Sunday, October 6, 2013

Learning from the Not-So-Retiring Retirees

So I ran away, seeking time to contemplate a new life and to seek wisdom from those who were already living it.
My friend Kate is a perfect example. She came north for our annual art camp, which was extended this year from two days to a week, because after all, we are retirees!
Kate's career was that of professional graphic artist, but she is also adept in other art forms -- she's currently working on watercolor but also silver. Her polymer is terrific and she is one mean beader!
From Kate I learn to stretch my creative self. To continue mastery, whether it is a new medium or new subject matter.
And to savor joy. Exercise an inquisitive mind. And find discipline in other areas as well, not the least of which is moving about.
I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with Keith and Carol Adler. Keith was one of my advisors for my public relations graduate program and I'm pleased to count him as a friend. I didn't really know Carol before but now I wish I could hang out with her all the time!
Carol retired first, as an elementary school pricipal, followed several years later by Keith. They retired up north near Traverse City, Michigan, expanding their cottage into a permanent home on a bluff overlooking a lake with a window filled with trees just beginning to change color.
From Keith and Carol I learned the joy of sharing a retired life with someone. While it will be time before I do that, it is nonetheless an aspiration. And I also learned something else -- the joy of rediscovering a part of yourself that had little time to develop as you'd like.

Carol served an astounding lunch -- French onion soup, broccoli quiche, a lovely salad, fabulous muffins and cookies by Keith, who also made the baguette in the soup. Carol says that in retirement they've started cooking again, experimenting, taking time to make wonderful things. It is a new joy, one that didn't have time to blossom as they'd like before. I can relate to that.
I left Carol and Keith to visit Julie, who retired from our museum.
Like the Adlers, Julie and her husband moved north to the village of Empire on Lake Michigan's sand dunes. Their home came complete with three cats. This is George.
Julie explained that she now has the time to stretch her creativity.. She makes amazing "Spirit Dolls" which dazzled me with their beauty. She can take the time to read a book on the porch on a nice afternoon. Or, just sit there and enjoy the antics of George and his fellow felines.(And I have to say, I was ready to take George home with me and let Lizzie cope as she might! He was fabulous!)
Julie and I went into Empire, where we enjoyed a fun antique and gift store. She was a curator and has curated her house. She chooses wisely, things of beauty or charm. Another worthy lesson.
While I was north I visited Virginia. Virginia retired from WKAR about 10 years ago, maybe more. She, too, moved to Northern Michigan, near Petoskey. In the past I learned lots of creative skills from Virginia -- knitting tricks and needlepoint. On this day, this 80-year-old survivor said her words of advice would be to volunteer or take a class. Find new people to enjoy and learn from. Wise words, I think.
Fran is the last surviving "Lady of the Lake" and I've written about her before. She was my mother's best childhood friend and they remained friends until the day my mom died. Now 96, she is lively and active, and she credits much of her longevity in retirement to her activity. (That's Fran on the right and my mom on the left.)
She also cherishes the past. Spending time with Fran is like spending time with my mom, time I haven't had for more than 35 years. She says to remember the stories, share them, and admits she should write them down.
We watched old movies of the lake taken in the '20s -- my mom and my aunt Grace had a brief appearance. Fran is logging those old videos so she knows who is where.
Fran also says that many of her friends have long passed -- she is an advocate for enjoying people of all ages. There is an advantage to younger friends!
I met with my last retiree, Diane, when I returned home. She retired over the winter and is just getting the hang of it. Diane advised not overscheduling yourself. She tries to have one thing a day on her calendar -- lunch with a friend, a volunteer stint, an appointment. One can always add more, she says, but this way you can enjoy it and work with it.
All of these people are wonderful examples of people who are making the most of this time of life. I'm privileged to know them and hope to incorporate some of what I've learned from them to make the most out of my time as well.

My commitment is to savor connections, old friends and new...
...Observe the beauty all around me, even in the small things...
...Learn new skills and finally make time to do things I didn't seem to have enough time to do before.
To discover beauty in all things, from the lace of a curtain... the ending days of summer.
And to look ahead, with optimism and expectation.
This is a new time. And I am jumping in with both feet!
(Postscript, September 2021 -- When I wrote this post in 2013, I had no idea how many of these wonderful people's lessons would stay with me, long after they had passed on. I will always cherish the memories of Keith, Fran and Virginia -- their friendship and their wise words.)


Joanne Huffman said...

What a nice introduction to your retirement. You are a good person with a diversity of interests and this is reflected in your friends. I think you will enjoy your retirement.

Keith said...

Jeanie, I've treasured your friendship for many years. You've always impressed me as a woman who knew how to enjoy life as she was living it, despite the ups and downs. We wish you the best in retirement; but I know you'll continue to have fun and make other people happy.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

What wonderful role models you have, Jeanie, and what a great start to a meaningful and enjoyable retirement! I loved reading about all of them, but especially your mom's dear friend. My goodness! She looks great for any age, let alone 96!

Jenny Woolf said...

It's wonderful to see how you are not only opening new doors, but finding new doors that look as though they should be opened, Jeanie!
Your photos are lovely. I am always envious of people who can be as artistically creative as Kate.

Have a lovely week!

anno said...

What a great way to kick off this next phase of life -- a fantastic summoning of creative energy! Here's to good times with wonderful people, always!

I need orange said...

It sounds to me like you've got it all figured out. :-)

Enjoy the things you've always enjoyed (a bit more, now that you have more time for them), and try new things (maybe something you've been meaning to try? or maybe something you'd never thought of learning about, but the opportunity presents itself...). Sprinkle in some of those things you know you "should do" -- for me, this included "get more exercise" (I started taking yoga).

I can never understand it, when people tell me they are bored. There are SO many things to investigate and learn more about! I know you will. :-)

ps -- coffee? Another hot beverage -- they have really good hot cider.... And maybe a pastry? You'd enjoy seeing how Zingerman's has grown and changed, I bet. I'm pretty much wide open, schedule wise. My online classes don't care when they get done. :-) There's a cute new gift store across the street from Z's that I haven't investigated, and of course Hollanders is right near by...... Farmers' market on Wednesday, so there's less nearby parking on Wed. (The market stall places are parking places, the rest of the time, right next to the Kerrytown buildings which house Hollander's -- and a lot of other shops.)

Jeanie said...

I love all the information about your "research" subjects. It looks like you learned a lot from them and also had lots of fun. Before we know it you will be writing a book on retirement and illustrating it yourself.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful post! How wonderful that you have all these special people in your life!
- cousin Bonnie

Tracy said...

LOVE your art retreat, Jeanie! And such wonderful friends to meet and be with and explore art & life together... That's a great way to kick off retirement! "Spirit Dolls"...can you share more about Julie's Spirit Dolls? I'm intrigued! Thank you for sharing these moments, lovely souls and guidelines for living. :o) ((HUGS))

shoreacres said...

Only one teeny-tiny cautionary note, here. I have a friend who retired about a year and a half ago. Maybe two. The weather's turned, and I gave her a call, wondering if she'd like to make a trip with me. She really, really, REALLY wanted to - but she has these meetings, you know? And she's on this board. And she promised she would help with this and that, and....and....

Not only that, I have a cousin who retired from an upper level administrative position two years ago. One of the first things she was going to do was come down for a visit. I've yet to see her - she started volunteering at the church, and now she's so important to the functioning there she can't get away. ;)

It's the rebound effect in the employment arena. Just like there can be a huge temptation to fill up the space that's left after a breakup, divorce or death, there's a huge space after retirement. Pace yourself - and let the space itself reveal what you want to do!

Thus endeth the advice for the morning. What do I know? I have to get out the door and go to work!

The Old Parsonage said...

This post touched my heart! Your words were beautiful and the friends that you shared seem wonderful.

Wishing you all the blessings retirement has to offer!!


Jennifer Richardson said...

what a beautiful bouquet of friends, Jeanie!
true riches:)
glad for you and for all the creativity you all get to share.
thanks, all of you, for choosing
to re-fire instead of just retire.
bravo, bravehearts:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeanie! Oh, what amazing women to look up to and learn from. I know you'll have a wonderful retirement. You are very talented and stretching is good! I've tried to stretch to grow taller, didn't work! :)
Thank you for your sweetness to me.
Shelia :)

Anonymous said...

As someone who is a couple of years into my "retirement" (although I've spent a good chunk of that time doing work of one type or another), I really appreciated this post on what you learned from your retired friends. I agree with so much of what they said, especially meet new people, have friends of all ages, don't over-schedule yourself, and most of all, do what you enjoy. Thanks for a wise and helpful post, Jeanie.

Pat K.

Relyn Lawson said...

Oh, I love that you have an annual art retreat. And that you aren't retiring after you retire.

Linda Jo said...

What a great time you had! Honestly.... you'll be busier than ever!!!

Marilyn Miller said...

I just love, love, love this post. How wonderful to have these sage friends to guide you into retirement. How wonderful to be able to chat with your mother's friend. And for sure only one thing on the calendar a day because you want flexibility and time to play. It took me about a year to adjusts, so relax and just enjoy the ride. Love too that you have art camp. How I wish I could do that with you.

Arti said...

This is an inspiring post, Jeannie. So glad you're enjoying your retirement and have time to visit and do art and everything else that you didn't find time to while working. The best is yet to come. ;)
On another note, I came upon a site tonight about the recent episode of Downton Abbey S4. It warns about spoiler, but I was too curious so I read it. OMG... do you know what happens, umm... to Anna? I won't spoil it for you, or your readers here.

Travel With Lulu said...

Retirement is so far away for me, that I can't even imagine it! I think that looking how others are doing it successfully is a good idea. I love that you surround yourself by creative people - I think I would do the same :) xoL

OldLady Of The Hills said...

What an inspiring post, my dear....How lovely that all of these people have found such great creative outlets in their sounds like this was a very meaningful trip for you, in every way.

Willow said...

Great post . Being active and enjoying life with art, friends and good times ...wonderful really !

Bella Rum said...

Oh, how I love this post. It's beautiful in words and photos. So optimistic and lots of great advice. Fran is something. Those ninety somethings are great for mining for advice. They know how to get along in life. The photo of her and your mother back in the day is wonderful.

I loved this... "rediscovering a part of yourself that had little time to develop as you'd like" That is absolutely right. You'll have the time to pursue those things you never had time for before... but I must say the time does fly... especially when you're having fun.

All the best to you in your retirement and your newfound time. Time is precious.

The Artful Diva said...

Looks like a magnificent spot to get creative - especially with friends.

Shane Pollard said...

Jeanie, I can tell you won't be sitting still for long!
All your friends so keen to pass on what makes their retirement enjoyable and worthwhile.
Fran is amazing - she looks nothing like her age, beautiful skin and hair too - we can all aspire to be like Fran and embrace life as she has done even when her contemporaries have gone.

The beautiful imprint on the sand of the bird's web foot - you can replicate that in a journal page!

A beautiful post Jeanie filled to the brim with inspiration.


liza myers said...

What a great post! I love the art week idea... art with friends... and the images of your mom in childhood brings back memories of my mom and her childhood on the lake. Hope we can get together and make some art sometime in the nearer future!!!
ps supposedly I am retired too. LOL!

Sally Wessely said...

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I loved this. You are really starting off on the right foot. I can't imagine all you will see and do. How exciting.

Storybook Woods said...

What a great group of kindred spirits! You are a smart girl to make the most of your friendship with these special ladies. Clarice

Sandy K. said...

Celebrate! Great photos and great times. I love Otsego Lake, too:) You were born for retirement, I think. Well done!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Before I forget, I have to start off by saying how well your friend Fran has aged! I never would have guessed she was in her 90s!

I am glad you have some veteran retirees to show you the ropes and offer up advice. I am just so happy that you were able to retire and can enjoy these 'golden years'. You have so many hobbies and interests, I know you will really do well with the retired life!!

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