I’ve Moved – Please Visit my New Place

I hear that some readers in this space were waiting for something to magically ‘happen’ to get them routed and setup for feeds to my new 2013 blog. It’s pretty magical, but you need to take a few simple steps to push it along.

This is what you need to do, if you want to move over to the new blog “All those days that came and went“:

  1. Click on the new blog link -> All those days that came and went
  2. Enter your email address in the space under “Follow Blog via Email”
  3. Click on the button named “Follow”
  4. Then go to your email and respond to a request to confirm this subscription.

Why the multi-step process? It’s all good news for you. This protects you from bloggers forcing their updates into your email in-box without your consent. Not sure how all the annoying vendors that pop up in my email get to bypass this step?!

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Closing out the First Year of Retirement

It’s been 15 months, so this posting is long overdue. I dove into a website project at the high school the last 5 months and was back on the working wagon. Retirement routines, quiet time and blog time were put back on the shelf. All the obsessive behavior, challenges and rewards, both good and bad, came back quicker than I could have imagined.

In retrospect, the experience was rather like getting back together with an old boyfriend you had finally broken up with. Am I the only one that has traveled down that path? All the things you love about them make you so excited that you’re back. All the things that drove you to break up in the first place make you wonder what the heck you are doing? and how are you going to disentangle again?

The Good news is that the project is implemented and definitely winding down. The Great news is that I’m retired again and casting about for what’s next. Since I process life through journaling, sharing, and working it out externally, I’ve moved over to my new blog called “Drip Drip … All those days that came and went“.  I’ll be dripping thoughts and musings of daily life into posts over there for 2013. See ya in the new year in my new blog!

12th Month Reflections #1 – Boil-Over Point Shifts

Why #1? I’m sure I’ll be thinking about this out loud in this space several times this month. The 1st anniversary is rapidly approaching at the end of the month. The intensity of comparisons is back on the radar: Before – After; Then – Now; Pre-R-Era – Post-R-Era (where R=Retirement, of course). The first impressions are fading and after the 1-year mark, I’m sure the energy to answer the many questions from working friends will dissipate. I feel compelled to capture it all in this time capsule.

That brings me to boil-over points. Family boil-over points seem as fixed and predictable as the laws of physics. WHEN you tear out of the house, running late for an early morning presentation and the car someone else drove the night before is on Empty …..  WHEN your child announces just before they leave for school that they need cash for the school field trip today, or they can’t go, and all you have is a handful of change …. WHEN the downstairs toilet overflows and apparently nobody under your roof knows anything about it! …. THEN you could definitely count on me to be not happy – that’s code for me making sure everyone suffered for their sins, and has something to deal with if they get into therapy some day.

This morning the stars were aligned for a classic boil over in the Pre-R-Era and yet, pretty weird, there was no explosion. The dead battery in one car and the low tires in the other did result in a missed early morning church meeting, but all without drama, stress or retribution. It was simply handled,  and our high schooler sent off after a lesson in tire pressures and pumping up at the local gas station. This is the new normal. In fact, it doesn’t even seem new anymore. It’s just normal. What a relief! How could we have survived anything different? I don’t ever want to take this for granted.

Today would have been my 27th anniversary at my last place of employment. I think about that, and actually have nothing to say, other than ‘no regrets’. I’m loving the shift in boil-over points. With 20-20 hindsight I ask myself, how could we have managed it better, and come to the conclusion that we couldn’t have. The temperature was too hot. It needed to be dialed down.

Phewwww. Big sigh of relief.

A Summer Vacation “Sans Enfants”

I heard a rumor yesterday that I had quit blogging. Really? I didn’t get that memo. Indeed, I did take a summer break. How do you know it’s summer in Houston, Texas? And what am I “breaking” from anyway? I’ll answer those questions soon, but not today.

First, I’m BACK. Second, I haven’t stopped blogging. Third, I have lots of pent up fodder for blogging. Fourth you’re going to hear the first summer story today.

In our former life, full of rush-rush, distracted and disconnected family interactions, the summer vacation was sacrosanct.We unplugged from the matrix and plugged back into the family zone. In our new life, the chaos and distractions are fewer, so the get-away-from-it-all urgency is less.

All that lead to a decision to leave two teenagers at home alone, while we went off to Montana “sans enfants”. Did they have a ProjectX party? No evidence of that. The house looked remarkably tidy and mostly clean. But here are some post-return observations that I had not anticipated:

  1. Your house will instantly switch from the last house that everyone congregates, into the hottest hang out and sleepover magnet. Even the rich kid’s mansion with a pool and aquarium-sized HDTV can’t beat the parents-in-Montana house.
  2. When you return, they will scatter just as quickly to the next least supervised household on their social map. Leaked stories and forensic clues will be the only evidence that they were ever there.
  3. Someone will sleep in your bed. Either a nap by one of your own kids or an overnight guest, because they’ve filled all the other beds. They won’t wash the sheets, because they will claim not to know how. Since my son only washed his sheets 3 times all Freshman year in college, this is almost believable.
  4. Something will get broken, and you will not be informed, rather left to discover it. And when you do discover it, nobody will know anything about it. Broken shot glass in the cereal box … really?
  5. The to-do list you left will not get done. Let alone any suggestions you made about things to take care of. They consider this time vacation-from-parents. Duh! What was I thinking? Those tasks will wait til the ruling authorities return.
  6. Any food left for them in the fridge will not be touched. Especially fruits, vegetables and sensible left-overs. I might as well have thrown them all out before I left.
  7. When you return, they will need some re-training and coaching to re-establish your parental role. You will have become superfluous in their minds. Who needs you, they did fine without you and nothing happened, right?

Yes, nothing happened, I think that’s right?! This reminded me of the Cat in the Hat. The two little angels sitting at the window as if nothing had happened while their mother was out.

Carpe Diem – Don’t wave off the dessert cart

This week I lived out one of those fantasies you have when you’re chained to an oppressive schedule, hemmed in by back-to-back meetings, overwhelmed with a tsunami of to-dos that can never get done. The fantasy comes in various flavors, all boiling down to some sort of escape scenario.

The email came out late Sunday evening. An open invitation to several of us in the neighborhood who could get in the car the next morning and take off for the hill country to stay at a friends’ get-away home. My first reaction was the usual busy working mom modus operandi  ‘thanks, but …., I have too many commitments this week already … blah…blah…blah‘. I did indeed have worksessions on the calendar with others relating to the school website project. But someone please slap me! If I didn’t retire to finally be able to jump on something like this, then I might as well go chain myself back to that desk in the corporate cubicle!

Thankfully, that slap did come. It took divine intervention. Within a few hours of the hill country invitation all those commitments disappeared from the week’s calendar – one by one my work partners had to move things for other reasons.

Could I do it on my own next time? After years of sticking to plans, schedules and commitments, it’s hard to operate differently. My husband says I focus so much on the ‘meat and potatoes’ that I often miss out on dessert.  Now I’m in the dessert course, so I better serve myself some of it!   Thanks to all those lovely people in my life, who keep putting it on my plate in the meantime, when I don’t get round to it.

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“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”
Erma Bombeck

Walking in another’s shoes

In my BR days (Before Retirement) early morning downtown meetings would sometimes result in my driving through a beautiful inner-city enclave of wide boulevards and large mansions in the pitch dark. I was always shocked and irritated at the pre-dawn faithful joggers that insisted on running in the road, sometimes, even in the middle of the road. This boulevard has great sidewalks – what are they doing running in the road? Are they crazy? Irresponsible! They’re going to get killed! I flashed my lights and honked on occasion, but nothing ever changed. They kept running in the road and I kept getting irritated.

That was until this week, when I actually ran down that very same boulevard early one morning, and I found out why they were running in the road. The explanation is very simple: these beautiful sidewalks are positioned in the middle of the sprinkler system watering zone. In Houston these are set to water in the early morning. As I found myself dodging these water traps and gravitating to the dry road, I was reminded of all the many versions of quotes about walking in another man’s shoes in order to be able to truly understand them.

One of the interesting aspects of new-found space in your life – yes, aka retirement – is that you can get out and do things you’ve never done before. I’ve been walking in many new shoes these past 7 months. I’ve had many revelations about a wide spectrum of previous frustrations ranging from the early morning joggers, to the school phone system, to non-working friends email responsiveness.

I can’t walk in everyone’s shoes in order to extend them the level of understanding and grace they deserve. I can however maybe ask myself the question “I wonder why they are doing this?”, before I pounce on them … well maybe some of the time!

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“Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Better parenting through chaos absorbsion

I’ve always maintained that maternity leave is wasted on babies. A more critical period on the timeline is the much-dramatized and dreaded teen years. In lieu of a teenage parental leave policy I can highly recommend retirement. The events of the past few weeks have just reconfirmed this position.

There are plenty of loving, caring people who can tend to the diapers, feeding and burping of an infant. Those events are pretty predictable and you can write the script for your preferences. Yes, I recognize that I’m completely ignoring significant scientific studies on bonding, etc. Just bear with me.

The teen years is a completely different  management challenge. You could argue that the events are predictable too (situations involving cars, parties gone wrong, etc. – plenty of popular movies have documented these), however you can’t write the script for others to implement. Crazy things inevitably happen at the most inconvenient times, typically after midnight (things do seem to turn into pumpkins, mice and rags!). You want your own brand of lessons learned to be imprinted at these critical teaching moments in life – and you want to be at your best!  … not your crankiest, angriest or out of town on a business trip.

With cushion to absorb these chaotic events, you can shift from shouty responses along the lines of “What were you thinking?! How stupid can you get! You’re grounded!” (am I the only one here?)  to “I can see how this happened. I can understand how you might have done that, or made this decision. This is a great life lesson. Let’s talk about it”. There seems to be a direct correlation between level of parental stress aka ‘maxed-out-ness’, and level of angry, aka unhelpful responses. Certainly true for me!

Life is messy business. Life with teens is even messier still. Not sure whether the calmer scene round here will impact the final outcome, but it is a much more pleasant and harmonious place to live in these days.

p.s. ….. if you’re wondering what triggered this? Here’s a  sampling: Stolen purse with IDs and keys at out-of-control gate-crashed party. Wifi network inadvertently reconfigured and rendered unusable by study group at our house. Towed car. Enough?