it looks like that will do the trick. He's going to apply a coat of stripper tomorrow. Let it sit for an hour and then use the power washer. I'm hopeful.
I got into a big debate with a John Birch Society political operative. He announced a public meeting in Troy on the Town FaceBook page. He actually lives in West Roxbury, MA and if you google him, you come up with a lot of hits all over the place. He is a recruiter for the JBS. I thought this posting would be against town policy. He didn't think so. My friend and neighbor, David, didn't think so either. They both think the Town will leave his post up. I would never consider posting a event on the Town's FaceBook page! I wound up deleting all of my comments...except one. I said, "Imperial Kleagle, I think." An Imperial Kleagle is code for a KKK recruiter. I probably shouldn't have said it, but it fries me that this outside agitator is going to fill people's heads with lies. The public meeting is to warn people against Agenda 21 and ICLEI...two initiatives on sustainability by the United Nations. Climate change denial and One World conspiracy theory all rolled into one nutty package. Meanwhile, I'm getting set up to launch my energy projects in town...I admit I took this personally. The reason I deleted the comments was so that I wouldn't give him any more attention than I already had. I was so sure our Town Administration would delete it, but when I messaged one of our selectmen, I was ignored. Are they afraid of the JBS? The nutty dude, Hal Shurtleff, tried to say that the JBS is not a political organization and that he is not a political operative. If they aren't, neither is!
It's after 4 AM!!! I'm going to bed. I just wanted to write a few things down. I was thinking of Heidi and her comments about tracking my experiences with retirement since she would like to retire herself next year. I kind of like the idea of leaving messages from the "beyond."

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Last Day at Work

It was dramatic to say the least!
Here are the nice things:
The lovely people I work with got me a cake and a card to congratulate me on my retirement. Leo, my walking buddy, and his wife, Kate, gave me a framed print of one of Kate's gorgeous photographs. When I got home, I checked my bank account and discovered that I'd been overpaid by almost $800! I called headquarters to tell them about the mistake and was told that it wasn't a mistake, it was the one week of pay they held out when I started.
There was a slight problem, the FAX machine server (notebook) was on its way out and was making an ominous sound. I decided to replace the old notebook with a newer one. I had a little trouble, but before I left, the AV software finally installed and I was able to receive a test fax. Yay! Though, I did donate an hour of my freedom (I had already sent in my timesheet) to get it all working. It made it kind of nice that I discovered they were so generous with me too!
The other thing that happened was that a few of my co-workers confronted a young guy who has been preying on one of us. Unfortunately, the person who is being victimized is unwilling to recognize how she is being abused. She is a caring person who would help anyone in need. This particular character has come to rely on her generosity to set him up in business, buy all of his equipment, and pay his living expenses. Meanwhile, at 75, she can't afford to even buy a car and drives an old beater that a friend gave her. I've tried to talk her out of allowing this guy to exploit her, but she feels strongly that since he has a criminal record, the world has turned against him and that she's the only one who can help him. Jesus would approve, I know. She is a good, good person. I wouldn't have interfered myself, but I am kind of glad that my co-workers did. It kills me to think of this guy draining her bank account and the trust funds that her husband left for her and her children and grandchildren. I think that this guy is less than despicable...a healthy young man who has allowed her to move him from apartment to apartment with her truck. He had no problem letting her haul his furniture and belongings up and down stairs. What kind of man is that? But, like some kind of leech, even having someone tell him to leave her alone didn't discourage him. He's hanging tight...nothing they said seemed to shame him.
She is not incompetent. She's been like this most of her life, but her husband definitely wouldn't have allowed this to happen when he was alive. And, I can identify...we all need to be needed, don't we? But, this does cross a line.
I know she is angry with them and humiliated. I would be too. On the other hand, I hope my true friends would put a stop to anything like that if I got sucked into it. So, as you can see, all this drama was going on during my last day of work. The worst part? I didn't get to give her a goodbye hug before I left tonight. I've called her at home a couple of times, but she's not answering. I hope she is okay. Please let her be okay.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Is it Friday yet?

Today is Wednesday. I don't mean to wish my time away, but I feel like I am craaawwlling toward Friday and freedom.

I am trying to stay in the "Now." It's not easy. I can "taste" my freedom. Last night when I lay down in bed, the wind was blowing gently through the windows and making the shades flap. I really listened to that sound. Now here's one of the great things about being old. Listening to that sound, flooded my brain with memories of childhood when I used to really listen all the time. For a moment, I was upstairs in the attic bedroom of the cottage the Sullivan's rented every summer. They always invited me to visit for a week. What a kindness! Now, the delicious feeling of lying in bed and staring up at the rafters while a sea breeze flaps the shade and there is the underlying hum and thrum of the waves on the breakers only a few hundred feet away, is an overlay on this quiet moment before sleep.

I am looking forward to the freedom to control the content of my days. I really am, but I also know that the real happiness and freedom lies within myself and how I choose to experience life. If I compromise that sense of being alive today with dreams of tomorrow's pleasure, I have already surrendered life to being lived "someday." And, as we all know, "someday" never comes. Carpe diem!

Today is Thursday and I still feel as though I am "slouching toward Bethlehem," in fact I posted that as my FaceBook status today. I've only been able to make myself work half days. It is almost unbearable for me. I suppose that's better than being somehow forced to retire and not wanting the job to end? Still, I don't want to feel ashamed of myself for how I ended my paid working career.

I'm spending an extra hour at home this morning. I won't get into work until 1 PM and will leave at 4 PM unless there are problems. I have an energy commission meeting tonight and am going to get my hair cut at 4:30 today. I took the extra hour so that I could write a little this morning. I need the catharsis of writing. Granted, this is a bit public, but that adds to the thrill of writing, doesn't it? On the other hand, no one reads my blog, so it is fairly safe for me to "put it all out there."

I used the phrase because it is how I feel, but then I looked it up because I remembered the negative connotation in the Blake poem, "The Second Coming." I'd forgotten the wonderful Joan Didion book of the title, "Slouching Toward Bethlehem." It revealed the dark side of the counterculture movement of the 60s and 70s. So, perhaps this is an apt analogy... Or perhaps, instead of fearing that my life could easily devolve into chaos and lassitude, it should inspire me to commit myself to writing that book about my brother, George...view it as a chance to leave the world with one true and good story told...given.

Well, it's time to get ready for work, but I think my next effort will be think about what it means to work for pay versus volunteering. Why hasn't pay been much of a motivator for me?

It's late Thursday night (or early Friday morning). I'm still up and excited about tomorrow as my last day at work. I'm feeling a little conflicted about retiring early because of the strain that it puts on the Social Security system. I could work a few more years without it killing me. I could. I just feel like I want this time with my husband who has been home alone for eight years. I hope that my volunteer efforts in energy and as an advocate for people with disabilities will justify my existence. I want to be useful.

So, why do I say that money is not a big motivator for me? Am I kidding myself? I don't think so. I've had some amazing, wonderful experiences in my life that were completely unrelated to how much money I had. Some things took a lot of money...probably much more than I was in a position to spend, but I did it anyway. Other things, equally amazing, cost pennies compared with the thrill I received...and the lack of expense only made the experience more delicious. I've never minded wearing second hand or hand me down clothes. Instead of feeling impoverished, I am proud that my Jeep has 214K miles and still runs well after 12 years. I don't envy those with vast wealth because I think their options are probably much more limited than mine...and I'm pretty sure that my friends are just as true and just as much fun as theirs. On the other hand, I don't think money is bad. I just think it can deaden the sound and fury of real life...

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Fool

If you look through a set of Tarot Cards, there is one that most resembles the way I feel these last few days. It is "The Fool." The Fool is a handsome young lad with a bandanna holding all of his worldly possessions tied up on a stick over his shoulder. He is gaily dressed as if going to a party. A little dog dances at his feet. The Fool strides with perfect confidence toward a cliff...
I am almost giddy with happiness about all the possibilities that lie before me. This has made me somewhat distracted which has caused a few problems for me. I'm trying hard to stay in the "Now" so that I finish my working life with dignity and a sense of accomplishment.
I've caught myself almost crowing about my impending retirement and I'm trying to tone it down. I actually posted on FaceBook that I realized that I've been wearing a "suit of stress" and that I can feel it loosening and getting all soft and wrinkly with retirement only 4 days away. I thought better of it and deleted the post since I don't want to make the people who still have to work for money feel badly about going to work and trying everyday.
It's not that I won't be working. I'll work really hard and will try to be creative. Perhaps I will earn money, but that won't have to be a consideration.
I realized that I won't actually be able to afford my 3 dance classes each week at Monadnock Performing Arts Academy. I LOVED those classes. Instead, I am going to try to get a dance club going in Rindge using DVDs of Tap & Burn and Workout with the NYC Ballet. This would be a great challenge for me and could be of benefit to others in the community who love to dance. If no one wants to play, I'll take a course at Fitchburg State and join their dance club.
Well, that's it for tonight. I am so excited!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jumping off the cliff...

At this moment, I couldn't possibly be happier. But then, this last year, the joy I feel in life has been steadily building. I know I am extraordinarily blessed and the gratitude I feel is what seems to feed the joy.

But, happy? Happy, like sad, is circumstantial. I don't expect to be happy most of the time. I expect that things will break, I will have aches and pains, most of my big dreams probably won't come true. I feel sad for the loss of friends and relatives, getting my feelings hurt or hurting the feelings of someone else. I expect to experience sadness now and then.

For me, happy is dancing with friends in Zumba, tap, ballet classes and performances. Happy is going out kayaking with a friend or walking through the woods in snowshoes. Happy is sharing a meal with everyone I love at the table.

So, why am I suddenly happy?

I'm happy because I woke up Tuesday morning and decided it was time to retire from my job. Just like that!! I went into work and logged onto the Social Security website and filled out the application for benefits. Then I called Rick in Human Resources and told him about my decision and asked for help cashing out my 401K. He asked me to send an email explaining my resignation and wished me well.

Yesterday, Social Security called me to confirm my application, tell me how much I'll be receiving, and to give me the news that my first check won't arrive until December 21st. (Yikes!)

Knowing there's going to be a gap before my first check got me to thinking that I might want to be more proactive about cashing out my 401K. I contacted the company that manages it for us and set the wheels in motion. The application they emailed me, requires my husband's signature to be notarized. As luck would have it, the Town Clerk's office was open tonight, so Danny and I met there and finished the paperwork. I was delighted to learn that the Town Clerk doesn't charge for notary services! All that remains is to fax the application to the management company in the morning. It all seems to be falling into place so my mother would say, "It was meant to be."

Money will probably be a little tight, but I think it will be manageable if I'm smart about it. The things I love the most are either free or very inexpensive. I will be no poorer than a college student and those were some of the best years of my life. In fact, I may reprise them a bit by finishing my masters degree.

I can say, "Yes!" now to skiing with teacher friends during school vacations. I can say, "Yes!" to my husband when he wants to drive to Florida to see the grandchildren. I can say, "Yes!" to going to demonstrations in Concord. I can kayak, snowshoe, x-country ski or just sit on the deck and read poetry. I can finally make my house a home by decorating it the way I want.

The days of my freedom stretch before me...

Of course, I know it will get busy with all the mundane tasks of life; doctors appointments, car inspections, income tax returns, but I won't be wasting vacation or sick days to take care of my errands. There won't be any vacation or sick days. There will only be NOW.

I can finally write that book about my brother, George.

I should probably be nervous, but I'm not.

Most of all, I think about my daughter, Liese, who has been following her bliss. I want to be just like her when I grow up! It's time to follow my bliss again. I was blissful when I was a design engineer and in the middle of building the first laptops and pen computers, but those years are long gone and they're not coming back. Of course, I didn't know I was blissful back then. I thought everyone felt that kind of passion about their jobs. It wasn't until it was gone, that I realized the difference between a good job and one that feeds your soul.

In those "dry years" when I was just a cog in the wheels of mainstream technology, I was fortunate to find other sources of joy and inspiration unrelated to my paying job. I thank all the people who helped me discover that there is more to life than being well paid. I learned about other kinds of "success" that can't be measured in dollars.

So, I feel well-equipped for this next stage of my life...even though I simply "took the plunge."

And, in this moment, I just couldn't be happier.