Telephone

The other day my husband said, “I think the phone isn’t working.”

Now, that might sound like something that should be obvious. Not so many of us still have landlines, but we do. We don’t make calls, but we have an answering machine hooked up that gets mostly scam artists worried about our credit or computers, pleas from charities, real and fake, and occasional messages from the library saying that a book I’ve requested is in. The phone connected to the machine is a cordless with a failing battery that could die any day. So really, it could just as easily have been the receiver as a wire.

We went to the desk I hardly use, which holds a computer I never use and an actual corded line that I use when the power is out and the cell towers have issues, which is rare. But that one was dead too.

We only noticed that the spam calls had stopped because a doctor’s office emailed when they didn’t get an answer.

Really, I’m not sure why I want to keep a landline. Few do anymore.

I’m old enough to remember big, solid telephones with dials. As a child, they were an endless fascination. When you dialed, the low digits spun and released with a satisfying whir, but the nines and zeros seemed to drag on forever. If you released it too soon you had to hang up and start again, or else risk a wrong number. Long distance calls were saved for emergencies because they were expensive.

Numbers back then started with words rather than digits. I still feel a certain affection for our old Keystone nine prefix and the home phone that belonged to all of us.

When push buttons replaced rotary dials, they were a wonder, but they didn’t have the loyalty-inspiring sensory impact of those earlier ones.

I really liked my last flip phone. It felt small in my pocket, but felt right against my ear. I could dial without looking and knew my speed dial numbers by touch. The screen was readable without my glasses. I had the hang of the click-click-click text messaging. It was almost perfect.

Finally, I caved and got a smart phone. For simply making calls, it leaves a lot to be desired. I swear the sound quality isn’t as good, though I don’t think any cell sounds as good as a landline. I have to be looking at the touch screen to have a prayer of dialing right. But…

It isn’t just a phone. It’s the computer I carry around in my pocket, and with that I finally let social media into my life. It’s my flashlight, my calculator, and my alarm clock. It streams videos and plays podcasts. It notifies me when I have email and when bad weather is coming. It lets me play games. It’s my camera, step counter, my GPS. (And with my sense of direction, or lack thereof, that’s important.) With my smartphone, I can text, call or video chat, and do it all with just my voice if I want to.

With all these services, of course I pay. It’s more each month than my landline, and certainly more in lost privacy. When I look up a product, ads for it show up in all my other apps, as though my searches have become part of my proverbial permanent record. Things come in the mail that are somehow tied to my online presence. Big brother is watching. The cost of convenience is allowing your life to be pigeon holed by vendors.

Maybe I keep the old phone line so I have an out if the cost becomes too high.

I called the company, who sent a repairman within a few days. A line had been cut, chewed through by an animal. The repairman said he was surprised that no one else had reported it, because it would have affected multiple homes.

Maybe we’re the only ones still on the line.

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Lockdown

 

In light of recent events, I’m running this post again. Gabriel Gifford: “Our nation has experienced 13 mass shootings already this year, and it’s only January.” 

CW: Details about shooter drills and the causes of gun violence.

 

The call comes in over the intercom.

“Lockdown, lockdown.  This is a hard lockdown.”

Today it’s just a drill. I pray we never have to use all our practice for the real thing.

If you were a child in the 1950s and early ‘60s, you may remember fire drills, tornado drills, and air raid drills, hiding under your desk. The air raid drills, that could never have protected anyone from an atomic bomb, have gone by the wayside. Today’s students practice a safe escape in case of fire, taking shelter in case of tornado, and evacuating the building in case of gas leak, attack, or another emergency. We also teach students what to do if someone comes into our building with the intent to shoot everyone there.

We do not tell elementary students that someone with a gun could come into our school. I introduce the idea of the drill this way.

“Boys and girls, you know how we practice fire drills even though our school has never had a fire? And we practice tornado drills even though we’ve never been hit by a tornado? Next week we’re going to practice another kind of drill. In this one, we’re going to practice what we would do if someone bad came into our building. This has never happened and I don’t think it ever will, but we’re going to practice just in case.”

We go over procedures, pretending that I’m the shepherd and the big, bad wolf is coming. But my third graders know the difference. They imagine details far worse than any I provide. I think it says something about our culture of violence that most of my little boys promise to beat up any bad man who would come in.

I won’t give you the details of the drill or procedures. No point in advertising. If you have children in school in the U.S., ask them. What they say may surprise you.

The FBI says, “Odds are one in 1 million that a student will die at school as a result of a violent act.”

For the parents at Sandy Hook, that statistic can provide no comfort.

The unfortunate reality is that no amount of drill practice can prevent a shooting. The best we can do by teaching these skills is to minimize the number of casualties. As a police officer assisting with one of our drills told me, the shooter’s primary target will be shot.

But our state requires the drills, as well as the sign at the front door. It warns that no guns are allowed in our building, as though that will stop an individual with intent. Just as in so many other areas of crime prevention, we put our emphasis on preparing potential victims, rather than using proactive prevention, a multi-faceted approach.

There is no single cause for school shootings. But something I know after more than thirty years of teaching is that violent people are unhappy people. Certainly, caring and awareness are essential first steps.

People often say that shooters are people who have been bullied and this is how they are striking back. This can be true, but it can also be just the perception of being treated unfairly that provides the “reason” for the attack. Feelings of alienation can be the cause of outward violence, but also of self-harm. We need to reach out and always be kind.

One theory often proposed is that school shootings are caused by mental illness. It’s true that our country has repeatedly failed in dealing with mental illness. We’ve gone from jails to horrific psychiatric institutions, then back to prison and homelessness. Our funding, facilities, and public attitude toward mental illness have progressed very little since the 1800s. According to a Mother Jones timeline, the ratio of psychiatric beds to population today is the same as it was in the 1850s.

So, does mental illness cause attacks? Sometimes, yes, but the reality is that mentally ill people are more often victims than perpetrators of violence. The New York Times and This American Life tell a frightening story that partially resulted from the increase in armed security guards in hospitals. More guns are clearly not the answer for mental illness.

Sandy Hook parents have banded together to provide free information on prevention. They want you to know the signs. One is, “Exhibiting excessive over-reactions or aggressive behavior for a seemingly minor reason can signal someone who cannot self-regulate their emotions or control their anger.”

Reading this rings bells for me. A major issue in education today is working with children of trauma. Paul Tough in The Atlantic writes about the results of “severe and chronic stress in childhood” which results in that hair-trigger fight-or-flight response. Poverty is strongly correlated with alcoholism, family instability, violence and more. Sadly, over 50% of students in schools today are children of poverty, most of whom are the working poor. We must address income disparity, but children also suffer trauma in wealthier communities. Issues such as domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual abuse sadly happen to children everywhere. Programs for partners and children from the CDC can be a first step.

Then there is the smoking gun. Critics would say that guns don’t kill, people kill. True, but the reality is that automatic weapons significantly increase the number of people someone can kill. School shootings are largely an American gun-culture phenomenon, as shown on this annotated list detailing events since before the Revolutionary War. In time, weapons have increased in number and efficiency. We need screening, monitoring, and restricted access for youth and those with mental illness.

We must act. To reach out to those on the outside. To compassionately serve those with mental illness. To combat sources of childhood trauma. To control the availability of firearms for those who cannot be trusted to use them safely. Until then, we will continue to read the headline, “Another School Shooting.”

Whose school will be next?

Resolution

‘Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions. Most years, I seem to have the same two and fail miserably almost immediately. I’m a stress eater and a fair-weather exerciser. Haven’t managed to improve.

Last year I gave up and made a new goal. I’d remember birthdays and be sure to get in touch. I didn’t do well with that one either, unless belated text messages count.

Even the word resolution is a problem for me. It’s not just the denotations; it’s the connotations. To resolve involves spine stiffening, making the change through sheer will, showing your strength of character. Essentially, breaking a resolution implies a greater failure than not meeting a single goal.

But we all want to start fresh, make the new year a better one. Some people pick a word to live by, a single concept to center their lives.

Picking only one is hard. Not thankfulness, although I’m thankful, nor gratitude, although I’m grateful. Those both imply an unworthiness to me, a gift for the undeserving. Hope and kindness are very timely and while they are definitely worth striving for, they are not entirely within my control. I’ll just hope that circumstances allow me the opportunity to be kind.

The word that is floating to the surface is appreciation. It seems more egalitarian, an acknowledgement among equals. In appreciating I can value without owing. I can honor without obligation. I can look life in the eye, so to speak. Appreciation might just involve acceptance.

I think this could alter my mindset. I appreciate my legs that still walk and my arms that still lift, so walking and lifting might be activities I choose to do. Could I focus on what goes into my body, rather than what I deprive myself of? When stressed, maybe edibles are not necessary for comfort. But can I accept without guilt that chocolate is food for the soul?

Appreciation can also mean that you fully understand something, as in appreciating the irony in a situation. Will my perspective change if I appreciate the state of the world? The motivation of my neighbor? The thought process of the other side? I don’t have to approve to accept.

If I appreciate the assistance of friends, it’s possible I can accept their help. If I value the friends themselves, maybe I will be reminded to honor them on their special day. But if I don’t remember, perhaps I can acknowledge my good intentions.

I resolve to forego resolutions this year. I think I’ll appreciate the change.

Getting It Right

Years ago, when we were a young family, my husband proposed putting our name on the mailbox to be like the others in the neighborhood. You’d see “The Smith’s” or “The Jones’s.” We decided that the possessive stood for their home, but I argued that if there were more of us than one, the apostrophe needed to be after the s. He finally bowed to my teacher judgement, but couldn’t stand the look of it once it was up. He decided to leave the apostrophe off. Imagine that. Plural, not possessive. Now every mailbox since has just displayed our house number.

It’s a curse really. In lots of occupations, blissful ignorance would be fine. Signs and ads purposefully make mistakes as plays on words, but some of them are so mangled it’s painful. I’m not so bold as to tell store owners to fix their signs, but I want to.

I think it’s because of the family I grew up in. When we’re together we have far reaching discussions about science, politics, theatre, family history and the news. Something invariably comes up that we either don’t know or disagree on and the automatic response is to look it up.

When I finally relented and got a smart phone, I transferred that habit. Now when anything comes up among friends, I say, “I’ll look it up.” I think I might be approaching eyeroll status.

I checked out a friend’s new website recently and praised its professional appearance, before pointing out the typo on the home page. Not sure if it was appreciated, but if it were me, I’d want to know.

This is not to say that I don’t make mistakes. Of course I do. I second guess my commas all the time. Microsoft Spelling Grammar Check wants another one in this paragraph, but I’m holding fast.

I try my best to proofread, but even then, something occasionally slips through. If you happen to see a typo, please point it out. Finding them much later is painful.

I’m most likely to misspell or misuse when I text message quickly. Between autocorrect and my clumsy fingers, some zingers come out. If it happens to be a homophone, as in “I here you,” my daughter will text-gasp, “Mom! Read what you just said!” The trouble with being right so often is the glee people express when you happen to be wrong.

I’m not the only one with this affliction. Just the other day I read a rant about the unnecessary apostrophes on Christmas cards. It was shared on Facebook by a retired teacher with the caption, “PLEASE READ.” It’s tough being right. I know she feels my pain.

The more creative among us try to reach out with humor, like the authors of Eats, Shoots and Leaves. In the end though, only the people who know the correct punctuation really understand the humor.

So if you are the kind of person who makes alot of mistakes and thinks its alright, say the kind of person who sees nothing wrong with this sentence, take pity on those of us who are afflicted. Look it up!

*Nope, can’t stand it. A lot is two words and all right should be even if some places find one word acceptable. Its is the possessive. It’s is short for it is. Phew! Now I feel better.

Socks and Gloves

I’ve been celebrating my first blogging anniversary by sharing my favorite posts. This was first posted January 18, 2017

We pulled into the library parking lot last Saturday morning.

As we got out of her CRV, I asked my friend, D., “How did you start doing this?”

“I saw it on the Internet,” she said. “The first time we were going to tie hats and gloves to poles around downtown, but people came from everywhere and we didn’t have time to tie them. So now I just bring a bag.”

She pulled a large black tote bag from the back of her car and locked it. Then we slowly walked across the lot toward three men who were waiting next to the parking lot, outside the church where they would soon serve lunch.

A tall heavy-set white guy with a beard stood on the curb smoking. Another smaller white man and a black man about the same height, all around forty, leaned against the brick wall. All were dressed in jeans, winter jackets zipped tight against the cold, hats pulled over their ears.

My friend called, “Hello.”

Smoking man called back, “Hello, how are you?”

“Good,” D. said. “I have some hats and gloves here. Is there anything you need?”

She slipped a strap off her shoulder to show him what was in the bag.

“Take whatever you want.”

Smoking man showed us a hole in one finger of his gloves and selected a stretchy pair of gloves to layer over them. Once the other guys saw what she had, one approached and took a pair of gloves.

Both men called, “Thank you!” as we moved away.

“Could you use a pair?” my friend asked the remaining guy.

“No, I’m good,” the man said without moving.

Smoking guy tried to get us to stay to chat, with a story about his brother getting hit by lightning and blown apart. We made sympathetic noises, but went on our way.

We wandered down the sidewalk toward the library and a group of about ten people standing near the entrance. Again my friend called out a greeting and approached the first person who answered.

A slender young man with prominent cheek bones peered into the bag.

“Looks like mostly girly things,” he said.

“Dig down,” D. said. “There are some guy things down in there.”

“Hey, you have socks,” he said. “Can I have a pair?”

“Sure,” she said.

“Thank YOU! I can really use these.”

Once the other guys heard she had socks, several stepped forward and took a pair. A few took gloves. All thanked us. No one took more than one or two items.

“Could you use something?” I asked a young woman in a wheelchair, with various bags strapped to it.

“No thanks,” she said. “I just need my dad to pick me up. Dad, where are you!”

Meanwhile D. was talking to Slender Guy again. He asked if his girl friend could have something.

“Of course,” she said.

We headed into the library.

“Now we walk around the outside wall,” D. said.

As we walked around we nodded and smiled at anyone who made eye contact. Looking around I saw an older man sitting reading on a tablet, a girl reading with someone who could be her grandma, a few scattered people searching the shelves. A young woman, brown hair pulled back in a pony tail, came out of a side room to greet us. She was taking a pair of gloves when Slender Guy walked up.

“Oh, is this your girlfriend?” D. asked.

Slender Guy nodded shyly and they walked off holding hands. “Thanks!” they called back.

We came around a corner to a seating area with orange vinyl chairs and a couch. Five guys, anywhere from twenty to sixty, were sitting around. All the men were still wrapped up tight, hats on, coats zipped. A couple had small bags nearby. When D. greeted them, they seemed to know why she was there.  A man about sixty with his back to the window spoke up first, but the others soon accepted our invitation.  After every pair of socks, each one looked my friend in the eye and said, “Thank you.” The manner was casual, but the thanks was sincere.

We continued around, stopping once or twice more before heading outside.

“So socks is the biggest need?” I asked.

“Yes, socks is big, but it all depends on the day. I have coats in the back of the car too, and some shoes. You never know.”

“Are there mostly men?”

“No, there’s usually more of a mix. A couple of weeks ago there were a lot of kids,” D. said.

I thought about the people standing in the cold for a meal, grateful for a single pair of socks, taking no more than they absolutely needed. I thought about children with cold hands and parents who wanted to but couldn’t give their kids what they need. I thought about the smiles and the thank yous for something so small.

As we got in the car, I turned to D.

“Next week,” I said, “I want to come back.”

Marketing

Recently I strolled through the Saturday Market in Portland, Oregon, dodging crowds and window-shopping my way along the rows of booths. I passed a whirl of color. Shades of brown marked designer cutting boards. Prints and paintings broadcast a rainbow of hues. Jewelry sparkled in silver, bronze and gold. Clothing was displayed in brilliant azure, scarlet, auburn, and emerald green. But the glass! There were bowls, vases, delicate pendants and full stained-glass windows that glowed technicolor in the sun. One vendor hung long brass spirals from a frame on the back of his truck, with a blown glass ball in each that seemed to hold a cloud of colored smoke. If it could have survived my flight home, I wouldn’t even have asked the price.

Except for the unending stream of people, it felt more like a visit to a special museum than a shopping trip. There were kitschy souvenirs too, as well as lotions, oils, and food carts, but so much of what I saw was pure art.

As I walked, I wondered about the artists themselves. Did they make a living at this? Did they have day jobs and pursue their dreams in stolen moments? A few worked at their craft while they waited for customers, but most sat looking out at the crowds, staring down at their phones, or rearranging their creations.

In this age of automation and mass production, I admire the artisans that create these works of art and then wait, as a world of people whirl past their wares. I envy that artistic talent, but writing is a talent, right?

I have a friend that I occasionally show my work to. She reads, then looks up at me with a flattering expression of wonder. “Why aren’t you a writer?”

While I think of myself as a writer who blogs, I know what she’s trying to say. She wonders why writing isn’t how I make my living.

Walking through the Saturday Market, I found an answer for her. Being talented among your peers isn’t the same as standing out among the millions who write every day. But even if your genius is unmatched, writing as creating is only one piece of the puzzle. The other piece is selling your wares. The author equivalent of sitting outside every weekend waiting for customers is doing research, finding your market and maybe an agent, composing queries, sending manuscripts and not hearing for weeks or months whether anyone even read past the first page, and, if you do make a sale, promoting it endlessly on social media.

I like to think I’m a writer, but I’m not fond of sales. I’ll never say never. But in the meantime, I decide when and what I write. My blog gives me the joy without the pain. And you, dear reader, are welcome to window-shop whenever you like.

Reflection

A couple of weeks ago, I went swimsuit shopping. Aside from the horrible dressing room lighting, I wasn’t worried. I planned to get a similar one to my old suit, which looked like a tank top and shorts.

But somehow all the similar suits bared some parts and squeezed others, till all I saw were the faults in my body.

Around this time, my family sent each other photos from a recent family reunion. One picture showed me from the back, sitting on a bench looking over my shoulder. My eye was drawn to the gap between my shirt and shorts, my width on the bench, the odd way my shirt bunched under my arm. I sighed.

I have two lovely adult daughters. In photos, my visually artistic daughter insists on multiple takes, planning each beautiful picture’s composition, pose and background. On the other hand, my high-spirited extrovert wants photos that are authentic and spontaneous. Often her sense of humor comes through in the faces she makes and the poses she strikes.

What do I want photos to say about me?

I have an early memory of being a small child sitting on my grandmother’s lap. I played with the flap of wrinkled skin at the back of her upper arm. I traced the veins on her hands and wiggled her wedding ring, loose on her finger below her larger knuckle. I remember these “faults” with the memory of a child. There was no judgement. These were simply facets of my beloved grandmother.

What I want in photos is to smile like a woman satisfied with herself and life. I want to love my body like a future grandchild. I appreciate my brain that still holds memory, my legs that still propel me forward, my hands that hold the ones I love and record these thoughts. I looked back at the photo. What I missed the first time was my smile. I looked relaxed and happy to be with people I love.

Before I left the store, I took one more suit to the changing room. This one was a one-piece with a skirt. Putting it on, it looked almost like a short sundress, and, miracle of miracles, I still had a waist. I smiled at my reflection. Sold!

(slightly edited)

Gallons

The first time I gave blood, I was with my teen-aged brother.

Once the nurse hooked us up and blood was flowing, I sat and relaxed. Nothing to it.

Not so much for my skinny brother. He looked pale and said he felt queasy. The nurse adjusted his cot so he could lie down.

Now this was my little brother who had tried to gross me out for years. So being a kindly sister, I tried to distract him from feeling bad by talking. I talked about the color of the blood, the tubing, and how fast the bag was filling up.

The nurse glared at me and moved between us. Honestly, I wasn’t making it worse.

Fast forward a few decades to last weekend, when we were both at a family reunion.

My sister noticed the Red Cross T-shirt my brother was wearing. “How many gallons are you up to now?”

“I just got my seven-gallon pin.” Now middle-aged and no longer skinny, donating is no problem for him.

I’ve been donating blood occasionally for years. But I’m nowhere near seven gallons. I’m going to a blood drive today. I have some catching up to do.

Blood is always needed. To find a drive near you, go to http://www.redcrossblood.org/

Lockdown

The call comes in over the intercom.

“Lockdown, lockdown.  This is a hard lockdown.”

Today it’s just a drill. I pray we never have to use all our practice for the real thing.

If you were a child in the 1950s and early ‘60s, you may remember fire drills, tornado drills, and air raid drills, hiding under your desk. The air raid drills, that could never have protected anyone from an atomic bomb, have gone by the wayside. Today’s students practice a safe escape in case of fire, taking shelter in case of tornado, and evacuating the building in case of gas leak, attack, or another emergency. We also teach students what to do if someone comes into our building with the intent to shoot everyone there.

We do not tell elementary students that someone with a gun could come into our school. I introduce the idea of the drill this way.

“Boys and girls, you know how we practice fire drills even though our school has never had a fire? And we practice tornado drills even though we’ve never been hit by a tornado? Next week we’re going to practice another kind of drill. In this one, we’re going to practice what we would do if someone bad came into our building. This has never happened and I don’t think it ever will, but we’re going to practice just in case.”

We go over procedures, pretending that I’m the shepherd and the big, bad wolf is coming. But my third graders know the difference. They imagine details far worse than any I provide. I think it says something about our culture of violence that most of my little boys promise to beat up any bad man who would come in.

I won’t give you the details of the drill or procedures. No point in advertising. If you have children in school in the U.S., ask them. What they say may surprise you.

The FBI says, “Odds are one in 1 million that a student will die at school as a result of a violent act.”

For the parents at Sandy Hook, that statistic can provide no comfort.

The unfortunate reality is that no amount of drill practice can prevent a shooting. The best we can do by teaching these skills is to minimize the number of casualties. As a police officer assisting with one of our drills told me, the shooter’s primary target will be shot.

But our state requires the drills, as well as the sign at the front door. It warns that no guns are allowed in our building, as though that will stop an individual with intent. Just as in so many other areas of crime prevention, we put our emphasis on preparing potential victims, rather than using proactive prevention, a multi-faceted approach.

There is no single cause for school shootings. But something I know after more than thirty years of teaching is that violent people are unhappy people. Certainly, caring and awareness are essential first steps.

People often say that shooters are people who have been bullied and this is how they are striking back. This can be true, but it can also be just the perception of being treated unfairly that provides the “reason” for the attack. Feelings of alienation can be the cause of outward violence, but also of self-harm. We need to reach out and always be kind.

One theory often proposed is that school shootings are caused by mental illness. It’s true that our country has repeatedly failed in dealing with mental illness. We’ve gone from jails to horrific psychiatric institutions, then back to prison and homelessness. Our funding, facilities, and public attitude toward mental illness have progressed very little since the 1800s. According to a Mother Jones timeline, the ratio of psychiatric beds to population today is the same as it was in the 1850s.

So, does mental illness cause attacks? Sometimes, yes, but the reality is that mentally ill people are more often victims than perpetrators of violence. The New York Times and This American Life tell a frightening story that partially resulted from the increase in armed security guards in hospitals. More guns are clearly not the answer for mental illness.

Sandy Hook parents have banded together to provide free information on prevention. They want you to know the signs. One is, “Exhibiting excessive over-reactions or aggressive behavior for a seemingly minor reason can signal someone who cannot self-regulate their emotions or control their anger.”

Reading this rings bells for me. A major issue in education today is working with children of trauma. Paul Tough in The Atlantic writes about the results of “severe and chronic stress in childhood” which results in that hair-trigger fight-or-flight response. Poverty is strongly correlated with alcoholism, family instability, violence and more. Sadly, over 50% of students in schools today are children of poverty, most of whom are the working poor. We must address income disparity, but children also suffer trauma in wealthier communities. Issues such as domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual abuse sadly happen to children everywhere. Programs for partners and children from the CDC can be a first step.

Then there is the smoking gun. Critics would say that guns don’t kill, people kill. True, but the reality is that automatic weapons significantly increase the number of people someone can kill. School shootings are largely an American gun-culture phenomenon, as shown on this annotated list detailing events since before the Revolutionary War. In time, weapons have increased in number and efficiency. We need screening, monitoring, and restricted access for youth and those with mental illness.

We must act. To reach out to those on the outside. To compassionately serve those with mental illness. To combat sources of childhood trauma. To control the availability of firearms for those who cannot be trusted to use them safely. Until then, we will continue to read the headline, “Another School Shooting.”

Whose school will be next?

 

 

Transformation

Last Saturday my sister and I each drove from our homes, to a town we’d never been to before, to spend the afternoon together. We ate lunch at a restaurant called Spoons and walked along the two block downtown wandering in and out of shops.

In an old-school music shop, the clerk greeted us and asked how we were.

“Good,” we answered. “How are you?”

“Great!” he said. “I’m doing what I love.”

I recognized a man who wanted to tell a story, so of course I asked. After “retiring,” he looked around his house at what he had collected all his life. He considered what his kids would do with the three rooms of albums he had lovingly acquired and knew they would just want to sell them. So, he opened the shop. Now he gets to talk about music all day long and sells his albums online across the country.

My sister is retired herself, from a career in tech. Just a few months in, she is still feeling her way. She thought she’d see if a community orchestra could use a flute player, but when there was a waiting list for flutes, she agreed to play the bass drum. Now my sister is just an inch taller than short little me and, while she clearly reads music, has never played percussion. She says it’s a little nerve-racking to lose your place in the long periods between her parts. I mean, it’s not like you could hide the boom of a bass drum coming in at the wrong time. Still, it must be exhilarating to get it right.

She shared a story from The Moth with me.  Cynthia Riggs had a degree in marine biology and a career as a boat captain. She reinvented herself once to join her mother in running a bed and breakfast, then again to become a mystery writer at age 70. Her life took a further turn with a late-in-life love story told here, but that’s another tale.

I have a good friend who retired early from teaching when the stress became too much. She went back to school to become a massage therapist. These days she massages two days a week, as well as being an elf at Christmas and the Easter Bunny in the spring at a sporting goods store. In the summer, she adds on ushering at baseball games. She says she’s having fun with it all and she loves being appreciated everywhere she works.

As I get closer to the point where I might want to retire myself, I’m finding that it’s more of a beginning than an end. Not quite the open options of when we were eighteen, but certainly full of possibility.

After our shopping, my sister and I drove around looking for a park to stroll through. As happens in small towns, a wrong turn led us out of town, down winding country roads. We stopped at a canal and took a walk down the trail, enjoying the sunshine.

You never know what you’ll find at the next turn in the road.

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