Diversifying your portfolio of fun

Following my fall from last week, the good news is my chin looks fabulous (if chins ever look fabulous). The stitches are out, and it’s almost healed. Doesn’t look like I will have a scar. The bad news is a few ribs took some of the impact, so I’m not able to play golf. I am grateful nonetheless. In the grand scheme of things, this is a tiny nuisance.

It rained today, and for some reason, if I can’t play golf, I’m always happier if no one is playing golf.

From the outset, one of my retirement strategies was to balance my activities and focus on building both physical and intellectual reserves. Think of it as diversifying your portfolio, except this is about fun not money. Not that money can’t be fun.

Reading, writing, cooking and artistic pursuits counterbalance golf and other outdoor fun. I figured at some point I would be reminded you can’t have it all. Being down for the count after my accident seems to validate my strategy. I’m annoyed I can’t play golf, but I have plenty to keep me amused at home.

I made a batch of no-knead bread. I’ve been experimenting with the technique, and I love it! The dough rises for at least 18 hours. We keep our home pretty cool, so it has taken more like 24 for mine. I noticed today’s batch had a better rise, as it has gotten a bit warmer. To get me started, I got Jim Lahey’s book from the library.

The book is great, but I probably won’t buy it. I’ve made it a few times now, and there are tons of free recipes for no-knead bread on the Internet, so I think I’ll make do with what I have. One more cookbook might make our whole house implode, and no one wants that.

The rest of the afternoon I hung out in the garage making coasters and listening to Amy Winehouse. The garage is exactly the same as the shower … I sound just like her. A super-pleasant afternoon.

As for the coasters, I have no idea what I am going to do with them. Some will be gifts. I just keep making them. The process relaxes me, and I feel happy as I’m out there puttering away.

I’m currently on a drink theme. They are coasters, right? I’m giving myself permission to go with whatever my brain comes up with. I’m not allowing that nasty bitch masquerading as my inner voice to stop me with her harsh criticism. My current approach is fake Shakespearean advice. I uploaded two new ones to the gallery:

  • Quench thy thirst with a pure and earnest alchemy of barley, hops, water, and yeast.
  • Behold the gift of fermentation, and seek ye the merry pleasure of beer, wine, and cheese.

A note for word nerds. Over the course of my entire career in corporate communications, we used the AP Style guide for grammar and punctuation. I adopted AP Style for my personal use, because I figured at least I’d be consistent. Even personal emails, letters to my mother. It’s a sickness.

In AP Style, one does not use the Oxford comma. That’s the last comma in a series such as beer, wine, and cheese. You will notice I used the Oxford comma. A hundred little communicators just dropped over. I decided the Oxford fit better with this style. So, guess what, AP Style? I’m over you.

One last punctuation nit. This is how I’m wired. There’s a comma after fermentation in the sentence above, “Behold the gift of fermentation, and seek ye the merry pleasure of beer, wine, and cheese.” That’s because they are independent clauses. The two parts can stand on their own, so they should be separated with a comma.

I forgot to add the comma when I made the tile. I know, big deal, but I do plan to fix it next time around. I guess that means I still have a ways to go when it comes to balance, but you know, baby steps.

How to use an alarm clock

Everybody has an opinion, but I was shocked to see retirement advice stating it’s important to establish a routine by getting up with an alarm every morning and filling your day with activity. I was going to leave a comment, but this particular site doesn’t enable comments. Here’s my comment:

Are you smoking crack?

Seriously, that is the dumbest advice I’ve ever heard. Dumber than even the new Abby, who hardly ever gets it right, in my opinion. The old Abby had her act together.

Back to the subject of sleep. The author says once you’re retired and don’t use an alarm, your whole day might be spent in bed or on the couch watching TV or on the porch watching the world go by.

I imagine there are retirees who might spend 30 or 40 years working their butts off and then suddenly decide to squander the rest of their lives doing nothing, but no, I really can’t imagine that. Even in my quest to be less productive, I have many interests, and well, shit must be done.

My body wakes up naturally around 6:30 a.m. I read the news and do the NY Times mini puzzle from under the covers, which by the way, is an art form. Bad things happen if you press too hard on the back of the phone. Most mornings I choose not to get up until around 7 a.m. I pack a lot into my days, but I go for the late start and ease in slowly.

The blur of breakfast and lunch can be problematic if you’re not careful, but retirement meal clash can be avoided with proper management.

Waking up without an alarm is one of the greatest joys retirement brings. I waited my whole life for this. While there’s no shame in getting up early to be productive if that’s how you roll, I’m here to say you can ignore all the advice if you like. Not everyone needs a routine. You don’t have to be productive. You can do what you want. You can sleep in.

During my last few years on the job, I had a long commute and got up every morning at 4 a.m. I don’t miss it. In fact, I was thinking the other day about what I do miss from work, and it was hard to even make a list.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

Room service! A tiny moment of pure joy after a long day of business travel and painful encounters with disagreeable executives. So, yeah, I miss room service, but I could probably get Dale to pretend.

I only set an alarm if I absolutely positively have to be somewhere early, and these days, that usually means golf. Alarm clocks are also good to make sure you don’t overdo it on a nap. 

Simple needs, easily met

Tuesday is my favorite day of the week because it’s Chopped night on TV. I could watch it for hours. OK, I do watch it for hours.

I’m kind of a complicated person, and I’ve often joked my goal is simple needs, easily met. Sadly, I’m usually all about complex needs that are difficult to meet. Cooking in retirement puts me closer to my goal.

The slab pies continue to fascinate. I wrote author Cathy Barrow asking about reducing the size, and she said the recipes aren’t designed for round pies. She uses 1/4 sheet pans. I happened to notice 1/8 sheet pans do exist, and she agreed they would be perfect for her pies. Either cut the recipe in half and make one, or make two and freeze one.

I got my 1/8 sheet pans in the mail yesterday, and I’m at it again. This time it’s Cowboy Beef Stew Slab Pie with lard crust. I guess the “cowboy” comes from Ancho chili powder and coffee. Not that lard is a health food, but it’s not as bad as you think.

So many things to love about retirement, but cooking has to be among my favorites. I have more time to pay attention to what’s going on in the world, and it seems to me the world has gone crazy. The kitchen is my shelter from the storm. Something about chopping, mixing, weighing, baking, roasting, stirring and browning mellows me out. Plus, we eat well!

It’s a good thing my other favorite hobbies involve exercise.

I’ll try not to beat the slab pie drum again, but I did want to share an update about downsizing. The author provides metric weights for all ingredients, and I’ve found that to be super-helpful for cutting the recipes in half.

For example, the full recipe calls for 1/4 cup or 30 grams of all-purpose flour. I don’t have an 1/8 cup measure, but our digital scale does metric, so I just weigh 15 grams. Most of the crust recipes include versions for both one and two-crust pies, and the one-crust recipe is perfect for a two-crust pie made in a 1/8 sheet pan. Wow, say that fast three times in a row.

Cathy also tells you what steps can be completed in advance. I made the crust today – the dough rests in the refrigerator overnight. I also made the filling, as her pies call for chilled crust and chilled filling. The filling will also rest in the refrigerator overnight. Tomorrow, all I have to do is roll out dough and make pie! Splitting up tasks is also easier on the dishwasher.

The weather is cold by California standards, certainly by my standards, and it’s supposed to rain hard tomorrow. Crusty beefy pie sounds perfect to me.

Dale’s on tap to cook this evening. He’s making a breaded pork cutlet known at our house as Schnitzel on a Stick. It’s basically a pounded-out pork schnitzel made from a bone-in chop. Side dishes are steamed spinach and maybe some pan-fried potatoes (bratkartoffeln).

To drink? Dale just loaded the kegerator with Mirror Pond Pale Ale from Deschutes Brewery.

All that and Chopped. Clean jammies. A cozy fire. Perhaps a cat in the lap. Did I say simple needs, easily met?

Pink sky at morning

Red sky at night, sailors’ delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. Does anyone know what pink sky at morning means? It has been cold by my puny standards, and rain is on the way. Wusses take warning?

I was all jammied up when I went out to the backyard to take this picture of sunrise over the Sierra foothills. Something about a pink sky makes me happy … particularly happy to be retired with nothing on the agenda and a full pot of coffee on the counter.

Dale and I jokingly call it “California Cold.” That means anything below 50. I had to force myself to go out for my long walks this week, so I over-bundled, which is my signature winter style. When we go out, Dale and I look like we’re dressed for different hemispheres.

Yesterday I played my first round of golf in 2019. It was in the high 30s when we were scheduled to start. Yikes! I was wearing so many layers it was amazing I could even hit the ball. But it warmed up nicely, and we had a great time out there.

I don’t make resolutions, but I had given thought to focusing more on my social game. There was a frost delay, so I chatted up some of the other players while we stayed warm in the clubhouse and mentioned my New Year’s resolution was to party more. That got some laughs and cheers.

Just saying, but it seems like the popular girls wanted to hang out with me after that. I learned one of my playing partners has a husband who grows pot! She’s going to bring me a little jar of bud, and I’m going to bring her a little jar of my homemade cannabis balm. A gift exchange! Dale thought that was hilarious. I mean, we’re still shocked you can go out in the backyard to smoke a joint, and no one can call the police.

My more relaxed attitude certainly helped my golf game. I had two birdies and a chip-in par for a grand total of 88. My best score ever is 84, and that was several years ago. I’m essentially a bogey golfer, which is fine, but I would like to improve, and who knows? With a little more partying, I might just do that. I have a golf buddy in Georgia who enjoys her rounds with a Bloody Mary in tow.

I’m not sure if it’s the weather or what, but my sciatica has been acting up, along with my right wrist, which I broke several years ago. I’ve been making sure to brave the cold and keep walking, using the cannabis balm twice daily and sleeping with a brace on my wrist. Seems to be working!

Oh. A word about the cannabis bath salts. I got the water super hot for my first bath and soaked 30 minutes or so. I felt remarkably pain-free that evening. But the next bath wasn’t as hot, and I’m also wondering if my cannabis-infused oil wasn’t evenly distributed, because I didn’t feel much. Two baths use 1/4 cup of infused oil. That’s kind of a lot, which sort of hints that it has great potential, but for now I prefer to use the topical balm I make with infused oil and beeswax.

I will say my aches and pain improved dramatically after I retired. That 2.5-hour commute on the bus to what was basically a desk job did nothing for my body. I don’t even complain too much about housework, because I figure it’s good for me.

For the record, I have attempted to lure Dale into the Housework-is-Healthy-and-Fun club, but he continues to resist. Although full credit due – he loads a mean dishwasher.

Playing in the rain

When I was 14, my friend, Susie, invited a few of us for a sleepover on Friday night. Her backyard was an avocado grove that sloped to a drainage ditch we called the La Branca. It had rained heavily that evening, so the next day we took Styrofoam boogie boards and rode them down into the ditch, where we happily paddled downstream.

Of course, it was dangerous. I can hardly believe I did it, and now I envision being sucked into the sewer or wherever that little ditch goes. My mother was horrified. I remember her telling my dad, “Donna played in a ditch Saturday morning.”

In recent years, I’ve been pretty tame. I avoid bad weather and hunker down inside. Until today.

We have a regular Tuesday golf group and most canceled because of anticipated rain. I was the first one to arrive at the golf course, and it was deserted. I approached the clerk and said I was going to brave it and see if I could play 18, but I could always get a rain check, right? He said they don’t do rain checks. I did not get mean or swear, but I did say that was a ridiculous racket.

He got nice after that and said we could go whenever the rest of the group arrived. No need to wait for our tee times. This was about 9:30 a.m., and my tee time was 10:04. It was sprinkling off and on, but the big rain was expected around 12:30 p.m. I putted a little bit and checked my emails. Two more had canceled. I thought, I could wait around another 30 minutes and be the only one here. I’m going for it.

I asked the guy in the shop if I could go out alone, and he said sure, he’d tell anyone in my group who showed up I got an early start to try and beat the rain. Rain, you can’t stop me! I was dressed in multiple layers with a rain jacket over it all. And a good hat.

Not that golf is dangerous in the rain unless there’s lightening, but it’s kind of a mess. I’ve been sort of a fair weather golfer lately, but I was ready to begin the adventure. I usually walk, and I considered taking a cart, but I figured wet is wet. A cart won’t save me, and my pull cart has an umbrella.

It was so much fun. I had the course to myself, and I felt like a kid again. It did get pretty wet out there, but I managed to walk 18 holes in three hours … before the big deluge. As I walked up to the golf shop, I saw the rest of the group. Just three brave souls. They quit at the turn, where they were happy to see the club house, and we decided gather inside for a bite to eat.

And that was my only mistake. Sitting there for an hour in wet clothes gave me a chill. On the way home, I put the car heater on high and heated up my seat, too. I really didn’t warm up until I got home and took off those wet clothes. My golf junk is soaked and drying out in the garage.

But it was fun! If I weren’t retired, I might have felt ripped off, but I have plenty of time, and I like to stay active. That said, as I’ve gotten older, I’m pickier about enjoying the outdoors in less than ideal conditions.

I’ve come to think whatever your sport, whatever your weather, if you’re properly dressed, a little nastiness won’t hurt you. What do you think? Ride it out inside or go for it? For me, it was just plain fun, and in the future, I will be more open to getting outside when it’s wet.

But super cold weather? Let’s sit by the fire and talk about that for awhile.

Can you still call it a vacation?


Miss me? I spent almost a week in the Atlanta area playing golf with a group of women I met nearly 20 years ago. We are older and not without our share of medical maladies, but we still love the game and had a great time socializing over drinks and snacks after a long day on the course.

We are mostly in our 60s – the youngest 59 and the oldest maybe 72? I’m not sure. We are also mostly retired, although some volunteer, and those jobs sound way too much like work to me. There was lively political conversation, me being the only left coast representative but not the only liberal. There were a few who voted for Trump, but we managed to get through it without fisticuffs. Wine helped.

I was surprised by the cornucopia of shit gone wrong. Among us we had breast cancer, ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, alopecia and a 7-pound abdominal tumor. My friend with the abdominal tumor has a scar that rivals mine – I know because we looked. Twice. She was pleased to see it goes from kind of an outie to an innie after 18 years. I said if you squint, it looks like six-pack abs.

Sadly, I did not take cannabis. For my knees and other inflammation-related issues, I substituted with Penetrex with Arnica, and it worked great. However, my post-mastectomy pain is neurological, and Penetrex doesn’t touch that. I also have a weird neurological thing on my back called Notalgia Paresthetica, which stands for “Itches like a Bastard.” By the third day without cannabis cream, my back itched and mastectomy scars were burning. The stuff works!

In kind of a weird twist, I saw a Gordon Biersch pub at the Atlanta airport while I was waiting around for my return flight back to Sacramento. The brewery was founded here in California, but I’ve never been. I believe they either invented or popularized garlic fries, so I popped in and had some. Yum, yum, yum, although I did have garlic poisoning afterward. Funny I would finally try them in Atlanta.

As for other entertainment, I was #1 on the library waiting list for Lethal White, the new Cormoran Strike novel. I would classify this as detective fiction. This is fourth in the series by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. It’s the best yet (and biggest yet at 647 pages). I was just getting to juicy parts on the way home when our plane began to descend, and I was mad. I could have flown in circles just to keep reading.

I’m kind of whipped after playing golf four days in a row and flying across the country twice. However, I had a great time! I hesitate to call it a vacation since I’m on permanent vacation, but it felt different than everyday life, which should resume today with a long list of stuff to do.

However, I’m on page 545, so I am going to call it a vacation, replete with vacation reading, and I will be extending it just a little bit longer.

Happy to be 63 and retired

I had a birthday this week – 63! I was going to get spiffed up and take a picture for the record, but getting spiffed up rarely interests me. Here I am sporting my signature retirement casual look.

When I was in Santa Cruz visiting my gorgeous friend, Monica, who just turned 40, the concierge was helping her with suggestions for the evening. I said hmmm, he didn’t help me, what’s up with that? We got dressed for dinner, and I wore my new skinny jeans. She said, well, he just hasn’t seen your butt yet.

Aw, that’s what friends are for.

Honestly, I am grateful to get older. I was 43 when I had a variation of stage 3 ovarian cancer, and here I am, 20 years later. I was unlucky to get it but exceptionally lucky to survive. I definitely want to rock my age, and I found unexpected inspiration this week on the golf course.

I played golf in my Wednesday league with three women I hadn’t yet met. Three of us were walking, and the other took a cart. The woman in the cart turned out to be 80. I was impressed until I discovered one of my fellow walkers was 82! I told her she was my new role model. She laughed and said, yeah, I just keep walking. The 80-year-old in the cart wasn’t nearly as spry.

Note to self: just keep walking.

Like most people, my golf game varies. On any given day, I can shoot 85 or 100. I’ve been reading up on the mental game, because there’s nothing wrong with my swing … just my brain. I played again on Friday, and I was telling my partner about positive self-talk, such as, “I am the best putter! I can’t wait to make this putt and show off my putting skills!”

It’s not true, but I’ve been doing it anyway, and I have made some unlikely putts. I was describing it to Dale and said, you know, fake it ‘til you make it. He had never heard that expression before.

It’s a work thing. You probably don’t remember that anymore.

Well, you haven’t worked in a year, so they probably don’t say that anymore.

I lost my work creds in a year?

Sorry, but yes.

You know what? I’m OK with that.

I thought you would be.

Dale makes me amazing two-mushroom lasagna with red pepper tomato sauce for my birthday, so I stayed home and worked as sous chef, chopping and weighing while he cooked. Between the two of us, it’s an all-day affair, but damn it’s good. We freeze the leftovers in individual portions, and what a treat that is (along with all the other great stuff in our freezer).

Monica got me semi-hooked on The Handmaid’s Tale. I read the book many years ago but hadn’t seen the Hulu show until we watched it together in Santa Cruz. It’s so good but so disturbing. When I first read the book, I thought this could never happen, but now I’m not so sure.

Last night I decided I was not going to watch this anymore. It’s too depressing. Instead, I watched The Book Club with Jane Fonda, et al. Mostly a bunch of older women sucking down boatloads of wine and complaining about their sex lives, which do improve significantly for all of them over the course of the movie. The Handmaid’s Tale seems more realistic to me. I suppose I’ll have to watch the rest of it.

Dale and I don’t get each other gifts anymore, but I did buy myself a Nespresso Virtuo coffeemaker, which was 50 percent off at Williams Sonoma when I ordered it but is only 20 percent off now. That little machine makes a damned good cup of coffee, and I like that it takes pods, because I typically don’t drink flavored coffee but like to keep it around for guests.

To finish off my birthday week, the temperatures dropped to the high 70s. It’s gorgeous outside, and it makes me feel happy to be 63 and retired!

What I learned in a year

I just hit the one-year mark on my retirement, although I was still on the payroll through most of October burning up the last of the vacation I could never seem to take for one reason or another. That means a year of not getting up at 4 a.m. or commuting 2.5 hours a day. Bliss!

What have I learned in a year?

  1. I was better at work than I am at golf.
  2. The house gets messier when you actually live there.
  3. Libraries rock.
  4. There is no shame in going to bed early and waking up late.
  5. My husband never says no when I say, “I’m going to Target, do you want to come along?”
  6. The kitchen gets messier when you actually cook.
  7. An occasional beer with lunch is a nice treat.
  8. Worrying about money doesn’t make the stock market go up or down.
  9. Housework sucks but keeps you moving and burns calories.
  10. My wardrobe fits into a laundry basket.
  11. Cannabis in small doses reduces pain and makes me happy.
  12. The dishwasher runs more than I do.
  13. Crocs make great slippers.
  14. Writing for pleasure and practice is fun and therapeutic.
  15. Sometimes I start thinking about lunch as soon as I finish breakfast.
  16. It’s better to say nothing than to criticize my husband’s driving.
  17. Cooking delicious food at home ruins you for most restaurants.
  18. Men don’t see dirt.
  19. Birkenstocks go with everything.
  20. The idea of a job has become increasingly unattractive.
  21. Change is good.
  22. I still can’t get rid of my work clothes.
  23. My inside voice and my outside voice are converging.
  24. It’s no big deal to squander a day – lots more where those came from.
  25. Gray hair looks good and saves time and money.
  26. You can have a social life without social media.
  27. I like Kohl’s better than Nordstrom.
  28. Homemade yogurt is worth the trouble.
  29. My husband does not report to me.
  30. Walking is good exercise, and it’s free.

Jobless and loving it (sort of)

Nearly every day I tell myself how happy I am to be retired. I don’t miss my job. The nest egg is in good shape, I have lots of hobbies and am having fun. However, at times I miss feeling successful.

The thing is, I never achieved the level of success I aspired to, so I’m not sure what I am missing. I did very well in my career over the long haul and found satisfaction in knowing I used my skills well and accomplished more than anyone else expected of me. Still, I left some opportunity on the table.

Should I go back to work? I looked at jobs online today to see if anything sounded interesting. I saw one job requiring “grit” and “a nearly insane level of attention to detail.” Sure, that could be me on a good day. More than likely it’s not.

Reading through job descriptions, there’s strong demand for passionate self-starters who can roll up their sleeves and collaborate with a fast-paced global team. I used to write this crap – and reading it now cured me of the itch to find a job.

Perhaps it’s not the feeling of success I miss but the feeling of knowing what success looked like. In the workplace, the path to success is mostly linear, and it points up.

That seemed doable to me, so I set my eyes on the prize and worked hard. Sometimes I fell short of my hopes and dreams, and other times I wildly exceeded even my own expectations. But I had the map, I had a compass and I stayed on the trail. There were prizes along the way and incentives to keep going.

By the time I retired, I had lots of prizes, but my bullshit meter was pegged.

In a career limiting development, these days there’s not much of a gap between my inside voice and my outside voice. I wanted to do something different with the last third of my life anyway, so I retired as soon as the math worked out.

I’m coming up on the one-year mark, and I’ve learned retirement doesn’t come with a map or compass. Many of us traded our talents for money and security. I certainly did, and I have no regrets. But I am still driven to reach my full potential, whatever that is, and now I have to figure it out all by my own self. I have a feeling I’m not alone.

After a long career of orderly achievements, some of us will have to work at understanding what it means to be successful in this chapter of our lives. We’re used to managing big projects, and now the project is us.

So, yes, I would get a job if I had to or an unbelievable opportunity came knocking, but I don’t want to work because it’s a safe retreat into familiar territory. I’d rather deconstruct retirement and figure out what’s next. As Gandalf said, all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

And if there is no next big thing, that might be OK, too. Whatever passions drive you, maybe the answer is to keep driving. Maybe that’s enough. I have a note to myself on my desk that says, “When all else fails, just write. Just write.”

Thank you for reading my stuff! It’s a pleasure to connect with the wonderful community of people who find their way to these pages.