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April 2014

Keep Your Eye Upon the Doughnut

Back in the 1950’s, I looked forward to visiting my mother’s family in Buffalo, as much for our obligatory visit to Freddie’s Doughnuts as for anything else.  The doughnuts were memorable, but so was a sign on the wall offering the following advice:  “As you wander on through life brother, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the doughnut and not upon the hole.”

A doughnut store may not be the most reliable source of life lessons, but I’ve found that one useful.  Here’s some other advice (sources unknown) that I’ve found helpful.

  • There are two sides to every story.  And then there’s the truth.
  •  You can’t control what happens to you; what you can control is your reaction.
  •  It’s not the work; it’s the people.
  •  Life is about managing expectations.
  •  Waste not, want not.
  •  It’s not the days in your life; it’s the life in your days.
  •  Love your job; you’ll never work a day in your life.
  •  Do what you want to do.  Then at least one person is happy.

And have a doughnut.


Followup to My Little Bank

When we changed from the big bad bank to our small local bank a couple of years ago, I wrote about how a real person answers the phone in our new bank and that they have biscuits for dogs accompanying their in-person customers.  I might have mentioned that in the winter, they have a real fireplace with comfy chairs to sit in while you warm up by the fire.

We had several purposes for walking to our bank last Saturday.  We wanted something notarized, we needed cash, we had a check to deposit and needed more container rolls for our pennies.  (I know everyone else throws their change into a machine that counts them, but old habits are hard to break.)

The staff greeted us warmly.  The usual dog biscuits were there.  In the spirit of Easter, there was also coffee, home-made cake and a huge container of Easter candy.

The staff member who is a notary public asked if we knew that Peter’s driver’s license had expired a month ago. That was a life-saver since we plan to fly soon, and an expired license does not work at security.  Without her noticing, Peter would be going home to get his passport in the hope of making a later plane.

The big sign over the main desk says “Welcome Back to Banking.”

They mean it.


Being Old

In spite of what the world sees (and the mirror tells us), deep inside most of us seventy-somethings feel like we’re still forty. 

We aren’t. 

Until I retired last fall, I wasn’t “old”. Was it working with students that kept me feeling young?  Or was it the sense of identity and purpose that came with my job?

When I started at my learning-in-retirement program, I wondered what I was doing with all those old folks.  How could I be one of them?  It turns out that those “old folks” have rich experience, tremendous energy and generosity of spirit, regardless of their wrinkled faces and faltering steps.  We learn from each other every day.

I am a lucky “old” person.  I take only one pill.  I still ride my bike and I still have my love of so many years.

But…I am old.


Is the Internet Our Friend?

Last week’s news about the Heartbleed Bug, a major Internet security breach, convinced me to change my passwords.

I started with my Yahoo Mail. I had used the same password forever and I liked it.   Changing it was a pain.  But it got worse when, after changing the password on my computer, I tried to check my email on my phone. I got the following message: “Cannot reach server.” I had to delete my Yahoo account from my phone and re-install it with the new password, a reminder that technology is not always our friend.

Except when it is. 

For example, this past weekend our Maryland kids/grandkids made a last-minute decision to drive to Philadelphia.  It was the grandkids’ spring break so there were no football or soccer games to miss.  We learned about it from a texted picture of our grandchildren in front of the Liberty Bell with the caption “Guess where we are.”

They called Sunday night to describe their adventure. Jeremy had decided to try his new college alumni phone app that tells you if any alums are nearby. Jeremy opened it as they neared Philadelphia only to find that a good friend from his freshman dormitory lived ten minutes away.  He clicked on the name, got a phone number and called.  The friend was at home with his wife and two sons the same age as our grandchildren. They had a three-hour reunion.

Meanwhile, Katrina posted the Liberty Bell picture on Facebook.  A good friend of hers who lives half-way across the country sent an email saying “About to fly to Phillie and would love to see you.”  So she and Katrina were able to meet for a catch-up coffee.

Gotta love the Internet.  But like many things in life, we have to take the bad with the good.






Retirement Update, Month Seven

I’m making progress on getting used to retirement.  People told me that I would be busier than ever once I got the hang of it.  They also said it would take at least a year for me to adjust, maybe even longer because I loved what I did.  But they assured me that I would eventually welcome having more control over my time.

What I Like So Far:

*Not having to set the alarm every morning.  And when I do set it, it’s not for 6:05 a.m.  (Also going out on weeknights is easier.)

*Non-weekend grocery shopping.  I see lots of retirees, mothers with strollers AND no long checkout lines.

*Doing only what I want to do (or at least stopping what I don’t want to do as soon as I know it).

*Learning stuff I didn’t know I wanted to learn, even some things about myself.

What I Don’t Like So Much:

*Retirement doesn’t make life stress-free.

*I haven’t been able to shed my “Type A” personality. A day sitting around with a good book doesn’t work for me.

* Not seeing the fruits of my labor as I did at work.  (Peter might disagree since part of my labor is making him happy.)

Retirement is a journey. 

Isn’t everything?


What Are We Telling Our Daughters?

It had to be something important for Peter to interrupt my early morning stationary bicycle routine on Monday.  “I want you to watch something.  It’s only a few seconds,” he said.

Peter is addicted to “Morning Joe” on MSNBC.  He records it to watch while he’s exercising. He had never asked me to get off my bike to watch anything before, so I followed him to our TV room.

The “few seconds” was a video clip from a panel “What Are We Telling Our Daughters?” at the “Fifth Annual Women in the World Summit” in New York last weekend. 

Rashida Jones (perhaps best known for her role in “Parks and Recreation”), bemoaning the sexualization of young women, criticized our society’s emphasis on good looks.  She repeated advice she got from a friend’s mother when she was very young.

“You can’t really invest in your looks as the only thing because it’s a    depreciating asset. I think this is true…it’s like putting money into a stock that’s going down. Put your money, put your effort, invest in your brain and talent which will appreciate and get better as you get older”



Sono Troppo Vechio

Years ago on a bike trip in Italy, we stopped in Asolo, a hill town in the Veneto area. At the end of a long, hot day of biking, Peter was trying to lift our bicycles onto the top of a van.  We were tired.  He asked our guide how to say, “I am too old for this kind of work” in Italian. “Sono troppo vecchio per questo genere di lavoro,” the guide replied.

Visiting Sicily just a couple of weeks ago, we took a cooking class from an Italian chef who spoke no English.  Peter was assigned to stuff enough veal cutlets to serve two dozen people. Finding the assignment onerous, Peter exclaimed, “Sono troppo vecchio per questo genere di lavoro!” The chef was impressed,  but soon realized that was the extent of Peter’s Italian.

Back home last Sunday, I decided to “touch up” the baseboards in our kitchen to cover some stains from refinishing the floor. Not surprisingly, “touching up” turned into repainting all the baseboards.  What I expected to take ten minutes turned into two hours and produced aching knees.

At some point, I began to wish I hadn’t started.  “What is a 76-year-old doing down on her knees painting baseboards?” I asked myself.  I shouted to Peter, “ Sono troppo vecchio per questo genere di lavoro!”

Somehow, it  made me feel better.  




The Good Old Days

When we took our usual walk around the nearby reservoir on Saturday, I noted some joggers with their lily-white legs exposed, a sure sign that spring is in the air.  Of course Peter and I were still in our winter jackets, but I reminded him of the days when we went running in the winter and he wore his flimsy Bill Rogers running shorts, despite the bitter cold.  People noticed.

That got us talking about the good old days, something old folks do.  I shared a great insight with him. 

Ten years from now, these will be the good old days.