Somethings Are Easier in Retirement

My friend, former co-worker, and garage-sale-organizer extraordinaire Linda and I co-host biennial garage sales. It isn’t easy; however, the time retirement affords makes it easier to pull off than it was when I was working. Last Friday and Saturday we pulled off a doozey.

My garage, after being purged of its two-year build up of garage-sale purchased I-might-someday-need-this items was swept, tarped, tabled and generally transformed into a retailing destination for bargain hunters and future garage-sale-conducting customers.

These are not run-of-the-mill sales. Weeks are spent sorting and pricing. Days leading up to the sale are spent staging the afore-mentioned sorted and priced merchandise. The day of the sale begins at six a.m. as signs are strategically placed throughout my neighborhood. We no longer risk sign deployment the day before the sale after being the victims of garage-sale-sign rip off. Four years ago we carefully placed our brightly-colored, custom-made signs the night before the sale, only to find, on the morning of the sale, that they had all been removed; no doubt by some working stiff who did not have the time (nor the laminator) to make his own garage-sale signs.

I did purchase some ready-made signs from Dollar Tree “where everything is a dollar.” You have to be careful not to purchase over-priced items. It’s a classic case of buyer beware. An elderly woman behind me in the check-out line said, “So, you’re having a garage sale.” I replied yes, and she went on to share her tale of a garage sale. She explained how weekend after weekend she would drag her belongings out to her driveway, and then sit next to those items all day under the hot sun. At the end of the day, she would drag in the things she had dragged out that morning; her burden not lightened by any sales. She finally gave up her weekend marketing attempts, and threw away everything she had been trying to sell. Her attempt at garage selling had been a classic case of garbage out – garbage back in. The merchandise offered up at our sale is of a higher quality, and our pricing strategy is that if you can buy a similar item at a dollar store, don’t price our item over fifty cents.

After signs are placed, canopies are erected to protect our patrons (and us) from the harsh New Mexico sun, and items that the garage could not accommodate, are placed under the shade-providing canopies. Our check-out table is stocked with calculator, bags, tissue paper (for wrapping the delicate breakable items) and our garage-sale notebook, in which we adhere the initialed price stickers we will refer to when divvying up the proceeds. Whew!

We then spend the day attending to our customers’ questions, restocking and reorganizing tables, while sipping our signature “Garage Sale” drink (seltzer water, juice and Moscato).

This year, not one person asked, “So, how much do you want for this garage?” (my Dad’s favorite garage-sale ice breaker). People were generally pleasant, and we engaged them in our happy “Garage Sale” drink-induced fog.

Sunday is spent retrieving signs, packing up and donating unsold merchandise, and returning my garage to vehicle accommodation mode.

It’s Post-Garage-Sale-Monday and I should be taking advantage of my retirement status, to sleep in, but I’m not. Being retired doesn’t always make things easier, but it always makes things more enjoyable. I’m going to enjoy the nap I take this afternoon, during the time that I was working the Monday following the garage sale we conducted two years ago.


I obtained a passport approximately ten years ago. I’ve never used it. During the application process, the postal worker helping me asked if I had any travel plans. I told her no, but explained that I was a “Wheel Watcher.” Ten years ago, Wheel-of-Fortune gave away trips to Wheel Watchers who signed on to the Wheel-of-Fortune website within 24 hours of their Wheel Watcher ID being displayed during an episode. I was an early Wheel Watcher enrollee (my Wheel Watcher ID is something like JT0000000000003). I watched the show faithfully, but I never won a trip. My passport has sat unused and is approaching its expiration date. Wheel-of-Fortune has since discontinued the nightly opportunity for those of us out in the home audience to win a trip. Drat. Happily I have my little RV and there’s lots to see during retirement right here in my country. Heck, there’s lots to see in my state. Life is good.

If my life were a Wheel-of-Fortune episode, it might include the following puzzles:

  • People – TRAILER TRASH (our son threatened to entitle his college entrance essay, “The Little White Trash that Could”)
  • Place – SHE SHED CITY
  • What are you not doing? – WINNING A TRIP
  • Prize puzzle – TOO MUCH ZUCCHINI (Jim would explain that I’ve won an expense-less trip to my backyard to pick more zucchini than could possibly be consumed by one family; however, in an attempt to do so, meals provided will include such delicacies as zucchini bread, zucchini muffins, zucchini frittata, fried zucchini, grilled zucchini and of course they’ll be served with refreshing zucchini smoothies and zucchini cocktails.)

After numerous successful spins I would choose to spin just one more time (even though I know the answer) in order to get to the next meaningful monetary milestone, and BOOM, I hit “LOSE A TURN.” It’s not a luck thing; it’s just where the wheel stops. The frustration sets in when the next player spins one time, lands on the one kazillion dollar space, calls a letter, and there are four of that letter in the puzzle. The person then correctly solves the puzzle. They use their winnings to buy a small tax-sheltered tropical island. The moral of the episode’s story is that a bird in hand is worth a kazillion in the bush. Really, I don’t want to hold a bird (it seems kind of cruel to the bird). The moral of the story, for me, could be that not spinning when you know the answer is better than birds, regardless of number or location. No that doesn’t sound right. The moral of the story could be, be happy with what you’ve got, because really, we have so much.

When I last spun the wheel-of-life, I landed on “RETIREMENT.” It’s like hitting the jackpot. It includes an abundance of zucchini, time to watch Wheel-of-Fortune, and a desire to see my Country. I like zucchini; I have a little RV with which to travel around my Country; and, I don’t have to watch Wheel-of-Fortune if I don’t want to. Life is abundantly good!

Another bud of a potential zucchini.

Soul Pimp

When I began my final workplace position, that spanned eight of my nineteen years of Federal employment, I promised myself that I would give up my there-to-fore soul pimp behavior. In previous positions I wouldn’t take breaks; I would stay late; I would eat my lunch at my desk and I took very little time off. I would put my heart and soul into my work. I would sell my soul for my job. That behavior never provided any extraordinary success, and rarely resulted in recognition. In other words, I sold my soul cheap. I don’t know why. Maybe it was the martyr factor. My mother always told me that I relished being a martyr, but I think being a pimp (even a soul pimp) and a martyr are mutually exclusive.

So as I began my professional finale, I was determined to be governed by reason. I wasn’t successful. I quickly sold my soul to the company store, and worked longer hours with fewer breaks, and more personal sacrifice than I ever had before. I have to admit, that I loved to hear, “Oh Jennie, you work sooooo hard,” and “Oh Jennie, you’re such a hard worker.” I even resented co-workers, usually those in supervisory positions, who didn’t acknowledge my selfless personal sacrifice (ohhh, that martyr thing is starting to make more sense).

Retirement lends itself more to martyrdom than to soul pimping. This week, in an ultimate display of martyrdom, I was flayed by the task of jelly making. I pitted six pounds of plums, ensuring that the pitted fruit was free of blood let during this task. I mashed the fruit to free the juice, like Moses, seeking freedom for my charges. There was no parting of the Red Sea, but there was a red sea of plum juice that ran down my arms, across the counter and onto the floor. Happily, my Fitbit, while not water resistant, is plum juice resistant.

I went on to cook the juice with sugar, lemon juice and pectin; pour it into sterilized jars, which I then boiled in a huge water bath. I was not burned at the stake, but I have plenty of jelly-making sacrificial burns on my arms and fingers. After eight hours, I realized that the jelly was not jelling. I was sad. I opened the jars, collected the un-jelled contents, re-sterilized the jars, recooked the fruit with additional sugar, lemon juice and pectin, refilled the re-sterilized jars, and re-boiled them in the huge water bath, re-burning some of my previous burns. It’s a repetitive process. As of this morning, the jelly has not jelled. I am sad.

When I began that final Federal work position, I hoped that I would live to see retirement. As I continue through retirement, I hope I live to see next year

Fruit of My Labor

Bad Luck Gets a Bad Rap

As a retiree, I am happy to be independent of gainful employment as I celebrate Independence Day this year. I appreciate my retirement status, and I am reminded how lucky I am every time I run into a former co-worker; all of whom say, “You’re so lucky to be retired.” Frankly, luck had little to do with it. I worked the requisite years, contributed to my retirement fund, and now I’m happy to be reaping the rewards.

Much like good luck is often credited with the rewards of hard work, bad luck is often blamed for the consequences of poor choices. Let’s look at a few examples (these are not personal quotes, but they are reminders to me that when I do something stupid, and something bad results, it has nothing to do with luck):

  • Gambling – “I spent hours at that slot machine and lost $500.00. I have the worst luck.”
  • Reckless driving – “I rushed to make it through that light, just as it turned red, and got T-boned. I have rotten luck.”
  • Reckless behavior – “I had sex with that jerk, and now I’m pregnant. I can’t believe my luck.”

Bad luck has become the crutch propping up the rapid decline of personal accountability. Here in Retirement Land, personal accountability is much more… personal. When you mess up while retired, the impact as well as the effect is usually personal. Yes, another benefit of retirement, is that when you do something stupid, you have only yourself to blame. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, “Life’s good!”

So what is good luck? Among other things, good luck is being born with natural talent. Natural talent is the kind of thing that spurs many people on to long happy careers. Natural talent is the kind of thing that encourages many people to retire early to further explore and share that talent. Natural talent is the kind of thing that allows for great professional success providing the choice for either a long happy career or early retirement. That’s good luck. Of course, really, really hard work can result in professional success, too – but not always. That’s bad luck

Bad luck is getting cancer. Good luck is being cured of cancer. Bad luck is being hit by a car that runs a red light. Good luck… has nothing to do with driving. In my mind (since retiring, my mind has been my most frequent travel destination), luck is kind of like a wet bar of soap: you get a hold of it and it’s ready to lather and do it’s soap job, but if you squeeze it too hard, it slips right out of your hands, falls to the ground where you can step on it, slip and fall and break your neck. That will totally burst your good luck bubble.

My advice to young people is to work hard, be courageous enough to explore your natural talents, and be careful while handling soap. Good luck!

My brother-in-law uses his natural talent to make cool soap.