Full Term

I have completed nine months of retirement. It’s like carrying a baby to full term without the pain of labor and delivery. As I sit here ready to begin my tenth month of retirement, I am admiring a spider web outside my sliding glass door. The web sways with the breeze and has ten sides and many intricate threads that catch the light. There is one long thread that runs from the web to the ground: a spider escape route. Retirement has been my work escape route. The spider that constructed the web is a very creepy-looking Texas Orb Weaver. I wish she would move on because this is a retirement home, and creepy-looking, hardworking spiders make me feel guilty for enjoying the leisure that retirement offers. I’m thinking that this guilt precipitated last night’s bizarre dream.

I had returned to work to fill in following the departure of my replacement. I tried to help someone but couldn’t because I didn’t have a work ID and I hadn’t re-established my computer credentials. I went in search of an ID, but got lost along the way, and had my eyes sprayed with a toxic substance for seeing things I shouldn’t have seen. I finally found the ID-issuing staff, after regaining my sight, but was told that they couldn’t help me because the entire group was going out for a walk.

I decided to try to find another way to help, and attempted a data search on a piano. After numerous attempts, complicated by my lack of ability to play the piano and the fact that pianos are not designed for data entry, I was able to input the information, but was further frustrated when no data was returned. I realized that the problem was the piano’s lack of database access. I also realized that I would not be paid for my work because I was officially retired. I tried to leave, but my car had been stolen. What would Freud make of that? Probably that I haven’t always known what I was doing as I’ve attempted to navigate retirement. Why should retirement be any different from the rest of my life, Doctor Freud?

The Texas Orb Weaver is not a beautiful spider, but it makes a beautiful web. It’s like the Phantom of the Opera spider; scary to look at, but talented. I am retired, and have the time to admire a spider’s web. I can be gentle with myself in these retirement mornings. There’s no hurry up and get to work. I am scary to look at in the morning, but I’m becoming talented at seeing and hearing the subtle beauty that surrounds me.

Retirement: Pleasant People and Problems solved

I was out shopping today – in the middle of the day – and everyone was so pleasant. People were exchanging niceties; wishing each other good days. It was beautiful. From whence did this beauty sprout and bloom?: Retirement! Yes, these were the happily retired, sharing their good fortune and good will. I remember stopping to get some shopping in on my way home from work. Talk about climate change. People were hot under the collar (as well as every other point where work clothing ignited their collective mood). With the exception of the curmudgeon who answers the “How are you today?” question with, “I’m retired; everyday is the same to me,” the retired are a happy lot. I hope that the occasional curmudgeon means that every day is AMAZING, but I don’t get that impression. It’s all I can do to keep from piping in with “Hey buddy, buck up. There are working people out there who wish they were here shopping at this time of day.” I would love to be the Pied Piper of Retirement Joy.

To that end, I must apologize for bemoaning my good fortune at being the recipient of bushels of zucchini, pears, plums and apricots. While working, one of my bosses (there were many layers of bosses – a veritable Princess and the Pea eider-down mattress stack of bosses – it could get oppressive as I was the virtual pea-on), had a rule that you could not present him with a problem, without also presenting a possible solution. I have complained about my abundance of fruits and vegetables, without sharing possible solutions. The zucchini supply has led to many zucchini based recipes: zucchini bread, zucchini muffins, fried zucchini, grilled zucchini, zucchini pizza, zucchini lasagna, etc. There’s also been a lot of zucchini-based provender sharing. The vote is in and the favorite is Zucchini Apple Muffins. I will share that problem-solving recipe here:


  • 2 & 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (squeeze out excess moisture – I freeze the shredded zucchini, and when I thaw it the excess moisture pours right off)
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs – beaten
  • 1 & 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons low fat Greek yogurt (I add a couple of tablespoons of Greek yogurt to all of my baking, because I like it)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 & 3/4 cups self rising flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Combine all ingredients, scraping side of bowl until well blended. Transfer to muffin pans sprayed with cooking spray with flour. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 30 minutes (until top of muffins spring back when touched).

As for pears, Orange Ginger Pear Chutney, is a close second (but much more work) to Pear Orange Cranberry Bread. I’m sharing that recipe, too:


  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons low fat Greek Yogurt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped pear
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar

Combine first six ingredients in medium-size bowl. Whisk together egg, yogurt, buttermilk, butter and vanilla and add to dry ingredients. Gently stir in pears, cranberries and orange zest. Transfer to loaf pans sprayed with cooking spray with flour. Sprinkle tops of loaves with raw sugar (you can substitute 1 tablespoon white granulated sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon brown sugar for raw sugar). Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 30 minutes (until top of loaf springs back when touched).

The squash pictured here has not previously appeared in this blog.

Pleasant people, between the hours of nine and five, are as abundant and easy to find as zucchini in my backyard. Life in retirement is good!

Saving Money is Expensive

I continue to practice (emphasis on practice as I have not achieved any level of proficiency) my retirement business rules, including decreasing spending. One way I hoped to accomplish long-term savings was by cutting the cable cord. The initial (albeit monthly) savings of approximately $70 has been offset by the airlines’ refusal to establish a no-fly zone over our home. Every time a plane flies overhead our small outdoor digital antenna’s reception is disrupted and we lose our signal. It is only a momentary loss; however, when that loss coincides with the revelation of the murderer on the latest mystery series we’re watching, we immediately start looking for a streaming channel which will provide answers and satisfy our need to know. Most recently this has been accomplished by the addition of “CBS All Access” to our Roku line-up. Granted, it’s just $7 a month (a mere 10% of the savings achieved by cutting the cable cord) but it’s not the only channel with a monthly fee that has been added to our list of streaming options. We’re still ahead on this one. I wish I could say the same thing about growing our own vegetables, and putting up donated fruit.

My plum jelly making required the purchase of jars, sugar, and pectin. I used hours and hours of electricity cooking the unjelly, as it refused to gel. Each little jar averaged about $10 worth of resources. My zucchini plant, which to date has produced hundreds of zucchinis and is still covered with zucchini-producing blossoms, required a special planter, special soil, high-quality compost and a river of municipally-supplied water (even when supplemented with the rain water harvested from our four rain barrels, which were pretty pricey when purchased off of the great retailer in the sky: THE INTERNET, and then carried in buckets to the various plants in the yard). Since the plant has produced more zucchini than one family can possibly consume, gasoline is used delivering these wonderfully nutritious vegetables (that’s what I tell everyone) to unsuspecting friends and family members. I’m expecting to start seeing signs with a picture of a giant zucchini with a red circle around it, bisected by a red line, in front of these people’s homes.

I need to find out if turtles eat zucchini.

I remember long ago Oprah saying that you can’t save money by spending money. It was back in the day when she had her talk show and the subject of that particular show was… saving money. It was before smart TVs with streaming capabilities. I wonder why she never did a show highlighting the nutritional value of zucchini, and its versatility and many yummy recipes available which include zucchini as an ingredient. I wonder if there is an Oprah streaming channel? I wonder what I’m going to do with the bushels of pears that I picked from a tree at a friend’s house? Retirement is filled with questions, and fruits and vegetables. I think I will start making my own herbal remedies (to save money). I’m going to have to buy a lot of supplies.

Cody and the Country Roads

The road called (road calls are not blocked in retirement), and my grandson Cody and I answered. We loaded up the ol’ RV and hit the road.

As we headed out on a corn-field-lined country road, early on Thursday morning, we were distracted from the pastoral beauty by the sound of a small plane’s motor. The corn stood about half as tall as our RV. We became concerned as the distance between our heads, the top of the RV and the bottom of the plane became narrower and narrower. After narrowly missing us, the plane continued its descent and appeared to roll across the tops of the corn stalks. As the bottom of the plane met the top of the corn, the plane began to loose its powdered pesticide. Cody and I closed the windows on the RV. Our trip was off to an exciting, if somewhat toxic, start.

We were comforted and concerned following our close encounter with the crop duster by our knowledge that the crop was well dusted . We were comforted by the fact that we were still alive, and concerned that humans may be among the pests targeted by the crop-duster-dispensed pesticide. In the spirit of summer vacation optimism, we continued along the country road towards our camping destination. As we approached the crossroad, we spotted a pick-up truck in the fringes of the corn field, with a man standing in the bed of the truck, and a rifle resting on the hood of the cab. He didn’t shoot at us, but I have to say, that I don’t remember camping trips of my childhood as being this hazard filled. Cody’s childhood memories are going to be much different from mine.

As we continued towards our destination of Clayton Lake State Park, we encountered, but happily not closely, a lot of animal life. We saw many, many, many cows; many, many horses; billions of bunnies, a few handfuls of antelope; two alpaca; two burros and two squashed skunks (let us bow our heads). Our wildlife spotting did not include any more rifle toting, redneck, pick-up drivers.

We broke our trip, to prepare sandwiches, and then continued North towards our destination. It was a long drive. Cody was in agreement with this distance determination. After one or two wrong turns (we came to understand why the road less traveled is traveled less), we pulled into our reserved lakeside camp site. It was beautiful and well worth the hazard-filled, lengthy drive.

Our campsite neighbors were a lovely couple who are raising their grandson. They were working to squeeze one more adventure into the summer before their grandson returned to school. Their campsite was well appointed with mosquito netting, rugs, American flags and decorated with brightly-colored paper lanterns. They were generous and gracious. They offered the use of citronella candles as they watched Cody and me swat at flies and other small flying insects. They even invited Cody to go fishing with the grandpa and grandson. The grandmother, originally from El Salvador, told Cody that Grandpa would help him to bate his line, and to have fun. After the menfolk headed down to the water, Margarita (just like the drink she told me) and I, discussed our mutual love of the traditional El Salvadorian dish: papusas. It was a very good morning despite the fact that no fish were hooked.

While the drive was lengthy, the trip was short, so Cody and I loaded up, waved good bye to our new friends, and hit the road heading home. Our trip home included more wrong turns. One took us through the small (that does not adequately describe the size of the town – it was very small) town of Roy, NM. Cody had been reading a graphic novel about the undead, when the roadside scenery was uninspiring. He felt that Roy was just the type of town that might be inhabited by the undead. His fears were simultaneously confirmed and alleviated when we turned a corner and saw a large mural painted on the side of a building proclaiming Roy’s claim to fame as the former home of the founder of Country Swing music, Bob Wills. To those of us who enjoyed the resurgence of Country Swing in the seventies, Bob Wills lives on, making him undead in my book.

Bob Wills does look a little zombie-like here.

We rolled into Cody’s family’s driveway at about 5 p.m. on Friday. I love that retirement provides me with more time to spend with my grandchildren, I just hope that spending more time with me doesn’t give them nightmares.

Retired, a Mere 45 Years After Graduating High School

When I was in high school, I was sure I would be dead before I reached forty-five. Tomorrow, my high school class will hold its forty-fifth class reunion. I’ve made plans to attend with some wonderful high school friends. I have promised not to lead off when introducing myself with “You probably don’t remember me…” It’s a defense mechanism. When I was a young adult, I asked my Dad why he was such a pessimist. He replied, “If you always expect the worst, when something good happens, you’re pleasantly surprised.” My high-school reunion intro line of reunions past, resulted in a pleasant surprise when someone did remember me.

I have been preparing for this reunion for a few months. I probably should have been reviewing year books, so that I can better remember former classmates, but I haven’t. I purchased neck-firming cream and eyelash growth stimulator. I wanted to improve the possibility of being remembered, by attempting to recapture a modicum of my youthful appearance. I have not been successful. I think I was overly exuberant when applying the neck-firming cream and have stretched my neck tissue resulting in new folds in my already impressive waddle. I developed a sensitivity to mascara in my fifties, so I quit using it. I thought that the eyelash growth stimulator would be better than mascara and rather than giving me the appearance of having thick eyelashes, it would give me thick eyelashes. It did not. Instead, it, like mascara, irritated my eyes which led to a subconjunctival hemorrhage (broken blood vessel in the eye). This totally distracts from my lack of eyelashes, so I guess it was somewhat effective.

Our very generous reunion host sends out emails prior to annual reunions with the time and date, and other useful information. He requests RSVPs and people respond with an affirmative, or an explanation as to why they won’t be available to attend. People have responded to say that they would be in Spain, or in Fiji, or travelling between Spain and Fiji, and would, sadly, have to miss the gathering. Work provided me with an excuse for not attending reunions in the past. Retirement does not afford me that excuse. Neither does travel to Spain or Fiji. The attendees are always gracious, and fun to be around. So, why do I hesitate to attend?

When I was a teenager, I was socially awkward, shy, insecure and introverted. I am no longer shy or introverted. Still, memories of my teenage self can literally terrify me and fill me with shame. I had a group of amazing friends. They were smart, funny, talented, supportive and blind to my character flaws. Boy, I love those guys. So, supported by some of those friends, I will attend, and try not to embarrass them (or myself). Retirement doesn’t get you out of everything, but getting out of the work thing is priceless. So is having good friends from high school forty-five years after graduating.