What to Do?


During a moment of peace and quiet . . . . No, that’s wrong. Let’s start over here. During a moment of peace, while the car radio played the soundtrack of Frozen at full-speed-ahead, I found myself in muse mood. It was as if after nearly five full months of retirement I suddenly realized that I could take the time to do some things I couldn’t do while a worker bee. As I wrote the above sentence, the absurdity of the phrase “take the time” flew right off the page at me. I no longer have to “take the time” . . .  as if I’ve stolen it from Dr. Who. The days lie ripe and full ahead of me to mold and meld at my pleasure. So, what to do?

My mind began to whir. (See previous blog.) A Technicolor series of short subjects flashed in front of me.

  • Jane studying opera listening, learning everything from Offenbach to Wagner, Puccini to Mozart . . . and singing along in Italian and German (as appropriate).
  • Jane raising orchids, tenderly caring for blooms of pink, purple, white and electric blue . . . while wearing a blue ribbon of Best in Show from the Florida State Fair.
  • Jane digging into her genealogical history, finding those rascals and hardworking folk, including a long past elegant red-haired Irish princess whose throne she should contest.
  • Jane writing the Great American Novel, blithely chatting plot lines and character development with new friends JK Rowling and Stephen King.
  • Jane training her terrier Jack in agility trials with the goal of entering him into the Pet Olympics where he is sure to get the gold.


 Jack’s Current Skill

  • And, Jane fulfilling all those pre-retirement dreams of sitting by the pool reading and reading, cooking beautiful gourmet meals to be eaten by candlelight, organizing my home (this while Jordan sang “For the First Time in Forever”).

My reverie was suddenly brought to a halt by the sweet voice of my six-year-old grandson singing “Let It Go” at the top of his little lungs. And there you have it! Does it get any better than flying down the open road with a sweet little boy sharing the moment? And then I heard him sing this:

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free!

As Jordan and Princess Elsa sang this, I recalled an earlier tune sung by that little wooden philosopher, Pinocchio:

I’ve got no strings
To hold me down,
To make me fret, or make me frown,
I had strings
But now I’m free!
There are no strings on me.

Thank you, Disney studios. I believe I now have my retirement mantra. Silently I play this little mantra in my brain, all whirring at a standstill . . .

Freedom . . . freedom  . . . freedom . . .  freedom . . . . . . 


Lifelong Yearning

BrainActive_070413_617x416My spell checker doesn’t like this title at all. The default is, of course, lifelong learning. But that’s not what this blog is about. This blog is about the yearning from our earliest memories to now: the yearning for someone to really understand us. I want someone to “get me!” For a great many of us, we believe we have found this in a partner, a spouse, a soul mate. Yet, something deep inside of me acknowledges that no one will ever get me like . . . well, like me!

If you are in a new or long-term relationshipwith someone you love, consider this a wee little advice column. I can say this has some teeth in it since we are hurtling toward our 40th wedding anniversary this fall. Here’s my bit of wisdom: you never really figure someone out completely. This is much more idiom than axiom. You may not like that thought, hoping that the day will come (or has arrived?) when you know that special someone inside out. Or you may be like me and feel somewhat titillated by the thought that my sweetie is still somewhat of a mystery. No wonder I dearly loved the story of Pollyanna.

Bob in flight
Bob in flight

This principle was brought home to me recentlythrough an unusual dialogue with my husband. Normally he would rather chew ground glass than get into what I would consider meaningful dialogue. However, the time spent was revealing and furthered ouracceptance (and wry humor?) at each other’s foibles.

For the entire 39-1/2 years of our marriage, I’ve asked Bob the same question. “Hey, honey! What are you thinking?” His reply is always the same two words: “Nothin’ much.” Occasionally I would chide him by saying, “REALLY?” but he insisted ‘twas so. This all came to a head last year when our daughter and grandson were living with us.

pretty brain

For the first time in our marriage we had the opportunity to watch the morning news together, sitting side-by-side on the couch, embracing our morning cup of coffee. With the remote resting between us, I found myself picking it up frequently to pause and make commentary on the current subject. To me, this was what I could only think of as “interactive news.” I loved it. One day Stacy, who probably was feeling great sympathy for her father, made this statement to me: “You know, that remote control pausing drives Dad crazy.” “It does?” I remarked with shock tinged with angst. I decided the grown-up thing to do was to confront Bob with this new-found knowledge.

“Does my pausing of the news to chat drive you nuts?” His response: “I know you can’t help it.” WHAT? And thus began the dialogue. I shared with him that my brain is a like a spinning Rolodex, constantly on the move, whirring with ideas, thoughts, and little nuggets just begging to be shared. He looked at me with stunned silence. We shared what could only be termed a pregnant pause. “That explains so much,” he stated. In the same moment, I was struck with the knowledge that when he says, “Nothin’ much,” there really IS nothing much happening inside his head. That sense of peace and quiet is so foreign to my brain that I had no idea he was sharing his truth. Likewise, he tried to absorb the impact of the crazed circuits crackling and popping in my brain.

Jane’s Brain??

Again I realize the complexities of each of our “selves” and the hard task it is to live harmoniously with another person for years . . . and years . . . and years. And two shall become as one? Heck no! Does he “get me,” yes! And that, friends, makes me happy.


Missing Dexter

AARP1 retirement advice: make friends! Join groups, attend Meet-ups, volunteer, make apple pie for your busy neighbors. After all, the neighbors lives are busy with children, jobs and hobbies. Whereas I am . . . well, what am I? Just because I’m no longer among the Great Employed, that doesn’t mean I need new friends. After all, I forsook friends when I took the assignment in Florida where I worked for seven years in a home office. I dreamt about the old days when someone would grab me for a quick lunch at a local hangout. I thought about the many times I had popped out of my desk chair to walk to someone’s office to collaborate rather than use emails or phone calls. And there were the times when co-workers walked to my office with questions, thoughts, or just a cheery hello. In addition, my last office had a window on the world, looking out on the World Plaza where the brickwork included a Mercator map of the world.2 My former world? See illustration above.

How to deal with daydreams? With a healthy dose of reality. Look at the advantages I had at home: those old lunch dates? Neatly replaced with anything I had on hand, prepared my way, lunch for two—day in, day out, day in. Only to find that before I could finish a spreadsheet it was time to cook dinner. (Again?) Popping out of the desk chair to collaborate seemed a bit frisky considering my co-worker (and spouse) was sitting five feet away from me. Although we were barricaded by bookcases he still escaped if I whistled while I worked. Even though the song says “When hearts are high the time will fly, so whistle while you work!” 3 the sudden evacuation of my co-worker, who needs silence to create, leaves me with a new lyric: “When heart are high” . . .  and you know that is just poor English. Along with my high heart, was the inability for face-to-face interaction, leaving me to resort to witty emails and phone calls where everyone on the other end seemed too busy to whistle with me. Co-workers’ cheery hellos were replaced by, “What’s for lunch?” And that was only once a day. Yet there was this bonus: I could email or talk to people on the phone without cosmetics, hair in a snarl, and pajamas at 2:00 p.m.

I can say that I still had a window to the world, about 15-inches of a window to the front yard. The people were not as interesting as they were at my previous job, but I was entertained by exterminators, mowers, landscapers and sprayers-of-grass-pesticide. They were not on my lawn, but I did get glimpses of others who hired these services that are much too extravagant for a retiree with time on her hands.

Although I would like to stand (or sit) before you and claim that I am busier than ever, as we often hear from retired folks, it is not so. Not yet, anyway. Maybe busyness comes with making friends for which I feel a certain low-grade anathema. January, the first month of retirement seemed surreal in the simplicity of each day. In February I felt antsy for something to do . . . something with purpose. Suddenly I thought of a project! I had long wished that I had watched Dexter (a Showtime Series). Now complete, I could access all 8 seasons on my cable system. I now believe that nothing can cheer one up more than a homicidal serial killer. I adored Dexter! I felt like cheering every time he put someone on his table. By gosh, they needed eradication or they would never have been there. Really.

My Dexter
My Dexter

After watching 96 episodes in a four-week period, I found myself with an unusual attachment to Dexter (Michael C. Hall). Even though I hated the last episode, I couldn’t get the image of Dexter out of my head. I began mooning around about him and even considered joining the Michael C. Hall fan club. Realizing that I was reverting to my teen years with a crush on a movie star (or serial killer?), I realized that I HAD to find something to get Dexter out of my system. At my ophthalmologist’s suggestion I began to read the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. The books are epic in length, 680 to 900 pages. I soon found myself involved in a steamy love affair in 18th Century Scotland. I’m now on book four. I’ve made long voyages across the seas, watched noble Scots in battle, and shared their pain as their plaids were torn from them. Yet my mind seems to wander. The hero, Red Jamie Fraser, is a dynamic red-headed fellow who slays bad guys with the thrust of his knife, kind of like Dexter. He is a masterful and tender lover with red hair, like Dexter. Jamie is a trustworthy family man and loyal husband, just like Dexter! Yes, friends. I still miss Dexter.

Maybe I do need to find some friends. But where and how to start? Are there any blood spatter analysts reading this blog? If so, let’s do lunch! (Oh, and did I mention that The Outlander will be broadcast as a new series on Starz this summer? Can’t wait!)



1 American Association of Retired People

2 World Plaza of Community of Christ Temple, located in Independence, Missouri, USA

3 From the Walt Disney Productions animated movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), music by Frank Churchill, lyrics by Larry Morley

Who Am I Now?

So it seems that everyone has a BlogSpot these days. We all have something to say, at least the not-so-humble boomers. I’ve heard boomers referred to as a tide, a wave, an influx, a generation, and other less savory phrases. We are a tad annoying since we are known as “the selfish generation.” And our parents were known as “The Greatest Generation.” Really, Tom Brokaw? Could you have made it any more difficult for the rest of us coming along to claim anything remotely worthy about our own wave of history?

I remember when I first lost my identity. I married a foxy guy named Lance. Why would I not take on his last name? I would have done about anything for a guy that looked that good in a sailor suit. He finished his duty (a “rough” tour or two in the Mediterranean) and we married. I suddenly lost Janie Banks to a woman named Jane Carleton. I thought the name was nearly as sexy as the new husband. I realize this will sound oh-so-trite, but after two years he left me for a cocktail waitress. I thought myself to be mildly sexy, but certainly not cocktail-waitress sexy. So I no sooner turned all my documents and my one credit card to my new name, when I had to go forward by reverting everything back to my true identity.

About the time all the niggling little pieces of paper reflected my maiden name without exposing my post-divorce pathos, I married again. This time it was an adorable fellow all decked out in camouflage with a dead pheasant in one hand. (I’m obviously a sucker for a guy in uniform.) Out of stubbornness accompanied by a deep-seated assurance that in two years I would be dumped again, I kept my one favorite department store card in my maiden name. One day, while I was burping baby number three, my sweetheart asked me if I was ever going to change that card over. Realizing the marital security I had with three parcels of possible child support hanging over my dear one’s head, I changed that last bastion of my single days. I was officially Jane Watkins

Once again my identity seemed threatened as my children entered the teen years and stepped out into their own little worlds. Suddenly I was Steve Watkins’ mother, or Scott Watkins’ mother, or Stacy Watkins’ mother. I must admit enjoying my notoriety as Stacy’s mother very intensely after the song aired with lyrics screaming, “Stacy’s Mom has got it going on!” I’m not sure what was supposed to be “going on” but assumed it must be something either sexy or nasty. I was thrilled with both aspects.

Those days are long gone and once again I am just plain old Jane Watkins. But this Boomer thing has me “going on” (once again). Am I destined to be merely a child of the greatest generation? Am I catalogued as a selfish boomer? And what about all those other names that I seem to be collecting: mother-in-law, grandmother, retiree . . . and the dreaded crone?

By now you are surely thinking, please pee or get off the pot. So, nota bene:

This blog is dedicated to the perils, joys, challenges, highs and lows of a retired baby boomer. That’s me!

Jane Watkins


Moments of Glad Grace!

After much stewing over what to name my blog, Idecided to go to my favorite poet, William Butler Yeats. I thought if I could clear my brain with a bit of his poetry, inspiration might come to my addled brain. And there it sat: the perfect name for me to use. Behold the first few stanzas of his poem “When You are Old and Grey” . . .

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace . . .

So with all proper (and some improper) apologies to Mr. Yeats, I herewith select the phrase moments of glad grace and claim it for my blog.

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