September 24, 2020

The Summer That Wasn't: What Do I Have To Be Thankful For?





I have survived the last six months of Covid with my sanity and budget intact. For us desert dwellers, summer is always the toughest season, this year even more so. Normally, we have some diversions: movies in a chilly theater, plays, concerts, museums, restaurants, baseball games inside Chase Field. But, a quick review: closed, closed, closed, closed, closed, no fans. Vacations in cooler places? Nope.

The weather has started its agonizingly slow march toward more human-like temperatures. As I type this the next few days are predicted to be only about 100 or so. Some of the places and the events listed above are starting to spring back to life. Time in the backyard and walks around the neighborhood or nearby parks are only a few weeks away. Fall officially started a few days ago; the desert southwest is always slow to accept that fact. 

How about I focus, for just the next few hundred words, on the parts of my life that have been satisfying in an otherwise bummer of a year. Especially with the political nightmare that is building to some sort of climax in a little over a month, I could use a reminder of the little successes and pluses of everyday life. 

Miles and miles of hiking trails are just a few minutes away. I live within 10 minutes of three parks, just waiting for us (and the dog!) to enjoy a picnic under a tree, or simply sit and read while soaking up the sounds of nature.  

There isn't a weekend from early October until May that doesn't have at least a few festivals or special events somewhere in the Valley of the Sun. I just have to make a little effort to enjoy something different.

I am thankful my 11 year old car is still running well. The car was bought for cash so there has never been a payment. The air conditioner blows cold air in the summer and heat in the winter. It remains dependable and still has less than 95,000 miles on it. We did plan on replacing it with a more efficient hybrid last March but...

I am thankful for my hobbies and interests. After 19 years of retirement, I haven't run out of things to do. Guitar playing, oil painting (Thank you Bob Ross!) and ham radios keep me busy. Music on Spotify and old vinyl records with a turntable to play them have been a blessing. In the next three or four weeks, we will replant all the pots on the back porch and around the yard with six month's worth of color.

I have been able to read more in the past several months than in the last several years. Some of that is because there are not many options; otherwise, I love books and enjoy reading, especially murder mysteries and historical fiction.

We have a bird feeder in the back yard. Most months of the year there are winged visitors, eating up the seeds almost as quickly as I can replace them. Birds in our area aren't as colorful as other parts of the world, but they add their songs to my day. 

I have been married for over 44 years, to someone who is my opposite: we hold different opinions on many topics; as we get older I have noticed she is much less hesitant to point out when my thoughts are "wrong." But, we are committed to each other with full trust and love. I can't imagine how difficult the Covid lockdown would be like with someone who gets under your skin or is negative or unsupportive.

I am thankful that both of us enjoy the simpler things in life. We like finding a bargain at a second-hand furniture store. We get excited when we can re-purpose an old dresser or chair into a conversation piece for the house or yard. When flea markets reopen we will be there.

I am extremely thankful that my immediate family is close by, all feeling well, and enjoys spending time together. Our Sunday meals together are simple and satisfying. My youngest daughter's industry (business incentive travel) shut down in March. That is a bad thing. But, it has meant she is home instead of always on the road. We have spent more time together than at any time I can remember. 

A restaurant meal doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to offer us the time and place to be together, away from our own kitchen.

All of us, me included, tend to focus on the big stuff of life, this year in particular. But, isn't it the little things that make up a life that determines your mood. Did you do things that allow you to go to bed at night feeling satisfied with the day? The overall character of your satisfying retirement will be better. 

27 comments:

  1. My gratitude list is an embarrassment of riches. Leading the list: I'm grateful I no longer have to hustle five or more days a week to earn income. Entrepreneurship is glorified by business writers and venture capitalists, but few ever acknowledge it angst-producing, soul-crushing nature.

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    1. As an entrepreneur in my career, I agree with your assessment. The excitement of building something from scratch and watching it grow is countered with the never-ending pressure of keeping clients happy, figuring out where your industry is going, and not ignoring your family while you work to build a business.

      For the last 19 + years, that part of my life is fully and completely gone from my mind. I am living off its fruits, but I don't miss a second of what it took to get me here.

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  2. I am grateful for so much this past few months.
    Grateful a recent retired nurse of 42 years in the same hospital. That I live in souther New Jersey, cape May area that is right on the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware bay and can see beautiful sights and sunsets.
    Happy our local community opened this year and got there nearly every day for just over 2 months.
    Grateful I was able to enjoy outside eating and feel,safe
    I,just had right knee replaced 12 days ago and things are going so much better than I anticipated and have my first post op visit today and fully expect to be told I can drive again...it was my right knee.
    Grateful for skilled surgeons and ancillary staff and wonderful physical therapists to help me get my life back...thought I need the other knee done ASAP.......put it off 20 years to the point I really could not walk!
    Thankful for family, friends and other services that stepped up to to the plate to offer me help since I live alone.
    So much to be thankful for....but looking ahead I hope that the election period goes well...I think we are going to be in for some horrible times with what our ignorant, lying president is encouraging his followers to do. I hope we get out of this period unscathed but I doubt it. I fear we are in for a horrible winter due to election, Covid and flu.....but mainly election revolts. I am trying to get myself and home ready to hunker down for a few months except for PT. Praying that spring will bring some decency and normalcy back to our lives. Thank you for a great arena to hear from and about other retirees.....I look forward to all your posts,

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    1. What a great summary of what puts a smile on your face, Karen. I have known several folks who had a knee replacement, starting with my mom 25 years ago. Out of all those people, only one had a real struggle to get over the surgery and PT. Most have your result which is good to know; I will likely be a candidate in a few years.

      I share your angst over the aftermath of the election. I never though I would see the time when a president is claiming an election will be fixed and unenforceable, weeks before the event. Besides all his other faults, add sore loser and destroyer of democracy. He will be willing to tear this country in half just to stay in power. You would think after these past four years, he'd be ready to go home and enjoy his billions in peace.

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  3. Like you, I am grateful to live in a place where hikes and waterfalls are abundant. We try to take at least one hike a week and have a picnic after. The Blue Ridge Parkway has so many scenic overlooks that we can just drive to one, put out some folding chairs and have lunch. I am also grateful that we can play Pickleball outside with a select group of friends and that restaurants are adding more outdoor seating options.

    Family has stopped in to stay with us a few nights on there way to various places and it has been great catching up. Reading a lot more as you are and just happy to be retired and done with the constant stress of earning a living.

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    1. The Blue Ridge Parkway is such a stunning drive and beautiful part of the country. I envy your ability to get out in nature now. We do it, but it is not very comfortable because of the heat. We did go to Flagstaff, 3 hours north of here, for a nice week in the pines. Overnight lows were in the upper 50s and daytimes stayed around 80....heaven!

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  4. My husband's health puts him in the Top At Risk %'s for CoVid. He says its the first time in his life that he's in the Top Percent of anything! Our move to a small Southern California coastal town last year was serendipitous. :) We are now close to family and church. We are thankful for the help we receive and the ability to get in the car and be on the beach in a matter of minutes. Sometimes with a glass of wine tucked in our cupholders! We are retired workaholics with hobbies. We also still have house projects and organization to work on. After thirty-four years in the same house where we raised our kids, it still feels "new" here...like we're on vacation. Thank you for this prompt to focus on Gratitude and Thankfulness this morning. My husband and I enjoy reading your blog.

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    1. It all sounds heavenly. There are some towns in SoCal that are so beautiful that waking up there each morning would be a dream. I assume typical onshore breezes keep most of the wildfire smoke away.

      Tell your husband to stay safe. My wife is right up there with him in terms of risk and remains very cautious when we are in public.

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  5. You have so much to be grateful for and not often enough do we take the time to count those blessings and hard earned perks that make our lives so much better.

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    1. It is so much easier to let the negative thoughts in our minds and those floating past us in our environment to overwhelm us. Our sense of gratitude must be actively encouraged for it to stay healthy.

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  6. Like you and your commenters, I also have so much to be grateful for. As I see families and individuals with real struggles (financial, health, etc.) during these last 6+ months, I realize how lucky I am. Just like white priviledge is a thing, I wonder if "Covid priviledge" will define those of us who are able to get through this challenge relatively unscathed. Best to count our blessings and do what we can to make the journey of others easier.

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    1. I sincerely hope that this Covid experience is one that opens our eyes to not only our incredible good fortune, but prompts us to look for ways to help those who do not enjoy our privileges.

      Over 200,000 Americans have died since early March. If that shocking number doesn't wake us up and energize us to do more, shame on us.

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  7. I share your joy and satisfaction in marriage ... and envy your proximity to your children.

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    1. A solid marriage or partnership can make the retirement journey a joy. And, I am very aware that being so close to my family is not the normal course of affairs for many. Particularly in times of stress and anxiety, family can be a solid foundation to lean on and be supported by.

      Thanks, Tom.

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  8. I am grateful I got to see all my sons this year and my grands as well. We took a road trip (pick up and camper) to visit one group and the others are near by. While they were isolating (other than 2 adults had to work) we were able to visit. From there we went to Yellowstone for four days and over into Wyoming where I grew up the first four years.

    We have been out on ATV rides, canoe days, and scenic drives.
    We have a home shop that I have been working on projects in (around the hot southwest heat) and have a new rack ready for the ATV (it is a UTV).

    I have sewing projects calling me and jigsaw puzzles that are not done. There is always things to do.

    I too am lucky that hubby and I enjoy being together and have enough space to not get on each others nerves (very often).

    My on son is here as well (was going back to college before this all hit) and we have had him working on projects as well.

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    1. It sounds almost like a pre-Covid routine for most folks! Yellowstone is one of our favorite National parks. It is so dramatic.

      One new thing that Betty and I have started to keep our minds alert is the One Day University series offered through the New York Times. Hundreds of videos of talks on all sorts of topics are available to stream at any time. They average around 35 minutes: perfect for watching during lunch.

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    2. I had not heard of those. I will have to check tjem out.

      Our lives have changed with COVID. No big road trips (cross country), no international trips or cruises.

      We see the local grands much less now that school started (virtual) but Mom has to go to the building and takes them with her. We won't see the other grands two or three times this year this year like in the past(no flying and their dad is back in a school building with other staff, so won't drive up either). No college classes (face to face).
      We are much more isolated. Just the three of us most of the time, and some with another close family friend that is also isolating as well.
      We miss going to the store (mostly online or pick up). While the service is wonderful, I do miss going out.

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  9. Finally a feel good post and after all that has happened and will happen this year we needed one. You are a lucky man Bob with a lot to be thankful for especially that car! It's nice to have your daughter close again isn't it even though she lost her job for now - nothing like family.

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    1. Our youngest daughter has had one paying job since March and isn't likely to have another until sometime next year. She is having to start a serious search for another job. After nearly 20 years in the travel incentive business she isn't happy, but realistic.

      Focusing on the good stuff is important during a time that is doing its darndest to keep us off balance.

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  10. Like you, Bob, I have so many things to be thankful for. I belong to a weekly call-in gratitude group and there was a discussion yesterday about the difference between thankfulness & gratitude. Is there a difference? One definition I read - gratitude turns what we have into enough...an appreciation for what one has vs what one wants. There were views about gratitude being about feeling and thankfulness being about action and visa versa. There were suggestions that gratitude involved a deeper spirituality while thankfulness was more a social nicety. Whatever the definition you aspire to, I know that I am grateful for having enough of what I need and even some of what I want. I'm thankful for the seasonal demands like the harvest from the garden that will be put "to bed" this week; the lawnmowers will be put to bed after cutting grass on 2 large properties every 5 days during the peak season; my aged mom is safe and contented in the lodge setting that she went to 16 months ago; the list of home maintenance that she was incapable of completing has been whittled down; my son has stayed gainfully employed during the oil industry downturn and covid; my granddaughters continue to delight me; everyone in my circle is relatively healthy; I live in a rural area that has seen few active covid cases. I could go on and on. I am grateful for the challenges big and small that test my resilience and prompt me to continue to grow.

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    1. The warmth of your response is catching...what a fabulous recounting of what you have gratitude for. Frankly, I had never thought about the different between gratitude and thankfulness. That is an interesting question that will probably send me to Google to get some ideas.

      Thank you so much for your comment. You have brightened my day with your thoughts.

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  11. I love Mona's description of her weekly call in gratitude group. That's brilliant. And she also got me thinking about their conversation about whether there is a difference, and what it might be, between gratitude and thankfulness.

    Your post made me think about the Bible verse about giving thanks in all circumstances. Not necessarily FOR all circumstances, but IN all circumstances. So even in the midst of challenging times, we can have an attitude of thankfulness, as you have described so perfectly.

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    1. Would that be 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18? "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

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  12. Thanks for the reminder of everything we can be grateful for. I'm with you on the Phoenix summers. I'm happy it's almost October and will be cooling off soon.

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    1. Next week's forecast has a few 90s in it. Exciting!

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  13. A comment Janis made ("Best to count our blessings and do what we can to make the journey of others easier") reminded me of a quote by the very prolific "Anonymous" that we have tacked on the bulletin board in our kitchen: "May God give us grateful hearts and keep us mindful of the needs of others." When a crisis arises, we can easily become overwhelmed. Focusing on the bright spots in our lives and expressing gratitude for our blessings, makes it easier for us to weather our own personal storms and reach out a hand to help others through theirs. This was a heartwarming post, Bob - thanks for the reminder.

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    1. You and very welcome, Mary, and that is a powerful quiote.

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