It all started with words scribbled in a journal 40 years ago as a young mother, excited and overwhelmed at the same time with my new role as a parent of a little one. I have kept a journal since. It is not a locked diary like as a pre-teen, as my words are an open book. I keep no secrets. I write my heart and eventually some words come out in blog form, poetry, and short stories. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Flapper Press to request an interview for an article in their newsletter. Included in the interview were three poems I wrote about various topics that have stirred my emotions regarding the basic human need for warmth in the winter, a woman’s vulnerability, and Ukraine’s fight for democracy. I submitted these to the Flapper Press editor, Annie prior to the interview request. Read Annie’s write-up for more details.
I return to pen and paper or the other form of word processing, a laptop computer as the need arises. Which is just about daily. Wordsmithery has become a way of being for me. Playing “Word With Friends” or Scrabble, daily use of the online dictionary, and reading are all a part of my obsession with words. As a child my mother would tell me to pick up a book and read. No one has to encourage me with that anymore. Now I am a wordsmith by necessity. “I am a poet and didn’t even know it”. I believe that is an old saying that has rung true to me as an adult. This quiet soul has words welling up to share. Many words. With prayer and faith let them be His words.
People ask, “What do you do with your day now that you are retired?” I have always said I will never completely retire. I may not get paid for my labor but will always find a project or two worth working at. I am semi-retired at this time of my life. In June 2021 what I retired from was multi-tasking 5 or 6 days a week. My body and mind had enough, literally my heart and my doctors were telling me to slow down. My employee wellness job with the local government kept me overly busy with 4 or 5 projects at a time, an income not reflecting what I did for over 4,000 employees and 2,500 retirees. Since retirement from full-time work, I ask the Holy Spirit to fill my days with what God deems worth my time, resources, and energy. A person’s value or worth to this world is not based on how much income they bring in. Value is placed on what God says is worthy. I know worth is found through Jesus, who died on the cross for my sins and yours, because of His love for me and you. I believe most people have a “Mary” and a “Martha” side to them. I have been a “Martha” by necessity since 8 years of age and have to allow the “Mary” side to come out more. That is the side where my soul gets refreshed and my writing plays in the script. When I allow myself plenty of time to reflect, the words flow. For me at least one day out of the week, it is a steady stream.
My hobbies of gardening, cooking, crafting, reading and writing provide several projects, but not all at the same time. Each day is different than yesterday. Those daily routines of making the bed, laundry, meals, bills, and quiet time, are consistent. I am attempting to make brisk walks or lap-swims a regular part my life again without making it such a regiment, just a natural flow in my day. I started working a wellness-related job, but just 1 or 2 days a week. That’s enough multi-tasking for me. Developing and teaching culinary classes at the local community college is limited to just 2 or 3 classes a month. This summer I took on work with senior citizens in our community through an organization called Papa. Using an app, I sign up as needs arise, assisting with household chores for 1 or 2 local women in my community during the month. Recently I signed up to bring meals to our pastors twice a month. Then one weekend a month Dean and I rent our vintage home through Airbnb, a good reason for a thorough cleaning before and after the rental weekend. This allows tourists a quaint home to stay in for the weekend while visiting our historic town. I know what I like when Dean & I travel and try to make our home just that for others. We recently have made “super host” status. My newest art craze are button journals. I design those and attempt to sell them through a local hand-craft boutique. And there is our big family with all those social events such as birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries in the mix. So that is the day in the life of this retired Martha, never the same each day. I am not retired from life and enjoy living a Mary life more and more each day.
The first full week in the New Year had me at my primary care and eye doctors for annual check-up appointments, after-the-holidays bargain shopping, two meals out to catch up with friends and family after the holidays and finishing the manuscript of my first poetry chapbook. The second full week, well, did I tell you that COVID continues to be rampant? Apparently so much so that my husband and I finally acquired the virus after it has been around the world a few times the past 2 years. We are thankful that our symptoms thus far have been very minor, like a bad head cold. Naps, more naps, and plenty of hot herbal teas have been our regiments. And of course, quarantining.
Staying home in isolation is not too difficult for me. I am retired from full-time work and have no cooking classes to teach until February. My husband works remotely most days of the week and has been strictly home this past week working quietly between his naps. Our first snow of the year fell this weekend, definitely another excuse to stay indoors. Enjoy watching the birds feed from the window. Reading, writing, and homemade soup making have been my occupations this past 2 weeks. As I go in and out of sleepiness, words ebb and flow like a river stream. Perfect timing to finish my second poetry manuscript, the newest edition of the first but photos are included. Both manuscripts are now submitted to two different publishers.
While words flit in and out of my mind, one word “explore” has stuck with me, and I adopted for my 2022. My New Year’s goal is to explore. So instead of singling on one action in one aspect of life such as losing 20 pounds or exercising 5x times a week, I have an action word to cover the many dimensions of my life. I will explore God’s grace in my life, I will explore new authors and books to read, explore new writing and teaching opportunities, explore healthier recipes, explore antique bargains, explore new plants to grow for garden art projects, and explore new ways to show God’s love to my family and friends. Filmmaker Joss Whedon has said “Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it. Sauté it, whatever. Make.” Create. Make. “Just do it” as Nike coins their brand. So, what is your word for this new year? This 2022 is your year, and mine!
“Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it. Sauté it, whatever. Make.” ~ Joss Whedon
This summer brought change, several of them. I retired from my full-time job right into culinary day camps to teach, a week of writing camp for myself, multiple family gatherings, grandkids and grand dogs staying over, moving furniture and home goods, and prepping my mother’s villa for the real estate market. Life isn’t rosy even in retirement. I have had some adjustments to my new job demands. My per diem job requires a devotion and creativity to lesson plans, and with timeliness. Making more time for writing is still a challenge. That week away in June to write and recipe development was so nice. Hard to capture those moments in my home, but discipling myself to keep to pen and paper most days. The house still needs repairs, loved ones’ bodies and souls need healing, and more of Jesus in our lives. Good news, my PVCs have subsided. The meds and part-time rather than full-time employment have been key as well as prayers.
Where is life going? It is a question I ask often. I am a planner, but I must rest in God’s plans, not my own. Faith. Trust. In God, not myself or others. While I have launched into this new season, I spent part of July in quiet, just not doing anything some days. In these contemplative hours, I considered where I have been, and then where life is going for my loved ones and I. I cannot dwell here very long as I begin to think things too much, try to figure out God. I simply need to pray, trust that He is caring for me and my loved ones in every minute of our days. “What wings are to a bird, and sails to a ship, so is prayer to the soul,” Corrie Ten Boom has said. Soul, fly and sail through this busy month of August, soar above and through all the unknown and unanswered details with God’s guidance. Father God be with me.
I have taken on a new opportunity this summer, and not just for this summer. On June 1 I retired from my full-time HR position in order to slow my pace down. I have more time for the activities I love like gardening, cooking, antiquing, and writing. Even with these fun hobbies, I am learning to pace myself so I get enough sleep, exercise, and make healthier food choices and proper time to consume. For additional income I am teaching culinary classes part-time with kids’ 1/2-day camps this summer. Come the fall semester, I will teach culinary classes 2 evenings a week to kids as well as adults.
More time for family is the another reason to slow my pace down. My husband and I already spent a weekend at the lake with his three children, spouses and three grandchildren. Next weekend I will be opening a booth in an antique mall with my daughters and granddaughters. But this week, is time for myself. I signed up for a writing residency at the Writing Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I learned of this place over 15 years ago. This place has been in existence for 20 years. I could almost pinch myself, to check if it is real. I am actually staying at the Dairy Hollow house made famous by author, Crescent Dragonwagon. I am taking a week’s residency in the comfortable culinary suite creating some recipes to share in a book of short stories with a culinary theme. My first book. See what becomes of this week. It has been productive so far.
I take casual walks in this enchanted town of Victorian wrap-around porches, bungalows with inviting archways, crevices filled with wildflowers, groves of trees and moss-covered cliffs laced throughout the town. I do some porch sitting, watching the hummingbirds and song birds feed. While on the front porch yesterday afternoon sipping iced peppermint herbal tea a doe and her fawn meandered between the two residency buildings. Later this afternoon I hear the readings of one of my fellow writers at the Carnegie Library a few short blocks away. I will make it to the farmer’s market and a couple of local shops tomorrow morning before returning to the laptop for my story writing and making a peach-blueberry slump. Visits with the other writing residents have been at dinner time. We sit and dine for an hour at a long table filled with delightful foods prepared by an excellent cook from the Old World. Yes, life is good. I feel God’s blessings.