Birthdays

Today is my sixty-seventh birthday.  I remember as a child thinking that anyone who was even 50 years old had to be REALLY old!  Probably, children today aren’t that much different.  Occasionally, I would be reminded of that from the youth group members who would tell me that they would never say things the way I did in an e-mail.  Every so often I had to remind myself that I was old enough to be their grandmother!

Being old enough to retire was something I looked forward to for many years, and when it finally arrived, it almost took me by surprise.  Where did those years go?  My dad always said that time goes faster the older you become, and, as a young adult, I would just say, “ha!”.  He was right!  In fact, Dad was right about many things, and, as my husband says, “Our parents become smarter the more we mature.”

I suppose it’s normal to reflect on where we have been in our lives as we land on those time markers, like a birthday.  My childhood was sheltered, but happy with two hard working and loving parents and a relatively healthy environment in our home and in the town where we grew up.

As I have reflected on my opportunities to go to college and graduates schools, I’m reminded now of my white privilege which provided me with those opportunities.  There have been struggles especially as a female in what used to be considered a “man’s” profession as clergy.  Yet, I believe I have been blessed to be able to work with folks who have affirmed my call regardless of my gender.  Interestingly, the congregations I have served have all accepted me and supported me, as I tried to do with them.

There have been highs and lows in my life, just like in other people’s lives.  I’m just a regular human being who makes mistakes as well as does things well at times.  It’s a journey – this life of ours.  We live in a challenging world, no matter what century or decade in which we exist.

I can remember air raid drills in school as an elementary student.  It was the height of the cold war, and we had to crawl under our desks if the siren went off.  That wasn’t an easy task; have you seen those little desks?  When I was in my teen years, John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  Those were troublesome and painful times no matter what your party affiliation might have been.

By the time I was in college, the hippie and flower-power children were prominent in the news, along with the Vietnam war.  There were protests on campus, but I just never got into that.  I didn’t disagree with the protests, but I didn’t feel strongly enough at the time to be involved in them.  Yet, my heart breaks for those Vietnam vets who have returned home with such pain and anger.  I understand it and am glad that something is finally being done to recognize them.  It’s many years later, and we can’t take back what happened, but hopefully it brings a small amount of healing to them and to our country.

Our society today has such a mixed and jumbled bag of messages.  We have confusion and a sense of despair in our country and in our world.  We don’t know who to trust or believe because there is so much rhetoric in the news.  I would venture to say that most of us don’t trust much of anything coming out of Washington, and the threats of nuclear war are looming again and again, along with continuing terrorist attacks, people making the decision to kill others instead of work out their differences, relationships that break up after a fight or disagreement, and so much more.

But am continually reminded that there is a LOT of good in the world that we don’t see.  In fact, I suspect that there is MORE kindness, compassion, and caring than all the negative junk we see, hear and experience.  Maybe it’s our job to make sure we are the ones spreading it.  Maybe the change and goodness we seek only needs to be pointed out and demonstrated by those of us who KNOW that there is a better way in this life.

So, the best birthday wish I have is that we would learn to love one another (kindness, compassion, caring) and treat each other with respect.  Maybe we could find ways to listen to the other person instead of pressing our own agendas.  We can practice peace on earth and be part of making it happen, even if it only begins with where we live, work, and play.  I don’t have a cake with candles to blow out, but my wish is a prayer for hardened hearts to break open, for truth and justice to prevail, and for all of us to do our part in bring hope to this world because we have been called by God to make a difference.

Have a blessed day!

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What Now?

The month of September is three months into our living in our apartment and two and a half months into my retirement.  It is also just over two and a half months since my knee replacement.

As I have gone through the surgery, recovery, exercises, and adjustments to having a prosthetic knee, I have been diligent in moving forward.  My focus has been on full recovery and use of my right leg with the great hope that I don’t have to go through this again with my arthritic left knee!

However, now that I am at a much better place with routine exercises to do and having my mobility back, the reality of retirement is setting in.  Not having a sermon to prepare every week or offices in which to work have opened up a whole new world of “where do I go from here?”

I’m not bored (most of the time) because I have plenty to do both in the apartment as well as on the computer.  However, as much as I like my own company, and love being with my husband, I’m alone most of the day.

This reminded me that I need to pull up the list of ideas I had put into my notepad on my cell phone which I did yesterday afternoon.  Some of the things are only speculative and take time to accomplish, but I would still like to investigate the items listed there, so I made an additional list of things I can do right now.

For example, I plan to set up lunch with someone once a week just to be in touch.  I have several lunch appointments already made, and I look forward to catching up with those folks and others down the road.  Last night, Dave and I went to the Riverton branch of the Portland Public Library which is right around the corner from our apartment.  We have our library cards in hand, and that will open up some possibilities for workshops or groups that meet regularly.

I’m trying to motivate myself to go back to the gym, and I finally joined Weight Watchers (again) to try to move my eating to a much healthier level.  It’s not easy, and I feel like I have worked at this part of my life every since puberty, but I’m trying again!

I guess what I didn’t anticipate was the loneliness and isolation that comes with not having a job, and especially a job where I was always with people.  My advice to anyone who retires from a people-oriented job would be to pay attention to what’s going on inside and figure out how to find ways to interact with others as need be.  It’s really up to us to find our own way and create our new purpose.

So, I’m continuing the journey and learning along the way!  That’s a good thing!  My dad always said that, when you stop learning, you die.  This comes from a man who taught himself computer at age 80, and now, at 94, just got his first smart phone.  He’s a great example of inquisitiveness and wanting to learn!

Oh – I also have been thinking about taking some kind of course in writing.  That would keep me learning for sure!  Don’t ever stop trying, but also give yourself space to figure things out.  The journey continues!

Knee Replacements and Recovery

It’s been a while since I have blogged!  Mostly, the reason is that I had a knee replacements, and sitting at the computer for any length of time has been difficult.  Now that I’m eight weeks out from the surgery, I’m doing much better, and I have been reflecting on what I have learned throughout this process.

“Pain” is what led me to have the surgery to begin with.  My right knee cap was on top of the the bones of my knee, and, as the congregations I was serving at the time will tell you, I was in a lot of pain.  However, I refused to have the replacement until after I finished the year, which was my year leading into retirement.  So, with the help of braces, cremes, and exercise, I managed to limp around and keep going.

It just didn’t make sense to me to take a month or two out of the work that needed to be done in preparation for a new pastor to come on board, as well as to lay the groundwork for my leaving.  So, I lived with the pain and tried not to complain.

The middle of June, I began vacation, and from there I went right into retirement.  It gave some breathing room for the congregations, as well.  The last week of June, I had my knee replacement.  More pain.  This pain, however, was different from the pain of an arthritic knee.  Instead, this was the pain that goes along with healing where the other was degenerative.  Over the two months since my surgery, I have improved, and the pain has lessened and continues to be better every week.

What else comes to mind in reflecting on this experience?  “Patience” is a big word!  I am reminded over and over again that patience isn’t something you automatically have or is bestowed on you by a benevolent God.  Rather, patience is something you practice and learn as you go along.  I wanted my knee to heal much faster than it has, and yet, I’m told that I have come along faster than many who have gone through the same surgery.

Even now, I wish away the remaining aches and tightness that comes with the healing muscled and rebuilding of the flexibility and range of motion in my knee.  I’m very grateful for physical therapy where I’m reminded that this does require patience, and that brings me to the next word which is “perseverance.”

Without perseverance in doing the exercises at home and doing the ice/elevate, the process of healing would have been much slower.  Push through the pain ran through my head every time I was doing the exercises.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t moan and groan throughout them, but I kept at it because I knew how important they were to my recovery.

“Perspective” is another word that comes to mind.  When I keep my experiences of the surgery and the recovery in perspective, it helps me focus on what I need to do and where I’m going with the post-recovery.  I can now walk without limping in great pain.  There is still tightness and some aching, but I also know that it will eventually go away.

That means that I will be free to pursue a more normal living pattern (whatever that is or becomes in my retirement), and I will be able to focus on things other than knee pain. Of course, my left knee also has arthritis pain, but it it tolerable and not yet bothering me in the same way that my right knee did.

Maybe someone who is reading this will find it helpful knowing that there is a “process” that can help them get through whatever it is that they face.  My knee replacement reflections, when I think of them in more spiritual terms, remind me of life itself.  We face challenges all the time, and there is “pain,” followed by the practice of “patience,” leading us to work at “perseverance” to get through whatever we are facing.  And, it’s helpful to keep things in “perspective.”

If you have read all the way through this, thanks!  If it has been helpful, wonderful!  May God bless your day!

Things that go “thump” overhead

Apartment living is a bit of an adjustment – not a bad one, just different.  It’s been a long time since I lived in a place where there were multiple families/units.  In fact, I suspect that the last one was when I was in a dorm – a long time ago!

When we moved into our apartment, we thought we might at least meet some of our neighbors, but even though my husband has met the folks directly across from us on the day we moved in, we haven’t seen or heard them since.  Everyone pretty much keeps to themselves.

I requested a second floor apartment because I thought it might be less “basement-y”, and we are pretty satisfied with it overall.  In the course of the month we have lived here, we have “tweaked” our storage, thrown out tons of boxes, discovered more “stuff” we really didn’t need, and decided that, if or when we DO move again, we will box it all up and let the movers take care of the rest.

Maybe the most interesting thing has been the thumping on the ceiling from our overhead neighbors.  They have a little child – probably two or three who doesn’t seem to sit still a lot, so we hear the pounding of little feet regularly.  The parents aren’t particularly quiet with their feet either, but then, I figure it’s more because of the way the building is made than because they are purposely trying to make noise. It has me wondering what the people or person who live below us hears!

Interestingly, the rest of the noise is really subdued.  We don’t hear voices, unless the child is crying or screaming loudly near the windows, and we there is no sound from the television, cooking in the kitchen, or much of anything else.  The units are, as the manager told me, a quiet place to live.  That’s fine with us, actually.

I’m adjusting to the thumping, and I know it goes with the territory, so I’m not upset about it.  As I said, everyone pretty much keeps to themselves.  It will be interesting to see how things go throughout the rest of the year.

My husband is a very friendly guy, and we have decided that we will at least say “hi” to people.  I think he may see it as his mission to create a little friendliness in the complex, and that would be fine if it happens.

There is an interesting unspoken code of helpfulness when a package is delivered.  It is placed in the entryway to the security doorbells, and someone usually moves it inside the locked entrance.  That’s a nice neighborly thing to do, anyway.

At first we thought we were probably the oldest folks in the complex, but we are finding a huge age range.  The majority really are those with no children, and there are students, newly graduated twenty somethings who have just started working, as well as single folks and retirees, and the whole gamut.  I also like that we have diversity in race and ethnicity.

So, the adventure continues with lots of learning, a little adjusting, and some interesting people watching that is always fascinating.  Next week, I will have my right knee replaced, so my recovery will keep me inside for a little while.  I wonder what I will discover then!

Coming Down to the Wire

I’m not really sure where the saying “coming down to the wire” originated, but I’m sure there is some interesting history behind it.  For me, it means that I am very close to a major change from working full time to retirement.

At this point, we have arrived at my last Sunday in these two churches.  I still have a week of annual conference meetings and activities, but immediately after the annual conference, I go on vacation for the remaining two weeks of June.  Therefore, I’m technically ending my ministry here because I will head right into retirement at the end of my vacation time.  I planned it that way so I could provide breathing space for the congregations between my leaving and the new pastor arriving.

It’s so interesting to see how people react when they know a pastor is leaving.  Some interesting interactions have occurred.  Some folks keep telling me that I can’t retire.  I hear it as a compliment, and I recognize their own need to have consistency and familiarity in their church life.  I worry about them clinging so closely to my presence that they won’t accept the new pastor or even give the new pastor a chance.

Others have clearly said that they know these times come in the life of a church.  Even though they hate to see me leave, they also wish me well and feel that I’ve worked hard to reach retirement.

Still others are friendly and caring, but they don’t talk about it at.  Currently, both churches are planning my farewell parties, so a lot of people aren’t telling me much of anything.  Maybe they are afraid that they might slip and give away something, but I have almost no information about anything.  It’s almost as if I have already left.  Come to think of it, maybe it feels like that to them in some ways since I have backed off a lot of things, and we have moved about half an hour away.

Although I continue to keep my office hours, the emails have slowed way down, and I rarely have anyone call or visit.  It makes sense to me, but it feels strange.  Is this what a “lame duck” feels like?  I really don’t know.  It’s not a bad experience, just different.

There are advantages to being able to tell congregations early in the year that you are retiring or leaving, but there can also be disadvantages.  I tend to think that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.  We have had lots of time to work through saying “good-bye,” even though there are still the farewells to go through.  In addition, it has given me the chance to plan my scriptures and sermons so that they focus the congregation on Christ as the head of the church and change isn’t bad.

This coming Sunday, we will celebrate Children’s Day, and the last portion of the service will be a farewell liturgy when I will release them from relying on me.  The parties follow that week, and then we are gone.  I believe we have worked hard together to accomplish the transition and preparation well.  In addition, I think the laity are more aware (at least some of them are) about how important their role in ministry really is.

I have repeatedly told them that this is a partnership together not only with God but with each other.  Hopefully, these are learnings and reminders that they will take with them regardless of how many times they have a change in pastors.

It’s been interesting.  This blog started as my retirement blog, and I will continue to write about my journey.  For those of you who have read it, thanks for the feedback and affirmations!  I’ll be writing again!

A Romantic Afternoon at the Laundromat

A number of things have come back into our lives as we adjust to apartment living.  Although we have a laundry area in our building, there are only two washers and two dryers – both coin operated.  So, this past week, Dave and I packed up a week and a half worth of laundry in duffle bags, along with our detergent and dryer sheets and headed to the local laundromat which is pretty much right around the corner from us.

I had forgotten those long days of sitting in the laundromat!  It was quite a while ago!  However, it’s also another opportunity for Dave and me to spend quality time together and to do some decision making – like do we wash all the darks together and divide up the lights and whites.  I mean, this is critical because I DO that, and he is a self-admitted “throw-it-all-in-together” washer.

Since I had been doing all the laundry myself (mostly), it also gave me the freedom to let him fold his only clothes.  I discovered that I have been folding things he just throws in his drawer!  (I never touch dresser or put his things away – they are his!)

The nice part is that we found a compatibility in the rhythm that developed of putting sorting, washing, drying, and folding (those things that we folded!).  It was a nice quiet afternoon in spite of someone who was smoking right outside the door and a child who was pushing a cart all over the place and hollering as she went.

We found diversity in the people who were there and a camaraderie with them since we were all in the same boat (so to speak).  Even though we didn’t have long conversations with anyone, there was still an acceptance that we had a task to do, and we did it without bothering each other.  We were friendly about it.

Dave and I talked about our week past and the one to come, and we did a small assessment of how we thought the move had gone.  The cats seem to have adjusted, and we can even begin to see the floor of the apartment!  More and more boxes are disappearing, and we actually had our first real home-cooked meal this week!

Without a doubt, the laundromat has become a new place for us to connect with each other and neighbors.  Maybe having our own washer an dryer in the unit is over rated.  Well, maybe.

Boxes, Boxes, and More Boxes

Downsizing from a two story, four bedroom house with a full basement to an apartment half the size has been quite a journey!  We had started as early as two years ago to downsize, as I have previously mentioned in other blog posts.  But somehow the clock found a way to speed time up, and suddenly we were at the moving date.  Now, how did that happen so fast?

Fortunately, one of the churches I serve has a large yard sale and plenty of storage space, so we were able to donate a lot of stuff to them for their sale.  I can’t even count how many large trash bags went out week after week (how did we ever accumulate so much useless or outdated stuff?).

Dave rented a van the week before the actual move, and we took a load up to the apartment.  I spent some time lining shelves in the kitchen, figuring out what kind of space saving storage we might need, and acquainting myself with the resident ants (we will be taking care of that problem this week!).

One of the things that was an “aha” happened when I discovered how many duplicates we had of everything:  two sets of cleaning for the bathrooms, probably six boxes of different sized band aids, two sets of toothbrushes and toothpaste, stockpiles of shampoo, body wash, and the list could go on and on.  In the house, we had two full bathrooms, and at the apartment, we have one.

Of course, all that stuff will eventually disappear as we use it up, but it’s interesting living with a maze of boxes, totes, furniture, and so forth that we are discovering isn’t really all that necessary.  So, more “stuff” for the yard sale!

One of the cats who is cute and very innocent discovered the full length mirror in the bedroom.  She would look into the mirror and back away from it, then peek around the corner at it and see herself, back up again, and look again.  We haven’t had a full length mirror anywhere they have lived, so it was a fun discovery for us to watch.

They have adjusted pretty well, thanks to advice from our wonderful veterinarian who made some suggestions for helping to reduce their anxiety.  Now with all the boxes everywhere, they are happily exploring their cardboard jungle and waking us up in the middle of the night by jumping on the bed as if to say, “There you are!”

The thing with the maze or jungle of boxes and moving crates is that it keeps shifting, so it isn’t always the same.  Actually, it is slowly reducing in size as we empty things, but when we want to set something up or put something away, we have to shift the piles to another configuration.  Eventually, we’ll get there!

One side affect of all this is the fatigue.  I’m reminded every day that I’m not getting any younger, and even though I’m in good health (except for a bad knee), I’m wiped out by supper time.  Taking care of myself has to be a priority so I have the energy to do my work (which continues for another month), and so I can keep settling into our new home.  Thankfully, I’m not doing it alone!  Dave is doing his share, too.

It’s quite an adventure!  Now, let me see . . . where did I pack that notebook I needed?