Retirement Diaries 2023: Down to the Wire

It’s been six weeks since Mom and I really got to work on her downsizing project.  We are both thoroughly exhausted.  So, so exhausted…

In our six weeks, we’ve been through every room in the house, the garage, all around the pole barn, and finally the garden shed.  We have donated and made dump runs, sold things, listed things on Facebook Marketplace, and given things away to family and friends.  Neighbors and friends have helped us lessen the load a bit, but it still has been so much for the two of us to do.

We had a bit of a reprieve once the house was listed, but then we had to get back to work in order to be ready when the movers arrive.

Now we are in the final stretch.  We are back in the house, working on closets and drawers.  We are still finding things to pass along to new homes, and more than once Mom has said, “Oh, I’ve been looking for that for a while.”  I’m sure it feels good to be able to lighten the load and be back to the things that will be used and appreciated.

I’ve had a chance to do some fun stuff too.  My girlfriend Shelley really wanted to go to a book signing with her favorite authors on Saturday, so I tagged along.  I had only read one book by one of the authors but still enjoyed seeing them speak, and Shelley loved getting her books signed.  It was a nice day off from the house.


We also visited the history museum and the puppet museum, and I’ve done a bit of hiking, but I think those are stories for another post!



Book Review: This Tender Land

This Tender Land, by William Kent Krueger

I heard about this book from people in my former book club, and my current book club, so I knew I should probably check it out… Plus, it is set in my new home state of Minnesota.  And what a book it was!

This Tender Land is the story of Odie O’Banion, who is, along with his brother, one of only two white kids living at an Indian boarding school in Minnesota in the early 1930s.  Odie is a kid who can’t quite obey the rules, so he experiences the cruelty of the headmistress and her henchman on a regular basis.  Odie can stand it if he’s the one being picked on, but when it comes down to a sweet, timid boy being abused, he can take no more.

After committing a crime that could land him in a worse place than the school, Odie, his brother, a mute Indian kid and a little girl set off in a canoe down the river.  On their journey, they meet other souls who are down on their luck, those who are kind and others who are ruthless, those who keep fighting and those who have lost hope.

William Kent Krueger tells the story of the atrocities of the Indian schools, but he also weaves in a story of starting over, persevering and relying on the kindness of others.

The last paragraph of the book was so fitting and poignant, it brought tears to my eyes.  Mind if I read it to you?

“In every good tale there is a seed of truth, and from that seed a lovely story grows.  Some of what I’ve told you is true and some… well let’s just call it the bloom on the rosebush.  A woman who can heal the afflicted?  A girl who looks into the future and wrestles with what she sees there?  Yet are these things more difficult to accept than that all of existence came out of a single, random moment when cosmic gases exploded?  Our eyes perceive so dimly, and our brains are so easily confused.  Far better, I believe, to be like children and open ourselves to every beautiful possibility, for there is nothing our hearts can imagine that is not so.”

5 stars.

Book Review: Florence Adler Swims Forever

Florence Adler Swims Forever, by Rachel Beanland

Florence Adler is a young woman home from college for the summer, with aspirations of swimming the English Channel.  She and her family are also Jewish.  She is living with her parents above their family bakery in Atlantic City, preparing for her channel swim by swimming in the Atlantic Ocean every day.  Florence has a strained relationship with her older sister Fannie, who is currently on hospital bed rest awaiting the birth of her second child.

When Florence drowns on her daily swim, her family is thrown into crisis mode.  Her mother Esther decides that they will keep her death a secret from Fannie, because they do not want her to lose another baby.  The family reluctantly agrees, and it becomes a stressful, twisted drama to try to keep Fannie from finding out about her sister’s death before the baby is born. 

Drawn into the drama is their house guest Anna, a 19 year old college student who escaped from Nazi Germany to live with the Adlers.  She is keeping a secret too, but is indispensable in helping the family care for Fannie’s first child Gussie while everyone else is occupied with grief. 

This is a story of family, and often well-intentioned but controversial decisions that are made in the best interest of someone else.  It makes you think about what you would do in a similar situation, and whether you would want to have a secret kept from you.  How do these kinds of secrets impact family bonds? 

Rachel Beanland tells the story with grace, weaving together the perspectives of the different characters and their motivations.  Keeping such a secret seems unthinkable (and impossible) now, in the age of expression and social media, but times were different in 1934.  People didn’t talk about things the way they do now, and women were seen as needing to be protected.  You see how each family member struggles with grief, as well as how they are touched by the developments occurring halfway across the world in Nazi Germany. 

I enjoyed the book and at the end, through the author’s note, learned that the story is based on the true story of her own great-aunt who died, and how her death was kept from her hospitalized grandmother.  Although the other pieces are fictionalized, it was an interesting story of love and loss, and the complicated ties of family.

4 stars.   

Retirement Diaries 2023: Into the Workshop

It has been 5 weeks since my mom and I started working in earnest on getting ready for her upcoming downsizing and move.  After about a week working on cleaning up and purging in the pole barn, we moved into dad’s workshop in the garage.  It is really the last area of the property that hasn’t been touched yet. 

Dad had a lot of tools, unfinished projects and a particular fondness for deck screws.  Never mind that this house doesn’t have a deck.  Dad apparently thought deck screws were the solution to every connection issue.  

There are also random items that are discovered among all the tools.  1985 Washington State Ferry schedule anyone?  And enough plastic drop clothes to wallpaper your entire house.  Dad loved to save old scraps of wiring, and we found several full sets of casters that had never been used.

I also had a couple of social outings. Once I wear mom out in the afternoon, I have a chance to go do some fun stuff!  I met up with my old book club and had a great time catching up with them.  There was a beautiful sunset over the water that night too!  Even just a few hours is good for the soul!

I also got to catch up with a former coworker.  I had so much fun reliving memories of old friends and colleagues.  Not to mention hearing how my former workplace has changed.  We never quite know when we leave a place if it will be the right decision, but sometimes we get a glimpse later on that lets us know we made the right choice.

I’m looking forward to getting into the home stretch, because it is tough to keep up the motivation to keep working every day on this project.  I can’t wait to be done! 


Book Review: Long Bright River

Long Bright River, by Liz Moore

Long Bright River is set in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia.  Michaela, or Mickey for short, is a police officer patrolling the neighborhood with a new rookie cop.  While she is teaching him the ropes, she keeps an eye out for her younger sister Kacey, who is a drug addict and prostitute in the same neighborhood.  Although they no longer speak, Mickey is worried because she hasn’t seen Kacey in a month, around the same time frame as a serial killer began killing female prostitutes.

Mickey’s concern increases as the murders continue, and her obsession with finding her sister causes her to make mistakes in her work.  She feels like her movements are being watched, which adds to her paranoia.  Who can she trust?

This novel weaves the thrill of a suspenseful search for a murderer with complex family relationships.  As Mickey shows the reader her present as well as her past, we see the strength she has shown in not falling victim to the drug addiction that has claimed so many of her friends and family.  Yet we also gain insight into her shortcomings and the mistakes she has made to alienate her sister.  In order to find Kacey, Mickey will have to acknowledge her own judgment and motives.

I initially had trouble getting into the book, but once I did, I enjoyed it.  Some of the story lines seemed like the author was trying a bit too hard to add in twists and turns, but it didn’t detract too much from the plot.  This novel was chosen for my book club, and we had a rousing discussion about drug addiction and the crime crisis that is occurring in large cities. 

3 stars.

Retirement Diaries: Cleaning up the Barn

I have been in Washington a month today, and we are continuing to ready everything for the home sale.

After we got back from our mini-vacation on Whidbey Island, we switched our focus to the pole barn.  Mom and dad had a massive 60*40 foot pole barn, with two tall RV bays and a third bay that is insulated and heated – my dad’s shop.  Cleaning it up is a grubby job, complete with dust bunnies, cobwebs, dirt and dead flies, considering that mom hasn’t spent much time in there since dad died 4 years ago.  So much fun!

But first, the tractor.  When dad died, he owned two tractors.  One was an antique 1941 John Deere B, which had been on his family farm when he was growing up.  They had it shipped out to Washington from Michigan several years ago, and dad restored it over the course of a couple of years.  Mom sold that one to a guy in the antique tractor club shortly after dad died.

The other tractor is a contemporary John Deere, which dad got for working around the property.  He loved it, and it was hard to imagine selling it.  As it turned out, we didn’t have to.  We arranged for a shipper to haul it to Minnesota, where it will work on Corey’s and my property.  Mom and I were both happy that this worked out!

The hauler arrived on Friday just before 2 pm, after only confirming the haul at about 9:30 Friday morning!  Mom’s neighbor, a farmer with his own tractor, was a godsend in getting all the implements and the tractor loaded onto the flatbed.  It took about two hours, and a fair amount of cringing on my part as I worried about how it would all go down.  The haulers left mom’s around 4:30 pm Friday.  There were two drivers, and they arrived in Minnesota just before 11 am Sunday morning.  That was so fast!  Unloading went a lot faster than loading too, so everything was off the truck in about 30 minutes.  I was relieved to know the tractor had arrived safe and sound and ready for her new life.

Meanwhile, once we had the floor space that had been occupied by the tractor and her implements, it was really time to go to work.  Much of the stuff in the pole barn is dad’s, which has meant that it is a bit less emotional for mom to go through.  We started in the shop bay, and pretty much went around the perimeter.  Then we moved into the larger bays.  I have made piles for donate, garbage and areas for keep.  I have sent photos of unknown items to people who are smarter than me at identifying tools, and engine parts.  I contacted the local REStore about coming out to pick up wood.  Dad did woodworking projects, and we have a lot of wood!

Today mom’s neighbor came with his utility trailer and we loaded up and hauled another load to the dump.  That cleared a good section of my floor space again!  We worked until about 2 today, but then were forced to quit by the heat.  It was 90 degrees today, and the pole barn was getting intolerably hot inside.  Thankfully, I think it is supposed to cool off after today, and we will be at it again tomorrow morning. 

There is still so much to do, but we can definitely see how far we have come!  That said, I don’t recommend moving.  It sucks.  I will be so glad when it is done. 

In non-moving news, I had two social get-togethers since I got back to work after our mini-vacation too.  Wednesday night I had dinner and a walk with two girlfriends, and we got to see a stunning sunset!  And Friday morning I had breakfast and a walk with a girlfriend I used to work with.  We met in a city halfway between us, and tried out a new-to-us restaurant.  Both outings had delicious food, fun conversation and great company! 

I hope you are all well! 


Book Review: An Affectionate Farewell

An Affectionate Farewell: The Story of Old Abe and Old Bob, by Trudy Krisher

I found this book in Minnesota in the local overstock shop.  You know those places; they buy the stuff that doesn’t sell in other stores, or from stores that are going out of business…  You never know what you are going to find and it’s never the same stuff twice. 

This book combines two of my favorite topics: Abraham Lincoln and horses.  So, although it is a children’s book, I snatched it up and happy spent ten minutes reading it.   It was the only copy they had.

Old Bob was Abraham Lincoln’s beloved gelding that he owned when he rode the law circuit in Illinois.  They traveled far and wide to different towns so Lincoln could represent them in court or negotiations.  Bob was tireless and unflappable, and historic accounts tell of Lincoln loving his bay gelding.  He sold Old Bob in 1860 when he was preparing his move to Washington D.C. to assume the Presidency. 

Although Lincoln never saw Old Bob again, Bob was selected to be the riderless horse in Lincoln’s funeral cortege in Springfield.  The statue of Lincoln and his riding horse at the Soldier’s Home in Washington, D.C., is modeled on a photograph of Bob. 

It is a weighty subject for a children’s book, but Krisher writes it well.  It doesn’t gloss over Lincoln’s assassination, but also tries to keep the book focused on the relationship between a man and his loyal horse.  Definitely a book to read to the grandkids!

4 stars. 

Book Review: Bodega

Bodega, by Su Hwang

Bodega is a collection of poetry, a bit different than my usual read. It was the book club choice of my library’s monthly book club.

Su Hwang is a Korean immigrant, having been born in Seoul and then moving to the United States as a child.  Her poetry reflects her immigrant background, and much of Bodega touches upon her lived experience as a Korean American living in the United States.  She explores the cultural differences, the experience of being brown among white peers, and being the daughter of owners of a small corner store.  

Her poetic style is modern, with very little in the way of rhymes, or traditional styles of paragraphs or syllables.  You will not find haiku, sonnets, or iambic pentameter among these pages.  What you will find is lyrical narrative, creative use of words from other languages, and everyday life expressed in her poems.

I had to dig deeper to like this book.  A quick read will not do it if you are not a regular lover of poetry.  Slow down, absorb and really reflect on the words.  Read these poems outloud.  Play around with the cadence.  That’s what I did, and I gained an appreciation for her poetry. 

3 stars. 

Retirement Diaries 2023: Getaway

Mom’s house listed last Wednesday, and there were open houses Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Now it is mostly a waiting game (although we still have plenty to purge).  Her neighbors had generously offered us the use of their vacation home on Whidbey Island, so we took them up on the offer and are having a lovely little getaway.

The first day we were here it rained all day long, so mostly we just hung out at the house and read, and napped.  I did take a short walk out to the neighborhood beach and found a few shells.  The picture is from the next morning when it wasn’t raining.

Since the weather broke, I have been visiting all of the local beaches and collecting cool rocks, shells, and agates when I can find them.  So far, I have found three agates.  They definitely are not as plentiful in Washington as they are in Oregon or Minnesota.

Yesterday I went to Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve, parked up on the bluff and hiked down to the beach.  It was a sunny, beautiful day and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I also checked out the exterior of the Jacob Ebey house (it doesn’t open for the season until Memorial Day weekend).  Jacob Ebey was one of the first white settlers on Whidbey Island, after he and his wife Sarah followed their son Isaac out in 1854.  This home was built in 1856.  Isaac Ebey was murdered in 1857 by one of the tribes in retaliation for the murder of 27 tribal members the year before by the U.S. Army.  He was basically in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It is an interesting and tragic story if you want to explore further.

The Ebey’s had a land claim on what is probably the most beautiful and fertile land on Whidbey Island.  This land has been preserved since the original 1850s, and many of the farms have never been subdivided, so the views are incredible and the history is so interesting!  There are also two blockhouses (built in 1857) and a pioneer cemetery with graves of many of the original settlers up on the bluff.  I have visited here before, but it had been a while, and usually I park down below to go to the beach.  It was worth the hike!

I have also had several afternoon naps, and finished the book I started right before I left Minnesota three and a half weeks ago.  The Monuments Men was such a good book!  I found a Little Free Library just up the street from the vacation home which has a good selection, and I picked two books as my next reads.  There is never a shortage of books in my life.

We were originally going to come home on Monday afternoon, but with the encouragement of our hosts, we finally convinced mom to stay and relax a bit longer.  I think tomorrow we are going to check out another one of the little tourist towns down here, and I’m going to make a stop at the beach where I found two agates a few days ago.

We head home Wednesday morning and then it will be back to the grind of cleaning out the pole barn.  There is never a dull day when you are moving.  Meanwhile, I have one more day to enjoy!

Retirement Diaries 2023: Staging

The house is staged.

The last several days have been a flurry of activity.  After the packers came last week, we spent the next couple of days putting away all the odds and ends of life.  Mom’s real estate agent brought in a crew of cleaners and for two days (plus an hour this morning) they swept and scrubbed and dusted and vacuumed and polished everything in the house.

Mom, Shelley and I took the opportunity to move into the garage and begin purging out there.  I straightened up the third bay of the garage, and swept it clean.  We purged and organized the shelves on each side of the garage too.  I have 18 totes of recycling waiting to go out to the curb tomorrow evening.  I surpassed the 13 totes I hauled out to the curb two weeks ago.  We have been busy!

The stagers came yesterday morning with their stagey furniture, and their white bedding and accessories.  They arranged and moved furniture around and did their thing to make the house look like a magazine spread.  The strangest thing they did was to ask me to turn most of the books on the library shelves backwards, so the pages were out instead of the spines.  It made this book lover cringe, but I dutifully turned them all, and made the shelves “pretty” for the pictures.

The staged chairs in the living room aren’t comfortable, but they are something to sit on to watch some TV in the evening.  It’s better than the camping chair mom had parked in there for a couple of days after her comfy recliners were removed.

This morning was photo day.  So we got up and re-made the beds, and put away the few items that we had out.  A last little bit of cleaning on the staircase and entryway, and here we are.  The photographer came through this morning and did drone photos outside, still photos outside and still photos inside.  He’s coming back this afternoon with a different camera for a video-tour.

Obviously, I have taken a few photos along the way, but the professional photos will be so much better! 

It has been a lot of work so far, and there is still much to do.  A lot of progress has been made, and I’m pretty proud of ourselves that we got things done in time for each deadline.  Mom has been a trooper, but there are times when it gets emotional.  It was hard going through some of dad’s things, and tough organizing his shop in the garage.  He should have been here to do that himself.

It has been interesting getting to hear mom’s stories, and I have been enjoying the time we get to spend together.

The home will list tomorrow!  Then three days of open houses from Friday to Sunday, so mom and I will run away for the weekend to a beach home that is owned by the neighbor.  I am looking forward to a break, and a chance to walk the beaches and look for agates!  I can’t wait!