I like to be up early in the morning and watch the sunrise. It’s life-affirming to see another day emerge from darkness as mother earth turns. Spring mornings often go from pink, to mauve, gold, or red as the morning brightens, as if a master light engineer is controlling the process.
I’m sometimes tired and discouraged by day’s end, but the morning brings promise of a better day ahead. Listening to the robins wake up, begin their cheerful chirping, the mourning dove calling to attract a new mate, and faint flutter of finches’ wings as they fly to the feeder are a tonic for emotional renewal.
I’m writing this blog to help me make decisions about my future. Each new day brings a little progress, and many more questions.
Summer flowers and future decisions are just around the corner.
It’s been a while since I posted to this blog, so I’m writing a retirement plan update. One of about a zillion possible ways to think about retirement is to reinvent oneself and start a small business. I’m considering opening a private counseling practice. As I explore this possibility, I learn about a long list of requirements. I’d rather think about the fun side of an adventure first, so following that line of thought, I am considering many names and logos for a potential business.
I had a blue roan horse years ago. Blue was older when he came home from the sale barn, than the seller claimed, but lived a good long life here. Because of his age, Blue was a dependable mount for me, and for novice riders and children that visited and wanted to go riding. I bought a painting of a blue horse this spring from a gallery in North Carolina. I’ve been thinking about adding a blue horse description to my place. I’m taken with the idea of renaming it LLZ Blue Horse Ranch.
I named my first poetry chapbook Hard Times after the title of one of the poems in the chapbook. Some time later, I googled the title and discovered at least a dozen books with the same name. It seems prudent, given that experience, to check out titles first before proceeding with legal steps to establish a business. My first choice is to use the same title for my business as this blog.
When I googled “blue horse”, I found a dozen or more Blue Horse Ranch locations around the country, and a couple of Blue Horse Counseling Services. I’m back to square one looking for a unique name.
It turns out that selecting a name first is also a practical consideration. One needs a name and a location to complete all legal documents.
Sandhill Cranes gather by the thousands along the Platte River this time of year. Even on a overcast grey morning, it’s an amazing sight to see the islands formed in the river from sleeping crane families. As they fly from the river, it’s often in large groups. If you want to learn more about cranes, read the book about cranes by Paul A. Johnsgard, with photographs by Thomas D. Mangelsen. It is called A chorus of Cranes, published by the University Press of Colorado.
The cranes feed in fields along the Platte during the day, then return to the river at night.
Two years ago, I visited a Prairie Chicken lek in northern Nebraska. It was another early morning wait in a photography blind for the birds to wake up and begin their mating dance. Most of the people in the blind were professional photographers with amazing cameras, but I captured a few pictures of male Prairie Chickens showing off for the gals.
Weather permitting, I hope to see the mating dance of the Sharp-tailed Grouse this weekend. When I’m home, I watch Doves, Blue Jays, Finches, and Woodpeckers eat from the birdfeeder outside my kitchen window. Bird watching is way for me to chart the season’s changes. I find peace in Mother Nature’s company, at home, or in a bird’s backyard.
It was a wonderful spring break in Nashville, TN and Ashville, NC. The Smokey Mountains are beautiful. I’ve returned home to a snow-covered landscape and below-freezing temperatures. As the landscape here at home is covered in white, my decision-making is obscured in fog. I hoped to make some progress toward my retirement decision during vacation, but I used the week away as an excuse to avoid thinking seriously about anything.
I enjoyed southern food, and visited many beautiful historic sites.
The cemetery at Andrew Jackson’s historic home, The Hermitage, has an impressive garden dedicated to Mrs. Jackson. The garden is already blooming in early March.
Mrs. Jackson’s burial site is near the garden. I hope to think more clearly when it’s warm enough to putter in my own garden.
Spring is out there somewhere south of Nebraska. I’m going in search of that elusive season on March 1st. There has been and continues to be a flurry of events to organize and/or attend, appointments to keep, and chores to do before I leave.
I like to keep early morning set aside to work on poems and short stories, but today, find my head full of lists to be checked, bags to pack, and arrangements to make before I leave. The trip will give me a chance to recharge and reflect.
Pickles the sheepdog will stay in town with family, the house and barn cats will rely on kindness of others to come by and feed them regularly. Horses will get their hay and oats while I’m away. The automatic waterer is a wonder for all.
If planning for a week’s vacation is a major undertaking, I’m trying to imagine how to plan for retirement. How do I capture all of the details in my head and transfer them to paper for the next person, or will it matter? Will supervisors re-write my job description? Will the organization decide not to replace my position? How will I manage my time without a daily schedule? Many questions, but few answers.
The closer it comes to my self-imposed decision time, the more difficult it feels to know what to do. After a successful student-planned dinner last weekend, the club officers have selected dates for the next three years of dinners. This group of students are a lot of fun. I will miss them. However, I can’t base my retirement decision on them alone.
I learned sad news about two of my favorite antiques stores when I met a friend for lunch recently. One store was already closed with all the merchandise gone, and another posted Going out of Business signs in the window. These stores had their heyday ten or fifteen years ago when everyone wanted to own a piece of the past. The past was defined as eighty to one hundred years old. Shoppers were mid-fifties and older.
We collected furniture, dishes and doodads from our grandparent’s generation. I rarely see unique items to add to my collections anymore. This scarcity tells me that all the good pieces are already sold or no one cares about that type of miscellany today. I’m also more selective about adding items that will be difficult to sell or give away later.
There aren’t many estates of that era left to re-sell as antiques. As the antique store owners have aged, the shoppers have aged with them. Many folks downsize into smaller houses or condos at retirement and stop collecting.
Collectors today are in their thirties and forties and what they seek is mid-century modern furnishing or stylized patterns. The mid-century items remind them of their grandparents.
My near-retirement age dates me more like an antique than some items for sale.
This year for Valentine’s Day I’m dreaming of sunshine warm enough to melt the foot of snow covering everything, and the much taller drifts covering flower beds and breaking fences. I want the ice to melt to make walking easier for all of us. I want my frozen Nebraska backyard to turn into green grass and spring flowers. I’m dreaming of days filled with sunshine and warmth, although there is peace and beauty in sparkling snow.
I’m looking forward to early tulips, daffodils and lilacs. Its 10 degrees outside today
so I may need to go on a southern vacation to find spring flowers this early. However, I can take a mental vacation from winter by leafing through seed catalogs. It’s time to plan the summer vegetable and flower gardens.
Yellow cats have been part of my life for forty years. One escorted me across half the country three times. Colonel Mustard (pictured) is the latest bit of sunshine in my life. His yellow fur flies in tiny helicopters when he shakes, covers chairs and tabletops. He offers kitty kisses to the tip my nose if he thinks I need cheering.
Yellow cat number one pressed his nose against the bars of a Syracuse, NY shelter in 1974. He purred when I stroked his fur though the cage. He came home with us that day. We called him Morris after a cat food commercial on TV that featured a golden kitty. We thought Morris was too ordinary a handle, too common, so his name evolved to Moshe, and finally to Mos. He lived with a houseful of adolescent boys in a Syracuse group home with us, moved from New York state to Nebraska three times, and settled in to help parent when our kids arrived.
Mos greeted a cadre of international students when they picnicked on the ranch in the early 1980’s. He treated students from Japan, China, Finland, Malaysia, and Iran all the same. He allowed each student a chance to give him one stroke, before he moved on the next, taking his ambassadorial duty very seriously.
Col. Mustard cheers me on to help the latest group of students from Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria and the Island of Curacao. He’s a bit shy and doesn’t want to meet any of them, prefers me to see the students at the office, but not bring them home to disrupt our golden naps.
The list below was conceived during a blue moon. It includes things to do to get ready for retirement and those that aren’t such a good idea. I’m in the party planning stage, but haven’t quite set a date. I’ve made several mistakes along the way and will probably make some more.
Throw yourself a” goodbye to the old” and “hello to the new” party.
Don’t use one’s breastbone as a one side of clipper to trim bushes.
Don’t second guess yourself when you are ready to write the letter of resignation.
Do make plans for some meaningful activity to replace the daily job’s structure.
Do plan a vacation.
Don’t stay home and mope. Get out of the house often.
Spend time with family and friends.
Take a class. Learn something new.
Read the books you didn’t have time for while working full-time.
Watch all the movies in your Netflix queue.
Start a new career.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are indispensable. Most businesses and non-profit institutions will replace you in a heartbeat.
It’s nearly the end of my between-semesters break. I was in Arizona for the first week (when the weather in Nebraska was still mild), and back to Nebraska for the second week just as the weather turned cold. Arizona offers mountains, desert, and dams on the Colorado River. I visited the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Sedona (pictured in the heading), and beautiful Lake Havasu.Copper Canyon on Lake Havasu
I felt a little homesick by the end a week away from home, and was happy to get back. The winter solstice opened the door to a blast of artic air over much of the upper half of the country. The New Year weekend is too frigid to appreciate for many people, including me. Fifteen minutes outside a couple times a day is enough at minus four Fahrenheit. Minus fourteen is expected overnight and tomorrow’s high will be minus six. As schools resume in the New Year, we all hope for temperature moderation.
This extended weather discussion is part of every conversation this week. It’s also part of my retirement consideration. I never wanted to be a snowbird spending a month or more in the south, but this cold spell is enough to cause me to rethink my prejudice about going south during the coldest part of the year. Hoover Dam
This week I watched movies during the afternoon, finished a novel, read several magazines, and even finished a sewing project planned months ago. The unstructured days of retirement begin to look a lot more desirable.