Friday, December 2, 2011

The Joy of December

Today is the first day of December!  How did it get here so quickly?  I am so excited about getting ready for the holidays this year.  When I was working, I often took the week of Thanksgiving as vacation so I could start getting ready for Christmas.  I would start my shopping, write my Christmas letter, and work on my Christmas card list at the same time that I was preparing for Thanksgiving.  Now that I am retired, I was able to get all of my shopping done (much of it online and during the November sales) by the middle of November.  I was able to spend time researching options and picking the right thing for my family members.  I can't wait for them to open their presents this year.  I also had my Christmas cards printed, my letter written, and my list mostly updated.  This was wonderful!  As a result, when my husband took vacation during Thanksgiving week, we were able to do other things and not make ourselves crazy.  It was great!

I am also excited, because we have the Christmas decorations done outside.  The wreaths are hung, the Santa flag is out, and the lights are on the house.  There have been many years when my husband and I have been out in the snow, all bundled up, freezing to death while we put the lights on the house.  This year it was in the 40's and was very pleasant.  I am so enjoying the decorations!

For the first time in many years, I am looking forward to decorating the house and the tree in a leisurely fashion.  I can't wait to make candy and Christmas cookies.  I am excited to start wrapping presents.  There are so many things that I enjoy doing when I have enough time.  I finally have it.  This year, I am not feeling driven to get things done quickly.  There is no panic that I am running out of time or that I have so much to do.  I am not exhausted as I partake of holiday festivities.  I am finally able to BE in the moment and enjoy the preparations.  I can do things for me, because I enjoy it-not because I feel like I HAVE to do it.

I know that I am very fortunate to have this opportunity!  For those of you who are in danger of getting caught  up in the holiday frenzy, I hope that you will be able to find a moment to pick something that you really enjoy doing and BE in the moment.  Enjoy it, laugh, relish the activity, and have fun with family!

Enjoy the holidays and be joyful!

Have you found your joy today?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Birthdays Are Relative

Do you remember when you were little?  Birthdays were treasured events in our lives.  We couldn't wait to get to our next birthday.  We wanted to be grown up so we could stay up late, not have to follow parents' rules, and have fun all of the time (or so we thought).  We also looked forward to presents, cake, ice cream, and maybe a party with friends.  I can remember pouring over catalogs and avidly watching commercials between cartoons on Saturday to create a list for my birthday that could also be added to for Christmas the next month.  We never lived near relatives so family parties were not a part of my personal experience from my childhood.

There is one birthday that stands out in my mind.  I was in fifth grade and lived in Miami, Florida.  I loved to go roller skating at the roller rink; so we decided to have a skating party.  We invited about 8 of my friends, got a cake with a picture of a skater on it, and I wore one of my dance recital outfits that looked like a skating costume.  I was so excited!  When we arrived at the roller rink, I couldn't believe my eyes.  A cute boy in school that ALL of us had a crush on, Stacy, was skating at the rink, too.  We invited him to join us... and he did!  It made my day!  I won't forget how special I felt or how happy I was.  My mom was great to invite Stacy.  She made this a very memorable birthday for me!

When my children were young, I always agonized over planning a birthday celebration for them.  When they were very little, it was a family celebration with presents, ice cream, and cake with the grandparents and my brothers.  When they were in elementary school, it was parties with friends and games at home, the movies, the arcade, or some other venue that fit the theme of the year.  When they were in high school, it was sleepovers with all night gaming.  When they turned 21, it was a trip to Las Vegas or a new computer depending on the interests of the child.  No matter the age: it was important to me to make these birthdays important events to celebrate the milestones in their lives.

I recently celebrated another birthday.  My birthday always falls around the Thanksgiving holiday so it may be a little different than the experience of most people.  In addition, my husband has his birthday 2 days after mine.  So it is always a very busy time between our birthdays and preparing the Thanksgiving dinner.  However, this year I took the time to think about my birthday as a separate event and started pondering the birthday experience.

I didn't want to celebrate this year.  It's not an issue with my age.  I am proud of who I am, would not want to go back in time, and have no problem with getting older.  I have earned my age and wisdom!  No, it was something entirely different.  My birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day, and I knew I would be cooking all day.  I made a deal with my husband that we wouldn't get presents or cards for each other.  I wasn't sure why I felt like this, but it was how I was feeling.  So, the day came and went.  We spent my husband's birthday at a wedding; so there was no special celebration for him either.

Why did I feel this way?  I wasn't sure so I started trying to analyze my feelings and where they came from.  My husband is the one who said something that triggered my revelation.  We were talking about what we needed for Thanksgiving dinner, and I mentioned that we, of course, should have pumpkin pie.  He said that he needed a pecan pie because my mother always made one for him for his birthday.  That was when it dawned on me!  My birthday doesn't mean as much without my parents to celebrate with me.

My mom and dad always remembered my birthday!  It was important to them.  I remember when my mother had heart bypass surgery.  We were in Arizona to support my parents as they went through this scary time.  My mother was in the hospital after surgery, but she still remembered my birthday.  She told my dad to do something to celebrate it.  I will never forget my dad and brother grilling steaks and eating cake on the patio for my birthday!  With all that was going on, I couldn't believe that this was so important to my parents, but I certainly felt loved.  Parents think ahead to plan for birthdays.  This was never more obvious than my birthday following my dad's death.  Even though he died in February before my 50th birthday, I received a card signed by him on my birthday that year.  He and my mom had found a special 50th birthday card the year before and he had already signed it.  When I opened the card, I cried.  At the the the thoughtfulness.   I can never describe how I felt seeing my dad's signature.  It is a precious memory.

Birthdays (and Thanksgiving since they are intertwined for me) just aren't the same for me anymore.  I think it is because my parents, who were there when I arrived in this world, aren't here to share the day with me.  I just always feel like something is off about this time of year.  Maybe birthdays are really about the bond between parents and their children.  I think it's time to let go of my birthday and focus on celebrating birthdays of my children and granddaughter.  I think this is the natural order of life.  I now have a different place in the world.  It's time to cherish my memories but let go of the past and embrace the future.  After all, I have been well loved.  It is time to pass this legacy of love on to the next generations.  They are, without a doubt, my joy!

Have you found your joy today?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ah-h-h, It's November!

Happy November, Everyone!

I have always loved November.  Maybe it was a result of the sugar-high induced coma of Halloween, but it has always been an exciting month for me.  I know that they say that November is filled with a lot of gloomy days and that Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend, but it has always been a month of comfort.

For me, November has always been rich and vibrant!  Everything is so beautiful at this time of year.  Nature is fascinating to watch.  The trees are showing their best colors.  We have a gorgeous red maple by our driveway that is radiant right now.  It is one of the last trees to drop its leaves, and they are a feast for the eyes!  They are putting on a show for us before they hunker down for the winter.

From this...
To this!

Another part of nature that I love to watch are the wildlife.  They are so industrious during this time.  It's fun to watch the squirrels and chipmunks in our backyard as they prepare for the winter.   If you watch along the highways, you will still see red-tailed hawks on lightpoles as they watch for prey during their migration.  Canadian geese flying in formation are a common sight.  All are busy... and that is true of all of us, too!

Many of us are enjoying cooking again.  Summer was the time of grilling and picnics, salads and light fare.  Fall is filled with color and taste.  Pumpkins and squashes are appearing in many of our foods; hearty soups and crock-pot dishes simmer for hours and fill the house with lovely aromas; baking of breads, cookies, and cakes are on our minds as we peruse our fall magazines!

We are also beginning to think about Thanksgiving.  This has always been a special holiday for me.  I love the food and setting the table with fine linens, crystal, and tableware.
The table is alive with color: oranges, greens, yellows, even reds.  Traditional foods such as turkey and dressing are prepared, and families gather to celebrate this holiday together.

Family!  That's what this holiday has always been about for me.  It has always been important to be with family during this time.  Now that my parents are no longer living and my brothers are spread across the country, it feels different somehow.  We used to gather at my parents' home, and my mom and I would cook together.  I always set the table, Dad would carve the turkey, my brothers/husband/kids would sniff around the kitchen and help finish everything as we got closer to the time for dinner.  I miss those times with my family.  I especially miss the quiet times after everything was cleaned up. We were all stuffed, and we would lounge around together in the family room-just being together as a family.  The TV would be on, Dad would be in his chair, Mom in hers, and the rest of us would be scattered around the room just being!  How lovely it was!  Now it is up to me to create these memories for my family-just as my parents did.

November also seems to be a month of expectations.  This may only be true for me since my birthday is in November, but I think it is also because we know that Christmas is coming near.  I know that retailers have started earlier and earlier each year, but this is the month when they kick into high gear!  We will see Christmas decorations everywhere we go, hear Christmas songs, and see ads on TV and newspapers for great deals.

November is our transition month.  Darkness comes earlier, and it is the time for fires in the fireplace, good music, great books, wonderful food and drink and cuddling.  So be sure to take a moment for yourself, experience the beauty of the season;  relax, re-energize, and enjoy it!

Have you found your joy today?

Friday, October 28, 2011

I Am What I Am

It is very interesting to be "retired".  In previous blogs, I have talked about the ideas that are elicited by this word, but it is a very unique experience to go through.  When I turned 50, I rejoiced in the fact that I liked myself, and I didn't care a lot about what others thought about me.  I was my own woman who had accomplished a lot in her career and life.  I didn't have my youth, but I had my experiences and the wisdom that came from them.  I liked that!  However, now that I am "retired", I am finding that I am at times a bit insecure about myself!

Let me start by saying that I have wonderful friends.  However, most of them are much younger than I am.  I also have a husband who is the same age but very physically fit.  I, on the other hand, am not!  Intellectually, I think I'm doing great, but I am a very quiet person.  I am not dramatic, beautiful, funny, clever, or particularly social.  I am a true introvert!  Many people think that introverts don't like being with others, are socially awkward, or can't speak in front of a group.  I was a teacher.  I was a high level professional who addressed a room full of people easily.  I was a human resource professional who liked working with people.  So, that is not a true definition of an introvert.  It is all about how you re-energize!  

My husband is very quiet but he is truly an extrovert.  He gets jazzed by being with people!  He loves groups of people and is very comfortable no matter what-even if he doesn't know anyone else there.  This gives him lots of energy.  I, on the other hand, prefer small gatherings, talking one-on-one and parties where I know most everyone.  Parties and new people exhaust me!  I am friendly, smiling, can hold a conversation, enjoy myself, but it saps my energy.  I need to be alone to recharge!  

As a result, alone time is very important to me.  However, I am finding that I now have too much (I can't believe I am saying this) alone time!  Working provided a nice balance: seeing people during the day, recharging at night.  Granted, it was sometimes hard to socialize on the weekends because I needed more time alone, but I did have a better balance.  

My friends are lovely!  They are open, giving, smiling, energetic, clever, funny, attractive, sexy, make-you-feel-good people. Now that I have enough time alone to recharge, I am eager to socialize on the weekends.   I just feel boring and uninteresting.  A term that was used at work a lot in the last few years was "value added".  In my retirement, I started wondering what value I add, and then I had a moment that has seemed to bring my balance back!

Have you ever seen "La Cage Aux Folles"?  My husband and I recently saw the Broadway Tour of this musical.  We had seen it many years ago, and I loved The Birdcage which was the movie version.  However, this time it spoke to me in a different way.  If you have ever seen it, you know that there is a riveting, emotional scene at the end of Act I where the much-maligned character of Albin sings "I Am What I Am".  The words to the first verse are:
I am what I am
I am my own special creation.
So come take a look,
Give me the hook or the ovation.
It's my world that I want to take a little pride in,
My world, and it's not a place I have to hide in.
Life's not worth a damn,
'Til you can say, "Hey world, I am what I am."

This is how I felt when I turned 50.  This is how I again feel about myself.  I am a great believer that you have to be aware of the world around you, because there are messages and lessons for you if you look for them.  I believe that this message was there for me as a reminder.  It seems to have reset the balance for me.  So, here I am; take me for what I am-no more and no less!  Be joyful in who you are and in the world around you.

Have you found your joy today?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Are You a Worrier?

We all have worries.  It is certainly a necessary part of life.  If everything was wonderful in our lives, I don't think that we would appreciate the good times-the JOYS we find in our lives.  I don't think that we would make good decisions.  I also think that it exercises our cognitive skills as we determine options, analyze their effectiveness, and decide on a course of action.  So worrying can be a good thing.

I love people, I love to watch them, and recently I have found it interesting to analyze how they handle worrying.  My dad didn't worry very often.  Instead, when he did have a problem that needed resolving, you could almost see the wheels turning in his brain as he examined the issues.  Once he found an action strategy, he carried it out and moved on with his life.  I think that most of the time he was very happy.  My mother, on the other hand, was a master worrier.  She worried about everything-even those things that she could do nothing about.  I remember being amazed that she worried about not having enough water while living in Arizona or thinking about getting earthquake insurance in the Midwest.  Don't get me wrong.  My mother was a very reasonable, intelligent woman.  However, her emotional makeup made worrying an integral part of her daily life.  I didn't understand it when I was younger. In fact, I can remember being upset when she would worry about me even after I reached adulthood.  I thought that it was because she didn't have enough faith in my ability to manage my life.  Years of experience have now given me a totally different viewpoint.

I have often thought about my approach to worrying.  I would frequently have issues to resolve related to work just like my dad did.  I felt that I was like him in my approach, as well.  I would stew on the problem, identify solutions, and decide how I wanted to solve the problem.  Once that was done, I let it go and moved on.  I have always found making decisions easy; I am decisive.  However, now that I am retired, I have had more time to analyze my style.  I am surprised to find that I am probably a combination of my parents' worrying styles.  I think that is because I am a mother AND because I now have time to worry.

As a young mother, I worried about my children: were they safe, were they well, was I a good mother?  As all mothers know, it is just part of the mantle of motherhood that we assume when we have a child.  Interestingly enough, fathers don't appear to suffer from the same effect.  Don't get me wrong: they do worry about their children, but they use my father's approach to deal with it and throw it off.  I just think that mother's have worrying down to a science!

As a recent retiree with grown children, I am finding that I worry more now that I am home.  Of course, I worry about my children.  (Shades of my mother!!!  I now understand that she DID believe in me and my abilities.)  I certainly believe in my children.  I am proud of the young adults they have become.  However, I still worry about them, and I think it is because I have time to worry.  When I was working, I didn't have a lot of time to worry about things.  I also know that if I was worried about something, I got a break from it when the workday took over.  Now I don't get a break from worries, and it is a challenge to step out of it sometimes!  Now I understand why my mother worried so much.  She didn't have an outside job where she could get a break from her worries.

I am finding that I have to learn new strategies to escape from worrying.  Writing helps me a lot so I may be writing more blogs in the future.  Being with friends, hugging my granddaughter, talking to my children, cuddling with my husband all help. I am even playing more games than I used to play.  Most importantly, I am taking time to find joy in my life.  This is the first year when I have had time to enjoy the fall and its beauty.  I am enjoying cooking (made freezer jam for the first time!) and finding new recipes.  I realize that worrying can be a healthy part of life.  We just need to find a balance by also finding the joy in our lives.

Have you found your joy today?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 9/11 Experience: the First Step in a Decade of Change

I wasn't sure if I was going to write this post or not.  There are many around me who didn't want to watch any of the programs about 9/11 today.  I understand that we all deal with this great tragedy in our own way.  I also think for many in our country this is a national tragedy but not a personal one.  It shouldn't be about me; however, this is a very personal event and it had a tremendous impact on my life.

Ten years ago today, I lost my innocence and began a journey of loss of, and rediscovery of, safety and security.   My story is inconsequential in comparison to those you have seen on TV.  The recounts of bravery, compassion, and human sacrifice is overwhelming and impossible to describe.  Perhaps I am being selfish in writing this blog, but my way of coping and understanding is to examine my experiences and feelings.  That is why I did watch TV today; that is why I am writing this blog.

I was at work when I heard about the first plane crash into the World Trade Center Tower.  I immediately called my husband, Don, who was at home.  I asked him to try to get a call through to my brother who worked in New York City.  While he worked in an office overlooking Central Park, I still needed assurance that he was okay.  I also needed to know if my parents were safe.  They had been visiting my brother and were due to fly home to Arizona that day.  I didn't think that they were on that plane, but I needed to know for sure.  Don was fortunate that he was able to get a phone call through; we were relieved to find that everyone was safe.  My brother certainly has stories to tell about his struggle to get home to New Jersey that day.  Since flights were grounded for a period of time, my parents had an extended visit with my brother and his wife.  In retrospect, this was truly a gift of time.

I went on a business trip to Washington, D. C. the end of October and took some personal time to travel to visit my brother.  I took the train and went to their home.  Our parents had returned home by then.  I asked my brother to take me into the city for the day.  I wanted to experience New York as a New Yorker does- not as a tourist-and he could show me that.  I also wanted to visit the 9/11 site.

Security was tight.  In the subway station, there were armed soldiers.  We were only able to get within a couple of blocks of the 9/11 site, but it was an experience that I will never forget.

Dust and debris everywhere; abandoned stores with footprints in the dust ...

 steel twisted beyond understanding...

                                                                       police in masks.


I'm glad that I went there. It was a sad journey that I needed to make in order to process what had happened.  I think it also was an important step in my journey.

It wasn't long after this journey that my mother broke her hip while on a trip in Australia.  My brother flew to be with our parents and spent many hours with our father.  We were so focused on our mother's recovery when she returned home that it was a shock when our father died of a massive heart attack the end of February.  During this past decade, I've lost both of my parents.  My symbols of safety and security are gone.   I've struggled with work, I've had cancer (thankfully caught early), I've gotten older.

In taking this opportunity to look back over this decade, I can see the positive changes in my life.  In fact, I can count many.

  • My first step occurred on September 12, 2002; I was baptized.  While I have always been a very spiritual person, I had always been embarrassed and felt incomplete because my parents had never baptized me.  I found the courage to approach my pastor and asked for a private baptism.  I didn't want to do it during a church service in front of the congregation like they do with all of the babies.  This was a very personal step in professing my faith.  I just wanted my family there.   My pastor was very encouraging and assured me that this was a very special event for her to baptize an adult.   I will be eternally grateful that she understood and granted my wishes.
  • My children have grown into lovely young men in spite of all of the time I spent at work.  They were always a priority for me and there were times when I didn't think I had the energy to give them what they needed; but we made it!  
  • My work was demanding but challenging.  There were many times that I made personal connections with people that I have cherished.  I am grateful for these experiences and that I now can enjoy retirement.
  • I now have a lovely daughter-in-law and an adorable granddaughter.  At times I am sad that my parents aren't here to see them, but they are a joy to me.
  • My dear husband found some loving friends for us.  They have enriched our lives and offer support, laughter, and joy every day.
You can see that finding joy is a common theme in the good things from the last decade, because it was during this last decade that I realized that I didn't have much joy in my life.  I made it a daily goal to find joy.  I continue this journey today and hope to do so for the rest of my life.  What about you?

Have you found your joy today?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Are You Going to Do When You Retire?

I have been asked this question so many times in the last few months.  It was often asked with a puzzled tone-almost as if there is nothing to do after retirement.  Boy, do I have a totally different idea about retirement.  I have so many things that I want to do.  I don't know when I'll have time to do them all!

So, in an attempt to answer those inquiries, here goes:

  1. Travel. The first thing that I did was go on a 2 week vacation.  Don and I went to the Black Hills, to Yellowstone, to Salt Lake City, and to northern Idaho to visit a friend.  Pictures will soon be up on Facebook if you want to see the lovely sights.  This was a much needed time away to rest, rejuvenate, and feed the soul with nature's beauty.  I hope to do more as time and money allows.
  2. Set up my home office.  This is still a work in progress, but I am writing my blog in my new office.  I still have boxes to unpack but I'm taking it as it feels right.  Don and Dane helped me clean the room.  I am slowly moving things in.  For now I have music, light, a desk/chair, and my computer.  More to come in the next few days.  I am also taking on the title of Principal, Nielsen Consulting.  Don and I established Nielsen Consulting many years ago for his business with the idea that I would use it when I retired.  I am expecting that I will do some projects or consulting as time goes on; so I have set this up as my base.  
  3. Spend time with family and friends.  I have been "hanging out" with Dane and will soon be spending more time with my granddaughter.  She will be staying with me every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon for a couple of hours while my daughter-in-law goes to school.  My son will pick her up on his way home from work.  I am  looking forward to our time together.  Don and I also went to Winona, MN for the weekend with friends to experience the Great River Shakespeare Festival.  It was relaxing and a great time.  I loved the talent of the actors, the staging, and the opportunity to see Henry IV Part I and Midsummer Night's Dream.  I hope to see some of our Facebook friends this weekend as it is the end of the month and time for our monthly dinner.
  4. Digitize.  We have drawers full of slides that I want to capture digitally.  This will take some time and I am eager to get started.  I know that we have slides of our trip to Europe years ago and many others that I have forgotten about.  (I may also try to change some of our record albums to MP3 format.)  Once I get this project done, I will move to the next one.
  5. Scrap booking.  I want to print out slides and make some scrapbooks of our adventures.  I also have everything bought to make a scrapbook of our son's wedding once I get all of the pictures.  I have one in process on my family history that I want to finish.
  6. Genealogy. I am very interested in researching our family history.  One of the reasons that we went to Salt Lake City was to visit the Family History Center where they are the largest resource for genealogical study.  I actually met with someone who helped me get started and showed me how to access the information when I returned home.  I have also talked to several friends who have helped me with technological tools for organizing the information I find.  This will be a long-term project, and I can't wait to get started.
  7. Writing.  I want to write my family history for my children.  There are things that I experienced that no one else knows now that both of my parents are gone.  Stories that I was told, things that we did as a family, life in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.  I also have wanted to write a book on parenting-not that I'm an expert, but I have some thoughts on it that I want to capture.  I also want to continue this blog to chronicle my journey.  I think it will be interesting to go back and read this in a few years.
  8. Photography.  Don has been an avid photographer for many years.  I have also developed an interest but have never had enough time.  I want to try my hand at this.  I also want to look into selling photos as Don has been interested in that for several years.  We have never done anything with it, but it would be interesting to explore.
  9. Painting.  I want to take an oil painting class.  I have always wanted to try this.  I have drawings that I have done in my house but have never tried painting.  I took some photographs on vacation that I may use for inspiration, and I saw gorgeous oil paintings at the Marine Art Museum in Winona that had such detail and beauty.  I may not be good at this but it should be fun!
  10. Learning.  I want to keep my mind stimulated.  I want to relearn Spanish and maybe try to learn French.  I want to go to the Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College (my alma mater) in the fall and try some Rhodes Scholar classes.  I want to waste the afternoon exploring the internet looking at items that interest me.
  11. Enjoy outdoors.  I want to ride my bike, take a walk, sit on our deck, watch the birds and animals in our yard.  (I have already seen 3 foxes.)  After being cooped up in an office for many years, it is a pleasure to see the daylight and enjoy outdoors.
  12. Cook.  I haven't enjoyed cooking in the last few years but that wasn't always true.  I have always loved to bake and do enjoy cooking when I have time.  I have started doing some cooking and expect to do more in the fall when it gets cooler and the fall harvest arrives.  Apples, pumpkins, soups, stews-YUM!  I can't wait!
  13. Read.  This is one of my favorite things to do, and I have already started this one.  I love sitting down with a cup of coffee and a good book.  It relaxes me!  My kindle makes this so easy, and I can carry it with me wherever I go.
  14. Movies.  I have a lot of movies that I want to see-both in the theater and on Netflix.  I thoroughly enjoy losing myself in someone's story.  This will be more for entertainment in the winter in front of the fireplace when the weather is inclement and I want to cuddle at home.
  15. De-clutter.  I want to take my time and clean out my closets and de-clutter my house.  We will always have too much "stuff", but I think that I can get rid of some things.  I've never had time for this with the hours that I worked.  Now I will, but I will never enjoy cleaning a lot.  So, I will take it slow and try to make steady progress.  It will be nice to be able to actually finish something!  I rarely had that closure at work.  I'm looking forward to it.

You can probably see why it was always hard for me to answer the question when it was asked of me.  I think that I will be doing a lot in my retirement.  In fact, I will probably have trouble getting to everything that I want to do, but I'm up for the challenge!  It will be joyful and exciting!  I can't wait.

Have you found your joy today?

Friday, July 1, 2011

I'm Officially a Retiree!

It is official!  I am retired.  Or is it just tired?  I feel like I have been running a marathon for the last few months and have just crossed the finish line.  I have had 3 retirement parties (probably a topic for a future blog), tons of work, little sleep, and lots of emotions.  Many people have asked me what I'm going to do when I retire.  Right now, I just want to rest, but that's easier said than done.

This was a morning when I could have slept late.  Did I? NO!  I woke up thinking about a solution to an issue at work.  I have had a strong urge to check email which is the first thing I usually did when I got into the office.  So far I've resisted but this urge is compelling!  What is up with that?  I definitely need to work on a new mantra: NMP=Not My Problem!  However, this is not me.  I am a problem solver by nature.  I think I am going to have to work at it.  (On a related note, my husband just asked me if I was doing work email.  Doesn't that tell the story?)

I AM going on vacation.  I think I need this to break the cycle.  In the past when I have gone on vacation, it has taken me at least 3 days to unwind.  I wonder how long it will take to unwind from 34 years of work?  That's an incredible amount of time to develop work habits.  Of course, it will take time to reprogram myself.  I have many years of work habits that I need to break; retraining myself is going to take time!

I have to take note of several interesting things that are going on right now:

  1. Yesterday was my last day of employment.  Coincidentally, my oldest son got a job offer yesterday!  While he has been working multiple part-time jobs in his field to support his family ( my lovely daughter-in-law and precious granddaughter), he has not found full time employment since graduating from college.  Five months ago he began a paid internship at a marketing firm.  Yesterday, they offered him full time employment.  I find the timing of all of this very serendipitous!  
  2. Today the state of Minnesota is shut down!  That this happened on my first day of retirement is very humorous.  I just changed by Facebook status to say, "First day of retirement!  Now the state is shut down?  Guess the sate can't run without me!"  Please know that this is all in jest.  Everyone at work has been very kind and has talked about how hard they think it's going to be without me.  Now, I am a firm believer that we can ALL be replaced.  While things may be different, all will be just fine!  So then to have the state shutdown!  Hilarious!
  3. I am unemployed!  That just sounds strange to me.  I have worked for so long.  I'm not sure how to feel about this.
  4. Finally, while I won't miss the work, I AM going to miss seeing my friends and colleagues.  They hold a very special place in my life.  They were my joy at work and kept me going when I needed support.  

    My joy today has been sharing this special day with all of you!  But what about you?

Have you found your joy today?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Can I let go?

My family will tell you that I am often consumed by work.  Today's technology certainly contributes to that.  I work in the office long hours and take work home.  I check email or my Blackberry even during my private time.  It isn't unusual for me to read and send emails at eleven or twelve at night.  While I never have trouble falling asleep, I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night thinking about a problem or issue that needs to be resolved.  So, I have wondered if I would be able to let go.  I found my answer when I was forced to take some time off this past winter.

I had to have surgery this past January.  While it wasn't the busiest time at work, there was a lot going on.  I was hoping to only be gone for 4 weeks but it stretched out to 6 weeks. This time turned out to be a blessing.  I rediscovered some of my favorite pasttimes: reading, games, movies, watching the wildlife in our backyard, spending time talking with my son and husband.  It was wonderful!  I didn't constantly check my email, I didn't get phone messages about work, and I never checked my Blackberry. It was during this time that I was convinced that I could let go of work and embrace the world of BEING!

Returning to work has been hard.  I caught the bronchial virus that was going around everywhere and had to take even more time off.  While I was trying to get my health back and feeling guilty about needing to be at work after my long absence, I realized that I was ready to let go.

Don't get me wrong: I have loved my work!  It has been challenging and exciting.  At times, I was definitely an adrenaline junkie as many of us in the Human Resources world are!  I'm very proud of the work that I am leaving behind.  I've accomplished a lot.  However, I have reached the point where I firmly believe that it is time for someone else to pick up this work and move it forward.

I want to use retirement to rediscover the Art of Being!  As you know from reading my posts on this blog, I am always looking to find joy in my life.  I know that I will always continue to do so, but I also want to just BE!  I want to enjoy the act of living, loving, sharing.  Don and I have discovered many wonderful friends throughout our marriage, and I want to share joy with them and my family. I also want to revel in the silence and live in the moment. Can I let go?  I CAN let go of work, but I will never let go of learning new things, facing new challenges,and  loving life/family/friends.  I also know that I will never let go of Joy!  What about you?

Have you found your joy today?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Am I a Title?

For 33 years, I have held a title: teacher, mentor, adjunct professor, lead mentor, administrator, director.  Now that my work life with the school district is ending, I will be leaving those titles behind.  It makes me wonder how I will feel.

I remember watching my dad when he retired.  He was a vice president of a major corporation one moment; then he was not.  It was hard for him.  I think that he lost a part of his identity.  Status was a big part of his generation, and his status was tied to his title.  

I am a member of the baby boomer generation.  I survived watching the Vietnam War every single night during my formative years.  We questioned the government; we questioned the status quo.  I know that this changed my life.  I was not like my parents in defining myself by the viewpoints of others.  I decided a long time ago to be my own person.  I am hoping that this will continue into my retirement.  I also realize that I have other titles that may mean even more to me!

One title that I am proud of is "wife"!   That title is one that I have held for a very long time-almost 38 years now.   I have earned it!  I was fortunate that I married my best friend, but every marriage is hard.  You have to work at it, and I have done so.  While my husband will still be working for a few more years, I am hoping that my retirement will allow us to spend more time together on the weekends instead of errands or resting because I was so tired.  Eventually, we hope to be able to travel and explore old age together.

Another title that means a lot to me is "sister".  I am so blessed because I have twin brothers whom I love very much.  They don't live in the Twin Cities anymore, and I don't get to see them very often BUT I adore them.  This is a title that I have held the longest-for 47 years.  (Sadly, both of my parents are gone so I can't claim the title of daughter anymore.)  My brothers have shared my journey/my history and love me no matter what.  There is always a connection there.  Since there is a difference in our ages, we are in different stages of our lives.  However, I know that they are always there if I need them.  

I have saved the most important title for last: "mother".  This is the one that I am most proud of and I think that it truly defines me if any title does.  This one has changed my life!  I will be a mother to my last breath.  I know that fathers love their children, but I don't think that they understand a mother's love.  It is visceral!  It is all-encompassing!  And it never goes away no matter how old they are-no matter what they do!  I am so proud of my sons and the young men they have become.  They are smart, caring, and loving.  My older son is a lot like me.  We often see the world in the same way, and I enjoy watching him with my granddaughter (yes, I am a grandmother, too!).  He is in love with his daughter and it touches my soul.  How can I describe my feelings for my younger son?  We are alike and different at the same time, and we have a connection that is strong, resilient, and indescribable.  I am grateful for every minute I can spend with him as I watch him grow up before my eyes.  

Am I giving up my titles from work?  Yes!  However, I am keeping the titles that truly define me, that truly are important to me.  And who knows?  I may experience exciting and new titles in my future!  And no matter what: my joy is still with me because it is in my family! 

Have you found your joy today?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

You're retiring? You must be old!

I can remember when I was young and heard about people retiring.  I always thought, "They must be old.  Their life is almost over."  I pictured them with gray hair, going to bed early every night, not really having much to look forward to in their remaining years.  Then my dad retired from Corporate America, had 2 different businesses, moved to Florida, moved to Arizona, and had a great retirement life with my mother.  This made me examine my definition of retirement. For the first time, I had a very different perspective on what retirement really meant.

I also remember that, when I began teaching, I wondered how I could ever do this for 10 years-let alone enough years until I could retire.  It seemed FOREVER!  My own retirement seemed so-o-o-o far away.  I first substituted, then had my own classrooms; I mentored, became an administrator, and a director.  Now I look around and discover that 33 years have gone by.  What I thought would take so long, in retrospect, seems like it went by fairly quickly.

Am I older?  Yes, of course, I am!  Do I have gray hair?  Of course, I have some gray (I still have some red hair, too)!  However, I also am wiser, and I like who I am at this point in my life.  I feel like I have accomplished wonderful things in my life: raising 2 sons, having a very successful career that has challenged me and that I have loved, had a loving marriage with my best friend.  I feel like I have paid my dues and am looking forward to my retirement.

In my first post, I talked about how I viewed life: that we go through 3 phases: childhood, adulthood, and retirement.  I am now entering the third phase of my life: retirement.  I believe that I have many wonderful years to enjoy life.  I can do this without feeling guilty or having it compete with my need to earn a living.  I have earned the right to explore life without the time constraints I had during my adulthood phase.  I can stay up late (which is my natural rhythm) without having to worry about getting up for work each morning.  I can finally have time to be at home and may even be able to have some time just for myself!

I know that I am very fortunate to be able to do this.  Many are not able to experience this phase in the way that I am hoping to be able to do.  I am looking forward to having the time to learn new things, to explore new things, and to enjoy time with my family.  What will I do with my time?  That is a post for another day.  For now, I plan to find my joy.

Have you found your joy today?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Countdown to Retirement

Today begins the countdown to retirement! Two months from today my career life will end, and I will be starting the next phase of my life.

It seems to me that we live our lives in three phases: childhood, adulthood, and retirement.   During childhood, we have an innocence about us.  Our lives are filled with joy about all of the new discoveries, learnings, and play.  If we are lucky, we are safe and loved.  Time goes slowly, and we can't wait for our next birthday.  During adulthood, we discover autonomy, love, work, and pleasure.  We struggle with money issues, relationships, starting a family, and careers.  Life is exciting and hard!  We have disappointments and exhilaration.  Stress becomes a constant companion, and we often forget how to play.  It was during this phase of my life that I discovered the title to this blog: Joy2Day

Joy2Day has become my daily mantra.  My career has been with one educational employer my whole life.  Curiously enough, my career has been divided into 3 roles: teacher, mentor, HR director.  Amazing to be able to do this in one educational setting!  I have been very fortunate.  When I was in my mentoring phase, I discovered an appreciation for joy one day when I watched my mentor, the HR director at that time, take a moment out of his busy day to stop and literally smell the roses before a meeting!  This was a full-body, live in the moment experience for him.  You could see him leave behind the baggage of the day and embrace the fragrance and beauty before him. This was eye opening to me.  I had always heard that saying, but had never truly understood it.  

Later when I (to my surprise!) became the HR director, I remembered that event as I was struggling with the stress of the job.  That was when I made the promise to myself to find joy in my life every single day!  Some days it has been very difficult to find joy, but it is always there: my sons' smiles or phone calls, my husband's presence at my side on the couch, a sunset, a deer in our yard, birds at the feeder, a tulip popping through the ground.  Something is always there if I only open my consciousness to finding it!  

Now as I am transitioning from the adulthood phase to the retirement phase, I hope that I can continue Joy2Day as my companion.  I hope that, with the extra time available to me, I will find joy and not the boredom or restlessness that many retirees experience.  I am striving to fill my days with simple joy, and I want to take you on that journey with me!  

Have you found your joy today?