Tuesday, March 27, 2012
That's the red letter day on which I officially retire.
Oh, my goodness. I never thought I'd make it and yet, today, as I sat in my almost next to last meeting to arrange all my retirement business, I suddenly heard the KPERS (that's the bankrupt Kansas retirement system for public employees) director for the district say, "I've set your first day of retirement for 6/1/12. Is that alright?"
Alright? Lady, I'm dancing the can-can of joy here. It's not a jig or a little twirly tw0-step -- this is full out, kick 'em high can-can. And all by myself I'm a chorus line of 12.
Even better, every single time I sit down with someone to discuss my retirement income, it just gets a little bit (not a lot, but every little bit helps) better than we budgeted for. It's still not "around the world" money, but it is looking like we might be able to make ends meet without my having to immediately find part-time (or even full time) employment.
My next door neighbor, the feisty little Italian born Spanish teacher, came in to tell me that I only had 41 teaching days left in the year.
But even better, I'm actually going to retire in 41 days -- not look for another job, but actually stop working -- and still have income to live on.
I'm beginning to believe there might actually be a Yellow Brick Road out there on which I'm going to get to travel.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
It's officially spring! Hurray! However, spring has been here in the Midwest for at least the last three weeks weather-wise. The smaller trees are in bloom while our massive elms and oaks are fully budded. Flowers are blooming everywhere. It's a glorious time, full of promise and beauty.
I'm currently sitting in a "lock down" of my urban high school while the K-9 units and squads of police roam the halls, looking. We've not been told what they are looking for and they haven't been on our third floor, highest from the ground level. But the rumors are flying -- kids always know more than teachers. We've heard there was a whole ounce of weed found on the second floor. Oh, boy!
I finished the third and final novel of the Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy -- and I admit to really liking it -- maybe even loving it (and that is kind of embarrassing to say but it touched my "teenage" heart in many ways). I'll also admit that when the next series by E.L. James comes out, I'll get that, too.
On a slightly more intellectual note, I've pre-ordered the new Massie Dobbs novel by Jacqueline Winespear. I can't wait for it to hit my Kindle.
Hubby made a delicious dinner last night from a couple of sad looking, already cooked, pork chops he found in our frig. He added some cream gravy, a lovey bed of rice, and a wedge of corn bread -- and it was a yummy feast. I gobbled up every single morsel and went searching the kitchen for the pan to lick.
The summer clothes haven't been retrieved from the basement yet and the winter clothes are much too heavy to wear in 80 degree temperatures. I'm having a hard time finding middle wear -- not too warm but just warm enough for 60 degree mornings and very breezy, warm afternoons. I've been wearing things to school I haven't put on in years, which, frankly, is helping me winnow out the wardrobe toward retirement. I've made a triple pile of clothes on the piano bench of things to donate to Goodwill because I just can't see myself ever wanting to wear them again.
Looks like the police are parading out of our building. Guess I gotta run . . . Happy spring, everyone!
Monday, March 19, 2012
Are the three novels literature? No. Are they dirty? Not really. The sex scenes are pretty much standard fare except they occur on every other page and at least three times every single day -- sometimes more. Are they believable? Not in any sense. A 21 year old college student who is virgin and never, ever touched herself -- and had no idea how? Ridiculous. A man who has multiple erections for every single sexual congress -- and can do this multiple times during a 24 hour period? There's only so much Viagra can do. A man who is so filthy rich he earns $100,000 every hour -- but has the time to have sex multiple times every day? His business would soon go belly-up.
But I'm hooked. I read and laugh. I enjoy the inner conversations Ana has with herself -- and the troubles she keeps encountering. I have just at tiny crush on Mr. Gray (of the title) -- and it reminds me a little of how I felt about Hubby when I first met him way back there in 1972. So I keep reading. And reading. And reading. And enjoying nearly every minute of my time spent wallowing in this pulp fiction.
Friday, March 16, 2012
end to be replaced by a three year stint with the construction company.
If it’s too quiet, I’ve got to have noise. At home alone, either the music or the TV is always playing. If I need to concentrate, I fill silence with my thinking – so I then I turn off the music or the TV – but I talk to myself. “You idiot” is heard far more than “You genius!” but I honestly do add passing commentary to my activities. This has become such a habit that the employees at The We’re #3 Telecom Company have become highly suspicious of me as a sharer of cube walls. Cursing, of course, is strictly frowned upon in a correct corporate setting, but my years of teaching high school make me a master in the creative use of the “F” word. “You and who the ‘F’ else thinks this is gonna work?” I’ve been known to mutter when given a complicated diagram that has been passed off because nobody else had the patience, time, or skills to create it. “I’ve got a group grope at 10 ‘F-ing’ o’clock, g**d*** it” is my usual response to having to attend corporate meetings.
It’s impossible for me to lie in bed and NOT be asleep. Sometimes I make up stories in my head – all of which I star in, of course. These stories can lead to sleep if they’re not too exciting. I also turn on the CD player beside my bed and pretend I’m Emile Pandolfi making those beautiful arpeggios on the piano. But if my head won’t play games with me, then I’ve got to get up or turn on the TV or read. I can’t just lie there in the dark because if I do, the jerky leg will start to go crazy and I’ll find something awful to worry about – and then I’ll never sleep.
Boring lectures, sermons, and meetings where my attention has wandered, give me fits. If I’m required to “look” like I’m engaged in the meeting, I doodle. I can fill pages with flowers, fruit, curly shapes, and bare bottoms (which once drawn are then covered over with curly shapes and flowers).
Hubby sleeps when he’s bored. I’ve never managed to nod off like he can. He also snores during his “boredom sleep” and I find this highly entertaining. I can occupy myself looking for the perfect “target” for the well-aimed “wake-up” elbow jab – one that will startle him awake and possibly even seduce him into a muffled “Oooph.”
Sometimes I use sermons as a chance to make lists of things – like grocery lists or “to do” lists or lists of ideas for corporate communication plans. You can get a lot of things jotted down during a 20-minute sermon; great lists that you can pull out the next day when someone wants some creative thinking. I’ve even charged time against some of these “list making” sessions, if I’ve been especially innovative.
Empty spaces make me nervous, too. In our home, if there’s a blank wall, I hang something on it. I’m not just wedded to pictures, either. Miniature cabinets, shadow boxes, shelves filled with painted houses or blue paperweights all adorn the walls. My tiny hallway between living room, bath, and bedroom has family pictures from ceiling to floor. Parents of small children have panic attacks on entering my tiny house, crammed full of collections. If one collectable shoe is fun to own – having 300 is idyllic. Kids think it’s cool to have stuff on their own level and love to grab and twist and turn. It never bothers me because I know if something breaks I’ve just gotten a great opportunity to replace it – but parents are stricken with cold sweat inducing terror as they watch their darlings approach at a dead run the glass shelves filled with music boxes just within arms reach of a three year old.
Conversational silences are not good for me, either. I’m not at all comfortable when silences fall between people. I’ve read in novels about those silences – how renewing and beneficial they can be. Let silence fall on a group of friends and I’m frantic to fill the void with babble. We have dinner with two couples during concert season (September to March, usually) before the local university’s monthly artistic offering. I never realized how prone I am to jump into conversational voids until both couples commented that Hubby really didn’t talk much but I certainly made up for his silence. Hubby looked at the couples, and then looked at me. Twenty seconds of silence ensued while I digested the remark – and then I started to frantically explain that Hubby certainly wasn’t much of a talker. For once, Hubby rescued me. He leaned over and patted my knee – actually tap, tap, tapped on it – and told our friends it was true that he wasn’t much of a talker but he enjoyed listening and he had married a woman who told good stories, which he found quite delightful. I beamed. But I also made up my mind to try and not jump into every silence and fill it full of words. That’s a very hard dictate for me to follow, though.
This afternoon, after a full morning of meetings and mostly meaningless yakyakyak at work, Hubby brought me new sound toy. Our CD player had gone belly up a month ago and we have been music-less since. Kansas City no longer has a classical radio station and our NPR station only plays talk radio, which is great at 7 a.m. but sucks big time at two in the afternoon. Hubby came home with a lovely DVD/five CD player. Neither of us watches movies at home but we hooked the player up to the big TEAC amp and the seven table-sized speakers – and it is now blasting in the foreground the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing “Jesu Son of Man’s Desiring.” Ah, bliss. My silence is adequately filled for the moment.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
I just finished writing my "official letter of retirement" and printed off three copies: one for the director of HR, one for my SPED coordinator, and one for my principal.
Yesterday Hubby drove me to the district office to get the insurance form signed by the district -- which we managed to accomplish. And we got it mailed.
Hubby has been meeting with contractors to have work completed on the house so it will be ready by next winter to shelter us for the long haul.
In my head, I have plans for clearing out the last 38 years of accumulated junk (for those of you who move on a regular basis, this is not the issue it's going to be for us . . . ) once my days are freed up from lesson plans and checkpoint assessments.
With every contemplated and completed task, actual retirement comes closer and closer. I read back about how thrilled I was to be hired by the Kansas City Kansas School District -- and I miss those days. I still love the kids and I do respect the district. But six years has tired me: Hubby's ill health, graduate school requirements, changes in personnel in the district and within my school, changes in the population around the school, Mother's death in 2011, worsening arthritis in my own joints -- it has all taken its toll and made me realize that, like my grandfather used to say, "Time is fleeting, Milly."
I honestly can't believe it. I never thought I'd get to retire. Change is frightening -- and exciting.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
- We're setting record temperature highs for mid-March; no coats required. We near 80 degrees with clear skies every day. The tulip trees are in bloom, as is the forsythia. The boys want to be outside and so do the humans. This is like spending spring break in Florida but without the ocean and beach.
- My six month teeth cleaning / check-up at the dentist went quickly and without any pain. Also my teeth, what few are left, were pronounced in good shape. I only have 20 teeth -- but those 20 are in darned good shape.
- Hubby and I spent the afternoon, after the dentist, at the social security office signing me up for social security and medicare. We tried to do it on-line, but because I've had name changes in my past, we continually find ourselves unable to access my files, even for the purpose of on-line tax payments. It took about 45 minutes to get with a counselor, but I gather that's really quick timing. Hubby waited in the car with the boys while I met with the counselor who quickly determined that I was, indeed, eligible for full social security benefits and medicare when I turned 66 in May. Even better, Hubby was now eligible to receive benefits from my work history -- which upped his benefits significantly, so he came in and met with the counselor, too. Win / win. I have fretted about applying for social security, but with a knowledgeable counselor, even deciding on Medicare benefits was easy and straight forward. All I need now is a signature from my HR department stating they have been providing me with insurance this past year (when I turned 65) -- and all my benefits will begin on the 4th Wednesday of every month starting in May. It seems incredible that I actually am going to retire at the end of this school year. I have to admit, though, that it was Hubby who kept me moving forward in this process -- driving me on several occasions to the social security office, until we could finally get in for an appointment and get things arranged.
- Hubby's sister called from Houston to wish him a happy birthday. He liked his denim Schnauzer shirt birthday present. He ate a big bowl of Mexican casserole and then some ice cream and apple pie for his birthday dinner. We've had a simple, but effective, celebration day -- topped off with the knowledge that his social security payments will see a nice raise in May.
Monday, March 12, 2012
Though he is the better chef and I'm just the run-of-the-mill cook, I've found that if I'm not working and don't put in special requests, he leaves the kitchen to me. I've gotten really good at breakfast and though I don't put together over-night casseroles and neither of us like eggs Benedict, I can throw together a decent omelet, hot tea, and toast with grape jelly in a jiffy. I'm also good at french toast, though we rarely have thick enough bread to make it really good.
I have a casserole I got from my mother 50 some years ago that he really likes -- we always called it Mexican casserole and it's so simple -- just sausage, large elbow pasta, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, chili powder, salt, pepper, a little sugar and at the last a huge plop of sour cream. So today I put together a two casserole pots of the stuff and then used the left0ver pasta for a pan of homemade macaroni and cheese. We've got pork chops in the house to go with that. There is also sugar-free apple pie and ice cream. Hubby will be dining with pleasure.
The present the pups and I picked out for him has really pleased us -- we ordered him a denim embroidered Schnauzer shirt with his last name on it (since we had two dogs, it seemed polite to use everyone's last name instead of leaving a doggie's name out). We think he will really like it.
So we are set for his birthday celebration tomorrow. And we are counting our blessings that HE is here to celebrate with us. Life is good.
Sunday, March 04, 2012
Honestly, I don't recommend doing any of the things we did, but it's the weekend before spring break, so I guess it's all good. With most of the wash done, that means I won't have to spend next weekend carting baskets of laundry up and down stairs. We will have food in the house since we loaded up on large scale food items at Sam's, and now that Hubby has seen the movie of his choice, I get to see The Artist next weekend.
This upcoming week is a bit out of the ordinary at school. I've got two days of regular assignments. Then on Wednesday it's the dreaded Block 1, Advisory, Block 3, meeting, and then meeting with nary a break. On Thursday my mentee and I have scheduled a "professional day" (we're in the building but not teaching -- working with each other on upcoming projects, etc.). Friday is another professional day for the entire district (meaning no kids) -- and then a blessed five days off.
Friday Hubby and I sat down with the budget and seriously looked at our retirement income. I was beginning to have serious qualms about our ability to survive, but once I had graphed it out on paper and we had a long talk about what we each expected, things looked much brighter. I think we've got a good 16 to 18 years before things go belly up and we're reduced to eating dog food. We won't be charting yachts for cruises in the Caribbean, but we will probably have enough to actually enjoy our time from work. In 16 years Hubby will be 93 / 94 and I'll be 82 / 83 (and no one in my family has lived past 82 anyway) -- and neither of us expect much beyond that.
The prospect of the upcoming spring break and then in June, actually retiring has lifted my spirits considerably. Hubby assures me he'll keep buying that lottery ticket every week. You just never know when Lady Luck will smile . . .
Friday, March 02, 2012
Many of my favorite TV shows are on the Cooking Channel. I wander around doing housework (what little I do) accompanied by Emeril, Bobby, Martha, Mario, Ming, and Wolfgang. I’m learning a little Japanese with the Iron Chefs and I’m thoroughly fascinated by the rise of Morimoto (he wasthe newest Iron Chef, for those of you unaware of this fabulous fantasy of cooking – he was trained in New York City, but he could use those fish heads with the best of the Asian chefs -- this was before Iron Chef America).
What astounds everyone who listens to me rave on about the Cooking Channel is that I don’t cook very often. I might prepare a meal once every three months. It’s shocking, I know, but it’s the bitter truth.
For years I’ve collected cookbooks. I bought them at garage sales and on the discount book tables at Barnes and Noble. When we travel I bring them back from the places we visit. Two computers ago I gleefully collected recipes and formatted them on my hard drive using a very complicated and confusing software program. That particular phase didn’t last beyond that computer.
When we clean house, meaning we clean out stuff we no longer need, Will always suggests that my cookbooks be dramatically pared down and winnowed out. Ha! No one touches my cookbooks, which have now spilled over into two bookcases. If I need reading for the bathtub or while waiting for some particularly big piece of software to download , I read a cookbook. When boning up on places to visit, I read cookbooks from that area of the country. I even like historic cookbooks with recipes from the 1700 and 1800’s, or cookbooks with the recipes by the President’s wives. I especially like those cookbooks put out by companies as advertising. The Jell-o cookbooks’ are cool.
Periodically I go through stages where I buy fancy food preparing products. My sister-in-law in Texas perplexedly fulfills my wish lists every Christmas with some gadget or other. Once year it was a toaster oven which she figured I’d use to reheat fast food in. The next year it was a Dutch oven. “But you don’t cook. Why in the world would you want a Dutch oven?” she queried as she handed me the beautifully wrapped gift box on Christmas morning. The next year she gave me the ultimate in food processors with all the requisite blades. By then she’d quit asking questions. I love that food processor like it was my child. I’d grab the dogs, my diamonds, and the food processor if the house ever caught fire – in that order. Hubby can get out by himself.
Every month I read the Martha Steward magazine. If you haven’t ever seen one, I think the pictures in them are spectacular and by themselves worth the price of the magazine. But even better are her recipes. I know it’s chic to pan Martha, but my secret wish is to be her. I’d like to set a table like she does. I’d love to have the room to create the fantasy and elegance she puts into her table settings. Just today as I was buying hubby’s birthday present, I found a set of chargers. I’d love to own gold chargers to use under my antique pink Limoge dinner plates. But my house is so small I don’t have a dining table and it’s silly to use chargers on wooden TV tables set up in the living room. So I passed them up. Maybe I could ask for gold chargers for Christmas next year.
This Thanksgiving I did prepare Martha’s brine soaked turkey. A Texas friend of my sister-in-law heard I was going to use her recipe and advised me that Martha’s stuff was probably too complicated for someone who didn’t cook. My Texas friend hadn’t counted on the fact that if you’ve read 300 cookbooks and watched 5000 cooking shows and clipped bajillions of recipes from magazines, you gain cooking skills by osmosis. That brined turkey was real good, too – but my sister-in-law was up from Texas and helped me spend the day preparing the bird, so I can’t take full credit. That food processor was right handy, too.
Today I made Martha Steward’s pot roast. It’s made in a Dutch oven, so for the fifth time since I received it three Christmases ago, I cooked a meal in that nifty pot. It took two trips to the store to get all the fresh herbs and vegetables and red wine that the recipe called for. I never have fresh herbs in the house. Potatoes usually sprout before we use them up. Hubby claims he’s never even eaten a leek. So we were starting from the ground up on this dinner.
You roast the potatoes separately so they don’t get mushy and drop them into the Dutch oven the last half hour of cooking. Red wine deglazes the pot after you’ve softened the leeks in olive oil. You use cheesecloth to make a garnish with the herbs. The smells in our little home are incredible tonight. We’re having the pot roast tomorrow for dinner, but it’s all cooked and awaiting tomorrow night’s reheating.
Pot roast was a favorite dinner of my family when I was a kid. Grandmother had a Therma-well Oven, she’d put the roast on before she left for church, and when she can home she’d have us all for dinner. She made it look effortless. Her pot roast was the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. It was a simple meal – pot roast, boiled potatoes, carrots, onions, and gravy, often served with a cucumber and onion salad and bread pudding for dessert. I’d probably trade my left arm if I could have just one more Sunday pot roast dinner at Grandma’s table.
When Granny died, my mother took over the pot roast cooking. She tried. She’d have the same menu. But after two years I finally admitted to her (when she asked me) that her pot roast didn’t hold a candle to Grandmother’s. Mother was shocked – and unhappy. Grandfather, who didn’t cook much anyway after Granny died, gave Mother the Therma-well and Mother tried cooking her pot roast in that. Still it wasn’t anywhere near as good. I was in my 30’s before I realized what the difference was between Mother’s and Granny’s pot roast: Mother always bought the cheapest roast available; Granny used the equivalent of prime rib.
So my own pot roast has bubbled away today. It won’t taste like Granny’s though. I don’t have that “cooking every day, making everything from scratch” touch. Still, hubby will be pleased to have a home cooked meal. The boys, salivating all afternoon by the kitchen door, will be thrilled to have pot roast scraps mixed into their kibble. I’m feeding our souls, I think, as well as our stomachs. That’s a nice thought. And right now the Iron Chefs are battling away on my TV with asparagus as the main ingredient, which must be used in every course of the meal the two battling chefs serve. Asparagus ice cream, anyone?
Thursday, March 01, 2012
Confession: originally written in 2/28/2002
The picture to the left was taken in 1964 and is of Charlotte Hill Griffith (1924 - 2011), M.G. Wiggins (age 18), Warren Holmes Griffith (1903 - 1981). We were at our then summer home in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado. I loved this log-sided cabin and the summers spent there with my parents are full of fond memories.
On February 28, 1903 Warren Holmes Griffith was born to Gertrude and William E. Griffith in Lawrence, Kansas. Gertrude Holmes was W.E.’s second wife, his first wife having died leaving him with two sons to raise, Richard and Alfred. Alfred had a deformity (hunchback), and because in those days little was done for such children, he was never able to move away from home and live a normal life. Shortly after the second marriage, the small family moved to Kansas City, KS. They had one more son after Warren, William E. Griffith, Jr.
In Warren’s 20’s the family moved across the state line to Kansas City, MO. Warren reported that the family lived a happy life though they never had much money. W.E. sold insurance and Gertrude took care of the boys. Warren put himself through journalism school and graduated from Kansas University in 1926. After working for several small town newspapers across the state of Kansas, he went to work for the Kansas City Times and Star newspapers.
Alfred died in young adulthood and Richard moved to Texas and the family lost touch with him. Bill Griffith, the youngest brother, also a KU graduate, worked in the television industry in Kansas City until his retirement in the 1970’s.
Warren married Charlotte Hill in 1946 at the age of 42. His bride was only 20. They produced a daughter six months after the wedding and no one has ever acknowledged the clear truth about the marriage or the conception of the child, claiming that the eight + pound baby girl was born prematurely.
Eventually with his wife and daughter Warren moved into his family home on the South Side of Kansas City. Warren retired in 1972 from the Kansas City Star, the only newspaper to survive in Kansas City. He loved the job he had held for 43 years and it nearly broke his heart to be forced to leave it.
He lived his last years in the mountains around Pikes Peak, in the same cabin where his family had summered since 1907. In 1981 he died at the age of 78 of colon cancer.
Warren was a smart, funny, satirical man. Moreover, he had a kind, gentle heart. He loved to write. He collected books on the Civil War and old time steam trains. The only instrument he could play was the harmonica, but he loved music, from classical to western (far different from country – think “Clear, Cool Water” as opposed to country twang). He enjoyed travel immensely but since his wife hated it, never really got to travel very much in his later years.
In 1948 he joined the United Methodist Church and was very active in both Kansas City and in the only church in his little mountain town of less than 500, the Church in the Wildwood. One of his proudest moments was being selected to ring the church bell for the bi-centennial celebration when the nations bells were tolled simultaneously on July 4, 1976. He was both a Republican and a staunch patriot. Flag Day never went by without his flying a 48 star flag from his porch (why buy a new flag when the old one was good enough?).
People liked being with Warren. They enjoyed his company and the stories he would tell. They often laughed in his presence. He especially enjoyed puns. He was an extremely patient man and people innately understood his overpowering sense of decency.
One child, a daughter, survives him.
Warren would have turned 109 in 2012. May his kind heart and sense of humor be conveyed to those now reading about him. And most especially, may those who knew and loved him, remember his good qualities and celebrate his essence.
Daddy, I still love you. I will always miss you. Happy Belated Birthday.
This picture was taken in 1979 at Thanksgiving in Green Mountain Falls, after my parents had moved there to live. It was the only holiday I ever was allowed to spend with my parents after their 1973 move from Kansas City. Hubby is taking the picture -- he was invited to attend since the dinner was being held at the Barber's cabin (where this photo was shot). Mother and I are at the far left (white sweater for Mom, brown blouse for me; Dad is in the red sweater at the far right).