Procrastination – or the 30 year filing project

This is a true story.

I began living on my own at 19, taking a wrong turn into an ill-conceived first marriage at 21 (including 2 moves) followed by a blessed divorce at 24. From the time I left the marital apartment, I was a bit of a vagabond, moving no less than 6 times in the next 4 years. The only good thing about perpetual moving is 1) I didn’t have as much stuff and 2) every time I packed, I purged what wasn’t needed. I remember my young self watching my ex-husband carting away my collection of record albums (that was painful), my griddle (the man once called and asked me “how much water do you use to boil hamburger?” Seriously, I came home to evidence that he’d boiled hamburger) and numerous other things that were mine prior to our brief union. I remember sitting on my dining room table, clutching my two cats, Snooks and Bandit thinking “take it all, it’s just stuff”. But I digress. Fast forward to the autumn of my 28th year. From a one bedroom apartment, I moved into the house I’ve called home for thirty years. Three bedrooms, large kitchen, pantry and…….a basement. I remember a thought running through my head “however will I fill these cupboards?” followed by the thought of “haha, you’re a funny and pretty blonde”.

Needless to say, I found that filling cupboards and closets took little time and by the time Spence moved in 7 years later and added his belongings, well you get it. Over time I found that I had a lot of “junk drawers” and a sense of clutter hidden just out of sight in closets, cupboards and particularly….the basement.

Reasons for procrastination, look familiar?
Reasons for procrastination, look familiar?

Back to the subject of filing. I’m not going to say that I’ve never filed anything. I have taken it upon myself, on a cold or rainy day off to drag up a bag or box of paperwork that I’d put in a “good place” in the basement and sort through it. (usually around tax season) For every pound of paperwork that I combed through, 75% of it went into the recycle bin or shredder. Even then I still kept a lot of “stuff” that I’d never need but felt compelled to create a folder for nonetheless.  I continued to accumulate more filing than a working gal would ever get to, especially when there were so many other things I’d prefer to do. And it was out of sight though not quite out of mind. I coddled myself into thinking, “when I retire, that’ll be one of the first things I’ll tackle.”

My Rationalization
My Rationalization

I retired on 2/28/14 departing almost immediately for a few weeks in Florida to “clear my over-filled head and embrace my new normal”. If you’ve read my blog, you know that since then I’ve been having a grand time, experiencing new things, traveling and living the dream with Spence. In short, the thought of tackling “the filing”, while in the back of my brain, just wasn’t a priority.

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In other words, don’t beat yourself up for living your life. You’re entitled to some fun!

Enter the phase I’ll call “focus and inspiration”. Since April of 2014, I’ve discovered the joys of yoga and meditation which have created a sense of “focus”. It took till 10/31, but as I’d promised I started my blog. I mention yoga, meditation and the blog because I’ve successfully committed to making them a part of my everyday life, while still having lots of fun and adventures. Those three things have created “focus”.

“Inspiration” to get organized came from my mom. At 81 and in good health, she returned to Florida (after a summer in Michigan), decided to sell her home and move to Michigan to be closer to my sister and I. She met with a realtor before the holidays and began the process of getting her home ready to show by January. It went on the market and sold almost immediately. Downsizing to an apartment, she was now faced with what she’ll keep and what must go. This has resulted in numerous emails as she’s given “right of first refusal” to my sister and I on those things she’s parting with. With every email, a spark was lit in me. Realizing the enormous favor she is doing for us by moving on “her terms” and sorting through things that under different circumstances we would be overwhelmed by, I knew that could no longer put off the inevitable. The time had come to put my house “in order”.

In fairness, during the beautiful Michigan Spring, Summer and Fall, I adore gardening and Spence physically cannot do much to help me there. It is a full time job, though in retirement I don’t have to cram it into the rare day off when the weather cooperates. Seduced by sun, fresh air, my hands in the dirt, creating a symphony of chaotic loveliness, frankly – I wanted to be outside after the winter, not in the basement contending with filing.

Fast forward to early January. Armed with purpose and Christmas behind me, I made a commitment. The time was NOW.  I started dragging up the bags and boxes, sifting through years of paperwork. Every single day. (okay, almost every single day) In fairness I should mention that I pay the bills; it’s “my domain”. Spence occasionally gives me something to file but though he’s been retired pretty much since I’ve known him, I’m too much of a control freak to hand over the sorting and filing of our important paperwork. He’s fine with that but in retrospect, perhaps I should have considered delegating it? Woulda, shoulda, coulda……

As of yesterday, I brought up and sorted through the last box of filing. Hurrah! In years past, if I’d pitch 75%, I’m now at 90-95%. Everything had to be evaluated – “shred it or recycle it”?  I remarked to Spence, “should I die first, you have no idea what a favor I’ve done for you”. His reply, “if you die first, I’ll leave it for whoever comes in after I’m dead”. If you knew him, you’d know truer words were never spoken.

That said, this new-found commitment to organization has become like a drug to me. If I open a drawer, closet or cupboard that hasn’t yet been tackled, I stop and clean it out. I’ve made tremendous progress and found a few treasures – a black velvet bag full of quarters (really? when did I start saving quarters in a little bag? Still, kind of cool) an entire checkbook that had gone missing a year ago, my replacement Amazon credit card that I knew I’d received in 12/2014 but which had “disappeared” and my player’s club card from the casino that Spence and I frequent every month, a recent loss to a cluttered drawer.

For the focus and inspiration that kicked in to “get ‘er done”, I’m grateful. It only took the looming deadline of my first year in retirement to do what I’d promised myself for years. And it feels great.

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Goodbye to every piece of paper that I have “set free”.

Next project, after moving mom and the arrival of spring weather, is the much-needed organization of the garage. No more excuses and for that project, I will enlist Spence.

Halotherapy, the Salt Room Experience

“Halotherapy is widely used in Europe as an all-natural, drug-free therapy that complements traditional medical treatment for a variety of respiratory and skin conditions, such as asthma, allergies, bronchitis, sinusitis, common colds, congestion, sleep disorders and more.”  from Salinas Salt Room Spa

The Salt Room in Rochester Michigan
The Salt Room in Rochester Michigan and yes, the floor is all salt, as are the ceilings and walls.

I first heard about the salt room from my yoga guru, Jules. I was intrigued and thought “I’d like to do that”.  Then the holidays came and went as did my intent to follow through.  Enter my lifelong BFF who has been instrumental in my post-retirement exploration of new experiences.  She texted me suggesting a date to do it, had found a Groupon coupon and set the appointment for our Girl’s Day Out.  Game on!

Intrigued and not sure what to expect, we helped ourselves to a complimentary cup of tea, took off our shoes and were quietly ushered into “the Salt Room”.  With six comfy, ivory leather recliners, we took our seats along with a mother and daughter who joined us in the room.  The lighting was subtle, the atmosphere – ethereal.  Shortly after the doors were closed, soft music started.  My BFF suggested we use the time to meditate, which was perfect.  The room was a bit cool but soft blankets were provided.  As I meditated, I breathed deeply, using the mindful breathing I’ve been taught in yoga.  Our session was 45 minutes in length and we left feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

Prior to this day, I owned a lovely Himalayan Salt Lamp. (from Isabella.com)  When heated by the 15 watt bulb, the salt rocks emit negative ions, adding healthier air and beauty.

My lovely salt lamp. Both the
My lovely salt lamp. Both the “bowl” and the rocks are salt.

In the days since my visit, I also bought a Himalayan Salt votive holder.

I even did some searching an found a Himalayan Salt Inhaler which was delivered an hour ago!

And in my new enthusiasm for Himalayan Sea Salt, I’m even using it in my cooking.

Lest you think I'm making this up....
Lest you think I’m making this up…

Sentimental Attachments

Mom has sold her home in Florida, moving back to Michigan to be nearer my sister and I. Part of the process is letting go of things she won’t need in her smaller senior apartment. Cupboard by cupboard, drawer by drawer, closet by closet, she’s offered my sister and I numerous items before donating them. Not unexpected, the items I feel most drawn to wouldn’t be of interest to others; sentimentality has played a large part in items that I’ve said yes to.

Mom’s Mixing Bowls

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Formerly Red, Green, Blue & Yellow

Her mixing bowls have seen better days.  Once a vibrant green, blue, yellow and red, they’ve faded to a more “rustic” look.  What I see are bowls used when mom made cookies and cakes, teaching me how to use a rubber spatula with my reward being able to lick off the batter.  I fondly remember the large one brimming with bubbling casseroles of baked spaghetti on Sundays and Six Layer Dinner, my Grandma’s recipe.   She taught me how to measure and follow recipes, sparking my love of cooking and nurturing it.  These bowls were always present.  Years later when I’d visit, those bowls appeared when she cooked a requested family favorite for me or we prepared something delicious together.  Good times.

Grandpa Fox’s Knives

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Seriously sharp knives

My love of food and cooking came from not only my Mom but her father as well.  My Grandpa Fox found his passion and talent for cooking after a long illness in his forties that necessitated early retirement.  Memories of his cooking make me salivate to this day.  He was gifted in the kitchen and on the grill.  His enjoyment was evident, his enthusiasm contagious and he loved feeding his family.  So many memories – the aroma of his fried chicken wafting out the door giving us a preview before we entered. His veal scallopini for which he became a legend (now a recipe I’m known for). His homemade beans, made in a special sunken bean crock built into their stove lovingly stirred and coaxed along over what seemed like several days. His ham glaze and homemade peach jam – divine. His perfectly crispy hash browns made using a potato ricer, dusted with minced parsley from his garden, browned in butter then expertly flipped – in the air.  His famous charcoal grilled, rotisserie chickens that drew neighbors to his yard in awe and to whom he offered “a peek for a nickel” (with a wink and twinkle in his eye).  And then there’s his Lamb Stew, so beautiful that you wanted to photograph it, the pop of green peas, bright orange carrots and perfect pearl onions in a glistening rich gravy with chunks of melt-in-your-mouth lamb.

So when Mom asked if I’d like two of Grandpa’s stainless steel knives is it any wonder that I’d want to inherit those instruments used to create meals ingrained in my memory and so much a part of my happy childhood?

While this photo is not of my Mom nor I, it evoked the mood of this blog.
While this photo is not of my Mom nor I, it evoked the mood of this blog.

And speaking of floating….

As I look out my window on a snowy, frigid Wednesday in Michigan, I fondly recalled a warmer day from this summer. My favorite Canadian and former co-worker Jess, invited us again this summer to the Port Huron Floatdown.  An annual “unofficial” event spanning 30 years, we’d missed it in 2013 due to our vacation but this year I was in.  Bucket list – right?

It was a hot, sunny day.  This was good as dependent on currents, it takes hours to complete. A tube was graciously provided for me complete with drink holders and head rest.  There was a flurry of activity to load up the tubes, kayaks, coolers, ginormous floats and rafts.  We were told  it’s “a bit crazy” to get to the launch site. Reality check: your designated driver gets as close as possible, stops in the middle of the street and you unload your stuff post-haste and hoof it to the beach then shoreline beyond.  I don’t recall how many were in our group – 30 or so?  So we’d all arrive, then tie up and off we’d go.  Right?

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It was a bit more involved.  Traffic and multiple arteries to get to the beach. Bedlam. Chaos.  A veritable parade of colorful floating vessels, life vests, coolers transported by thousands of swimsuited minions, teeming and careening through the shifting, soft sand towards the shoreline. I hung out with Bams, Jess’s grandma (one of the coolest ladies I’ve ever met, love her). We found a spot by a fence and offered to “watch the stuff ” (I’m good at that type of task) while the rest of our team ran back to work as spotters for the remainder of our flotilla, who arrived over the next 20-30 minutes blending into the throngs of floaters.  Once reunited, we quickly tied our stuff together.  In tandem, we pushed off the beach and into the water, leapt into our vessels (maybe gilding the lily about leaping – in my case flopping) launching at the same time as every other group who was ready to float.  And then we were off, starting our float just south of the magnificent Blue Water Bridge, which spans from Port Huron to Sarnia, Ontario in Canada.

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Shipping lanes were closed so the typical freighter traffic was not an issue.  Suddenly we realized we were missing some of our gang.  Leaving no man behind, Jess and her mom turned their kayaks around. No mean feat with our flotilla in tow, paddling against the current, passing other floaters shouting “hey you’re going the wrong way“. Undeterred, we spotted our lost friends and in short order, attached them and now floated en masse towards St Clair.

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We snacked, drank cold beverages, had our share of a variety of delicious jello and pudding shots.  And floated along this spectacular waterway, a bunch of friends having fun.

Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat.  With one modification, sunscreen on my thighs (which have rarely been exposed to that much sun in recent years).

You might be asking yourself, “where was Spence?”  Age 70 at the time of the float, Spence is a Viet Nam veteran with shrapnel and war injuries that have left him in constant pain. I wanted the decision to be his.  Ultimately, he decided that floating in the cold water for hours wasn’t going to make sense for him.  Always game for a day by the water and hanging out with these friends, he enjoyed the sun while relaxing on the deck with his cooler of beer at our finish line.

Good times for sure. Adventures in retirement continue. And on this cold day, it’s fun to flashback to that balmy summer day.

Sensory Deprivation or Floating Away Stress

Everyday in retirement holds infinite possibilities for experiencing new things, traveling new places. And I’ve been one busy young retiree.  Immediately after I retired my lifelong BFF found a 3 day Primordial Meditation Workshop – was I in?  Abso-freaking-lutely!  I knew meditation would be good for me but was always too stressed, too tired or too fill-in-the-blank to commit to it.  Fast forward to now. I’ve rarely missed a day, sometimes meditating twice a day. Using a free smart phone app called Insight Timer, I’m up to 221 days, 87 hours of meditation and that doesn’t count the meditation done in my private yoga class.  I began working with an awesome yoga instructor/life coach/spiritual guide every other week, leaving each class feeling more zen, younger and flexible.

So when my sister gave me a brochure to Great Lakes Floatation and asked me if I’d be interested in going, I thought “but of course”.  I deduced that being in such a great mental place, I could easily handle being inside a sensory deprivation tank for an hour. Just me floating in a mega-salt water bath, in the dark. My sister by contrast, approached our girls-day-out in the midst of a catastrophic, money-hemmoraging home repair nightmare that for two days prior to the float included jackhammering her basement floor.  I knew that she desperately needed this but wondered if she could “let it all go” and just float.

I needn’t have worried.  There is something magical about the silky, tepid salt water.  About the dark and total absence of sound.  I repeated my meditation mantra for awhile, I think I dozed off a few times.  I stretched and floated in a state of nirvana.  I liken it to transporting back to the safety of the womb. (too much?)

When we emerged from our private tank and after a shower, we met up in the after-floatation lounge.  I felt fantastic but the transformation in my sister was remarkable.  All the frustration and stress that she carried in with her, had “floated” away.

My tank

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My sister’s tank

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Great Lakes Flotation LLC
5232 South Morrish Road, Swartz Creek, Michigan 48473  – in case you’re interested

“Baby Got Back” and Finding the Right Pair of Yoga Pants

Being a woman of both stature (6 feet tall) and shall we say, possessing a “curvy bod”, I’d always appreciated the sentiment in this song about the virtues of a prominent derriere. (for those of you not familiar “I like big butts but I cannot lie…”)

One of the great joys of yoga and retirement is the need for YOGA PANTS.  I “needed” (seriously) new clothes in order to do yoga. Enter the discovery, via online shopping of Athleta.com who carries amazing stuff but to me, most importantly, Kick-Booty Yoga Pants – and in TALL SIZES.  I ordered them, free shipping (hoorah) and then patiently tracked the package as it sped my way.

When it arrived I was as excited as a child on Christmas morning, racing upstairs and stripping off whatever I had on.  I pulled them on, oh joy – comfortable, long, great fit all around.  Then I turned around and checked out my “Kick-Booty” posterior in the mirror.  It was magnificent! Needing further validation, I ran off to find Spence and model my new yoga pants.  I think I even attempted to twerk (not something a woman of my age should try, but hey, it’s all about testing your limits – right?).  Spence pronounced that I looked “amazing” and of course, at the end of the day, that’s what I was going for.

Kick-Booty Yoga Pants

And so it begins……….

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My last day of employment was February 28, 2014.  At 57 (nearly 58) I was so ready.  I’d talked about retiring relentlessly in recent years which kept my focus on that goal until everything aligned.  In retirement, I’d envisioned writing a book –  a cookbook, comic novel, blog, travelogue – perhaps even a children’s book (about the colony of feral cats who live in my garden oasis, but I digress).  It was always this “someday when I have time” kind of goal. I’d told friends, family, co-workers, customers.  Pretty much anyone who’s met me would tell you it was a recurring theme with me.  My lifelong friend, who also wanted to write, opened her home to a like-minded group of women and found an instructor willing to guide us. By the end of March, I was enrolled in a writing class!  Each class introduced us to a form of poetry which we were then instructed to compose, in that style “on-the-spot“. And then read what we wrote in front of the class!  I remember feeling a clench in the gut, thinking “don’t tank, don’t seize up” but then with a calm that I can only describe as divine intervention, this profound poem came out of me.  And from each of my classmates.  NO ONE CHOKED. (Thank God)  It was pretty remarkable.  And this happened at every class!  My blog took a bit longer to begin due to getting easily sidetracked by numerous “shiny objects aka procrastination”.  I’ve decided to get serious and quit talking about it, just jump in.  And so it begins….