Monday, March 27, 2017

Report: Week Three of Retirement (or Birds of a Feather Flock Together)

Welcome to the second installment of Angie’s Retirement Report.
Spousal Unit would tease me if I said I had goals for retirement – wasn’t the point NOT to have a To Do List?  But I think the difference is the nature of the goals.  For example, we have begun a series of road trips to catch up with ‘seasoned’ friends before we head west. 
Our visit to friends in Indiana  (Spousal Unit announced ‘it looks just like Ohio’ when he woke up from his nap in the car) took us back to memories of freshman year at Ball State University (Go Cardinals!)  My first roomie and I went in different directions after college, and yet, every time we get back together, it doesn’t matter how many years have gone by – we glide into a comfortable conversation like you slip into your favorite pair of sweats. 

Wisteria Gates
Detroit, the location of our first house, is like a phoenix rising from the ashes, and we reveled in experiencing the renaissance.  A friend who is a docent at the Detroit Institute of Arts shared his wealth of knowledge about the architecture of the building and some of its key pieces. 

Diego Rivera Mural
After an hour of talking, he was ready for a beverage and we were more than happy to oblige the resulting pub crawl down Woodward Avenue.  10 blocks and several drinks later, we tucked into fried chicken and okra at Gus’s Fried Chicken.   While there, our friends introduced us to a gentleman who is part of a business incubator in the city.  This organization offers shared office spaces and other resources that enable promising entrepreneurs to chase their dreams.  You can feel the excitement and energy!
The food extravaganza continued the next day when we met up with another couple at the Eastern Market, which hosted the All Things Detroit and Food Truck Rally.  A special event that brings together hundreds of entrepreneurs across Michigan with their unique wares, it also features a variety of food trucks to tempt you.  Breakfast burritos with chorizo, gourmet popcorn, cranberry and orange scones, lemon butter pie … we had to sample it all. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this couple invited us to this event – entrepreneurs themselves, they have built careers on finding a niche and filling it.  So inspirational!


Day 23 of retirement - is it any wonder that time is flying by?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Keeping Your Eyes Peeled

How much time do you invest just observing the world around you?

I am very fortunate that, at my recent retirement party, I was given a Spotting Scope by my peers.  The following Tuesday morning, sharp-eyed Spousal Unit, looking through the sliding glass doors, asked “What’s that in the pine tree?” (Note that the pine tree is about 25 yards from the house.) The Spotting Scope (and the World Wide Web) quickly determined it was a Cooper’s Hawk, hunting for other birds.  We happened to have family guests at the time, and without my hubby’s keen observation, this fantastic opportunity would have passed us by.
During our recent trip to Cayman, I had numerous opportunities to be wowed by the environment.  Here are my two favorites that did not happen in the ocean.

First, I was returning from the dive gear wash station to the condo, when my gaze was snagged by what seemed to be a piece of yellow silk on the ground.  Moving closer, I recognized it as a unique flower springing from a cactus.  Once more the World Wide Web came to my aid to identify it as Stapelia gigantean, a species of flowering plant native to south eastern Africa. In summer, it bears large star-shaped five-petalled flowers up to 25 cm in diameter. The flowers are red and yellow, wrinkled, with a silky texture and fringed with hairs that can be as long as 8 mm.  They have the smell of rotting flesh, in order to attract the flies which pollinate them. The plant is commonly referred to as Zulu giant, carrion plant or toad plant.

Second, Spousal Unit and I were out for a run along the West Bay road.  It was a windy day, and my attention was drawn to the branches of the nearby trees, waving with the force.  At that moment, I spotted a green iguana perched high in the tree.  Once I saw one, I noticed others in the same tree and others like it along the route.  How could I have missed this before?

“Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you.  Because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.”  Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

(The idiom ‘keep your eyes peeled’ appeared in our language as early as the 19th century, but the source is unknown.  The word peel can mean to remove the outer skin of something, such as someone peeling a banana.  People do this in order to open up the fruit, so the message is clear: without physically peeling our eyes, we can endeavor to open them up to the world around us.)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” Jacques Yves Cousteau

It began in Puerto Rico. On a family vacation in Rincon, we went to Playa Tres Palmas (Steps Beach), featuring one of the biggest elkhorn coral reefs in the Caribbean. Suited up with snorkels and fins, we floated the days away, and Number One Son (#1S) was enthralled.  If snorkeling had this much to offer, wouldn’t it be cool to scuba? 

#1S turned 13 the next April (the age required for dives greater than 60 feet), and we began the dive certification process.  It culminated with our open water certification in the balmy waters of the White Star Quarry near Toledo, Ohio.  Throughout the process, I kept reminding myself about something our classroom instructor said on our first day: “under the water, you will see more wildlife in the first 10 minutes than you are ever going to see on a 20-mile hike through the woods.”  I needed that quote to get me through the trickier parts of the certification, such as underwater mask removal and replacement, and navigating with the compass.

It took more than the quote to get us through our first open water diving, on Caye Caulker in Belize; it was God watching over us.  Drift diving from a small boat in strong current and low visibility; it is amazing that we ever attempted it again.  But, never ones to be put off by a challenge, we learned from the experience to choose a different environment and outfitter for our next dive trip.

Enter Living the Dream Divers and Grand Cayman.  (The name alone would inspire you to choose this dive company.  Number One Daughter keeps going back for the Rice Krispie treats.)  This March marks our fifth trip to Grand Cayman, and we have been thrilled with every aspect of our dive experiences.

Accompanying this post is just a handful of pictures that Spousal Unit has taken during our dives. 
(I still think the dive instructor was generous with my grade on the compass since I ended up on the bank of the quarry by myself.)
Yellow Tube Sponge

Loggerhead turtle
French Angelfish
Queen Angelfish

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Welcome Wagon chickens of Cayman

We were waiting in the parking lot of the Save More Car Rental when I saw it.  The rooster.  Immediately I felt we had arrived.  It was not the walk down the portable staircase to the tarmac, or the humid air, or customs and immigration.  It was the rooster, pecking about in the gravel for a tasty morsel, or maybe for the gravel itself. 

On Grand Cayman, the chickens are as ubiquitous as sand, sea and tourists.  Roosters, hens and chicks.  No one gives them a second look – undoubtedly they perform an important function of keeping the insect population under control.  For me, it is a sign that Cayman is still in large part native.  Rue the day that the wild chickens are banished from running free on the island, for that is the day that Cayman will have begun to lose its uniqueness. 
(I walked across the street from our condo to find both of these roosters.  Their hens and chicks were more skittish and camera-shy.)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Report: Week One of Retirement (or the Art of Enjoying Deserved Rest)

Welcome to the first installment of Angie’s Retirement Report.  I reckon this will be a regular feature on my blog – it’s a journey, right? So here goes.
Drinks at "Eats"
Hard to believe it’s already Day 9 of retirement.  Days do speed by when you don’t get up until 9 a.m.  I have enjoyed plentiful time with family, and a run through the park on a sunny day with Spousal Unit – what more could I want?  My sense of humor is in full force – maybe I was always too tired for my brain to produce humor.  Exhibit A:
Spousal Unit: “I am going into the shower to make myself more beautiful."
Me: “Good luck with that.”

Spousal Unit: “Can you go back to dis-engaged and exhausted?”
Kings in the Corner
I am feeling rested and relaxed.  As Spousal Unit has pointed out to me on numerous occasions, I have paid my dues with hours worked over the last 28 years.  Let’s do a quick calculation: assuming an average of 45 weeks of work a year and 66 hours a week, that is 32,760 hours more than a 40-hour week.  So, even though I have retired young by normal standards, I actually already worked the hours that equates to another 18.2 years.  What a brilliant option to invest that time in leisurely pursuits. 

“So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned.  Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land.”  J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Sunset from 7 Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

Friday, March 10, 2017

Blowin' in the Wind

Today’s the day – launching my real blog and telling people where to find it.

And why the image of the dandelion?  For me, it’s an ideal metaphor for letting go.  As a gardener, I have always waged war on the dandelion.  But today, I am accepting the ‘dandelions’ in my blog - it is not perfect, but it’s good enough.    
“Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be.”  Unknown

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Christmas in March

I am as giddy as a child with a new toy.  It’s untouched and it’s complex – it presents a world of possibilities!  It’s called a blog.

I am feeling a sense of accomplishment that I am figuring it out.  I have never been a master of technology – I have relied on my (millennial) kids for help – so I am grateful to Blogger for making it easy and to blog writers that have gone before me for providing inspirational examples.

As expected, the blog is testing my innate desire for perfection, which I have declared as the enemy.  Today, I forced myself to define a minimum set of requirements to proceed with my real blog.  Without it, I knew I would keep perfecting and perfecting and never launch.  So, with today’s progress, I am glad to say that I am very close to launching my real blog in place of this test bed. 

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes … as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”  Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Like getting on the school bus the first time

You know the scene - your young child, with a heavy backpack weighing her down, turns slightly and casts one final look over her shoulder before she grasps the handrail and hoists herself onto the steps of the yellow bus, which are much too big for her little legs.

That's how I feel right now - uncertain, but with a desire to try something new driving me forward. 

For, you see, this is my first post ever. 

Today, I am dipping my toes in the water of blogging, and I am equal parts excited and nervous.  I hope you will join me as I make my way through this unknown world.

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