A Blogging Award!

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that jeandayfriday nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award!  It is my first award for blogging and I’m very pleased that my New Year’s promise to write and promote my blog more this year has produced a positive result.

I have a few friends who are contemplating starting a blog.  I’ve advised them to do what I have started doing this year:

  • Write regular posts.
  • Read and follow other blogs.
  • Like and comment on the blogs you read.  It’s like “bread cast upon the water.”  This active participation includes you in a special blogging community.
  • Use WordPress.org!  I have been very pleased with the ease of using the WordPress platform, as well as the quality of blogs I’ve found here.

Thank you,  jeandayfriday, for awarding my blog the Versatile Blogger Award.  It has been a pleasure following your blog and I appreciate you recognizing mine.

The rules for this reward can be found at the Versatile Blogger Award blog.   The first rule is to share seven facts about myself that may not be known to people who follow my blog.  Hmmmm…  That might be hard to do since family members, as well as online-only friends, read my blog, but let’s see what I can come up with…

  1.  I was a girly-girl when I was little.  I loved all my dolls, stuffed toys and wind-up toys that, in those days, required a detachable key.  My sister and I kept track of all the keys in a special can.  My first doll was named Lima Bean because I loved that particular legume.  I used to drag her around by her hair.
  2. I am a Denver, Colorado native.  That may not astound people who do not know this state, but it is comes up often in conversations.  Just yesterday the dental tech brushing my teeth asked me if I was a Denver native.  I answered, “ys ilnk ws bne hrjghj,” because her buzzing toothbrush was in my mouth.
  3. When I was a teenager, I decided I wanted to become a translator at the U.N. I began with Latin in junior high and took it for four more years. I started Russian in high school, followed by German the next year.  I continued with German and Russian for another year in college.  Once I was asked to speak the modern languages, not just read and write them, I figured out I wouldn’t become a translator.  I was way too shy and self-conscious!
  4. I taught Air Force Effective Writing at Bitburg AFB in Germany when I was 22 years old and wife of a sergeant.  The class was designed to help Air Force personnel write performance reports and other written communication with good grammar and appropriate language.  I was given a slide projector, a carousel full of slides and a cassette player with the dialog that accompanied the slides and expected to fill two hours a day for two weeks.  The class included staff sergeants to colonels, every one of them older than I was at the time.  Some of them had master’s degrees—while I had just graduated from college a year before with a degree in elementary education.  Let’s just say, I earned every penny I was paid, which was about $300.00.
  5. The townhouse my husband and I have lived in for over fifteen years is the longest either of us lived anywhere (house-wise that is) in our entire lives.
  6. I have owned 11 cats in my life.  Two of them are in my household right now.  There have been 6 male cats and 5 females over the years.  In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a cat fancier—but I’m not crazy and I don’t take the magazine [Cat Fancy].
  7. I LOVE British costume dramas!  I can’t get enough of them, including DOWNTOWN ABBEY.

The next rule asks that I nominate new awardees with the Versatile Blogger Award.    I hope that I have picked bloggers who have not already been recognized!

50 Things Before I Turn 50           Much more than a bucket list.

Before Morning Breaks               Chuckles, giggles and laughs!

The Nature of Things                    Great photography and writing

For the Love of Pete                      Flash Fiction, Vintage-Themed Stories, Photos

Going the Distance                        Family, Faith, Healing

Older Eyes                                     Creativity, Writing, Aging

Stories I Share With Friends           Writing, History, Reflections, Happiness

the single cell                                  Writing, Opinion, Humor

Thoughts, Ideas, Words                  Family, Aging, Genealogy

Pam’s Planet                                  Change, Family, Loss

These Are Days                              Life, Change, Photography

Granny1947’s  Blog                        Humor, Photography, Aging

Stories About My Life                      Memoir/Blog, Nostalgia

Seasweetie’s Pages                        Change, Photography, Gratitude

Thanks to jeandayfriday and a recommendation to read/follow any, or all, of these blogs!

My Love/Hate Relationship With Facebook

facebook engancha

Image via Wikipedia

My Facebook timeline informs me that I joined up on November 19, 2008.  Since then I have had a love/hate relationship with this social site.  I joined because my grownup daughters talked about it all the time and communicated a lot through their posts.  They also posted pictures that I would never have received until I became a user as well.

  • I love posting on their walls and downloading pictures.  It is easier for them and for me to be on FB because there is an easy, central location for sharing.  Of course, we have other communication resources as well nowadays, i.e. our smartphones!
  • I love finding old friends and keeping up with relatives on FB.  That has been fun for me, even if we don’t write lengthy private emails (something that we can also do on FB!).  We keep up with each other’s activities, and acknowledge life’s ups and downs.  I was especially pleased when my sister joined in May 2011!
  • I love the fan pages where we can like a movie, book, celebrity or television show as well as causes, hobbies or other interests.  Many of these likes mean updates and opportunities to share unique points of view or “funnies” on our FB page.
  • I love being able to link my blog to my FB page so that people who do not ordinarily read blogs can catch up with my latest posts.  I also like being able to share a post from a newspaper or NPR on my FB page.

There are probably more reasons I enjoy FB, but I can’t think of them right now.  This list covers the most important points, however.  To summarize the reasons I love Facebook:  it provides a template for sharing where I am in my life at this moment in time.  The new timeline layout does this especially well.

As far as my hate relationship, I don’t have that many to list.

  • I hate how it hooks into my childhood and teenage mentality.  I thought I’d grown beyond worrying about how many “friends” I have or how “popular” I am.  Unfortunately, no.  I’m not a highly social person and have never been, even as a child.  I always had one or two close friends and that was it.  I’m not shy, but I am an introvert.  The things I like to do are mainly solitary—reading, knitting, writing (blogging), needle felting.  People know who I am, but do not consider me a friend necessarily.  Nevertheless, in low moments I have looked for “friends” to fill out my numbers.  It amazes me how many friend requests I have made that have never been answered!  Then I wonder, “What is wrong with me?  I only have 35 friends, and so-and-so has 100!”
  • I hate the moments when I want to clean out my “friends” list.  What perversity!  I feel competition to plump up my numbers, and then complain about people who are not really “friends.”   I do have people on my list who never respond to posts on their walls or personal messages from me.  I visit their pages and they seldom, if ever, posted at all.  Maybe they are too busy, or they are only there because their kids are.  I think this urge to cull the list comes from the part of me that is so like my father—exactitude.  How can you call someone a friend if you never communicate with that person?  If that person never communicates with you?  One of my daughters suggested that people may like reading my page, but they don’t respond.  I think, “They could at least “like” a post or a status update!”  That’s what I do unless I don’t agree with or approve of a post.  In the end, I am who I am.  I review each person every few months and end up “unfriending” one or two.  I guess it is a good thing I don’t have 100 “friends” after all.

A few other reasons I have “unfriended” a person on Facebook, besides non-communication:

  • writing every post in capital letters–like they are shouting!
  • profanity
  • constant internet game updates

To summarize my hate relationship with Facebook—it is a social site and has its social ups and downs.  In the end, there are far more reasons to be there than not.

Now that you know about my FB relationship, you can friend me at:

https://www.facebook.com/mholiver

Maybe you have some reasons of your own for “unfriending” a  FB friend.  Please share!

Some blog posts that inspired this blog post:

http://www.blogher.com/9-people-you-should-unfriend-today

http://www.blogher.com/defriending-facebook

The Retirement Bucket List

Knitting with Boojie's help--knitting was on my bucket list!

It may seem retired people do only what they want–nap, watch TV, sleep late, go shopping, travel.  An acquaintance of mine has been retired  for several months.  I know, through other sources, that she has been struggling with retirement ever since.  She may have envisioned her retirement  days as one long weekend that never ends;  in fact, she told me that retirement seems like Saturday every day–it is hard to keep track of the days of the week sometimes.  However,  I feel confident that will change for her over time.    It certainly has for me.

Five years before I actually retired from my teaching job, I chose to work half-time for half-pay.  This was not the best financial decision for me, but it was necessary for my mental health.  My father had passed away the previous year after suffering through several years of dementia.  The whole experience of dealing with his illness, as well as the loss of him, wiped out my coping abilities.   I had also endured several other upheavals and changes in my life and career during those years before he died.  I wanted to just pack it in, but I did not have the required equation (age plus years invested), or the savings,  to just quit working.    However, the thought  of  spending another five years in the classroom caused panic attacks.  I simply had to make a change in my life.   After negotiating with my principal and the school board, I was designated a half-time teacher of the gifted and talented  at the elementary school where I was already employed.

I’m not going to describe the ups and downs of having a special assignment in a school like the one from which I retired.  That is the subject for another blog entry.  Personal relationships with the other teachers changed dramatically, and I unwisely used much of my time at home working on lessons.  A teacher’s work is never done, especially in her own mind.!   On the plus side, with more time to take care of myself, my health did improve, as did my state of mind.  The negatives included the aforementioned issues, as well as guilt about not working enough.

From my experience, as well as that of my husband and some relatives who have retired, I can say that retirement requires planning.  Over time we discovered the need for hobbies and avocations–some kind of routine and work.   Depression can set in if a formerly busy and employed person has no direction.

You may have goals and hobbies that you always wanted to pursue if you only had the time.  Those might work out or not, so it is important to look beyond them.  I always wanted to write a novel, but discovered that fiction writing was not for me.  I wrote poetry and enjoyed that for awhile.  Ultimately I ended up writing a family memoir and I’m now working on a family history.  These turned out to be more to my liking and an outgrowth of my interests.  Blogging for the everyday person evolved since my retirement, which has also fed my desire to write.

My husband retired involuntarily after the financial crash in 2008.  He was an architect who loved what he did, and hoped to do it forever.  The recent  turn down in home building wiped out his prospects, so he had to do a lot of exploring, experimenting and reflecting before settling into a satisfying routine of writing a murder mystery and accomplishing household design and building and around the house.  We had hoped to travel a lot, but that has been curtailed by reduced finances.  Readjusting, reevaluating and revamping have all become part of our daily discussions.  We have helped each other reflect on what a

Bucket List

change in lifestyle means for us–our bucket lists, so to speak.

Yesterday and today I have been reworking my goals–what don’t I need to do after all?  What is most important to me?  What is my legacy for my children and grandchildren?   All of these are further thoughts for future blogs…

“Do the thing you think you cannot do.”

(June, 1970) This photo shows me at the summit of Mt. Vesuvius.  The guide is demonstrating the steam against my leg.  I wouldn’t be on Vesuvius if I hadn’t conquered my fear of riding the ski lift to the top.  I had to ask myself, “How can I NOT ride in this chair lift?  When will I ever again get the chance to be on Mt. Vesuvius?”  I was shaking the whole way up, and jubilant the whole way down.

Looking back over my life, several of  Eleanor Roosevelt‘s quotes have defined me.  The one  that applies most to my personal development is the following:

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face… do the thing you think you cannot do.”

As a child and young adult I was somewhat withdrawn and shy around strangers.  I didn’t do well when thrown into an unknown situation.  I didn’t recognize my strengths and I had low self-esteem.  Only when I really, really wanted something for myself did I achieve.  Achievement required that I swallow my fear and put myself in a place where I might suffer failure.

I was a good student in junior high and high school because I was interested in history, writing and anything involving literature.  Those were my strengths and I could count on them.  My skills in these academic areas gave me the opportunity to go to an excellent selective small liberal arts college about an hour away from home.

Even though the school was small, the challenge of the social scene there, as well as  being away from home took away all my confidence and focus.  I spent two years in that school and then transferred to another school where the social pressure was less.  However,  it wasn’t until I heard graduation practice at the end of my junior year that I faced down my fears.  I can still remember sitting in the library and saying to myself, “No matter what it takes, I am going to graduate from college!”  I made up my mind, swallowed my fears and did it.  (The fact that I struggled with severe depression during this time will be discussed below.)  I applied myself, completed every class in my minor of English by carrying an accelerated load of classes, graduating in December, 1969.

This has continued to be a pattern throughout my life.  When I lived abroad during my first marriage, I was often afraid.  Sometimes I would say to my husband or a friend, “This really scares me,” and that individual person would help.  Or, I would hear someone say, “It scares me to go off the base into town,” and I would think, “Wow, she is missing so many wonderful experiences.”  Slowly, through the years, I found that grit and determination were a requirement for success. Facing down my fears…

Throughout my working years as a teacher, I  had to swallow down my natural fears as a reserved, quiet person, in order to meet new students, parents and faculty members.  Grit, determination, facing the necessity of the moment have all played a part in my growth as an individual.

That doesn’t mean life has been rosy.  It hasn’t.  Sadness and grief come and go.  I have lost people in my life and gained others.  All of us have to endure in order to survive.

The greatest failures in my life have led to the greatest successes.  My first and second marriages failed.  Each time I have had to pick up the pieces and rebuild my life.  I remember a wonderful poem I read when my first marriage collapsed.  The poet imagined building a wind chime out of mud–which definitely seemed to be where I was.  My second marriage was making lemonade out of lemons.  Rebuilding my life, patching the wounds–they were all important to me.  Living alone while my daughters were in college was a wonderful life passage–missing them, being on my own, discovering that I could enjoy my own company…and then finally meeting my soul mate, were all acts of courage as I swallowed down my fears.  I knew I deserved more and was determined to get it.

The last big achievement in my life so far has been the ability to stand up for myself in the face of jealousy or disapproval.  When I remarried for the the third time, I overheard people commenting on my remarriage–some people saying I was brave, others saying “how could she?” I had to learn to accept that I was going to do what I knew was best for me, no matter what anyone else thought.  I learned to depend on my own judgment.  Other women would ask me  why I didn’t find someone younger, or richer.  I had learned, thought, that I had to trust myself and  live by my own rules.  I knew what was right for me by confronting my mistakes, correcting them and knowing what was right for me.

Late in my teaching career, a rather naive teacher  made a rude comment about people taking antidepressants (which have been a saving grace for me).  In the past I would have just been quietly angry, but this time I turned to her and said, “I have taken Prozac since it first came on the market and it has changed my life.  It has saved so many people who are depressed.  You have NO idea what a difference antidepressants make.”  (You go girl, I thought to myself.)

On that same faculty, I finally learned how to face down “the mean girls”–you know, those women who never do grow up!?  They just go on spinning their webs.  When someone was mean to me, usually through sarcasm, or treacly sweetness,  or a wink and a nod, I threw kindness in her face. I discovered I was never going to win them over, but I wasn’t going to allow them to make me feel bad about myself.

Other recent accomplishments that came about because I faced down my fears and doubts have been finishing a memoir about my parents (300 pages), winning two poetry contests, teaching myself to knit, teaching myself to felt,  and now I am ready to begin some other new project–and I’m ONLY 64!  Woo hoo!

Life-Work: Finding The Space

So far 2010 has been about organizing my Stuff–and it needed to be!   People who have retired from a paying job still crave some kind of  work.   When I retired from teaching elementary school in September 2002, I thought I knew what I would do as a “second career.”  I had spent four years working as a half-time teacher, “transitioning” into retirement.   After that “practice” retirement, I realized that the real thing requires on-the-job training.

Throughout the years I worked as an elementary school teacher, I dreamed of being a writer.  I had always kept a journal, but I added poetry and stories when on summer breaks from teaching.   During the school year, inevitably I became  frustrated with the regimen of classroom teaching.  I  saw myself setting my own agenda and working as a writer from home.  In hind sight, I know that most people become frustrated with their work, picturing  what they would do if they had it to do all over again.  Often writing is one of those romantic choices.   However, during those years, I was the only person I knew who believed she was a writer trapped in a classroom.

However, this isn’t a blog entry about suddenly discovering my calling.   Rather, I am writing about life-work.  Although I love children and I am glad that I had the opportunity to teach, I have never been sorry to be doing something else.  My teaching experience has helped me to play creatively with my grandchildren and enjoy being part of their expanding discovery of the world around them.  I have no regrets about my professional choices because they gave me insights into childhood and the importance of keeping my mind open to new opportunities.

Since retirement I have worked as a writer, though I haven’t received much money for my efforts.  I  finished writing a book in November.  It is “resting” while I decide on marketing and publishing strategies.  I love blogs and  blogging and have now started my third blog (!).  I’ve also developed numerous hobbies that are both creative efforts and keep my days full.  Fitting new interests into a townhouse, however, requires a different kind of creativity.  Enter Dave, my husband, the architect.  He knows all about space!

I have two working spaces in the house.  One of them is this room where I am writing.  It contains my computer and printer, paper, notebooks, pencils and pens–as well as two cat beds.  I also do the household accounts, so I have calculators, check books and the bills here.  This is The Office.  Since I  also taught myself to knit recently, I have knitting books, needles and the yarn I am currently using stored in here.  My bookcases contain dictionaries, writing books, genealogy books and family records (another hobby), most of the pictures from my ancestors,  childhood and my life up to now.  We also store some of our cookbooks in this room, plus my recipe collection–although cooking is not one of my hobbies.

Upstairs I have another room, called The Atelier.  It is also shared with our two cats, two more round beds for them and the towels stretched across a top shelf in the sunniest window.  This space was to be Dave’s architectural studio, but the room’s orientation is too hot and bright in the afternoons–which is why the cats like it and it is sometimes referred to as The Lair.   Dave’s  closet and bathroom are off of this room.  The walls show off some of his favorite architectural scenes and the bookshelves store his favorite mystery books. There I have my sewing machine and table,  patterns, wool for felting, felting needles and tools, as well as sewing books & doll magazines.

I restarted my doll collection after I gained a granddaughter, so I have my doll collection in a display case in the bedroom.  Dave built a play scale (not miniature) doll house for my granddaughter Julia and me.   When she comes over we play elaborate games with my dolls, and a few that I bought for her.

This doll collecting led to another mini-hobby–buying and selling dolls and doll stuff on eBay.  That endeavor has gone into semi-retirement, although I did enjoy it.  I had many business writing experiences creating descriptions for dolls, as well as reformulating my shipping and return policy. I also resold online most of the hardback fiction that I bought and hadn’t passed on to friends and family so that we would have room for other Stuff.  Our new neighborhood library, conveniently located several blocks away, sees a lot of us now!

For the last few weeks Dave and I have been reorganizing and storing my cloth and yarn stash since he has moved his office/studio to the basement.  Now that he is a retired–but still open to options–architect, we reshuffled his Stuff, my Stuff and our whole living space.  Most of my teaching materials and supplies are long gone.

During this next phase of both our lives, and the lives of friends and family who have retired, we have noticed that retirement isn’t easy on a number of levels.  My father said that you have to prepare for it, but I’m not sure that is really possible for everyone.  Most people don’t realize that retirement can feel like being “side-lined”, whether you chose to retire or were forced into it–with tinfoil parachutes, as my sister-in-law called her sudden forced retirement not long ago.

Even though I wanted to retire, to start something new, I still felt at loose ends.   My job had defined my daily parameters with schedules and requirements, so I was ill-equipped to delineate my own timefor a long time.  Then there was always the question of where to spend my time.  I had whole days to “squander,” which didn’t feel right to me.  I was flighty and unfocused.  It has taken years to work my way through all that I thought I wanted to do and find what fits my evolving interests.

I know I am a work-in-progress, just like the two sweaters I am knitting.  I work awhile, tear out a few rows, re-knit them and add that many more.  I’m counting on the sweaters being done long before I am!

Remembering November 9th, 1968…

Six days ago was the 41st anniversary of my first wedding.  The sunny weather was the same, but other than that, things could not be more different!  The groom died two years ago, but we were long divorced.  My parents are both gone now.  His father died many years ago, though his mother is still alive, although she is nearly blind and hard of hearing.  I’m older now than any of the parents were at that wedding…

We were so young, never even considering what love and commitment really meant.  I suppose that is no different than a lot of young people when they marry, although our children were much wiser in their choices.  Their marriages have lasted a lot longer than ours did, thank goodness.  I hope they continue “’til death do us part.”   I look at myself now and look at myself then, and I’m so startled at what I’ve become–a senior citizen!   That is better than the fate of my first husband…

Now I realize that all the things I worried about then were really nothing much, other than the terrible war my young husband experienced.  It changed him profoundly, to the point that he was never the same.  I doubt that our marriage would have lasted anyway, but I will always be sad that he didn’t have a happier life, although he did find true love with someone else.  We were never meant to be, except for our two daughters and the wonderful children they have given to the world.

*******

I looked at my Facebook page tonight and decided that I have been wasting my words there.  No one cares about what I say or even that I am there.  I didn’t care about it at all until recently, when I started checking people’s friend status compare to mine and decided that it is too much like high school always was for me. This is obviously not good for my psyche.  Lose the link–if anyone cares to comment, the message will come to my email!