Just Quit Already!
Day-by-Day through Year One of Retirement
Day 93, Thu Oct 1: The dryer broke. It spins around but doesn’t heat up. I have two large loads of clean wet laundry on my hands. Seeking a remedy, I halfheartedly Google “laundromats” “Bellevue” – wondering whether laundromats even still exist — and the results are what you’d expect: a lot of dry cleaners. It looks like there is one coin laundry somewhat nearby in Overlake – 25 minutes away on the other side of Bellevue. And there is a listing for something called Lather Daddy in Seattle. And then there is my savior: Bright & Bold Laundry in Renton, with a bunch of good reviews. This is also convenient since Renton is the next town contiguous to us to the south. It’s only a 15 minute drive via Somerset, Forest Drive and Coal Creek Parkway. And I am there.
Bright & Bold is small and unprepossessing – borderline shabby but clean — in a strip mall with neighbors like Ring Ring Wireless, Flour Sugar & More bakery, and Tea Palace; across busy Sunset Boulevard from Sunset Smoke, Renton Beauty School, Hilands Barber Shop, Pho Vy Vietnamese, and Rev It Up Java. Near enough to Dollar Store.
Bright & Bold exists for one purpose only – to wash and dry your clothes. The TV up high on the wall is playing a Spanish-language station. There’s a vending machine. There is nothing that looks like a bathroom, based on my quick recon. I bet Lather Daddy has a different vibe than this. At midmorning there are two other people – women — in here doing their laundry. Now here is the best part of this adventure: my two damp loads fit easily into one of their megadryers, the cost is 25 cents for 10 minutes, and that is all it takes for my laundry to be dry and toasty.
Day 94, Fri Oct 2: I finally loaded Windows 10, this year’s big tech event for Windows users. It worked, or I would not be typing this now. I had waited a couple of months from the initial launch date, to let a bunch of other people go first before I took the plunge. I’m not exactly technophobic but neither am I an early adaptor. Let’s put it this way: I have never yet pinned a tweet. The prospect of the slightest upgrade or download can give me a little aggro because my experience is that it’s not that uncommon for it to go slightly wrong. My other experience is that it’s also possible for it to get all fucked up.
Anyway, to be in my comfort zone I decided I would wait on Windows 10 until the first big rush was past, and when a few bugs were worked out, then I would go for it. I figured that even Microsoft could get most of the problems worked out if I gave them a few months.
This turns out to be mostly true, but not entirely; a couple of months from now my Windows 10 will suddenly one day lose its onscreen start button and search functions. Gone. When I google for a remedy, the chat pages indicate that this is not all that uncommon, but the fix requires an advanced degree in programming. It’s an inconvenience but not fatal. I can live with it once I figure out work-arounds.
Then a few months after that, one day next March, Microsoft Edge (this is the name of the thing that automatically replaced Internet Explorer in Windows 10) will simply disappear. I won’t figure out any way to get it reinstalled so instead I’ll start using Google Chrome. My hope is that one day Microsoft Edge will just pop back into my startup menu as mysteriously as it departed. Sadly, my hopes will be unrequited and it will never return on its own. In fact, eventually I will spend hard-earned American money to get this shit-show straightened out. But that’s all in the future.
Meanwhile, back to today. Like everybody, I had hopes that the initial Windows 10 installation would go smoothly, but I had no expectations. The FAQ said it would take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. Class, prompt: do you think it took closer to 20 minutes or an hour? Please discuss. Actually more than two hours, but that’s OK, too, since I used that time productively. I dusted and vacuumed downstairs, threw chicken bones into a pot to make chicken stock, read both the Seattle Times and New York Times, ate some leftover lentil stew for lunch – and periodically checked back to make sure Windows 10 was doing its thing.
It kept creeping along. As far as I could tell right away after it was done, it successfully moved over all my various files and docs and photos in folders. (Sigh of relief.) Things looked slightly different, but mostly familiar. It only failed to do a few things but it told me it hadn’t done them – for example, I use Kaspersky Anti Virus and for some reason it didn’t automatically load that, but it put up a message admitting to its shortcomings and it was easy to re-download it. (Bigger sigh of relief.) During the whole process, it was quite reassuring with its onscreen messages: “Your computer will shut down and restart several times. Sit back and relax.” “Almost done. Just a few more tweaks.” And now, done and done.
As I say, I will have problems ahead, but they are not yet in sight. For now it’s a blissful situation.
Day 95, Sat Oct 3: I assume most people who will read this geezerpedia are either retirees themselves or folks pondering impending retirement and marveling “How does he do it?” Or, more accurately, wondering “How can I do it?” If you are in that demographic you already have the financial part of your leave-taking nailed down. Or not. Either way, there’s not a lot you can do about it now.
But if you are 40 or 30 or 20 (and in that case god only knows why you are reading this) my advice would be to concentrate on a few career-long money-saving strategies, as I did throughout my working life. Even under adverse government policies and a financial environment that was cooked in favor of rich people and against working people, my strategy worked for me and resulted in modest security. Here’s my avuncular mentoring advice, which is not unique or anything, just what worked for me.
Starting with your first job, try to put a little from every paycheck aside, even if you just put it into your savings account or someplace. Start by stashing a hundred bucks a month, then increase it if you can. It will mean less in your take-home pay, but more benefit to you in the long run. Max it out; it’s both your rainy day fund and your nest egg. When you’ve accumulated a small bit that you know you won’t need for a year or so – even a few thousand dollars – invest it in some nice safe little fund that will give you a solid return. Then do it again and again.
Your employer (especially if it’s government or quasi-government) may have some kind of retirement plan (like a 401-K). I know these kind of worker benefits are disappearing faster than manual-shift cars, but some still exist. If the place you work has any sort of deferred compensation plan or any kind of matching plan, jump on it.
When it gets too complicated, find a financial advisor you trust. Don’t let them talk you into anything you don’t want, but listen to their advice. If you are basically a conservative person with your money, then make play-it-safe investments. That’s what we thought we were doing all this time. Then a few months ago when we told our trusted financial advisor of 35 years, Kathleen, that both of us were basically conservative investors she replied, “You’d never know it from your portfolio”. (I first connected with Kathleen because she was somebody who could help you get good returns on “clean” investments – no military, no cigarettes, no anti-environmental, no connecting to South Africa which was a big deal at the time because apartheid was still going strong.) Then just keep adding to it when you can. Otherwise, leave it alone for four decades. (The other side of the coin to financial balance, or course, is managing your living expenses: don’t deprive yourself, but live beneath your means.)
Grab for the American Dream and buy a piece of property. It’s an investment that almost always gains value. Start with a fixer-upper that you can afford; doing the fix-ups can be fun, too (for some people, anyway). Not a shitty condo or something but an actual place you feel good coming home to every night. Don’t buy it strictly as an investment, buy it as a home, while knowing that it will also serve as an asset and its value will keep going up (excepting those times when the lenders really decide to screw just about everybody, then all you can do is duck and cover).
If you need to dip in to your investment funds and liquidate something to give yourself quick money for an emergency (let’s say you have to re-roof your house) go for it, but consider it a loan to yourself and pay yourself back.
Don’t worry about your net worth bouncing around due to temporary volatility or market corrections – those things are basically irrelevant over a period of decades; ultimately the market and property values will go up and your nest egg will grow.
You don’t even have to be a high roller or anything for this to work for you. For proof, read “The Millionaire Next Door.” It could be you.
Day 96, Sun Oct 4: While looking over these posts I realize that they describe the retiree life as a combination home economist and handyman. I make it sound like never-ending days of household tasks. That doesn’t exactly create an enticing prospect and kind of undermines my bigger pitch, which is unreservedly pro-retirement. We were out to dinner with friends and I was describing my retirement: I said I never should have had a 40-year professional life because what I was really good at was cooking and cleaning – being a house servant. My friend laughed, and said to call it, “in service.” I should be clear that I think home economist and handyman are honorable and honest occupations but that’s not all there is to life once you’ve bowed out of the office. Also, my long to-do lists aren’t all mundane; I have a lot of creative projects and various plots and schemes. Soon come.
As I briefly mentioned yesterday, I always felt that one important thing is to have a house that you feel good coming home to every night. Our house is mid-century-modern style, which we like and which has been a hot and desirable style for the past decade or so. Our whole neighborhood was an intentional community and the architectural guide star was mid-century: simple, unadorned homes that sit back in the natural surroundings. We’ve got about 2,200 square feet on two levels. It’s plenty of house for us, more.
One of the many pleasures of this house is the relatively cozy size. I’ve always liked the slightly smaller homes – we’ve never lived in more than about 2,000 square feet. When Enid and I first got together, we lived in 600 square feet in Fremont; it was a beach house that somebody had dragged up into a back yard – you got to it by walking down the alley. On Queen Anne we had about 1,200 square feet – good enough for two of us — and then added a 600-square-foot upper floor when we had a baby to squeeze in.
There’s a lot about tiny houses that appeals to me (though their limited storage capacity is at odds with my tendency to never throw anything away). I watch the TV shows but I am not that interested in the super-tiny 250-square-feet houses, where you sleep in a loft with the ceiling a foot above your face, or where your toilet is in the kitchen. But I bet I could easily live in 1,200 square feet again.
At our place you walk in the front door on the main-floor level and then, because of the way the topography falls off, it is two-stories on the back side and you walk out the basement doors right onto the back yard. Our south windows look at Mount Rainier in one direction and when you pivot your view 30 degrees you see the pretty little lights of Newcastle, with the promise of Renton in the distance.
We haven’t made a big attempt to re-create an era, but we’ve furnished with some mid-century modern icons like an Eames dining table and chairs. As it turns out the chairs, though iconic, are more like an idea of chairs; they’re not perfectly comfortable to sit on and the back rests come undone after several years of use, the chairs fall apart and have to be re-glued. The home was largely owner-built so there are a lot of DIY situations: doors that don’t quite fit, sparky electrical work, irrigation plumbing out in the yard that caused the plumber to make a derisive conjecture that it had been put in by a landscaper. And there’s been 50+ years of deferred maintenance that we’re trying to catch up on. In other words, it’s like any old house.
When we moved in we re-did the basement but pretty much left the main floor alone except for a coat of paint. A few years ago in time for Thanksgiving we finally updated the kitchen with new lights, yellow backsplash tile and gray countertops. We painted the exterior – which had been nondescript gray — dark brown, almost black, with white trim and yellow-green doors. We’ve got a long, long wish-list of beautification plans we keep chipping at.
Before my resignation, these home fix-up projects got squeezed in on weekends or evenings or sick days. Or, more often, they didn’t get done at all, just added to a list. And the inference that catching up on deferred maintenance can fill the twilight years is partly true: our place does have a ton of overdue upkeep for me to deal with. I’m slightly handy – as is Enid; you oughta see her tile a floor — but not a total Mr. Fix-It, so I do some and hire out the rest. If I am hooked up to a lie detector it will show my limits.
In truth, I don’t really want to be all that handy around the house, I’d rather find somebody else to do most of those tasks. On the more unskilled-labor or service-industry side of things, we don’t have a yard or housecleaning service so I’m glad to take on the chores I can handle in those areas. I keep the house is pretty clean. I’m enjoying having dinner on the table when Enid walks through the door with “Honey, I’m home.” These housekeeping responsibilities can fill up a day. It’s a tribute to my industriousness that progress is made on other fronts.
As Ringo Starr said once in an interview at the height of Beatlemania, explaining why he hadn’t been able to attend an awards event, “Everybody’s busy. With the washing and the shopping.” I feel you, Ringo.
Day 97, Mon Oct 5: It’s hot but I had already planned to make chili and cornbread for supper, so that’s what we have while watching the Seahawks beat the Lions on Monday Night Football.
By the way, that Windows 10 success story from a few days ago? Not so fast. I try to print out something and it doesn’t print. I can see the file is there in the printer queue. I push the printer’s start button and it acts like its printing, but it pumps out a blank sheet. I unplug and replug the printer. No go. I print out an alignment sheet, and that actually prints the little lines on the page. I clear everything out of the printer queue and try to send it through again. No dice.
I have a Lexmark printer that is definitely 4-5 years old, but it’s not steampunk and it has been working excellently for my basic home printing which is nothing elaborate. I get on line for a chat with Lexmark service and they are helpful even if the remedy is not what I had hoped. In retrospect, I should have seen this coming: Microsoft 10 is not compatible with the model of printer I have. (I think I’m allowed a What The Fuck! here – are ya with me?) So I end up buying a new, basic printer for $250. I would like to think that when it gets here it will be just plug-and-play like the last one and I will be back in business. I am not real confident of that.
I realize that I am a bad consumer by contemporary standards since I continue to use stuff as long as it continues to work. Weird approach I guess. The guy at the Verizon store last month had a friendly laugh at my expense because my phone was more than two years old. And god forbid that they should make Windows updates that would recognize a dependable older printer. Thanks, Microsoft.
Still, all is not lost: like I said, chili and cornbread for supper on Meatless Monday.
Day 98, Tue Oct 6: Leaves are falling, which gets Nadia’s attention. A few of them stick to the windows and flutter there, which she mrows about incessantly. She watches the leaves and I watch her. I think this is what they mean when they talk about finding an activity that lowers your heart rate.
It’s cold out but I had already planned a big salad for dinner so that’s what we have.
Day 99, Wed Oct 7: It’s raining lightly. Vine maples are going all yellow-orange-red. Here in Seattle this means that fall and winter are here, no joking, so make strategies to keep your feet dry. For a while this morning the wind was really howling around. It’s a good day for an indoor project and I’ve had serious bathroom cleaning on my to-do list anyway.
The upstairs guest bathroom takes 20 minutes top-to-bottom. I move on to the downstairs master bath and go through toilet, floor, woodwork, countertops, medicine cabinet, mirrors and shower-tub. I snoop in the storage under the sink to find any old cleaners I can use: two different almost-used-up squirt bottles of soft scrub; a can of Comet; a thing of Lime-A-Way (with some very scary precautions) that I use to try to get the hard-water stains off the window we have right in the shower that looks out on the back yard.
Enid is trying to get us to use more natural cleaners and I am partway in on that – as long as they work. I tape a plastic baggie full of vinegar around the shower head to see if it will take off the hard-water mineral accumulation. (Not all that successful.) I Swiffer the floor. I throw the shower curtain (plastic, and Enid is lobbying to go cloth) in the wash machine to clean it up. Two hours later: sparkling, or close enough. But I am maxed out on lavatory duty for today. I will have to deal with Elena’s loo next time.
This is what you can look forward to in retirement: a non-paying job scrubbing out toilets.
Day 100, Thu Oct 8: There’s a flurry of Facebook activity about Lou Whitney and the Morells because Lou has died. Everybody has their favorite post-college bands and scene and reading all the posts makes me nostalgic for mine.
I don’t go out to clubs anymore, but in the early ‘80s I was living in Lincoln, working at the Lincoln Journal and playing in the Excessives myself. Lincoln then (and still, for all I know) was a really great town for music. It’s the state Capital and has the University, so it’s got the same cool vibe as other mid-sized Midwestern cities with one or the other institution: Madison, Iowa City, Lawrence. It’s right in the middle of the country so bands going from Chicago to Denver, or Austin to Minneapolis – the kind of bands who would be doing this in a van – could stop in Lincoln. The LeRoi Brothers, Blue Riddim, Magic Slim & The Teardrops. The local bands were exceptional: Charlie Burton & the Cut Outs, Sour Mash, the Click, Little Jimmy Valentine & the Heartmurmurs, Preston Love. And in a strata occupied by only one band, the Morells. The audience was really sophisticated. There were two great clubs.
The tiny Zoo Bar specialized in blues, especially, or rootsier music in general. It was where you might hear something great every night and once in a while something other-planetary and beyond explanation, like Otis Rush or J.B. Hutto.
The Drumstick booked more up-and-coming alternative pop bands. I saw a perplexing but riveting underground quartet from Athens called REM there. The name The Drumstick was convenient but had nothing to do with music; the place was a chicken restaurant by day.
Now, from what I can pick up on Facebook, the Zoo is still in business as a clubhouse for old people and the Drumstick has walked off to the elephant graveyard. I have only very good memories. It was a place and time with a potent mix of post-punk and post-disco sensibilities overlaying basic blues, rockabilly and country foundations. What we would call Americana today and back then we called it music.
Day 101, Fri Oct 9: I planted a bunch of daffodil and crocus bulbs that I had intended to get in the ground yesterday but blew it off. If the squirrels don’t get them (a big “if,”) we will see a nice burst of flowers in the spring. (And as it turns out this is a success. In six months, March is really full of blooms around our yard.)
When Enid gets home from work we hop in the car and head into Seattle for the St. Demetrios Greek Festival. I get dressed up, putting on jeans and a lime-green polo shirt instead of shorts and T-shirt. We hustle to leave home by 4 o’clock because President Obama is in town today so major freeways and arterials are going to be blocked at random times for his motorcade and we don’t want to be caught in any of that backdraft. So we leave early, jump off of I-90 at Rainier Avenue and then cut crosstown past the corner of the International District and Little Saigon, to get over to the church in Montlake.
The festival is a tradition that’s been going on for 55 years, and it is a lot of fun. It promised all things Greek, and it did not disappoint. If you were wearing blue and white you fit in. Different meeting rooms of the church house Greek Deli, Greek souvenirs, Greek books, Greek coffee and pastries. Instead of cash or card, you buy a plastic bag of tokens (worth $1 each) at a booth, then use the tokens to pay for all your food and drink. Downstairs and out the back, the entire parking lot is covered with a high white tent – probably 100 yards by 40 yards. This where all the foodstuffs, beverages and entertainment is set.
The place is packed but not claustrophobic, you can pick your way through the crowd. It’s definitely family entertainment and while lots of people are displaying Greek Pride on their T-shirts or in other ways, everybody – all races and ethnicities — comes to this event.
We meet Enid’s friend Jessica and claim three chairs at a round table we share with a family of mom, dad and two kids. Jessica is really smart and competent. She’s probably about 35. I’m guessing, but I am terrible at guessing ages, I need a plus-minus of 10 years to come close. Enid taught her in high school when Enid was just starting that career and Jessica was a kid with a ton of potential but a few challenges, too. Enid handled the parentis-in-absentia role modeling. Jessica went on to success, and they’ve been close ever since. She works for a big international company whose name is a household word but which I will not say here in case it would somehow be negative at work for her to be affiliated with me.
So she’s on the rise in her career and her employer obviously sees a winner and keeps giving her more responsibility. She’s confides that she’s been having a challenging week with some of the people she supervises, and she good-naturedly kvetches about work. One longtime employee pretty much just doesn’t do anything; another guy showed up for a meeting with a client wearing a sweatshirt with a profanity on the back; a couple of women do a good job working but dress too provocatively for the workplace, at least in Jessica’s opinion; another is really talented but a brat who pouts when she doesn’t get her way. Jessica is based here in Seattle but she also supervises a unit in Charleston, South Carolina. The South Carolina group got mad at her so she had to fly there last week to settle things down. All she wants is for her unit to be productive and draw attention to themselves for all the right reasons, not the wrong ones.
We sit around drinking Greek white wine out of plastic cups while she vents and I chime in by telling her leadership is hard but she’s got this. Then, in an attempt, I suppose, to convey supervisor solidarity, I tell a few war stories. About the time I managed the videographer who had filed a sexual harassment suit against the City of Seattle (against a former supervisor, not me, who had set a wind-up penis on his desk and watched it hop across) and then stopped coming to work entirely, but would phone in every day to ask if I had any assignments he could complete at home. Or the stinky guy I had to deal with. Then we move on to other topics, like hiking; she goes out into the mountains regularly, and I like to walk around town, so we’ve got that in common.
The three of us have to lean our heads in close because we are sort of near the stage, and the PA system is plenty loud enough to make sure everybody in the vast space can hear the music. For an hour, it’s a keyboard, mandolin or balalaika (or whatever the Greek equivalent is), an older guy (by which I mean older than me) singing, and a female vocalist. Greek songs. I think she may be older, too, but it’s a little hard to tell; blonde hair and a black pant suit with a gold scarf tied around her waist. Then they give way to a bunch of middle-school girls dressed in “traditional” outfits who do some “traditional” dances.
The longest lines at the food booths are for Kalamaria – calamari gyros – but we opt instead for falafel gyros, spanakopita, and that lemon soup that’s always on the Greek café menu. On our way out we stop in the Greek Deli and pick up a takeaway of kasseri cheese and a bottle of capers. Opa!
Day 102, Sat Oct 10: It is pouring rain! Which is saying something here. Good thing I planted those bulbs yesterday. Usually here in Seattle it is misting or drizzling or spritzing or something. But this stuff is beating down in a low roar onto the rooftop and totally coating the windows on the south side of the house. At one point I look out the window and see that it has overwhelmed the downspout and is basically just pouring over the edge of the roof. That can’t be good.
Enid has driven over to Leavenworth in the mountains for a meeting, so I am on my own to putter around and do a few chores and errands. I will watch my beloved Huskers v Wisconsin at noon.
Today, since I can’t take a walk, I will break out my wet-weather indoor workout that I can do while watching TV. I have a whole routine that can take an hour-plus. This is mostly body-weight: pushups, crunches, squats, stretches; plus a few light weights for curls or ankle weights for knee lifts. Pump it up.
Day 103, Sun Oct 11: My phone charger failed to charge my phone overnight; I’ve only had this thing for two months. I hope it is the charger and not the phone itself that is crapped out. I try it on the car charger to see if that does the trick, and it does not, which tells me my phone is fucked. I am in despair. I don’t know it yet, but this will turn out OK. Tomorrow I will drive it down to the Apple store at Bell Square and the guy there will take his key – his regular house key — out of his pocket, dig in the charger port on the phone, extract a couple of black turf seeds from the lacrosse field that got in there and are blocking the connection and I will be back in business. Because I’m downtown anyway, I’ll celebrate my phone triumph by walking around the big loop at Downtown Park for an hour with all the other morning walkers, getting a kick out of the ducks swimming in the pond each time I pass by them on a lap.
Day 104, Mon Oct 12: After three-plus months of retirement, here are a few of the changes in my daily routine.
Now I wake up whenever. No alarm clock except if I have some kind of appointment that I couldn’t set for the afternoon (this bad calendar management has only happened a couple of times, usually involving a trip to the airport). Usually I’m up around 9 o’clock these days but I have popped out of bed as early as 7:30 – fairly often — and as late as just after 10 – a few times. In the night, of course, I wake up intermittently. I never look at the clock so I have no idea about the duration of the sleep/wake intervals, or what time it even is when they occur. Sometimes it is probably just the break between first sleep and second sleep so I lie in bed and think pleasant thoughts. Sometimes I have to get up and pee which I understand could either be normal old person behavior or it could be a symptom of prostate issues, that ticking time bomb up every guy’s butt. For some people this would be a worrisome problem. For me, no problem, mon. So far.
When I was working I was a reliable 6:30am man. Cup of coffee, shower and shave, dress in a shirt & tie, through the door and backing out of the driveway at 7:15 to be at work around 7:30.We were supposed to be in the office at 8 but I always liked to be an early bird.
Now I don’t have anything that could be called a “routine” with a straight face. I get up (to say I “pop up” would inflate the event), brew a pot of coffee, try to remember to first drink a big glass of water for my health, and get after it. Most days, I like to get dressed rather than loll around in my PJs. This means shorts and a T-shirt. Bare feet around the house unless it’s cold. I check my emails and Facebook and there is almost never anything that requires any response much less an urgent reply, a welcome change from the couple of dozen business emails and brush fires that would need my input first thing every day at work.
Somewhere along in there I try to have a hearty breakfast of cereal (I like Joe’s O’s with almonds and raisins) or eggs or fruit and maybe a glass of orange juice, along with my multivitamin, baby aspirin, fish oil, Vitamin C, feverfew, probiotic and whatever other supplements I’m taking. This latter part of my morning routine is minimally changed so far from my working days, when I had a desk drawer rattling full with these supplements. It was an amusement for my colleagues who could hear it. But now the most important meal of the day itself is different – healthier — from when I used to cram down a breakfast bar and a yogurt at my desk first thing.
Then I get on with my to-do list, which I still keep religiously. The difference between my working and retired list — not dissimilar to the email load — is that I now have only a couple of things to do instead of a full legal pad sheet. And almost none are urgent or have a deadline. In other words, if I don’t do any of them my world won’t come crashing down. As my brother Pete says, if it’s not done by Friday it must not have been that important so it can be crossed off.
One of my daily tasks is always to take a walk or get in a workout of some kind. This is something that I tried to accomplish when I was working and sitting on my ass all day hunched towards the screen. I had good intentions but was only occasionally successful. I still try to drink a lot of water during the day to stay hydrated and healthy. This was actually easier to do at work where I had a sports water bottle on my desk that I could carry with me and refill throughout the day from a water cooler in our office. My days largely consisted of being chained to my desk or sitting through endless meetings so the water bottle was handy. Now I have to actually refill a mug with water from the fridge dispenser.
I eat lunch at some point, kind of random but often with leftovers from last night’s dinner. For decades, I used to take my little sack lunch to work with a banana, apple and orange every day, so that may have actually been healthier, too, if less of a variation. I try to have supper ready when Enid walks in the door at the end of the day. I used to be walking in late myself and we would do what we could meal-wise.
And then in the evening I sit around and read or watch random sports on TV until 8 or 9 or 10 when I go to bed. Once in a while if I’m reading a really good book in bed I go past midnight, but not often. Then lights out. Rinse, repeat. Loud & Proud.
Day 105, Tue Oct 13: I make a big salad to take to the potluck and business meeting for the co-op where we have our cabin. The cabin is on Hood Canal, a two-hour drive from our home. The meeting itself, happily, is a 10-minute drive from home, at the Eastgate Unitarian Church.
Enid is the outgoing President, so she will preside and then she’s off the hook. The main business is to vote on the new slate of officers. Because they serve staggered terms Enid is actually the only person going off. We will eat, socialize, and then have the meeting. There are good salads and pasta, barbecue chicken, and somebody brought pumpkin pie.
I sit next to Mayumi, who says that she is planning to retire in a few months, so I relate my experience, for what it’s worth to her. This group, like many such grassroots groups, is not particularly businesslike when it comes to keeping a brisk pace through the agenda. We are much better at having fun on the beach than holding a business meeting. So there’s no telling whether this will be a one-hour meeting or a three-hour meeting.
Items that come up in committee reports will be our new fees and dues for the next year (Mason County is doubling our assessment values, so one of our lawyer members will investigate whether it’s worth an appeal). Somebody will have to deal with a leak in the new water system that needs repair. We have an inquiry from a neighbor a mile down the road about whether we will support his petition to Mason County to improve and pave the road (it’s well-maintained gravel, and we like it that way, we don’t want it welcoming to more traffic). Most importantly, we get a heads-up that our abutting neighbor, the Boy Scouts’ Camp, is thinking about selling their property; we need a strategy for defending our interests since it could be sold to either a nature-preservation NGO or a developer who wants to make a tourist destination, or something in between. So we need to be on top of that.
Enid runs a tight meeting and we are out of there in about an hour (after an earlier hour of eating). Her efficiency makes people happy. They commend her on her for it, which makes her happy. Which makes me happy.
Day 106, Wed Oct 14: Tim, the dryer repair guy came to take a look at things. First, he really enjoyed our heirloom dryer. It turns out that it is from the ‘90s. The olden days. Unlike the workers at Microsoft and Verizon, Tim appreciates my philosophy about using things and repairing them as long as they still work (or course he would; he’s a repairman). He gives a knowing nod when I tell him about my old, durable Craftsman tractor lawnmower and laughs pretty hard when I tell him about the iPhone salesman’s astonishment at the vintage two-year-old version I was trading up from. While he checks it out, I finish the write-up for our Becker family report that’s due for the “Family News” section of the neighborhood yearbook.
The diagnosis from Tim is good. He can’t finish today but he was able to order the dryer parts he’ll need to refurbish it – not just the heater but also some belts and other parts to get it running more efficiently — and he’ll be back on Friday to do the work. I also asked him about clearing the exhaust duct of lint buildup as a safety precaution against a fire, which I had read about. He said when he returns he will do for me what he does at his own home: bring his leaf blower, attach it to the dryer end and blow any accumulated lint buildup out into the back yard. When he does that, it will turn out that it is totally blocked up. We have avoided disaster by lint trap. Tim! My man!
Day 107, Thu Oct 15: I zipped down to the Renton Driver License office to renew my license, a task I need to take care of before my birthday in a month. It is only 15 minutes south, pretty near Bright & Shine where I dried my wet laundry a few days ago. I knew the location because this is where Elena took her driver’s test when she first got her license.
I went at 9:30 just because that’s when I got around to it and it was, unwittingly, good timing. People were at all the windows but I was the only person waiting in a chair so my number got called right away. The license woman was real friendly so we chatted while she input my info and here is what I now know about her: she works Tuesday-Saturday; her husband works two jobs, random on-call during the day and then regular hours at night; her four-year-old daughter is in day-care and the $1000 a month is killing their budget but is a good investment for the benefits it provides the kid. What she knows about me is my age, my address and that I’m an organ donor. She had a neck tattoo just barely peeking up past her collar and I was curious what it was but I thought it was too early in our relationship to ask. So I keep things cordial but professional. I pass the vision test (three questions), get a frightening photo taken (they make you take off your glasses now!), pay $54, and I’m out of there in less than half an hour. I give my new best friend a jaunty wave as I depart. By the time I walked out the door, almost half of the chairs were occupied. Score!
On my way home I stop at Lewis Creek Park to take my walk. It’s overcast and misty and walking on the paths and a boardwalk through the cattail marshes is enjoyable. As I was driving down Forest Drive – a fairly busy arterial, not bumper-to-bumper or anything, but far from empty – a full-grown stag with a big antler rack walked across the street right in front of me.
Back home I give Elena’s bathroom a deep-clean scrub down that I couldn’t deal with last week. I eat some veggies and hummus dip for lunch. By 2pm the sun has cleared out the overcast and it is a beautiful fall day.
Turkey burgers, southern greens, white wine for dinner.
Day 108, Fri Oct 16: OK, I filled out the Medicare application online. I hope it is successful. I will be 65 in one month, so it needs to kick in then.
As I have said before, it is complicated (or maybe it’s just that I am making it complicated because I want to get it right the first time). It’s just one of the intimidating transition processes that must be done. Various one-on-one meetings with Human Resources personnel or group workshops I’ve attended have been somewhat helpful in sorting it out, but not what a reasonable person would characterize as entirely helpful. Of course there is some conflicting information and a lot of indecipherable jargon.
As a reminder of my strategy: I want to enroll in Medicare Part A (basically for hospitalizations) and to defer on Part B (routine care). The reasoning is that, in our situation, it will be more economically advantageous for the routine care to be carried on Enid’s Group Health Plan through her work.
I’m not yet late with this form, but I should have filled out this application a few months ago. I was thinking about it then. Honest. I looked at it once or twice. And then procrastinated. When I went to the Social Security office last month to try to confirm my strategy the woman was really friendly but the stuff she was telling me was different than what others had said. Plus she spoke a different dialect of governmentese. And then, when you add to that my psychic terror of government forms, I couldn’t bring myself to dive back into it until this morning. I was able to ignore the nagging fact that I was writing it on my new daily to-do list each day for the past three weeks. And when I say three weeks I mean possibly six weeks.
Well, filling out the application form was pretty painless so far (famous last words). It took more than the 10 minutes they promise, but not much more. Everything was straightforward except that it asked some perplexing questions about the coverage that currently covered me (Enid’s Group Health benefit from her work) and which would continue the Part B coverage. It asked when that policy holder’s employment had started and when the coverage had started. I had no idea. So I had to find an online database with Enid’s employment history which indicated she has had 25-1/2 years with Bellevue School District. I wasn’t sure of the day so I fudged and said the start date for all of this was 9/1/1990. That may come back to haunt me. Oddly, it never actually asked for her name, or the name of her employer or anything. I guess they have all that info on me already.
In the “notes & comments” section – a freewriting field — I repeated a description of what I am trying to achieve with the Part A and Part B business, and asked that they let me know whether I have to notify either Bellevue School District or Group Health about this, or whether that happens automatically. I hope it is the latter. I am either obsessively neurotic or efficiently thorough.
Then I checked the electronic signature box and hit submit. I hope that’s that and I will be a very happy Medicare enrollee in a month. I am not filled with confidence.
Something that does fill me with confidence today is when Tim Abbott from Abbott’s Appliance Serve comes back with the parts and finishes the dryer repair.
Day 109, Sat Oct 17: I feel like I had a really productive week: signed up for Medicare, got the dryer repaired, renewed my driver license, and attended the Hood Canal Co-op meeting. All those special projects in addition to all the regular housework of cleaning, washing, cooking and yard work. Note to self: slow down. It’s a beautiful sunny day so all I’ve got planned is to run a few loads of laundry, drive someplace and take my walk, watch my Cornhuskers beat Minnesota, and sit down and fill out my ballot and send it in.
Day 110, Sun Oct 18: This morning when I got up I replaced the burned out light bulb in the master bathroom shower/bathtub stall. It sounds simple but it turns into a “how many retired guys does it take to change a lightbulb” joke.
I’ve changed this bulb before, several years ago, so I sort of knew what had to happen but it still took me 10 minutes. I had the big picture but not the detailed work plan. It’s recessed like a can light, but has a round glass cover over the hole to protect it from moisture and shower spray. I knew you had to somehow turn it to unfree it from whatever mechanism is holding it. So, standing in the tub, I try variations on left, then right; I push it inward a little and then turn; I get one side of it lifted slightly free and wonder momentarily if I should stick the sharp part of a fingernail clipper in there to pry it loose. Even though I’m a little frustrated I realize that’s a bad idea. I cannot get a grip on it in any way, so it’s just fingertip pressure and trying to rotate it and it seems to just turn micro millimeters.
Then, of course, all of a sudden it is loose and comes off in my hand. (This procedure reminds me of track lights we used to have over the kitchen sink that burned out all the time; you had to stand on a chair and lean over awkwardly while reaching up, or crouch up on the counter, pinch a little clasp while turning at the same time and then — as with the shower light — just go back and forth with various turns until all of a sudden the cover was off. Usually with the kitchen sink lights the glass cover would pop out so fast you wouldn’t catch it and it would go clattering onto the floor. When we re-did our kitchen, replacing those things was a priority.) In the bathroom, once the cover is off it’s easy to see what I couldn’t sort out before: the mechanism comprises little pressure flanges that release if you turn it lefty-loosey about a halfish-inch.
In other words, it like so much in life: it is easy if you know how to do it, but there is no way to know how until you have done it. Especially since this thing only gets changed about once every five years. Amazingly, I actually have a replacement 60-watt bulb in my lightbulb drawer, so that goes in, the cover goes back on and, voila, light for taking a shower.
Day 111, Mon Oct 19: All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray. Raining, too. I write a check for our property tax payment, and drive it into Seattle.
I’m old-school in general; I pay for a few things with an automatic withdrawal or some kind of online payment but I’m way more comfortable writing a check and sticking it in an envelope with a stamp on it. No apps. No tapping my phone. For day-to-day spending I’m off the grid, on the cash economy. I know I’m way behind the times – this was already obsolete 15 years ago — but it’s worked for me for 40-some years. Ain’t broke, don’t fix.
I have finally stopped actually going into the bank and standing in line for a teller to deposit checks but I still go to the ATM there to deposit them. Somehow it seems safer. I still haven’t figured out how to use my phone app to deposit a check. I will probably get there in a decade, about the time nobody’s using a phone anymore for anything and has moved on to the new thing, whatever that will be.
Anyway, I drive in to Seattle. It’s smooth sailing and takes about 15 minutes, plus another 15 minutes circling the County Building until I find a curb parking space, feed four quarters into the parking-sticker kiosk for 16 minutes of parking. It rips me off for four minutes, registering only 75 cents and 12 minutes; thanks, City of Seattle Parking Enforcement. I stick the receipt to my pedestrian-side window, hustle the three blocks to my destination and catch a quick elevator to the fifth floor. I have been here many times over the years, twice annually. There is no line so I am in and out of there with my receipt in no time. And I am back home in less than an hour from when I left. Efficiency.
Though I’m not sure why that even makes me happy; I’m retired, I don’t need to be efficient any more. I’ve got nothing but time. The meter is never running. On the other hand, I would rather spend my time not standing in line at the tax office.
This is the kind of errand, as was changing the shower light the other day, that of course I would have taken care of whether I was retired or not. Back then I managed my own time at work so if my calendar was clear I could take off for an hour in the workday and drive into Seattle. Lightbulbs could get changed in the evening or on weekends. It’s just that now, I can do it whenever I feel like. Also, in even more good news, it has stopped raining so I will get in an outdoor workout.
The dinner plan is for minestrone.
Day 112, Tue Oct 20: When I ordered my new printer they said standard delivery was 3-8 business days. Two guesses about which it was.
Anyway, it is here, so I try to hook it up this morning. I’m not religious but even I know that some things are predestined. It’s probably written in The Book someplace that I wouldn’t be able to get the printer working. (This is in contrast to the last time I installed a new printer a few years ago. That one really was plug & play. I started the process, it found the printer and, boom, I was printing away.) I’m not a total technoramous but I can’t figure out this new printer hook-up. Nothing about it is obvious, straightforward or even vaguely intuitive. The question is, should I keep trying?
Instead, I call for help and Alan of A-Plus Computer Tech stops at supper time (we’re between their shop in downtown Bellevue and his home in Renton so he waives the $50 same-day service fee – “it’s right on my way home”). Actually, A-Plus was not my first call. Not knowing what to do to get the printer working, I had first called Geek Squad but those clowns put me on hold for 10 minutes. Losers. Google showed that the shops offering home service with decent ratings were A-Plus and A-1 (fighting to be listed first in any alphabetical rankings). I like the idea of buying from a local small business better anyway.
My faith is paid off. Alan has it up and running in 30 minutes and then (because, he explains apologetically, “I have to charge you for the full hour anyway”) he also sets up Enid’s iPad and laptop so they can print from the printer. This is something she had never been able to successfully accomplish. She had always had to send email attachments to herself and then print from the desktop. Alan will turn out to be a trusted help-desk guy for us over the upcoming months. When Elena’s laptop is fried he takes a look at it, recommends a replacement, and makes sure all of her old stuff migrates over to her new computer. When my installation of Windows 10 at home works for a while and then doesn’t work anymore after a while longer, he will take a look, replace the hard-drive and make sure all of the old stuff migrates over. And here is the best part: Alan looks like a trustworthy computer repair expert; jeans, polo shirt, glasses, beard, and nondescript haircut. Good man.
Lexmark had discounted the printer 30%, so I had saved $100 on the purchase. Now, with the $145 fee to A-Plus Computer Repair I am underwater on the printer replacement cost, which Enid lightly teases me about. A couple of days from now I will deal with Lexmark on returning a wireless adapter I thought I needed (Alan connected the printer with an Ethernet cable instead). The Lexmark customer service rep on the phone is very pleasant and helpful. So with that $45 reimbursement I may scramble back to break-even on the cost. (The return package weighs about as much as two feathers but the cost to mail it is $7.90; just doing my part to keep the U.S. Postal Service solvent.)
Happily, in another column of the financial ledger, we will not be paying for any sauerkraut any time soon. Enid’s maiden voyage into fermentation is done, is tasty, and she has moved it from the big crock into several jars that are now filling a shelf up in the studio refrigerator. Very satisfying.
Day 113, Wed Oct 21: Our immediate-post-retirement financial plan, to use the term loosely, has been to live on cash-on-hand and “other income” for as long as possible – not tap into our investments — see how our spending pattern actually goes, and then assess everything in several months.
Enid and I have always kept separate bank accounts and investment accounts, with each other as the beneficiary. Way back when, we did it because they still treated the woman in a married couple as the secondary partner. This meant that she would not have the same opportunities to build up the same credit record as the guy on their shared assets.
For example, when we bought our houses together, the financing still considered the man – me – the purchaser and Enid as something lesser. It’s true that I was making more money but we considered this an equal partnership. The bank did not. Her name was on there so I guess they figured her for the common property owner. And she had to provide her info about her income – in fact, the first house we bought together, they gave us a hard time about a minor inconsistency in her paychecks; she had worked a couple of hours less during one pay period and they were sweating us over a paycheck discrepancy of a few dollars a month. Even with that, though, she was still considered kind of ancillary. I’m not sure if that’s still the way they do it, but that was the way it was then.
Our response was to keep our bank accounts and investment accounts under our separate names. Over time, those regular checking and savings accounts have accrued several thousand dollars each that never got spent or redirected into any other investment. Frankly, mostly it just sat there because we either didn’t really notice or we just could not get together the energy to do anything else with it. Not a maximizing investment strategy but that’s what happened. Now that money is there for us as Retirement Option One.
Over the years, between us, we evolved a workable plan of domestic financial coexistence regarding who would pay for what. Every couple will handle their household budget in their own special way, but here’s some of what works for us. The monthly house payment, for example, is an automatic deduction from my checking account. I pay the utility bills (I’m just more ready, willing and able to be the household CFO). Enid usually pays for the weekly groceries when we go shopping. Twice a year she writes a check to cover our property tax.
When we had our financial advisor Kathleen chop up the numbers to check their viability for retirement, we showed total household expenses of $5200 a month that we would need to cover. I don’t know if this is a lot or a little compared to an average family, but it’s what we were spending. Kathleen assured us that getting into our investments, or taking social security, would cover it comfortably until the day we die.
But for now with our bank account money – basically money stuffed under the mattress — we can continue to let our portfolio accounts sit untouched for a while longer. We didn’t accumulate these savings with retirement in mind (it was more neglect, which even we recognize is not a sustainable strategy), it just kind of happened.
As I say, the plan is first to just spend down my savings and checking accounts for a few months until they are depleted, and then turn to Enid’s and similarly drain them before we started to dip into liquidating any investments or anything. So far, for these first few months, it looks like we are not spending it out as fast as projected. (This is not true for every retiree; some are surprised to find they are spending more than anticipated.) I understand some of the smaller differences in our outflow; for example, I had a $500-a-month car payment back when we did the budget estimates, but now that is paid off. On the other hand, I just spent about $700 unanticipated expenses last week to buy the printer and to have Tim come and fix the dryer. Still, my modest nest egg looks like it will last a while longer – certainly into next year and maybe longer.
Day 114, Thu Oct 22: The weather is beautiful and autumnal: sunny with yellow and red leaves on the trees and brown leaves carpeting the ground. It takes me an hour to dismantle and re-set the plastic mesh deer-fence around our little cherry tree on our property boundary with Bo and Jan’s lower yard. The first year we put in that tree, about knee-high, the deer immediately snacked it down to ankle-high. I built a fence around it — those green metal stakes with the white tops that you sink into the ground and green plastic mesh fencing zip-tied onto it. Now the tree is growing like gangbusters and I need to expand the fence and put it farther from the branches, so they don’t hang over where the deer can get them. The hardest part of the remodel is working the stakes out of the ground; I was too thorough at pounding them in the original time. I am out here with a heavy mallet, a partial roll of fencing, a box cutter, a bag of zip ties. Luckily, this does not have to be beautiful, just functional. Now we will wait and see if we actually ever get cherries.
Thursday is my yardwork day so once I finish the cherry tree project I also spend two more hours, spreading four wheelbarrow loads of wood chips on a path and filling the green bin with trimmings from the wild and untamed part of the yard up the stairs. Thursday is also my laundry day, so I have delegated a bunch of loads to the washer and dryer. Man of action.
Day 115, Fri Oct 23: Enid is gone overnight to Leavenworth for an art educator’s conference and I am rattling around the shack.
So I decide to go full-on juice fast for a day. This is not so far off my regular eating routine but it’s definitely a few steps to the left. I eased into it last night with a big salad for supper and a bowl of leftover fruit salad. This is not an unusual meal for me at all. Then this morning I had two tall glasses from a blender-full of green smoothie (with half a mini-watermelon and half a cantaloupe blended in there), plus two cups of coffee. Again, so far not unusual.
But after my walk (eight miles from Factoria to the Eastgate strip mall and back) and picking up a bag of Science Diet cat food at Petco, instead of eating something regular for lunch (it would normally be healthy, but actual food you chew) I drink another glass of the smoothie that’s left in the blender, plus two glasses of water. My plan is to keep this going through dinner and bedtime. Maybe sneak a cup of tea in there. And I’ve got a bottle of carrot juice and some orange juice in the fridge, so I am provisioned. Depending on how I feel in the morning, I may carry it through breakfast with another smoothie.
The juice fast will fall apart tomorrow, though, and not through any weakness of will on my part. But tomorrow is the community fall work party which culminates with lunch at the playfield and that will be lasagna or tacos or something. (As it turns out, I’ll have a glass of carrot juice, a glass of orange juice and a cup of green tea for breakfast. Then, while I’m working on the nature trail trimming overgrowth, Alex, the neighborhood Community Lands chair, comes past toting a backpack loaded with hot coffee and muffins. The muffin breaks my juice fast.) I feel like the juice experiment was a success. Maybe I’ll go for a two-day or three-day sometime in the future. I’m not even sure what I’m trying to prove but it seems like no harm can come of it, and maybe some good.
Day 116, Sat Oct 24: As I mentioned yesterday, today is the neighborhood work party. I work from 9-noon with loppers and a hand saw, trimming branches and shrubs overhanging or impinging on the walking trail that circumnavigates our entire community property. The idea is simply to keep them from brushing against people or poking eyes when the branches are heavy with rain during the winter.
On the same stretch of trail, Doug – who lives two houses up on the other side of the street — is leveling a stretch about 30-feet long where the trail canted at a funky angle, then wheelbarrowing in wood chips to surface it. He runs on this trail, so he has identified a couple of places where it is less than perfect. We see a couple of other neighbors who walk by.
Later, during lunch at the playfield (mac & cheese, salad, cookies, beer) I talk with Alex, who is also already retired and makes the point that she and her husband, Matt, like to hike and do active things so they wanted to retire while they were still rigorous enough to enjoy that stuff. Also in our discussion is another neighbor, Charley, who has career closure in his sights in about five years. He works for one of the two big airplane producers, travelling to cities around the world for six weeks at a time to troubleshoot the delivery of new planes and make sure the customer is satisfied. It’s work, but with a vacation-like component and he says when it’s not fun anymore he will be ready to call it quits, which will also be the time for him that it won’t make financial sense to keep working. Then I talk with Noel and Andre, neither of whom is going to be retiring any time soon; they’ve both got sons in elementary school.
Instead we gab about a topic of way more immediate concern to them – how to do a safety retrofit on the upper level of the play structure at the playfield to cover up an opening that kids apparently keep falling through. Good thing there are wood chips six feet below.
Day 117, Sun Oct 25: Speaking of falling off things, if you want to have a happy retirement do not go up ladders onto the roof of your house. This is my Tip Number One. Call it a suggestion if you want. Your more joyous life depends on it.
I swore off ladders six years ago when I was on one and the bottom slid away, dumping me to the ground on my back on top of the ladder. My feet were only maybe four feet off the ground, but still. I went clattering down. Once I checked all my parts and realized I was OK, I put the ladder back in place, climbed up and finished clearing the leaves off the roof. Then realized I was bleeding on my tricep just above the elbow and went inside to do a quick medical procedure. When I took off my jacket I saw a gruesome gash that I could not repair myself no matter how much Liquid Bandage and butterfly band aids we had in the medicine chest. I had fallen onto a rung that acted like a blade, albeit a pretty blunt one. But the force of my fall caused the cut and I’m lucky I didn’t break that bone. I drove myself to urgent care where they squirted me with about 50 gallons of saline solution and stitched together the big laceration. If the timing had worked out better I never would have had to mention this. Instead, I got some blowback from my family a few hours later when I walked into the house carrying a big plastic bag marked “Patient Belongings.”
So today I held the ladder and Enid went up on the roof to clear the leaves. It’s a flat roof so once you’re up there you are in pretty safe conditions. We were also clearing the downspouts of fir needles that can get past the little strainers or scuppers that go in the top. First, we got the hose up on the roof and she squirted water down. No go, they were too packed at the turns in the downspout pipe. Eventually, standing on the ground, I was able to take the pipes apart and unclog a big wad of needles so they are free-flowing again and ready for the winter rains. I will have to run to Home Depot tomorrow to get some super heavy-duty zip ties to replace the ones I had to cut off that were holding the downspouts in place. All-in-all, a successful job. Bonus: I didn’t dump dirty water all over myself when I pulled apart the pipes.
Day 118, Mon Oct 26: We have positive news. Enid has successfully renewed her National Board Certification. This is good for lots of reasons, including our bank account – she gets a stipend. But it’s also recognition that she is a top teacher. The National Boards are a rigorous process, especially the first time you apply. A lot of people don’t pass and she did. This renewal is a little easier, but still no guaranteed thing. She worked on it pretty hard for many evenings. So this is good.
Day 119, Tue Oct 27: I walk the long block to the mailboxes to retrieve the daily paper and then keep going to try to get in at least some semblance of a workout. I’m dedicated to my exercise regimen but not so much that I’m ready to run in the rain yet. I know I will have to face the music as we get into the real wet months ahead, pull on my raingear and get out in it. Just not today. I’m staying within 10 blocks of home so that I can make a dash for cover if necessary, without getting soaked.
For dinner I made salmon patties, mashed potatoes, salad and fruit salad. Fruit salad is one of my staple recipes. I make it all the time to have for dessert, snacks and even full meals sometimes. The base is bananas, and then I need at least a couple of other fruits. The recipe – the method, more accurately — is to cut up whatever fruit I have on hand into bite-size bits and mix it up in a big bowl. I’m inclusive, fruit-wise. So if I have grapefruit and blueberries, say, they are in. I try to make enough to have leftovers but sometimes it tastes so good that it all gets eaten up on the first opportunity. Today the recipe was bananas, apples, oranges, kiwi, pineapple, two handfuls of my homemade trail mix (nuts and dried fruits), a sprinkle of shredded coconut, a shake of chia seeds and strawberry yogurt as a binding agent.
Day 120, Wed Oct 28: We have more good news: Enid sold another painting today. The Bellevue School District headquarters building rotates hanging artworks by their art teachers, she had a couple of paintings up, and a guy who works in the diversity office wanted one. She priced it at about half what she would mark it at a gallery show but here it is a straight sale with no percentage going to a gallery, which was at the top end of his affordability. They worked out a $300 down payment and $200 follow-up payments until it’s paid off, and it is win-win. Actually, there is a third win in there because he doesn’t do checks or anything, so she has to create a Pay Pal account to get paid, and that seems like a good business thing to have set up. Later we watch the Sounders beat the Galaxy 3-2 in the first-step knockout round of the playoffs.
Roast chicken and oven-roasted garlic cauliflower for dinner.
Day 121, Thu Oct 29: I get an email from Lexmark (the printer people) that they are “pleased to accept your recent return” (for the unneeded wireless card for the new printer). Bonus good news: the amount that will be credited back to my card is $53.66, eight dollars more than I had expected.
I run a load of laundry (Thursday is my Laundry Day, but I already did a bunch on Tuesday this week so I am ahead of schedule). It’s overcast but not raining and I go out and trim some overgrown salal from around a sculpture by the steps (Thursday is also my Yard Work Day [I know, right! So may “Days”.]). I eat a couple of hardboiled eggs and a glass of milk for lunch, possibly not my healthiest meal this year.
Since it’s not raining I may drive down to Robinswood and walk the loop there. Much of the winter I am going to be doing my Indoor Workout, so I want to take advantage of the relatively clement weather to get outside. Oops, in the few minutes it took me to type this it started raining, and now it is pummeling down. Consequently, I will turn on the TV and do my workout here on the floor.
Dinner is concocted of leftovers from earlier in the week: chicken salad, mashed potatoes & gravy, fruit salad.
Day 122, Fri Oct 30: It’s threatening rain but it holds off enough for me to get in an eight-mile walk that I put off yesterday around Robinswood Park and environs. It’s a close-enough loop around the sports fields, the playground and the forest paths that if it starts raining I can quickly scamper back to the car. Conveniently, it never starts raining.
Enid has taken a mental-health sick day so she goes back up onto the roof. Fir needles were the cause of the previous clogs in our downspouts; we had some wire mesh scuppers you stick in the top to keep out leaves but I bought some finer screens at Home Depot to wrap around as one more layer of needle protection. We’ll see how it works. The bad consequence would be if it keeps out fir needles but also creates a little dam so water won’t drain down either. If we end up with a lake on the roof we will have to rethink this. (This pessimistic prediction will turn into reality over the winter; the mesh does its job too well, plugs up with needles around the outside of the drain like a levee and the water – stymied from going down the downspout – simply cascades over the edge of the roof.)
Next project: Our old printer that had to be replaced also worked as a scanner, so I am going to plug it in and still use that function – scanning onto a thumb drive. Right now I need to scan medical receipts so that I can attach pdfs with my claims to VEBA, the medical-expense reimbursement folks. If I get the scanner working I will put in another round of claims.
Day 123, Sat Oct 31: It’s totally rainy and windy. It will be a dark and stormy night tonight for trick or treating.
In our isolated neighborhood we are not likely to attract many, if any, kids from outside of the immediate nearby families. Until two years ago we weren’t even part of Bellevue – even though we are surrounded by Bellevue – we were a little island of unincorporated King County. Then the city annexed a few random neighborhoods here in Eastgate, including ours.
There is only one road in and that same road out – no through access. We have a single main street, a one-mile curving loop, with homes along it, plus some cul-de-sacs (our house is at one of the street ends). No sidewalks. No street lights. So, not the place parents from off The Hill are going to drop off their children. On the other hand, resident families with little kids know that they can make the rounds of the 25 neighborhood homes and if the lights are on, it’s treat city.
When I was little, kids pretty much had the run of Schuyler on Halloween. Maybe an older sibling would be responsible for the littlest ones. Or maybe we would go on our own to get our popcorn ball from Mrs. Slavik and our candy apple from the Kracls. We had worse costumes than contemporary kids, but better treats.
Ten or 15 years ago when Elena was the right age, the idea of youngsters going door-to-door was already fading out. Instead, we would go up to the little Queen Anne business district and trick or treat the merchants along the six-block stretch. We did have a friendly neighborhood couple, Richard and Rosa, who were Wiccan; one year when Elena went as a witch (or possibly a Harry Potter character that looked like a witch) there was a pretty hilarious conversation between her and Rosa.
Now, we get a kick out of seeing the little goblins. And while our neighborhood is a borderline retirement community, there are also a handful of minors and the last six new families that moved in had young kids. So the Halloween ramble is a good community activity to support. It takes a village and all that. We’re in. We leave the outside lights on as the signal that we are a treat house. We get 10 or so groups ringing our doorbell and we end up with a half-dozen leftover Kit Kats. That’s a perfect amount. I don’t really like sweet stuff that much but I will put these in the freezer and enjoy them one-by-one over the next few months.
Here’s the bad news: I’m catching a cold. Starting yesterday, I’ve been feeling a little something in my chest and throat. I’m swigging liquid Dayquil and I’ve got Al Green and the Chi-Lites playing, so that’s restorative.