GratiTuesday: Tax Returns

Today is the filing deadline for federal and state taxes in the United States. Like just about everyone, I don’t relish the process of completing our tax returns nor do I enjoy writing a check and mailing it to the government.

But, here’s some of what I do enjoy:

  • I enjoy driving on well-maintained roads that are safe and free of potholes.
  • I enjoy having K-12 schools that are in good repair, provide students with up-to-date school books, and offer teachers salaries that allow them to live in the community where they work.
  • I enjoy having a quality college and university system that educates the workforce of the future.
  • I enjoy having police and fire departments that provide public safety.
  • I enjoy the fresh, safe drinking water that comes right out of the tap.
  • I enjoy visiting our state and national parks and want to maintain them for future generations.
  • I enjoy being able to access our public libraries and check out just about any book I want.
  • I enjoy our non-profit, award-winning Public Broadcasting System.
  • I enjoy having a strong national defense.
  • I enjoy the benefits of our government investing in science, technology, health research, food safety, public health services, and disease control.
  • I (will) enjoy the benefits of Social Security and Medicare and appreciate the safety net these programs provide.

While I am not comfortable with our country’s debt levels and I know our government could be more efficient, I know that much of what I enjoy would not exist without taxes. I may not be happy about writing that check, but I am grateful for the benefits that I get in return.

GratiTuesday: Hug a Librarian Day

I’ve always been a big fan of libraries and, since my retirement, my library card has gotten quite a workout. So, I was thrilled to learn that this week, April 8 – 14, is the 60th annual celebration of National Library Week. Sponsored by the American Library Association, National Library Week was created to recognize the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and promote library use and support.

The theme for this year’s National Library Week is “Libraries Lead”

 

Although most libraries will have their own locally-tailored events, the national celebration has identified four areas of focus for the week:

  • On Monday, the list of 2017’s Top Ten Most Challenged Books (compiled by the Office for Intellectual Freedom), was released. Of course, these ten books represent just a few of the many, many documented book challenges. If you click on over, you will probably be shocked at the books listed. You may also be surprised and saddened by the reasons given for their attempted – and sometimes successful – censorship.
  • Today is National Library Workers Day, a day to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers.
  • Wednesday is National Bookmobile Day. This day recognizes the contributions of our nation’s bookmobiles and the dedicated professionals who make quality bookmobile outreach possible in their communities.
  • Thursday is Take Action for Libraries Day which is a national library advocacy effort observed for the first time in 2017 in response to proposed cuts to federal funds for libraries.
I love my neighborhood library

I’m thrilled that today is National Library Workers Day. I don’t know about your library, but mine is staffed by the nicest people. They certainly deserve a hug or, maybe better, a big tin of cookies or some other treat to tell them how much they are appreciated.

Today, this week, always, I am grateful for our libraries. I don’t think there has ever been a time when the important work they do has been as threatened. They deserve our heartfelt appreciation and, even more, our active support.

How we lost 200 pounds in two weeks… and a little bit of ourselves along the way

A few posts ago, I wrote that my husband and I were beginning a period of intense paper-purging. Our file cabinets had become over-stuffed and we had boxes of papers on the shelves of our offices and in the garage. Our goal was to get rid of what was useless and to better organize and store the records we needed to hold onto. Simplify, organize, purge.

Although not yet finished – will that ever happen? – we have made great strides. We’ve dumped at least 100 pounds of paper into our recycle bin and have taken another 100 pounds or so to a commercial shredding facility. Our house feels lighter and our drawers and shelves have room to breathe.

As freeing as it has been to offload so much unnecessary paper, both of us were unprepared for the loss we are feeling too. Along with the financial statements that can now be found online, saved recipes and travel articles the internet has made irrelevant, and other paper flotsam and jetsam that we’ve squirreled away over the years, a lot of what we tossed was part of our history. Employment records, correspondence, reports that we’ve written, notes for talks we’ve presented, and even some recognition and awards we’ve received over the years.

Over 40 years of work either recycled or shredded.

Gone.

It’s hard to describe the conflicted emotions both of us are experiencing. While we are happy to be retired – thrilled not to be a part of the work-a-day world any longer – it is difficult to completely divorce ourselves from those two people we once were. We were full-time employees longer than we were students or have been retired… combined. Our careers meant a great deal to us. They helped to define us. Our job descriptions were how we answered the inevitable question, “What do you do?”

Now that we have empty space on our shelves, room in our file cabinets, and a garage that doesn’t feel quite so stuffed, we want to keep it that way. Like many retirees, our focus has is switched from acquiring stuff to having experiences. I imagine that the tinge of loss we are feeling now won’t last and will completely dissipate as we move on to our next adventure. Right now, though, we are feeling a little sad as we say goodbye to our younger selves and move further away from what we did then towards what we do now.

GratiTuesday: A Glorious Day

A beautiful spring day, temperatures in the low 70s, a cloudless blue sky, four friends who have known each other since elementary school, and a -0.81 low tide making the beach wide and the tide pools inviting.

Dear friends and walking buddies.
Clown fish
Scripps Pier
Scripps Pier
Scripps Pier
Rocks exposed during low tide.
Looking south towards La Jolla Cove.

I am grateful for the beauty of this day and the company of dear friends.

GratiTuesday: Spring’s Gifts

At exactly 9:15 (Pacific Time) this morning, winter became spring. Today – the vernal equinox – the sun crosses directly over the earth’s equator, making night and day approximately of equal lengths all over the world.

We switched our clocks to Daylight Saving Time a little over a week ago (I know that some people hate DST, but it makes me happy) and now, as the periods of daylight grow longer each day, I am grateful for the extra rays of sunshine that we will enjoy.

The orioles, who often nest in our neighborhood’s palm trees, are a delight to watch.

The hooded orioles have started to arrive after being away for the winter enjoying the serene climate of Southern Baja and mainland Mexico. I am grateful for their beauty and for the backyard entertainment they provide with their comical antics and happy chatter.

Bees have been busy pollinating the trees and making orange blossom honey.

After producing a tree full of tasty fruit during the winter months, our orange tree now is bursting with fragrant white blossoms. I am grateful not only for the blossoms’ heady fragrance that perfumes our yard but also for the promise of a new crop of oranges next fall and winter.

Although there might not be obvious indicators of the four seasons where I live, there are subtle changes that are noticeable for those who look for them. I am grateful for all the gifts of spring I see, and for those that nature still has in store.

The jacarandas will burst forth with their purple blossoms a little later in the spring.

Paper Purge

Up until recently, my husband and my efforts to reduce clutter have been mainly focused on things like clothes, books, and miscellaneous household items. I am fairly satisfied with our progress and am pleased that the “public” areas of our house are, if not clutter-free, at least not embarrassing if someone stops by unexpectedly.

Now, we’ve turned our attention to the gobs of paper engulfing our offices. These include financial documents, articles and recipes saved to do something with “someday,” and an astounding number of lists – written on notepaper, on the back of envelopes, on post-its, and at the bottom of other lists. The paper that clutters the top of my desk is bad enough but lurking inside my file cabinets, and in boxes in my closet, are even more papers, and they need to be sorted, shredded, or recycled.

At least I know that I come by my paper problem honestly. My mother had a hand-made sign on her desk that read:

“Those who keep a neat desk will never experience the incomparable joy of finding something they thought they had irretrievably lost.”

I’m not sure if she was the author of the quote (she was a writer/editor) or if it was borrowed but it perfectly described her desk… as it does mine.

So, for the past several days, my husband and I have been slowly working through our piles and files. Boxes with documents for shredding are filling up, as is our big blue recycle can. Although we still have a way to go, we are motivated by three notions:

  • Security: We enjoy traveling and plan to continue for as long as we can. So far, we’ve been lucky to have trusted friends take care of our house while we are gone but that might not always be possible. Our goal is to have limited personal/private documents so that if we participate in a home exchange or arrange for a housesit, securing these papers will be easy.
  • Flexibility: Although we are happy with our current home and neighborhood, recently we’ve talked about alternative living situations. Would we be happier in a condo (no yard to maintain, minimal upkeep, more security when we travel, etc.)? How about an active retirement community or, at least a smaller town with walkable neighborhoods? This decision may be many years away, but why not start purging now so it won’t be as difficult later?
  • Reality: Am I really ever going to read the articles I’ve saved? Nope. Especially with the Internet as my go-to source. Some of the information is worth keeping, but most can be tossed. And those random notes and lists? I am trying to corral them all into one notebook, and as I cross out items, or no longer need the information, the pages can be ripped out and recycled.

Although the process has been slow, the experience has been very satisfying. My desk is neater, my files drawers aren’t nearly as full, and – even better – a couple of times I’ve experienced the incomparable joy of finding items I thought were irretrievably lost.

GratiTuesday: The Young and the Restless

I imagine that just about every older generation looks at the younger ones nipping at their heels and wonders if they have the skills and fortitude to run the world one day. Are they too selfish? Unfocused? Lazy? Have they been sheltered too much or have their lives been made too easy? Are they overly obsessed with their status on social media? Will they be able to take the reins when the time comes for them to pick up where we left off?

I wish I could say that my generation has done a better job during our tenure. Sadly, the environment is in deep trouble, violence and conflict are seemingly everywhere and never-ending, and the chasm between the haves and have-nots is widening. We will be leaving them with a bit of a mess.

Yes, you are.

Two observations these last few weeks have given me a reason for hope: seeing the optimism of the young athletes who took part in the Olympics and following the focused passion of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I am grateful to see young people who are energized, who reject societal inequalities, and who see the urgent need to protect our environment. They are concerned and they are restless, and they understand that sitting down and shutting up is not an option.

If they are indicative of the generation coming up, I think we are in good hands.