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.
You were taught to cast aside the old self of your former way of life that had been corrupted by its captivating desires. You are to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self created in God’s image, in the way of uprightness and holiness that belong to the truth.
~ Ephesians 4:22 – 24 ~
Summer had lingered in the plush plants for many a days as it has been unseasonably warm. But now it is finally yielding to Autumn. The hummingbirds have not visited the feeder in well over a week. The sparrows and finches are feeding more often. The blooms yield to berries. I feel the weather is finally changing with the brisk air after the colder rains. Bare feet get covered with my weathered leather moccasins rather than strappy sandals. My denim poncho is needed this evening, so I clothed myself to keep warm. Just as I clothed myself for protection from the cold, so I clothe myself with God’s image as the above scripture tells me.
God’s Words are promises to me, and to you as well. Post-retirement from my full-time career has given me more time to think. I have had days to reflect on where I have been, where I am now, and where I want to go. The mind can go places like self-doubt and questioning God’s purposes. God is faithful with His Word and I am confronted with this scripture Ephesians 4:22 – 24, to renew in the spirit of my mind and dress myself in God’s image which is the Truth. Anything else is a lie. God’s word mentions these words “clothe yourselves” several times. This will be the focus of my subject bible study this autumn season going into winter.
About every moment of every day the local, national, and world news capture heart-wrenching stories of tragedy and utter chaos. Although the local news stations have been better about bringing the good news, too. Like how a group of teenagers care for the needs of their elderly or home-bound neighbors during this pandemic with meal deliveries, running errands, minor home repairs, and taking out trash. While helping others, these youth are helping themselves by learning new skills, effective communications, and heart lessons from their altruism acts. These kids didn’t wait for something to change, they made the change. We cannot say how long the pandemic will continue to disrupt our lives. But I cannot stand by and wait to see how long. Life goes on. The new normal is established, for now anyway. What am I waiting for? What are you waiting for?
I have gained 90 minutes a day by not commuting to work every weekday. After about 3 months to adjusting to work from home (and loving most aspects of telecommuting), I decided to make another change. “I don’t have time” is not a valid excuse any longer. I downloaded a walking app, and have been doing interval speed walking for the past 10 weeks 5 mornings a week. It has been so liberating! I am up to 4-1/4 miles in 75 minutes, and my speed is about 17-1/2 minutes per mile. I am out of the house 5 days a week doing something wonderful for my body as well as for my mind and spirit. After 6 weeks my blood pressure and glucose have dropped enough to adjust my meds. There is a new saying I have heard through the online weight management program Naturally Slim. “Mind, meet body.” I play these mental gymnastics, talking to my mind, my body, and my spirit. There is a series of thoughts that goes like this: “This is good for you, get out there”, “God, give me strength, protect me for another day”, “foot, knee, you are going to be okay”, “only 5 more minutes of speed walking before cool down, yes!”, “sweaty wet tank top you are getting washed today”, “God, bless that homeless person”, “the birds sound lovely, thank You”, “God, what a beautiful sunrise You have given this morning!”, “oh, what a cute flower pot” … I think you get the picture. My thoughts turn to prayer, thankfulness, and praise every single day. I turned sixty today! My sassy (my hubby says sexy) sixty self is happy I have not stood by and waited any longer for these walking workouts. We are never too old to learn or do something new. Now is the time.
This past weekend was a reunion with three of my high school classmates. We recalled those days many years ago, and laughed all weekend. Endless fun, without any men, children, work, alcohol, or drugs. High on life. I have had the need to connect to my childhood outside of my family of origin. So much is a fog, just glimpses of faces and scenarios. The past class reunions are minus familiar friendly faces. We had about 500 graduates in our class. So I sought three classmates I am connected to on Facebook, where we seem to share the same interests and connect with our comments on each other’s posts. I remember well all three. One friend is an authentic pal from elementary school, another is quite the comedian then and now, and the other illuminates peace to anyone in her surroundings.
We reserved the entire country inn in a small town. The host and hostess accommodated us well with a bonfire, plenty of bedding options, and a delicious breakfast. We grabbed lunch first at a unique BBQ diner with a resident pig sleeping in a stall. After lunch we stopped at a local antique store. The antiques were as old as us. We visited Big Spring, a natural spring in the Ozarks of Missouri. I came across a metal disc right on the cliff ledge near the spring flowing from the Current River. It said “U.S. Geological Survey Bench Mark”. According to Wikipedia, “the USGS (United States Geological Survey) was created, by a last-minute amendment, to an act of Congress on March 3, 1879. It was charged with the ‘classification of the public lands, and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain’. This task was driven by the need to inventory the vast lands added to the United States by the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the Mexican-American War in 1848.” This bench mark has some kind of significance, probably either a elevation or earthquake marker. My curiosity will have me research until I know the facts.
I felt like this was a bench mark weekend for me. I had never done this, invited old childhood friends to gather for an overnight. We all did not hangout together as a gang in high school, but knew each other. None of us belonged to cliques. I felt a bond would form as we came together now. I have gone on women’s retreats, but this was a different kind of retreat. This weekend rendezvous confirmed we had so much in common. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. Childhoods and schools in St. Charles County, Missouri. Troubled love relationships. Divorce. Made better choices with age and wisdom. Faith. Caretaking. Deceased parents. Mourning. Parenthood. Grand-mothering. Jobs. Thrift. Hobbies. Strength. A confident beauty that a 59-year old woman possesses despite it all. The differences were fewer. We share a sisterhood. The “plump sisters (PS)” vow to meet up again in about 3 or 4 months for another destination, maybe another bench mark weekend.
“Because there’s one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.”
~ Robin Benway, The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June
On several occasions I have had an older gentleman ask me “where did you come from” or “from what place are you from”. He forgets what I told him the last time, so he asks time and again “whence you come from?”. Here is the definition of the word “whence” and the use of this phase …
from whence (adverb)
from what place or source.
from whence (adverb)
from which; from where.
to the place from which.
as a consequence of which
In the physical realm I came from my mother & father, who met at the grocery store chain they both worked at in the mid – late 50’s, married in 1958. I am their third child. Their firstborn is my older brother by 17 months. And then came my identical twin sister, born 7 minutes before I. The doctor and my parents were not expecting me, as my mother did not show signs have being pregnant with twins. Remember ultrasound was not used back in 1960. Right before my twin sister was born, they felt what they thought might be a “tumor”, but lo and behold, it was me, a 2nd baby barely over 5 lbs. My parents waited, and my little brother followed 3-1/2 years later. Mom said “if the pope wanted her to have another baby right after my twin sister and I, he can raise them”. Born and raised in Missouri, we lived in a small town subdivision for my first 8 years, and then lived on a tree farm in the same county for another 10 years before moving across the state to go to college.
In the spiritual realm, I am a child of the Living God, predestined for His wonderful plans. “In Him we were also chosen having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will … having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit … live a life worthy of the calling you have received”, the book of Ephesians tells us. This is where I come from, from our Father, Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
I have been making “liquid gold” for many years. Nowadays they call it “bone broth”. According to online resources “bone broth” was used in ancient Chinese medicine to improve connective tissues, kidney function, and immunity. I simply roast a whole chicken, turkey breast, or a bone-in beef or pork roast in the slow-cooker on low heat for 10 – 12 hours. Adding a fermented liquid such as wine, beer, kombucha, or vinegar in water helps bring out the bone marrow and collagen from the bones into the simmering liquid in the slow-cooker. Liquid gold. Good for my physical health. That liquid gold is the base for delicious soups and sauces.
My oldest daughter, Rachel received another type of liquid gold this week. After many years of prayers, tears, and seeking answers from the conventional medical field. Her name came up finally after a couple of years on the wait list for a California clinic that uses alternative medical treatments for her disabling conditions. Rachel is challenged with degenerative disc disease and adhesive arachnoiditis. She lives in pain constantly. This past year, Rachel has had physicians tell her “there is nothing I can do for you”. Faith and hope has been her strength . Those moments when she lost hope she had friends and family still believing. Faith has sustained her. Our God sustains Rachel. An out-of-state trip orchestrated by God Himself unfolded before our eyes, giving hearts melted, funds gathered, plane tickets ordered, and an appointed physician who prays for each of her patients. Today the neighborhood church bells ring at this noon hour, an angelic sound reminds me of our God’s faithfulness. Angels continue to watch over my Rachel.
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength,” Corrie Ten Boom is quoted. What keeps you from enjoying this present moment? Is it worry about meeting bills or a sick loved one? Too many projects to accomplish in the day, maybe well into those night hours? If you read carefully the quoted words above, strength is found in “today”. “Today” is a mighty word. Literally means “on the day”, “at this day”, “from-day”, “in day” in several languages. Present day, present moment.
Maybe today is not so good. In physical pain. Hurting on the inside. A relationship needs to be patched of its differences. Saying “goodbye” to a beloved friend or family pet. Present moment seems to be a challenge.
These are lyrics by Randy Sparks and made known by John Denver’s voice:
Today, while the blossoms still cling to the vine I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine
A million tomorrows shall all pass away ‘Ere I forget all the joy that is mine, today
I can’t be contented with yesterday’s glory I can’t live on promises winter to spring Today is my moment, now is my story I’ll laugh and I’ll cry and I’ll sing
Today, while the blossoms still cling to the vine I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine A million tomorrows shall all pass away ‘Ere I forget all the joy that is mine, today
Embrace the full of joy of TODAY despite all the rest…God’s blessings are yours always.
The saying “birds of a feather flock together” rings true with many people and under most circumstances. We choose to love and surround ourselves with those like ones self. Dating sites such as eHarmony and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter count on us “birds of a feather to flock together”. But reality is we are so different even among “our own birds, own people”. You are unique. You may want to have alone time rather than socialize. Write or read rather than be entertained by the screen. Fiction versus non-fiction. Documentary or fantasy movie. Find just the right blouse at a small second-hand boutique versus settle for a pricey hot new fashion at the name-brand store. Choices of foods and drinks are varied. There are so many choices in our grocery stores and eateries. That sweet treat is a bowl of fresh organic berries and a dollop of real whipped cream rather than a candy bar. Are your leafy greens arugula laced with a balsamic vinaigrette or a chopped iceberg salad doused with creamy dressing? Will you steep a cup of herbal tea then poured over ice for a cool down at the office or run for that iced caramel latte? Employment at a fast-paced corporate office or slower-paced non-profit? Full-time or part-time? Choices of spouse, house, cars, and investments: loving, dependable, big, small, fast, classic, high-risk, steady … You fill in with your multiple choice answer. Now that you see how you are different, I suppose my point is to live and love in understanding because of those differences.
Three or four days of my work week I am able to break away from the St. Louis County benefits office located in the middle of Clayton’s business district where buses, delivery trucks, cars, financial institutions, niche shops, eateries, entrepreneurs, visitors, and government employees blend. These 1-hour get-aways can include lunch in or out, meditation and prayer at the corner church, possibly a catnap in a quiet loveseat down the hall, and almost always a walk. Today I brought lunch from home, egg salad made with white bean hummus (yum!) and whole wheat crackers. Afterwards I took my daily stroll. I chose to leave my cell phone and water bottle behind, my security usually a tote on my constitutionals. It is a brisk 50 degrees this cloudy March Friday. I can survive without H2O for 20 minutes. And the cell phone, what did I do for the first 4-1/2 decades of my life without one?!
I have my Fitbit on, but do not check it during this short walk. Besides I have these Clayton blocks memorized, either 3000, 2000, or 1000 steps depending on what direction, destination, and how far I decide to go. I made a conscious effort to be present moment on today’s walk. Four blocks north of my office and back. The church bells chimed louder. Other pedestrians’ voices and footsteps were clearer. I was aware of how many people waited at each of the traffic lights with me, what shoes and jacket they wore, and the colors of the vehicles that passed through the intersection before the crosswalk signal switched. The birds chirped feverishly. Flowers popped out at me as if I was the sun.
In contrast, I feel the sharp, damp air on my face, hands, and the tops of my feet. My joints ache, but this provokes me to keep moving these arthritic parts, and not stifle what God has created. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I know this clearly.” Along that thought … What have I been created for these later autumn years of my life? I think of the human life span as the seasons. Spring is my childhood. Summer is my young adult up to mid-life years. Autumn is my mid-life up to retirement. And the winter will be retirement and elderly years. See how the cold, moist air on my arthritic joints brought me to thoughts of my future retirement during this walk? It is a challenge for this planner and organizer to stay present moment. Yesterday my heart’s desires bubble up among projects and schedules. A sketch of the next 5 years came to me. I have been asking God what am I to do after employee wellness and benefits at the County. Only 132 weeks until my retirement to be possible. I give tomorrow’s blueprints to God, my Creator.
Back to present moment … thankful … for this moment to walk, breathe, love, and live fully.
A wooden birdhouse nailed to a backyard maple tree was home to Eurasian tree sparrows year after year. Eventually the squirrels chewed a bigger hole and took residence. Now the tree does not exist as we made way for a room addition to the house, but the prized songbirds still return to our feeders every winter. The Eurasian tree sparrow finds its citizenship in some select communities in the St. Louis, Missouri vicinity. “Its presence in Missouri dates back to shortly after the Civil War. At that time it was a fad among nature enthusiasts to import nightingales, chaffinches, bullfinches and other songbirds from Europe. This was done in the false hope that new birds might help control insect pests, but was also an excuse among nostalgic immigrants who wanted to see birds ‘from the old country,'” written in a Missouri Conservationist Magazine article. These meek songbirds entertain us humans by making nests in our birdhouses and stay around for winter dining on seeds left in the feeders. Not native to Missouri, but they thrive.
Writers and artists need their own space to allow their creative juices to flow. Writers’ and artists’ retreats can be found around the world. Michael Pollan’s cites in his book, A Place Of My Own, “a room of one’s own … is a space of solitude a few steps off the beaten track of everyday life.” I think we all need that space whether it is a nook in your house, a favorite bench at the park, or trail to walk amongst the trees and wildlife. Creativity is for all people. Historians, sociologists, and National Geographic photography and author, Dan Buettner study people around the world, seek those who thrive and live as centenarians. These century-old people have 9 common threads in the communities they live in what has been now dubbed the “Blue Zones”. These threads are unique to their culture but can be tied together. These threads are: they move naturally, have purpose, consume plant-based foods and stop eating when 80% full, practice moderate wine consumption, have daily down time, their family comes first, live in the right tribe for self, and belong to a like faith community.
As a wellness professional I stand by the concept of “The 7 Dimensions of Wellness”: physical, spiritual, vocational/financial, emotional, social, intellectual, and environmental which I can easily tie into the Blue Zone’s 9 common threads. With all this, what is one dimension that the others surround around? It is the spiritual dimension. It defines our purpose, beliefs, and values. It centers our thoughts, prayers, and meditations. It is big enough that it allows us to accept others. And your spiritual practice, is it integrated in everyday life? Are you thriving? Where do you find your citizenship? Are you here by chance or did the Creator create your place/space for a purpose? And where will you be after the Earth is no more? Your spirit lives forever.