Friday, August 15, 2014

It's Not Just a Bucket List

I am a list maker.  Always have been.  When I was teaching, I would keep a stenographer's notebook with lists of tasks which needed to be done. Then I would artfully use a variety of colored pens to color out the tasks as they were finished.  A rainbow of accomplishment!  Now I use an app on my phone, tablet and laptop which syncs together so many lists that they are categorized in folders and assigned to different days.  Overall, my lists are so long that I will most likely never finish many of the tasks before they become unimportant - which is also OK.  My lists are living, evolving things.

But there is one list which is near and dear to my heart.  We keep it in the Notes section on my phone, and it is entitled simply, 
Our List

Our List has evolved through many bottles of wine, over dinners, while taking walks, and even while driving along in the car.  The rules for the list are quite simple:  It is the place for storing our dreams that begin with, "I wanna..."

  1. It is about activities that we wish to experience, not about accumulating things.
  2. Either of us can add a desire to the list. 
  3. There is no veto power.
  4. No dream is too big, or too small.
Our list is now a couple of pages long, and ranges from the silly to the sublime.  It includes things like "eat in every not-yucky restaurant in our town" to "zip-line somewhere where there are monkeys or parrots." Everything from "jet-boat through Hells Canyon" to "New Orleans jazz."

Every so often, we pull out the list, talk through the items, and prioritize what we should try to do next.  That's when we sometimes negotiate, adding and deleting from the list as our wishes change.  (I, for example, no longer feel the need to mountain bike down our local ski hill!) 

The beautiful thing about our list is our commitment to it.  It's not really a bucket list, but rather our shared journey list.  In the bigger picture, it is about our desire to fulfill each other's dreams, to voyage through life together, and to share our experiences.  A little sappy, I know...But we are committed to spending the rest of our lives trying to cross things off Our List!


Monday, July 28, 2014

Fixing the Funk - Living to an Objective

I am in a funk...You may have noticed from my non-existent posting schedule during the last month.  I am afraid I may have fallen into that regrettable state that frightens so many pre-retirees and new retirees.  I think I'm...wait for it...BORED!  Now, I know what you might be thinking, given my previous ranting about how it is impossible to be bored and given that there is so much to be discovered in this world.  And perhaps "bored" isn't exactly the correct adjective.  It's just that I am in a funk.  It has occurred to me over the last few weeks that I have been letting my days sort of just tick by...without really accomplishing much or having much direction.  Oh sure, I've been out to lunch with my gal pals a couple of times, and I've played golf a couple of mornings a week, but that still leaves a lot of hours that I've just sort of piddled around aimlessly.  Geez...You'd think that with this much time on my hands that my house would be absolutely spotless.  Nope - Not even!  And I'm finding myself daydreaming about the upcoming vacation we will be taking to Chicago at the end of next month.  Now hold on just a second, I say to myself...What about today???  I have let this month slide by, wishing for the future!  And that, my friends, is a FUNK!!!

What to do, what to do??? Sometimes I think someone should just slap me upside the head - because after a great deal of consideration, it finally occurred to me that I should practice some of this stuff I've been reading, instead of just letting it go into my brain and fade away. The self talk sounded something like this:  "Hello???!!! How 'bout you try living with a little intention!  You remember that list you made? Hell, it was your last post, for cryin' out loud! How 'bout you try walkin' the talk! You know all those blogs you've been reading?  How 'bout you put some of this into practice!"

So here's my plan - I read somewhere that every day you should accomplish one big thing and do something you love.  That sounds like a pretty good idea, so we'll go with that.  And to make it happen, I've decided to take a little time at the end of each day (TV off, cup of tea in hand) to contemplate and intentionally plan at least a part of the next day.  I've always been a list maker, so I use the Any Do app that lets me keep my tasks current on every device.  That being said, I've also typed up my values list and hung it on the wall in my office, where it's right there in my face, begging the question,

What are you intentionally doing today to enrich your life
 and to actively advance what you value most?

Back in my teaching days, we used to call it "teaching to an objective."  Well, now it's time to practice "Living to an Objective."  I'm only on about day three of this plan, so I'll have to let you know how it goes.  How about it...does anyone else have strategies for keeping the "wasting my life away funk" at bay?  Drop a comment below to let me know what you're doing!  Then check back later to find out if I'm still feelin' funky!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Retiring with Intention - 12 Ways

This morning I decided to write at the table on my patio, while enjoying my morning coffee and the smells of the summer day before the heat sets in.  It occurred to me that before the Encore Voyage I rarely took the time to just be observant about sights and sounds around me.  The Encore Voyage is changing us...Jeremy and I are choosing to live our lives more intentionally.  We get to decide what to make of each day.  The other night, while enjoying a glass of wine, we made a list of those things in our lives we really value.  Here's our list:

1. Our marriage - We both agreed that this is number one on our list.  Our number one priority is each other.  Jeremy once participated in a leadership training seminar where the speaker instructed the participants to take a sheet of paper, fold it in quarters, then write the things they valued most in each of the four quadrants.  After that was done, participants were instructed to tear off the least valuable thing and throw it away.  This was followed by the next least valuable, and the next, until each person was left holding only one quadrant.  The eye-opening part of the exercise is that people in the room threw their kids, God, their wives in crumpled wads onto the floor...because they thought they should value "becoming a vice president...." 

So often we hear that "marriage is hard."  Call me crazy, but I've never found this to be the case.  There is nothing hard about being kind, being thoughtful, putting the other person first - it's just that over the years we grow complacent, and forget the person we married in the first place.

2. Developing  soul - enhancing relationships - OK, I must admit that I have stolen this lovely expression from Erika over at All Things E, because she is spot on.  At first, we thought the important thing was our family members...but then we realized that while we will always try to support "family members," the label of 'family' is not what counts.  We have many people in our lives who are closer than family (gal pals, you know who you are).  More importantly, there are people whose relationships we wish to nurture because they add such a fulfilling quality to our lives.  So whether it be relationships with God, with siblings, with family members or with acquaintances, it seems important to intentionally decide how and with whom we spend our time. Thanks Erika, for putting that little tidbit into our brains.

3.  Learning new things - One of the best parts of the Voyage has been the opportunity for us to take on new challenges.  When I was teaching, I used to tell my students that they needed to learn something new every day, or they might as well have stayed in bed!  We delight in the notion that there is an entire unexplored world out there and we can learn about anything we can imagine!

4. Building and creating - High on our list is the notion that we value our creative yearnings. Anyone who has seen my craft closet knows that I can never be tied down to one thing.  I have stacks of PhD's (projects half done!)  The opportunity to try our hand at new creative ventures makes us both thrive.

5.  Exploring new places - It could be travel, it could be places in our own town. It could be a picnic in the local countryside.  It doesn't need to cost money.  There is so much in this world to see and experience.  We value our wanderlust!

6.  Reading Forever - Borrowed that phrase from Nook at B&N.  So many books, so little time.  Nuf said!

7.  Appreciating and making music - Music has been important to both of us since we were very young.  From playing my piano, to learning to play the sax, to enjoying the fruits of our local symphony, to good old rock and roll...we want our lives to have a sound track.  Which brings us to number 8...

8. Supporting the arts -  Shakespeare, local theater, dance groups and galleries, just to name a few - Life is about collecting experiences, and the arts provide us with some of the richest.

9. Health, physical activity and self-acceptance - We have been giving a lot of thought lately to our pursuit of good health.  We eat a lot healthier lately, and I have logged hundreds of hours at the gym in the last two years, cycling and treadmilling to nowhere and challenging my muscles with weights.  It has occurred to me that all those hours at the gym may not be the best use of  time.  What if, perhaps, we actually took a walk or went for a run or swim?  What if we climbed a trail instead of the Stair Master? How about walking the golf course, climbing real stairs, parking at the far side of the parking lot?  It seems to me that an intentional life would value more authentic types of activity.  

With that in mind, I've also decided that I'm tired of searching for a different me.  Yep, I'm a little heavier than I'd like to be - I'll keep working on it.  But it does me no good to wish for the body of that college girl 30 years ago.  And it is self defeating to keep saying, "Six months from now I'll wear a smaller dress size."  So I'm committed to doing the best I can to keep this body healthy and strong, and to be OK with the woman in the mirror.

10.  Good Food - Exploration for our senses! - Keeping in mind number 9 above, we decided that exploring good, real food is something we both value.  We want to experience the flavors and combinations of different cultures and cuisines - from fresh tomatoes and lettuce that we grow in our garden to cheeses, wines and dishes from other countries.  That's not an excuse to eat an entire cake in one sitting (again, see number 9.)  It is, however, a statement that protein powders and tofu are just not going to cut it for us...we crave real, whole delicious foods creatively prepared!

11.  Taking time for rest, relaxation and meditation - I used to go through life like a freight train.  Now we have realized the value in taking some time to just be...time to think, to recharge, to de-stress and to let go.  Oh, I wish so much that we had learned this value while we were working for others.  Because we now take time for ourselves, the quality of our lives has improved ten-fold.  You should learn. from. our. mistakes!

12.  Gratitude and giving back - These days we pay more attention to how blessed we feel to be able to travel this voyage.  We are thankful that we have 'enough.'  In fact, we have more than we could possibly need.  We've come to realize the importance of giving back and have found that greater selflessness is life enriching.  And face it - It's not hard to look around and find a need to be filled.  

When I look at our list, it's clear to me that none of this is about accumulating "stuff."  A successful life isn't about money or possessions.  Every item on this list is about how we act..those behaviors which enrich and give fullness to our lives.  Yes, I realize that people, including us, still need to work for a living.  For us, intentional living is about trying to make our actions fall in line with what we value. It's about paying attention to what we do, and determining if those actions fit in with our list.

So how about it...what do you value in creating an intentional life?  Leave a comment - I'd love to hear!


Monday, June 30, 2014

Retirement Togetherness - 10 Steps for 24/7 Success

It seems that whenever we tell people our story, one of the first questions they ask is, "How can you stand to be together 24 hours a day???  Apparently, this is the thing that keeps some from making the decision to retire at all. Jeremy has talked with lots of guys who have said, "I'd love to do what you have done, but I can't imagine what I'd do if I had to stay at home with my wife all day!"  Yikes!  Ladies, I don't know what we're doing to scare our men out of retiring, but if your hubs is feeling this way, take him by the hand, get your coffee, sit down and share this blog with him.  It really isn't that difficult!

I will admit that some of our friends say that our relationship is somehow unique...that we are not a typical couple.  Now I don't know if that's true, but I can tell you that, by choice, there are certain premises that we have adopted over the years, that seem to be working during the voyage:

1.  We made a conscious decision to be kind and respectful to each other.  Neither one of us will participate in a fight.  I can hear some people right now saying, "If you say you never fight, you must be lying."  Well, believe what you will, but here's the deal...My mamma taught me to "keep a civil tongue in my head."  That advice has rung true for a lifetime.  It does not mean that I am not honest with the hubs, or that we never disagree.  It simply means that if  I'm about to say something hurtful, I bite my tongue!  I will wait until calmer heads prevail, and then we'll figure out a way to discuss.  I have always judged it this way - Would I say this to my best friend?  Many times, the answer is no - I wouldn't say something to my best girlfriend because it would hurt her feelings.  Why, oh why, is it true in our culture that married people believe that they can say anything to each other, without regard for hurting feelings!  The one thing I am most proud of in our relationship is that in the 35+ years we've been together, Jeremy has never, ever said an unkind word to me!  And while I know this is not true for all, it's something to consider...

2.  We have separate individual spaces in our home.  Early on, we realized that each of us needed a personal space.  In our home, we created separate "offices," but it could be a desk, a corner, a room, or even a garage.  There is some truth to the concept of the man cave, just as I had need of a 'woman cave.'  We each need a place to retreat to, to hold our stuff, to call our own...

3. We've been careful to keep and nurture separate outside interests.  He's a car guy.  I'm a golf girl.  He has guy pals.  I have gal pals. He does guy stuff.  I do girly, crafty stuff.  The point is that by continuing to go our separate ways, learning new things, making new friends, engaging with others, we bring a fresh perspective and new topics of conversation to the table.

4. We've learned new things about each other...and adjusted.  You would think that after being together for so long, a couple would know just about everything there is to know about each other.  WRONGO!  I would never have believed it myself, but being together during the work day hours was very illuminating.  Who knew that the hubs was such a linear thinker, who absolutely hates to be interrupted when he's involved in a task.  For a couple of months there, I about drove him crazy when I would derail his train of thought.  I'm sure he learned some choice things about how I operate as well.  The point is that we always keep #1 in mind, while working out ways to co-exist!

5. We became more flexible in our roles around the house.  It's not unusual that during their working careers, people fall into a sort of routine about who does what in running and maintaining the household - He mows the lawn, She does the laundry, He takes out the garbage, She does the cooking...But when the perception of available time changes, the nature of the roles must change as well.  Early on, I started feeling like I was the "charwoman" at our house, while he was working hard to build the business.  We learned that we needed our roles to be more flexible.

6.  We plan, always with consideration of the other person in mind. We share a calendar on our computer, and we make sure that we communicate what events get scheduled. Neither gets to plan an event involving both without consulting the other.  No one's event is more important than the other's.  You would think this would be a no-brainer.  But in retirement, it's easy to fall into the trap of "Of course, we'll both be there!"  Or, "Sure, I can schedule the plumber to come, cuz hubs will be home." It only takes a couple of times of misguided expectations to figure this one out.  I hope you learn from our missteps...

7.  We've become better listeners.  You see numbers 1-6 above?  Well, in order to make them work, you've got to listen...really listen to what your partner needs, thinks and feels.  Just sayin'.

8.  We find ways not to take it all too seriously, and to laugh at the quirky things that happen daily.  And they will happen...believe me they will! I did not know until recently that hubs is able to quote a huge amount of Looney Tunes dialog!

9.  We are a team in all things.  We plan together, make lists together, prioritize together, budget together.  I can see why the guys in the introduction to this piece don't want to be home if they feel that they are alone in the journey.  The voyage is a shared one in every way.

10.  And finally, our guiding principle - When we were first married, we both read John Gray's Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. (Gray, 1992), and for all of our married lives we have taken to heart what we believe to be the most important phrase of the book:

Men want to be appreciated, 
Women want to be cherished.

It's quite simple really, and if you think about it, so very, very true.  And to that end, I try to make sure that every day of his life, I let Jeremy know how much I appreciate him - things he does for our business, for me personally, for us as a couple.  And every single day of my life, I feel truly cherished by him.  And in the end, that's all it really takes!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Affording the Encore - 12 Ways We Cut Costs

When we first began the Encore Voyage, we had a few moments of total freak out at our complete loss of income stream!  Then, cooler heads prevailed and we took a deep breath. We realized that we would most likely not starve, at least for a day or two.  To all you youngsters (and by that I mean anyone under the age of 40), listen to me now:

We are living proof that you absolutely, positively,
 need to have an emergency savings plan in place!

And that means before you go out and buy those jet skis or that snowmobile that you think you absolutely must have!  You don't need it nearly as much as you will need to live in the event that you lose your income!  Just sayin'...

So back to the story...For the first couple of months we were able to draw upon our savings, without raiding our retirement account, while we figured out what to do.  We decided to start our own small business, and having some cash set aside allowed us to get that started. Having your own business takes lots of work and drive, and is the topic of many other blogs, from which we have learned a great deal.  But I also started following The Minimalists and Be More With Less, and I started thinking about how much we really need to be happy.  Now don't get me wrong - this is not about being cheap.  I want to have some cash in hand just as much as the next guy.  But it is about really evaluating how and where you spend your hard earned money...and that's where we woke up!

In the years when there was a much bigger income in this household, we spent a great deal.  I don't want to think of it as being wasteful, but let's just say we 'squandered' quite a bit.  We didn't really give it much thought until recently. The Encore Voyage has started us thinking about some ways in which we could be more wise about our spending:

1)  We reduced our cable TV package to the minimum package.  When you actually sit down and calculate the cost of higher level movie/sports packages and then compare that figure to the number of movies or events you actually see, the cost per viewing for this convenience can be ridiculous.  You can rent a lot of movies from Red Box for a buck...

2) We paid attention to how we use the heat and air conditioning in our house.  Rather than just set the thermostat and forget it, we took an active roll in closing shades, opening windows, adding another layer of clothes...and cut our heating and cooling bills by 4-10% over the previous year.

3) We cancelled our subscription to the newspaper.  It was a habit that was simply adding to the bulk of the recycle bin.  Lots of access to local and national news is available on my tablet.  There's even too much news and I must be cautious not to let electronic media rule my mornings!  I even found a free app to replace the comics and my favorite daily word puzzles!

4) I monitored our cell phone use and ultimately reduced our data package.  Not because we put ourselves on any type of data diet, but because we were previously paying for data that we were not using!

5) We have changed the way we eat.  We now rarely eat at fast food restaurants.  Not only is this change way healthier for us, but it saves us a lot of money!  It is amazing how much fast food we used to grab, just for convenience. Seriously - I used to have the phone number for Pizza Hut memorized!

6) We plan, shop for, and cook more meals at home.  I'm a much better cook now that I have time to plan and shop for groceries.  I'm not "extreme" about any of it, but a coupon here and a trip to Costco there all adds up to savings.  Not to mention that we have found we actually love cooking, chopping, and drinking wine in the kitchen together - An added benefit!

7) We got rid of a bunch of magazine subscriptions. That stack of magazines that are sitting there unread???  Yeah those - You don't need them!  You can find most of that stuff on line, and I have learned that your magazines should not cause you stress!  Bu-bye!

8) We turn off the lights!  There were times when this house was lit up like a Christmas tree! Crazy wasteful!

9) I download books from the public library.  Probably cut my book purchases in half!  My Carpe Librum post will tell you how.

10) We spend waaaayyyyy less money on both gas and clothing.  Because we now work primarily from home, we don't need nearly as much.  The savings on gasoline is huge!  And because our minimalist efforts are paying off, reducing all those clothes in the closets just makes everything seem lighter and less stressful!

11) I don't know if this is going to be a savings, but because I have more time, I'm making many of my Christmas and birthday gifts.  Shhhhhh...don't tell - quilted things for everyone!  And lots of pleasure for me!

12) Our next step will be to get rid of our land line telephone!  Why is it that everyone under the age of 35 has already done this, and everyone over the age of 35 has a hard time cutting the cord?  We're about to take the plunge, because the only calls on that number are usually solicitations!...And just like that, there's another 20 bucks!

So, you see, it's not about being cheap.  It's about paying attention to where the money goes!  And it's about deciding with intentionality how you want to live.  So how about it...Do you have any other strategies that you've used to cut costs?  Please be sure to share in the comments!


Monday, June 9, 2014

Carpe Librum (Seize the Book)

One of my favorite things about retirement and this Encore Voyage...Here's a Hint:

It's the BEST!!!  To finally have the time to read, read, read, read and then read some more - well, just heavenly.  And to not pay the penalty.  Here's how it goes when I read in bed.  I tell myself, "Just one more chapter." - Then look and I've gone the next 100 pages, OR I tell myself, "Just 15 more minutes." - and look to find yet another hour has passed.  The Encore Voyage allows for such nonsense without having to explain my glazed eyes to my boss in the morning.   In my post, The Barnes and Noble Date, I shared how we love to go and pet and smell and touch and generally support brick and mortar booksellers.  I also have a confession to make.  I've had my Nook for several years, and I love it, too.  I love being able to have lots of books with me when traveling, and I love being able to adjust the light (particularly helpful for past my bedtime reading!).  So I guess you can say I'm bi-literary:  I swing both ways.  

But in my subtle move toward minimalism, I've also been reducing the number of actual books I have around the house.  It's a little bit like giving away a child, I know, but it can be done, at least in part.  It's easier knowing that I can still access those wonderful works with a tap of the screen...

And my latest rediscovery on the Encore Voyage?  The Public Library!   Come on, face it you boomers and retirees...when was the last time you roamed around your public library?  Here's a news flash:  You should go!  No seriously, get your rear down to your local library and take your electronic reader with you, because here's what I've learned:  There's a high probability that your library will have a talented young techie person who will get you hooked up with downloading from the library's e-collection. It's easy peasy...They will help you download and start an account for OverDrive Media Console:

It's quite simple.  You will need an Adobe account (easy to set up the first time - just an email and a password), and it's all free.  Then wham, bam, thank you library - You are in business.  You select your local library and are directed to it's e-collection right on your e-reader.  Coolest thing ever?  You can check out and download books from wherever you happen to have a wi-fi connection!  Generally, you can check them out for 14 days or so, and then they are just deleted.  Right??? No books to return, no worrying about overdue books.  And the hours and hours of browsing potential, without anyone thinking you are some weirdo!   If a book isn't available right now, you can place a hold on it and the library will notify you by e-mail when it's available for download.  Once you have the account, you can even put Overdrive on your smart phone, for those moments when you are bored at the DMV!   Just thinking about it makes my eyes glaze over with reader bliss...

So carpe librum and hurry over to your local library!  Then let me know how it all works out for you!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My Absolutely True Criticism of Part-Time Crazy Parents

If you ever read the "About" page on this blog, you may remember that I had mentioned I may blog about "some nonsense and musings that occur to me."  Well, here comes a doozy...

When the Harry Potter series was first published, it caused quite an uproar among parents, who believed that it was rooted in evil underpinnings.  I don't know, perhaps it was written by the devil himself...In any case, being the teacher that I am, I felt the need to read it for myself to find out what all the hubbub was about.  In the end, I read all of the books - Twice.  Now I'll be the first to admit that I didn't particularly care for the dark quality of the later books, but all in all, here was my opinion:

I'm sorry, mom and dads, but there's not a kid alive who does not think that troll boogers, vomit flavored jelly beans, moving staircases and three headed drooling dogs are about the coolest things ever!  And those kids began to want to read...and JK is a stinkin' genius! - Just my opinion...

So you must know that this little news flash was sure to catch my attention:

Idaho’s Meridian School District Votes to Keep Hold on
 ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian'

It seems the local school board had voted 2-1 to keep Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little Brown, 2007) off the curriculum's supplemental reading list. Once again, parents were up in arms about the "inappropriate" content of the book, and the criticisms were flying in all directions. I even read a post where parents accused teachers of trying to take over their parenting responsibilities.  We'll get to that one in a bit...

So being the retired teacher that I am, I simply had to find out what the fuss was about.  I read the book from cover to cover in one sitting.  And here's the deal:  The book is written from the perspective of a fourteen year old Indian boy who lives on the Spokane  reservation.  It is written in the voice of a teenage boy - it has some profanity and a couple of references to homosexuality.  It seems that the earth shattering part for the complaining parents is this line:

“And if God hadn't wanted us to masturbate, then God wouldn't have given us thumbs. So I thank God for my thumbs.”  Yup, this discussion of the big bad M-word takes up less than 3/4 of one page...

I know it will probably tick some people off, but since this is my little portion of the blogosphere, I get to say what I think, right?  (BTW - People who know me will tell you that I always say what I think!) So here's my opinion:

Are you kidding me?
  (And yes, I'm yelling! - Geez!)

It is abundantly clear to me why this book was the Winner of the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature!  It is raw, gritty, and insightful, and has the potential to develop empathy in a generation of young readers who are generally not so empathetic.  Jeremy and I talked about this book all the way home from Portland, and I found myself wishing that I could use this book to teach a group of high school sophomores! I can only imagine the depth of discussion which could be teased from young people.  The book tackles huge issues like self-determination, alcoholism, bullying, friendship, violence, Indian culture, and stereotypes. Publisher's Weekly describes it as "so emotionally honest that the humor almost always proves painful."  Even Pam Juel, the Library Coordinator for Joint School District #2, said that the book "presents a compelling demand that readers experience the world through a lens that, in many cases, is an unfamiliar, and perhaps uncomfortable, perspective."

So it saddens me that, like troll boogers and wizardry, some parents can't seem to get past the possibility most teenage boys have grabbed their dipsticks and might identify with the topic. And no mommy, I have never met a teacher who yearns to take over your parenting responsibilities.  We do, however, wish you'd grow a pair and have those conversations with your sons and daughters.  Violence, profanity and that big bad m-word do exist out there in the world.  You fear your child will be influenced by reading about it?  I'm not so sure that's what you fear.