July 1, 2022

Hidden in Plain Sight

Sometimes we miss the obvious. What we see every day can lose its importance, or its ability to please. Things that once caught our eye become part of the decor. That is until someone else points out what is right in front of you.

That someone else was RJ Walters. In the midst of his 6,000-mile drive around a healthy chunk of this country, he paid Betty and me a visit. As part of our time together, we gave him a quick tour of our home. He was interested in where I sat to write this blog. 

When he entered Betty's office/creative space, his eyes opened wide. She has covered most spaces with her current favorite pursuit: flow art. Dozens of examples cover a corkboard and are displayed on all four walls. I see them every day, RJ really "saw" them. 

Later we spent some time on our back porch. RJ's aversion to heat kept that experience short, yet he still had plenty of time to notice, and emphatically point out, the artwork and clever hangings Betty has mounted on the property walls. Much like her office, I have "seen" those examples of her creativity for years, but it took someone new to appreciate them with a fresh eye.

Before he left, RJ made me promise to write a post that features some of Betty's creativity. Regular readers know I have been amazed at her abilities for decades. I have written about her capacity to paint rings around me, though she always is quick to praise my substandard efforts in return. Her photographs could easily sell on a platform like Etsy.

So, to fulfill my promise and give my bride of 46 years (as of two weeks ago!) her proper spotlight, enjoy what I had stopped seeing until I was given a fresh perspective by a friend.

Including the painting at the top of the post, these are examples of her flow art technique:

Using pallets of wood, old barn hinges, crates, and some other add-ons, here are some samples of what Betty designed for our backyard walls:

And, because she has a modesty streak a mile wide, she insisted I add a few of my recent painting attempts:

June 27, 2022

Retirement and Relationships: What Will Change?


This is one of the questions that blog readers ask most often. After finances, what to do all day, and where to live, what retirement does to relationships is top of mind for many of us. We realize there will be changes in how we interact with others. But, will they be for the better or aggravate problems that already exist? Thinking about this issue before you retire (and afterward!) can make a tremendous difference in how smoothly things go.

There are five major categories of relationships that are likely to be affected:

1. Primary relationship: Your marriage or committed partnership will probably undergo the most significant adjustment and become a real study in balance. Each of you wants to spend time together and each of you requires time apart. Just because a job has ended doesn't mean everything else that makes up a typical day is going to change. We each have certain routines and habits that bring us comfort and happiness.

Short and long-term goal setting is vital in a retirement relationship. Everything from financial adjustments to vacation choices, when to see the grandkids, and whether we should get a new dog require a decision. Both partners need to feel their opinion are being considered. Communication, always vital in a long-term relationship, becomes even more important when two people are sharing the same space 24 hours a day.

2. Adult children: One of the toughest suggestions is to accept the differences between you and your grown kids. Your adult child is not you. As he or she grows, life experiences will result in changes that you may not fully approve of. At this stage of the game, it isn't your job to approve. It's your responsibility to accept them. 

I realize this isn't always easy. You want to save that child from harm, heartbreak, or disappointment. You feel the overwhelming need to share your life experiences.

I urge you to respond to questions or pleas for help as you would any other adult, not your child. Do you talk with your adult child like you would a co-worker, or a friend? Or, do you talk at them? Unsolicited advice-giving or lecturing won't work on another adult. Why would you think it would work on your grown-up child?

3. Grandkids and other relatives: If you are lucky enough to have grandchildren and get to see them often enough to have a relationship, you will experience one of the greatest benefits of retirement: being part of their lives in a method that can change them and you in so many positive ways. To see your children have children is an amazing experience. To be able to participate in their lives is a joy that never ends. Frankly, to be able to say goodbye at the end of the day and leave the messy parts of child-rearing to others is also very nice!

Few things can sour a good relationship with your grown child, his or her spouse, and grandkids quicker than inserting yourself into how the children are being raised. Saying something meant to correct behavior you think is wrong rarely is a smart decision. Talking privately with your child with a suggestion that he or she is making a mistake in child-rearing will not go much better. "That's not how we raised you" are six words that never produce a positive outcome.

Of course, if there is some form of child abuse or serious neglect you must take steps to bring it to a halt. But, usually, the problem is simply one of differences: your child has chosen to raise his or her child without copying your parenting playbook. Accept it.

My youngest daughter is single and intends to stay that way. But, she absolutely relishes her ability to play "Favorite Aunt" to her nieces and nephews. It isn't necessary to have grandkids to be part of the younger people in your family. Maintaining a good relationship with a brother or sister, their significant other, and their offspring can enrich your life tremendously.

4. Work friends: The reality is simple: after a time, you will lose touch with most of the friends you had while working. As a retired person you will move in different circles than they will. Your use of time and schedule will reflect your needs and interests. Moving after retirement is a common occurrence. Without shared experiences at work, you will have much less to talk about. The water cooler gossip will no longer seem important in your new world.

The loss of a circle of friends with whom you shared your life every day is tough. It is very rare that many work friends will still be an important part of your life a few years after you leave work. As we age, we often find it harder to make new friends, but the effort must be made. I will admit adding new friends remains difficult for me. I find new relationships through church, and volunteering, but they are not deep friendships.

5. Social Friends:  Surprisingly, what started out as just exchanging comments with some readers of this blog has produced several, real, in-person relationships where we have traveled with each other or visited them when Betty and I took an RV trip. 

As a single woman, my youngest has a solid group of female friends she can depend on. Her work puts her in contact with dozens of co-workers both male and female. Betty and I know several widows who find strong ties to those in a similar situation through church groups.

Honestly, supportive relationships will make a positive difference in producing a satisfying retirement. They are the building blocks to a happy future.

June 23, 2022

Does It All Add Up?


Do a simple Google search for the phrase, satisfying retirement, and you will find 13 million references. That seems like a lot. But, wait. Try "retirement calculator" and the results soar to 933 million results! I guess I shouldn't be surprised at nearly one billion options for a two-word search since the financial aspects of retirement are top of mind to many.

Today, a true retirement calculator is likely to be found on the Internet. The user enters the numbers of various investments, savings, pensions, Social Security, and the like and predicts how much will be available upon retirement age. Or, it is possible to input your age and lifestyle information and determine how much money you will have to save to be able to retire.

Bear with me.  I'd like to take the retirement calculator phrase and give it a different meaning. I'd like to input the things that tend to make up a satisfying retirement and predict what my life will be like. My dear friend, Galen Pearl, had a sentence in a post several years ago that sums this up quite well:"Balance sheets work with money, but not always with life."   Instead of 401(k) or IRA numbers, investment and savings amounts, inheritances, and home equity I'd like to be able to input:

...My passion index would be a measure of my ability to truly enjoy the time and opportunity retirement gives me. Would I wake up each morning ready to fill my day (and night) with activities and events that light my fire?

...My relationship status. How healthy are my primary relationships? How about friends...do I have any? Like too many men, did I leave all my male relationships back at work? Do I have a mentor, someone I can learn from?

...My health and physical status. In addition to a BMI number, height weight, and overall heart health, am I following a path that will give me as many healthy years as my body is programmed to give me? Will my desire to eat pretty much what I want and relax cost me years of active, productive life?

...My attitudes and demeanor. Will I become like the stereotypical crabby old man...the one who gripes at everything and everyone, the one who believes the world has gone to hell in a handbasket? Will I approach change as a possible good thing?

...My spirituality and belief in a higher power. How can I calculate my place in the universe if I don't believe in something greater than me? What effect will my faith have on my future happiness? How will I handle adversity..as a personal affront or simply a way for me to test my faith and belief system?

...My risk-taking profile. Do I think change is good, or will I fight it? Will I be content to say "I wish I had..." or will I say "I'm glad I...." Will I shy away from a challenge because I might fail, or will I embrace it as a true measure of my aliveness?

No such retirement calculator is available. Converting emotions, knowledge, attitudes, spirituality, and relationship health cannot be quantified. I'm afraid we all have to do these calculations the hard way...by hand, one at a time, for the rest of our lives. 

If only this were real