Thursday, June 30, 2016

Retirement Day 9 - Yoga Calls as I Follow the Ultimate Yogi!

Yesterday in the early afternoon I finally got motivated to re-start my at-home yoga practice.  Although the idea of yoga is to relax body and mind, when I get cranked up and overwhelmed I have a hard time remembering that this will help.  I have always tried to take a weekly yoga class at a local studio or my gym but I don't practice daily even though I know I would feel much better if I did.  But, yesterday, as I am starting to unwind and find time when I am alone in the quiet of my house, tucked away in the woods where I am surrounded by park-like grounds (well, it looks that way after we mow and weed whack!), I was inspired to lay out my mat on the back deck.  And then I brought out my laptop so I could play one of the amazing yoga DVDs my brother bought me for Christmas, The Ultimate Yogi with Travis Eliot.  And, as the impending thunderstorms rumbled in the background (later in the day was a horrendous downpour with flickering lights and the sound of thunderbolts nearby) I moved through down dog, forward bend, mountain pose, forward bend, plank, as well as warrior one, over and over until my body was fluid and relaxed.  I was feeling proud of myself and very stretchy at the end but had to laugh.  The cross-training yoga video was 47 minutes long.  I had stopped at minute 17.02.   

Today I am thinking I will once again practice yoga at home but maybe not right after I do my exercises from my trainer :)  

So much to do and so much time to do it all in :)  Not a bad problem to have.  Once gain, grateful for my retirement....

The Travis Eliot video series and thank you Michael Bryan!  

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Retirement Day 8 - Balance in the Body

One of my goals in retirement, I guess a goal for the rest of my life, is being in great physical shape.  I am going to age so why not age with the least pain and the most health possible?  My dad passed away at nearly 90 and exercised right up until he was unable to walk anymore (the last few months of his life) and so I am shooting for 30 years of health here.  I have gone to the gym off and on for years, practiced yoga for about 10 and I do watch what I eat all the time (having one bite of that delicious looking chocolate cake vs. a whole slice) but I have never had the time or real ability (maybe that's an excuse)  to fully commit to caring for my body.  For me, when it all hits the fan I hunker down and want to sit and meditate or write or maybe have a long talk with my husband, brother, friends;  I don't get up and take a walk.  I probably should have all these years but it's just not my go-to for stress reduction.  But, things are different now....I am retired. 

Yesterday I started up training/coaching again.  I arrived with several complaints about my calf muscle (tight), my back (tight), and my shoulder (tight).  I also said aloud so I could hear myself, "I am really ready to commit."  I had been in that very same training space before so I am not so sure my trainer believed me.  "You have to stick with it to get results," she tells me.  Of course I know that but it helps to hear it again.  "So how often should I exercise?" I ask her, wanting to nail it down to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule for weights and maybe a weekly yoga class along with one aerobic class.  "You should move and stretch everyday," she smiles and looks me directly in the eye.  Oh boy, I think, I am in trouble :)  

We started by rolling the front of my legs, the back of my legs, the sides of my legs and even my feet, along with my butt.  As usual, I am a bit awkward trying to model what her perfectly toned body is doing.  "The left, foot.  The left foot, " she directs me while I move my right foot and leg straight.  We then talked about how my back hurt because my butt was probably not "firing."  Say what?  It was explained to me that your body needs balance.  If you whole body is not supporting you correctly and you don't have good posture, for example, then certain muscles are forced to go it alone and that's when you feel pain because muscles need to work together.  Philosophically, this works for me!  Balance.  And so we spent the bulk of our hour having me squeeze my butt cheeks in various positions, practicing good posture (move your ribs down and tuck your tail but don't hunch your shoulders...yikes)  and proper breathing.  And, it all felt so good.  But, that was the easy part.

Now I am sitting here writing in the early morning hours while my husband snores away, listening to the rain pitter patter on the leaves and the rooster crow somewhere in the neighborhood.  I am peacefully sipping my chia tea tea THINKING about how I need to wake snore man and then go into the spare room where my yoga mat is all laid out and squeeze those butt cheeks, stretch those legs, practice that curious "helicopter" move with my arms, and then probably plan on talking a walk later if not signing up for a spin class.  But, I think I will first take just a few more moments right here :) 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Retirement Day 7 - Loving Kindness or Metta
 I am grateful and so at peace with my retirement.  I have so many plans and hopes and dreams as I sip tea in the early morning hours listening to the rain dance just outside the open window.   However, there are several people in my life who are struggling (several physically, several emotionally) and I wanted to post a blog about lovingkindness or metta.

A few years ago my husband and I went to Aryaloka, a Buddhist center a couple of towns away.  We went to learn about Buddhist meditation.  The building housing the Buddhist community looks like a giant bra which is kind of funny, see above the two domes that make up the building.  The cup or dome most near in the photo is where cooking, reading, eating and some classes take place.  The dome in the back is where classes and workshops and some meditation takes place.   But also in the upper dome area is this spacious and amazing meditation room where you feel you are sitting amongst the tree tops. 

During our visits, we learned several different types of meditation including focusing on a lotus flower opening and what's called metta or lovingkindness.  The lotus meditation was amazing for me, a visual person.  As I sat (for 40 minutes!) I "watched" a lotus blossom and then perish.  It literally was a closed up bud, then a pink and white flower with green leaves, bobbing on a little pond and then black, completely black.  I was a little alarmed by this visual but the instructor, Bodhipaksa (I know, the names are curious), but anyway, he told me I was contemplating the cycle of life.   On some level that made sense to me!

The other memorable type of meditation we learned was metta.  Metta means:

 “Metta” is a word that means “love,” “friendliness,” or “lovingkindness.” So this is a meditation practice where we actively cultivate some very positive emotional states towards others, as well as to ourselves." (from

This meditation made me cry and feel so strongly when I first did it that I stood up and nearly ran out of  the meditation space to compose myself, returning only when I had collected myself (what a funny way to describe myself) and stopped feeling such intense emotion.  

But, I love this meditation because it fosters and makes you think about:  self love, love of strangers, love of those you love, and love of those who anger us, as well as love for all beings.  There are many versions of this but they all kind of go like this: 

May I dwell in safety.
May I be happy and healthy.
May I be free from afflictions.
May I be at peace.

May (thinking of somebody you don't know but maybe saw at the grocery store) dwell in safety.
May (thinking of somebody you don't know but maybe saw at the grocery store) be happy and healthy.
May (thinking of somebody you don't know but maybe saw at the grocery store) be free from afflictions.
May (thinking of somebody you don't know but maybe saw at the grocery store) be at peace.

May (thinking of somebody you love) dwell in safety.
May (thinking of somebody you love)be happy and healthy.
May (thinking of somebody you love) be free from afflictions.
May (thinking of somebody you love) be at peace.

May (thinking of somebody you don't really like) dwell in safety.
May (thinking of somebody you don't really like) be happy and healthy.
May (thinking of somebody you don't really like) be free from afflictions.
May (thinking of somebody you don't really like) be at peace.

May all beings dwell in safety.
May all beings be happy and healthy.
May all being be free from afflictions.
May all beings be at peace.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Retirement Day 6 - Oh My Aching Back

So one of the things I have noticed as I age is that it is true, it takes longer to heal thy body.  Most of the year I have had a tight muscle in my left arm/shoulder, strained somewhere along the way and exacerbated by the stress of my job and being hunched over the computer all year banging out IEPs.  And my left calf muscle has been tender for weeks, strained, I can only guess from either spinning class or stepping up and down at a rapid pace in my Step and Sculpt class.  Yesterday I was mowing the lawn and as I pulled back on the mower, up a little hill, I could literally feel my left lower back muscles cry out in pain from the strain.  I am taking notice. 

Tomorrow I start back into physical training with CC.  One of the things I promise myself with retirement and all the time I am so very grateful to have, is that I will get in great physical shape.  I am not in bad shape but I am flabby.  I have always had a soft "core" or middle. I can do minimal sit-ups and always look around at others in my gym class crunching away while I lay flat on my mat taking a breath and wondering how they can keep going.  I have pretty much always worked out a little,  several times a week (gym classes and yoga) but I know I need a focused program that I can stick to  involving weight training done the right way now that I am fully into my 60's...62 is only days away. 

And so with an aching back, a tender calf muscle and tight left shoulder, off I go not a little anxious about training with CC.  She is one of the most serious trainers I know, knowledgeable and no-nonsense.   I vow to follow the plan in between sessions....let me just get one more cup of tea!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Retirement Day 5 - When You're Smiling

I wanted to post an interesting interaction yesterday that happened at a local store that stocks amazing fruits and vegetables along with some wine and a few other things (cheese, some prepared food).  I have found that I walk around with a giant smile on my face and sleep like a baby these past few days since I officially retired.  I am visibly happy.  And with that people seem to strike up conversations when I am just minding my own business, apparently smiling away.  Yesterday as I was standing at the fruit counter picking through the lemons and limes a woman says, "These plums are so fragrant!'  I turned to her and said, "I know, they have the best fruit here."  Now, in cranky mood, trying to race through the weekend or thinking about how short summer is, I may have ignored this woman if not frowned at her.  I always felt so busy and so out of time.  She went on because I was smiling, "I just moved here 8 months ago and it's hard living here because people aren't always so nice. Some guy just knocked into me with his cart and kept on talking without saying anything to me."  I know this thinking and so I told her,  "Well, I moved here 20 plus years ago and used to think the same thing.  I used to be a runner.  I'd fly home to Washington state and as I was running the back roads of my home town people would wave and yell, "Hello!"  I thought they were insane fools and for the first few days or so I'd mind my own business and just keep running but then, eventually, I'd start waving and smiling back."  I went on, "And then I'd come back to the East and while running around town I'd smile and wave and people would frown and turn away from me like I was an escapee from the local mental health facility."  She nodded and told me with excitement and an twinkle in her eyes, "I am from Bremerton, Washington!"  I told her of course I knew where that was because I was from Seattle.  And then I went on to tell her what I have learned after all these years.  People are the same underneath.  For some reason, weather?  history?  New Englanders can be "crusty" but that's not who they are underneath.  "OK, I will believe you," she smiled as I moved on shopping.  I picked up a box of relatively tasteless, gluten-free mulit-seed rice crackers (in my never-ending quest to eat in a healthy way) and as I rolled my cart by her she was still debating which plums to put in her basket.  She was frowning.  "Smile!" I said to her.  She did smile, a big smile and said, "You have a great day!"

Click on the link below!  Louis Armstrong singing.....guess what!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Retirement Day 4 - Me and My Little Artiste

With retirement has come renewed inspiration and excitement to get creative again and in a serious way.  For once, my summer is not filled with what-ifs about the upcoming year.  It is not filled with anxiety over how to get in enough relaxation, projects, and adventures before it all starts again.   It is filled with wow, I have so much time to do whatever I want to do!  And so yesterday I started up my metals class, this time at the Button Factor and with my jewelry mentor who I have followed around from Heartwood College of Art, to Sanctuary Arts and now to her fabulous studio in the Button Factory.

I love manipulating metal into jewelry.  The whole alchemical process draws me in from the pounding with hammers and stamps;  to the soldering (well, I am not very good at this but I keep working away) and quenching and pickling; to the shaping and forming with fingers, pliers and hammers; and  I really love transforming the color and texture of metals with patinas (a skill I will be working on this summer).   I love enameling, as well.  And I have even used colored pencils and eye shadow to add color to mental that whole process. 

And, lucky me, I got to spend 3 days with my beautiful and talented granddaughter between the end of school and the beginning of her summer program.   Happily, Alice, my jewelry mentor welcomed her to our Friday morning class.   Pictured above is her and one of the three (yes 3!) necklaces she made during the 3-hour class!  What a really great morning with me and my little granddaughter artiste! 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Retirement Day 3 - Remembering the Nerd, Mr. Monk Service and Quidditch Classes

So, I am getting into the idea of never having to work again. Having written that I do have plans to get my international yoga therapy certification and practice, have a small practice and only because I want to.  One of our financial advisors told me that in all the years he had watched people retire, those who retired into something lived a longer and happier life than those who retired out of something.  I have taken that advice to heart and now hear the voices of others who say, "Don't do anything for the first year."  Ahhhh the stress of retirement!  lololo

I spent yesterday with my granddaughter.  She's in between school being out and summer program starting up and being my retired and happy self I eagerly took on her care for 3 days this week.  After we had lunch with husband and step-son we had some time.  "Do you want to go to the beach to see the sand sculptures or hang around in the library?"  Decisions, decisions.  To my surprise she chose the library where we had come to eat lunch.  I know that sounds odd, eating lunch in the library, but the town one over from us has decided to not fight the desire people have to eat and drink in the library and have created a cozy and well-lit space with small tables and recycling bins.  After picking up lunch at a local cafe and not wanting to eat in the sun (I am a sun lover but my husband, step-son, and granddaughter seek shade) we drove around and around town looking for a shady place to eat.  Apparently the world was doing the same thing and there was no parking space to be found and so we ended up at the library where my step-son had been hanging out working. 

And with the decision to stay at the library vs. head to the beach,  the nerd in me arose out of no where.  I recently read something about how libraries may soon be passe.  I have even pondered that myself.  I read so much online.  My husband watches the Today show where well-dressed and even better groomed people rattle on with in-your-face visuals and 2-second sound bites about worldly events.  I can read books and gather any information I desire on my iPad, my iPhone, my iMac.  But, as I was reminded yesterday, NOTHING replaces that feeling and the smell of standing in a room amongst other rooms on different levels full of all sorts of reading materials!  Ready to make our way up the spiral staircase to scope out the place (where have I been for the last 20 years?) my granddaughter stopped to admire he underwater photography display laid out at the bottom of the stairwell, before we took our first step.  "Wow,  take a look at that giant starfish!"  We picked put up a flyer for an upcoming presentation by a local underwater photographer, next week, and moved on up to the second floor.  It was there that I was drawn over to the hundreds of magazines all neatly propped up in their individual and well-identified places on tall racks.  Addy went down stairs to find a book and I was in magazine heaven.  I perused the magazine stacks and settled on a magazine I had never even heard of, Tricycle - The Buddhist Review.  I happily settled into a cozy chair in the quiet of a room overlooking the little patio.  Addy sat across from me reading Harry Potter.  Just outside a dragon fly bumped up against the window.   Reading a column in the Tricycle I was amused by the fact that Amazon Japan is now providing their customers with a new service "Obo-san bin," or "Mr. Monk Delivery!"  Customers can order a monk for anything from funerals to memorials on the basic plan for $300.  The article goes on to report that the "deliver-a-monk" service has demand has tripled over the past five years.  And finishes up by noting that not everybody is pleased.  You have gotta love it :) 

On our way out we found a little postcard announcing an upcoming Quidditch class for Addy!  The card had a picture of a broomstick and she stuck that in her pocket.  "We aren't really going to learn how to fly, are we, Grammie?"  Well who knows, I thought! 

On the agenda today is metal arts class and guess who gets to come with me!  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Retirement Day 2 - You Can Steer Yourself in Any Direction You Choose!

Siting next to my husband last night as we were driving home from a really great dinner with our friends  (including two cocktails with cute little umbrellas!), I thought, if I write a blog entry every day of my retirement (which is the rest of my life) and I live for 30 years (my expectation!) then I will have written nearly 10,000 blog entries.  Hmmmm...wonder what my entry will be when I am hovering around my 92 birthday??? 

Day 2.  I had a colleague text me last night asking how I was doing on my first day of retirement and it took me a quick second to respond, "I am in heaven."  I literally feel like a huge weight has been lifted right off my shoulders.  There is a lightness in my attitude, my feelings, my step.  Maybe it's me and how I respond to responsibility and work but during summers past  I would think ahead to the next year off and on all summer long.  Which kids will the paraprofessionals work with and how will that go?  Paraprofessional match-up is critical to things running well in a school with so many special education students.  Did their assignments change since we last made assignments in late spring?  Did a para quit and who was the rehire and how would that work?   I would ruminate over how many students would be on my case load and if that had changed and who those kids might be.  Did any new students enroll?  Did that new student have serious behavior (which is always the most rewarding and yet time-sucking student we work with).  I would reflect on the behaviors of kids that past year and on relationships with staff.  I would fret that a particular student really didn't seem to learn much despite intense intervention.  I would think about programs and paperwork and administrative expectations for the year just ended and the year up ahead.  And then as summer closed I would get back into school in the early morning hours of the New England August heat (along with many other staff) and start copying off IEPs (Individualized Educational Plans) for the 16 or so students I case managed and I would try to organize as much as I could before the chaos of school starting in the Fall.  And CHAOS is what it would be.....

As educators we worked 180 days plus or minus which is really only 1/2 the year and yet it is such a challenging job that it feels like 1,000 days a year.  Anybody who argues otherwise, please come and work a spell at my former elementary school.  Work under the weight of evaluations (of you), evaluations of kids, teaching, counseling and resolving conflict (between kids and staff), weekly (if not daily) meetings, planning, coordination, getting along with multiple personalities (adults and kids).....and then tell me how lucky we are to get so many days off :)

A retirement tea was held for retiring school staff in early June this year.  It is held every year and I have rarely gone.  But I was encouraged by several colleagues to go and so I went.  Soon-to-be retirees were asked a series of questions by one of the organizers prior to the event.  There was an optional question at the end about what I imagined for my future.  Optional?  Isn't that the most important question of all at this point?  Now I no longer need to think about how many years I worked in my school district (20), how many different schools I worked at (4) or all the different things I did outside of my basic job responsibilities (behavior newsletter, teaching university and college classes at night, paraprofessional trainings, helping run a gifted program involving high school students, mentoring teachers-in-training, working hard during my 1/2 year sabbatical, teaching yoga for kids classes during and after school), or the significant changes I have seen during my tenure (a complete change in administration;  a move towards data, accountability and PLCs; and teachers working harder than ever before).....these were the key questions asked by the organizers so that they could "read a few lines about your time here" during my two decades in the school system.  

But, for me, the most important question remains:  

The Last Question on the Survey:  Where are you going from here?  (the optional question!)
My Response:  Looking forward to the freedom of having the time to do whatever I want whenever I want :)  As Dr. Suess wrote, "You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose."  (from Oh, the Places You'll Go!)


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Retirement Day 1

So, it has been 3 and 1/2 years since my last post!  And that is how busy I have been.  But, that's all at an end today because today is the first day of the rest of my life .  Today I am no longer a full-time employee of anybody's!  I feel like I have been released from prison.  Sounds dramatic but that's exactly how I feel.  Several people wrote in my retirement cards, "Enjoy every moment."  And, that is absolutely what I intend to do. I  love to write because it is my way of reflecting, thinking, making sense of it all; so here will be my chronicle of retirement adventures, thoughts, and feelings!

Although I am feeling deep and joyous freedom this early Wednesday morning, my body feels like a Mac truck ran over it, backed up and did it again.  My left arm aches, my left quad is tender, my right thumb is sore and I have that little reminder of sciatica in my right hip.  The last few days of work I had what I call a body break down.  All the emotional ups and downs I was feeling seemed to settle in my body.  I even started sneezing uncontrollably, coughing, and feeling all the worst effects of allergies which I generally never feel.   When I graduated with my Ph.D. in psychology 20 years ago, nearly to the day, my brother gave me a T- shirt that exactly described how I felt, "You just don't understand the extent of my fatigue!"  And that is once again true.  Within a week I have plans to be back to weight lifting with a trainer and regular workouts, back to regular yoga and yoga retreats, back to daily meditation and onto to art projects (giant yard art!), travel, house renovation, writing and and more writing, yoga therapy (to keep that kid connection and more for me to write about!), and most importantly focusing on health and happiness (for me and my loving and amazing husband)!

On the agenda today is picking up the Granddaughter and just hanging out.  I need a few days to rest and recover but the excitement of owning my own time again is overwhelming and makes me soulfully happy!  I never HAVE to work a day again in my life.  Wow and wow again.