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.

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!