Retirement – Day 1

When I announced I was retiring, the most common thing that people said after, “I’m jealous,” or “I wish I could retire,” was “What are you going to do on Monday morning?

As is so often the case, things don’t always go as planned.  When I woke up at 5:00 am, it was not because I’m tuned in to the rhythm of work, it’s because the cold that’s been hovering on the periphery for the last three days has reached it’s peak – my throat is sore, my head is congested, and simply put, I’m sick. 

At 7:30 am, I crank the electric blanket on high and head outside so Hannah can take a break.  She is completely oblivious to the fact that it’s a mere twenty-three degrees outside.  As she runs back and forth around the front and back yards, I push my hands deeper into my pockets.  I’m surprised to see some of the chickens outside of their coop – surely they should be inside snuggling.  The rest are eager to get out as well – apparently I’m the only wimpy one here at the farm. 

After filling Hannah’s bowl, I climb back in bed – so warm and toasty – and get back to my book, Roots & Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons, by Christie Purifoy.  It’s the perfect read for this season in my life and I’m enjoying Christie’s journey as she moves into an old farmhouse called Maplehurst. 

Finally it’s time to leave the comfort of my bed to make some porridge from steel cut oats.  This is a luxury that never happened on work days – it takes thirty minutes to cook, plus time to let it cool until it’s just right.  As I sip lemon and echinacea tea, I feel a wave of gratitude that I don’t have to go to work and power through the sore throat and sniffly nose as I navigate phone calls, meetings, and email.  While going to work sick was not required or even expected, it’s what I did more often than not. 

The beauty of co-housing and community is that every task is easier, lighter, because there are so many people to share the load.  There are six adults and two littles cleaning, decorating, and setting up for the upcoming Thanksgiving celebration. There is even time for sipping several cups of imaginary tea with my little cousins.  Hannah has joined in the fun, she’s found a rope toy and a ball, and best of all, someone who’s willing to throw it over and over.  She also ate a small amount of play dough, but it was the home made kind and I’m sure she’ll be fine.  Much better than the rabbit carcass she found the day before . . .

We’re settling into this new life, Hannah and I, and it feels good to take things down a notch.  There are still things to do, but things don’t feel urgent or insurmountable, they seem manageable, at least for today. 

My aunt trash talks me until I agree to try some fire cider that she put in a jar to ferment three weeks ago.  The smell alone is enough to clear the sinuses!  It looks deceptively like orange juice, but it tastes a lot like pickle juice. After adding honey, I down a couple of shots and really do start to feel better.  Let’s hope that this evil cold is behind me so I can enjoy Thanksgiving sniffle free!

Retirement

In March of 2003, I got laid off from my job as a project manager for a company that wrote custom software applications.  With a mortgage, a son in college, and a son in high school, I needed a job, any job, and fast.  Signing on with a temp agency seemed like the best plan – I could go on assignments while I searched for something more permanent. 

Some jobs lasted just a couple of days, others a few weeks.  The one I was at the longest said they wanted to keep me, but sadly, nothing materialized before my time there ended.  There was no time to feel bad about that, however, because another assignment came right away. 

When they said that the previous temp had only lasted a day, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it turned out that I just needed to do some simple data entry.  Now, the system they were using appeared to be about 30 years old – it looked like the old DOS green screens they had when I was in college – but it was easy to get a rhythm going and lose myself in mindless keying. 

The reason I’d been hired was because one of the people on the team was on maternity leave. Once she returned, I expected my assignment to end, but it turned out that there was another team member having a baby so I continued working there, learning a little more every day, absorbing things from conversations that occurred around me.  When that maternity leave ended, they kept finding reasons to keep me on until one day in February 2004, a position opened up and I was hired as a full time employee.

After a year or so I got promoted and after another year I was promoted again and selected to work on a special project with our parent company.  By this time I was leading the department, an amazing group of men and women, that I grew to love and respect.  That probably sounds odd – who feels like that about the people they work with? 

Opportunities were plentiful and I had the pleasure of working for great leaders, some brilliant colleagues, and people who today I am proud to call friends.  Though the work was hard and the job seemed huge and overwhelming at times, I have never enjoyed a job more. And after thirteen years, it’s the longest I’ve ever worked for a company.

Though this has been a great experience (at least 95% of the time!), I’m tired, and I’m ready to move to the next chapter of my life. As of today, I am officially retired.  Talk about a Naked on the Tundra event!

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My oldest grandson made me a bracelet to wear out to dinner tonight

So what’s my big plan?  Well, I bought a farm along with some of my family members and moved back to Michigan full time.  Yes, I am aware that no one retires and moves TO Michigan.  But that’s where my people are and I believe that’s where I need to be, too.  At the very least, I plan to spend more time writing on this blog and maybe one other as well.  Maybe I’ll even write that book that I’ve wanted to write ever since I was a kid.  First, though, I’m going to rest.  This winter I will hibernate, pray, and find a new rhythm, listening for whatever it is that God has for me next.  There’s no plan to get another job, for sure not a full-time job, but I know something will come along and God will provide until I can start getting that big social security check!  Okay, we all know that’s not a real thing, but I’m still confident that it’s all going to work out. 

To everyone I’ve worked with the past thirteen years, I will miss working together, but am looking forward to being friends outside of work.  And to my team, you’re the best people a woman could ever hope to lead. Much love always!

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Sometimes Things Don’t Go As Expected – And Sometimes They Do

The first time I went there, my GPS sent me in the wrong direction, making me ten minutes late, increasing my anxiety level even more.  Adding insult to injury, I blew past valet parking and had to turn around on a side street, making me later still. The kind people in the lobby gave me directions to the elevator and I soon made it to the fourth floor. 

It was quiet, a handful of people waiting in the waiting area while I checked in on an iPad. It was a relief to take my seat and play around with my iPad, killing time reading email, blog posts, and playing a little Scrabble.  After a brief wait, I was ushered into the changing room and asked to remove everything from the waist up and put on a gown.  It was a lovely shade of magenta, and I looked quite fetching as I did my best to wrap it around me and get the strings tied. 

More waiting and then it was time to drape my body around a giant machine while a tender part of my anatomy was squeezed into an impossibly thin pancake.  As the technician walked me back to my seat, she said not to worry if she called me and asked me to step into an office.  Looking her straight in the eye, I said, “Oh, I am going to freak out!”  Her eyes got wide and I smiled and assured her that I was just joking.

Another image was needed so again I endured cold plastic and lots of pressure. Instead of going to the waiting area, I sat in the radiology room waiting for the doctor to look at the new image.  When she came out, she said that she was recommending a biopsy.  Gee, didn’t really think that was going to happen . . . 

A very kind nurse walked me through what was going to happen, complete with a thirty-nine page, eight and a half by eleven inch booklet, and a tour of the facility, including the room where the procedure would take place.  The whole thing sounded so delightful, I naturally wanted to do it as soon as possible.  But alas, it had to wait nearly a week to happen as I have a very busy schedule.

Surprisingly, I slept well the night before and got a solid six hours of work in before I headed across town for the procedure.  This time there was no getting lost or waylaid and I made it there with time to spare.  I barely had time to check email before I was ushered into a curtained off room with the same instructions as my previous visit.  Once that was taken care of, the best thing happened.  They brought me a blanket fresh from the warmer.  Mmm, heaven!

All too soon it was time to go to the procedure room and ask the doctor a few questions. I climbed up the steps, feeling like a lamb going to slaughter.  Or maybe just like a woman having a procedure that she doesn’t really want to have. The table is designed for the patient to lay on their stomach and allow a certain body part to drop down through a conveniently located hole.  Then it was time for more squishing.  And the poking and prodding, though thankfully the first poke was a shot of lidocaine.  Ahhh, that’s better!

Finally, it was done and I unfolded myself from the table after lying completely still for over a half hour.  They said I did a great job despite the length of the procedure and I continued to get my limbs moving again.  After a time in the recovery area I’m briefed on my after care instructions.  It took a while for the valet to bring out my car, but soon I headed out into rush hour traffic, wanting to get home before the anesthesia wore off.  Everyone I met here was so kind and empathetic, doctors, nurses, technicians, valets, everyone, yet I’m hoping that I will never see any of them again as long as I live.

It was quiet when I got home so I popped my little ice packs into the freezer, put my robe on over my clothes, and hunkered down under the covers.  A toasty blanket would have been nice, but I settled for letting Hannah lay on the bed with me.  Curiosity got the best of me and I searched YouTube for a video on vacuum-assisted biopsy.  Bad idea, very bad idea. There’s no way to unsee what was there before I clicked the window closed. 

The kids and grandkids got home and I was greeted with the healing powers of Chipotle.  They also brought me some dark chocolate and I felt very loved and cared for.  Before long, I tucked myself back into bed.  Whether it was bravery, stupidity, or just being too tired to get up again, I skipped the acetaminophen.  When I woke again at four am, I was just a little sore, nothing that tucking a fresh icepack under my pajamas didn’t cure. 

The next day I was off to work like nothing happened except that my son and the people at Hannah’s daycare needed to help me get her in and out of the yard and car.  She can be a little – rambunctious – and getting my arm jerked if she should happen to see a squirrel or something else of interest seemed like a really bad idea.  The lab calls before noon – my sample is benign and as expected, I am perfectly healthy. 

Not enough time has passed to process all my feelings about what has transpired.  As is so often the case, regardless of what is happening for me personally, life continues at it’s normal breakneck pace.  One thing I do know is this – without good health, nothing else really matters.

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