June 21, 2013

So, What Should I Do Tonight?



So What Do You Do All Day? remains the most popular blog post over the last few years. I think people are fascinated by how retired folks fill their days, maybe hoping to find new ideas. Certainly I found myself spending extra time in the section of my new book, Living a Satisfying Retirement, that details what the respondents do to stay busy. The variety of activities and interests is really something.

To be honest, though, there is a part of my day that I struggle to fill productively: evenings. After I first retired I would watch baseball games most nights, not because I really cared how the Diamondbacks did, but the game filled 3 hours. After having all but basic cable pulled from our house I found myself reading for a few hours each night, killing time with silly make-do jobs, and going to bed rather early.

Now, I am doing a little better in using the time from dinner until bed in a positive way. I don't have to be "productive" in the sense that I must necessarily complete a task or accomplish something. There is nothing wrong with purely relaxing with my wife, listening to music CDs, or watching something on Netflix or from Redbox. But, I do catch myself watching too many movies or writing a blog post just to fill the time.

There are a few activities on my "what to do when I don't want to watch a movie"  list. As a fan of the the Great Courses from the Teaching Company I always have at least one set of audio CD's to listen to. At the moment I am finishing up Turning Points in Modern History with Beethoven's Greatest Symphonies waiting on my shelf.

There are a few radio shows that I have found on the Internet that I listen to on a regular basis. One that I particularly enjoy is Celtic Heartbeat from BCC Radio Wales. Featuring folk music and Celtic artists, the music is entertaining and different from my normal fare. The once a week program is available on line for a week after the original show airs.  Another outlet I like to check for its eclectic approach is the community radio station in Bisbee, Arizona. Staffed by  local residents, some are rather professional-sounding while others are definitely not. That, along their interesting music choices, is what makes listening fun.

I have begun work on a re-write of a travel book I finished a few years ago. Using some out-of-the-way or lesser known locations around Arizona, the book needs freshening and some new pictures. Our RV seems like the perfect vehicle to take us all over the state as I work to get the book publish-ready sometime next year.

Some evenings I will spend an hour going through a blogging improvement course. This is my third time through all 31 lessons, but I generally learn something new each time. Then, I may pick up the guitar and play some songs for my own enjoyment or just to annoy the dog (!).

So, that is generally it. The point of this post is actually somewhat selfish. I am really hoping you will have some feedback on how you spend your evenings that I can latch onto. Because we tend to eat dinner early, I have between four and five hours each evening open for something. That is a substantial chunk of time.

Help me, and others, make the most if it. Tell us what you do after dinner and before bed?


32 comments:

  1. I find my evenings are most enjoyable when I have somewhere to go outside my home. Last night was book club but I have also taken evening art or exercise classes, gone to talks or musical performances, etc. Otherwise I'm nodding off over a book or in front of the tv.

    What blogging improvement course are you using? I'd love to do that too.

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    1. I use the "31 Days to Build a Better Blog" course from Problogger.net. I am on the second edition of the downloaded version. A few lessons don't apply to me or my situation, but overall it is an excellent thought stimulator and well worth the price.

      One note: I don't try to complete the course in a month. I find it more beneficial if I take at least 3-4 days per lesson.

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  2. I'll be interested to see how folks respond. As noted in your post "What Time Do You Start Your Day?", some people are full of energy in the morning, others hit their peak in the evening. I definitely am the former. This means that my down time is after dinner and into the evening.

    I'm not much of a TV watcher, although my husband enjoys some of the MSBC shows in the evening. I tend to read (love anything about history). I catch up on any emails or phone calls I need to make. Definitely a "down time" for me.

    I looked at the web site for Great Courses from the Teaching Company. This piqued my interest. There are several courses that interest me. However I tend to be visual learner, and prefer reading as opposed to listening when trying to absorb new information.

    I also tend to cruise the net in the evening; another activity that doesn't take a lot of physical or mental energy. The beautiful weather we are having this time of year in CNY also makes it an ideal time to just sit out on the deck, enjoying a cool drink and doing a little bird watching.

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    1. The Great Courses are usually available as a DVD in addition to audio CDs. While that isn't the same as reading, they are visual.

      At this time of year in Phoenix indoor activities are pretty much required. People I know get up just after 5:00AM if they want to run or walk, or wait until 9:00PM in order to avoid melting!

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  3. Being an early bird myself, I get this. I've learned that if I can get outside for some fresh air, I'll feel sufficiently revived, so Mike and I initiated after dinner walks through the greenbelt in our neighborhood. It's relaxing, and we almost always end up bumping into neighbors, often with their dogs, to visit and chat with. When we return, I feel completely cleared out and ready to do something other than defaulting to TV.

    Here are some other things we do to avoid the evening slump: go across the street to enjoy our HOA pool and spa during these long, lovely days of summer, play evening tennis, enjoy free wine tasting at Total Wine (do you have these?), attend free evening film showings at our nearby Lifelong Learning program, attend an evening Spanish conversation class, also courtesy of our Lifelong Learning program, read together in our living room (where we don't have a TV), wash our cars (I actually enjoy this activity, plus oftentimes one of our neighbors will see us and come over to chat), attend concerts in the park or visit an evening Farmers Market (if we can walk there, even better!), have a weekly movie night (we rarely watch movies, so for us this is a treat), and go dancing at one of the nearby dance studios.

    We've just decided to add an outdoor patio to our front yard, currently a bit of a growing trend here in S. California. When it's completed, I envision a new evening ritual will be to move outside after dinner in order to sit and enjoy the summer evening air. I'm hoping eventually our neighbors will anticipate our being there, and begin to drop by for casual visits.

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    1. Where you live sounds just about perfect with the closeness to all the physical and mental stimulation choices you have. I remember at one point you told me you have no intention of moving until you have to: it is easy to see why.

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    2. It sounds like your evenings are full of satisfying social activities. Your environment sounds perfect full of stimulating places to go and people watch. It sounds perfect for retirement evenings!

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  4. We watch the Phillies on TV when they are on a digital antennae station, since we don't have cable (which, by the way, helps me cut down on my passive TV viewing enormously). If not on TV, we listen to it on the radio (something awfully quaint about that) while I do crossword puzzles and my wife does Words with Friends (online Scrabble).

    Occasionally, we watch a video or selected TV program (NCIS or Antique Homeshow).

    Wednesday evenings, she goes to her "Knit Night" while I go to my Bluegrass Jam.

    Then, of course, there is reading (oh, how I can get lost in a good book!).

    And going to bed early is no admission of defeat. How we love a good night's sleep.

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    1. When I do occasionally listen to a Diamondbacks game I prefer the radio broadcast because I like the announcers better than those on TV. All TV games are only available on cable so my choice is simple since we don't have cable TV.

      Betty is a night person while I pretty much fade out by 10PM. We've both learned to compromise on bedtime.

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  5. Most of my blog posts are generated in the mornings. I seem to be the most productive then. Maybe it is because I have been thinking about things in my dreams.

    Much of my evenings, at least in the Spring, Summer, and Fall are spent on the "mountain". That is the highest point on our homestead. It has an excellent view of all the woods that surround us. I spend that time swinging in my glider and often "centering down" as the Quakers call it listening to God. It is a very peaceful and enlightening time for me.

    But I also often get in an hour or so of TV. I have TIVO so everything it recorded that we like to watch. We pick what fits our mood for that night. Some people adamantly claim to be TV averse. But to me there is nothing wrong with just lying back and being entertained once in a while.

    And as you, I spend time reading and trying to improve my blogging skills. That often includes reading books and studying about the various software apps used to try and make an interesting blogging experience for my reader.

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    1. Oh, the "mountain" sounds so pleasant. On those rare nights when it is below 90 degrees I can sit on our Ramada and enjoy the night skies, but not nearly as well as you.

      I find very little to enjoy on commercial TV though my wife loves Downton Abbey. I gravitate to documentaries or British mysteries on Netflix. Right now I am hooked on Flying Wild Alaska about the Tweto family in who run an airline that services rural Alaska.

      Reading remains my primary way to relax..primarily mysteries and non fiction history.

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  6. Today I help B's 20-something son move into a new apartment. As for what we do after dinner and before bed? None of your business!!!

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    1. Is that what is called "private time" or "date night?"

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  7. I hear you Bob. For me living my "test-run retirement" (not working for almost two years and not sure I will again), my challenging time of the day is between 3-5:00. I am able to keep busy all the way up to that slot, with my day under way by 7 am, by writing, a regular exercise regime, gardening, an occasional walk to a nearby coffee shop with book in hand, a little piano playing time, and a bit of cleaning somewhere about the house. I like the routine but come 3:00, what now? Once 5:00 is here we are close to cocktail hour, the evening news and the return home of my wife so all is good from that point on. The good news is I still have time to try new things and figure it out. Enjoy!

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    1. My energy sags around 3:30, so normally a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers get me to dinner time. One thing I have completely removed from my night time schedule is the news. The constant reminder of all the death and mayhem in the world does nothing good for me. A quick review of the CNN app on my phone a few times a day allows me to grasp the important stuff going on.

      I hadn't realized you are already two years into your "test-run." Going back to work is probably low on your list!

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  8. I have extra time also, and I'm not a TV watcher. I have a large stack of magazines I am always trying to catch up on. This time of year it's light out until after nine, so I may spend a little time outdoors.

    What I'd like to develop is the ability to do nothing, to simply enjoy what's around me at the moment. I'm not good at that yet.

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    1. Last night I was meeting with my prison program mentee and then stayed for dinner with the other men. That was a nice chance of pace.

      I am not good at "nothing." Of course, after your amazing trip to Africa some serious downtime has been earned.

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  9. I use the time after early dinner to run errands, since the summer heat makes it unpleasant earlier in the day here in Phoenix. There's always something to get at the hardware store, or a book to return to the library. I can walk to both or bike. I find its good to get out and interact with real people in the real world!

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    1. Like you, I try to save those errands I can for evening. With the library open until 9pm several nights a week I can return and pick up books when it is at least below 100 degrees.

      We tend to take Bailey for a walk in the morning. We have found if she goes to the park at night it energizes her just when we need her to calm down.

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  10. We generally eat between six thirty and seven and I purposely keep my evenings uncommitted and unplanned (except for a few regular events). This is time spent on the patio or taking a walk, visting, relaxing, reading or watching TV. In the winter I am nestled in. I actually enjoy much television, just not all network. I watch netfix movies and I also watch Homeland, the Following, Magic City, and a variety of other shows. In general I want this time to be mindless relaxation.

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    1. I think my concern is that my evenings are uncommitted, but by default and not so much by choice. Except for summer I do have one or two evening meetings per week that give more structure to my time. I tend to forget that summers in Phoenix are our "nestled in" time like winter is in other climates.

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    2. I imagine so. Also i don't object to heat as t a certain level. So sitting on the porch watching the neighbors or taking a walk are done now, during the height of the long days..

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  11. I guess my response would be that we do very little in the evenings. It is a time for my husband and I to reconnect after busy days. We usually have dinner and just "chill" with a little computer time, a book, a glass of wine and each other. We do go to bed on the early side because we are up early to avoid the heat of the day. We like having the unstructured and free time. Cindy

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    1. Hi Cindy,

      Our evenings are a mix of each of us doing our own things for awhile with either a movie or a favorite older TV show on Netflix. We've tried playing games in the evening but for some reason it just doesn't seem to click.

      It sounds as though you and hubby have a nice routine.

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  12. There are several mentions of taking courses in these comments. I recently discovered coursera.org It has lots of free online courses offered by leading universities. Some sound really interesting. I want to take A Brief History of Humankind offered by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. There is one on Songwriting offered by Berklee School of Music. Sounds made to order for you, Bob.

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    1. I have heard of that site but it been quite awhile since I checked it out. Thanks for the reminder, Judy.

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  13. I go to exercise classes at my local health club 2 evenings a week and often stay on for a coffee with the friends I've made there over the last 15 or so years. A visit to the cinema happens about once a fortnight, to the theatre or ballet occasionally, and I do like to listen to Jazz FM whilst catching up with my journal or editing/playing with recent photos.

    But I relish the evenings when I'm at home and have time to catch up on the many TV programmes and films I've recorded - I always seem to have a backlog! - or to just watch TV. I'm quite happy to be entertained by it for the evening, but then the BBC and Channel 4 (here in the UK) do have some good programmes sometimes.

    With thanks for another interesting post Bob.


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    1. Hi Andy,

      Thanks for your ideas and feedback. I always like to get comments from other countries to be sure some of what I am writing about has appeal beyond the borders of the U.S. FRom earlier contact I know you near near London so I would imagine you do have all sorts of opportunities for evening entertainment.

      The BBC has sent many shows to us that are quite entertaining. At the moment my wife and I are enjoying Murder in Suburbia. One of the female leads was in Doc Martin so we instantly latched on to her performances.

      Dear Readers: Andy has a question: do any of you know of any single, female bloggers who live in the U.K. and write about retirement? She would like to locate someone who can give the unique perspective that can only come from someone living in one's home country.

      Leave a link or some names of retirement bloggers as a comment. Andy would appreciate it.

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  14. In my work as a college professor, evenings have always been work time -- for course prep and grading papers. One of the things I have always loved about summers and school breaks and that I am looking forward to in retirement is having evenings as relaxation time. I pretty much always watch the evening news. I never watch television except in the evening; 4-5 evenings a week, I will have a show (usually an hour) that I love to watch and schedule around. If I have chores like ironing, folding laundry or mending to do, I will do these while I'm watching television. Evening is also my major time for blogging, and that can take up 2 hours right there. And I always love to read. -Jean

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    1. My mom was involved in teaching for almost 40 years. Like you, her evenings were almost always filled with developing lessons plans and grading papers. I remember how much she looked forward to summer time for the break. Back then, school didn't restart until after Labor Day so she had a solid 3 months off from all that work.

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  15. I think it pays to have a hobby that you are really into. There always seems to be something I can do whether it's reading about them, commenting on train blogs, working on my train layout or whatever. It's not even just an indoor hobby since I travel a bit to seek out photo opportunities. It gets me out of the house and outside. I also get to meet people at train shows. Been doing it all of my life and I'll do it forever.

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    1. I have always been fascinated by large train layouts. I started with Lionel (doesn't every boy?) and moved on with HO. There is a large train exhibit near us that the grandkids love.

      You have a hobby that will keep you busy forever.

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