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?

On the Move

Anyone who has been reading my blog knows that my husband, Dave, and I have been looking for an apartment for several months now.  We finally found one after visiting half a dozen complexes and touring a sample apartment.  It’s amazing what surprises can be found!

The first one we saw had a base rent, but as the sales rep began talking with us, we discovered that we had to pay monthly rent for the cats, had add-ons for trash pick-up, paying most of the utilities, and several other things (I can’t remember).  All-in-all, we would have paid about $300 a month more than what they listed as the rent.

There was a condo we really liked, but we were late in putting in our application, and then we discovered that 500 people had shown an interest, some never even looked at it.  Another one ran background and credit checks, and for some long-winded reason, they decided that our credit wasn’t old enough to accept us as residents.  (I don’t figure stuff like that out very well, so I can’t really explain it much.)  Needless to say, we moved on.

One of the first apartments we viewed was a flat – all on one level.  All the others were townhouse style with stairs to the second floor.  I liked the complex and was impressed with the manager.  But we didn’t pursue it right away because we wanted to see what else was available.  Finally, after looking at another large complex where we would have to buy a lawnmower and be responsible for shoveling, as well as all the utilities, we went back to the “flat” (sounds sort of British, doesn’t it!).

Everything went through well, and we rented starting the first of May.  We have moved a lot of stuff in, and the movers come on Saturday to move our furniture.  Both of us are happy with our decision, and it seems to be a quiet place with lots of opportunities:  a workout room, an outdoor pool, rent that has few add-ons, and it seems to be managed very well.

My advice to anyone who is looking is to do your homework.  View the property and ask lots of questions.  Take reviews on line with a grain of salt (most of them are negative and written by people who were angry because they were being held accountable).  Pay attention to the person who is showing you the property and their attitudes and be sure to find out what the add-ons are.

So, we are one more step to retirement.  It’s hard to believe that it’s almost here!  There are many good things about downsizing and getting ready to move on to a new chapter in our lives.  I have a list of ideas for what I want to do next, and I’m sure that God will open doors for me to discover where I am called to be in this new time and experience.

More to come!

One More Step

After over a month of hunting, visiting apartment complexes, and calculating what we can afford in renting an apartment, my husband and I have finally decided on one!  It was far more time consuming than I anticipated, but setting up appointments and viewing them before hand was the only way to figure out what would work for us.

We also figured out that we had to be more flexible in our time frame, and we have actually ended up moving about three weeks earlier than planned.  Actually, we are taking the apartment as of May 1 but moving in the middle of the month.  This allows the Trustees of the church to come into the parsonage and do the upgrades and minor repairs that need to be made before the next pastor arrives.

In the meantime, we have been sorting, cleaning, and purging A LOT.  I made a list of what we think we will keep, and we already know that we’ll have to downsize again.  I found things I didn’t remember I had, and I found dust in corners and underneath furniture that I suspect has been there for quite a while.

We had a recliner that I had covered with a tan, fitted cover and discovered just how green the chair was !  It looks so much better!  Originally, I put the cover on because we had cats climbing all over the chair.  When I freed the chair from it’s trapping, I also found dust and cat hair everywhere, so it was thoroughly vacuumed.

Of course, now one of the cats has claimed it as her chair!  Friends who have experienced knee replacements tell me that the recliner will become my best friend after my surgery, so I guess the cat and I will share it together!

What I have found as we sort and clean out is that there is a certain amount of setting ourselves free from too much:  too much stuff, too much clutter, too many unused items, too much unnecessary accumulation.  Actually, moving is proving to be a blessing for us as we remind ourselves that we really didn’t need everything we had packed away in closets and rooms and drawers.

Maybe the “stuff” really does drag us down and becomes too important in our lives.  I mean, think about it.  What do you have that you have never used but stored away for just the “right time”?  How many books are on the shelves that you haven’t ever read, but intend to read “some day”?  What different sizes of clothing are in your closet that you are holding onto “just in case” you lose weight?  Or – you can ask your own questions about the “stuff” of your life.

I’m learning about myself and my own attachments to things, and most of the time I don’t need many of them.  Simplifying our lives starts with cleaning up the things that hold us down or aren’t really necessary for our own happiness.  It really doesn’t matter where we begin to clean out, just that we begin somewhere.

Hearing Aids

For a year or so, I have been thinking that everyone was just speaking softer.  I kept repeating “What?” to my husband and blamed it on bad timing because he would always try to tell me something when the garage doors were being opened or shut or I was running water and brushing my teeth – you get the idea!

So about six months ago, my primary care doctor sent me to have my hearing checked.  The young man (I swear he was twelve years old!) who said he was a doctor (and truthfully he was, but just didn’t look old enough!) told me that I flunked my hearing test!  Well…..

That was about all the information he gave me, so I said I would think about things and wait a while.  Of course, that weighed on my mind and in my ears.  I think my hearing – or diminished hearing capacity – weighed heavily on my mind, so when I received an invitation to have my hearing tested free through Miracle Ear, I decided to give it a try.  Of course, it helped that they bribed me with a $20 gift card to Target!  I figured I could take the test, get the card, and forget about the rest.

It didn’t work that way.  The man who tested my ears gave me a very thorough explanation with charts and graphs to show me all about ears and how hearing and the brain are connected.  He said that if there is hearing loss, it should be addressed right away.  Tests have shown that starting with hearing aids when the loss is minimal will help to delay dementia.

Since my Mom died from the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease, that got my attention, so we proceeded with the tests, and he affirmed what the previous tests had shown – I have hearing loss.  This is not a surprise since my dad has severe hearing loss, and it runs in my family, although usually later.  Oh wait – I’m not that many years from being 70!  Aaaugh!

Anyway, needless to say, I am now wearing hearing aids; it’s one more thing to take with me into retirement!  So far, I’ve had them on for three days, and I am hearing things better.  My first reaction when I left the building after being fitted and driving my car out of the parking lot was that my blinkers were really loud!

My husband, who has supersonic hearing, thought that was hysterical.  I still say “what?” a lot, and he still tries to talk to me when the garage doors are opening or the water is running – the hearing aids won’t take care of that.  But I think I’m remembering better and recognizing sounds more clearly again.  It will take time to adjust to them, and, of course, it also helps to remember to put them in my ears in the morning!  (Twice I have forgotten them and had to go back upstairs to get them.)  Well, two out of three days isn’t so bad I guess.

I wonder what’s around the next corner!  Maybe I’ll hear it before it arrives!

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.