Apartment Hunting

As Dave and I have searched through ideas for apartments, condos, or houses to rent, we discovered that the middle of March is actually a good time to be looking.  Many apartments have listings that say they will be available June 1st (which is our goal date for being in our new place).

What we are discovering is that the apartments are all pretty similar in design with the basic kitchen, living room, bedroom idea, and many of them look alike in a lot of ways.  However, square footage is vastly different.  We know that we need more space than a one bedroom apartment provides, so we are looking at two bedrooms and would love to have a washer dryer in unit.

For those apartments that are townhouse style, we are also discovering that the bathroom is upstairs.  I can just imagine working in the kitchen and having to use the facilities, running upstairs and barely making it.  However, it also doesn’t make sense to have them all downstairs when we would be showering in the morning and getting ready for the day.

The solution will probably be to find an apartment that’s all on one level or one with a bath and a half (not readily abundant apparently!).  If we do end up with a one bathroom situation, Dave and I will have to learn how to coordinate our bladders so we aren’t both in need at the same time!

Another interesting thing about apartment hunting is reading the reviews from tenants or former tenants.  As in most cases, the disgruntled ones are the ones who rant on and on about what a horrible place it has been to live and how uncooperative the management has been.

In some cases, the management responds to the review and explains what happened.  It’s interesting to read both sides of the story.  In nearly every case, it was a tenant who mistreated the property or wasn’t particularly responsible with getting payments in on time.  I always have the philosophy that we generate negative or positive in the ways we interact with people.  We do have a choice, and even when renting, we also have to be good stewards of what we have been given.

I’m pretty excited about beginning this search, and I’m trying to be patient because I don’t want to rush into anything.  So, we’ll see where it leads.  We will be looking at two complexes within the next three or four days.  I’m writing my list of what we are most interested in having, so that will help.  I think keeping an open mind and knowing what is the priority is a good way to approach this.  That – and trusting in God’s help for patience and discernment.

Inching Closer

I just finished a class on joint replacement yesterday.  Ah – something to look forward to!  Actually, I am anxious to be able to walk without limping, so I AM looking forward to having the operation behind me.  But I still have a long way to go before I get there.

As I’m moving closer to retirement and my knee replacement, I am keeping busy with serving two active congregations and working with the lay leadership to build them up and help them move into the transition.  Of course, in the midst of all that, we also will take time to grieve our separation by finding ways to say “good bye” and “God be with you.”

We are in the middle of February, and we haven’t even reached Ash Wednesday, but I suspect once we do, time will seem to fly.  Lent is a busy season in the church, and there are a lot of activities, planning, and preparation for our major holy day of Easter.

It helps not to think too far ahead, even though that is what I have had to do to prepare.  So I put it on paper and on the schedule, plan out my sermons and hymns, and then go back to one week at a time for the preparation.

I’ve never physically given birth to a child, but I can imagine that the preparation for the arrival of that child has a similar process.  Nine months may seem like a long time, but as the pregnancy progresses, the time shortens, and lots of things are happening inside as well as outside.

Maybe the reality of actually retiring hasn’t hit me yet, but I am happily anticipating it – yes – even with the knee replacement as my first official retirement “gift.”  I have started making a list of things I would like to try or resume or continue such as singing in a choir, going back to writing, or taking some classes at Senior college.

One thing I did following a parishioner’s encouragement was to sign up for a Tai Chi for arthritis class.  I tried Tai Chi once before and could never remember the order of the moves, but my parishioner said that it didn’t matter, and it helped her a lot.  So, that one more thing I can add to my list.  Maybe I’ll actually get good at it!

In the midst of some of the heaviest snowfalls here in Maine this winter, I have had more time to stay inside, reflect, try to do a few sorting and cleaning things, and know that it will be good.  It will all be good.  Maybe that’s why I’m not anxious about the retirement, and the days are inching along rather than flying.  It could change once Lent and Easter arrive, but for now, I’m enjoying the “inching.”

Checking Another One off the List

Well, I finally scheduled my knee replacement surgery for June 27th.  That will be about two weeks after I actually stop working at the churches because I’m taking my final two weeks vacation at the end of June.  I’ll head right into retirement from there, so I figured it was good to get it scheduled and out of the way.  Check another one off the list.

Dave has a new job which is a good move for him.  Since it is located in Scarborough, that is where we will be looking for housing, and we have found some possibilities that we can even afford!  The biggest concern will be having an all ground level home/apartment so I don’t have to deal with stairs.  Eventually, I’ll have to have my other knee done (but please  – one knee at a time!).

That is another one to check off the list, because trying to decide where we will settle has been so up in the air.  I like to at least have an idea of where to being looking, and even though I had really crossed Scarborough off the list (for a variety of reasons), I’m now quite happy with the possibilities that we have.  We’ll start looking in April which is what one of the apartment complex guidelines suggested – two months ahead of when we want to move.

In the meantime, I continue to keep myself organized as much as possible around the work that needs to be done in the churches, as well as at the parsonage.  We are still trying to par down our possessions and have made headway!  Yet, I look at the shelves in my study and realize that I still have a long way to go.  My hope is that I’ll be able to continue to give books to someone I’m mentoring, as well as just pack many of them up for the yard sales at the two churches.

Somehow all this has an air of unreality to it, but there is also a sense of excitement to see where we will end up living and what other things we will check off the list as we go.  Who would have thought that two people could end up with so much stuff!  This has been really good for us!  And I want to get as much done as possible so we can move, get unpacked to the best of our ability and have some sense of being settled in before my surgery.

In the meantime, I keep checking and double checking how we are doing as we inch closer and closer to the middle of June.  It’s five months away at this point, and with Lent and Easter in the middle of that, time will fly.  My trainer at the gym keeps reminding me to be mindful – it’s good advice for everything!  The journey continues!

Shoveling Snow

Last night we had a snow storm.  Well, it IS Maine, after all, and that is what we expect during the winter.  At the moment, I live in the church’s parsonage, and the plowing is done for us.  That’s a good thing since the driveway is big and somewhat long; however, we still have the responsibility for keeping walkways cleared and the mailbox shoveled back so the mail truck can get up to the box.

The interesting thing is that we were supposed to get 3-6 inches, not much by Maine standards.  However, when we woke up this morning there was no power (not all that unusual either), and more like 12 inches of snow.  That’s also not all that surprising, but it was unexpected. My husband had to go to work.  I could have stayed home, but there wasn’t heat, water, or electricity, so I went out early with him, and we shoveled the walkway and worked on the all wheel drive car he had borrowed from work to come home last night.

I’m fortunate to have an SUV that seems to get through just about anything!  One of my parishioners drove by with his truck and plow, and he opened up the entrance to the driveway where my husband was working, so we managed to get out.  The roads weren’t horrible, but they still had a way to go to be in good shape.  As most of us in snowy areas know, you just take your time and don’t do anything foolish, so that’s what we did.

When I arrived at the office, the entrance to the door I normally use was clearly not safe because the small overhang had broken and was hanging precariously over the door.  Part of the structure that held it up was on the ground.  Fortunately, we have three other doors we can use to get into the building, but I had to shovel the stairs to the kitchen entrance so people could get in and out, and then I improvised a warning for the other door with two orange pails and a caution sign.

Okay, so you might ask what all this has to do with my imminent retirement?  Well, we have chosen to stay in Maine, so we know this kind of weather will always be around during the winter months.  What is reminding me that our choice to rent is better than buying is this experience of shoveling and having do maintenance.  When we rent, someone else takes care of it for us!

The other things of which I’m reminded is that I CAN stay home if I want to because I won’t have office hours elsewhere!  I will have my computer and corner for working on things I want and need to do, but I won’t feel obligated by my commitment to have office hours.

It may seem like a small thing, but it is actually a relief to know that my commitments will be different and hopefully more flexible.  In the meantime, I just appreciate all that the two churches do to help me not have to shovel or mow or whatever, and I’m perfectly willing to continue to the maintenance I’m capable of doing.  Only six months to go until that changes.  Happy New Year, everyone!

Arthritis and Ben Gay

One of the interesting things that I didn’t consider when I was thinking about retirement was health.  I guess I pictured myself being totally healthy, without problems and go merrily on my way.

Actually, I am pretty healthy.  I just had my physical, and the doctor pronounced me very healthy – my blood work came back great, and I had lost some weight (amazingly – it’s been a struggle all my life).  In addition, I try to go to the gym two or three days a week, work with a trainer a couple times a month, and eat as healthy as I can for the most part.

What isn’t healthy is the state of my knees.  Both knees have severe arthritis in them, and I limp around with a lot of pain in my right knee because the knee cap is right down on top of the rest of the knee – no padding left!  I know it will have to be replaced, but I’m trying to do whatever I need to do to hold off until after I retire.

There are six months to go, and there is a lot of work that needs to be done now that we are about to enter the new year.  So, I would like to wait and not take a month or more for surgery and recovery.  I’ll have plenty of time for that starting July of 2017!

In the meantime, I have made good friends with what they call an “ortho sleeve” which slides over my knee and hugs it without being too tight.  It doesn’t breathe much either, so that creates a little heat for the knee which is supposed to help.

Another good friend is Ben Gay or the generic brand of it.  I think I have used at least a tube a month so far, but it helps at night when I give my leg a breather from the sleeve.  Keeping active has helped, and my orthopedic doctor says I’m doing all the right things to hold everything together.  I also have been icing and elevating a lot and alternating with heat – it seems to help.

Perhaps I’m most grateful for my perseverance and high threshold of pain.  People worry about me, especially when they see me holding onto things to go down or up stairs (the stairs are the worst!).  But I’m really doing all right except for the obvious arthritis!  Eventually both knees will have to have surgery, but for now, I’m hanging on.

On top of everything, I had a audiology exam after which the audiologist told me I have hearing loss in both ears.  He immediately wanted me to return with my husband so I could be fitted for hearing aids.  After talking with my husband about it, we decided that I’m not severe and will wait – all that comes with the understanding that he will tell me if I begin to be a pain in the neck by asking, “What?” too many times.

Retiring is a gift that I have looked forward to for many years, but along with the gift come challenges that I will have to face.  Isn’t that what life is all about, anyway?  I mean, the things that are thrown at us throughout our lives can throw us for a loop and drastically change our lives, anyway.  So, I guess I see these physical challenges as just one more thing to deal with and then move on.  We adapt.  We cope.  We thrive.  We live into “our new normal,” as the saying goes.

It really doesn’t accomplish anything to gripe and complain.  But hanging in there and finding the good in situations as well as having a sense of humor sets a much better example for those around us.  No one likes to hear people complain all the time because they have their own issues.

So, I’m grateful for Ben Gay, orth-sleeves, ice packs, heating pads, recliners, a trainer who understands and pushes me, a husband who is supportive, and two congregations who care about me and who encourage me.  I’m also grateful for my dad who has two bad knees and is willing to commiserate with me on Sundays when we Skype – he totally knows what I’m going through (and his is worse than mine!).

In Hebrews 12:1, Paul writes:  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”  He is talking about the race of faith, of course, but body-mind-spirit are all intertwined, and even though I can’t run, I can limp with perseverance as I follow the path of my life, knowing that I’m on the journey of God’s love and surrounded by many people who are friends.

The wisdom of age is another gift that is so overlooked.  I look forward to becoming even wiser as I get older.  Have a blessed day!

Surprising Reactions

Today is my sixty-sixth birthday.  Dave and I have celebrated it off and on already for about a week, and it’s been nice.  We have gone out to eat a lot, and he bought me an early birthday present of new shoes that will hopefully help me have support on Sundays when I’m leading worship.  This morning he gave me a wonderful card and some gift cards to my favorite shopping site:  Amazon.com.

I have already had a lot of birthday wishes on Facebook, and last Sunday there were beautiful pink roses that I carried to both churches – a gift from my dad and my husband in honor of my birthday.

Birthdays have never bothered me because I always have seen them as a celebration of life – the life that God gave us.  We are called to live that life in the best way we can with the gifts we have been given and the gifts we discover as we grow and mature.  I don’t want to live with regrets, even though I do have some.  I’ve reconciled myself to them and am remembering that growth in anything is a process.

Retirement isn’t just a date on the calendar but a process of preparation.  As I start to get some push-back from well-intentioned people who say that they don’t want me to retire, the temptation is to say that I have been working toward this for many years.  While that’s true, I also (as a pastor) want to hear the grief that is behind it.

When I think of telling them that they will have other pastors, I have to stop and remember that they are complimenting me because of the way I have been able to pastor them.  What surprised me the most was my own reaction to a few of the comments I have received.

One person gently shared her experience of my pastoral care and how she would miss that.  It touched me deeply and reminded me that there are many relationships I have had with these folks over the ten years I’ve been here that have helped to shape who I am as a pastor.  Some people have touched my life in ways I could never express or imagine.

Another surprise has been the thought of ending my relationship with the youth group in one of the churches.  I’ve always said that it is God’s sense of humor that I’m working with youth because I never thought it was something I would do – or wanted to do.  However, these youth have shown me that we are entrusting our world to some capable and amazing young people.  They have enriched my life beyond measure, and I intend to enjoy every moment we spend together.  Parting will be hard, but it needs to be done with sensitivity to them and a recognition of the grief we all will feel.

Even remembering that being a pastor isn’t just a job but an identity means that retirement will change that identity.  I never really understood some of my friends’ comments about not knowing who they are when they retired.  Now I’m beginning to see what’s behind the comments.  These are good reminders to think about where I’m going in retirement and to know that it is the beginning of a new chapter, not the end of everything.  We don’t stop living when we retire; we live differently and with renewed enthusiasm for life.

I’m sure I have more surprising reactions in store, and I look forward to what I will learn from them, too!  That old saying, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life” is really true.  It’s not only a reminder that, by the grace of God, we can begin again and again, but it also reminds us that each day is a new chapter with new opportunities!  Almost like having a birth-day every day!

Slogging Along

I haven’t written for a while, mainly because we really have been slogging along.  There is much to do in transitioning out of the congregations, and it’s not wise to rush into it too quickly.  The planning is in process, and I have “started the ball rolling” by sending in my intentions to the Board of Ministry to change my status with the Annual conference from active full time Elder in appointment to retired.

Dave definitely is planning to work after retirement, so that helped with the decision about where to live and eliminated buying an RV in which to travel.  We will be staying in the area where we are now because that’s where his work will be.  In addition, I will probably be having a knee replacement sometime shortly after retirement, so I won’t be working anywhere for a while, anyway.  Maybe something will come up later on.

So, it seems like we are “slogging along” in slow motion, and yet, here we are almost half way through October, and I know that the time will fly.  Planning, for me is always how I cope with change, and it’s been hard to plan.  I get frustrated when I can’t settle on something and go from there, but this is challenging me to slow down, enjoy what I’m doing now and where I’m doing it, pay attention to my parishioners and making it a good year.

I told my District Superintendent that I’ve taken a page out of David Ortiz’ (Boston Red Sox) retirement year and trying to just enjoy and celebrate what I do and love to do even while looking forward to the new chapter in my life starting July 1.  I’m not sure I’ll go out with over 30 homeruns and breaking all records for runs batted in or walk off game savers, and that’s not my intention.

My hope is that we can truly work together in partnership as pastor and congregation to be ready for me leaving and them welcoming a new pastor.  It’s hard not to know the future, but I have to trust that God is already there.  So we’ll continue to slog – not in a bad way – in a way that celebrates who we are and Whose we are, and in thinking about how we can make this an Ortiz type of last year together.