Thursday, September 11, 2014

What a Difference a Year Makes

This Saturday, September 13, marks one year since I retired. On that last day of work, my health was dodgy at best. A year later, I feel better than I have in several years before. I suspect it is the lack of stress and the sublime happiness I feel every day. The blessings are bountiful indeed.

A dear friend who will soon be undertaking her own retirement journey sent me a list of questions this week, all of which I answered in probably way more detail than she wanted! How did I know when the date was, how did I tell my colleagues, what's my day like now -- that sort of thing. Her last question was something like "What would the Jeanie of Now tell the Jeanie of pre-retirement?"

It was a hard question, in a way. But then the words just came.

"For more than 32 years you have gone to work, stretched your mind, expanded your horizons, developed your creativity, met amazing people from all over the country and made wonderful friends. You have loved most of it and you have learned from all of it. But you have paid a dear price for that. 

It's time that you thought of yourself, that you released yourself from the stress that takes its toll. Your life will not stop. Your friends and contacts will not disappear and in fact, they will expand if you choose to let that happen. You will continue to expand those horizons, develop that creativity, make new friends and meet new people. 

But now it won't be through going to work, it will be because you are living the life you worked hard for and deserve to live. You will relax and in relaxing you will release stress. In releasing stress you will begin to heal your body and your soul. Do it if you can. Finances will always be a factor for anyone making that choice. But there are often ways to work with that. The most important thing is to take care of yourself so you can have the life you want. And you can do it -- and you will not regret for a moment that you did."

What a difference a year makes.

I wake earlier than I did when working -- probably because I sleep so much better. After that morning twilight moment of Lizzie-cuddling and listening to her amazing purr, I get the day going. Knowing I need some structure, I begin with computer time -- time to check your blogs, facebook and get my own blog posts in order.

I'm also going through the thousands of photos on my computer and deleting the so-so or downright bad ones and get those I keep categorized in folders like "Lizzie," "Jeanie and Rick," "Tea," "Lake" and various travel sites. It's surprisingly organized and will improve more as I pare things down.

I'll return to spinning and the gym this month. The summer has been too travel-heavy and we stopped the gym membership till September.

That will kick off the "new year" with a calendar already filled with Cork Poppers, a shower, an art sale, a few more road trips. In other words, carrying on with lots of the things I enjoyed in my first retirement year.

Of course, the best event of that first year was the wedding of Kevin and Molly. And feeling good enough to fully enjoy ever second!

Since I've retired, I've traveled (Nashville, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Canada, New Harmony, IN, Cleveland and Columbus -- along with time at the lake). On some of those trips (along with day trips, classes and house guests) I connected with several blog friends, some for the first time!

I've tried lots of new recipes (including cooking with friends). At the top of the list was macaron making with Kate! We made a mess -- but boy, it was delicious!


And I've tried lots of new recipes on my own -- Easter's Pavlova was a treat and the cracker recipe that came from Marilyn was the best of all I tried!


I've participated in several art swaps since retirement and taken several art classes, learning new techniques and making new friends. I also did a couple of sales (more to come this fall!)

I've explored new places with friends, like USArtquest where I picked up great tips from Susan Pickering Rothamel (and plan to attend her open studio classes beginning in the fall).

I've read 33 books this year alone and am reveling in having time to read on any number of topics. Look for more book features here and on the long-neglected Chopsticks and String.

Several "long lost" college friends came to town and for once there was time to really connect. Patty lives in Maryland now and her husband was performing in Lansing-area. Jim is now in North Carolina -- a wonderful potter. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at former MSU theatre professor Gretel's home.


One of the words of wisdom shared with me last year when speaking other retirees was to volunteer. So, speaking of MSU's department of theatre, my alma mater, I've been enjoying working on the Friends of Theatre board. Our big project has been raising funds for a new and permanent outdoor performing space for the Summer Circle plays. Construction is almost done -- and we are almost to our goal!

I have loved connecting with my only relative on my dad's side, his 90-year-old cousin Marie. I hope I look as good as she does when I hit 80! And now, I feel confident that I just may! (I didn't feel that way a year ago, and it was pretty darned scary.)

We had the coldest winter I can remember in my lifetime. A visit to Niagara Falls (the day before it froze over) was so chilling we stayed only a few minutes.

Our Christmas holidays were somewhat marred by a massive power failure and other not-the-best things. But the cold didn't stop us from enjoying the season and making friends with a family from Japan as we introduced them to that holiday tradition, cutting down the tree. (That was a mighty cold and snowy day, too!) But despite the cold, I stayed well!

But best of all, in this past year I have had the chance to become all the closer to Rick, my fabulous baker (and biker) boy. As I wrote in THIS post, he was afraid I might become a wet, sticky leaf, clinging to him as the job that was once part of my personal and professional identity ended.

He needn't have worried. Our times together have been all the better, all the sweeter. Just as he has his bicycle friends and music buddies, I have my GGs (great group of women), my book club and more activities to do than I have time for. I'm not sure how I managed it all before. The lack of stress, of day-to-day angst makes our time together all the sweeter..

So, I celebrate. This was a big anniversary for me. The last two years before I retired were terribly difficult in ways personal, physical and professional. I saw changes that brought about terrible stress and exacerbated my illness. I'll always have chronic breathing issues, I'll always be at great risk for infections and another round of superbugs. I get that. It's my "new normal." (Or old normal, as the case may be.)

But I've cleared a year without major problems. When the biggest problems are a leaky sink, a few must-be-fixed cottage issues and some good old fashioned worries-about-other-people, I can clear another and another year after that with good docs and the best partner ever.

 Celebrating life, joy and nesting. Yes, life is good.


Jeanie said...

This is such a joyful post and I am so happy for you. It is hard to believe it has been a year already. Here's to continuing the joy and good health.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

I'm so happy for you, Jeanie! You really couldn't ask for a better first year of retirement -- or any year of retirement! You have a lovely balance in life now and that's so wonderful! So happy you're feeling so much better. So many times we don't realize the toll that work takes until we stop. I hope your second retirement anniversary -- and on from there - find you equally healthy and happy!

Anonymous said...

What a wealth of adventures and images. I'm breathless for all the excitement. What would I say to the pre-retirement Annie, I wonder.

1. Do it sooner
2. Don't give any free time
3. Never look back

Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Oh Jeanie, what a happy post.. Filled with happy days, reading and travel.. Thank you so much for sharing.

littleRamstudio said...

What a wonderful post, so full of joy for living. Sometimes people do forget that life is for living and not waiting to get to some distant destination.
Your smile in all your photo's speaks volumes as to how you feel, such an uplifting, genuine smile.
Heather :)

Tracy said...

It's been an AMAZING year for you, Jeanie! Such BIG SMILES reading/seeing this. Your give us all a great example of what the best of the retirement phase of life can be--a true celebration of life & living it full, enjoying every drop! LOVE being here to celebrate with you! So good to catch up with you here this week. I'm slow to be in touch... I had an accident in the kitchen. Avocado pit + knife = OUCH! You get the idea.. LOL! So it's one-handed everything at the moment. Happy Weekend ((HUGS))

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

My dear friend,

I so hear you as you speak about stress. It was thought that two years ago, I was "semi-retiring" from teaching, as I ventured out to sell art, but substitute teach. I did so, but finances forced me back into the work place, teaching. HOWEVER, the choice I made when I resigned from the district I worked in for nine years led me to a grand adventure, only to come back to the same great district where I am now. I work almost full-time, but at a different age level, and though secondary has its own stresses with schedules and meetings and more responsibilities, the teaching part is awesome.

At least as a teacher, I do get such lovely summers off - and I try to live the life I want as I work as well....but it sure sounds like FUN to have every day to decide if you'd like to relax, take on a challenge, or just be available to be with friends.

HAVE A GREAT DAY! (and let's hope our winter is not like last year!) Anita

Anonymous said...

I am so impressed with your progress since retiring from your stressful job. Keep going!

Joanne Huffman said...

What a wonderful review of a good year!

Vagabonde said...

I can’t believe that it has been a year already – I thought you retired just 5 or so months ago – time does go quicker than the mind can comprehend. You certainly have accomplished a lot during that year. Volunteering is so worthwhile. We started to volunteer at the garden near our home, but with my husband’s illness, it is no longer possible – mostly because they meet so early and he can’t get up then. We are in Nashville taking care of the 3 boys, 3, 5 and 7 until next week. Luckily my daughter and SIL took the 1 ½ year old baby girl as it is quite exhausting to have the boys already, but it is much fun too. I hope you second year of retirement will be as much fun or more than the first.

Ruth Mowry said...

This is just as it should be. Feeling better, and doing what you love to do. I'm impressed with that list, but it makes sense when you have more energy for yourself. Congratulations! This was so good to read.

Let's plan lunch in the next few weeks.

Betsy@My Salvaged Treasures said...

It's amazing what ridding yourself of all that stress can do. It sounds like you're keeping even busier than before, but enjoying every moment of it. Thanks for sharing your story.

Janet said...

This was a joy to read. I can tell you're a much happier person than you were a year ago...and I hope that continues on into the future.

I'm busier now than I ever was when I was younger and I love it. I'll be 71 in a couple of weeks and I have no plans to slow down. Let's just keep moving forward and having fun!!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful testimony to the joy and love life can hold when it has a chance. I am so happy that everything has worked together to make you such a happy joyful person to have around. Rick, Greg and Kevin (and Molly now) are so blessed to have you in their lives. (me too!)
Love and blessings.
de Kat

Retired English Teacher said...

It does not seem possible it has already been a year since you started this new chapter in your life. You have inspired me with you recap of your first year of retirement. You have accomplished so much. Bravo!

Cheryl said...

What great photos. You've got a lovely smile :-) I am glad to hear your health is better. Lets face it, if you don't have your health everything else isn't as sweet! okokok... except for chocolate *wink*

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Happy Retirement Anniversary! I am so happy that the past year has been such a wonderful, healing year for you. It's apparent how content and satisfied you are with your day to day life and I can see how you have more than enough to keep you busy as you are a curious person who loves to try new things! More than anything, I am glad that you are healthier both physically and spiritually than you were a year ago. That's so important for our longevity! Here's to many more years of retired bliss!

Linda Jo said...

A whole year!!!! Amazing! Glad it's been so good!!!

Keicha Christiansen said...

A year already? My how time flies, and you have been busy! Although I still have many years to go, I'm already looking forward to retirement. Hearing your experiences from your first year of retirement reinforces what I already know-retirement will be the time to enjoy the life I've worked so hard for all these years. I'm laying the groundwork now by sticking to a plan to become debt-free in the next three years and start putting larger chunks of money into my retirement nest egg.

Thanks for the great post. I could feel your peace and contentment seeping through in all of your words. It's good to know you're so happy and well.

Jennifer Richardson said...

Your days are a beautiful dazzle
...or is it your heart:)
Either way or both, it's serious beauty to come by and soak
in your space.
Thank you that:)

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Good morning sweet Jeanie! I failed to mention the last time I was here how much I love that sweet photo of your kitty! teeeheehee - and let's hope that this winter will NOT be like this past one as you show in that amazing photo of the frozen lake!

Thank you so much for coming by to visit dear friend! Anita

Willow said...

What a beautiful tribute to the year and a full life well lived .

Barb said...

Just loved reading this post, Jeanie. You've certainly made the most of your first retirement year. Keep enjoying life, my friend!

Friko said...

How on earth did you find time to go to work?

Your life sound wonderful, may it stay that way.
Congratulations on a very successful first year of retirement.

And Cheers!

must love junk said...

I love this post, Jeanie! You have the best attitude, and have made the most of your first year of retirement! What a great reason to celebrate :)

Steph W said...

Your macarons look delicious and have great "feet" - how did they taste? I've just found your blog from Delights of the Heart (Marilyn).

The Old Parsonage said...

I'm so happy to hear that you are happy and doing well. I know that it was a big adjustment, but glad that you are enjoying the journey!


Arti said...

Congrats on your first anniversary of retirement. I still remember your apprehension before, and now after, don't you wish you'd retired much earlier? -:) But for all that you've put into your career, Jeanie, and for all the experience, I'm sure it's all worth it and every work day leads to a well deserved retirement at the end. So here you are, enjoying life with utter contentment. Glad for you!

Roses, Lace and Brocante said...

Dear Jeanie
I can't believe a year has just vanished! You are living life to the full and that's how it should be. I believe the best part of being retired is losing that stress!
Great advice for your friend.
After being retired for four years I was lured back to my old job on a part time basis. There is stress but I've learnt to manage it by focusing on the end result - spending time with my family in France each year!
Shane x

Bella Rum said...

Jeanie, I knew that your health would improve - mental and physical when you retired. There's nothing in the world like being able to direct your own day to lift your spirits and your physical well-being follows. Happiness is the best prescription for life and all it entails. I'm so happy for you.

Sally Tharpe Rowles said...

Sounds like a really full & joyful year! Congrats & continued fulfillment in the coming year!

Marilyn said...

Wow! Jeanie! That was an amazing year. I am so happy you are feeling better too. I got excited just to read all you have done with your first year. I think you must have just leaped into it and enjoyed. It took me more of an adjustment, but it is so nice to be able to do the things I wanted to do for so long. Loved reading this.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you are savoring it all, friend. Enjoy!
Congratulations to the happy couple.

I need orange said...

Congratulations on making the most of your first year of retirement! I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with year two. :-)

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