Showing posts with label retirement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label retirement. Show all posts

Monday, July 6, 2020

My Latest Masterpieces


My crafting obsession continues. Sure, I'm retired, but that doesn't mean I'm idle. Few hours go by without finding me with a needle in my hand.

Why? Why not? TV is so much more tolerable when one is occupied with something that actually lasts. 

My first project back, after a twenty-year layoff, was large -- too large. I'm now into miniatures. I want something that is petite and doesn't take three months to bear fruit. Plus, where am I going to display all this stuff? That's always the conundrum. Counted cross-stitch is enjoyable for the doing; not so much for the inevitable framing and finding an appropriate hanging spot. And frankly, frames are expensive. And why do all of these kits come in odd sizes? Per chance the designers have a side deal with picture frame manufacturers. I'm on a fixed income now; I'm going to go with pics that come complete with their own frames (hoops) and stick the finished products somewhere in a bare corner. 

However, my second project was nine by twelve inches, and I'm rather enamored with it:

This is my third:

This one sits upon a shelf, because it's tiny.


Stay tuned. More teeny tiny pictures to come.

Friday, June 19, 2020


My first real job was around age 15 or 16. I was not a very ambitious teen. Sure, I'd worked before that, but only fitfully -- running the cash register, answering the switchboard, and checking in guests at my parents' motel when circumstances demanded, if one can call that work. I didn't get paid to do that, but again, my parents did feed me, so I guess it was a fair trade-off. 

By the time it sunk in that I really, really needed money of my own, my mom reluctantly hired me as a motel maid, for seventy-five cents an hour in the summers and in March during the state basketball tournament. Shamefully, I didn't actually know how to clean. The maids worked in teams, and an older woman named Martha had the sad task of training me in. Training in the boss's daughter, a girl she had no option of firing, was no doubt a delight. Truth be told, she could have told my mom I was hopeless and Mom would have fired me. Mom was a no-nonsense woman. The first time Martha and I made up a bed together, she scornfully came around from her side and showed me how to form a hospital corner. I was mortified, and have never, ever forgotten how to do it.

Cleaning rooms was hard physical labor, and I was a teenager! At Martha's age, I would have quit after scrubbing my first room. The motel had 52 rooms. What that grubby job taught me was to dig in and just do it. I can't numerate the number of toilets I swished or the multitude of beds I stripped and neatly remade. Nor the countless steps I climbed with a heavy Kirby vacuum in hand. Once all 52 rooms were done, it was time to wash, dry and fold towels, inside a suffocating garage when the outside temperature was 88 degrees and the inside was about 99. But eventually I earned enough money to buy school clothes and record albums, and at last a decent stereo. Like all jobs, what seemed impossible at first ultimately became old hat. Martha even told my mom I was a good worker; the ultimate compliment.

I was enrolled in the clerical program in high school, after a doomed attempt at "college prep". Math and science were my downfall. If I'd cared enough, I could have squeaked by in algebra and physics, but I rarely cared about any of my classes, even the easy ones. Typing was something I was good at, and shorthand was simple to master. My goal was to secure a state job as a clerk-typist. State government jobs were plentiful and I lived right across the river from the capitol building. Thus my first non-parental job was working for the State Health Department, Division of Vital Statistics. I basically filed and sometimes typed up facsimiles of birth certificates for my director to emboss with her official stamp. Apparently I was a proficient filer, because I was approached to become part of a new project -- committing all the birth, death, and divorce records to a newfangled thing called microfilm.Scintillating work! All in all, my government employment lasted about a year, before personal conflicts convinced me to crawl back to my parents and guilt them into giving me a job, this time in the motel office - early mornings.

In late 1976 I became a full-time mom, which lasted for three years, until my dwindling bank account informed me that I needed to find a job. A new catalog store was being erected a couple blocks from my home, and as I would drive past, I'd mutter, "I'm going to work there". And I did. I'd never worked in retail, but I did know how to run a cash register, which cinched the deal. I liked the job, but I almost always found something to like in any job I held. Retail paid only a pittance, yet we employees still had to endure yearly evaluations. During mine, my supervisor chastised me for not creating an advertising campaign -- I hadn't even known that was an expectation! So I trundled down to a travel agent's kiosk and convinced them to hand over a travel poster, from which I devised a placard to place in the luggage section. I think it read, "for your flights of fancy". My boss argued that it should be "flights of fantasy", at which point I realized she was an idiot.

Scouring the want ads in the local newspaper, I found an opening for a "communications clerk" at the local hospital. I definitely knew about clerking. The RN manager who interviewed me, Laurel Sullivan, was kind and not an imbecile and she offered me the job. I stayed at St. A's for eight years. I loved it. I can't exactly pinpoint why, but it may have been because I learned so much that I'd never in my life known. I worked on Third Floor - Medical -  with the RN's and LPN's. I was the communications center of the floor -- scheduling surgeries and ordering labs and special meals. I became certified in CPR and I had to call a Code Blue once, which scared me to death. Code Grey meant tornado watch; Code Black was a tornado warning, when we'd have to wheel all the patients out into the hallways in their beds. I worked second shift, so in the summers greys and blacks were prevalent. I would have stayed at St. A's forever, but a hectic night's dust-up bruised my feelings and it was time to move on.

I transferred downstairs to the Admissions Department, but it was so dank and quiet, I couldn't endure it. I lasted a couple weeks and realized this was all wrong. The only job I could locate in the Tribune was a receptionist position at the Teachers' Retirement Fund. This turned out to be almost the most boring job I ever had.I daily worked the four longest hours of my life, distributing mail in the mornings and occasionally typing a letter on my IBM Selectric. Nobody actually spoke to me; I was the invisible front desk automaton. When I finally found a replacement position and announced my resignation, the woman who'd hired me said she was so satisfied with my performance she was about to offer me a full-time job. Kind of the wrong time to finally let me know.

The job I traded that in for was surreal. Mrs. Fortman ran a medical transcriptionist concern -- her most reliable customer was most likely her husband, Doctor Fortman, a grizzled octogenarian whom we'd all hated when he showed up at St. A's, stumbling around, slurring dictation into one of the nurse station telephones. All the eighty-year-old patients worshiped him.

Mrs. Fortman had promised me a transcriptionist job, but that dang machine just didn't show up in shipping. She had no idea why it didn't show up, but didn't seem concerned. She already had two transcriptionists ensconced in separate bare one-window rooms, huddled behind giant boxy green screens. I was to become the third. A couple months went by and still "the machine" wasn't delivered. Meantime I came into work each day and filed envelopes into mail slots and hovered about until lunch time; drove to McDonald's drive-thru and got a hamburger and fries and returned to hover about until quitting time.

Though I'd only been employed for two months, the big corporate blowout in Kansas City was imminent, and I and my two cohorts, the ones with "machines" were invited.I'd spoken a bit with each of them, and they couldn't have been more different. One was a brassy blonde who had an overflowing list of grievances; the other was meek, plain; a go-along-to-get-along prairie maid. The three of us boarded the plane and two of us proceeded to get sloppily sloshed. The blonde planned to corner the CEO of the company at the party and spill her guts. I was frustrated and had nothing to lose, so I agreed to ride shotgun. All went as planned -- we consumed sirloins and fat baked potatoes and more liquor and I found myself in a quiet room nodding along as Brassy vomited out her complaints. I remember the man nodding, but nothing else. Then the three of us, Brassy, Prissy, and me; convened to the hotel bar and poured down more booze. 

Returning to work the following Monday, each of us got a personal audience with Mrs. Fortman. I remember piping, you promised me a machine! and Mrs. Fortman replying, "We're still waiting for the shipping!" Then she asked me if I wanted to continue my employment and I said, "No, I guess not." And that was that.

Thus continued the slog of awful jobs. 

I went home and scoured the newspaper once again. I eventually zeroed in on an ad for a farm records secretary. I should clarify that the clerical ads at any given time in my small town never exceeded three.The job was located essentially in the country, several winding miles down the interstate highway, near an isolated inn and sagebrush. Nevertheless, I meandered out for an interview, which turned out to be awkward, as the hiring manager, Nancy, was supremely self-conscious and insular. That was supposed to be my role! The two of us, naturally, did not make a connection; yet, she called later that day and offered me the job. 

The girl who trained me in, Linda, was unnecessarily snotty. I asked what felt like pertinent questions and she haughtily flicked me off. Linda wasn't going anywhere; she'd been promoted, so I'd have to work with her every day; sense her peering over my shoulder throughout my eight hours, quick to chastise me for rookie mistakes. I hated her. The job wasn't an algebraic equation -- I filed a bit and typed letters and tried to interpret Nancy's Oklahoma accent on dictation tapes, rewinding and replaying; sometimes giving up and simply typing ellipses so she would have to fill in the blanks. And copies; hours and hours of making copies at the burbling IBM copy machine; copies of tax returns, three of each: one for the client, one for the file, one for the Federal government. Hole punching, dot matrix printouts -- baffles of printouts. 

The records department was situated in the basement of a three-story structure. We had our own bottom-level entrance, so I rarely tiptoed upstairs except to nuke an occasional lunch. Mostly I left the building like lightning as the big hand hit twelve; drove into Mandan and procured a dollar-eighty-nine-cent lunch at A&B Pizza. Nancy had a completely unnecessary rule that the entire department (about 4 people total; sometimes five) had to sit in the reception alcove every day at 10:00 and 2:00 and "enjoy" break together. I learned Nancy was a nerd who spent her evenings reading Stephen King novels. Conversely the highlight of my workday was listening to gags and song parodies on Y93, emanating from a portable radio perched on my desk-side table. 

It wasn't until Nancy took a two-week vacation to visit her kin in Oklahoma that Linda and I got to really know one another. We bonded over a mutual disdain for our boss. Linda eventually became one of my very best friends. Sadly for me, but happily for her, I helped Linda find a way out of the farm records tangle. I spied an ad in the newspaper for a ranch manager in a far-off town, which Linda's husband was scouring for; and soon my friend Linda was gone. I stayed at Farm Credit Services for about a year and a half, eventually making friends. Linda had always known how to mollify Nancy; I never did. My inward nature didn't gel with hers. I became frantic to get out.

I've written ad nauseum about US Healthcare, but suffice it to say when the opportunity to escape presented itself, I pursued it relentlessly. I had to scratch and claw to get that job, but somehow serendipitously I grabbed it. What US Healthcare taught me was that I'd undervalued my talents. At last I had something other than a "job". I had to dodge dynamite and seize the opportunity to get Evil Connie fired, and I have no regrets to this day. People in power should never run roughshod over subordinates. Vile tyrants should never threaten to fire someone for simply doing an exemplary job. Evil Connie eventually found employment as a receptionist -- welcome, Evil Connie, to the me of ten years before. At least I worked my way up, instead of tumbling down.

I was a high school graduate, too lackadaisical to pursue a college education, though I could have had one. What my previous thirty-odd years of sometimes treacherous living had taught me, however, was that everybody blossoms from a kind word. Everyone wants to feel valued. Everyone has worth. One's employment position doesn't dictate that.

In 1999 I moved on. I started over, albeit with a satchel of collected wisdom. My aim was to glide through my last twenty years of employment. I'd paid my dues, wrestled my battles. It was my time to breathe.

It took three years of drudgery to reveal that I just couldn't do it. When an opportunity for promotion arose, I warily pursued it. The position was still a demotion from the old me, but it presented an opportunity to use my dormant talents. I somehow secured the position and eventually put my stamp on it. 

From 2003 to the year 2020 I served as my department's trainer and de facto substitute supervisor. I reveled in the diversity of challenges. I left my mark.

Work life is a cornucopia of ups and downs and ups. Every single work experience I ever had taught me something important, though I might not have recognized it at the time.

That's sort of how life works. One doesn't recognize or absorb sometimes painful, sometimes glorious lessons. But one's mind doesn't allow them to evaporate.

On June 12 my work life officially ended. 

I have few regrets. I think I probably did exactly what I was meant to do.


Friday, May 29, 2020

Two Weeks?

Isn't it the way things go? The closer a deadline looms, the more little things pile up that absolutely, positively have to get done? I'm great at fooling myself; a master procrastinator, if you will. Where did the time go, I ask myself. Then suddenly new tasks pop into my mind and my to-do list grows.

I have two weeks of employment remaining. Thus, two weeks of health insurance. I thus must squeeze in a yearly medical exam and finish up that bridge work before the buzzer buzzes; all the while careful not to use any of my 238.02 hours of paid personal leave so I can reap a big payout at the end of the day. (I knew there was a good reason I never took a vacation).

Working from home, I don't have the luxury of imparting the wisdom of my job, except via emails to my boss. And if one does the same things every day for twenty years, they tend to take duties for granted and perform them on auto-pilot. Attempting to create a list is mysteriously difficult. I think it may be because so much of what I do is intangible, and I can't convey that electronically, hard as I try. Had my replacement been named, the two of us could share phone conversations. Alas, that person is unknown to me (and to everyone else at this point). 

My boss keeps hinting that maybe I could potentially, theoretically change my mind; but that die is cast. And I'm warming up to the prospect of retirement. And everything must end.

Things I've done this week:

  • I visited my dental office. Much as I abhor dentist visits, I appreciated human contact so much, I transformed into a veritable chatterbox.
  • I retrieved multiple Amazon packages from my doorstep and mailbox and marveled at the number of purchases I vaguely remember transacting.
  • I mistook Tuesday for Monday (in my defense, it was a holiday week).

Things I learned this week:

  • There truly are some evil humans. I always excused people as being "troubled". Sometimes video disabuses one of those notions.
  • I watched online and on TV as my adopted city burned. 
  • I decided that the year 2020 has no redeeming qualities.

Enjoy your weekend. And don't set anything on fire.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Two Months

In some ways it's felt like forever. Then again, it's but a blink of an eye. My home office has existed for two-plus months. March 17 was my first day as a telecommuter, and here's the deal: I like it. I would have to be dragged back into the office, and even then I would seek out every opportunity to bolt for the door. Why didn't I know this before? Who is the fool who enjoys toiling inside a cubicle? Granted, my job doesn't normally lend itself to telework, but "in these troubled times" all rules have been abandoned. I'm just as productive at home as I was in the office ~ I have good days and not-so-good days. It all evens out.

As I approach my last three weeks of employment, I've tried to remember everything I need to tell my boss about my job that she doesn't know (which, honestly, is about one hundred per cent. I've done this for seventeen years; I am long past the need for supervision.) No one has been promoted to my position yet, so I am unable to share my wisdom with them ~ they're gonna have to learn the way I did, by making it up as they go. I am not opposed to that. In 1991 when I was promoted to a supervisory position at a former employer, the assistant told me on my first day, "I'll tell you how we do things." I replied, "Okay, and I'll tell you how I do things." Everyone must put her own stamp on a job, and God, fresh blood can only be a plus. It's true that I'm somewhat territorial, but that will subside, once I no longer care.

As I pass the two-month mark, I've thought about things I no longer do:

  • I have not set my alarm in two months.
  • I've only blown-dried my hair once.
  • Since March 18 I've not once strapped on a bra.
  • I've poured myself convenience store coffee only twice.
  • Not once have I pulled on a pair of jeans (thankfully ~ chances are they would no longer fit).
  • I haven't eaten a salad.
  • I have not washed clothes on a Saturday.
  • I applied makeup once ~ to look more presentable for a video meeting. Then I stopped caring.

Things I now do:

  • Listen to a local talk radio show that I never before gave a chance.
  • Mourn the loss of Josie at least once a day.
  • Walk every day at 9:00 a.m.
  • Retrieve the mail daily ~ to get out of the house.
  • Smoke too much.
  • Stitch my fingers sore once my shift is over.

As I hit the milestone of age sixty-five this week, my husband bought me art supplies. I'm an artist, but not a dexterous one. I'm not ruling it out, however. I never rule out anything. I'm a late bloomer ~ constantly surprised by the things I am able to do.

 So here's to art and feeding one's soul.

This song catches my breath, but it's about moving on, so it fits. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Telework - Week 9 - Sliding Into Home

My Lone Beautiful Tree

Spring is here.It had taunted us briefly with temperatures in the sixties, but then the chill returned and brought a smattering of snow with it. This time it's not a trick. Spring is hard-fought in Minnesota, like most everything. We're used to being deceived and we try to accept it, much like our quarantine. I don't wear a mask when I'm taking my lone walk to the mailbox, but I don't glad-hand people, either. I want them to keep away from me, much like in my pre-COVID life (unless they're walking a dog). My neighborhood is rather transient -- people come and people go -- I don't know any of my neighbors except for a nodding acquaintance with the lady next door. I'm not being rude by passing them by. I like solitude. I like smelling the apple blossoms and comparing my front-yard tree's magnificence to the other spindly trees on the block as I shuffle home, bills and circulars in hand.

Mostly I don't go out. I don't like serpentining around the casual walker, wary they might breathe on me. I traveled to my local convenience store on Tuesday morning, the first time I've been anywhere in more than a week. I got to say, "hi" to folks I know and then I went home. Five-second personal interaction.

My seventeen-year-old cat spends most of his day under the bed and I work eight hours a day, so I see my husband at breakfast time and during our nightly news-watching hour.

When I was younger, I was perfectly content with my own company. As the years ticked by, I found that people can be fun. I miss shooting the breeze with my work friends. Email is not the same. Texts are three-word missives.I'm afraid that as this isolation goes on I'll revert back to isolation, which is mentally unhealthy.

I've finally concluded, after two months of irrational fear, that staying away from people is stupid. Sure, I'm soon-to-be sixty-five years old and catching Coronavirus could be a death sentence -- or not. But this scene has become ridiculous. I'll take care of me; let other people live their lives. This is going to be a perpetual earthquake. Nobody, or mostly nobody, wants to conjure the devastation that will result from lock-down. I guess I'm lucky that my biggest concern is the apple blossoms.

Things I've done this week:

  • I submitted my retirement date to HR. It was harder than I expected -- it's so final. But I'm feeling pretty good about it, once I finally pulled the trigger.
  • I tweeted too much, but really, some people are so imbecilic.

Things I've learned this week:

  • Humans are pliable. I can't even fathom returning to the office at this point. Home is my workplace now. I could probably be held hostage for eighteen months and I'd eventually be okay with it. 
  • There's truly no one better than George Strait. I do wish SiriusXM would do a deeper dive into his album tracks, however. I miss my computer and all my favorite music

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Changes And Life Diversions


I was a prolific cross-stitcher in the eighties. I don't remember how I picked up the hobby, but working second shift at the hospital lent itself to quiet contemplation. Around eight p.m. the clamor quieted and the nurses and I all pulled our current projects out of our bags and sat behind the nurses' station and stitched. I have an impatient, busy mind, and needlework soothed me. It wasn't so much the finished project as the doing. Once I had framed and hung as many projects as my home could bear without turning into a tchotchke shop, I advanced to wedding gift samplers and tiny Christmas ornaments; anything to keep the spill flowing.

There came a point when I just stopped. Life became hectic -- I suddenly, unexpectedly acquired a "career" that consumed me. Then I became divorced and subsequently remarried and (thanks to my husband) began writing and recording songs. Every spare moment was spent writing. Hobbies? No time!

As I now ease into retirement, I'm ready once again for quiet. TV makes me testy. I can't find any downloadable library books that hold my interest. Writing songs is as interesting to me as the latest politically correct television drama. (Plus, TV is much more interesting when I can distract myself.)

Money will be tight once I finally pull the plug, but I could work until I die and then explain to God why I wasted my last few productive years. So I'm back to cross stitching! I've searched various websites, tried-and-true ones and Amazon. Frankly, I'm disappointed. Why are all the cross stitch kits so kitschy? I don't like cute sayings; I like pretty. I'm not into Jolly Old St. Nick -- I want a babbling stream or a stark winter tableau or at least something elegant. I've been searching, fruitlessly. I need to stock up. The best site I've found? Good old Amazon. I think Amazon aggregates all the best offerings, because my old standbys like Herrschners and The Stitchery only have the kits I'd want but can find cheaper on Amazon (thank you, Prime!).

Here's my first project after coming back; and yes, I found it on Amazon. It took me three months to complete and was a bit of a challenge after twenty years away. I haven't ironed or framed it yet, but hey, I did it!

No Jolly St. Nick For Me 


I've already started Project Number Two -- a less challenging floral piece. And I just ordered two "Snap And Stitch" projects of my pet babies from DMC. Counted cross stitch will once again become an obsession. I just wish I could find more eye-catching designs.

I should be set for a while. If you're related to me, you know what you're getting for Christmas!

Friday, March 6, 2020



I don't know what it's like not to work. I will soon find out. My work life has been a meandering road. I endured some uncomfortable situations and experienced unexpected highs. I had a laissez faire attitude toward work in my early twenties, likely because I possessed no skills other than the ability to type and a quick mind. A job was a job. If I hated my current one, I'd find another. They all paid little above minimum wage, so my gauge was whether I could tolerate it and the people who worked there (the deal-breaker was usually the people). I tried retail (and liked it); I tried secretarial (and despised it). I lucked into a hospital position that last eight glorious years; all in all my favorite all-time job.

In 1990 I tried desperately to secure a position with a health insurance company that'd decided to expand its operations to the far-flung prairie; sat on a stool in my garage and smoked and practiced answering interview questions. I hated my current position and was desperate to escape it. My only calling card was a knowledge of medical terminology gained during my years at St. Alexius. I knew nothing about processing insurance claims. They only hired me because one of their initial choices dropped out and I was first runner-up. During the three weeks I waited for a phone call, after I'd grown despondent, I silently accepted my woeful lot in life as a farm records secretary. When the call finally came, Mister Sun beamed through my plate glass window. I didn't know nor care what claim processing entailed; just that I'd been delivered. Somehow I knew this was where I belonged.

Thirty years later, I'm still in the medical insurance game. I went from claims examiner to assistant supervisor to supervisor to manager, backsliding at my next company to examiner and then upticking to trainer. When I accepted the job with my current employer, I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I was punching below my weight. But being a manager, honestly, simply meant juggling balls in the air. I thought I was a phenom, when in fact I was just "capable".

I've been a trainer for seventeen years. As one ages, they settle and make the most of the tableau offered. I made the most of it. As an extreme introvert, I'm amazed at how I managed to mentor people. I still don't quite understand it, but maybe that's one of the little things we accept with humility and tuck in our pocket.

Soon all that will end. I'm not certain I want it to. Why am I ambivalent about retiring? Isn't this what all of us yearns for? I think maybe I'm afraid of what comes next. Will my brain wither and die? I don't feel old. Shoot, I'm still writing my novel! Will I grow fat and plop myself in front of the TV all day? I need a plan. A goal. Sixty-five-year-olds can still have goals, you know. I don't feel a day over sixty.

I will let you know as soon as I know.

Thus the story continues...

Friday, January 10, 2020

Getting It Together


Humans are funny. They have an innate need for order, yet if they are like me they subjugate it until things get completely out of hand or a new year begins; whichever comes first.

As the world's ultimate procrastinator, my trigger is irritation. "Where the *#!! is that ____? I know I have it...somewhere. This is *@*#! ridiculous!" Then, "I need to get organized."

As 2019 drew to a close I began re-ordering my life. Now I'm on a mission. Beware: Once you start, you are incapable of stopping. Not only have I undertaken an overall tidying of my home, but it has extended to my little office cubicle. December at my workplace is so ridiculously busy that papers and notes scribbled on yellow legal pads get tossed into a pile, and I can barely concentrate on the current email question without mentally scanning the other fifty unread missives in my in-box. Actual cognitive thought is relegated to auto-pilot with double fingers crossed. Now that it's January and things have cooled, I've begun sifting through all my scribbles and categorizing them or jettisoning them, whichever seems appropriate at the time. Additionally, Clorox Wipes are awesome. Today I cleaned, rearranged, shredded, and categorized three months worth of detritus. Look at me now!

I want to preserve it for posterity! I wish I had "before" pictures.

For the remainder of the day, I was gleefully productive. Many things cause endorphins to be released -- exercise, alcohol (truly), chocolate, music (duh), even lavender. But I submit that organizing is a gigantic endorphin generator. I'm almost looking forward to returning to work on Monday simply to gaze at my handiwork.

Granted, it won't last, but I have seven months, tops, to maintain a semblance of neatness. After that, welcome to my cube, replacement!

The pending end of my work life is rather bittersweet. My first thought is, good luck; nobody will do my job better than me. My second thought is, do you appreciate me now? Funnily, I'll miss it, though. I'm feeling wistful. I'll get over it, no doubt.

Finally, getting it together is a wondrous feeling.