Yellow Gold Has Fur

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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.

What’s Next?

Spring 2017 004The 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.

  1. Throw yourself a” goodbye to the old” and “hello to the new” party.
  2. Don’t use  one’s breastbone as a one side of  clipper to trim bushes.
  3. Don’t second guess yourself when you are ready to write the letter of resignation.
  4. Do make plans for some meaningful activity to replace the daily job’s structure.
  5. Do plan a vacation.
  6. Don’t stay home and mope.  Get out of the house often.
  7. Spend time with family and friends.
  8. Take a class.  Learn something new.
  9. Read the books you didn’t have time for while working full-time.
  10. Watch all the movies in your Netflix queue.
  11. Start a new career.
  12. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are indispensable.  Most businesses and non-profit institutions will replace you in a heartbeat.
  13. Enjoy sunrise and sunset.Sunrise 2017

Winter Break

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 (11)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. Hover Dam (11) 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.

Autumn is Turning

October’s last day started as a raw 19 this morning, and only warmed to 35 by trick-or-treat time late afternoon.  Little witches and space rangers were wrapped in winter coats and stocking caps.   The last of the autumn sun shone on falling leaves and porch swings.

Morning Sun 2017

It’s the last day of employment for a counselor laid-off from my office. November will bring more work for those of us who remain.  Autumn turning colder, daylight lasting fewer hours, and grieving our losses go hand-in-hand.

Administrative fiats are occurring in education, government, and business.  The powerful consolidate control, eliminate those with seniority that might challenge their techniques, and try to undermine others.  I believe my employer has lost its ethical center. I’m also surprised that I’ve become so cynical.

In my work, I’ve always tried to see the good in others, and encourage their best efforts. Insights about myself as well as others’ actions help me to make retirement decisions.

Frost Expected

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I harvested almost everything from the garden this past weekend.  Beets, squash and onions are stored in the barn to dry.  They can remain in the barn until the nights are consistently in the mid-twenties.  One or two nights will not drain all the summer warmth from the building.

My houseplants have summered outside for years.  The brighter light and humidity outdoors always gives them a growth spurt.  The first frost is expected tonight, in the  second week in October,  later this year than usual.  The first frost has historically occurred at the end of September in this location.  My garden has been located in Agricultural Zone 4 as long as I can remember.  I haven’t moved, but the weather is warmer and this is now listed as  Zone 5, with a longer growing season.

I planned to bring the remaining house plants inside last evening, but it rained again and  the pots were covered with mud and wet leaves.  Early dark and a 40 degree cold rain encouraged an early finish to the task.  I covered the remaining pots this evening and hope they survive tonight’s frost.

Completing this task at a more leisurely pace is appealing.  When I retire I’ll spend daylight hours clearing the garden.

Peppered Peace

I’m not a religious person, but come from a long line of God-fearing folks, and often misquote, or half remember Bible verses.  This  year my bell pepper crop is outstanding.  I harvested a five-gallon bucket of huge green and red peppers and spent several hours chopping them for the freezer.  It seems only right to sit a few minutes on the porch with a glass of cabernet to toast my garden’s largess.  It’s a very quiet evening without a hint of wind.

Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (I only  remembered part of this and looked it up.)  However, a  misquote popped into my head and won’t leave me alone. “Peace that peppers understanding.”  Most people misunderstand half the messages they hear.

The idea of peppered peace fits our world.  In the past year, there’s been a murder every other hour in Chicago.  The US has been bogged down in war in Afghanistan for more than 10 years, having learned nothing from Vietnam, except not to draft people.

It feels like a war zone at my place of work.  People are layed-off, fired outright, or, if lucky, given a chance to resign or retire with dignity. The targeted folks are hurt and angry.  The injured randomly fire vocal tirades toward those of us who have no power to change anything, leaving us with peppered understanding, and  little peace.

I began this blog before the mass killing in Las Vegas. To continue and follow my analogy, the killer peppered the crowd with rapid-firing bullets, murdering and injuring as many as he could.  People search for an understandable motive, and pray for the victims.  Our society must move beyond this predictable response and make actual changes in the legal system. Do we, as a nation, have the collective will to resist gun lobbyist?

 

 

Butterfly Migration

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In 2015 my place was designated as a Monarch Way Station.  Many Monarchs migrated through my flower beds that year.  I’ve increased the number of milkweeds to feed the Monarchs at the ranch.  There are now perennials asters in several garden beds (like the flowers in the photo above), and planted wildflowers in the pasture for season-long blooms.  A good number of Monarchs migrated in 2016, but there are just a few this year.

2017 can be called the Painted Lady year.  The flowers have been full of Painted Lady butterflies for weeks.  They share the sedum flowers (below) with Monarchs, bumblebees, wasps, and occasional honey bees.  Monarchs and honey bees are in decline.

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Butterflies feed on Autumn-blooming plants on warm afternoons.  They are eating as much as possible before beginning the next legs of their journeys.  I can identify with the idea of feeding on the warmth of fall days, conserving the last of the garden veggies, and picking the last of the apples, to get ready for winter’s cold.  I envy the butterfly’s ability to move to new life stages with seeming ease.  Going south during the coldest part of winter also sounds like a great retirement idea.

Retirement decision in perspective

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I visited the Virgin Island of Anguilla, in the British West Indies in January, 2017. I took this photo of one of the beautiful beaches.  It was peaceful and picturesque. “Anguilla is the northernmost island of the Leeward Islands, located about 270 km (165 mi) east of Puerto Rico, and just north of the island of Saint Martin, in the Eastern Caribbean. The island shares maritime borders with Antigua and Barbuda and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Hurricane Irma hit Anguilla with the full force of category five winds, leaving devastation behind. This photo from a CNN story about Anguilla and nearby islands, shows nearly complete destruction of people’s homes.  September 6, 2017. Homes destroyed in Anguilla on September 6, 2017.

It’s good for me to consider other people’s real struggles for basic necessities, like shelter, food, water, and electricity. My house stands up to winter storms, but Nebraska winds are gentle breezes compared to Caribbean hurricane-strength gales. It also reminds me that work politics are usually petty, and my internal struggle to make a good retirement decision, is minor in comparison.

Heat

I planted habanero pepper plants by mistake this summer.  I meant to plant jalapeños. The habaneros are super hot by my standards.   Perhaps the four-pack of peppers was misplaced in a shelf of jalapenos, or perhaps I didn’t read the label properly.  Only two of the four seedlings grew, but each plant is producing dozens of little fruits.  Several pepper websites show photos of many varieties.  I’m linking to Habanero Madness as the habanero description sounds about right and it has great pictures.  http://www.habaneromadness.com/how-hot-is-a-habanero-pepper.html#.Wb3IALpFyUk

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Tonight, I grilled a green pepper, chopped it along with half an onion, and sautéed for fifteen minutes in a big sauce pan, then added approximately a gallon of fresh tomatoes.  I added one tiny habanero to this sauce.  I neglected to put on gloves to chop the habanero (bad idea).  My fingers are tingling, and I had a coughing episode when the habanero began to simmer with the other veggies.  I’m writing this blog three rooms away from the kitchen, but the sauce’s smell is nearly as strong here in the office, as it is in the kitchen.

I’m writing about heat tonight.  The heat from this tiny pepper, compares to the heat I felt reading the first letter of reprimand I’ve received from my employer in about 37 years.  My first supervisor at this same institution, wrote a less than complimentary annual evaluation report my first year on the job. I did my best to improve as requested.  The intervening years have gone reasonably well.  This week’s unwelcome kind of heat helps in an odd way, to make it easier to make a retirement decision.  I suspect this is my supervisor’s intent.  I’m vain enough to want to leave on my own terms, and in my own time frame, but I feel the heat from the work kitchen, and am reasonably tired of being burned.