Retirement tips from a novice | Part 4

While you're practicing your deep breathing and smiling exercises (see Part 1), take time to get to know your home from a new perspective: being there every day, for as many hours as you want. If anything made me smile on that first day at home, it was this: taking as much time as I wanted to dawdle over breakfast, being able to load the dishwasher instead of piling dishes in the sink and rushing off to work. Scratch that: it was being able to eat breakfast at home, instead of at my desk at 5:30 in the morning. Simple as it sounds, I loved it.

At my retirement celebration, I joked with co-workers that the first thing on my To Do list was cleaning out closets. Everyone laughed, but it was true. I knew that rather than leaving on a trip, I wanted to spend time decompressing and getting my bearings with a new focal point: my home (rather than my job).  Maybe it's a girl thing, the nest-building syndrome or something. I just know that I enjoyed puttering around the house, cleaning out closets, and straightening books on shelves, dusting where no dust cloth had been, and vacuuming from basement to attic.

I also got reacquainted with every inch of my gardens, from patio borders to orchards, perennial gardens to container plantings, herb garden to cutting garden. Instead of just quickly pulling weeds so I could make it through all the gardens in limited time, I took time all the time I needed to pull weeds, then dig deep to sift out rocks and roots, and enrich the soil for new plants.

My advice: take time to smell the coffee and the flowers. And enjoy every minute of it.


Retirement: Comparing notes with friends

We spent the day with friends who are retired and not yet retired. Jim is the only one still on the clock, but he's sure happy for Ruth... he says that she wakes up each morning with a smile on her face, and I think that's really sweet. The past 6 months or so we've talked about our retirement plans, and today was the first time we've talked about how three of us are adapting to retirement and what was best (so far) about our new-found lives.

It's been interesting, adjusting to the novelty of doing what I want with my hours and days. And trying to figure out why I don't miss my career. I spent 30+ years earning my living as a writer and editor. Before falling in love with technical writing and editing, I wrote articles for magazines and newspapers. I never expected to walk away and not miss it. But I don't. I can't exactly say this was the best thing to come from retirement. For me, it's that there's no more stress about any task I might choose to work on. No deadlines or specific timeframe I have to meet. There's something very relaxed about this, that if I don't finish something up today, I have tomorrow.

Ruth retired the end of January, and loves her new life... no surprise there. She spent a lot of time thinking about what she wanted her new life to look like, and how she'd spend her days. Like me, she wasn't worried about retiring and being bored. But her favorite thing so far was something she didn't even consider:  no more Sunday afternoon depression, thinking about and getting ready for Monday morning. Because her job in Everett meant getting up at 3:00 in the morning, she rarely could do anything social on Sundays. That's all changed, the stress is gone, and she's loving it. Sunday rolls around and Jim gets ready for Monday, and Ruth can keep on gardening or reading cookbooks or whatever she's doing, with no stress about the work week, because Poof! it's long gone, never to return.


Sunnyside Guernsey

In a small Sunnyside park is perhaps my favorite sculpture, at least in Washington. It's called 'Morning Chores,' and is a full-size dairy cow, with a young girl in braids ready to milk her. There's a 3-legged milking stool, a milk pail, and a patiently waiting cat, ready to lick up anything that spills. Dave went on the hunt for the geocache; I couldn't stop taking photographs of the sculpture, and was especially intrigued with the details & the different textures. The braided rope, the cowbell (which was real, and worked), the girl's hair and clothing, the hooves, the stool, the attentive cat, all were crafted with a wonderful attention to detail.

We've discovered a lot of cool stuff because of geocaching, and this sculpture was definitely worth the detour off the freeway (even for non-geocachers!). It's on the main road through town, if you'd like to check it out for yourself.


Retirement tips from a novice | Part 3

Keep in touch. You may have people who'll want to keep track of you, and you may have friends you were in contact with using your work e-mail. Once you're gone, will people know how to get in touch with you?

I did an informal survey in the month after I announced my retirement, and found a common theme. A lot of people said that they never knew where their retired friends and colleagues were. Once you no longer have a fixed schedule, no one knows where (or more importantly, when) they can find you. If you want people to reach you, be sure to share your new e-mail address.


Preserving Houses through Photographs

I'm an architect's daughter. I think this is part of the reason why I've always loved old houses and buildings, structures with classic lines and historic meaning. Once I learned about photography, it was natural to turn my camera's lens toward beautiful old buildings.  Farmhouses in the country, city houses in a historic neighborhood. Railroad depots and courthouses. I especially love photographing the elements that make these buildings more than just boxes of wood or brick. Dentil molding and carved millwork, stained glass, towers and archways and symmetrical placement of windows. Not just window dressing, but pieces of the whole that make the structure what it is.

I collect photos from every town we travel through, and one day I'd like to try my hand at sketching them, or painting them in watercolors. Or maybe I'll print them in black and white, and hand-tint them.

I believe that by capturing these houses and historic buildings in photographs, and encouraging others to visit them and take note of the historic architecture they see in their own travels, these gems of history will never really disappear. I hope my dad would approve.

So, here are today's images. This gorgeous house is in the historic town of Port Gamble, Washington. I love the steep roofs and arched windows, the elaboroate porch railings, the stained glass windows. The house faces the water, and although it was converted to apartments and retail space, the exterior of the house is intact.

Port Gamble is on the peninsula north of Hood Canal Bridge, and is a charming place to visit. Founded in 1853 by Maine businessmen Andrew Pope and William Talbot, Port Gamble was the longest continuously operating mill town in North America. And even though the mill no longer exists, the town is still a company town, authentically restored and operated by Pope Resources.

The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places.


Neely Mansion

High on my list of favorite houses is this gem at the entrance to Green Valley, a narrow valley near Auburn that's filled with truck farms, horse farms, and the Green River... and also one of my favorite twisty sports car roads. As a teenager, I had a summer job picking strawberries at a farm here. Our bus would lumber past the old mansion, turning grey as the paint flaked off, becoming overrun with brambles. It was a sad thing to see. Today, whenever I drive the road in the MX-5, I remember those long-ago days, and am grateful that someone was able to rescue this beautiful old house.

The Neely Mansion is a two-story Victorian Classic Revival farmhouse, completed in 1894 as the family home on a farm of 200 acres. The house features three broad covered porches, elaborate millwork, and stands near the confluence of Soos Creek and the Green River. There was a ferry crossing on the Green River, which made the farm a kind of social center for the area. In spite of this, the family felt isolated. They lived in the mansion for only a few years before moving back to Auburn.

By the 1950’s the mansion was no longer inhabited, and it stood vacant for nearly three decades. When the house was threatened by demolition plans, local citizens began a fundraising campaign to save the mansion so future generations could enjoy this part of valley history.

The Neely Mansion Association, a nonprofit, volunteer historical society, owns the house and grounds today, and ongoing restoration work is bringing the mansion back to its former glory, one feature at a time.

The Neely Mansion is listed on the National Register for Historic Places, the Washington State Register, and is a designated King County landmark. It is open for tours and special fundraising events; check the website for more information: www.neelymansion.org.


Retirement tips from a novice | Part 2

Don't be in a big rush to get out and travel and run around and try and get everything done in the first month. Retirement is all about slowing the pace, avoiding the traffic, taking as much time as you like.

Throw away the shoehorn...  you no longer need to worry about fitting as much as you can into each day.


The first month of freedom

Can the act of smiling wake you up in the morning? 'Cause each day since I retired I swear that when I opened my eyes, there was already a smile on my face! Some days I'd wriggle back under the covers and grin for a while before finally rolling out of bed. I'd pull on sweats and a t-shirt, and wander out to the kitchen to start the coffee. While it brewed, I'd open up all the blinds in the house, open the kitchen windows, and listen to the birds chirping in the camellia bush just outside. If the day was warm, I'd walk barefoot out on the porch and survey my private gardens, see what plants had pushed their way to the surface, and which rhododendron had started to bloom. Some mornings I'd see our neighborhood mule deer grazing in the old orchard, or walking down our driveway to the private road. I'd fill the bird feeders, then walk back inside in time for the first cup of coffee out of the pot.

Each day, Dave would call with the same question: "Are you bored yet?" And my answer was always the same: "No, but I'll keep you posted."


Retirement tips from a novice | Part 1

I'm a complete novice at retirement. After all, it's my first crack at it. It's been fun so far, and I've learned a lot.

Since writing things down is second nature to me after keeping a journal for four decades, it was only natural that I'd take notes on this new stage of my life.

My first bit of advice is to relax. Chill. Take deep breaths and smile. Smile a lot... you know, the kind of smile where your teeth show. Walk through the office and smile big. And don't wait until the first day of retirement to start practicing this. The more you relax in your final months of working for a living, the easier it is to let go of the job, and be OK about the tasks that won't get done (not by you, anyway). This mellow state was a lot of the reason why, when I woke up on my first day of freedom, I didn't feel any remorse at leaving my job, and no stress over how they'd get on without me. I woke up with a smile, thinking only about what I'd do first: work in the garden, or finish my book!


Spokane's Looff Carousel

A couple of years ago we visited a friend in Spokane, on our way home from a road trip to Moab. Kathy lives on Spokane's south hill, in a great 1950's brick house with wonderful wood floors and millwork. She took us to dinner at one of her favorite restaurants, and after dinner she gave us a tour of downtown Spokane and Riverfront Park. I never realized how spectacular the falls were. Right in the middle of town, beautiful terraced falls. The sound is amazing, and there are two bridges over the falls that you can lean over and get a great look at the river. There's also a restored carousel here, and we got the last ride of the day.

Once we got home, I did some research.  The carousel was originally built in 1909 by Charles I. D. Looff, a gift for his daughter Emma Vogel and her husband, who owned Natatorium Park. It remained at the park until 1968, then was relocated to Riverfront Park in 1975, where it's operated ever since.

Looff was a master carver and builder of carousels and amusement rides in America. In 1876, he built the first carousel at Coney Island. During his lifetime, he manufactured over 50 carousels, twelve amusements parks, several roller coasters and Ferris wheels, and built California’s famous Santa Monica Pier.  He became famous for creating the unique Coney Island style of carousel carving. His carousel museum is now located in Long Beach, California.

The Looff carousel has 54 horses, 1 giraffe, 1 tiger, and 2 chariots, all hand carved by Looff himself. It also has a brass ring dispenser that allows the outside riders to grab a ring during each pass and then toss the ring at a clown with a hole for his mouth. If the rider is successful in capturing the brass ring, he or she can turn it in to win a free ride on the carousel. I managed to grab a ring on most of the 12 revolutions during the ride, and got one into the funnel for a free ride!

Especially fascinating was the practice of carving carousel figures with two distinct sides. The outside of each carved figure (it's the right side on this carousel because it travels counterclockwise) is known as the Romance Side:  because it faces out toward the crowd, this side is lavishly carved and decorated. The inside of a carousel figure is known as the Money Side—once you pay your money to ride the carousel, you'd mount from this side, which doesn't need to be as ornate. These photos show the Jewel side and the Money side of Oliver's Pride, one of the horses on the carousel.


Sidewalk grates

Wherever we go, I keep an eye out for the decorative iron grates that protect the roots of urban trees. This practice seems to be fairly new around here; the towns and cities here used to leave open areas around the trees to give surface roots a place to grow. The grates are much more attractive, and provide another way for communities to add an artistic touch to urban areas.

These pieces of sculpture have become another one of my collections, although I don't get to take them home with me! So I take photographs instead. Here are a few of my favorite grate designs: top to bottom, they're from Portland, Renton, Kent, and Walla Walla.


A new life

A lot has happened in my life in the past month... besides not keeping up with my blog! Much more to come soon, because I have all the time in the world:  I'm retired!!  May 1 is the start of a new adventure, and I can't wait to get started down that path.