On September 6, 2012, I had an aortic dissection and came very close to dying. Only 25% of the people with dissections survive. I was lucky and truly blessed!
It took two years after surgery to become stable enough for my doctor to release me to resume most of my activities. During these two years, I was petrified of having my aorta split (and we all know what happens then) and became very depressed. I maintained my job, my home and my animals during this time but I did nothing else. I basically went to work, came home, walked the dogs and sat on my butt…afraid to move! I did not feel like cooking so became addicted to Kentucky Fried Chicken – 3 piece meal with extra biscuit – which I consumed daily. I gained weight and became lethargic and unhealthy.
After my doctor telling me the 12” stent-like device he had inserted in my aorta from my heart to my kidneys was “almost perfect” and doing its job wonderfully, I should resume my life. He continues to monitor my progress.
I took a few weeks to reassess my priorities – my possessions, ideas, relationships and activities. I realized the physical things I owned were not the most important things in my life and I wanted to get rid of the excess stuff that did not bring value to my life. I focused on what was really important and felt the physical possessions were hindering me from feeling free and “uncluttered”. I did not “have” to get rid of anything and didn’t want to just because I could. I knew if I did that I would just go out and buy it again. I had done this twice in the past when I moved and wound up just replacing it all over again. I was determined – NOT THIS TIME!
I started with the closets in the guest room and office. Both were stuffed to the top with junk and most of it was from the original move in 2008. These were easy and took about a week to pare down to mostly nothing. The collectibles where harder to part with but once I got going, I didn’t stop. There are previous posts on my methods. I took more time because I wanted to sell as many as possible and some were valuable. My church was having a silent auction… the perfect place to donate some really great items. I had a major “tag sale” with the small items and did quite well. The remaining items were donated. I spent the entire year with Phase I. Phase II started in January, 2015 and was a little more complicated because it included some renovation projects. I’ll cover these in my next post.
The minimalism motto is “less is more”. There is not one way of being a minimalist. It can be monk-like, living in one white room with no pictures on the walls and sleeping on a cot. That’s not me! It is about being frugal and not spending on unnecessary things…sticking to the essentials. Before I could get to this spot and feel free, I had to clear out the clutter!
Since I have some health issues to contend with, I make it a daily routine to go to the “fitness center”. This center is part of our local hospital and is a full gym with pool, sauna, etc. but also offers many areas of rehabilitation for recent hospital patients. The main rehab programs are for Heart and Pulmonary. Even though I have recently been diagnosed with COPD (I stopped smoking 38 years ago but damage had already been done), I am not at the point of needing rehab but it is important that I do the exercises every day. COPD is an umbrella term that includes chronic bronchitis, asthma and emphysema. Emphysema is my disease and there is no cure but it is manageable. Thus, I go to the gym and work hard at keeping it “manageable”.
The gym has numerous treadmills, elliptical machines and stationery bikes on the upper deck with an inside track running in front of all the extensive equipment. As I trudge along on my treadmill every day, I am totally motivated by some the people walking the track, using the cardio machines and taking classes.
- Love Birds – An elderly couple and the wife, based on her interaction with other walkers, may have dementia or something along these lines. Her loving husband gently holds her hand as they slowly walk the track. He encourages her along the way and I notice he counts the trips around the track with the fingers on his right hand.
- Lady in Green – I see this lovely lady every day as she walks the track. She is perhaps in her late 70’s or maybe 80’s and walks with determination. I call her the “Lady in Green” because her shirt is always green. I am not sure what the color means as the shirts are marked differently – one as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, another for local Senior Games (i.e. local for the US Senior Olympics), and one for the local Food Bank. There are others. These are the few I remember.
- Sweet Man – A wonderfully friendly gentleman, in his 80’s I’m sure, walking the track with his walker. He always smiles and waves to the treadmill group as he passes. He usually goes to the stretching station for some workout and then continues.
- Pretty Lady – A beautiful tiny, white haired lady with her walker. One of the fitness trainers assists her as she makes her way around the track.
- Army Proud Guy – He runs around the track in his “Army” t-shirt and prosthetic leg. He passes all the others runners.
- Mr. Perfect – A lovely man, dressed in handsome workout attire, walks at a pretty hefty clip. His hands hang at his side and they are constantly shaking – perhaps Parkinson’s – or similar. He can out pace me.
- Frank the Man – I’ve met him before when I am one of the “early birds” at the gym when it opens at 5:00 a.m. Frank is there and he’s 94 years old. He also has had 11 golf holes-in-one. I understand he is one of the Fitness Center’s first members and comes in almost every day.
- Man in Black – He is on one of the treadmills every morning and I’m either beside him or close by on mine. His head is down, he has earbuds, and walks for 2 hours straight at the same fast pace. His white hair is neatly in place and he always wears the same outfit – all black.
- Zumba Lady – I see her consistently either in Yoga and Pilates class but also having a blast doing Zumba. She may be the oldest person in the class but she’s always in the front row. I can watch her from my treadmill perch as the Zumba class is on the first floor below the cardio machines and track. I’ll bet she’s one heck of a dancer!!
- Heart Throbs – This group of men and women always walk the track after Heart Rehabilitation. My heart beats a little softer when I see them working so hard to get well.
If I ever wake up and dread the thought of another workout, I stop for one moment and think of these gentle souls. I don’t know their stories but know they work diligently to live longer and have the best life possible. They are my motivation!
I end this post to lace up my walking shoes and head to, what is becoming, my new favorite place!!
It has now been two full months since my retirement. I wanted to wait a while before I wrote how my new life is progressing. I have been working steadily for over 50 years with the longest downtime being no more than 3-week period. So, I thought 2 months would give me enough time to really come to terms with my changing life. The “good” things I have learned:
- Morning routine – Previously it was wake up with alarm, coffee, breakfast, shower, dress, and go to work and on good days I would throw in a gym workout. I started with not setting the alarm and just having the day proceed as it would based on circumstances. I found myself still getting up early (habit I guess) , have too much coffee, do whatever came to mind in the house and at some point go to the gym or go for a walk, then have my shower and get dressed. It could be 2 o’clock in the afternoon and I’m still in pajamas. I had to reconsider and make a morning schedule which includes still not setting the alarm but when I get up, I go to the gym or workout at home, then do the shower, dress, coffee and breakfast routine. Then the day can begin.
- Self-Care – I now have plenty of time for self-care and it changes daily. I schedule the day based on gym classes available or whether the weather outside is pleasant enough for a long walk. Some of the classes are Yoga, Stretching for Senior, Balance and Pilates. It is nice to plan my day for “me” and not for somebody else. I had made the determination others needs or their time was more important than mine.
- Golf – I’m playing more golf because I can play at times other than after work or on the weekends. Most of my friends are retired so there is always someone I can meet for golf and usually lunch.
- Scheduling – I can schedule appointments with ease. I don’t have to get permission to be off or schedule my appointments around others. I can also schedule them and run other errands during times when most everyone else is working so it’s not so busy and traffic is less! Heaven!!
- Meals – I find I do not snack between meals. At work, there was usually some “goodie” in the break room and I helped myself. I have more time to plan meals and cook healthy. I no longer have to eat lunch in the break room or out at a restaurant but can sit in my own little kitchen, watch the birds and squirrels, and peacefully enjoy lunch. I no longer have to rush home to cook and eat late. My meal schedule is my own.
- Projects – There is time for all the projects I kept putting off….cleaning out closets and getting rid of unused clothes, going through the kitchen and rearranging, and pantry. I am getting more into minimalism at home.
Now for some of the “bad”…well not exactly, just different.
- “What day is it?” I get confused on which day it is and have to consult the calendar to figure it out. I called my sister one day and she said she was driving home from work…I thought it was Saturday. We got a good laugh about it. I have been known, more than once, to put the garbage out on the wrong day. If I didn’t have the DVR set for my favorite TV shows, I’d miss them for sure.
- I can’t get it through my mind that I don’t have to have to do something productive all the time. It’s OK to read a book, take a nap, watch daytime TV or just sit on the patio and watch the birds.
- I have to be careful to not get bored. If the weather is OK, I just take a walk but we have snow and cold.
- Budgeting and money issues are challenging. With a steady paycheck, I did not think about buying what I wanted within reason. I tended to buy too much food and it would spoil before I had a chance to consume it. If I went shopping, I spent money on things I could do without. It was more of a “want” instead of a “need”. I reduced my income and am taking less out of my retirement funds than my previous paycheck. I now consider every penny I spend and I believe I am at the point of being “cheap”. I have a budget and doing pretty good sticking with it but it still needs work. I’ll write more about budgeting later.
- I could become a hermit. I love staying at home but I make myself go out. I purposeful go to the gym because there are people around. I also go out a few times a week with friends or family. It doesn’t bother me to stay in for days on end. Maybe this is because it’s cold outside and so comfortable inside.
People ask “What do you do with your time”? I answer with “I’m just being retired and do whatever catches my fancy for the day.” Enough said!
My retirement is 3 days away! The original plan was to work until the end of October to train my replacement but 6 weeks is just too long. Last week, we agreed I would be off today and work Tuesday and Wednesday, mornings only, and then I’m done. I have been over my duties multiple times with my replacement so now she will need to figure it out on her own. It’s the slow season so she will be just fine.
So, how do I feel about all this? I’m excited but a little unsure of what to do with my time off. I’ve been working 55 years with minimal downtime – usually a couple of weeks at a time. There has always been a daily “routine” when working (shower and dress, coffee, breakfast, out the door – throw in gym some mornings) so now there will be no “routine” until I make a new one. Does there need to be a “routine”? What if I just wake up on my own and plan the day then? It can be anything I want it to be as long as I just do it and not sit at home and become a hermit. What does “routine” mean anyway…”a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program”. Do I need the structure of a regular program every day?
Whether working or not, I find it easier to exercise early in the morning. If I don’t, then I usually wind up not doing it at all. So the one thing I want to do every day is move my body. I’ve been remiss lately and it’s showing up on the scales….easy to put on…but hard to get off. There are great waking trails around my home, my gym is about a block away, and Yoga classes are offered almost daily. Our community college offers numerous classes of interest to us “seniors” and one in digital photography is calling my name. I can always golf – either practice or play!! There are endless possibilities. Whether or not I develop a “routine” remains to be seen but my preference is not to have one and plan my day around the activities and classes available at the time. Staying at home and being a hermit on occasion sounds pleasant too!!
So, the “countdown” is on…
I retired from corporate America in 2008. Then the great recession hit and my investment portfolio tanked – as everyone’s did. Not knowing whether my funds would last, I accepted a part time position working in the golf industry and it has been absolutely wonderful. I never thought I would “work” in my “play” industry – what joy! The part time position became full time the following year and I have been there ever since. I am, however, retiring “again” at the end of next month. Now, here’s the funny thing. In my post in September, 2014 My Journey Begins I wrote I was 69 years old and would be retiring “again” in a few months. I cannot remember what that was about or what I was thinking. I guess this was one of those “senior moments” of forgetfulness.
Yesterday, I began training my replacement and it is difficult. The knowledge of Microsoft applications is not as originally expressed in the resume. I was not expecting to have to train someone on how to use Excel and Word so it just makes it harder and more time consuming. She said she would need a “little” refreshing….much more than a “little” is going to be needed. I think there was some “embellishing” of qualifications in the resume. Never works….always catches up when it comes right down to doing what the job requires and the skills are just not as stated.
When I leave, I want my replacement to be able to handle the majority of the duties without help. The company has been really good to me, I love the people and I want to leave with the change as “seamless” as possible. Unreasonable? No,not really. I will be there for a month and a half to “train” and this is our slow season. The phones are quiet, the tournament entries are low and the tournaments are almost over for the year. The training will be extensive and the job is not hard or demanding. It’s not “rocket science” folks…it’s golf!
So after a stressful day….I took a Yoga class! My new favorite!
The last time I posted was November 2014. I lost interest when there were so many things going on in my life. This is “another” catch up blog.
In January 2015, I decided my home was going to be my “forever” home. Some friends thought it was a good idea for me to move back to Virginia and I made the final choice to stay where I am since I do love my home and village. Now it was time for a home renovation (house 9 years old). Previous posts show me getting rid of all my collectible “stuff” but I kept going. I’ll just list the items for simplicity.
- Master Bathroom – removed the “garden” tub and shower stall and rebuilt the room to include a 7 foot walk in shower. New tiles installed, new floor, granite counter top, mirrors, lights – everything except the counter taken out and redone.
- Master Bedroom – carpet replaced with hardwood. Chair rail installed and all repainted. Old furniture out – new furniture in “minimalist style”.
- Kitchen – granite counter tops replaced Formica, black splash added, and black appliances replaced with stainless. Large table and other furniture removed and replaced with more simple small table and couple of chairs for sitting. Chair rail added to portion of the kitchen. New ceiling fan replaced light. Plantation shutters added to replace blinds.
- Living Room – Mantle replaced with floor to ceiling tiles, all furniture replaced with new simple items, TV added to room.
- Dining Room – Furniture removed and replaced with only a few simple items. Chair rail added and new light.
- Guest Bathroom – Shower and tub combo replaced with new tub and subway tile surround. Granite counter top replaced “manufactured marble” which had cracked.
- Study – took out some furniture and added treadmill and desk.
- Entry – new entry light and furniture.
- Hall – new lights.
- Paint – the entire house was repainted on the inside – all of it.
The renovation started in February and was not quite finished when I learned I had breast cancer. Damn! Surgery followed and recovery. Chemo not considered since cancer was small and had not spread to lymph glands.
I started radiation in January 2016 and had 26 treatments. These wiped me out. I had little energy and no inclination to do much of anything. I basically kept working and not much else since I came home after work and crashed. I ate too much, drank too much chardonnay and gained weight which I definitely did not need. I found out breast cancer has a high risk of coming back with alcohol so I stopped drinking. I’m still clean and sober!! It took most of 2016 to recover.
Now 2017 is coming to a close….my, my time flies!! I have a CT scan annually to check on the dissection from 2012 and on the “Patient Portal” entry, which I normally do not read, it said “emphysema changes” – now what the hell does that mean. In July, I took this to my annual physical appointment and my doctor thought at first it was just some changes in my lungs but sent me for a pulmonary test. It came back with emphysema and I only have 80% lung function. Smoking in my earlier years had caused it and getting older progressed the disease (now known as COPD). I quit smoking 37 years ago. This was a total shock. About the same time, I had a colonoscopy and the doctor said he could not get a large, flat polyp and recommended seeing a surgeon and just having it cut out – meaning part of my colon cut out. I didn’t much like that idea and searched until I found a doctor at UNC that specializes in removing large, flat polyps endoscopically. It has to come out as the flat one’s usually result in cancer. So, I’m scheduled for another colonoscopy next month with the specialist.
In August, I decided it was time to take care of “ME” so I announced my retirement from my job (second retirement). I have learned that Yoga and Tai Chi are good if you have COPD and I will have pulmonary rehab scheduled later. Exercise is a key to maintaining my current lung function. My “official” last day is the end of October but I will be taking earned vacation in October so only have couple of weeks of actual work left. And I feel great about the whole thing!! I had a previous post about retiring when my boss asked What would you do anyway?
I’m about to find out!!
The good news is that I continue to get good check ups about my dissection and the breast cancer has not reappeared. I think I can manage the COPD with breath work and exercise. The last thing is to have the polyp removed and I feel confident I’ll get it done in a couple of weeks. I am exercising more, loosing some weight and feel really good! I am excited for the next chapter.
It has been over a month since I last posted. I certainly hope my followers have not given up on me. I may have to take two posts to catch up….it has been very, very busy!!
First, I sold all the antique hat pins on Ebay as well as a few other things that were collectibles and small. I made over $1,000 which was very good I thought. I put some items on that did not sell so then began the work of cleaning out closets and donating. My church had it’s annual tag sale so I donated a van full of items. They were pleased since my stuff is “good stuff”. They said you would not believe what some people donated that was not possible to sell for any amount. I think this was the first pass. Afterwards, I made another pass and donated another truck (really, my brother’s truck) full to our local Mission to use in their resale store. I gave all the old bowls I had sitting on top of my kitchen counters as well as many other items. I don’t miss a thing. Looking back the majority of it I had not used since moving into this house in 2006. Now that’s sad!! The more I give away the better I feel! This is really becoming a freeing experience.
I made trip to see a friend I had not seen in a while. She lives in wine country Virginia so we went to a few for tastings. I did have some wine but not much. It was great seeing her and spending quality time together. She has a dog, 5 cats (all rescue) and takes care of 2 feral cats as well. I did not take my dogs. My dogs have never known a cat so I didn’t want to take any chances and her cats are bigger than my dogs. I took the rest of the week off and had some work done on the house. Cleaned on the outside, washed windows, cleaned out gutters and fixed some areas in the garage where I had my foot slip from the brake and pushed the freezer into the wall. Two big holes! Probably need a big “STOP” sign.
I had my six month CT scan and visit with doctor that did the surgery for my aortic dissection. These visits always make me nervous weeks before I go. He said all is very good. The stent is still in place and is not leaking. I still have an issue with the right kidney but he can’t do anything about it. For now, it’s the same. I asked what would happen if the stent did start leaking and he said he would just put in another one. Good grief. I was nuts thinking about the first one – I certainly don’t want a repeat!!
I had contemplated retiring again next year but I am rethinking it. I really need to have the house painted inside so can use the money. For now, it’s on hold. Maybe when I’m 70!!
I live in North Carolina! Yesterday there was snow in South Carolina. Too funny!! South Carolina!! Today is cold but sunny and beautiful Carolina blue sky!! Picture is from my back deck!