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!