Saturday, August 29, 2015

Oh, Our First-World Problems!

Every morning, I have the duty of taking my granddaughter to school. Yesterday, as I waited in the never-ending drop-off line of mini-vans, I caught myself listening to morning FM radio. I don’t like morning FM radio because it’s too much talk and not enough music, so I quickly flip through stations. One program caught my attention because the DJ asked listeners to call in and share their First World Problems (FWPs). These responses were pretty funny because they made me think about how trivial these “problems” are.

One woman explained that she was in her first year of medical residency. She had worked the night before and was upset that she couldn’t get any sleep at home that day. Her reason: the maid cleaning her house was too noisy.

Another person said her problem was that the automatic doors on her mini-van no longer work; therefore, she has to manually open and close the doors.

One caller said how aggravated she gets when all of the treadmills at the gym are taken.

Later that day, I was walking behind my self-propelled lawn mower and realized that I wasn’t wearing my FitBit. I was irritated that I couldn’t record all the steps I was taking so that I could get that little bit of self-gratification when I saw the total. Ugh! I had just experienced a FWP!

While I had all the extra time of steering the mower so it could cut the grass with little effort from me, I remembered a picture I saw recently of Melinda Gates. In the photo taken in Malawi, Gates carried a 5-gallon tub of water on her head the way Malawi women have to do in order to get fresh water. The woman walking next to Gates carried 10-gallons on her head.

A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. Even with my non-mathematical brain, I could do the math. That’s 80 pounds the Malawi woman was carrying.

I considered what her neck and shoulders must feel like after a trek to get clean water and how careful she had to be not to slosh the water out of the open bucket. Also, carrying it in an open container doesn’t guarantee that the water will be clean when she gets home.

Oh, we in this First World country are definitely spoiled. We have clean water piped into our houses and don’t think a thing about it. We will let the faucet flow freely while brushing our teeth and stand in a hot shower until the water runs cold.

Should I feel guilty or proud that I have all of this?

We make fun of ourselves with our FWPs which is fine if it makes us consider how silly we sound; however, what do we do to make ourselves feel better – send money, go to a meeting or write a letter? Go to a 3rd World country for a week and volunteer to carry water or help build a church?

I don’t know what I could do to help in this area, but I can identify with something Melinda Gates said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. When asked why she was personally taking on issues with women, she said, “I turned 50 this year, and there’s something about turning 50. It’s kind of funny, but you can see the end of your life, you start to realize you’re on the back half of the life. And, so, I look there and say, “Well, what do I want to get accomplished in the next 30 years?” And by gosh, I better make sure I’m doing that.”

I’m not really sure what the point of this post is. I am not urging you to get up off the couch and go save the world because I don’t know that I will do anything. I just have a lot of options and ideas about helping others. I’ll start small, probably in my own First World neighborhood, and try not to complain about all of my so-called problems. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

I'm on My Honeymoon!

One week of real retirement is done, and I hope I have a zillion more.

When I first started working in 1980, I didn’t have time to consider retirement. As my career continued and I saw colleagues put in their time, I wondered what real retirement would feel like. Let me tell you, it’s not just lying around and doing nothing. My friends have said that what they found about retirement is that they don’t see how they ever worked because their lives are so busy. After only a week, I’m believe them.

Psychologists determined that retirement is one of life’s major transitions, and like love and grief, has emotional phases that people go through. In 2000, professor and author Robert Atchley labeled the phases of retirement:

1.  Pre-retirement
2.  The Big Day
3.  Honeymoon Phase
4.  Disenchantment
5.  Reorientation
6.  Routine

I’ve passed through the planning and saving of stage 1 and really felt the love in stage 2.

Right now I’m in the honeymoon phase of bragging about not having to set an alarm clock to all of my former colleagues. Although I'm happy that I'm not having to make lesson plans or grade essays, to me the best part of being retired is not having to pick out clothes to wear to work. 

I’m carrying out many of the major plans I made during the last few years of work. These plans are mainly concerning my house and yard.

I know the yard work will never be completed, but I tackle a couple of yard projects each day and then usually jump into the pool to cool off. At times like these, my pool is worth every cent it costs. 

For a year, I have planned for some updates to the pool – new liner, salt filtration, steps, etc. Finding someone to do the work has been an ongoing problem. I talked with five different businesses last fall and only one gave me a bid. This week I called another pool repair business, and the man told me he was really busy but he would get with me next week. What the heck?

This week, I’ve had two contractors come to see about remodeling my kitchen. There’s nothing wrong with my kitchen except that it’s 35 years old. The way I see it, this is the last kitchen I’ll ever have so I’m going to spruce it up and make it something I’ll enjoy for my remaining stages of retirement.


The hard part is deciding what I want to change. I'm overwhelmed with all the ideas on Pinterest and Houzz. I’m afraid to make a decision about cabinets and counters because I don’t know how it will turn out. There are many trends in kitchens like glass backsplashes, can lights, granite countertops. 

husband pointed out that everyone thinks he/she should have granite counters but that trend has been around for about ten years. He thinks now everyone will start tearing them out. The same with stainless appliances -- he and I have both lived through coppertone, avocado, and harvest-gold colored appliances, so he might be right in his theory. 

I’ll get cost estimates from the contractors next week. That’s when I’ll have to decide what trend I’ll go with.

The attic and garage are in line for proper cleanings when the weather cools. I have been keeping the attic door closed for the past few years. After I park my van, I walk through the garage with blinders on to avoid the accumulation of treasures. I always figured it wasn't so bad since I could still park my van in it.

I'm not sure when the disenchantment stage will hit me, but I'm confident that it will. 

During my short time of retirement, I've already figured out that retirement is fantastic if you have lots of money to spend. If I had piles of money, I'd always be in the honeymoon stage. Money may not buy love or happiness, but it can pay for lots and lots of happy experiences which can keep you happy, or at least in avoidance, for a long time.

Monday, August 17, 2015

You Just Aren't Sharing My Vision!

Summer is over. Everyone (but me) is going back to school, and I have to say, I'm ready for fall. It's not that I'm necessarily sick of the hot weather because I haven't had to endure too much of it. I was in the land of cool temps, the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Now that I'm back in "Hell"ahassee, I am sorry for those who had to suffer with this miserable heat and humidity.

Like many of you, I can’t believe how quickly the summer months passed. Since it's over, I can get busy living the retired life, whatever that is. 

Whenever I complete chunks of time, I like to reflect on how I spent them, and I can say that parts of this summer are ones that I don’t want to repeat. During these months, I kept thinking of this phrase that I used to say to my yearbook students when they weren’t designing their pages the way I had taught them. I’d tell them, “You just aren’t sharing my vision!”

This summer, I don’t think any of my family members shared my vision I had for me and them. What I had planned for the summer was getting to the cooler temperatures, kicking back and reading lots of books, writing blog posts in order to get ahead, hiking and swimming every day, and laughing a lot. My plan for them was to occupy themselves and leave me alone unless I wanted or needed them. What actually happened was far from my vision.

Much of my summer was spent driving and taking people where they wanted or needed to go. I went to Charlotte, NC, twice to take my daughter to the airport and bus station. I went to Brevard, NC, three times to take/visit/pick-up Drew at camp. I went to Tallahassee and back for my husband’s doctor appointment. 

The only fun trips were to Charlotte to see Taylor Swift and to Ashville to see the Biltmore. The other driving was for the necessary shopping but in all, I put over 7,000 miles on my van in 2.5 months.

I also envisioned not cooking this summer. I thought everyone would be satisfied with sandwiches and cereal. Nope. They actually wanted cooked food EVERY DAY, so I had to make daily trips to the grocery store because when you are in an RV, there’s not a lot of food storage. I got into a rut of shop, cook and clean up.

This summer I also didn’t have a washer/dryer and had to go to the Laundromat weekly. When I was in college, the one I used cost $.10 each to wash and dry. Now it costs at least $2.00 to wash and $2.00 to dry. That’s for one load of clothes, and never did I have one load this summer. Also, the machines only took quarters, and I became obsessed with searching for quarters to feed the white monsters.

Now that summer's over and I'm back home, I may have to adjust my retirement vision. I thought I'd have lazy days when I could binge-watch TV, read an entire book in a day or lounge by the pool all day. The problem is that I look around at all the yard and house work that I put off until I wasn't working and think that I should get busy. 

When does this easy life of retirement that people used to tell me about actually start? Maybe that tale was just someone else's vision that will never become a reality. 

I hope I'm wrong.