About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Monday, March 23, 2009

If It's Thursday. . .

(A cautionary tale about ditched underwear is what our Fun Monday host, Margaret, over at Mama Drama is looking for today. Recently she spotted a pair of pristine whiteys in the parking garage where she works doing all manner of professional stuff. Click on the Mama Drama link for photographic proof, if you don't believe me. How did that happen, she wonders? And why the parking garage? Well, here's my theory.)

C is a recovering obsessive compulsive. None of his colleagues in the Professional Towers Building would ever guess the secrets he carries around. They see him as a great work partner and after hours buddy. Everyone admires his commitment to staying healthy in a stressful work environment. Every day during lunch he's at the gym across the street from the Tower getting in a fast workout. When it's his turn to drive to a meeting, his passengers always give him grief because they have to sit on that ever ready gym bag in the backseat of his car.

As I mentioned, C is a recovering obsessive compulsive with a lot to hide. He still rotates his cereal boxes--cheerios on Mondays, raisin bran on Tuesdays--and collects the Madagascar characters from Reese's Puffs. He only uses security envelopes for paying his bills, not trusting online payments or the envelopes provided with his bills. He carries hand sanitizer on a secret key ring. He lines the toilet seat in the men's room. And, he must wear these--Days of the Week underwear. This had been the worst compulsion to break. His goal is to eventually be able to give them up. Monday-Wednesday he's sporting the proper pair, but the rest of the week has to be pristine whites, no labels.

Well, last Thursday C had a meltdown after his workout. He showered and changed into the PWs, all the time wishing it was Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday so he could wear his DOWs. By the time he got back to the parking garage, he'd lost it. He threw his gym bag in the car and quickly ditched the offending PWs before heading back to the office. Moral of the story: if you have to take a step backwards from your comfort zone, better to do it commando.

Now be sure to check out other Fun Monday ditched underwear theories. I fear we may reveal more about ourselves than we should. . .

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Borrow Your Pinch Collar?

(Our host for March 16's Fun Monday is Mariposa over at Maraposa's Tales . Mariposa wants some tales of kids saying the darnedest things. I'm going to be away from the internet for the next week so am posting early with my kid saying the darnedest thing.)

The adorable little boy in this photo with my three dogs Zack, Frank, and Dan is now a grown man serving in the Army Reserves with two children of his own. A was my neighbor's child and a somewhat troubled little boy. He had very few friends growing up and when I moved into the neighborhood he started hanging around with me, first causing trouble then gradually straightening out. A's mother worked a night shift and his father was not that involved with his upbringing. So, this mischievous little boy was my constant companion.

A didn't have a lot of respect for living things--plant or animal. I worked in my yard planting flowers and he thought nothing of pulling them up. I solved this problem by teaching him to plant and take care of the garden. He got so interested that he saved his allowance to buy a small tree for his yard. We went to the nursery and he was so disappointed to see the size of red maple that he was able to buy for $20.00. As I recall he told the nurseryman how disappointed he was!

Even more troubling was his treatment of animals. I observed him with his own dog doing some cruel things so didn't trust him with my three unless I was around. I have always heard that a child's mis-treatment of animals is a sign of psychological problems or, at the very least, lack of education. So we worked on how to care for animals as well. As you can see from the photo above, he came to love the dogs.

As a teenager A became involved with the fringe. He and his friends wore the dark clothes, body piercings, and black rocker makeup. One Saturday evening he came to my door dressed for a Marilyn Manson concert. Except he needed an accessory that only I had--a pinch collar! He wanted to borrow one of the dogs' collars to complete his concert outfit. This was in pre-Dog Whisperer training days, so, unfortunately, he had several options to choose from. Now I would never consider putting a pinch collar on my dog when a simple slip collar and the right energy gets so much better results. Kind of the same with A--sometimes dogs and small boys just need to be re-directed.

I'll bet most of you will have to think hard to come up with a comparable request! Now be sure to check out what is going to be a really Fun Monday and I'll catch up with you when I get home from my travels.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Going Walkabout

"Surely we have one more long walk in us?" That's the question my long time friend and fitness(?)partner Sally and I throw back and forth each year, especially when we approach a birthday. In 2003, we traveled to England to do The Wayfarers Coast to Coast Walk. This walk covered 85 miles through the Lake District, the villages and dales of Yorkshire, and then into the wild North York moors. We dipped our boots in the Irish Sea near Windermere on the west coast of England as a starting point. Six days and 85 miles later we reach the North Sea at Whitby on the east coast. Each day we walked 12-15 miles. It was the opportunity of a lifetime to see this spectacular country whose history, literature and culture is so familiar to all of us up close and personal. The walk was rated as "challenging" in The Wayfarers catalog. At the end, we believed them. We left England with a friendship cemented and pride in ourselves to have finished the walk. In this photo we've just dipped our boots in the North Sea at the end of the walk and celebrated with a little bubbly.(I'm third from the right in the back row; Sally is third from the right in the front row. You can see we're all pretty pleased with ourselves.)

So, next week we're heading south to answer that question--do we have one more walk in us? We leave on Saturday, March 14 and we get back home on the 21st. The Wandering Wheels Walking Club of the Ohio Volkssport Association will be picking us up at a rest stop just outside Louisville for a eight day walk through five southern states. Now "through a state" is not exactly an accurate description. We'll actually be on a tour bus for part of the distance. At each walk the bus will turn us out and we'll follow a walk route, precisely or informally as we please. You can see from the map that we'll simply dip south to the Gulf of Mexico and then head north from Florida through Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

Here's our schedule:

Day 1 -- Nashville, TN, 12k Walk
Day 2 -- Memphis, TN, 11k
Day 3 -- Baton Rouge,LA, 10k
Day 4 -- Ocean Springs, MS, 10k
Mobile, AL, 10k (yep, that's 20k)
Day 5 -- Tallahassee,FL 10k
Day 6 -- Madison, GA, 10k
Day 7 -- Atlanta, GA, 10k
Day 8 -- Knoxville, TN 10k

I'm counting up 93 kilometers total. Don't tell me what this is in miles. I just want to think of it as a lot less since it's in kilometers. Check back for a trip report after March 21. I'll be on the look out for a Dog a Day snapshots to share with you. Here's wishing our socks stay up, it's all flat walking, and there's plenty to laugh about along the way.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Retired in Hard Times

(Dealing with our current economic pits is the topic for this week's Fun Monday. Yes, our host, Sayre, over at Sayre Smiles realizes that there's not much fun to be had out of our current economy, but she figures we're all in this together and may be able to share some strategies for surviving--maybe even thriving--in these challenging times. So, I'll tell you about being retired in a recession.)

I received this message from Kittyhawk, a long time friend, a couple of days before I retired in January 2006 at age 60. Many years ago we had actually shared an office where we worked together at the state department of education. Nanny and Rose hung by the door where we could both see it as we worked. This painting pretty much sums up the good life in my mind--a great dog by my side, peaceful place to read and drink coffee in my jimjams for as long as I please each day.

Like many other major decisions I've made in my life, I didn't do much agonizing--or planning--over the one to retire. Having worked non-stop since I was fifteen years old, I was ready to live differently and get to some things on my "to do" list while I had the health and freedom to do it. Even though I still liked my work and the people whom I worked with, the whole cycle of planning and doing was beginning to grind. So, in July '05, while sitting in the parking lot waiting for a doctor's appointment, I decided that I would retire in January '06. About the same time Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was retiring from the Supreme Court of the United States. I cut her letter out of the newspaper that she wrote informing George W. Bush of her decision and gave the same letter to my boss in October. It was only a few sentences, but got the job done--effective date of retirement, enjoyed the ride but now time to move on. That pretty much summed up my thoughts as well.

A financial planner would probably have advised me to work longer because I didn't have nearly the savings and retirement funds recommended; my home was not paid for; I needed to buy a car since I would have to give up Sienna my company van; I would have to pay part of health care costs, and I had some debt to repay. Still, I knew I could make it. In 40+ years of work I had two retirement pensions, plus would take Social Security at 62. I have always chosen to live simply with a minimum of possessions. That would not change with retirement. I'm now in year three as a retiree and I haven't looked back.

Sayre asked us to share some strategies for managing our family finances. I have two that I'll throw out. Are you familiar with the concept of voluntary simplicity? If not, it's been around for many years and making a resurgence now because of our economy. It's simple really, just a matter of making an individual effort to live well on less. It's not about deprivation, but, rather, valuing. What do you need in the way of material possessions to be happy? This past holiday season I read about the 100 Thing Challenge at Guy Named Dave . A year or so ago a San Diego guy named Dave launched this anti-consumer challenge. Could you live a year with just 100 things? This caught my attention because I have been interested in voluntary simplicity, and tried to practice it somewhat, for many years. So I jotted down a list of things/activities that I'd need or want to see if I used more than 100 things. Started with two most important rooms, kitchen and office, and here's what's on my list.

After finishing the list, I feel that I could live well with just 100 things. Think about how freeing it would be to get rid of the clutter from your life. (Click on the list to embiggen if you're having a hard time reading. Scanner wasn't working great.)

The other strategy I follow is that I like to "wool" my money. I keep this Monthly Spending Plan record and receipts to back it up. You'll see that I've listed about everything that might come up as an expense. I always know what's due and whether I can pay for it. In retirement, I've made decisions about what's important and cut out what isn't. I don't need 21 magazine subscriptions, but I'll try not to give up pilates lessons or buying books. This system works for me. Now I realize that this plan may not be realistic for a family, but Willie the Pit Bull and I do quite well with this approach. Here's what my monthly tracking system looks like, click on to enlarge:

Now be sure to check out all the other Fun Monday recession relief strategies over at Sayre's place. To quote the great Studs Terkel on the lessons of the Great Depression: "Don't blame yourself. Turn to others. Take part in the community. The big boys are not that bright. Hope dies last." I do believe that we'll make it even though too many people still can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.