Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Accept No Mediocre Life by David Foster

This motivational book is written from a Christian perspective.  It has the usual chapters on commitments to being you own unique best self, seizing opportunities, excelling with what you have, and doing it now.  The book is obviously written for people several decades younger than I am.  However, I did find it worthwhile by applying the principles to aging and retirement.  For example, the chapters on conquering fears and living courageously can certainly be applied to living the final chapters of life.  The chapters on asking for help and developing a sustainable pace are helpful too.  Treating time is life is good advice for everyone. The most applicable chapter at my stage of life was the one on finishing well.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

The End of an Era

Today I received my W-2 from my previous employer.  In fact, it is my last W-2 period.  I love being retired but somehow knowing that this is the last one ever, I feel rather bereft.  Odd.  I don't want to go back to work but this seems so final.  Maybe I just need some hot tea and a good book and I'll think about it tomorrow...maybe.

Saturday Doings

Our new roses were delivered today. JMM has prepared the new rose bed with all the finest ingredients--- he removed the clay soil and worked in compost, cow patties, mulch, and special rose soil. It should grow some magnificent roses. We went kind of overboard and ordered 18 new roses. But there is plenty of room for them. He also ordered a nice climbing rose for the east side of the house. He was out pruning the Daybreaker roses when the FedEx guy came with the new ones. (I cannot prune roses because you must be ruthless and cut them too much for me. I am too tender hearted and want all the branches to have a chance... ).

JMM took Daisy in the truck to get a Diet Coke. He was almost back to the house when he called me and told me to drop everything and be ready with both pairs of binoculars to hop in the van and be ready to go as soon as he got home. I did and off we went, first to the front lake where here were 3 pelicans! I cannot imagine why they are this far inland! We have never seen pelicans on the lakes! Then we drove on Hwy 762 towards the school and in the fields to the left, there were 2 flocks of Sandhills Cranes; each flock had about 50 of those magnificent birds. So today turned into a really good birding day without even trying!

After I made our usual Saturday baked potato for lunch, I made a pan of brownies. And for dinner, I made us bacon sandwiches and oven fries. Since Daisy is going home tomorrow, I cooked her 2 pieces of bacon too.

We are reading about Brunelleschi in February for our Art History project. I am reading Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King. JMM ordered a large picture book of his work. We saw his magnificent dome at Santa Maria del Fiore when we were in Florence in 2001.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What an idiot!

Over the past 3 months I have had increasing pain in my right shoulder.  At first I thought it was arthritis.   But it didn't seem to be confined to the joint.  As time went on the pain seemed to spread from my shoulder to the muscle in my right upper arm and to my neck. I was taking aspirin or ibuprofen 1 or2 tablets twice a day.  Yesterday I decided that it was time to make an appointment with the doctor because I really hate to take medicine regularly and because I wanted to find out what was causing it.  So I made the appointment for next Monday.  This morning I decided to google "right shoulder pain" and there it was--the cause of all the pain is my computer mouse!  I don't have a computer desk so my arm is at an ergonomically incorrect angle and with all the time I spend at the computer I am injuring my shoulder.   I feel like such an idiot for not thinking of this months ago.   Needless to say, I am making arrangements to get the keyboard and mouse on a lower level and in the meantime using only the iPad.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Anahuac NWR Birding Trip

Saturday we took a one day trip to Anahuac NWR.  It was a beautiful day--not too hot, not too cold, a bit cloudy but no rain.  We stopped at the lovely Visitor Center and took a walk on the boardward out into the salt marsh.  I could have stayed there all day! A flock of beautiful cedar waxwings and rufous crowned sparrows kept us mesmerized. But I'm glad we went on into the refuge.  There was a lot of road construction going on, probably still repairing from Hurricane Ike 3 years ago.  Anyway, we saw flocks of white ibis, pelicans, roseate spoonbills, and many other beautiful birds.  The star attraction of the trip was near the tiny town of Anahuac where JMM spotted a pair of Eastern Bluebirds.  How can anything be that beautiful!!  It was good to go and good to come home as always.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Giotto by Norbert Wolf

My career was in the medical field and I have little knowledge of art or art history. Now that I have retired, I want to explore this area. So my husband and I are reading about an artist and his work each month. We began this month with the 14th century painter Giotto. Norbert Wolf's 90 page book on Giotto was a good choice for a beginner. The variety of his work is impressive --not variety of subject because the vast majority was religious. We took a trip to Italy in 2001. We went to Rome and Florence but if we were to go again, we would make sure to see the Arena Chapel in Padua. The pictures in this small book show a wide variety of his work. The text describes the time, place, and technique of the paintings in a manner understandable to a beginner like me. Next month we stay in Italy but move forward in time to Brunelleschi and his magnificent dome.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Letter from Birmingham Jail


It's good to read this every once in a while just to remember where we have come from.

The public schools I attended were completely segregated.  I remember the separate water fountains.  The only blacks I knew were the maids. I never ate at a restaurant where blacks were served.  And most interesting, JMM has the deed to the house that his parents bought just after WW II; the deed specifies that the property could not be sold to Negroes.  This is not ancient history, it is within my lifetime.  And we wonder at lingering resentment.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber

This is a beautifully written account of a young woman's journey to Christian faith. Caro arrives as a scholarship student from Canada in Oxford to study the literature of the Romantic poets. The beautiful descriptions of student life in Oxford are certainly enough to keep one reading but the spiritual questions that she asks are so universal that it was hard to put down. As she questions and searches for answers, her honesty, humor, and humility keep the book from being pompous or condescending. The many references to literature have me wanting to pull out my old volumes of English literature and drink in the beauty of the masters. In addition to the story of God's love, a tender human love story unfolds.
Not everyone will find the answers that Caro finds, but just about everyone asks the same questions

Friday, January 13, 2012

Soup of the Month--December

Yes, yes, I'm two weeks late on this but better late than never.  The soup for December was Split Pea and Ham soup.  I've never made this before so I got the recipe from the Whole Foods website:

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

1 (16 oz, package dried green split peas, rinsed
1 meaty ham bone, 2 ham hocks, or 2 cups diced ham (I had frozen leftover ham from Christmas so I used that.)
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup chopped onions
2 ribs celery plus leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup fresh parsley (I used 1 Tablespoon dried parsley>)
Salt and pepper to taste
6 cups chicken broth or stock

Layer ingredients in slow cooker in the order given, adding broth last.  Do not stir ingredients.  Cover and cook on high  4- 5 hours or on low 8--10 hours until peas are very soft and ham falls off the bone.

I served this with hot buttered cornbread and it was scrumptious.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Catherine the Great by Robert Massie (1)

Since this book is 575 pages long, it will be a while before I actually finish it but I plan to give updates on the book as I read it.  I am now on page 80 and have decided that it is much nicer to live now as an ordinary person than it was 250 years ago as an empress.  For one thing, people got sick and died early and often.  Another is that as an heir to the throne, you'd better watch your back--literally.  Marriages among nobility were arranged for political advantage and to heck with love and affection. 
 As of page 80, Catherine (born Sophia) has been called to Russia by the Empress Elizabeth to marry Elizabeth's nephew Peter.  That Peter had some physical and emotional issues is at best an understatement (but given his early childhood, quite understandable).  The wedding has taken place amid spectacular finery but the marriage is an unconsummated dud.  That's where I left off and we will pick it up again in another 100 or so pages.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Retirement Social Life

One of the aspects of retirement that I am enjoying very much is the opportunity to have more of a social life.  I've never been one that needs a crowd all the time but while I was working, I withdrew from most activities that required time and energy.  It seemed like all I could to to keep house and work.  Then when I retired, it took me about 6 months to just rest, unwind, and get enough energy and enthusiasm to decide what to do.  It was (and still is) a joy to wake up and not have to jump in the shower, grab something to eat, and be out the door and off to work.  In the past, the holiday season was very stressful with the hospital usually full, staff short from illness or PTO, and all the holiday stuff to get done on top.  But not this year.  We have socialized more this holiday season than in many, many years and it was just plain fun. We had a party for my birthday, a lovely family Christmas dinner, the neighborhood New Year's Eve Potluck at our house, and this weekend a fun birthday party for JMM.  Another way that we are socializing more is that we can be more active in our church.  We have a great Adult Bible Fellowship group of people our age, all boomers.  What makes it so nice is that we are all old enough to have had life's happenings knock the sharp edges off and we can just love and support each other.  And finally, I have joined a book club at the library and found a congenial group of biblioholics. 
Can you tell that I'm taking to retirement like duck to water??

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fourth Quarter Financials

This was a really good quarter for us. We increased our Emergency Fund by $3500 and our total retirement funds went up by $44,500.  We continue to have no debt. 

We are thankful that we are in good health and that JMM is fully employed.

BHAG for 2012

We have decided to double our giving this year from what we gave last year.   Since I retired last year, our income was cut almost in half.  It will be a stretch but looking at the numbers, it looks doable.  Living debt free makes it possible.  We have already doubled our January giving so only 11 more months to go.

(BTW, a BHAG is a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. )