“What is the essence of life? To serve others and do good.”
I have been lucky enough to find a beautiful place to volunteer. Kachina’s Place is a therapeutic riding center for individuals with special needs. They provide a variety of equestrian experiences to those facing life challenges. But Kachina’s Place is so much more than that. I call it my happy place.
Here I receive as much benefit as I provide. Regardless of wether I am scooping manure and feeding horses or helping a special needs client with a lesson, my life is enriched. Calm and peacefulness is everywhere at the ranch. Clients come to Kachina’s Place to practice yoga, perform barn chores, learn teamwork, balance and responsibility. They learn horsemanship skills, and perhaps most importantly, they learn to give back to others.
I believe if live well you must give well. Since I retired from teaching I’ve missed the daily contact with children and adults with special needs. Here At Kachina’s Place I am refueled. My soul is satisfied and I feel a sense of purpose.
I love each of the beautiful horses and minis at the ranch and they each have a unique story of how they came to Kachina’s Place to live a life of happiness and service to others. There is Ruby, the reluctant racehorse who didn’t like running but really loves to be brushed and is as sweet as she is beautiful.
Then there is Kiko, the abandoned Appaloosa who is now specially trained to be ridden by very inexperienced riders. Kiko, which means Happiness in Japanese has a gift of gentleness around young children.
Because horses are animals of prey, they are keenly aware of their surroundings and can act as a mirror of human emotions. When you consider the enormous size of a horse and their heightened sensitivity and empathy for those around them and you have the perfect therapy animal.
National Save A Horse Day is April 26. If you are interested in helping a worthwhile charity that helps those that can not always help themselves please consider a donation to Kachina’s Place.
Many of you are familiar with Pinterest, also known as Crack for the crafty. I can spend hours pouring through websites and looking at pictures of really great ideas on Pinterest. It is set up like a magazine, you see something you like and want to return to and you just Pin the page as you would dog ear a page in a magazine. Like millions of others I follow the links to read the blogs and watch the “easy to do” hacks that will change my life in so many wonderful ways. According to the hype these things will make great gifts, my life easier, tastier, more organized, more colorful and richer in every way possible. I have over twenty-two hundred items pinned. I expected to tackle most of my pinned items once I retired. When I was teaching, I pinned and used lots of classroom ideas. At the time, I found it a great resource for teacher made classroom stuff. But since I’ve retired I’ve barely scratched the surface of the thousands of pins I have on my Pinterest boards. Despite the fact that I don’t follow through on most of the items I pin, I have continued to add to my “to do list” of Pinterest crafts I hope to attempt in the future, I even created a list of retirement projects for my husband to do. But the brutal truth about Pintrest is that it’s a major time suck.
Recently I embarked on the crafter’s Lollapalooza, The Annual Pinner Conference in Scottsdale Arizona. I don’t consider myself an artist, but I enjoy creating artsy fartsy items. I find crafting to be a creative outlet that is both relaxing and a good way to spend some free time. Although I wasn’t born with the talent I see in so many artists, I make up for my limited talents with enthusiasm and dogged determination.
I attended the Pinner Conference with friends and I felt like a kid in a candy store. Classes and make and take workshops were EVERYWHERE! The thing that was readily evident to me was how generous the craft artists were with both their time and their talents. Lots of vendors were selling different tools and techniques. Everybody made their technique look really easy. Who knew I really needed a rusty two tiered farm animal feeding dish? I did and I love it. It’s covered in chalk paint now and screwed together with some finials.
The reality of most of the crafting is you do it because you enjoy it, most people don’t make much money selling their wares. After you purchase so many of the supplies and tools for the various crafts you would need to sell a whole bunch of thingamajigs to recoup your original investment. So you make really fancy cards that take hours to complete and cost four stamps to mail because you love creating unique items and giving them to people you love.
South Beach is bit like Las Vegas. Both have lots of alcohol-fueled partying with young men and women celebrating their youth while destroying their livers, live music and the obligatory minute millionaires driving their rent by the hour Lamborghini for everyone to notice. But South Beach is so much more than what you first notice. Take a longer look and you see and appreciate the diverse culture reflected in the eclectic food and music. There is a deep pride and respect for the past, instead of tearing down buildings, the Art Deco buildings are restored and the past is celebrated.
We chose to stay in a boutique hotel on Collins Avenue, right in the middle of South Beach. The Kimpton Beachcomber Hotel, a small three story boutique hotel. What is a boutique hotel you may ask? Most often they are small and have unique amenities. The lobby was unique and eclectic with live edge wood sculptures, bookcases, sofas and comfy chairs and lots of interesting art. This is not a homogenized hotel! As we are checking in we are offered wine at the complimentary happy hour. The hotel personnel are both friendly and genuinely helpful. The room is small yet beautiful. The beach is located behind the hotel pool area. The back area includes a bar, towel service and a variety of yard games, rocking chairs and sculptures of cows. I did say this place was eclectic.
The Kimpton offers seats on the beautiful sandy beach, as well as bar service. The bites and drinks were not exorbitantly priced, and who doesn’t enjoy a picnic lunch in the sand? There are several miles of beautifully manicured walking and biking paths just before the beach. We took advantage of the hotel’s free bike rentals and rode up and down the paths early one morning.
In South Beach you must try the diverse food offered. We were given the recommendation by a waitress to try a Peruvian restaurant called CHALAN ON THE BEACH. The uber fresh seafood was lightly seasoned and plentiful. We shared a sea bass ceviche which was nothing short of spectacular. The patrons were mostly locals ordering house specialities. We also enjoyed a seafood dish with rice, seasoned with Peruvian spices that seemed to sweeten the fish and rice.
When in South Beach trying some authentic Cuban food is mandatory. We visited HAVANA 1957 and ordered the daily specials of Cuban meatballs and rice. The dish was also served with soft, sweet plantain slices. The prices were very reasonable, except for the mojitos. At $15 and up they seemed pricy for lunch. No worries, we came back a couple of hours later and enjoyed delicious half priced mojitos at the bar inside
We also had chicken, lamb and steak kabobs as well as incredibly delicious deeply roasted Brussels sprouts at CLEO a Middle Eastern place. The bar was ornate and the restaurant was a cool respite from the Miami afternoon heat.
On our final night in Miami our hotel had a pig roast (but from the looks of the poor fellow I think he was deep fried). For only eight dollars we each enjoyed pork tacos, homemade tortillas, rice and beans. The beer was local and cold and soon the Latin band was playing music and everyone was dancing to the beat as the ocean breeze blew.
Jackie Gleason had a show many years ago that I watched as a child. He used to say how beautiful Miami Beach was as he began each show with the words “How sweet it is!”
I have a very good friend that I have known since I was a toddler. We live in different states and have not seen one another for years. But we keep in touch through Facebook postings. She is also an avid reader of my blog. Recently, she was rummaging through her basement and discovered several letters that I wrote to her from my freshman and sophomore years in college. When asked if I wanted her to mail them to me, I eagerly agreed and waited for the mail to arrive.
I quickly opened the package containing letters and photographs from my past. This was a glimpse into my former self, so kindly saved for me by my friend Nancy from 1978 and ’79. At that time I was attending Douglass College, Rutgers University in New Jersey. I had been a sheltered, naive girl and was absolutely unprepared for college social life.
I wrote about college life and basically what life was like for a college coed in the seventies. There was plenty of discussion of drinking, boys, parties and my busy schedule.
Several of the letters were typed. I had been so excited that my parents had bought me an electric typewriter for my birthday. This was decades before IPads and Smart phones.
In some of the letters I sound boy crazy. In others I discuss my plan to spend the summer down the Jersey shore. I was excited that my friends and I were lucky enough to get jobs as a chamber maids. That job did not last long. I soon found much more enjoyable jobs operating the kiddie boat ride at Mariner’s Landing Amusement Park and selling almond butter crunch at Mallin’s Candy Store.
I wrote of my plan to save money to go skydiving. Little did I know my skydiving would wait about thirty years and I would be joined by my youngest son, Tim.
In the final letter I read, I mention spending time with a guy named Greg. We talked all night about our desire to go skydiving. His friend Tim told me “Greg likes you.” I hoped he did. That guy Greg and I celebrated thirty five years of marriage last week. I guess he really did like me.
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I am married to an engineer. He fits the stereotype of an engineer. The spreadsheets, the planning, the precise measurements, typical analytical mind, that’s him. I on the other hand rely on instinct rather than logic or knowledge. Being impulsive and flexible was an asset when teaching preschoolers.
Recently we decided (after much persuading by me) to put up a reclaimed barnwood wall. I’ve seen them everywhere on television and in decorating magazines and thought it would look perfect in my dining room. Greg, my husband needed to be convinced, but eventually I wore him down with the promise that I would help him with the entire job. How hard could it be? It’s just some rustic wood nailed up on the wall, right? Not exactly. This is where that engineer brain conflicted with my spontaneous style.
First stop was to pick up the barnwood. We ended up picking boards from two different locations to get the colors and textures I wanted. These were pretty rough boards, uneven, bowed, and various lengths and thickness. Next, we visited Home Depot for goggles, ear protection, liquid nails, nails for the nail gun and gloves.
With the supplies in hand we were ready to begin the project I thought. Not exactly. After watching a couple of YouTube videos we determined that we should paint the wall black before hanging the wood. Back to Home Depot for more paint and then we begin.
Greg wanted to make sure every board had a smooth edge, so we ran them through the the joiner, a machine that takes small around of wood off of the outer edge of a board. I wanted the design to look a certain way, so we laid all of the wood out on the garage floor in the pattern that looked best to me. Greg would have been content with all gray wood, but I was not going for that.
While Greg was using the joiner I began painting the wall black. Since nobody will see it my paint job was less than perfect, but served its purpose. Basically, it hides the knots and holes in the wood from peaking through. Once he was finished with the joining, I thought we would start slapping up the boards. No such luck. Greg meticulously measured and cut the boards for the bottom row. He wanted to have three board, two board row combination but I convinced him that random lengths looks better.
He was not happy that some of the boards were thicker than others, or that some were warped, very splintery or just plain ugly. He originally wanted to run all of the boards through his planer so they would have a uniform thickness. I helped pull a few boards through the planer, mumbling under my breath the entire time “how the hell is this rustic?” Eventually we came to a meeting of the minds and did it my way AND his way. I was fine with him joining the edges of the boards, because that made him happy. But I eventually put my foot down and said I like the imperfections with the various thickness of the boards. He relented. Together we cut boards to size. I handed him the nail gun and any other requested tool.
For every row he used liquid nails, the nail gun and the level. And chalk. Why chalk you ask? We needed chalk to mark the studs. Greg has a stud finder but since he didn’t trust it completely, he had to nail into each presumed stud to ensure the stud finder was correct.
I thought this job would take two days max. It was closer to a week to completion. I love how talented my husband is with his woodworking projects. I am happy to give him my creative suggestions. But he can have the garage with the loud tools, splinters and sawdust everywhere. I’m happy with my painting and giving him project design suggestions.
About a year ago I retired from nearly twenty five years of teaching. I loved the job and the kids but I believe every good teacher knows when it’s time to leave. I was lucky enough to be able to retire financially, but mentally I was still a teacher, longing for my kids and the joy that I felt from teaching.
I am spontaneous and a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person, but that was not working for me as a retired woman. My husband had an eighteen month head start on his retirement. He had a routine, a schedule, a cool hobby and his day planned out. At first I felt like I was floundering. Lack of planning was not really working for me. Where did my day go? At the end of each day I felt like I accomplished nothing, nada.
I needed to expand my world. I started by substitute teaching for some other teachers. I enjoyed it, but I always needed to remember that I was the visitor. This was NOT my classroom. I enjoyed spending time with the kids but it was not enough.
Slowly, things have changed. My days no longer feel wasted and unproductive. I have come to a place of contentment and satisfaction. Retirement, to me feels like a great pair of jeans you have picked out long ago, saved for and finally just went out and bought. Initially, they were uncomfortable and foreign, maybe a bit too tight and restrictive, they did not feel “comfortable.” After “wearing” my retirement for a while (nearly a year) I now feel more at home with it. It’s a much better fit than it was initially, and I like the way I feel at the end of my day. I have settled into my retirement.
When I first retired we traveled so much I really didn’t get a chance to manage my time at home. I value every day and I realize that we may never know when it is our last day on this earth, so I need to make all my days count.
Slowly, I began to build my week. At the recommendation of a friend, I started with an outdoor fitness class three times a week. I had always enjoyed working out and had recently left my long time workout group. I don’t like change, who does? But I was exhilarated with the new group. I was modifying my workouts and felt great afterwards. Unfortunately I hit a detour. My doctor said no more working out while my foot fracture was still healing. I was wearing the ortho boot but apparently my foot was not ready for the extra stress.
I was instantly deflated. I NEEDED to workout. Swimming came immediately to mind and I signed up for water aerobics at a local community center. I arrived early to the large facility, complete with a gym, rock climbing wall and multiple swimming pools. Very quickly I was greeted by “the ladies”. These nine ladies have been part of the morning water aerobics class for years. They ranged in age from sixties to eighties. I was the young one in the group. I was also the third Nancie, so they referred to me as “Nancie number 3.” I removed my boot and stepped intrepidly into the warm water. After sixty minutes I was beat! This was going to be fun!
In addition, I started a watercolor class. For several hours each week I would learn some new techniques and meet new people. Most of the people in my class were obviously very talented. I don’t consider myself talented necessary, but I am motivated and driven. I set up my casita with painting supplies and most days I will spend several hours painting and enjoying the solitude. I have not yet completed a painting that I’m going to frame, but I’m getting closer.
I make time to see my family and friends. My schedule is flexible so I love it when I can enjoy a leisurely lunch or activity with a good friend. My photography interest have expanded and I do try to find opportunities to take interesting photographs. I now control the hours in my days, and that is a very good feeling. I am now back at my outdoor fitness class and water aerobics, it feels great. I have also located a charity that I may volunteer at, my dance card is filling up.
We continue to plan more travel and I have been researching some of the places that we plan on visiting this year. They include: Chicago, Annapolis, Miami, Key West, the Caribbean, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Madeira , and San Juan, Puerto Rico. That will keep us kind of busy, and I really do enjoy having the freedom to be as busy as I want.
This blog began about a year ago. I love reading other blogs and hearing from people that take the time to read my blog. Thank you for reading my thoughts. I would love to hear from some readers about their retirement journeys.
Some days you just want to get out and get moving. Recently I had one of those days. I said to my husband, “Let’s take a road trip on the Apache Trail.”
He was silent for a few minutes, because he is a planner and a thinker but he asked me how quickly I could get ready and thirty minutes later we were on the road. My husband is the driver for two reasons:
He is the constant line leader.
I am a lousy driver.
Even though we’ve lived in Arizona for over thirty years we have never visited the Apache Trail. The scenic road is named after the Apache Indian tribe that originally used the trail. We begin our road trip catching AZ 88 in Apache Junction through Tonto National Forrest.
President Theodore Rosevelt compared the beauty of the Apache Trail to the Alps, The Grand Canyon and The Rockies. “To me it is the most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful.” He was right.
Slowly we drove along the steep, narrow and winding road, with saguaro covered hills that runs for roughly forty miles. Along the way we passed several single lane bridges. There is an aspect of trust you need to have to get on one of these bridges. You have to trust that the guy on the other side will wait for you to cross. Luckily for us the route was not busy
. This is not a drive for the timid motorist. Often the road was very narrow with hairpin curves and dropped steeply down to canyons. I’m not going to lie, when I get scared, imagining a fall down the rocky crevasses I simply close my eyes and think about being somewhere else. Yet another reason why I am not the driver.
An hour into our journey we happened upon Canyon Lake, a man made reservoir with stunning views of cliffs and bright green and yellow colored desert plants. So many boaters and campers were out enjoying the idyllic weather.
We drove for about five hours past the Superstition Mountains, Lost Dutchman State Park, Goldfield Ghost Town, Canyon Lake and the tiny tourist town of Tortilla Flat, but did not complete the trail. Towards the end of the drive the road turns to gravel. We stopped often along the way to take pictures and appreciate the beauty around us. In our hectic and busy lives we often ignore what is in our own backyard. I know we will return again to enjoy the splendor of the desert.