Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Time for Reinventing Oneself

I'm now in my third month of retirement and gradually adjusting to the differences in day-to-day life. While I was still working, I assumed that I would still get up at 5 a.m. every morning. Ha! I now totally resent any morning appointments that require the setting of the alarm clock! This morning, I was awake and reading magazines on the iPad between 3 a.m. - 6 a.m. So it was nice to be able to doze off again and not get up until 8 a.m.

I've discovered that the block of time between 9 a.m. - 10 a.m. works best for errands and grocery shopping. Wait until 11 a.m. and the stores are a bit more crowded. But the local police are certainly on duty. Last week I was stopped for speeding while doing my long list of errands (clearly, I must have been in a hurry!), and fortunately, I received only a warning. This hasn't happened in a very, very long time.

The month of March was a bit of a bummer as I had a medical issue to deal with. Nothing serious, but I was clearly not myself for about five weeks. Being lethargic and doing nothing wasn't really the way I wanted to kick off my retirement. But - perhaps that was the universe's message to me to slow down a bit, take life easy and enjoy what retirement has to offer. It's nice to be able to get medical appointments scheduled much sooner than during the days when I had to work around my professional commitments.

I'm glad to be active with my local genealogy society. It's strictly volunteer work, but the activities give me the stability of a job and being around people. And following my passion. When working, I used to joke that "my job keeps getting in the way of my career." Not so any more. I've been teaching some classes and last Sunday I had a table at the Seniors Chautauqua sponsored by the 55+ Seniors Paper. I did surname searches for participants and I had a ball listening to their stories about their family history.

The funniest thing that happened was when one woman said to me, "You're famous in genealogy!" I never thought of it that way at all. But the farther removed I get from the person who worked for 42 years, the more I embrace who I am becoming now. I'm becoming more comfortable in seeing myself as that genealogist, writer and speaker. Before, my life was much more compartmentalized. Now I get to be myself all the time. Reinvention? Perhaps. Or maybe just rediscovering the person who was there all along.

Either way, I love the freedom of retirement. And it's time to go pick up the Birkenstocks that I had to have resoled.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Wintertime Retirement

For many years, I couldn't figure out why so many people in my workplace chose to select December or January as their retirement dates. There were definitely some tax considerations involved, but I thought "why would anyone want to retire in the winter!"

I'm definitely seeing the advantages of that choice this winter. We've had two major snowfalls since I retired six weeks ago. How nice it has been to remain indoors, have another cup of coffee and really not be concerned if the snow removal crew gets our driveway cleaned by a specific hour or not. And the best part is that I don't have to be out on the streets to drive to a job. Then, once there, wondering if I will have a safe trip home. On the day following both snowfalls, I had appointments scheduled. How nice it was to be able to call in and reschedule for a different day.

Daylight savings time went into effect yesterday. I've always been a fan of what I refer to as Sun Time. Even with the seven inches of snow outside, last evening it was so nice to still have some daylight remaining for an hour after dinner. That's certainly a sign of Spring.

I'm guessing that my alarm clock only woke me up on workdays once or twice in the past 10 years. I was always awake hours before the designated time. And I never, ever thought I'd be someone to "sleep in." But after six weeks of not being tied to a schedule, it is so nice to be able to sleep until my body says it's time to get up. I'm gradually making the adjustment to having adequate sleep. It's a nice change from sleep deprivation.

It's also nice to enjoy my Sunday afternoons and evenings without the pre-Monday jitters. The tension about having to go back to work on Monday usually kicked in no later than one or two o'clock on Sunday afternoon. It was extremely difficult for me to continue going in to a job that I didn't like for so many years. I thought that was the price I had to pay for steady income, a retirement plan and health insurance. It may have been a high price to pay, but it was the path I chose. And now that I'm out of the workplace, I certainly don't regret it. I'm a survivor.

I laughed to myself when I received emails from my clients during my last weeks of working and so many wrote things like "It's so obvious you love your job." Well, folks, hand me the Academy Award! At least I was glad that the clients didn't see the agony I experienced on a daily basis, feeling trapped in an emotional jail from which I never thought I would escape. I'm so much happier now with that behind me.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Weathering the Storm That Wasn't

Q Storm and Chris Botti

As of this morning, the "Q" Storm that was to have dropped up to 12" of snow in my city fell short with only three inches accumulation. As a newly retired person, it was still reassuring to know that I would not have to travel the slick and icy roads to get to a job. I could stay safely indoors, checking weather updates on various local news apps and occasionally tuning in to The Weather Channel which was broadcasting from 10th and "Q" Streets in Lincoln.

I had to make a decision about whether or not I would attend the Chris Botti concert at the Lied Center Thursday evening. I originally saw him perform in Sting's band in Des Moines nine years ago and met him at intermission. Yeah, I was smitten and have bought all of his CDs. In 2006, I missed his winter concert in Omaha due to bad weather conditions. Chalk up another one to that list. While I may have been able to negotiate the snow covered streets to get to the venue, I had less confidence in my ability to not slip and fall on the street. Friends will confirm that I sometimes have difficulty remaining upright even on a dry sidewalk! This is apparently a gene I inherited from my maternal grandmother, whom I've been told used to say, "Wait! I'm going to fall down!"

The snowfall resumed about 5 p.m. Thursday afternoon and that confirmed my decision. I would miss Chris Botti yet another time due to weather conditions. I read online that he and his essential bandmates were traveling to Lincoln from Des Moines via bus and the smaller show could perform. The remainder of his band was flying in to Omaha and would then get to Lincoln via the Interstate. Apparently, the entourage arrived and in true show business fashion, the show went on. Instead, I still spent the evening with Chris Botti, listening to several of his CDs. From what I read in the newspaper, the concert venue was only half full, with other patrons making the same option I did and playing it safe. I've missed many concerts over the years and have never second guessed or regretted the decision.

Medicine, Medicare and Mayhem

Last year, my father's company decided to eliminate the health care benefits it had previously provided for retirees and we had the daunting task of choosing his Medicare supplement and drug insurance. In the eight years that I've been his caregiver, I've looked at dealing with his insurance and health care issues as a dress rehearsal for what I may face once I turn 65. So this is my schooling in Medicare and insurance for seniors.

After not receiving six of his prescriptions via mail order 10 days after his doctor placed the order, I started making phone calls. At least each person I spoke with seemed knowledgeable and was cordial. Unfortunately, they had to keep transferring me to a different department as the hierarchy of our issues started to get more complex. At least after a half an hour of calls, it was confirmed that his order was being processed.

Thursday evening, a representative of the pharmacy called to confirm the order and get a credit card number. He informed me that the copay was well over $1,000. As I put down the phone to talk with Dad, the rep heard me exclaim quite loudly, "Holy Shit! Your copay is over $1,000!"

By the time I picked up the other telephone extension, I heard the clicking of computer keys on the other line. The representative said, "I heard your reaction, so I'm double checking your order. The price I gave you was full retail, they haven't billed it to insurance yet." Whew. The total started to decrease until it was less than $300. That's still a hefty sum and that isn't even the full array of his medications. The same fellow called again the next morning to confirm shipment. I wrote down his name so in case I need to visit with someone who can get things done, I have the name of someone who is very helpful.

Dad and I both wonder how other elderly people manage all of the medical bureaucracy. He says that he could no longer deal with it by himself. I view myself as fairly intelligent and I have trouble untangling and understanding it all. And I'm concerned about my own ability to deal with these issues for myself twenty years down the line. I do have a health care power of attorney, but she's only 13 years younger than I am. I'm hoping she'll outlive me and will be there if I need her. It's something that every senior needs to plan for.


Much of my time as a retiree focuses on genealogy - researching my own family history, volunteering for the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society (LLCGS) and teaching classes and giving lectures on genealogy. This was another whirlwind week, with two more speaking engagements added to my calendar, a society board meeting and keeping the LLCGS Facebook and Twitter feeds active.

The most fulfilling activity of the week started when I saw a post come through on Facebook from KMTV in Omaha. It was about a group from the Bellevue Cemetery Committee who is trying to locate living relatives of seven Civil War veterans so tombstones can be placed on their graves at Bellevue Cemetery. I shared the link on Facebook and a lengthy conversation ensued - with my other Facebook friends (I know them in "real life" too!) wanting to help move the project along.

To get the Bellevue group included in our discussion, we moved our project to the Nebraska Genea-Peeps Facebook group, an online community that I created a year or so ago. Things took off like crazy as a core group of genealogy volunteers started searching our various subscription sites, census records,, FindAGrave - you name it. We posted our findings, shared documents we located online, put our heads together for problem solving. By the end of the day, solid leads were found on living relatives for several of the veterans.

The woman who was interviewed on KMTV commented that we did in two hours what had taken her two months. A representative from the Sarpy County Museum is also participating in our quest and helping fill in a few details. Of course, the soldier who I "adopted" is being quite elusive! But on Thursday afternoon, I discovered 14 pages of his Civil War service records. His enlistment record showed the location of his birth which led me to find him in the 1850 census. There are some new clues to follow and I will keep on looking for his family.

Now that we have made so much progress in only a few days, we are all looking forward to being present for the ceremony when the headstones are placed on the graves in a few months. It is so exciting to me that we can have such a purpose-driven online collaboration that produces results in a short amount of time. And it's helping to honor these Civil War veterans who have had no tombstone to mark their graves. This type of collaboration is what I love about the internet and what I love about genealogists!

I'm now three weeks into my retirement life and still loving every minute!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Taking Time for Guilt Free Reading

Before I retired, I told myself that my first two weeks of retirement life would be low-key, guilt-free time just to get used to not getting up and going to a job every day. Those two weeks have passed very quickly and I've kept my commitment to myself.

The first two weeks have been a time to relax, something that I haven't done in many, many years. It's been nice to spend time listening to a couple audio books without thinking that I should be doing something else. After all, isn't retirement the gift to myself to read (or listen to) the many books I've been saving up? One thing that's nice about e-books - they don't take up the space that hard cover books do! So my obsession with accumulating books isn't so apparent to the outside world when hundreds of books in my e-collection are tucked away nicely on my Kindle and iPad.

I tend to prefer nonfiction to fiction, but I've discovered so many free e-books for the Kindle, that I never hesitate to download any free novel that sounds remotely interesting. One that I started several months ago was about Elvis - who isn't really dead but who is alive and working as a private detective. That one was pretty weird - maybe I should go back and finish reading it now.

I enjoyed reading the early Scarpetta mysteries by Patricia Cornwell. A few months ago, I started reading one of the more recent books in the series. Since I had missed a few of the books, I found that I couldn't proceed because there were references to different things that had happened to the recurring characters and their relationship with Kay Scarpetta, that I could no longer continue. One of my presents to myself last fall was to buy the entire series of Scarpetta novels for my Kindle. And I've started reading them from the beginning. It's nice to get reacquainted with the characters I first met well over 15 years ago. It's nice to have guilt-free time to read fiction.

Since I no longer have 45 minutes drive-time every day, I've had to create some time to listen to my audio books. I love biographies - especially when narrated by the author. I've just finished listening to the autobiography of singer-songwriter Carole King, which I enjoyed tremendously. I've now started A. E. Hotchner's biography of his life long friend, Paul Newman. I tell myself that I can now substitute walking on the treadmill for the 45 minute commuting time so that I can listen to my audio books. That worked one day so far - and only for 15 minutes. That's a commitment that I still need to work on. Combine something I love (books) with something I don't love (walking on the treadmill). It will be much better as Spring approaches and I can walk outdoors. Yes, I'm a fair weather walker.

Since my first two weeks have drawn to a close, now it's time to tackle some of those items on the "to do" list - the organizing, decluttering, shredding - all of the things I've procrastinated about as I was "saving them for retirement." Reality is now here. But I don't think I'll even try to do it all at once. After all, there's always tomorrow.

copyright 2013 Susan M Petersen

Monday, February 11, 2013

In Search of the Ultimate Philly

Retirement life means taking a little bit more time for meal preparation. And for me, probably learning a few more dishes to add to my cooking repertoire. 

For many years, I've been searching for the Ultimate Philly Sandwich in Nebraska. Any time I visit a new restaurant, that's usually what I try first. But I have to make one adjustment: no green peppers. Sorry, they just don't set well with me. Red peppers are fine, thank you very much.

Folks from Back East will be the first to point out that what we Midwesterners consider a Philly sandwich is not a true Philly. Technically, I suppose ours would be called Cheesesteak Sandwiches. Whatever. To me, it's a Philly.

Sooz's Nebraska Cheesesteak Sandwich
Not Just Another Philly
There are a few local restaurants where I can recommend the Philly. The Nebraska based chain, Pepperjax Grill, makes a good one. I recommend ordering the seasoning "light" as it's a bit too salty otherwise. Lansky's in Omaha produces another excellent sandwich, as does Brewsky's. Jimmy C's Homestyle Restaurant in Omaha also makes a good Philly.

As good as these are, some are missing the extra zing I'm looking for. In recent years, I've been working on perfecting my own version of the Philly and my latest creation tops any Philly that I've had in a restaurant.

The key is butter. Not margarine. Real butter. Here's how I do it:

Melt about 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in saucepan.

When melted, add 1/2 onion, thinly sliced. Sautee until onions are soft.

Add 4 oz. canned mushrooms, drained. Continue sauteeing with the onions. The next time I make these, this is the step where I will add 1/4 of a red pepper, thinly sliced.

Move all ingredients to one side of the saucepan. On the empty side of the saucepan, add one patty of frozen Farmland shredded beef. I suppose you could try Pepperjax's new Grill At Home meat, now available in grocery stores. Chop and separate beef until it is fully cooked. Sprinkle some of Famous Dave's Steak Burger Seasoning over all ingredients. Not too much.

Mix all ingredients together, lining everything up lengthwise in the middle of the pan.

On the top of the ingredients, place three slices of provolone cheese. Allow to melt, partially.

Slice a hoagie bun from top to bottom (not sideways like a hot dog bun). Spread open. Place over the ingredients in the saucepan.

With a spatula, place all of the ingredients onto the bun. Pictured is a 4 oz. whole wheat bun. It's a bit much, so you can probably use a smaller hoagie bun. As shown, this is huge, so cut it in half and share with a friend.

Voila! You have Sooz's Nebraska Cheesesteak Sandwich (not just another Philly).