GratiTuesday: So long, fifties, it was fun!

Tomorrow, I will no longer be in my fifties. A new year and a new decade of my life begins. I’m not even sure how long I can legitimately claim to be “middle-aged” anymore (although I suspect that I’ll cling to that designation until my dying breath).

60 cupcake

At least up until today, I’m not too freaked out about this milestone birthday. Tomorrow could be a whole different story, but right now I feel optimistic. At 59, I’m generally healthy and happy, and I have no reason to think this will change when my odometer clicks over to 60.

My fifties started out not with a bang, but a whimper… mine. On the day of my 50th birthday, I had a 4-hour meeting with a client that required a 3-hour drive each way. I felt sorry for myself the whole day and my mood was only slightly brightened when my husband greeted my return with a hug and a kiss and a homemade cake. Poor me.

Fortunately, that inauspicious start was not a harbinger of things to come over the next decade. I soon left that good but uninspiring job for a better one which allowed me to learn a lot of new skills, work with some amazing people who became much more than colleagues, and gave me a strong sense of career satisfaction. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to work for a great company and with some outstanding individuals.

My fifties included quite a few travel adventures, including a trip to Cuba that I had dreamed about since I was in my thirties. I also got to explore parts of the United States that I hadn’t been to before, and re-visited other areas that warranted a second – or third – look. I am so grateful that my husband, traveling companion, and best friend are all wrapped up in the same package.

I took up a few new hobbies in my fifties, including blogging and photography. I am grateful for the generous help and encouragement I’ve received from others as I struggle to improve. I’m also grateful for the plethora of free, or nearly free, classes and seemingly limitless online resources that have helped to shorten my learning curve.

Of course, my fifties contained a few bumps and bruises along the way. Four years ago I lost my beloved 92-year-old father after many years of failing health. As sad as it was to say good-bye, I am so grateful that I had him in my life for so long. I, along with my brothers, had the privilege of caring for him as he declined and I am profoundly grateful that I was by his side to surround him with love as he slipped away.

My fifties is also the decade that I shut the door on the 8 – 5 world and opened the mystery door labeled “retirement.” Although it has been less than two years since I stepped over that threshold, I can’t say that I’ve ever had a second thought about that decision. I am grateful that I was able to leave work on my timetable and while young enough to experience the joys and take advantage of the opportunities retirement offers.

So, tomorrow I’ll celebrate the beginning of a new decade. I don’t know what it holds for me, but I’m grateful that I get to be here to say “hello, and welcome.”

Looking forward through the rear-view mirror

Rear View_edited-1

I began this blog almost a year-and-a-half ago, just about 6 months before my retirement date. I’ve always enjoyed writing and I knew I wouldn’t have many opportunities outside of work unless I created them for myself. I subscribed to several blogs so starting my own blog seemed like a great way to do this. Deciding on my blog’s focus was easy; I was headed into a big unknown. I wasn’t sure what my personal retirement would look like – I had some ideas, but no real plan of action – so I wanted to explore the social and psychological aspects of retirement as well as learn from others who had gone before.

Originally, I envisioned writing posts several times a week. I had lots of ideas for topics and I figured spending an hour or two each week writing, formatting, and posting would be easy peasy. Soon, after realizing I was being much too optimistic about the time commitment, I dialed my expectations back to once a week. Now, a couple of posts a month has become the norm.

I still enjoy writing and I still have ideas for topics, but, because the perfect words don’t just flow out of my brain onto the screen, each post takes much longer than it probably appears it should have. I am the queen of edits and re-writes.

WordPress does a lot to encourage regular posts by offering a multitude of tutorials, challenges, and prompts. In addition, established bloggers invite others to join in on photo and writing challenges of their own. Last fall, I took part in WordPress’s Photography 101 challenge. It turned out to be a great way to share my photos of the Hawaiian vacation that coincided with the challenge and I managed to gain more followers because of my participation. Although I think these prompts and challenges can be quite helpful and fun to take part in, I find that, at least for my blog, they can dilute the main message and take the focus off what I want my blog to be about – life in retirement.

I will be celebrating my first retireversary next month and I am pleased to report that it’s going quite well. My husband and I have completed a few house projects, we’ve done some traveling and plan do a lot more, and we are discovering the joys and challenges of spending so much time together and being the masters of our own schedules.

I look forward to continuing this blog and I hope that I can be much more regular with my posts. I really appreciate everyone who stops by to read what I have to say, and I am especially grateful to those who take the time to add comments.

Although my blog is ultimately about retirement and “learning to navigate through my post-work world,” I imagine that it will morph a bit as time goes on, just as my life will change. There is so much to do, creative outlets to explore, and social interactions to enjoy. I want my blog to reflect all of this and more.

Gratitude: Bloggers and Their Blogs

One of the items on my retirement “To-Do” list is to become a better photographer. I purchased a nice DSLR that I hope will help me take my photos to a level beyond the images I get from my point-and-shoot camera or my cell phone.

Despite—or, maybe because of—all the bells and whistles available to me on my new camera, I still find myself reaching for my cell phone when I want to take a picture. It is so easy to grab it and shoot. I don’t need to think about the correct aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. The results, while not great, are usually at least acceptable. When I pick up my DSLR camera, I feel overwhelmed with all of the possible setting combinations. If I take a photo and I’m unhappy with the result, I have no idea what went wrong. If it comes out well, I am equally perplexed as to how to recreate it.

Me and Camera

Because of some upcoming trips, I feel that I can no longer ignore my “grown up” camera. I really need to learn about its features and capabilities, and what all the mysterious dials and buttons do. I must finally wrap my head around the concept that a larger f-stop number indicates a smaller aperture opening. That a bigger aperture shortens the depth of field, while a smaller aperture will bring the background and foreground equally in focus. That the shutter speed and aperture settings work together to stop or blur motion, or allow photos to be taken in very low light or in extremely bright settings. Yikes!

Where do I go to educate myself? Blogs, of course.

Just as I have favorite blogs with cooking and entertaining information, travel tips, book reviews, opinions on politics and world events, and ones that make me laugh, make me think, or just make me feel as if I’m reading a letter from a friend, I am now reading blogs to help me learn more about my camera and how to take better pictures.

I continue to be amazed at the level of information available in the blogosphere. I am in awe of the generous souls who are passionate about what they do and have worked hard to become proficient, who now take the time to share their wisdom and talent with an unseen universe of strangers. Even if they have been able to monetize their blog, or hope to do so in the future, the information is still free and available to anyone who searches for it. Granted, the content on some blogs is questionable or just plain wrong, but I have found plenty of blogs that are well-written, beautifully designed, and full of information and inspiration.

I don’t know what it is that makes someone want to share so much of their knowledge with others, but I’m very grateful that they do. Because they blog, I have become a better cook and entertainer, I have read books that otherwise I might have missed, I have learned about different parts of the world, and I have had my mind opened to various points of view. I have also “met” quite a few interesting people that I wouldn’t have if not for their blogs.

I know that whether or not I become a better photographer is up to me but I am thankful to those who have helped me gain the tools I need to improve. I consider each post a gift and I am grateful that they placed it on their blog for me to open.