Kayaking in South Bethany on a beautiful summer day

The vicissitudes of aging creep upon us.  I have always played racquetball and kayaked since my twenties.  It is always surprising when all of a sudden, my age reference point must be now, not the younger image I carry around inside.

The outdoors is one of the best ways to spend a day in retirement if you loved it but were limited in time outside by working.  Since 2011 I have traveled non-stop and spent most of my time enjoying many activities.

A year ago I suddenly began to feel a sharp tearing pain in my right shoulder.  Long story short, after 9 months, many shots in the shoulder, xrays, physical therapy, MRIs of the shoulder and neck, my right bicep snapped while I was on vacation in the Caribbean in the December.  It was a bone spur that had apparently finally sawed its way through the bicep.

I had shoulder surgery to take care of the bone spur and shoulder arthritis.  The bicep couldn’t really be repaired by the time I got into surgery.  I have had trouble with the torn bicep but at least my shoulder felt better, finally. I wear a compression wrap on the bicep.

Yesterday, I tried for the first time to return to kayak again.  I felt giddy with anticipation but afraid my shoulder would be unusable and I would not be able to paddle across the bay…..

Meet my odd little group of friends I made on the trip.  It was great!

2014-06-29 21.11.16        The young eagle still wanted to be fed.         2014-06-29 21.05.13

I am not at all sure what the Flamingo wanted!

 

 

 

Wednesdays

I began to work many years ago and my job involved interactions and sometimes very stressful conversations and lengthy discussions with people, employees, government officials, and unhappy folks.  At that point in my life, I pretty much gave up idle chatter.

 

Therein lies one of the challenges of retirement — there are no colleagues to intersperse work and easy social chit-chat.  I also realized when I retired that I had developed few social non-work related networks of friends.  I felt close to my work friends, shared some confidences, laughed, and discussed my life. It was an easy and lazy way to have friends.  I had few if any other people in my life it seemed.

 

When I moved to Ocean City, the only people I really new anywhere in the area were a few retired colleagues living in the general area.  These “friends” had their own activities and social networks within their smaller communities on the shore, including civic organizations, political causes, environmental activities, historical societies, and travel commitments.

 

Now, every other Wednesday morning I get together with a group of women in their 60s and 70s.  We meet at a local coffee shop, McCabe’s, to chat and have coffee.  I have never been one to network with women socially, but since retirement I take advantage of these opportunities to make new friends and to relearn the art form of social conversation.

 

We call ourselves the Babes, corny huh?  But, none of us knew each other prior to moving to OC or southern Delaware.  The initial group slowly expanded as friends brought in other friends.  While the group meets every other Wednesday, it usually has a different group of ten or so ladies each time.  Some go south for the winter, while others travel to Europe.  I go camping during the summer months since OC becomes too crowded.

 

No one really talks about what each of us did professionally prior to retirement.  It doesn’t count in this setting.  Everyone seems to have a more than adequate retirement income.  The discussions range from recent travels, family (especially grandchildren), the news, and of course, any major health issues. We share resources for entertainment, doctors, shopping, and reading.

 

Social interactions are important for mental stimulation, support functions, and stress reduction.  While I have found myself missing the artificial closeness and reciprocity of my everyday work relationships, I appreciate the engagement with these women.  There are less direct competitive behaviors among the group and the topics are friendly and relevant to my age group.

 

Voting

Here is the view from my voting machine.  
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In the process of being only one of about five folks voting, all easily over 65 and two in a wheelchair, I began to think about why I vote or feel like I should vote.  Where are the other 85% of the registered voters who are not likely to vote in the primary?

Do we really live in a democracy?  What form of government do we have?  Does my vote count at all?  If the country will survive into the future, do we really need to vote?

We live in a democracy but our form of government is a republic.  We vote for candidates who represent us and make decisions for our collective benefit, or not.  The ballot also has measures allowing us to vote and the total number of votes determines whether it passes or fails.

The bigger this country gets, the less I feel my vote counts.  The more polarized the country becomes, the more alienated I feel.

Simply said though, without voting for the candidates and the measures, I would feel like I had no right to complain about the outcomes.

 

Dad

Today is a day to remember fathers.  Not all are created equal and some did not choose to be fathers or stick around to finish the process.  Many have and will continue to be nurturing, supportive, and loving dads.

My dad was not a perfect man.  He was a good man.  Born in 1911, he lived a life not unlike many of the men of his time.  He was first generation American, with an English father and an Irish mother.  As the oldest of seven children, his youth was difficult.  His mother died early, leaving her trolley man husband to raise the children, ranging in age from an infant to young teenager.  He failed entirely, slipping into alcoholism and anger at his life and lot.  He was abusive, not a good provider.  My dad…he worked hard, many times 16 hours a day and attended school.  He supported the fragile family, excelled in school, and struggle to make his life count.  He stayed at home raising his brothers and his sister and providing them educations and each a home of their own, however humble. Eventually he traveled the rails to explore life.   He held many occupations of the time: coal hauling, welder, and eventually an aspiring chemist.  He was a brilliant man but saddled with life’s experiences.  From the pictures of his younger years, he had fun as well as responsibilities.  I have a photo of him as a handsome man, floating in a zodiac style boat, smiling, and smoking a cigar.

Ultimately at the age of 33, he met and married my mom in 1944 after only three months of courtship.  Their pictures show two happy people, surrounded by my dad’s six siblings and my mother’s 8 siblings. My mom said their first argument was on their wedding day.  They persisted in loving, yelling, and their marriage for many years.

They were living in New York City on VE day and like their generation, WWII and the bookend events of the depression and the post war period defined their lives. They settled in Maryland and my dad worked as an industrial engineer, earning his Bachelor of Science from Johns Hopkins University.  He worked as a civilian employee as Chief of Ordnance for the Army, retiring at the age of 62.

He and my mom were married just a few months short of 60 years when he died at the age of 93.  That’s the short bio.  The longer story is he had two children, was rather abusive like his dad, bought my brother and me homes of our own, and was a difficult husband for my mom.  He stayed, shouldered his responsibilities, worked hard, and lived to enjoy the benefits of his life.  He was a much better grandfather, living next door and helping to take care of his grandchildren until they grew-up and went on with their lives.  Today they speak lovingly of Pop Pop and all of their good times with him.  They have only good memories of an aging and loving man who had quirks, drove them to all of their lessons, helped them with homework, and taught them many of life’s skills.

I loved him; I feared him; and I was always grateful to him.  He was there for his children, was supportive of my mom, rescued us from our life’s disasters, but never quite taught us patience and gentle caring.  He gave us both intellects, love of reading, careers to earn a good living, and was an example of leadership in the community.  He was a wonderful grandfather.

I think of him today, and I think of him each Father’s Day.  Thanks Dad.  picture 3

Ocean City Airshow

Ocean City Maryland has an airshow that is held on 16th Street at the Boardwalk.  One of the nicest parts of living here in June is the fly-by of the jets and the B-25’s as the planes turn back across the Assawoman Bay to make another pass along the ocean beach.  The Blue Angels are the most impressive flying in a pattern low across the water.  Today was beautiful sunshine with a strong breeze and the seagulls joining in with the flight.

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Seasonal Strawberry and Rhubarb Pie

When I was growing up my father grew rhubarb in his garden.  My mother would fix a strawberry and rhubarb pie this time of year when the strawberries were plentiful.  I never liked it as a child but I always feel wistful when I would think of the smells and watching my mom prepare it.

Recently I was at Whole Foods in Annapolis and there was rhubarb, cleaned and available by the stalk.  On a whim I purchased some and decided to check for some recipes.  I couldn’t find one that was simple to make.  I modified the best of each and it turned out to be delicious!

Ingredients:

Crust:  prepare your favorite recipe or use  a refrigerated 2 pack of pastry dough, room temperature

Pie:

1 1/2 cups rhubarb, washed and sliced into about 1/3 inch pieces (use several stalks of fresh rhubarb, not too thick so that they are tender)

3 1/2 cups strawberries, trimmed, washed well, and sliced (try to select ripe berries that are not bitter)  In addition, reserve about 10 strawberries for the last step

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon of lemon zest (grated finely, use an organic lemon if available)

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter chilled and cut into small cubes

Steps:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Use a 9″ pie plate and roll out to about 11 inches or unfold your crust into the bottom of the pie plate.  Press it gently into the pie plate and place in the freezer while you prepare the filling (no more than 10 -15 minutes)

Mix the strawberries and rhubarb with the sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest in a bowl large enough to fold it thoroughly.

Get the pie plate with the crust from the freezer and using a fork, poke several times on the bottom of the pie crust to ensure no large bubbles in the crust when baked.

Pour the strawberries and rhubarb mixture into the uncooked crust.  Dot with the small cubes of butter across the top of the pie filling.

Lay out the second pie crust on a board, slicing into strips about 3/4 inch wide. Create a lattice pattern on the top of the filled pie.  With a dampened finger, rim the crust and gently use your fingers to create a ribbon effect along the outside crust.

Brush milk over the crust.

Slice the reserved strawberries and place around the perimeter of the pie as a decorative touch.  This is optional but enhances the attractiveness of the pie.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the pie on the baking sheet.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 450 degrees.

Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes.  Check that the crust is golden brown and that the filling is bubbling and has no running liquid.  If there is still liquid, continue to bake and check frequently.  Remove when firm.  Do not let it get too dry. One of the problems with strawberry pies is that the pie can be runny.

Remove from the oven and cool on a rack before serving.

Baked and ready to eat!

Baked and ready to eat!

The Morning Papers

A luxury that comes with retirement, especially if you are a news junkie, is reading many newspapers online while having coffee in the morning for as long as you would like.  During the winter I do this while listening to Mike and Mike on ESPN.  Then, I check out the usually ever-changing national weather periodically by switching to the Weather Channel to see what new storm is sweeping across the country.

In the summer I take my laptop onto the deck overlooking the bay and read the online papers and catch up on the news websites.  Occasionally I get to see our marsh fox looking for breakfast.

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Late Spring at the Beach

EveningWhile the spectacular view appears to be the same, every evening is unique.  Today the baby mallards were swimming up the marsh gut and the marsh fox was frolicking across the marsh searching for breakfast this morning.  Every moment of your retirement is well spent with beauty and relaxation.