As I gradually learn how to enjoy a successful retirement, I have re-learned the importance of daily rituals. Some of these for instance are: enjoying my cup of coffee as I sit on my bed and watch the Today Show, having breakfast on Saturday morning with my brother at our favorite greasy spoon, enjoying coffee one morning during the week with a favorite TX friend, going to the Y for exercise. They are more than habits. I look forward to these things as a highlight of my day/week. Next week I start school. I went to a meeting and learned about the ‘almost free’ senior education offered by our local community college. I have always loved going to school and the opportunity to take fun classes (such as Classic Movies) without the stress of tests is not to be missed. I know this will become another important ritual in my new life. Over these past few months I have learned that the books I read on successful retirement are correct. You need to keep active (or, in my case, get active), eat fresh, healthy foods, volunteer, challenge your mind and cultivate friendships.
When I retired I expected to pack my bags and start traveling. However, my little Pye, had a lesson in store for me. At the wise kitty age converted to human years of 92, she knew I first needed to settle into my new home, learn to appreciate the opportunities not working every day provided, learn to meet new people and establish friendships and lead a healthier lifestyle. She is also trying to teach me patience. Every day with an elderly cat is not all joy. Occasional incontinence and vomiting are just two of the kitty habits I know she wishes she could have spared me. Maybe the most important thing she is teaching me is you can’t plan everything. Life is not as simple as a spreadsheet or checklist. My retirement budget did not include a kitty expense line item. Most importantly, the joy she finds in life each day is her best gift to me. She is so happy now that the days are becoming a tad cooler (in TX that means going from 100 to 90!) and she is able to go out in the courtyard and lie in the sun and stretch. So, I wait to start traveling and learn to lie in the sun and stretch.
July and August are not my favorite TX months. I was happy to escape the 100 degree heat for two weeks and head north. I drove up via eastern OK and western MO and really enjoyed the scenery. When traveling solo,books on CD and cold drinks and snacks are the answer. I love to have healthy snacks like small grape tomatoes, peaches, breadsticks and cheesesticks. You can munch as you drive or stop at a rest area for a picnic. Be sure to put a roll of paper towels in the car. They come in really handy. You save money and time when you avoid restaurants and dining al fresco is so much more pleasant.
I stayed in a lovely AirBnB in Kansas City and would recommend that as alternative accommodation. Just be sure to read the reviews carefully before you select a spot. In MN I stayed at my daughter’s and was treated as an honored guest. She is such a gracious hostess and pays close attention to small details like fresh flowers and a bottle of water by your bed. I also spent time at my sister’s house and relaxed in her peaceful, shaded back yard. I am not looking forward to returning to the TX heat, but hopefully things will start being more pleasant in a few weeks. I am looking forward to spending time in my newly decorated courtyard with its comfy chairs and bright umbrella. I hope to plan a train adventure for my birthday month coming up.
Just completed a two and 1/2 week road trip from TX to CA with my neighbor. We put over 4,000 miles on her truck and had some great times. We saw so much-especially of CA. Highlights of the trip were: historic Mesilla plaza in Las Cruces, rain storm in the AZ desert, Amtrak from Orange County to San Diego and regional train ride from San Jose to San Mateo (I love trains), visiting my favorite zoo in San Diego, Bart’s Books in Ojai, CA (largest outdoor book store in world), stopping at Hearst Castle for a couple tours on our way up Highway 1, revisiting the Monterey Aquarium. I learned you really get to know someone when you travel with them. I also realized more than before there are wonderful places in this country to see. So, now I will expand my list of potential travel goals to include more of the USA as well as Europe.
I love the Silver Sneakers’ program. Today I went to their yoga class at the Y, yesterday I went to the circuit exercises (weights, bands, running in place, etc.) and tomorrow I go to swim class. I am also walking almost 2 miles a day, four to five days a week. I am finding such pleasure in these physical pursuits. Yesterday north TX was blessed with rain. As you may know we are in severe drought conditions. Not only did the rain help ease the drought, but it brought blessedly cool breezes and I was able to sleep with the windows open last night. That is something I really miss from my last few years spent in the northern plains. And the full moon is in a couple days. Who could ask for anything more?
I’ve traveled up and down I-35 many times, but for my first retirement trip, I decided on a different route. I drove through the Choctaw Nation in the eastern part of OK, then through the Ozarks in southern MO. I couldn’t believe how lovely eastern OK is with its rolling hills covered with trees and large lakes. I stopped in Springfield, MO at this vintage motel on old Route 66 where Elvis stayed in 1956. Then I drove on to IA to visit with my ‘vintage’ friends at my 50th high school reunion. After this experience I’ve decided to try to get off the interstate more often and discover new routes which incude small, restored motels.
Adjusting to retirement is my latest project. Those who know me well know I never met a project plan I didn’t like (I love prioritized to do lists.) The last two weeks I have concentrated on number one and number two on my list: eating healthier, less processed food and getting more exercise. I have found that the 2 mile roundtrip walk to Starbucks is a good way to start the day, get my latte reward and explore my small town. I have also discovered senior discounts. I never knew so many places offered them-of course, when you get them without asking that can be a mixed blessing! Today I combined my new love of senior discounts with eating healthy food. I learned that Souper Salads has a senior discount and for less than $7 I had a delicious salad piled high with greens, two kinds of beans, peas, a small amount of tuna and all kinds of colorful veggies. I also had bean soup plus dessert (small soft serve with nuts on top.) I have discovered that leading a healthy lifestyle can be both fun and economical. I am so pleased with myself I may go out and take another walk before dinner.
I wasn’t sure how my dear old kitty (19 in July – 92 in human years) would do on the two day drive to TX. My sister went along to help me both with the drive AND the cat. To our delight, Pye adjusted immediately. The passenger held her carrier in their lap (it is constructed of heavy duty nylon fabric and she could feel our body warmth through the fabric.) When we would stop for a short services break, we would park in the shade, leave the windows open a bit, provide food and water and remind her where we had put her litter box. Usually when we would get back to the car she would be under the driver’s seat and would put up no protest at going in the carrier again. She slept most of the time and only meowed a couple times. When we got to the hotel we set up her living quarters in the bathroom, but when we got back she was sitting on the bed waiting for our return. Maybe you can teach an old dog (or cat) new tricks! I could not believe how she adjusted to the journey. When we got to our new home, she stepped out of her carrier, walked around sniffing all of our furniture and settled into one of her favorite chairs. I believe I heard her say, “Nice digs, Mom. Glad you decided to bring me along.”
I am not a person who enjoys parties. I especially do not like, or even understand, why people are given surprise parties. My darling daughter decided I needed to have a party to celebrate my retirement and move. I didn’t agree, so she gave me a surprise party which I did not at first enjoy OR appreciate. However, thanks to some wonderful family and friends who talked me out of leaving, I ended up having a wonderful time. One of these friends explained to me that ‘it isn’t about you.’ She explained it is about the people who love and will miss you and who want to have a chance to say good-bye. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I think that is true. This was a major milestone in my life. I had worked over 50 years. I’m so glad DD (darling daughter) didn’t listen to me and made me celebrate anyway. In fact, I had two parties. My co-workers took me to breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants and provided me with thoughtful gifts-most of them gift cards that I didn’t have to worry about packing. I may change my mind about parties.