Saturday, June 30, 2007

Things to Do in Retirement

I retired in late September 2002, and, at the usual moment for such things (the new year), I made a list of resolutions (show here with comments made April of 2003). There were things on it both ridiculous and sublime. Well, the former anyway.

It is extremely sad that, well over four years later, so little is really accomplished from that list. As I like to say, I am always intending to write but instead I only blog. I gave away the video camera. So much for learning how to make a movie. I still use the point and shoot camera on the most basic setting. Although I have added lots of shots to the shop windows and reflections collection. I gave up learning to play Bridge. I gave away the large collection of Bridge books even. As the time approaches when downsizing is really, really needed (since we are moving to a condo) things are still a mess in most closets and storage.

But...I rode the bus! Now why I decided that I should ride the bus here in Austin (not the most public transportation friendly place in the world or even in the U.S.) I don't know. But I've ridden the bus twice in the last couple of weeks. Both times I wanted to go somewhere downtown or close to it. And I was meeting someone who was coming from the south but who lives close and could take me home so I didn't have to actually ride a bus back. Once I rode Route 19 which seems to be the domestic workers' express (since it goes by a prominent retirement home and lots of fancy houses). Once I rode route 3 which seemed to be a slacker express. There were rude, loud young people on board making sexually explicit comments and self-indulgent cell phone calls. Also, excessively using 'like' in their conversations. The domestics and yard men were better companions, speaking quietly among themselves in Spanish and English, tired from a hard day's work. This is a generalization, of course.

One problem with riding the bus from my current home is that you have to walk several blocks to get to a stop. Around a half mile, a little less. In the heat and with a wait at the stop, you can wilt a bit before the air-conditioned bus arrives. At 50 cents a ride it's a bargain, though, with gas costing six times that a gallon.

On one trip I went downtown. I had to walk a few blocks to my destination. But it was fine. And, of course, after a little walking around and dinner with friends, I had a ride home.

On another trip, I went to S. Lamar to the strip mall where the Alamo Draft House South is located (a movie theater that serves beer and wine and food). The photo shown today is the window of one of the junk shops there. Fortunately this bus goes down S. Lamar so no transfer was necessary.

I feel for people who have to ride these buses wherever they go, waiting for the late bus in the heat, having to transfer downtown to get where they want to go. And it was amazing how incredulous my friends were that I rode it. Even someone who owns a hybrid and worries a lot more than I do about the earth seemed shocked that I rode the bus to meet them.

Well, it took me over four years. But I finally did something I said I was going to do. Never say never! [Yes, I know that no one but me would even consider riding the bus an accomplishment. I often take public transportation when traveling. I once avoided taking a cab even one time in Berlin, even making the trips to and from the airport with luggage on public transportation. But here in Austin it seems an accomplishment. And if you had to be really dressed up and it was this would be a disaster!]

Friday, June 29, 2007

Looking Ahead

There is our condo building rising beyond the tangle of power switching equipment next to the Seaholm plant.

I thought of putting this entry into the Journal of Unintended Consequences. It's sort of the 'appropriate planning' vs. 'looking for happiness in the future and not living in the now' dilemma. It's really been on my mind as I struggle to plan for a significant move and see all these things from my past as I struggle to reduce my 'stuff.'

I've been reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. I was struck by this passage:

"People usually escape from their troubles into the future; they draw an imaginary line across the path of time, a line beyond which their current troubles will cease to exist."
I have done that so many times in my life. Not that I never lived 'right now.' I think I do that better at the moment than I ever have. But I remember so many times thinking that as soon as I (fill in the blank: paid off this bill, moved, changed jobs, retired, etc.) then I would have it sorted and be happy. Or happier. I'm trying hard not to think of the move downtown that way. I'm trying to think of it as just another stage in my life. I'm trying to enjoy my house while I'm still here and I'm trying to embrace sorting all this 'stuff' as a good and fun exercise.

Truthfully, whenever I look into the future these days, I seem to quickly retreat into the present. I'm getting older. Our parents seem perilously old. Then there are terrorists and global warming. Yeah, better enjoy the now.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Us At the Mansion

We have gotten to go to a few events in the last year or so at The Pease Mansion. (Scroll down a bit on this link to find some info on it.) At one of these events our friend Vickie Roan (owner of an elegant gift shop, The Menagerie) took our picture and the other night she found it on her computer and sent it to us. I think I'll put this on on our putative 'home' page. Not that we really update that much any more what with the blogs.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Discarding the Past

Sometimes it's tempting to discard some things because they are cards and letters I wrote and they show what a dumb a-- I was! Of course, my current writings (this blog included) probably reveal the same failings. Honestly, though I think I'm smarter now! If you click on the picture and get a larger version and a good look at some of the stamps you can see that this stuff is really old. You may well ask how I came to have letters I wrote? Because my relatives (my mother and, especially, two aunts) saved them and I later got them from them.

I couldn't bring myself to discard many of them. I did manage to reduce the 'archive' box I was going through, though, by discarding some other things.

Reading all the stuff in this one box has made me light-headed with nostalgia for that younger, more hopeful and, I think, more energetic self. A number of the letters were written from Europe in 1972. This was my "official youthful tramp around parts of Europe like someone with no cares in the world" excursion. In the days before e-mail I wrote letters and people wrote to me and it took many days to communicate. I didn't save the letters I got while on that trip, apparently. At least I haven't found them. I did find some missives from other people from later decades. I even dropped some people an e-mail and quoted from one of these letters.

Monday, June 18, 2007


I am busy. Five days a week I get up for a morning activity at my club. MWF is water aerobics. We welcomed the instructor back from jury duty today. I would rather have more freedom from a structured class. But I am appreciating this class while my dad can participate. Today he put his hands up on the diving board and hoisted himself up at bit. Like a much younger man. So I'd rather not have a class MWF. But I'm glad I do. If that makes sense. Tuesday and Thursday I've committed to playing tennis unless something really comes up to interfere or it rains, of course. I'm not crazy about commitment but I love to play and this gets me out there and my companions are fun. Right now I'm playing most Wednesday nights, too.

I'm trying to get in shape. I would say back in shape but I'm not sure I was ever there. The water aerobics and tennis won't do it so I have to do some riding on the recumbent bike and some ab work and weights. It never feels like I do enough. Last night I walked the neighborhood with my friend SuRu and her dog. My dog isn't a match for the rest of us any more. Sad.

It is the busy time for film reviewers for the Austin Film Festival. The festival is in October. Deadlines loom, films pile up. We are first round screeners. Get the flicks seen by someone. We also go to screener's meetings...we started last Monday.

I've been trying to stay on top of our financial life. Every day I make entries into the budget, check accounts, enter checks into the budget or my dad's account (we pay a lot of his bills out of a fund he contributes every month).

I've been trying to blog a bit and keep up a little private journal. FFP and I are together keeping up the Austin, Texas Daily Photo Site which has been fun.

And the downsizing! I've been going through old boxes of 'archives and souvenirs.' Finding letters from friends and old letters I wrote to my aunts who are dead now (they saved them all) makes me sad and glad at the same time. It's very tedious going through all these pieces of paper and trying to figure out what to do with each thing. I feel I must read the stuff before deciding its fate.

I have a couple of committee meetings this week and another commitment or two. I've never had a problem staying busy in retirement.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Lazy Morning

Yesterday, I was all cheer about everything. I was working on the projects I have for my country club board. They are frustrating in the way that work sometimes was. You know the "I can't find the documents in the form I need them" and the "I can't find the latest information and decisions" and the "you can't please everyone in spite of the fervor of their arguments." And yet I just worked on it and didn't fret.

I stared at the piles around the house that are the detritus of the downsizing without sadness or retribution. I did note that some of the boxes and containers stacked around are actually...empty. This is progress, I think. I even photographed an old 'art' (we use the term loosely here) project of mine that I mentioned yesterday as being something saved from the dump. It's pictured above.

I exercised and felt good about what I did with no recriminations about how far I have to go.

I went out with FFP and wandered downtown (exhaustively recounted here) without fretting about what will happen when we move there or how I'll ever get my stuff reduced to a small enough pile. And I didn't fret about the fact that I haven't gotten my dad a present or a card even for Dad's Day and hadn't even arranged a meal or outing. I just suggested to FFP that we maybe try an extremely early dinner at Chez Zee where they were thoughtfully starting a Dad's Day dinner at 4PM. He set it up and we got the parental units to agree.

This great feeling carried over into the morning. I got up late. I blogged and sat around in my bathrobe. I made my morning welfare call to my dad. I didn't worry when he didn't answer. I figured he was at the monthly church breakfast. He was and called back later.

Yeah, nothing bothered me yesterday. The world seemed full and interesting. I didn't try to control everything. I thought several times about friends who are ailing. I know that these things can happen to me. That something will. But I felt joy in the moment, in my rich and privileged life. I wish I could do that every day.

Friday, June 15, 2007

What to Save?

I've made several decisions over the past few weeks about stuff to keep and stuff to let go. I told FFP yesterday that I wanted to keep my Ultimate Talking Buzz Lightyear Room Guard.

"I think he'll look good in the condo," I said.

"OK. Sure." He said. Not sounding really sure.

He gave Buzz to me (one Christmas, I think) and that's part of my sentimentality, probably.

I packed Buzz in his original box. He's ready to move. I'm pretty sure he won't be one of the objects that we use to decorate the house to interest buyers.

I also decided to keep an old cardboard cracker box covered with magazine cutouts and painted with some sort of decoupage varnish. I made it over thirty years ago. It's old enough to evoke a lot of things with me. I think, when I move, I'll keep letters in it or something.

The other day I almost threw away several notebooks in which my parents had meticulously collected columns clipped from The Dallas Morning News. The columns, by the late Frank X. Tolbert, recounted history and lore of Texas as he traveled around the state. Then I thought why not give them to my dad. I figured he'd enjoy reading them again after all this time. Indeed, he's been having a ball reading them and he's loaned out two of the three notebooks to friends who are enjoying them, too. It's amazing, that. In a day and age when dedicated book store owners are burning books, that people would read aging clippings. I think that some of this material was collected in a book that is out of print. Ah, yes, here it is at Powell's City of Books in Portland.

I was fascinated by an article in the June 11/18 issue of The New Yorker about the Harry Ransom Center and all the important archives they preserve. I'm not really much of a preservationist myself. I toy with the idea of saving things for posterity and then somewhat happily toss them. I think I'll leave preservation to others. The space for it and the dedication to saving just aren't in my nature. I'm keeping Buzz, though. For now.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Downsizing Gazette

Newspapers aren't really the problem. No matter how long they sit around eventually they hit the recycle bin. No. Things of more substance. Books. Worn out shoes. Toys. My excuse to have toys as I close in on six decades on earth? Some were for young folks who would visit. Some were 'collections.' I decorated my offices when I worked with silly toys and organized things for other people's kids. Nevertheless, toys are going to have to go. Some souvenirs, too. Old piles of photos are hard. And my latest dilemma are computer backups on tape and floppies that are a decade old.

I'm a bit stymied at the moment. But the pace will pick up again. I'll be soliciting people to take things, packing up stuff for the thrift store. And filling the 'pay as you throw' container. I've been concentrating on more ephemeral things. Like manipulating the bits and bytes of my financial life and watching media. And reading those newspapers that I'm giong to ditch in any case.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Cute...if you don't have to change diapers

I enjoyed visiting the relatives. Especially the young ones. Who can resist a smile like this one? Of course, I didn't change one diaper. And I gradually got to the point where I wanted things a bit calmer. I wanted to eat sophisticated food and talk to adults. But, yeah, what a cute smile.

Road trip over, I'm trying to tame a pile of newspapers. I've caught up a lot of personal financial stuff and have a bit more of that to do. I've gotten back into water aerobics and tennis, but I need to get back to the weights and aerobic conditioning. I've gotten started on some work for my club.

Last night and tonight I had nice restaurant meals with wine and peace and quiet. (Well, one of the restaurants was loud, but still, no kids.) I've recovered from all the driving, I think, and caught up lost sleep.

I need to, gulp, get into the downsizing again. The summer of purging. That's what this will be.

Monday, June 04, 2007

It's All Relative

My dad asked today if I wasn't glad that the close relatives were nine hundred miles away. And it's true that the distance allows us to lead our own lives and, when we get together, enjoy each other. Even squirmy babies and hyper kids. It's been entertaining and this little baby boy is cute. But, nine hundred miles is about right! We can see each other now and then. We can even drive that distance sometimes. In between we can look at Snapfish photo albums of the kids! Or share their antics on YouTube. Yep. That's about right.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

A River Runs Through It

FFP is maintaining the home fires. I'm visiting my nearest relatives (sister, brother-in-law, two nieces and their husbands, three great nephews and a great niece). My sister lives in a largely uninteresting sprawl of subdivisions west of Denver. However, on my daily walks I can see the South Platte roaring through a natural area. Otherwise, it's been a bunch of amusing babies and making up tasks for the five- and seven-year-old kiddos and helping them assemble Lego toys.

I'm not sure how it counts in the annals of downsizing but a van load of stuff is staying at my sister's (ground zero of the need for downsizing) and with my niece with the boys.