If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!
~ Shel Silverstein

So here’s the thing…

I’m going to take a couple-of-weeks-to-a-month break from this blog. Not because I don’t enjoy writing it, but because I don’t know if what I’m writing is what I should be writing.

Let me explain.

When I first began I said this blog would be: “A little wisdom. A little whimsy. A little pathos. A little whatever. Nothing necessarily special. From the point-of-view of a retired person.”

Now, after 130 posts, I’m thinking there might be too much whimsy, too much whatever, and too much of nothing necessarily special.

But I’m not sure.
So I’m taking a break.

Taking a break to do some reimagining.

The other thing is that I’m not certain if I’m writing something that is worth the time of those of you who are reading it. I do not keep numbers on how many people read what I write. I’m not too concerned with that. I just like to write. And because I taught mass media for years and years, I like to share what I write.

So, if you are reading this, leave me a comment in the form of a suggestion, about directions you’d like to see this blog take when I return (and I promise I will return). Suggest anything, except that I write about politics…which I will not do. Don’t be afraid to be pleasantly critical. Don’t be afraid to suggest wild-ass ideas.

I’ll look forward to hearing what all of you say. We can all think together about where to go from here.

Talk to you in March.

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NOTE: Retirement can be a lot of things. For me, at this moment in my life, it’s largely enjoyable and even downright fun. There’s nothing negative except the wear and tear that all things old(er) normally brings. Nothing else. And this blog is an attempt to comment on that nothing and that something that exists in retirement. And, of course, also the fun. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it.

So here’s the thing, I have used computers since the mid-1980’s. I have taught how to use computers and how to use various computer software. I am very comfortably proficient on computers, even today.

So when someone (in her late 20’s) recently asked me if I “knew computers” I was reasonably offended. Yes, I politely told her I did and the conversation about my computer skills went no farther than that, but inside I was offended.

Yes…yes…yes…those of us who are over 65 and retired can indeed use computers. Desktop and laptop computers have been around for 30 years.

But imagine the kinds of things that 20-something woman who “knows computers” could never imagine, that all of us over 65 knew very well.

Such as…

We rode in cars that did not have seatbelts. When I was growing up, my dad’s arm coming across my chest was my “seatbelt” to prevent my moving forward in quick stops. Also at that time there were no child safety seats. None. Children sat on the seats just like adults. Yes, we who are over 65 remember this.

We talked on telephones that were black, had rotary dials, were connected directly to the wall, and had a receiver cord that extended only a few feet. That was it. No cell phones. In fact, when someone invented a videophone it was so unpopular in the 60’s that it was never marketed. Yes, we who are over 65 remember this.

We had televisions without a remote control…and the picture was only in black and white. Yep, if you wanted to change the channel, you had to get up and turn a dial on the television. Of course, most people only got four channels, so it wasn’t a major inconvenience. Yes, we who are over 65 remember this.

Soda like Coke and Pepsi did not come in cans. It did not come in plastic bottles. It was glass or nothing. Yes, we who are over 65 remember this.

We had cars that had radios (and only radios), ash trays, cigarette lighters, and windows that had to be cranked up and down. There were no tape decks. Only expensive cars had bucket seats. Very, very, very few cars had air conditioning. Most cars had rear wheel drive. Yes, we who are over 65 remember this.

We used typewriters, carbon paper, slide rules, calculators, and when we were bored, we talked to others, took walks, read books, played board games, or just did nothing. Yes, we who are over 65 remember this.

And yes, those “young-uns” in their early 30’s today cannot imagine a life like that. They would find it absolutely amazing, and maybe even appalling. Or maybe, like me, they would think those were probably simpler times and better times than the present.

So, here’s an assignment for those of you reading this. Take a few minutes…find a 20-something person…and tell them the things I talked about in this post. Don’t do it in a “poor me” or “lucky you” kind of way.

Just do it in a way that allows them to appreciate your history.

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NOTE: The presentation of entertainment and poignant knowledge doesn’t change the world, but it does provide a little inspiration and a brief respite from a world that often needs a little changing.

Enjoy the blog. Share it with others.

There has been a lot in the news lately about Tide PODS. And not much of it has been good. People have called them delicious-looking. Videos circulating on social media show kids biting into them. Or cooking them in frying pans, then chewing them up before spitting the soap from their mouths. The game connected to these things is even called the “Tide pod challenge.”

I have read about these things. My wife has also read about them. But we have never tried Tide PODS. Never had them in our home. So, we thought, why not. We were at the grocery store and picked up a bag of them. It contained 15 pods. “A good start,” we said to each other, almost simultaneously (which was sssooo cute).

Got them home.
Took the bag out.
Took it into the living room.
I was holding it.

“Let’s open it,” I said.

I read the instructions, which noted it had child-secure packaging. I tried to open it…unsuccessfully. My wife was also unsuccessful. So I just took a pair of scissors and cut the top of the package off—child security packaging and all.

We took out a pod. Soft, mushy, colorful. We both held it.

“How many do you think we use?” my wife asked.

“One, I suppose,” I said. “Or two.”

So we both marched into the bedroom, two Tide PODs in our hands, gathered up the laundry, threw it in the washer, threw in the Tide PODs and started them doing their thing.

Now for those of you reading this who might have thought we might, just might, do something other than put these pods in our laundry, I have one thing to say.

We are retired, not ridiculous. Those pods are not cheap.

’Nuf said.

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NOTE: The goodness of retirement is the joy of being able to do nothing. But the nothing we do is really the something that is our lives. This blog is an attempt to comment on that nothing that is something. And by reading it, I hope you too will think a bit about that something.

The Winter Olympics are in full swing. Thet games are being held in PyeongChang, South Korea, which is a 17-hour time difference between where I live and where the athlete’s all compete. That means if it is 9:30 p.m. today where I live, it is 2:30 p.m. tomorrow afternoon where they are competing.

Which means that if I watch the Olympics on television it is literally impossible to figure out when what I am watching is happening or has happened.

Here’s an example.

I’m sitting in my living room at 1 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. (Remember, I’m retired, so my afternoons are work-free.) I turn on the Olympics. Bobsledding is on. Now here’s the dilemma. At 1 p.m.Thursday afternoon where I live it is 6 a.m. on Friday morning in South Korea. It is remotely possible that bobsledding is indeed on live. Hey, maybe they get up really early there. But maybe, and more likely, bobsledding occurred Thursday in their time which would have been Wednesday my time. So I am watching it today, and actually in South Korea it is tomorrow. But maybe it occurred two days ago in South Korea, which means it really did occur today in my time zone. Now if you can follow that you’re a more intelligent person than I am. And I just wrote it.

Now if you can follow that you’re a more intelligent person than I am. And I just wrote it.

I have also learned that in outdoor events, watching whether it is day or night helps not at all in determining whether an event is live or not. And looking at charts of medal counts only spoils the whole thing a tiny bit since it’s hard to know if you watched something live or not, or maybe even whether or not it even happened yet. (Teasing a little.)

The other night my wife and I watched an event. It purported to be live, because there was the word “LIVE” in the upper right corner of the screen. Which means it could have been live there, but not live here. And sure, maybe that same athlete did win two gold medals in the same event because I saw him win twice…once live, and once not live.

Now at this point in this post you just think I’m messing with your brain. But let me finish with this.

If an Olympic athlete is eating breakfast in South Korea at 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, that means it is 2 p.m. on Tuesday in my part of the planet. I have just had lunch. The athlete could go out and compete in her event and I could watch her compete live on Wednesday while I eat dinner on Tuesday. But then while I am eating dinner at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, it is 11 a.m. on Thursday in South Korea. So that same athlete could have competed in a whole new set of events without my even knowing or being able to watch it.

Figure that one out.

Enjoy the Olympics. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

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So here’s what this blog is.

A little wisdom. A little whimsy. A little pathos. A little whatever. Nothing necessarily special, although it’s often the nothing necessarily special which is the most interesting part. And all of it scribbled from the point-of-view of a retired person.

In this blog I do not write much about the news. And I never write about or will write about politics. But I do write a bit about the past.

But first…let me write about the present…

This week the United States witnessed a high school shooting that left 17 students and teachers dead. It was horrific and will leave too many people scarred forever. A high school day was interrupted by injury and death and lives will never quite be the same.

And unfortunately, since the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, there have been 208 school shootings, accounting for 281 deaths.

Since 1999 students in American schools (from elementary to high school) have, at the least, been drilled on what to do should there be a shooting incident at their school. They have been taught what lockdown means, how to hide in corners and closets, and what code words signal all clear.

I recently read the following account by a mother.

“Do you know what it’s like to get the call that your child’s school is on lockdown due to a gunman? I do.

Four. Age 4 is how long in Finn’s life he made it before having to hide in his classroom due to a possible shooter. Or as he told me..’played a fun game where his teacher pushed the desks in front of the door while the kids played the quiet game.’ He’s four.”

Now…let me write about the past…

I was reflecting over the last two days about why when I was in elementary and high school there was never even the slightest concern about school shootings. Never even once. My years in elementary and high school extended from 1953 to 1965. I did not attend kindergarten because in those days my school district did not have kindergarten. (Yikes, am I old or what?)

Nationally, during my time in school there were 15 school shootings resulting in 14 deaths. But I was never aware of any of those. And I do not believe my parents were either. At least no one ever mentioned them.

I don’t have solid answers on why school was safe back then.

My own school experience occurred in a steel mill town of about 50,000 people, located outside Pittsburgh, PA. My high school had about 2500 students. The school day started about 8:15 a.m. and ended about 3:30. There were no school uniforms, but neither did anyone wear jeans. Girls wore skirts or dresses. Boys wore slacks and collared shirts. There were obviously some fights between students, and in my elementary school there were infractions that could result in a paddling by the principal. But I do not recall police ever being called. And I do not recall even any words about guns or knives…not ever.

My elementary school was about a mile from my house and I walked there and back every day, either by myself or with friends. For many of those years I walked home for lunch as well. I do not ever remember a moment of fear or worry.

It was, to me, a good time to be a child. And I imagine anyone who was a child back then will, to a large extent, agree with me.

So I end with one question.

Why then…and not now?

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NOTE: The seconds, minutes, hours, and days of retirement are often filled with the minutiae of “nil.” That feeling of less responsibility, more leisure, and a lot of hardly anything is both positive and negative. This blog attempts to paint a few slices of the sort of life that reflects the “nil” that retirement can often be.

It’s Valentine’s Day. A day for a husband to shine by giving his wife cards, flowers, candy, balloons, and as many symbols of true love that the day will allow. And even for me, who has been married so very, very, very, very many years, giving Valentine’s Day gifts is still really great.

So who knew that this year I’d be in competition with my son? Who knew?

Let me explain.

My wife’s birthday was January 29th. Our son, who lives in another state, came through with a gift of flowers. And attached to the flower vase was a small container of candy and a helium-filled HAPPY BIRTHDAY balloon.

So Valentine’s Day will be the 16th day since my wife’s birthday. I will certainly give my wife a gift today. Maybe flowers. Maybe candy. But I cannot…honestly cannot…give my wife a balloon.

Why? Because the balloon my son gave her on her birthday (16 days ago) is still fully inflated. The flowers are gone. The candy is gone. But the balloon still towers over our domestic domain. It does not even seem like it wants to deflate. I feel like the balloon itself is actually somehow enjoying preventing me from getting a competitive balloon.

Why would I want to get a ballon that says HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY when the HAPPY BIRTHDAY balloon has already been our official condominium balloon for 16 days? I could never compete with that level of balloon love.

So, sadly, I cannot give a balloon this year.

Thank’s son. Thank’s a lot.

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NOTE: Retirement can be a lot of things. For me, at this moment in my life, it’s largely enjoyable and even downright fun. There’s nothing negative except the wear and tear that all things old normally brings. Nothing else. And this blog is an attempt to comment on that nothing and that something that exists in retirement. And, of course, also the fun. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it.

My wife and I live in the Pacific Northwest. Far up in the Northwest. Two hours north of Seattle, about a half hour south of Canada. In the winter it doesn’t snow much except in the mountains. But it is cold and it does rain a lot, but not as much as people who don’t live in the Northwest think it does. Most of the rain actually happens between sunset and sunrise…like in Camelot.

(Think Richard Burton singing on the Broadway stage: “But in Camelot, Camelot; That’s how conditions are. The rain may never fall till after sundown. By eight, the morning fog must disappear. In short, there’s simply not, A more congenial spot, For happily-ever-aftering than here In Camelot.”)

In any case, winter is cold…and wet. Usually, the temperature is in the high 30’s with occasional periods of extreme cold. It’s definitely not summer.

Yet in the Pacific Northwest, there has never been one winter day that I have been out in public that I have not seen more than one person wearing shorts and a skimpy top, and often flip-flops as well. And often I have seen more than a few of these people. They do not appear to be people who are down on their luck, or crazy, or even very young. They are just normal people who somehow have decided that, despite the fact that it’s 30 degrees, their attire of choice for going to the mall or the coffee shop or the grocery store is going to be shorts and a tank top, or shorts and a Seahawks t-shirt.

The other day we were walking on a boardwalk by the bay. It was freezing…really, really cold. I had a sweatshirt with the hood up, a jacket, and gloves. And who did my wife and I pass? One guy in shorts, and another guy wearing only jeans and a t-shirt.

My only question is: why?

‘Nuf said.

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NOTE: The goodness of retirement is the joy of being able to do nothing. But the nothing we do is really the something that is our lives. This blog is an attempt to comment on that nothing that is something. And by reading it, I hope you too will think a bit about that something.

Earlier this week I observed the fifth anniversary of my retirement.

And it’s amazing the things you can remember and the things you forget about that previous life in the working world. For the first year nothing faded from memory about my many academic experiences. Nothing. But after that first year, big things began to fade the quickest. And the little things fade the slowest…and some little things never fade.

I had worked in colleges and universities for nearly 40 years. And today it almost feels like 40 years since I did that job. I still feel sad, for some reason, when I walk through an office supply store. Too many tools of my former trade, too many memories. And I have not, believe it or not, stepped onto a university campus or entered a university building or a classroom anywhere since the day I retired. And to be honest I do not know why I have never done that. No real reason, I tell myself, but…I don’t know.

In a blog I wrote not long after I retired, I said: “But now the file cabinets in my mind that once were front and center and filled with thoughts of classes, meetings, and research have taken their proper place in a dusty corner. Doesn’t mean they’re not there and cannot be easily accessed, but it means that the file cabinet called things-to-do-in-retirement has now become front and center.”

And I suppose I have tried to keep it that way.

Also, my final job was overseas, 7,400 miles from where I presently live, so it isn’t like I run into my old colleagues at the grocery store. I do communicate with people that I have worked with, but mostly that’s fleeting.

I think the thing I still miss most, and will forever miss, is a feeling and a memory. That feeling in late August when summer was over and school was about to start again for a new year. The memory of the enthusiasm, the anticipation of something new about to begin, the preparation, the whole thing. It’s hard to explain what it was like in a way that accurately explains why I miss it. But there are always a few days in late August when thoughts and memories bubble up.

I’m certain anyone who is retired has those few things that stick like glue to their hearts and minds.

I love being retired and I love the new life my wife and I have crafted for ourselves. But anniversaries do offer a few days to ponder and to appreciate what was there for so many, many years and is not there anymore.

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All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.
–Walt Disney

Dreams are necessary to life.
–Anais Nin

My wife and I finally went to see the movie “The Greatest Showman.” Yes, after six long weeks of it being at the cineplex, and after many recommendations, we finally got around to it. And it was great. Recommend it heartily.

In the movie, there is a song titled: “A Million Dreams.”

It has the lyrics:

“They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy
They can say, they can say I’ve lost my mind
I don’t care, I don’t care, so call me crazy
We can live in a world that we design”

“Every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make.”

Which got me to wondering…after a certain age do dreams sort of dry up? When one is retired and won’t have another big promotion, or a career in sports, or won’t be able to chase the unicorns of I-can-be-anything-I-want-to-be, is there no more dreaming big?

Do dreams turn only into travel, reminiscence, family visits, and hoping-we-stay-healthy? (Not that there’s anything wrong with those things.) And do dreams just devolve into plans? Let’s get new carpeting. Let’s plan a party. Let’s go surprise the grandkids.

And it kinda got me a tad angry. Because in the movie that song made me feel the power of dreams. Maybe made me remember the days of big dreams. Maybe took me back a score or two of years. Made me feel something young. And I knew that’s what the song was intended to do to viewers.

And my “tad” of anger made me think a little harder after the movie.

It made me think that while there obviously are many, many dreams I can never have again, that it does not mean that my days of big dreams are over. Sure, my dreams by necessity will have to be simpler.

But not necessarily smaller.

Retired persons like me…and like you…can have colors fill our head, and a million dreams that paint the future we design. Think about it.

We can still do those things that fulfill dreams…not just plans.

I’m gonna try it.

To be continued…

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NOTE: The seconds, minutes, hours, and days of retirement are often filled with the minutiae of “nil.” That feeling of less responsibility, more leisure, and a lot of hardly anything is both positive and negative. This blog attempts to paint a few slices of the sort of life that reflects the “nil” that retirement can often be.

It was Super Bowl Sunday yesterday. And, as usual, I watched the game. I have watched most of the 52 Super Bowls. Even checked out a few puppy bowls over the years.

But this Sunday was different.

It was a Sunday in which, oddly enough, I was looking forward to watching a football game, a halftime show, some good commercials…and then a death. And to be quite honest, it was the death I was most looking forward to witnessing.

How bizarre.

I like football. I like music and entertainment. I like well-done commercials. But like every other normal person, I hate death. But there I was…secretly sort of hoping the football game was not a long, long game so that I could get to the after party. Which was a death.

And I was not alone. The media told me so. Millions were looking forward to the same death I was looking forward to witnessing. Millions were desirous of finally seeing this death, which had been teased and anticipated for more than a year.

And is that really all right? Is it?

Sure, it’s entertainment. Nobody is really going to die. It’s drama.

But it’s death. Probably death by fire (but actually not). A little gruesome. A whole lot sad. A whole lot devastating.

Yet I was looking forward to it, and felt so, so sad as I watched. Really pulled out all the heartbreak a television drama could actually possible give us. Yet, as I was feeling so, so sad, I was also feeling so gratified that I was finally seeing the beloved father on “This Is Us” (whose name is Jack) finally die.

And as I took it all in, as I finally contemplated the whole segment of the day from beginning of the game to the end of “This Is Us,” I felt a bit weird.

Every anticipation…fulfilling game…entertaining half-time…some excellent commercials…and the death of Jack…had been successfully fulfilled.

And I had been looking forward to seeing that death.

And, at that moment, weird somehow just didn’t seem like the weird that was a good weird to be.

How bizarre.

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