Recharging and Reconnecting Recap

Retirement Review: September 7, 2014

My blog is about my new three Rs: retire, recharge, and reconnect. I accomplished the first R on March 31, 2014 when I retired. I decided that five months is a good point to take stock of how I’ve done on the other two. Why wait the traditional six months: Break out of the mold.

Have I recharged and reconnected? Have I moved on to the next phase of my life?  I made this list to remind myself where my journey has taken me since March 31, 2014. I was gratified to see what I had accomplished. I might not be totally there but I have made definite progress. Regularly posting to this blog has helped me move forward. I have

  • traveled in three continents, five countries (not counting layovers), one Canadian province, ten US states (not counting the ones I drove through without stopping), four of the five Great Lakes, Niagara Falls;
  • ridden in a car, a ferry, a boat, a train, an airplane, a taxi, a bus, a tram, and a safari vehicle;
  • crossed mountains, deserts, sand dunes, oceans, prairies, grasslands, rivers, and lakes;
  • encountered six of my seven siblings (I visited my sister in Alaska over Christmas), most of my nieces and nephews, many other relatives, lots of old friends, and five great safari traveling companions;
  • visited or viewed cathedrals, castles, museums, historic houses, Namibian game reserves and national parks, elephants, zebras, giraffes, leopards, cheetahs, oryx, kudu, one lonely black rhino, dolphins, white pelicans, flamingos, a whale, fur seals, giant red sand dunes, the Atlantic Ocean looking west, ancient rock engravings, stained glass windows, Cartier jewelry, Norman Rockwell paintings, Alphonse Mucha’s great mural cycle, US civil war historic sites, and a casino, and
  • regularly contributed photographs and postings to this blog, to my ViewBug photo page, to Facebook; worked to improve my photography skills; and explored ways expand my world.

Day 1 – Phase 2

Retirement Arrives

I feel lighter, as if a weight has been lifted and I could float away. Does that sound silly? Maybe so, but it’s true. Yesterday at 3:30 p.m. I was walked out of the building in which I had worked for seven years and ended my thirty-one years as an employee of the federal government. It was a good run, with both positives and negatives, just like any job or large organization.

The fact that I worked for six different agencies in four states and two countries says more about my tendency to get bored if work becomes repetitive than it does about the actual jobs I held. For the first twenty-one years I worked in community and economic development programs that provided assistance to low-income and economically distressed areas. I had the opportunity to travel throughout the western United States while working with cities, counties, states, and Indian tribes. The last ten years I worked for one of the best law enforcement agencies in the world.

So, what did I do on the first day of the next phase of my life? I went to a casino. Yes, it’s true. Two of my fellow retirees and I started a tradition. Every April 1 and October 1 we will get together. Hopefully, the group will grow as others in our former office retire. And, incredibly, I won. Because I generally lose, I think the $239.98 payout from a penny slot machine, while not a fortune, is an omen of great things to come.

And tomorrow, what then? Does it really matter? It can be anything I want, anything I am inspired to try or to learn. Maybe I will try life.

Furlough: Dry Run for Retirement?

I woke up this morning and wasn’t sure what day it was. After Day 4 of the 2013 furlough, I seem to have settled in to being at home and not caring if I go back to work. So far I have done a bit of gardening, lots of laundry, had a manicure, and saw my podiatrist. Not exciting but soothing. Reality does set in when I remember I might not be paid for my days of leisure. I should be stressed—I’m not. I’ve decided to view the furlough as my dry run for retirement.

Looking back over my 30+ years working for the federal government, I don’t recall ever voluntarily taking more than one day off at a time to just stay home. When I take vacation, I am going to visit family or friends, exploring new places or attending specific events or classes. If I added up the money I’ve spent on airfare, mileage, hotels, and other travel costs over the last 35 years, I would be a wealthy woman. Not that I regret a single dollar spent. Well, I do regret paying for the night at a Days Inn where the bed was harder than the floor.

Even when my time off was involuntary, I didn’t spend the entire time at home. To be honest, I have no memory of the 21 day furlough in 1995/96. That furlough included Christmas and New Years. I think I was visiting my sister and her family in California. I remember being stressed about being paid because I was living in a high cost city and didn’t have a savings cushion but not much else.

In my 30+ years with the feds, I have been RIFed twice. RIF is lovely way of saying I was made redundant. Not surprisingly, both RIFs occurred during Republican administrations while I was working in programs or positions that assisted low-income or economically disadvantaged areas.  

In the spring of 2002, I lost my job with a federal bank regulatory agency, which no longer exists, when it cut 20 percent of the staff. Luckily for me, I was a couple of years shy of 50 and was eligible for severance pay. With the severance pay, unemployment benefits and an intermittent job as an usher,  I survived for a year while looking for work. It wasn’t voluntary but it wasn’t bad.

After I was separated, I loaded up my car and drove from Seattle to Maine and back. I stopped along the way to visit family and friends and accomplished my goal of seeing all five Great Lakes. I decided to go ahead with a scheduled tour to Carnevale in Venice and frittered away many pleasant hours planning my costumes. The traveling and planning kept me sane during my job search. I learned to be frugal, or at least to spend more prudently. When I finally found another federal job (believe me I looked in the public and private sectors for a year with no results) I took a 60 percent pay cut just to get back into the federal system.  

So, here I sit, pondering life as a federal employee during and after the furlough. The last four days have solidified my plan to retire next August. In fact, the furlough has strengthened my resolve to retire and recharge.

Nose and Toes

I have been feeling very sorry for myself this week, and I had to add a new category to my list: health. Why, because unless I stay in good health I won’t be able to do many of the activities I have planned. I spent most of the week huddled under the covers in my bed with one of the worst colds I’ve had in a long time. I had to take time out from this busy schedule to visit my podiatrist because my big toe joint was so painful I couldn’t sleep Monday night.

The upside, I am finally feeling better. I did make it to work of Friday, but I wasn’t in the best state of mind to provide good customer service when needed.

On the downside, I will probably need to have surgery on my toe sooner rather than later. I had hoped to hold off until next fall, after I retired, but the “junk in the joint” is not cooperating at the moment. The anti-inflammatory injection only worked for about 36 hours and I am hobbling again. Thank goodness for health insurance. Too bad we have not adopted universal health care in this country. I feel for those without insurance.

Then again, if Congress doesn’t group up and start acting like adults rather than spoiled, recalcitrant children, I will have leisure time starting Tuesday to visit my doctor and baby my toe. I wonder if there is a room big enough to give them all a timeout corner. I would expound on the soggy tea bags that are leaving stains on my counter but I think they are best used for compost.


Learn on a Dime

I know I won’t be able to do nothing after I retire, both for my pocketbook and for my sanity. But I’m tired of an office environment and want to do something creative and portable. For years I’ve taken classes looking for an avocation as much as a new vocation. But the course content hasn’t always justified the cost or the time required. So I decided to look for cheaper learning alternatives on writing, editing, web site design, photography, and teaching English as a second language.  (I am not endorsing the companies or courses mentioned below; the opinions offered are my own and experiences will be personal, be it good or bad.)

My quest for cheap learning started on Groupon, one of several “deal-of-the-day” websites that sell discounted goods, services, and just about anything you want. Groupon and similar sites play on the impulse buyer in most of us. I’ve discovered some of the deals reappear on a regular basis and aren’t all that limited. But Groupon is easy to use and you can search for deals in your local area. I purchased the four courses discussed below on Groupon. I was looking for self-paced educational courses that allow access for extended periods.

A Groupon search for “learn” will find local and online deals for music, dance, art and cooking lessons, photo tours, and courses on a variety of subjects. If you want to learn to tango, deals on sites like Groupon offer a short series of lessons to entice the buyer to take more. 

I had just finished my WordPress site and loved the experience of putting it together. EwB was offering an online class called How to Build a Website(normally $777 for $79). ( Even if the course was a bust, I decided I could learn at least $75 worth of something. I would have access to the course for 12 months. I jumped at the offer. I have completed several units. I am pleased with the content, even though the units on HTML and cascading style sheets left me shaking my head and will require more study. So far, I’ve gotten my money back. I don’t know if the course is worth $777—classroom courses on Read more ›

How Much is That Beanie Baby in the Window

On Saturday I’m trekking off to a taping of PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, one of the “to do’s” on my bucket list. The episode is being filmed in Richmond, Virginia. Tickets are always in demand, and I have tried to get tickets several times through the Roadshow’s lottery system. I don’t have any hidden treasures that will set me up for retirement, but I am still looking forward to the experience.

Do you think you have a hidden treasure or a collection of something that will help fund your retirement? Do you plan to sell your grandmother’s beautiful china to fund a trip around the world? Or did you buy a series of limited edition figurines (no more made after a certain date) as a hedge against inflation. Well, you might want to reconsider your travel plans, unless you have had the foresight and capital to invest in art or decorative arts that traditionally retain or appreciate in value. Most of us don’t. That collection of cute little stuffed animals or Christmas collector’s plates won’t do it.

The arts and decorative arts markets are cyclic. Values go up and down depending on taste and trends. Art Deco was hot for a long time. Now Mid-century Modern is on fire. Sell your atomic design glassware while you can. Frenzy collecting of fad items, like those little stuffed animals, turns into a pyramid scheme. Only the people who sell at the height of the frenzy make any money. The rest are left holding the bag, or bags full perhaps.

The hardest realization for many people who own treasured family heirlooms is that the value is more sentimental than monetary. One of my sisters owns an antique store. People often bring in items to sell that “belonged to my grandmother and I know it is worth a lot.” The seller is then insulted by my sister’s minimal offer or by her lack of interest in buying the goods. The seller assumes she must be trying to cheat them or she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. But to succeed, a business must make money. She won’t even look at a set of china, unless it is something very special, because she knows she can’t sell it.

Each ticket holder at the Roadshow can bring two items for appraisal. I’m taking an oil painting I purchased 35 years ago at an estate sale in Minneapolis. The painting, dated 1886, shows a scene of a late-18th-century courting couple. Yes, I admit I harbor a fantasy the painting is an early (shall we say student) work of a now famous artist, (I can’t read the signature) and it would sell for a fortune at auction. I had my hair colored for my potential fifteen minutes of fame. I’ll be sure to post if dreams do indeed come true. Most likely, the painting be returned to my living room wall and continue to give me pleasure for many years to come.   🙂

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