I Need a Day Off from Being Retired!

It was all fun and games when I retired on June 1st. Lots of great hikes and unstructured days off to do this and that … ahh!

Then Terri finally retired as of September 1st. I had been planning for this for some time; in fact, I planned and planned and planned to make the most of our late summer and early fall. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a planner (I think it runs in the family). Yeah, I already have next years road trip all planned out and booked – all 4,000 miles and four National Parks. I may, however, over-planned September, October and early November.

Lake Chelan Sunset

We started off September with several days at our condo in Lake Chelan, exploring, dining and wine tasting, can’t wait to go back! We got to spend time with the Ryan grand-kids, and with the Three Amigos, introducing Rick and Lucy to Woodinville, and ended up with a four day sibling reunion at the Oregon Coast, book-ended by stays in Seaside and Long Beach. There were three whole days with no plans. October started with us still at the beach, ending up traveling to Kelowna to celebrate Aunt Barb Gregory’s 80th birthday, and once again with three whole days with no plans.

Lake Okanogan at Kelowna

I thought once we got to November, things would slow down a bit. Yeah, maybe at the end of the month. We had great weather, fabulous family, and incredible food for four days in Kelowna, right on Lake Okanogan. Then back to Seattle to watch the grand-kids, and heading to Vancouver, BC soon for a Bruce Cockburn concert! Oh yeah, and hiking, walking, doing side gigs, , attending live music events, etc etc etc.

I’m not complaining – we’ve had a ton of fun, and have done so many great activities.

Ironically, before Terri retired, she was quite concerned that we might end up just sitting around, bored to death, and staring at each other. So we sat down and brainstormed a list of activities we’d both enjoy. I had previously made a list for myself of things I’d like to do – learning how to build a website, becoming more familiar with my new camera and image processing software, finding great photo opportunities, going to a gym to enhance my exercise, doing some landscaping on our yard, and hiking as much as possible. It was great to be able to cross one thing off that list.

Just yesterday Terri commented that maybe we’d filled our calendar a bit TOO full since she retired, so I asked her “Which activities should we have given up?” A moment of silence … “None of them.” Exactly. We may be crazy busy, but we are enjoying every moment of this blessed life. We hope you are too

The Three Amigos

The Boogie Corner

Many people form great, life-long bonds with college roommates; others become comrades-in-arms in military service. Then there’s the Three Amigos from the Boogie Corner. Odd how things work out. I had just returned to Portland after Basic and AIT Training for the Oregon National Guard at Fort Lewis, and knew living at home was no longer an option. John D had just gotten back from Texas, where he had gone through the Air Force equivalent of Basic Training. Gary M. had been friends with my sisters, and (as often happened) would make the trek down from Renton to visit with my mom, and he was looking to move to Portland. None of us had enough resources to get our own places, so I said, “What if we all get an apartment together?” And we did.

We found a newer three bedroom, two bath apartment in South East Portland, scraped together some furnishings, and moved in. We were in a corner unit with two other apartments – one had three “girls”, and the other had three “guys.” Those six liked to party hardy with alcohol, and while we wouldn’t turn down a drink, preferred, let’s say, alternative choices. Occasionally we would all join forces, and quite the party would ensue – hence the name, Boogie Corner.

Gary loved to cook, and we loved to eat. John “loved” to clean, and I – hmmm – I liked everything at 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. Music, medicinal herbs, you name it. Think hippy wanna-be’s Odd Couple plus One. But something clicked.

Poor Gary – John and I would get the munchies around midnight, after Gary had been to bed for a couple of hours. We’d cook up cheeseburgers, and wake him up to eat one. He’d actually get up, eat the burger we cooked, and go back to bed. In the morning involuntary bulimia would often afflict Gary. He says that’s why I don’t eat burgers now.

Then there was the time John and I came back to the apartment, opened the door, and tons of smoke rolled out. We thought the apartment was on fire! Turns out Gary had cookies in the oven, and forgot about them until a second before we arrived. Then there was the time when he had cooked up a plate of spaghetti and meat sauce. We were in the process of eating dinner when the landlord came to call. I answered the door, but for various reasons, did not invite him in. Gary came up to the door, holding his plate of spaghetti, until – it just fell from his fingers, as if in slow motion. Still in slow-mo, Gary’s mouth fell open, his eyes widened, and he slowly looked down at the floor where his dinner now resided. The landlord looked at the food, then at Gary, then at me and said “I’ll come back later.”

Celebrating a 50th Birthday in Vancouver, BC

John worked at a major bank, I worked at Western Electric building telephone switching equipment, and Gary held a variety of jobs. One was selling waterbeds (remember those?). The best part about that was that they sponsored rock concerts, so Gary was able to get us in to see Bill Withers on his first tour, Canned Heat, and the James Gang. We did like to rock out.

There was a whole lot more, compressed into what actually was a fairly short time. But we bonded. John still lives in Portland, Gary lives in Olympia, and I’m far north in between Seattle and Vancouver, BC, but we still try and get together once a year. We share old stories, talk about future plans, and just enjoy each other’s company. I treasure the friendship of these two, and am so glad we’ve kept it going for oh my gosh it must be about 50 years now! In the end, we all have memories, but for us lucky ones, we have friends who have touched, and continue to touch, our lives.

The Three Amigos and Spouses getting together again to celebrate about 50 years of friendship

Hugs!

Lake Chelan evening

You may have noticed that my little blog has been AWOL lately. Terri has been retired a bit over two weeks now, and we have been busy, busy, busy. We took a great little trip for a few days to the Lake Chelan area and had a great time exploring that area, basking (okay, baking) in the warm temperatures. But now the rains have settled in for the duration of the Great Gray, so I hope to get back on track here!

Several years ago I read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The basic premise is that we each have our own ways of receiving and giving love, and if couples take the time to learn and practice giving love to their spouse in the way they need, they will have a much stronger relationship.  What an interesting and informative book- I wholeheartedly endorse it, and recommend everyone read it! It was quickly obvious that my love language is Touch, and I am so happy I share that love language with my wife! But last night, laying awake for a bit, I realized that there is another area of life where that is quite apparent …

… and that is hugging. It’s true. I’m a hugger. I remember the first time I hugged my dad; I was about 22 years old. He and his dad were taking a trip to New Zealand and Polynesia, which seemed like a long way away. While we were never close growing up, I cared deeply for him, and I wanted him to know that before he left, so I drove over to the house, and gave him a big hug, and probably even told him that I loved him. I remember him standing stock-still, arms at his side, totally at a loss of what to do. In later years, he also became a bit of a hugger.

Close as a hug

And guess what, hugging is good for you! The best benefit comes from a hug that lasts 20 seconds or more, as that releases the hormone oxytocin. Scientific experiments show that hugging this long or longer has tons of benefits, from reducing stress to improving the immune system to better heart health and more. Many of you will be relieved to know that I save hugs this long for my wife, our kids, grandkids, and close family members.

It wasn’t too long after that first hug with my dad that I started hugging other people who were important in my life. My long-time backpacking buddy and brother-in-law John was initially more than a bit uncomfortable, then accepting, and now (ahem) embraces my hugs. My great childhood friend John, not an overly demonstrative person, allows and accepts my little hug indulgence. My uncles, Don and Denny, generationally and historically resistant to hugging, allow me in. And so do many others now. More than likely, if we’ve met more than twice in a non-business setting, you’ve been on the receiving end of one of my hugs. 

Sadly, our culture continues to devalue and depersonalize human contact and interaction. Online ordering, self-checkout, drive-thru, robot operators – as we become more and more dePerson-alized, our bonds with others becomes fragmented, torn, and lost. Hugging is one of the most personal, affirming things you can do to create bonds. If you’re not a hugger, why not give it a try today?

The Long and Winding Road to Terri’s Retirement

August 30, 2019 was Terri’s last day at work. I have to admit, I almost didn’t believe it until nearly right up to the end. Oh sure, many were the days when I’d be heading off to a hike or such, and she would say “I wish I was going with you!” But then she’d talk about how she had the perfect job – she could show up when she wanted, leave when she wanted, and generally work as much or as little as she wanted during the week. And then there was the financial aspect, since her wages were completely at her disposal. Hairdresser, clothing, shopping for grandkids, dining out, something special for the house – how would that work once she retired? Plus she was really good at her job, and got a lot of satisfaction from doing it well. And she enjoyed the social interactions with her co-workers.

So we would discuss all the pros and cons with me on a regular basis. One week she’d be ready to turn in her notice, and the next week say that she didn’t know when she’d retire. Was I sure we’d have enough resources to retire? What would she do all day? How would it change our relationship? Where would her funds come from for her discretionary spending? So we talked, discussed, and explored thoughts and feelings. I tried to listen twice as much as I talked. We went back to our financial planner with questions and concerns, and were reassured that if we continued to have a prudent and restrained budget we’d be OK. And we have both developed a couple of side gigs that will get us out of the house, and bring in a few non-budgeted dollars of play money.

A few ideas to start our retired life

But – “Bill, you have your whole retirement planned out! Hiking, photography, your blog, volunteering, 1001 projects – what am I going to do?” So we talked about that. A few times. Or more. The last time, we were in the car, headed out … somewhere. So I suggested we brainstorm a bit, and we did. Fortunately, I always carry a pen and pad of paper in the car, so I had her write the ideas down, and we now have a starting list of 32 things to do! Some of them are one-off projects, and others we can do over and over again. She started to see the possibilities of living a retired life. 

Still, she had said she was going to retire and had changed her mind a few times, so when she said she’d retire at the end of August, I said “Good!”  A couple moments of silence, and she said “I thought you’d be more excited than that…” I affirmed that I would be delighted if she actually retired, but I’d believe it when I saw it. Sure enough, I saw some vacillation in determination, but as the days wore on, I heard an increasing acceptance of the idea of finally being done with work. 

So, on Friday, August 30th, she came home from work for the last time – and even came home an hour and a half earlier than normal. “Let’s go out to Chuckanut Manor and celebrate with a glass of wine,” she suggested, and course I said yes. As we drove, she shared some unexpected moments of sadness and loss as the finality of the situation sank in. She wondered why I hadn’t felt the same way when I left, and I reminded her that I had cut back from five days a week to four, and then to three, and then to two days a week starting this last January. I was able to slowly let go, and absorb my new reality, and immerse myself into this new life, while she worked more days and longer hours up towards the end to fulfill all of her commitments. So we pulled up to the restaurant, with its sweeping views of Samish Bay and the bucolic scene around it, and savored the moment. It was a perfect moment, and I didn’t want it to end, so I told her I’d treat her to dinner to keep the celebration going. You can read about it here if you’d like.

Rose Hips with Bellingham Bay in background

Saturday we went for one of our favorite walks in the historic residential area of Fairhaven, ending up on the waterfront walk from Boulevard park to the business district, then went grocery shopping. Sunday we went to church, then did a reprise of our previous days walk, coming home to sit in our gazebo with a glass of wine, gazing out at our beautiful little backyard garden before coming in to cook dinner together. Today we are headed out on a picnic to Washington park, overlooking the Salish Sea, and Wednesday we leave for a few days at Lake Chelan. Nothing huge or amazing here, but it feels like the perfect start to our new life together. We are both aware that there will be hiccups and challenges along the way, and are already planning strategies on dealing with them. We are also hyper-aware of time slipping by so very quickly, and so we are trying to live wide-awake to every moment that we get to share during this amazing season of our lives. Thanks for sharing some of those moments with us, whether in person, or through this blog!

Walking and Talking

Paradoxical. Yeah, that’s me. I admit I check my Facebook account a couple of times a day, I post photos onto Instagram, play Words with Friends, read the news, text and FaceTime, and even – when necessary – write emails. Oh yeah, and I’m working on this blog. So I may be over-connected, just me and my little digital bubble.

At the top of Burlington Hill

But I also enjoy people – whether it’s in Five Minute Friendships, chatting to the cashier at the grocery store, you name it. But while it seems simple, it’s really become apparent how conducive walking is to conversation. We live about 10 minutes away from Burlington Hill. It’s only 450’ at the top, but we like to park about a quarter mile away and walk to the top and back, just short of an hour. Our primary objective is to get some exercise, but invariably we find ourselves discussing – life. What did you think about xxx? How do you feel about xxx? How did yesterday go? What do you want to do today? So, about that trip to xxx, should we xxx? I always look forward to these walks with my wife. I feel we have pretty good communication skills, but it just seems so natural to walk and talk.

On the trail to Hannegan Pass

One of my retirement goals this year was to get in as much hiking in my beloved North Cascades as possible. I’ve often hiked these mountains solo, but at this point in my life, it feels more prudent to have a hiking companion when my wife can’t join me. Rick, newly retired to this area, is a member of our local Sierra Club, as am I. We talked a bit about hiking, and headed out on the trails. It has been fun and interesting to walk and talk with him, and to show him some of my favorite places up in the mountains. And the more we walk and talk, the better we get to know each other, and connect as fellow travelers on this adventure we call life. 

I think of others I have walked and talked with. Multi-day backpacks in the Utah red rock wilderness with my brother-in-law John; backpacks and canoe trips with my great childhood friend John; a difficult conversation with a close family member while we walked and talked; walks in beautiful parks with visiting friends, walks with my wife’s sister and her husband around their adopted town of Port Townsend, and so many more. 

Find someone to walk with

In this most interesting and introspective stage in my life, connections and relationships mean more than ever before. I think we all feel a loss of deep, true and meaningful connections in these days of instant, impersonal digital communications. It feels like our entire social fabric is coming unraveled as we become more and more dependent on our devices, and we become an isolated island of loneliness and quiet desperation. I think we would all do well to find someone and take a walk – and talk. You may not only improve your physical health, but your emotional health as well. Let’s get walking!

Terri’s Famous Granola

My days of a “full-time” house-husband are drawing to an close when August ends and Terri retires, so today was a chance at redemption from the last time I tried to duplicate Terri’s Famous Granola. I will never be a chef, but I can follow a recipe pretty well, but the hand-written notes from last time meant the granola – while edible – did not meet the usual standards. I think I nailed it this time, but I’ll find out for sure when Terri comes home and tries it. I may be biased, but I think her recipe makes the best granola ever!

5 Minute Friendships UPDATE

I talked about 5 minute Friendships in a recent post on my blog  IAmGray . Sometimes something more happens. We had a few extra moments recently, and decided to do a little wine tasting at our favorite local winery, Dynasty Cellars. The tasting room was getting crowded, as a group of wine writers were in town to cover an annual nearby wine tasting event. There were two open spots at our table, so we welcomed Rob and Lynn to our table. Hailing from Woodinville, where there are over 90 tasting rooms for Washington wineries, they were in Bellingham for the weekend. 

The conversation was easy and relaxed, in a convivial setting, and we each shared a bit here and there, getting to know each other better. They both went to Seattle Pacific University by Queen Anne in Seattle – only blocks away from one of Terri’s sisters home! We shared memories of growing up back when the world seemed a much safer place, and places where we’ve gone wine tasting.

Turns out we have some very similar tastes in wine, and wineries, and before we knew it, they volunteered to do the driving on our next trip down to that area! Our time at the tasting room was running out, and we mentioned that we were going to be headed out to church soon. That sparked a whole new turn in the conversation, and we ended up inviting them to our church – and they accepted! Faith is a critical part of our journey, and it is always a joy to share it when appropriate (not here to shove it down anyone’s throat 🙂 

And so, just another affirmation of our desire to connect – as much as possible – with other people on this journey, and at this time. We love our 5 Minute Friendships, and the possibilities they offer!