Getting Closer

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Just the beginning!

We’re a bit more than two weeks away from “D-Day”, the day the moving van will arrive and Florida will be in our past.

It’s been an interesting four years. So many people of our age have, for quite some time, been settled in the place and circumstances they are. Not us. Perhaps, that is the consequence of a fledgling being thrown from the nest. Or, perhaps, my mother was right – there is a bit of the Tinker in me. And, everyone knows about Redheads! In any case, off we’ll go. Taking those things which we can’t part with. Books, furniture and art we found together, photos. And memories, mostly pre-Florida. And one another.

Moving is like a kaleidoscope – look at it one way it appears as such. A little twist and it looks much different. An opportunity? A loss? A mistake? That it’s part of a Plan is all we’re certain of. If it were just up to me I’d certainly screw it up. So we’ll follow our hearts and listen. And see.

In the meantime, we pack. And pack some more. And give or throw away. It’s amazing that after three tag sales we still have some things we’re deciding not to take. The plan is for us to unpack only what is essential for our temporary home – the apartment in Waynesboro – and keep everything else in a spare bedroom: patio furniture, cartons of books, pictures, tools and some more. This way, we’ll have much less to repack when we find our new home – or it finds us.

We have become somewhat expert in packing. Heavy brown craft paper, used by contractors to protect new floors, makes excellent carton cushioning and protective wrap for china. Bubble wrap is less expensive on the internet. Home Depot has sturdier boxes than Lowe’s. Bending over boxes can give you a crook in the neck – set up a work station on the kitchen table. Columbus had an easier time finding the New World than you’ll have finding someone to help you pack. Nobody likes it. No Body!

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And More!

 

 

God doesn’t play golf

So, what’s all this about being “retired? Retired from what, I wonder?

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t written a word on my blog for about ten months. I’ve noticed, though. Each time that the thought of writing something, anything, would materialize into a vague urge, it would disappear only to mind-creep again into some form of consciousness. The fact is,  I didn’t have much to say, or write. It was a time to think. And, so I did. thinking monkeyIn no particular order my thoughts ranged from: Was I happy? Was it a mistake moving to Florida? If it wasn’t a mistake moving here, was it working out as I had hoped? What was I supposed to be doing with my time, my life? Aren’t retirees supposed to play golf? I don’t play golf. And, I doubt God will hold that against me. He didn’t either, I think. 

The happiness question was a tough one to figure. Am I ecstatic? No, or at least rarely. Am I unhappy? No, I’d say it’s more that there’s a feeling of being unsatisfied or unfulfilled. Hmm, after six months or so of “deep thought” this was the best I could do? Oh, well, it was a start.

Now, The Move thing. Was it a mistake? No, of that I’m sure. If we hadn’t left Connecticut life probably would have been more difficult and certainly more unpleasant. Florida has been good in a number of ways. I obtained my commercial driver license and became a Licensed Tour Guide in St. Augustine. And drove The Red Train! That was mostly interesting and fun… until the heat became a bit much.

First day giving tours (576x1024)We also turned a somewhat wreck of a house into a really beautiful home that became a favorite gathering place for the friends we made here. That was fun, interesting and a useful thing to do.aquiline11818 drone2

And, we made some nice acquaintances and friends here. Some are gone. Some moved on. But, the really special ones, the true friends, will remain an important part of our life. But…here it comes, the heat. Who wudda’ thought? My DNA, my genetics, whatever, are just not capable of enjoying 6 months of what I consider summer and 3 more months of what can best be described as, “The Nether World”. devil picOther than that, it’s great! And, that heat did something I did not expect. It took away my desire to do much, especially outdoors. It and I just weren’t working. And that brought me to my next Big Question: What was I supposed to be doing with my time and life?

Surprisingly, that was the easiest question for me to answer. Simply put, I was meant to work; to do something that mattered – to myself and maybe to others. I enjoy working. Really. And so, over these past 10 months I’ve pondered, along with my Redhead, as to what to do. We travelled some distances, too: Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Searching to find a place that better suited us and we it. We searched these areas several times and came pretty close to deciding upon Greenville, SC as being our new home. But, in the end, each had some shortcoming (for us) that we wanted to avoid: too much development, too remote, too hot (that was a deal breaker for several places), too costly or too kooky (and believe me, I know kooky)! And, then, an unexpected, but entirely welcome, event happened and it gave us reason to check one more area in our quest – Virginia. I resisted at first. My impression of Virginia was that it was too hot and too close to DC. I guess some geography lessons in grammar school were for naught. After lots of research, we became intrigued by the Shenandoah Valley area, particularly the Staunton area. The climate seems agreeable: moderately warm summers and with lower humidity and cooler night temperatures than here in Florida, real winters with snow, but perhaps a bit shorter in duration than Connecticut winters. Our adventure up there during July was very pleasant – jeans during the day and a light sweater some nights. Also, for me, the allergies that plague me here in Florida were welcomingly absent in the Staunton area.

There are a number of other things about the Valley that appeal to us both, but one in particular calls to me: auctions. Yes, auctions. Because, back in Connecticut, it was at small town auctions that I discovered some of my best antique and vintage furniture finds. And that was the foundation of my passion – taking old, sometimes just plain discarded furniture and restoring it and finding it a new home. It was work. And it mattered to me and to the many people that wound up with a piece of furniture from Redeux. Bill in workshop20121010

And, so, this week we placed our beautiful home on the market. Within a few hours (and after praying for God’s guidance and St. Joseph’s intercession) we had an offer. In two months we will say goodbye to Florida. 

After the Storm

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You know it’s coming. Will it be the end of everything as we know it?  What happened to all the assurances that we were in a safe place? 

Like an unwelcome relative that insists on coming for the holidays, Irma, with potent unpredictability, smashes and wrecks and ruins everything she comes near.

We pray. At home, at church, together, by ourselves. Please, Lord, let Irma turn toward the ocean and let every sailor at sea escape her wrath.

First, it’s the islands of the Caribbean. Devastated. Then the mainland. Northward, then west. Please, spare the Gulf, we pray. She straightens. Northward, again. We’re assured she will weaken.  Every bully does. Eventually.  Toward sparsely populated areas she sets her sights. And, then, she sees her prize to the east. She wants to visit the City of Rivers. It’s been such a long time. Hasn’t it? I’ve missed you. Let me visit. Not a good time? Oh, I insist. Irma comes through the back door. But, not before first waking the dead of St. Augustine. Then, it’s over the rivers and through the woods to Grandma’s house she goes. And, to ours. She has misplaced our address. For now. But, like a raging drunk at midnight, she shatters the peace of our neighbors. Trees crash into homes, roofs are ripped, windows are shattered. And, too, are so many lives.

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We are now three for three. This yearly upheaval has stirred up something within. Of smashing. Of terror in the night. Of trees strewn in the front yard, albeit now ones without lights.

A prayer, once said for many years, comes to mind: Lord, let me know what You want me to do, and give me the courage to do it. Amen

Punked

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Nobody is going to punk her.

Today’s news carried the tragic report of an eight year old girl that died from injuries she had sustained several months ago. The details of the report, although few, are bizarre and shocking. The girl was at home with her family when she became involved in a game of Dare. Someone dares you to do something and if you do it you get to challenge them. If you don’t fulfill the dare, well, it depends on the group playing. This eight year old girl, surrounded by her family – adults and other children – was given the dare to drink a glass of boiling water using a straw. She accepted and the resulting injuries sent her to the hospital where, after several operations she was returned home, but with lingering complications. Two days ago she complained of breathing difficulties and before the arrival of an ambulance, she died.

Comprehending what type of family would allow this type of “game” to take place in the presence of adults is even really beyond the ability of someone that has seen a lot. But, what has left me absolutely shocked is the explanation and rationale of the events as explained by one of the adults witnessing the game – the little girl’s aunt. Going forward, I will refer to the little girl as, “Angel”.

Aunt to Reporter: Well, they were all playing that Dare game. Everyone knows you don’t dare Angel, because she will not be punked (note from Bill -while there are several definitions of the slang term, “being punked”, in this instance it refers to being made to feel someone’s inferior).  She will accept the dare and do it. Everyone knows that’s the way Angel is. So when they brought out the boiling water and dared her to drink it with a straw, she did. She wasn’t going to be punked. No, sir, nobody is going to punk her.

Angel, unfortunately, is not alone in refusing to be punked and then paying the consequences. Every day and I do mean every day, there are reports of people, many of them kids, shooting and being shot, killing and being killed. All of the old excuses for violence: the lack of jobs, the need for more gun control, poverty, poor housing, etc., etc., simply cannot explain what is going on. Here in Jacksonville we have an abundance of jobs, and good ones. What is considered to be a rundown neighborhood here would pass for a middle-class neighborhood in many cities up North. There are miles of beachfront and riverfront open to everyone, recreational opportunities are so many and so varied they can’t be counted. Most cost little or nothing. Yet, something is destroying us. Is it drugs? Is it families that teach their kids to not be punked, no matter what? What is happening?

For the sake of Angel and all the other Angels, we had better find out.

Best Foot Forward

So, you’re retired?

Yeah, kind of.

From what?

Well, I guess from a few things.

How do you like it?

I’m looking to be un-retired.

This conversation, with several variations, has been happening with me more and more frequently. I wonder, am I looking much older than I feel? Do I have that look of being part of the leisure class? Does my latest fashion statement that I consider to be a combination of bon vivant and bohemian nonchalance really signal that I am not reporting to any legitimate work anytime soon? Upon viewing a picture of this outfit, emailed by The Redhead, my buddy, Maryellen, called to tell me that I needed an intervention.

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Maybe, I just need a job.

For a few weeks I have attempted to volunteer my time and whatever talents I may have to several area charities and non-profits. Phone messages remain unreturned or the person that I do get to speak with tells me to go online to get information and to leave a contact number. But, I’m speaking with you now, I tell him. No, you have to go online, he says. I do. But, after I fill out the online form a window pops up telling me it’s best to directly call the office.

Yes, maybe I just need a job.

So, what to do? I’ve told myself no weekends. No nights. No holidays. Last week I was told to not put so many obstacles in my way in finding a job. Good advice. After all, it’s only part-time work I’m looking for.

I’ve made a mental list of what I have in the past liked to do and what I can now still do. Several things have come to mind. A business that we’ve had dealings with recently seemed that it might be a good resource in locating a lead. I called and explained that I was planning to un-retire and wondered if they might know of any similar business that might require part time help. As a matter of fact we do, they said. Us.

I’m putting together a resume this weekend. And Monday I’m going to put my best foot forward. But, guaranteed, no matter what the outcome is, that best foot forward won’t be wearing socks and sandals. At least not black socks!

The Swerve

It’s been months since I’ve wanted to write, much less take the time to actually sit in front of a keyboard again. Why tonight?

Tonight our book club met to discuss this month’s selection, The Swerve. If you haven’t yet read it, the 50 cent review is: a Renaissance era papal scribe goes on a search for ancient classic manuscripts. He comes across a poem written by one Lucretius, a Roman living approximately 100 years before Christ. The poem , On the Nature of Things, deals with the nature of life. It has influenced many philosophers and writers and, according to the Swerve’s author, Stephen Greenblatt, formed our modern world’s understanding of life’s purpose and essence. Lucretius described a universe where there is no God, we were created by randomly colliding and binding atoms, our life’s purpose should be the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, all religions are a hoax and, at the end…nothing. Greenblatt apparently concurs. I couldn’t disagree more.

It’s been six months since I’ve gone to work. At times I think I miss it. But, actually what is missed is the doing of work. Not willing to work weekends, nights or holidays does limit one’s prospects of finding part-time work. Being able to enjoy time with The Redhead and to explore the surrounds of our new home are important. That she goes to work three days each week has put me in the unenviable position of haus frau. But, it has also given me time to think.

Retirement, for some, is the long sought after golden fleece, awarded after a certain number of years toiling in the workplace. Yet, there are those that really like to work. Perhaps they are the ones that were lucky enough to have drawn a paycheck doing something they loved. Those aren’t jobs, those are blessings. With work, I’ve been blessed three times, so far. Interestingly, each of those three work blessings came from out of the blue – completely unexpected.

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So, what might our book club meeting have to do with writing again? Writing helps clarify what I see. And, if I truly believe that we are put here for more that our own pleasure, perhaps, by writing, I will see what is now calling me. After all, even the sea bird in the picture above found his reward in the hurricane devastated moonscape of what was once lush Little Talbot Island. All he had to do was see it.

As always, feel free to comment.

Bill