January — After Christmas Passed
February — Not Retiring, Again
March — Calendars
After Christmas Passed
There are no Christmas carols about taking decorations off the tree or digging holiday lights out of the snow to pack them away. All the joyous memories of past celebrations are filled with the wonderful activities that end about half way through December 25th, just after Christmas dinner, when the last of the relatives have pulled out of the driveway and the kids have disappeared into their private corners.
Now, with no kids in the house and our relatives far away, it is a different routine. We clean up the living room, collecting and separating trash and recyclables, which doesn’t take long (it used to look like a tornado had hit the place). Her presents are drifting toward shelves and dresser, mine are lined up on the stairs to go up to the bedroom (wearables) or my study (CD’s & books).
We snuggle a bit on the coach surveying the scene, reminiscing about Christmas past and enjoying the fireplace, while the dog sniffs about for another present or treat. Then it is up to wash and dry the dishes, put away the leftovers, and maybe take the dog for a walk, depending on the weather. Then we go our separate ways.
My wife, Kelly, usually finds more food to put a way or dishes to wash and then does I know not what. I dump the clothes on the bed and head to my study with the rest. First order of business is to unsync all the Christmas music from my iPod and phone. Then I upload any CD’s to iTunes and add them to my other devices. A Christmas day reading book is selected.
Soon the day will come to start putting away Christmas. In our house, we begin with the in-house decorations. Nowadays it is a sorting process. There is a storage box labeled “house decorations” and another labeled “old house decorations”. Into the latter box go decorations we agree need not come out again next year. Over time the “old” boxes have increased while the ones we will be putting out again diminish. Time was, the decorations filled every part of a 11-room Victorian. Now, it is enough to decorate the living and dining rooms, and sit a smattering of stuffed Christmas characters up the stairs and one each in the other rooms of our Colonial.
We don’t take down the tree until it is on the verge of being a fire hazard. When it comes down, a similar process takes place. What do we what for next year vs. what can we put away? This is necessitated by the smaller tree. It used to be 9 ½ feet high. Now, more like 7 feet and an all indications are it will be getting shorter, as am I. Shorter tree, less room for ornaments. The first to go were the ones that appealed to children, but we haven’t had kids in front of our tree in years. So, Looney Tunes characters and plastic Frosties have been replaced with a few lovely glass ornaments which are pleasing to our older selves, but not something one buys with small children, cats or puppies.
Now, putting away the holidays means more than just boxing things up until next year; it means setting things aside in an effort to keep Christmas manageable and meaningful for us today. There are still memories and cherished pieces, but now some are on the tree and others are in our hearts and boxed up in the cellar. Remembered by their absence like loved ones not joining us, but still a part of Christmas.
Not Retiring, Again
Next year I will push back my retirement again, for the second or third time. When I was 50, being 62, 65 or 70 sounded so old. The plan was to retire on schedule like my friends, but each time I reached the designated age, it seemed too early. Too soon. Too risky. Ya know, retirement is dangerous. No one comes back alive.
I’m blessed with a job I enjoy; it’s interesting and important. It is not taxing physically and the pay is good. So, why stop if no one is making me? What else would I do? I don’t play golf, I enjoy travel less than I used to, and find the demands of getting up and at it each day to be healthful.
There’s longevity risk. How long is long and how much savings will be enough? What will Medicare and Social Security look like in 10 years? What, what, what? If, if, if. And I tack on anther 5 years and continue.
This is happening a lot with Boomers today, working longer into ‘retirement age’. Some, out of desire to continue meaningful employment. For others, the need to make up for a life of immediate gratification. I fall into both categories.
Does this mean I’m still booking 60 hours a week? No. While I look forward to getting at it each day, I’m no longer interested in being the top gun. Someone else can win the cruise or get the steak knives. It’s enough to do things right, take pride in accomplishments, and feel like I’m making a positive difference in people’s lives.
Evening appointments requiring night driving went away a few years ago. Plowing through snow storms on slippery roads has been set aside. Working weekends or checking emails during dinner, not so much anymore.
Is this slowing down? No, it’s smartening up. Working wiser instead of harder. Taking time for a relaxed lunch, maybe visiting thrift shops or state parks along my drive, stopping at a prescribed hour each day, longer weekends, shorter work days. I gave up multi-tasking and settle for making my mistakes one at a time. Pacing. Pacing is all.
Part of the pace is learning new stuff, which is great! Of course, there is the computer; everything is on the internet now. What worked yesterday is obsolete tomorrow. There is much to learn and I learn more slowly. Where a younger person might need an hour, I’m struggling for three or four. Learning takes longer, but goes in deeper. Discovering new possibilities and processes continues to be exciting.
Beyond that is new programs, rules that change endlessly, and discovering ways to achieve better results for clients. I’d miss this stuff. The challenges are invigorating. While I hear younger folks complaining of almost constant change, it is part of what attracted me to working with retirees and continues to keep things fresh and new.
So, I’m not retiring, again. Moved it out to 75 and by the grace of God, I may be pushing it out again after that.
First of all, I have a calendar in my phone and several in my computer. So, right off, we can agree there is no need for a calendar at my desk, plus 2 others on the walls of my home-office. There are others at the back door, in the breakfast nook and the kitchen, on the fireplace mantle, and on my bureau in our bedroom. Eight, non-electric calendars in a house occupied by two people and a dog.
This didn’t matter until today, when I recalled the home of an elderly neighbor from my childhood. Sitting bored, waiting for her fabulous cookies to cool enough to be eaten, I noticed all the calendars. From my spot in the kitchen, I counted six or seven. They were mostly advertising ones. You know, from the hardware store, insurance company, gas station, S & H Green Stamps, etc.
Hadn’t thought of that in years, but thinking of it now, I am struck that I have even more than she did! How old was she anyway? Seemed like she was too old to live. She smelt like an old person and the house smelt like an old person’s house, except for the cookies.
Most of our calendars are advertising ones, too: Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, insurance company, the hardware store, attorney, etc. Plus, 3 bird-a-day calendars. Hmmm.
So, when did putting up all the calendars that arrive become a good idea? It used to be we sifted through the freebees and most went in the trash. Back then, we’d go out in January (after calendars went on 2-for-1 sale) and buy a couple we liked, usually of exotic places we were going to or had just visited. Not anymore. Now, we just put up whatever arrives. Apparently, however many arrive, too.
I suspect it all started with the bird-a-days. They come in a plastic stand and each day is another beautiful photo. Half way through the year, you turn the stack around to view the rest. One each day, with the month, day and date on the page above the new bird.
Well, at the end of the year, we couldn’t throw out all those beautiful pictures. So, we bought a new one and continued to enjoy the old one as well. Except it’s off. The date might be the 5th, but it isn’t really Tuesday; it’s Thursday or Sunday. I’m never sure which.
The next year we kept the second one, and bought a third. By the end of that year, I surrendered. No more of these blasted bird-a-days. There are too many around the house, all with different dates and days, but none of them quite right. We had to do something.
Well, that decision was naturally made in January. We had 3 complete bird-a-day calendars which were all partly correct. There was a pile of free calendars that had come in the mail over the holidays. Why not put them up? So, we did. And we continue to. Our willingness to put up calendars seems limited only by what we are supplied for free. They are pretty, mostly. Why not have them all up?
Which brings us back to that old neighbor and a question I must ask. Is this something older people tend to do? I’ve taken to counting the calendars when visiting friends, but it isn’t scientific, as I can’t check all their rooms. Maybe they have extras in the bedroom or study. Perhaps they’re all in the garage or basement.
I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing this many calendars with nearly half obsolete is an indicator I’m not getting any younger.