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January 2014
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March 2014

February 2014

For Better or for Worse...But Not for Lunch

In the eight years that I still worked after Peter retired, our house was his during the day.  Our running joke was that, if I were to come home unexpectedly, he might not have time “to get the blondes out”.

Because I rode my bike to work, our car was always his too. 

Things have changed now that I have retired.

I am home more and sometimes I feel that I have invaded his territory.  It seems that our study has become his study, and although he has offered to switch with me, I work in the guest bedroom.

In the past, our car was always at his disposal weekdays.  Now we have to let each other know in advance if something on our schedule requires a car during the day because we share it.

Six months into my retirement, I can report that being together during the week is working out just fine. 

Even for lunch.


Winter's Tale

This winter has been brutal in Massachusetts.  Bitter cold, windy and way too much snow.  It’s made me pretty grumpy. 

Apparently, our house allowed the winter to get to it too. 

When we came home from a long weekend away, the outside temperature was 22 degrees and we had no heat.  When the gas company repairman arrived three hours later, he discovered a burst pipe in our basement bathroom that kept the forced hot water in our heating system from getting upstairs. 

We called a plumber.

He arrived at 7:30 p.m.  Two hours later the pipe was replaced. We now had a big hole in the ceiling and still no heat because the pipes were filled with air.  So the man from the gas company had to come back.  At that point, we piled blankets on our bed and called it a day.

By 1:30 p.m. the next day, the gas company repairman had come back and got the heat working.  (Never mind what we still need to do to fix the bathroom ceiling and walls.)

Even while it was happening, I knew that we would be fine.  I knew that others have had far more devastating disasters.  But somehow that didn’t help in the moment.

It’s warmed up a bit now, but the polar vortex is headed back our way. So is my grumpiness. 

Fingers crossed that our house is better at getting over it.

App Update (and a Visit)

I am a relatively computer-savvy senior, but when it comes to apps for my iPhone, I am always behind.  So when we visit the children (or they us), checking out their latest apps is high on my agenda.

When we were in Maryland last weekend to celebrate my birthday, I got my app-update from Jeremy and am happy to share it with my 70-something readers.  All are free.

1. Find My Car:  The name tells it all.  Especially useful if you have a rental car that you might not recognize.  It works best on streets because they have names, but even in a parking lot it will find your car.  Simple to use.

2.  iHeartRadio:  Offers 800 radio stations and 15 million songs.  It’s possible to create your own “station” based on a particular artist. Better than Pandora.

3. Google Now: This app knows everything about you.  It will see that you are sitting in a restaurant and tell you how far you are from the next thing on your calendar.  It will show you how to get there and tell you how long it will take (without your asking, that is).

4.  AnyList:  This shopping list app remembers what you usually buy.  When you check something off the list, it disappears until next time.  You can share your list with others.  If you and your co-shopper are rushing through the grocery store, when you find an item on your list, it disappears from their list too.  AnyList isn’t just for shopping. My other lists so far include reminders about what to do in the house before going out of town and what I have to remember to take when I travel far.

 5.  Mnyd:  I know you have a calendar you love.  You can keep it, but try Mnyd anyhow.  It acts like a personal assistant and gets rave reviews.

And, by the way, it was fun to see the kids too.


Social Insecurity

It has been years since I’ve gone to a Social Security Office, but I remember hoping that I’d never have to go again.

However, now that I am not earning a salary, I could be eligible to have my monthly Medicare premium reduced because Social Security calls retirement a “life-changing event.” (I agree with them.) And that requires an office visit.

To maximize the chance that it would be a one-time visit, I did all my research in advance. 

On a recent bright winter morning, I gathered all my paperwork in a folder and appeared at the SS office at 11:31a.m., according to my sign-in ticket.  I was number A-37. They were helping A-21.  That didn’t seem like it would be a long wait, so I settled down with about thirty other people and the latest New Yorker magazine.

After the first hour of waiting, I could recite the intake officer’s speech.  “Hi, how are you?  What are you here for?”  Then depending on the answer, he led them through a computer screen of boxes to check off, and eventually, they too, received a slip with a number on it. A few times he had to tell people they were in the wrong place.  He advised those who, leaving in despair over the wait, that the best time to come in is 8:30 a.m.  (Note-to-self for any future visit.)

The intake officer was a big guy in uniform and he had a gun on his hip despite the “no weapons” sign.  As time passed, I began to have visions of a disgruntled client shooting up the place because he was tired of waiting. 

I wondered what all the other folks were missing.  Work?  Other appointments?  No one looked happy. Two hours after my arrival, they called my number.

When I left the SS office, it was 1:36 p.m.  My appointment lasted five minutes.  Despite my efforts, there was another required form for which I didn’t have the information.

So I’m not done yet.


Birthday Card

Today is the birthday of one of my closest childhood friends.  I met her in Cincinnati, Ohio when I was four.  I had known her for five years when I moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Shortly thereafter she moved there too--right next door to me!

I recall endless conversations shouted between our bedroom windows across the driveway. Her birthday is four days before mine, and our mothers often took us out to a grown-up lunch to celebrate together.  We even went to the same summer camp.

We stayed in close touch through college and beyond.  But then our lives took different paths.  She was an artist.  She lived in Manhattan.  I lived in suburban Boston with a husband and kids.  She visited me once or twice, but we didn’t have all that much in common any more.  So we gradually drifted apart.

We still exchange birthday cards and we haven’t missed a year.  The other night I tucked a letter into my card for her with an update on our family.  As I wrote, I realized that I have no idea how she is doing.  At this stage of our lives, things can change quickly.

I’ll look for a card from her in four days.


A New Life: Chapter One

I’ve never reinvented myself in any organized way.  My life just happened.  I’ve had a happy childhood, a good education, a super-good marriage, outstanding children and a great career.

Retirement is a whole new thing.  Letting go of the past and figuring out what to do next has been a challenge.  But I think I’ve got it now.

I have begun working with an inner-city charter school that has had great success in getting its graduates into college.  I am going to help the juniors and seniors go through the application process. 

Next week, I begin courses in a life-long learning program.  I will take “Understanding Poetry” because I know nothing about poetry except that I don’t like it. I hope to change that.  And I will take a course on China’s transformation in the twenty-first century, something else I know nothing about.

In April, I will begin training to be a volunteer consultant to non-profits, particularly in executive coaching. 

Is it too much?  Not enough?  Just right?  I’ll find out.

New Friend

For us 70-somethings, making a new friend is not an every day activity.  Old friends are easier.  They know the skeletons in our closet, our mistakes and our triumphs.

New friends are a challenge. We have to discover common interests.  We have to make room for them in our busy schedules and in our hearts. 

So I am happy to report that someone in my life has moved from a “Hi, how’s it going?” acquaintance to an “I like hanging out with her” friend. 

Here’s how it happened.  I had served on a cross-university committee with her for years.  She was articulate and a strong contributor to solving the problems the committee confronted.  She was highly regarded throughout the university.  When she announced that she was stepping down after forty years, I offered to take her to lunch, and did so in June just before she retired.  We both wondered why it had taken so long for us to get together.

Since then, I have also retired. We’ve had more lunches and we’ve become email buddies.  I am happy to confirm that at 70-something, I have a new friend.

New Acquisitions

I have been working on buying less. Inevitably, our children will have to deal with our possessions and I’d like to ease that burden for them. 

So how is it possible that my latest Visa bill includes three purchases of things that I have managed without for three-quarters of a century?

Item #1: Dustbuster  Do you know anyone who has survived without owning a dust- buster?  Is there anything better for cleaning up the mess when peanuts in the shell have been the snack of choice?  We were way overdue for a dustbuster.  

Item #2:  Mr. Coffee  Just before our vacation, I broke our Melita coffee pot.  Actually, I knocked something off a cabinet shelf that fell onto the kitchen counter and broke it. We planned to buy a replacement upon our return.  But our vacation-rental apartment had an automatic coffee maker that Peter liked.  And we had purchased what seemed like a life-time supply of filters for it. So we have invested in a new coffee maker that takes up way too much space on our kitchen counter. But at least we’ll use up the filters we brought home. 

Item #3:  Immersion blender This was an impulse purchase.  It was freezing cold when we returned from our vacation.  We were out doing errands.  All I could think of was coming home to a steaming bowl of soup.  But canned soups have way too much salt.  So we pulled into a shopping center on the way home, bought an immersion blender and thirty minutes later we had a delicious home-made soup from a can of black beans and some chicken stock topped off with sour cream and lime.  And it did not require lugging our ancient blender up from the basement.

So much for de-accessing.