Puttering

I’ve been retired from full-time work since Christmas.  Another retired colleague and I  started a private-practice counseling center in our small town.  We each allocate a couple days a week to the practice. This schedule leaves me a lot of time for spur-of-the-moment and random activities collectively called puttering for the purpose of this essay.

My colleague and I both experienced a steep learning curve in the transition from working at a state college where we had the privilege of not needing to ask students receiving counseling for money, to private practice where are trying to earn some.

We spent a lot of extra hours on our “off” days on the computer taking care of obtaining the correct licenses, insurance, legal status, taxes, etc. As most of that has now been accomplished, we are closer to our plan for this business which is to each work two days a week. I enjoy spending time in our sunny office.  It’s great to set my hours, and not work within an institution’s expectations.

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I’ve puttered with a bit more indoor gardening this year.  My house plants are thriving.

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I admire folks who can work full time and read a lot, but as much as I tried, rarely found time to finish a book when employed full time.  In the past, when my book club moved to a new selection, I used to insert a bookmark in the unfinished book and move on to the next one. In the past few months, I’ve finished four of those set-aside books, and am now keeping pace with my fellow readers.

Reading, gardening and even a bit of quilting all feel like puttering.  I’ve also been writing more and sending poems and essays to journals for publication consideration. I’ve used some of this puttering time to organize my writing submissions.  As soon as one editor rejects my work, I sent it out to another.  There are occasional successes.

Initially, there was a bit of anxiety that I wasn’t accomplishing much, but I’ve decided that puttering, as described in this blog, is an OK use of my time.  It’s refreshing to have time to watch sunrises and sunsets like this one. Peace to all of you who find your way to this blog!

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Nature is steering a rocky path this year

I started this post nearly a year ago.  Volatile spring weather is a constant each year and has caused havoc from coast to coast in the past year.  After an extremely cold February and early March, we are indeed marching toward the end of April. A sunny, windy, warm Easter weekend had turned into a cool wet Earth Day.  See my blogs between May 2018 and now in 2019 to follow my decision-making process.

May 2018 remained sweatshirt-chilly for the first two weeks, then catapulted to temperatures near or exceeding 100 degrees over Memorial weekend.  The month wrapped up with a week in the nineties that ushered in wind-wrapped rain and tornado warnings.  High winds earlier this spring tore siding from my house, damaged ponderosa pines, and other trees, and downed power lines for many, although my electricity remained steady.  Trying to determine my future mirrors the weather’s ups and downs.  I think I’m all set, then have a complete change of mind every few days as I investigate options.

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Trees, bushes, and flowers experienced a similar rollercoaster.  Bare lilac branches burst from tightly-curled buds to lovely flowers, to dried flower seed-heads to full leaf in a week.  The branches were bare at the beginning of May and flowers were all gone before Memorial Day.  Many early iris did not bloom. Mid-season tall bearded iris bloomed and died in a weekend, but there were enough of them to decorate family graves.  Looking at each turn of nature teaches me that everything does not have to be perfect for one to move ahead, and many beautiful things are fleeting.

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Shete Boka National Park

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Located on the north end of the Caribbean island of Curacao, the Sheta Boka National Park is, according to their website, an “Area with more than 10 beautiful Boka’s (inlets) where three species of turtles nest. A boka is, in fact, an inlet. Shete Boka stands for ‘seven inlets’. Years ago, the environmental group Amigu di Tera arranged excursions in this area along seven bays. Hence, the name is taken, although in reality there are more than seven coves in this national park. The park begins at the beautiful Boka Tabla where large, unpredictable waves crush against an underground cave. An impressive experience!”  Learn more at https://www.curacao.com/en/directory/do/sights-and-sounds/shete-boka-national-park/

Prevailing northeast winds buffet the island.  Trees on the north end of the island are often bent like the featured image or dwarfed from the wind’s impact.

I visited the park on a tour of the island during February.  It was a restful vacation away from this frigid Nebraska Winter and did wonders for my mental health.  The crashing waves in the first photo were the highlight of the park.  The tour bus also visited a lovely park beach.  Our group had an hour to swim or sit in the sun.  I opted for sunshine, but many dived into the turquoise water.

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The tour bus also stopped at the salt ponds to see flamingos. We were able to walk near a series of protected pools where many flamingos dipped their elegant heads in search of food.  The flamingos have a peaceful existence eating in the still water.

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I noticed unusual water creatures at the edge of the pond.  I’m not sure of their biological identity, but they are quite beautiful.

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Curacao is a destination to consider to get away from northern winters.

Retirement Anxiety

I’ve worked part-time selling irrigation parts, in a kitchen dish room, and winding used film.  My full-time jobs include working for a grant-funded group home, a developmental disabilities office, and a state college. I’ve been employed in some capacity for nearly fifty years.  Each job provided a regular paycheck.  My anxiety is on high alert without a paycheck for the first time in my adult life.

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

I thought about retiring for nearly a year. When I was confident that I should retire, I considered when to retire.  I selected a date close to my birthday and turned in a letter of resignation giving three month’s notice. I sought a peaceful exit from employment.   Many events unfolded during those three months that made me question my timing. This lovely chocolate dessert was a happy departure from a series of unhappy events.

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The college hired a new vice president who was my supervisor for a few weeks before I retired.  He holds many similar views to my own regarding student services.  It will be interesting to see if he is able to change the negative culture that shaped my decision to leave employment at this time.

It was also short-sighted of me to retire before the Christmas holiday.  Another paycheck would be helpful now until retirement funds become available.

On the home front, my rural well failed.  The well company was unable to remove a dysfunctional pump from the old well.  The first attempt at a new well was a failure, beginning with clay collapsing into the new pit, installing 80 feet of steel piping to stabilize the clay, and running into rocks below 80 feet. It took two waterless weeks for the crew to drill a new 220 foot well that reliably produces potable water.  The expense nearly drained my savings.

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A colleague and I are setting up a mental health private practice in the county seat.  This process also involves start-up costs to pay for office rent, insurance, legal fees, accounting fees, etc.  It’s unclear how long it will take to generate income.

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As winter weather settles around me, I’d like to take a vacation to a warm place.  It’s 6 degrees Fahrenheit today and dropping as the day goes on.  However, I’d like to feel more financially secure before I make definite plans.

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Barn Swallows

The barn swallows are gone for this year.  They left sometime in September. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Barn_Swallow/id

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I watch for their return Mid-May every year in Nebraska.  I know they will leave end of summer and think I’ll say good-bye this year. I look for them in the evenings, and find they are already gone like quicksilver.  One minute it’s there, the next second it slips through my fingers.  My reflexes aren’t fast enough to see.  Their migratory pattern is fixed in their DNA.  https://journeynorth.org/tm/swallow/News.html

I like to watch the swallows dip and dive on warm summer evenings at twilight.  I imagine it’s possible to see them snapping up mosquitos and flies, cleaning my backyard for human outdoor comfort, as they feed themselves and their young nesting in my barn.

These sleek blue-black birds left about the time I ordered a new black mobile briefcase to roll to new part-time self-employment.  Buying new supplies for  a new post-retirement career is easy and fun.  Writing the letter of resignation to leave my position after 39 years with the same employer is hard.

Over the years, and through many different administers, I worked to provide more and different kinds of  help to students.  Until the last few years, those administrations supported and encouraged my program’s efforts.  They believed in the concept of helping students through many obstacles, enhancing their graduation rates.  The current one doesn’t share that view.  This leader’s focus is public relations, and self-image.

The program I’m leaving has been reduced to near nonexistence. Theoretically, that should make it easier to retire, however leaving is bittersweet.  I’m hopeful the next person in this position will be more articulate, and able to make a case to recover lost services that benefit students.

I’ll build my own mud nest, ready to hatch and fledge a new direction.

See the source image

 

 

 

Animal Friends

We make commitments to each other in our marriage vows, to our children when we decide to become parents, and to the animals that share our lives.   Dogs and cats sometimes live 15 years, but horses can live 25 or 30 years.  Marriages end through death or divorce, as mine did.  Commitment to my animal friends has been more enduring.

Today’s blog is about the horses that have “peopled” my life.  My husband loves horses. He was the driving force to buy our first horse.  The Appaloosa mare was pregnant.  She gave birth to a big spotted foal.  We provided a home for Jody and Cheyenne until they passed about twenty years later.

Our next horses were another mare for him named Rose, and an old gelding for me named Blue.  Blue was old when we bought him, but he was just right for me.  He was tough to catch, but very gentle to ride.  My kids and many friends enjoyed riding Blue. He lived until he was over thirty-years-old

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Rose gave birth to six babies over the years; two fillies and four colts.  One of the foals died after a few weeks, but the rest grew into big beautiful mares and geldings.  The last addition to the group was an Appaloosa gelding for my son.  My son was 13 years-old, named his new horse Apache (even though the Appaloosa breed is associated with the Nez Perce tribe in Idaho, it seemed right to name him for a brave Native American nation) and broke him to ride.  https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/appaloosa_horse_breed/#.W46IqPZFyUk

Apache & Rose horses 2005

When my husband and I divorced, we divided the horses.  He took four and I kept three. Apache, one of those three, belonged to my son.  Apache was the “go-to-horse” for new and inexperienced riders.  Like Blue before him, Apache taught many people to ride.  In the drought year of 2012, grass was sparse and dry.  The horses pushed their noses under trees and bushes searching for fresh greens.  Apache punctured both eyes on sharp grasses or tree branches.  We treated his wounds as much as he would allow (a month in the barn alone,  inserting lotions in both eyes is a challenge when the horse patient doesn’t cooperate). We finally turned him back to pasture with the other horses.  He adapted wonderfully, even running blind across the hills with his mates.  He came to the feed bunk when I called him, walking carefully till he first touched the bunk with his nose.  [Apache is the mostly-white Appaloosa in the center of the photo below]

Apache & Jody 2013

This summer has been a tough one for Apache.  He lost weight, became  unsteady on his feet, and as Labor Day approached, went down and couldn’t labor to right himself.  The wonderful veterinarian (the same one that treated his eyes six years ago) said his heart was barely beating.  She gave him something to peacefully end his life .  We said goodbye to this faithful friend of twenty-five years this weekend and buried him on a grassy knoll.

Hail Storm to Heat Wave

A severe thunderstorm with hail swept though eastern Nebraska  and into Iowa on Father’s Day.  I drove from a family reunion 70 miles west of my house, back toward home late afternoon.  It was sunny and 75 degrees at the family gathering.  As I drove east, the temperature dropped and a rain front became visible on the eastern horizon.  The storm was moving east.  I followed it, believing the edge of the front was far ahead, but as I neared the last turn east toward  home, I caught up with the storm.  There was heavy rain intermixed with hail, beating a tattoo on the car’s roof, hood and  trunk.  At times I could not see to drive and pulled to the side of the road until it cleared a bit.  There was no place to pull completely off the highway as there are no shoulders.  I was a bit shook up after the drive, but neither the car or me suffered any serious damage.

My dog was home alone. She hates thunder and was happy to see me return.

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A week later, another big storm swept the area, dropping five inches of rain in one day, but no hail this time. It’s a wet year here, but I am fortunate to live on a hill and don’t have to worry about floods, unlike many people who live along the swollen creeks and rivers that feed the Missouri.

The low pressure systems behind all the rain storms turned into a high pressure front that ushered in, and continues to bring, excessive heat and humidity.  I’m not a fan of this part of summer, but my plants and flowers are thriving as well as all the area crops.

As summer marches on, I’m taking steps toward the goal of retiring this fall, along with baby-steps toward beginning a part-time business.  It feels good to see the end of the road.

Road west 2017