February Thaw

One thing I’ve never done before is go outside in February without a winter coat.  On purpose.  Because it was too warm to wear a coat.  Yet that is what’s been happening the last few days. 

On one hand, I’m concerned – plants and animals are doing things that it’s way too early in the year to do. The cold weather will return, the buds will freeze and there will be no fruit.  Babies will come too early and may not survive when the temperatures drop below freezing again.

On the other hand, it’s absolutely glorious to be outside.  It’s given me the opportunity to get a jump start on cleaning up the farm, catching up on things that couldn’t be done in the fall while I was still working, readying the ground for planting, pruning raspberries, removing burrs and thistles and generally doing things that weren’t done on the farm for a few years.

I found these sweet bib overalls at the thrift store

Check out the size of my brush pile!

For the last thirty odd years I spent the majority of my day at a desk, working with documents and computers and people, lots of really good people.  For the most part, I’ve enjoyed this work and there was always a twinge of sadness when I left one job for another. 

It’s not logical, but I find myself preferring this new life of manual labor, feeling the ache in my legs and back, arms limp and noodley from shoveling dirt or forking manure or moving heavy objects.  At the end of the day, what I’ve accomplished is clearly visible, and I’m learning, ever so slowly, to look at what I’ve done with satisfaction instead of looking with dismay at all that remains to be done.

Each morning I step outside, sometimes into snow or rain, but often into a brilliant sunrise, the promise of a new day.  For the most part, I get to decide how I spend it, which was probably true when I was working, but it never felt like it.  As I’ve mentioned before, life after retirement hasn’t looked exactly the way I thought it would, but I’m experiencing rest and peace and the joy of being granted another new day, regardless of the weather.

The exhilaration of being outside in February without a coat will likely be quashed when the next snowstorm hits, but for now I will be breathing it all in, connecting with how grateful I am to be living this life right now.

The Gift of Days

Recently I had the opportunity to spend much more time with my four grandchildren than I normally do.  It was difficult and exhausting and oh!, so beautiful all at the same time.  They are still small, six, four, two, and one.

The oldest is a great helper who once informed me that he has to do about seventy percent of all the things at their house.  This seemed a rather precise amount, though he was not forthcoming regarding how he had arrived at the number.  He also questions a fair amount of what I say and I have to keep my wits about me to stay a step ahead of him.  It’s impressive how much he knows about how his household runs, how the appliances work, where stuff is located, the way his parents do things, the likes and dislikes of his siblings.

Oldest and Youngest

Next is a nearly five year old boy who creeps into my room for cuddles, reminding me each time of how Hannah chewed the antennae off his favorite stuffed animal, the one he’d forgotten in my room one day a couple of years ago.  He mentions how much he liked those antennae and I once again tell him Hannah sometimes can’t tell the difference between a dog toy and a stuffed animal and that she never would have done it if she’d known how much he liked those antennae.  In addition to his stuffy, he loves trains and garbage trucks and emergency vehicles and construction equipment.

Nope, no antennae on that guy

My oldest granddaughter is nearly three and loves all girly things like nail polish and jewelry and always tells me I’m beautiful when I’m wearing a dress.  She has this amazing blond hair, thick and gorgeous, not the usual wispy hair of most kids her age.  Recently someone commented, “She’s going to get anything she wants, isn’t she?”  Yeah.  Don’t be fooled by the package though, she’s not a delicate flower. She wears super hero costumes more than she wears her dresses and tutus, though she sometimes combines the two.  She doesn’t get pushed around by her big brothers, they’ve learned to ask her, not tell her, if they want a positive result. Every backpack, purse, bin, and suitcase in the house is filled with items she’s carefully selected from their assortment of toys.  If you’re missing something (like the aforementioned toy that’s missing it’s antennae), the first place to check is whatever backpack or suitcase she’s been carrying around that day.

Don’t let her demure pose fool you

The youngest exhausts me in every possible way.  She’s way too advanced for someone who turned one in just a couple of months ago.  She a visual learner, which means she watches absolutely everything her parents, brothers, and sister do and then does it herself.  Even when it’s a really bad idea.  She’s so tiny but will work at pulling herself up on a chair (or using a toy as a stepping stool) for as long as it takes to get up.  A couple of months ago, her parents found her on top of the piano. Sometimes she will cry out of frustration as she tries and tries to pull herself up, but she doesn’t stop.  Have I ever had that much drive and determination? 

As I watch them, I wonder if I will get to see them grow into adults, if I will see them learn to drive, go to dances, or graduate from school and/or college. Will their childhood passions turn into grown up jobs and will I reminisce about how they loved that even when they were small?  Will my grandsons walk their little old G down the aisle before they marry their beautiful bride?  Will I be there to watch my granddaughters put on their wedding dresses?  Will I get to hold any great-grandchildren?

These thoughts never occurred to me when I was a Mom myself.  Back then I had the naive confidence that I would see my boys do all those things because it never occurred to me that it could be otherwise. Today I know that life is fragile and things don’t always happen the way I think they should.  Now I take a lot less for granted and am thankful for every chance I get to read a story, push a swing, cuddle, build stuff out of Legos, play board games, have a tea party, sing and dance, play tag, jump on the trampoline, build train tracks, walk to the playground, do a science experiment, watch a movie, and rock a little one to sleep.  Since I can’t know the number of days, gifts that I have left, may I treat each one as if it were the most precious.

January 2017 Spending Fast Results

January 2017 and this year’s spending fast is wrapped up. It was the tiniest budget I’ve ever created for myself and when I put it all on paper, I wondered how it was ever going to work. 

As with every month, there were unforeseen circumstances.  It was time to renew my car insurance and transition from a Tennessee plate and license to a Michigan one.  Apparently I was unrealistic in my estimate of what that would cost!  There was also a big discount if I paid up front for a full year of insurance so I did that.  There was also more travel than I anticipated, but I was able to shuffle dollars between categories and make it work. 

Cars are expensive to own and maintain, regardless of whether they are paid in full.  Although I’ve investigated alternatives, I haven’t found anything that works with my current life situation.  Hiring an Uber driver to take me to Tecumseh Bread & Pastry just isn’t practical or economical and I’m not quite ready to give that up!  Nor do I think one would be willing to drive me to various cities around the state at a rate I could afford. Still, I sometimes wonder if there is a way to get around easily and affordably without owning a car.

In December I made some changes to my cell phone plan that saved me about twenty dollars a month in January, which is good, but I’ve been questioning my need for a smart phone.  It’s rare that I use an app on my phone (it’s too hard to see or do anything on the tiny screen) and I have a GPS for navigation and mainly use my phone for talking and texting.  My current phone (an iPhone 5S) has an issue with the battery and barely holds a charge.  It’s super annoying but I’m living with it until I make a decision about what to do.  Because even though I know I don’t need a smart phone, it’s really, really hard to give up.  It would be like taking a step backwards somehow, I would just be so uncool if I were the only one in the world without one. Obviously I need to get over myself and give up the smart phone, but not today.

The month ended with forty-six dollars and five cents leftover, which I’ve moved to the February budget and will probably just get crazy with.  Thank you to Ben and Ariel for buying me lunch and some late night ice cream when I desperately needed it and thanks, Mom, for buying me dinner last night!