Not Working

Today marks ten months since I quit my last job as a medical transcriptionist and eight months since I have been in Texas with friend A. Thanks to her generosity, I have managed to eke out my extremely meagre savings this long without having to seriously look for another job. And a couple of weeks ago, I discovered that I will soon be able to draw survivor’s benefits on my late husband’s social security, so it may be that I won’t actually have to look for a job any time soon. To say that I was surprised and stunned at this news is the understatement of the decade. Once again, my dead spouse is treating me better than any of the living.

I love not working. I have not had this amount of time off from a job since I started working for pay at age fifteen. I only took one month off after I had a baby and one month when I moved across the country from Atlanta to Pueblo, and only that long because it took a while to find a job. I’ve basically been employed for nearly 50 years, so it’s safe to say I don’t even know what it’s like to not work as an adult.

This is not to say I don’t stay busy. One of the reasons I came here was to help A out around the house, etc. I wrote about my sweeping duties and these have expanded over my time here. I do pretty much one hundred percent of the cooking and grocery shopping. The teenager can put frozen things in the oven and heat stuff in the microwave, but that’s as far as her cooking skills go. I showed her how to use my rice cooker and that made her really happy and now she even cleans it after she uses it. We take small miracles where we can find them. So, I sweep and cook and shop and keep things organized. I check mail for A’s brother, who lives behind us in a small house A had built on the property for her daughter years ago when she first bought the place. He suffered multiple strokes in February when we were having terrible weather and spent nearly sixty days in hospital and rehab facilities. For a while, I was making and taking him lunch three or four days a week and adding him into our dinner portions as well. Then he decided he needed to go to an actual rehab hospital for several weeks and he made great progress with them. Since he got back, he can move around more, and do is own cooking. But I am here if he needs help and he doesn’t hesitate to call.

These are all things that A would have had to manage while doing the full time job of teaching. So, I definitely don’t feel like I’m freeloading or being a burden. I’m also happy to run errands into town like picking up prescriptions or mailing things or whatever else needs to be done. Why wouldn’t I? I know what it’s like to work full time and never be able to go to the post office or a particular place because you’re headed to work before they open and not off till after they close. I’m happy to do these things for A because she’s my friend and because I can.

I thought for a while about trying to find some kind of job on line part time but as things piled up here and more things happened regarding brother, etc., I realized that adding an actual job into the mix of the things I was already taking care of was not something I wanted to do. I realized I like getting up when I want to. I like taking an hour or more to have coffee in the morning. I like jumping into the pool when it’s not thundering and lightening outside (we have had Noah levels of rain this spring!). I like working on my quilts and having dedicated space to do so. I like taking a nap if I feel like it. I get lots done every day, but every day I get to decide when and how I get it done. *I* get to decide. And if I don’t get to something on my list, no one yells at me. No one accuses me of lying about having computer problems or other situations. I get to do the work I do on my terms and my friend is happy with it. I can be her sounding board and her shoulder to cry on and vice versa. I have mowed part of the property once on the big zero-turn mower, and I will probably do more of that, but with all the rain it’s been hard to find a dry time to mow and I need A to be here at least a couple more times before I try it completely on my own. But I will conquer it!

I’m also learning pool maintenance. A’s cousin wanted to do something nice for her, so she paid to have the pool serviced and a new sand filter put in. Again, A was at work when the job was done, so the guy showed me how to do it (I made videos!) and I have been taking the water samples in every week, adding the chemicals, clearing the filter as needed, etc. Add one more skill set to the list.

So here I am. Apparently on my way to retirement in spite of myself and extremely grateful for everything that fell into place to allow me to do it. And now, the coffee is done and the sweeping beckons. See you soon!

Discoveries

Time marches on and life goes with it. April was my first anniversary of being here in this little place. The past year has flown by and now we are deep into summer.

Discovery: I really like summer when there’s a pool right outside my door. I’m in there nearly every day, even when I work. I’ll probably go out for a dip right after I post this because it’s still early and it’s going to be fierce hot today (triple digits). I try to stay in about twenty to thirty minutes (without sunscreen) to get my vitamin D for the day. I haven’t burned and I have some tan lines!

I signed a new lease in June. I initially signed a 14-month one to get $100 off the deposit. This time the incentive was to sign a 15-month lease, get $200 off the next month’s rent and have my carpets cleaned. I knew I was going to stay here until E. graduates, so done. Next year, I’ll sign a regular 12 month lease and be ready for the next step in my overall plan by September 2018.

Discovery: I’m perfectly okay with leaving here and leaving E. without knowing what kind of a plan HE has for the next few years. That’s up to him. I’m giving him lots of fair warning.

Discovery: I love being single. Love. It. Oddly, a couple of guys here in the apartment complex have tried to start up conversations with me. I keep it on a completely superficial level. Couldn’t be less interested in anything more. I have no desire to have any kind of romantic relationship ever again. The relief of this realization is palpable. No more justifying my weird habits or my work schedule or my eating or anything else. No more “mushy” decisions, “If you want to.” or “I don’t care, you choose.” and then being wrong. Fuck that. I have a friend here and we try to get together for lunch on a fairly regular basis and EVERY time, I’ll say, where do you want to go, and he replies, “I don’t care.” There are times when I really HATE that. It sometimes makes me just not even want to go. Then other times he’ll text and say, “Half-price wings at Buffalo Wild Wings on Tuesday!” and I’m like YES, finally make a damn decision.

Discovery: I want very little. I’m on a 2-year mission to downsize. I am going to try to downsize five things every day. So far, I haven’t been very good at it, but that’s the goal. I recently ordered myself 2 new pairs of pants…linen…been looking for something like them for a while. But, when they arrive and if they fit, I will need to let go of at least 2 pairs of pants. I have been culling through my drawers on a regular basis…do I really wear this, do I really like this, does this really fit the way I like and will it ever fit that way? If not, gone! And that’s just clothing. I have more books to release. This morning, I woke up thinking about artwork. I have some genre-specific stuff in a foot locker that I will probably never hang. But they are great pieces for the right person. I started thinking of people who might like them and so far I think I’ve found homes for 2 of them. We’ll see how that develops.

Discovery: I like my little garden in pots. I’m getting lots of cherry tomatoes now, the basil is flowering and fragrant and I have discovered that squash plants do not like to grow vertically. The one plant I kept is growing in a bucket and it’s a beautiful plant but all the squash but one have shriveled and dried up before reaching more than a couple of inches long. I think it’s because the plant has to grow UP out of the bucket first. So, I planted another seed in a shallower planter and it’s coming along. We will see what happens. My cucumber plant succumbed to irregular watering and I think its pot was too small. We’ll try again next year in a different pot. Also next year: Peppers and eggplant.

Discovery: It’s all a grand experiment.

Discovery: If by some sick cosmic joke, Donald Trump gets elected president, I am seriously contemplating moving to Canada. There, I said it. That’s one experiment I don’t want to be in the middle of.

One Month

It was a month here on May 15. I celebrated my birthday here on the 12th, too. It was a quiet day, the kind I like best. Thanks to a gift certificate from a friend, I took myself to one of my favorite coffee shops for a latte and a scone. I finished a book I had been trying to get through, in peace. It was lovely. I have change from the gift cert to use when I meet another friend there tomorrow for more BD goodness. A birthday is too wonderful to confine to just one day…I’m using the whole month, and what better month than lovely May?

We have had a LOT of rain here this spring and it has been cool and sweet. The cloud-covered skies are inspiring and I never knew there were so many shades of gray (way more than 50!) E and I are falling into a routine. He’s picked up another friend, who happens to live nearby, so now it’s a trio. They made a plan to rotate weekends at each others’ houses and that works for me. I had them this past weekend and told them they could take over the living room, since E’s room is so small. The two folding mattresses have already paid for themselves in convenience. I inherited E’s twin when he got his futon (which he loves) and now everyone is at least a few inches off the actual floor.

I continue to break in the kitchen and forget where I put things. I finally went back over to the house this weekend and got the majority of my artwork. Now I’m trying to decide where I want it and I’ve already got myself set on a new purchase…now that I have a wall big enough to hang it. For the art fans who might read this, PLEASE go to my friend Jay’s site and look at his work. I love it. He’s raw and vibrant and real and he deserves to be noticed.

The trip to the house was brief. G wasn’t feeling well and while the yard was as beautiful as ever, I really had no desire to stay any longer than I absolutely needed to. It’s not my space anymore. Again, I was kind of surprised at the lack of emotion, but I did notice the cherry tree was dead–I don’t think it survived that awful hard freeze we got back in November. I thought that was just a tad symbolic.

I think the best thing about this month is that I have been learning to take my time and listen to myself. Do I want to go for a walk? Hmm, yes I do. Do I want to cook breakfast? Hmm, no not right now. I know it’s going to be somewhat different this summer with E out of school, but I’m hoping football will fill up a lot of that time. Either way, just going to take it a day, an hour, a moment at a time and not stress over it.

And now, time to toss laundry in the dryer before work.

Later, taters!

Discoveries

I’m learning my new neighborhood. I’ve gone a few times to walk around the track at the middle school that’s just across the street. The other day I went in the morning right after I got back from taking E to school. As I did my laps, kids came from various direction, cutting across the old softball field below the track, through the gate and across the soccer field in the middle of the track and up the stairs to school. At least one teacher came that way, too. Then, as I was on my next to last lap, I heard the distinctly American sound of a snare drums and whistles, and the marching band from the local high school (only a little further away) came up the street, practicing, practicing. So much fun! I couldn’t help but walk in time with a big grin on my face.

This neighborhood is hilly! It’s a big change from everywhere else I’ve lived in town, which has been pretty flat as a pancake…or there were slight rises up to areas that plateaued into flat neighborhoods. This place has actual slopes. It’s an interesting change. This morning, after several gray/drizzly/wet days in a row, it was lovely, cool and sunny. I decided to tackle another part of the neighborhood and just walk. It’s a great place to walk…sidewalks everywhere, wide streets, very little traffic. The rain had energized everything and there was a lovely aroma of evergreen all around.

The architecture here is quite different. In my old neighborhood, houses had been around for a while…they’re the mill houses, build to house workers from CF&I Steel when steel was king and Pueblo was bigger than Colorado Springs. Lots of houses there from the 1900s, 1910’s and on up. Ours was built in 1940.

These neighborhoods are pure 50’s forward. Today’s route was probably even into the 70’s forward. But still, there was variety and even a little character, not the same-on-same sorts of development that look like they’ve been squeezed out of a Play-Doh tube and slice off with that little serrated plastic knife. I could get to like this place, I think. Once again, I live near a highway…this time, US Highway 50. A few years ago, the city put up a large sound wall along the road to help mitigate traffic noise. There’s an area where I could just walk along that wall for a good while and possibly end up at the college where I swim. Today, I just did a pretty good sized circle, noting street names and where they crossed at various places should I want to mix up my walk a little bit.

Also, I discovered that the little area where I walk down three steps to go into my apartment is the absolute perfect place for stretching my legs. As I look out of the door, the wall and a railing is on my right, but there’s a retaining wall on the left that’s a little bit above waist-high on me. It’s the perfect height for stretching my SI joints and putting my foot on to stretch my quadriceps muscle. I haven’t had anything to do that on in ages. It’ll be great even to step outside when I’m working just to loosen up the limbs and get some fresh air.

The people above me have hung up a tiny bird feeder from their porch railing. This makes me very happy. I’m thinking of putting up a hummingbird feeder just to see what happens.

I unpacked the last box today–well, one still has my shoes in it, but it’s stowed in the closet, so I might not unpack that one. The one had the photos. Some I filed, others I just moved to a smaller banker’s box with a top and put it on my closet shelf. My goal is to get a decent photo scanner that feeds, and scan photos while I watch TV. Then, if I can force myself to do it, I can toss the actual photos. I may or may not do this. The ones I threw out before I moved were easy, but what I have left is a lot of life/family history. Even if they’re digital, for me, there’s just something about being able to touch an old photograph that gives you something that just looking at a digital image can’t capture. We’ll see. No rush. No rules but mine now, right?

I finally broke in the kitchen and baked last night. A loaf of banana bread for E. I discovered that my coffee maker WILL fit under my kitchen cabinet (my eyeballing it said no), and so that will clear my little extra stand to put a microwave on. Still waiting on that, as I had to break down and buy a vacuum cleaner. I found a Shark at Lowe’s for a quite affordable price and this thing is equal to the Dyson at the other house. I’m very happy with it. E will now need to get into a vacuuming routine!

My phone still gets very iffy service throughout the flat. I finally was able to make and receive some calls at my desk…that was a relief. I still may go with the Vonage option, but for now I’m just going to see how it goes with what I have.

I’m still working on giving myself permission to be “lazy,” to watch a movie if I want to, or read a book or just sit in the chair and not do anything. E is looking forward to starting football soon, and I confess I am too. I’ll probably just hang out at the school in the morning and wait for him, so I can do more track walking there. Or reading. Or dozing in the car.  He was getting ragged on my one of his friends in a football group chat last night about his performance/what happened earlier this year, and I think he handled himself pretty well. He said he just wants to focus on school/football and not get caught up on that kind of stuff. I hope he can follow through on it.

I still have to get back over to the other place and get artwork. Those are the last things. I confess I am quite reluctant to go there. I don’t want to, I don’t want really to talk to her or see her. Without getting into a lot of messy detail, I feel like she has gone back on everything she ever said to me about “being fair” and I just want to cut ties and move on. But, the artwork is mine…a lot of it acquired before we met, or things that were to my taste and I want them here. My friend D said he would help me and she wants it out out the house, so I will just bite the bullet and do it…but not today.

In the meantime, I’m sure I have a lot more discoveries to make about this new space, new place and new life. Here’s to exploring.