Monday, June 20, 2011

Years ago I participated in a writing group through the local community college. It was a small group of mature adults. The first night of the class we sat in a circle and introduced ourselves. I snapped to attention when I heard an elderly woman say her name. Norma Quick! OMG, I had been reading her letters to the editor in the local paper forever. It seemed like several times a month Norma Quick had something to tell the editor and here she was, live and in person and she didn’t have horns or a tail. I didn’t know Norma Quick, but I already knew that I didn’t like her. Her letters to the editor, although well written, were guaranteed to push my buttons. Politically we were polar opposites.

I read the local paper, the East Oregonian, every night (except Mondays, they don’t publish on Mondays.) I was raised reading the Los Angeles Times and one thing I miss living in a rural area is a big city paper. The East Oregonian is not in the same league; on an average day there’s probably only fifteen pages of newsprint, but all the local news is printed and if you want to know who was arrested for drunk driving or who is filing for divorce, well, The East Oregonian publishes it all…and those damn letters from Norma Quick. I would read her letters and vent to the spouse, who, you may recall, is not particularly noted for his liberal views either. He was not always sympathetic to my position.  “When I retire I’m going to respond to all of Norma’s letters” I would tell him.

There are lots of advantages to living in a small town, but one of the disadvantages is that taking a liberal stand in a letter to the editor won’t win you any friends. As a school administrator I needed to keep a lower profile than Norma Quick.

Over the course of the writing class I got to know a little about Norma. We had lively discussions. I’d sprinkle my conversation with comments that I knew would get a rise from her. “I have such admiration for Hillary Clinton,” I’d casually mention, and Norma would move into red state attack mode.

I don’t know what happened to Norma Quick.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a letter from her in the newspaper. The class ended a long time ago and our paths never crossed again.  During the class I got to know Norma and I admired her spunk.  I still didn't agree with her, but I stopped looking for traces of horns and a tail. 

I thought about Norma this morning as I wrote my first post-retirement letter to the editor. A small-minded bigot had written that same sex marriage is a violation of natural law and therefore not discriminatory. I imagine that Norma would agree with the writer of that letter. I don’t.  I'm secretly hoping that Norma is still out there and will respond so we can have that battle of words that was never possible when I was a civil servant.  This one’s for you Norma! 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Nana Discovers Craig's List Isn't Just Scams and Prostitution

The spouse and I have been looking for an RV for almost a year. Since we haven't won the lottery yet, we've been searching for the illusive gently used, low mileage, like new but cheap RV. We've looked at vehicles that give the impression they'll collapse in the first stiff wind and others that have served as mold incubation labs. We've met some interesting first thought being "Would you buy a used car from this person? Would you sleep in a bed this person owned?" My nose has been assaulted by unrecognizable, unpleasant odors and my eyes burned by viewing so many orange and brown color schemes with chunky shag carpet. I had begun to think that we would never find a reasonably priced clean RV.

I read the want ads, searched the Nickel Ads every week, and surfed the Internet. Every evening I checked Craig’s List for new RV postings. Numerous times I found what I thought was going to be the perfect RV, only to find that both words and pictures don’t tell the whole truth. When searching for an RV, it would be very helpful if Craig’s List had a smell-o-vision feature.

I had several opportunities to be scammed. Early in the search I found a low mileage, fairly recent vintage RV for a very good price. There was no phone number listed, but an email address. I responded to the ad and asked the seller to call me because I was interested in seeing the RV. I got an email back that told me the seller had be transferred overseas and that the RV was at a shipping facility and we could buy it through Pay Pal and have it shipped. SCAM! Several weeks later I saw the same picture of the RV on another ad on a Craig’s List listing in another city. There are a lot of opportunities to be scammed on Craig’s List. I was leery of every ad that sounded like a good deal, especially when they didn’t include a phone number for a supposed local listing.

I found our RV on Craig’s List and the ad didn’t include a phone number. I almost didn’t respond because it sounded too perfect. I was pleasantly surprised when we drove to Walla Walla to see it that it was as nice as advertised. A few minor scratches, but it smells good! It has only 24,000 miles on the engine and only 40 hours on the generator. It’s relatively small, only 24 feet. Our search for the perfect RV is over.

The seller of our “new” RV was the son of the owner. His father had purchased it new when he retired. He had intended to travel with his wife. His wife got ill and never recovered enough to travel. After she died he took a few trips by himself. Recently he moved into an assisted living facility.

When I pay attention I find lessons everywhere. The RV was a great deal for us, but when we use it, I will think about its former owner who didn’t have the time to enjoy his retirement. My plan is to have many years to explore in our RV, but none of us know how many good years we will have. That’s an important lesson to remember.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Broadway Sings to Me

I watched the Tony Awards last night and was reminded once again of how much I like Broadway musicals.  I wish real life were more like a musical.  How much more interesting a trip to Safeway would be if everyone were dancing and singing.  In my regular life it is rare for anyone to break into song.  Rare, but not unheard of.

In the early 70's the spouse and I were newly married and living, from paycheck to paycheck, in low-rent student housing in Portland, Oregon.  Our best friends, Beth and Dan, were attending college in Eugene.  When we could scrape up the gas money we would make the drive to Eugene and spend the weekend with our friends.  There's a saying that if you can remember 60s and 70s then you weren't there.  I have a hazy memory of this event, but I swear it happened...I'm pretty sure.

It was always a party when the spouse and I got together with Beth and Dan.  We were at the end of a long evening of revelry when we stopped laughing long enough to realize that we HAD TO HAVE FOOD...NOW!  The golden arches beckoned to us.  We ordered at the counter and settled into a plastic booth to feast.  All four of us were engrossed in our food when we heard music...and the first line of a current McDonald's jingle.

"You deserve a break today!  So get up and get away!  To McDonald's!" 
Just as I looked up a guy jumped over the counter with a mop and sang,

"Grab a bucket and mop....scrub from bottom to top..."

The entire work crew was singing the jingle and dancing. 

I looked at the spouse and my friends, wordlessly asking "Do you see this too?"  The four of us sat in the plastic booth with our mouths hanging open.  As suddenly as it started, the performance was over and the employees carried on with their regular duties.  Dan was the first to speak.

"Did you see that too?" he asked us. 
We all nodded. 

The next day, no longer under the influence and stone cold sober we once again talked about our trip to McDonald's. We agreed that we didn't experience a group hallucination....well, we're pretty sure we didn't have a group hallucination.

Yep, life would be more interesting if everyone broke into song once in a while.

Here's a YouTube video of the old McDonald's jingle...enjoy!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Nana Goes to Yard Sales

We had a lovely early summer day today.  Perfect weather for a yard sale.  Late morning I left the home compound to see what I could find.  The spouse decided not to go with me because it was so late.  "It's 10:00.  All the good stuff is gone" he told me.  He fancies himself  a yard sale expert.  "Most of the sales started on Friday," he says.  "You need to get the Nickel Ads on Thursday and circle the ads and make a list.  You need to go early on Friday to get the good stuff."  Probably good advice, but it sounds like way too much pre-planning for me.

Today I didn't buy a thing, but  it's not like I really needed anything to start with.  I wasn't looking for anything in particular.  I operate from the "I'll know it when I see it" school of yard sale shoppers.  It was fun to be out searching for treasure.  It's the hunt that I enjoy, even when I come home empty handed.  The reality is that I don't need any more things...well, unless they are really cool things.

I wish I had thought to take my camera with me.  There was some unbelievable merchandise for sale.  I find it hard to believe that people think they can sell some of this stuff...and just as unbelievable is that I see shoppers walking away with armloads of crap they have bought.

One sale I went to was in the front yard of a house enclosed by a chain link fence.  Clothing was hung all along the fence.  I parked my car on the street and walked up to the entrance where I noticed special items of clothing hung on the gate.  Arriving shoppers were greeted by a half a dozen gigantic Triple D braziers in neon colors swinging on the gate.  Who buys bras at a yard sale?  Who buys used underwear?  Who hangs their enormous bras on their front fence? 

Last week at an estate sale I bought three duck decoys for $1.00 each.  The spouse says he can never have too many duck or goose decoys and for only a dollar, I'll indulge him.  Today there were no tools or fishing gear to tempt me.

I didn't find anything that even momentarily whispered out to me to buy it.  There were lots of plastic containers, many without their lids, used bedding, and old pots and pans with the Teflon almost gone.  I can usually find at least a few books to buy, but today the reading material was limited to Harlequin romances.  Do you really think all the good stuff had already been sold?

Next week I'll map out the sales on Thursday and get an early start Friday morning.  I'll remember to take my camera.  If I'm lucky I can snap some pictures to entertain you...that would be almost as good as finding a treasure.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

WTF Wednesday: Sanitized For Your Protection

WTF Wednesday is a semi-regular feature of this blog. It documents the things that have made me pause, slap my forehead and say "What the f**k!" Well, that and I just like saying WTF. I'm retired. I don't have to watch what I say anymore. I'm not any one's role model.

For two summers when I was in college, I worked as a motel maid for a Best Western Motel in Canoga Park, California.  Every morning I jumped on my Honda 55 motorcycle and chugged from Granada Hills to Canoga Park to make beds, vacuum, and sanitize for your protection.  The job definitely ranked in the bottom ten percent of jobs, and I joyfully returned to college at the end of each summer.

For someone who doesn't like to clean, motel maid was not a perfect job fit.  There were three or four maids on duty each day.  At lunch time we all met in a vacant room to eat lunch and watch Days of Our Lives.  The rest of the day I was on my own changing sheets and cleaning up disgusting messes...oh, and sanitizing for your protection.

The head maid "trained" me how to sanitize the toilet and then slip the paper ring over the seat.  She actually stuck her hands in the toilet to scrub.  The few times I actually cleaned a toilet I suited up with elbow length plastic gloves.  Most of the time I skipped the scrubbing part of the routine, the toilet usually looked clean enough to me, and I went right to just putting on the paper ribbon to certify the stool as sanitized.

You probably don't want to hear that I sanitized the drinking glasses with the same carefree attitude.  I ran them under the cold water in the sink, dried them with a bath towel and shoved them in the "sanitary envelope."  Ewwww! 

Memories of my summer as a motel maid came flooding back to me last month when I was visiting Austin, Texas.  My daughter and I went out to dinner at Chuy's and this was how the flatware was presented on the table...


I wondered if the staff at Chuy's was as conscientious as I at sanitizing...just in case, I cleaned my silverware with my napkin before eating. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Nana Reflects on Retirement

I recently wrote a comment on a blog that said something like “If I’ve learned anything from retirement, it’s…” Which got me to thinking about what I have learned over the past two years of being retired.

  • There are very few things that can’t be done tomorrow, or never if I don’t get around to it.

  • Activities expand to fill available time.  It now takes me three times a long to get something done that I used to do after work, while I made dinner.  Activities that used to be tacked on to other chores have become primary activities. Whew! Sometimes you just need to take a nap.

  • There are very few things that I absolutely have to do. I no longer have to spend time with people I don’t like or respect. My social calendar is smaller, but much more enjoyable. It takes a lot to nudge me away from home. I no longer attend “duty” events. If I don’t want to do it, I don’t. With no excuses necessary.

  • It took me two years to be comfortable letting go of my work identity. I can now say simply “I’m retired” without going into what I used to do. I’ve let it go.

  • It was difficult to let go of the “busy” excuse. I am no longer “busy” in the sense that my time is externally controlled, but I’m still not cooking gourmet meals, keeping a spotless house, or organizing get- togethers with friends. I can’t blame these failings on being busy; I just do only what I want to do now. I’m not busy, face it...I'm just a bad cook, careless housekeeper, and a recluse.

  • It’s okay to stay up late. I don’t need an alarm clock to wake up. I can take a nap if I want to.

  • I still don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing in retirement. I don’t even have a Bucket List of adventures and challenges to accomplish. In fact, I’m less interested in travel now because I don’t have to get away to be able to relax.

If I had to do it over again, I'd probably plan better.  Or, maybe not.  There's nothing to stop me from planning now, except I'm so busy...

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