Goodwill, Here I Come

It seemed like a great plan: I’d take my no-longer-needed work clothes to a consignment shop and make a little money. Consignment store clothes are already inexpensive, and consignees only get a cut of the price—say 40 percent. So maybe I’d make $20. Then I’d use the cash for something fun—a little treat.

Choosing what to discard (a la Marie Kondo) was hard. I liked the clothes, felt good in them, and had enjoyed wearing them. But it didn’t make sense to keep them, since I no longer needed business attire. Maybe somebody else could use them. Last winter, I came up with a pile of about 15 pieces—jackets, tops, and pants. I washed them, hung them on hangers, and tried to keep the cat and his walking cloud of cat hair away from them.

Feeling virtuous and lighter, I called around and learned that the stores don’t want winter clothes in the winter. August is when I should bring in my fall and winter items. So I moved the clothes to the back of the closet and made a note on my calendar.

Last week, I loaded up the items and drove them to a nearby consignment shop. The sales associate said it would take an hour or so to go through my stuff. I assumed that meant deciding how to price everything. I took off to run some errands.

When I returned, I warned myself that the prices for my things might be lower than I expected. My cut might be small. Oh well, it was just meant to be fun money. No big deal.

When I found the sales associate, she said, “We are only able to accept a few of your clothes. Everything else is more than three years old.” In other words, my stuff was too out-of-style. I have never considered myself to be a fashion maven, but I thought my clothes were within acceptable limits for middle-aged business style. It’s not like I brought in a bunch of 1980’s power suits with jumbo shoulder pads.Power Suit pattern

“Do you want to take them back with you? If not, we can donate them,” the sales associate suggested. After making the decision to part with the clothes, I wasn’t bringing them home again. “No, go ahead and donate them,” I told her. I glanced at the three things she was keeping for sale and thought, “I’ll be lucky if I get $5 out of this. That’s a lot of work for a cappuccino!”

I laughed as I left the store and mentally paraphrased David Foster Wallace, “That’s another supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again.”

Next time I clean out my closet, I’ll go directly to Goodwill!

Packing Your Teenager

Juan took this rainbow photo in Alaska

Photo by Juan Jose’

I thought I had Juan packed for life.

In his backpack were all the essentials for his Boy Scout trip to Alaska. He would be Denali hiking and animal watching, Kesugi Ridge backpacking, whitewater rafting, glacier exploring, salmon fishing, sea kayaking and camping by the Columbia glacier.

Inside his internal frame pack, Juan had base and middle layers for upper and lower. He had all the must haves: whistle, bowl, spork, insect repellant and water bottle. I even made sure that he had the optional items: foot powder, matches/lighter, compass, and pocket knife.

Of course, Juan helped pack. He picked out his stocking cap and gloves, sleeping bag, tent, and sleeping pad and all of the items that went into his backpack.  I was along as his advisor.

Photo by Juan

Photo by Juan Jose’

Juan would be gone for 12 days. His emancipation from his parents, I thought. And, to that end, Jody and I didn’t initiate contact while he was gone. Of course, this was also made easy because he was out of cell range.

There were times while he was gone that I felt smug. I had followed the packing list to a tee even though I’m not one to follow rules. I had helped him bag his items into gallon Ziploc bags so he would be organized and his clothes dry.

This packing had gone so well that I was starting to feel that this is all one had to do for their teenager.

Follow a list, not do the work for him but with him, and then drive him to the airport.

Photo by Juan Jose'

Photo by Juan Jose’

Now it was up to him to dress to stay warm … or not. To stay dry … or not. To brush his teeth … or not. He had all the essentials. He would make the decisions.

I figured when he came home we could follow this pattern in his teen years. Give him the information he needed—like a packing list for life—and then let him decide what to do.

That was until Jody told me that being cold in Alaska … or not and being dry … or not, didn’t equate to other decisions that he’d have to make as a teenager. That those decisions could have a life-long effect.

Juan Jose' Antonio Sol di Grazia

photo by Juan Jose’

I thought about my teenage years and realized she was right. I was pregnant at age 14 and 15. Juan could have a room full of packing lists, all the guidance in the world from friends, teachers and parents, and still make decisions that could alter the course of his life.

Even so, all there was to do when I saw him at the airport was hug him tight and welcome him home.

We’d be walking these years together.

 

Celebrating Retirement

Last week I celebrated one year of retirement. “Celebrated” is a key word. While I was happy to retire last August, I felt a little undercurrent of worry—I didn’t exactly have a plan. For many people, not having a plan sounds like what retirement is all about. But to me, making such a major and irreversible move called for a blueprint. As in what I am I going to do for the rest of my life? Which suddenly seemed more finite.

Retirement is an Identity Change

Retirement is a major identity shift akin to starting a career, marrying a spouse, or becoming a parent. You see yourself differently. A wise friend advised that it might take up to a year to figure out retirement, and it has.

Who Am I Without My Profession?

Americans often identify with our professions. I have worked since I was 16, and I babysat before that, so paid work has been part of my life since I was 11. I went to some effort (getting a graduate degree, moving across the country three times) to launch my career—first as a teacher and then as a copywriter. In 1979, when I started teaching college full-time, the working world wasn’t welcoming to women, and I had to fight to belong. By the time I started copywriting five years later, I had toughened up and the workplace was less openly antagonistic. My early experiences shaped me, and having a career became an integral part of who I am.

My other roles—wife, mother, sister, and friend—have remained constant in retirement. But last August I wondered, “What does it mean to let go of the career I worked so hard to have? What happens to all the experience and skills I’ve gained?” Today, the answer is that I’m still a writer—an essayist and blogger, and I volunteer as a marketing communications copywriter.

Me in retirement--just kidding--it's Rose Totino

Me in retirement–just kidding!

That’s how I see myself, but early on when I mentioned my new status, I learned that the word “retiree” conjures up someone who’s out-of-touch and lives for coupons. Now when I meet people, I simply describe the work I do.Ellen in Hawaii

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People Openly Wonder, “What do you do all day?”

It’s a legitimate question. A year ago, I too wondered how to create a life that is fulfilling and fun. What exactly was I going to do with my time? The answer is more of everything I did before. I sleep half-an-hour longer. Most days, I walk for an hour because now exercising doesn’t have to be a trade-off (i.e., either I exercise or I have fun).

Housework, cooking, and grocery shopping still exist in retirement. I’m determined not to become obsessive about any of that, but now I might take an extra five minutes to dry the pots and pans after I wash them instead of letting them air dry as I did before. Why not? I have time.

Camping in WI

Camping in WI

Today, I read, write, travel, socialize, and volunteer more. Probably the main difference is that now I have more time to explore or learn new things in classes at the University of Minnesota, the Loft, or community education.

I wasn’t planning to retire last August at 61; I expected to work two-and-a-half more years. However, when a stroke of luck gave me the opportunity to leave early, I did. I am very grateful to be retired now. Eventually old age will find me. But for now I’m enjoying the gift of retirement. I want to use my time well.

You Are Invited! Finding Your Bones: Speaking the Truth with Prose, Poetry, and Spoken Word

405September 30th, 7pm at Loft Literary Center, 1011 S Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN

Celebrate the publication of House of Fire: A Story of Love, Courage, and Transformation, a touching and provocative memoir from author, educator, and incest survivor Elizabeth di Grazia. Elizabeth will be joined by award-winning writers Christine Stark, R. Vincent Muniz Jr., and Keno Evol for a powerful evening of stories of survival, transformational poetry, and bare bones honesty. A wine and appetizer book signing reception will follow the readings.

Participant Bios

Elizabeth di Grazia is the author of House of Fire: A Story of Love, Courage, and Transformation, a memoir about her triumph over neglect, incest, and childhood trauma. Recipient of a Jerome Travel and Study Grant and participant in the Minnesota Loft Mentor Series, she is a founder of WordSisters, a shared blog (wordsisters.wordpress.com). Her work has been anthologized in Illness and Grace/Terror and Transformation and Families: Front Line of Pluralism. She has published prose in Adoptive Families Magazine, Minnesota Parent, Adagio Verse Quarterly, Edge Life, and elsewhere.

Christine Stark

Writer, visual artist, and organizer, Christine Stark’s first novel, Nickels: A Tale of Dissociation, was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her writing has appeared in periodicals and books, including Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prize-Winning Essays; When We Become Weavers: Queer Female Poets on the Midwestern Experience; The Florida Review, and many others. A Loft Mentor Series winner, Chris is currently completing her second novel and conducting research for a non-fiction book.

Keno Evol

Keno Evol is a blogger for Revolution News, an international group of independent journalists, photographers, artists, translators, and activists reporting on international news with a focus on human rights. Poet, essayist, spoken word performer, and educator, Keno is the board chair of the Youth Advisory Board for TruArtSpeaks ,a nonprofit dedicated to cultivating literacy, leadership and social justice through Hip Hop. His work has been published in Poetry Behind the Walls, Gazillion Voices Magazine, Black Girl In Om, and elsewhere.

Vincent Moniz Jr

An active force in the Twin Cities artistic community, R. Vincent Moniz Jr. has received numerous literary awards and fellowships for his writing and live performances. Reigning champion for the Two River Memorial Indigenous Spoken Word SLAM World competition, he has performed spoken word at Equilibrium: Spoken Word at the Loft, Intermedia Arts, Pangea World Theater, and elsewhere. An enrolled citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes located within North Dakota on Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation, he was raised in the Phillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis.

I HOPE YOU CAN JOIN US!

Other events coming up are Barnes and Noble, Maple Grove book signing on August 13th, 1-3pm, and with Su Smallen at Hamline University, Kay Fredericks Ballroom, October 21, 7pm.

Lost in Wonderland (or Wasting Time on Pinterest)

I was not an early convert to Pinterest. Even when a friend helped me set it up, I dragged my feet. Messing around with it might be fun, but there were so many other things I needed to do. However, when we moved to a new house, I began to see why people like the app.

At first it was strictly business—a shopping tool and resource for household tips. Our new house needed shower curtains, porch furniture, light fixtures, and a stool for the kitchen counter. The app became a good place to save photos and links for furnishings that I wanted to show to my husband.

Next, I searched for advice on nontoxic ways to clean the shower. I was immediately bombarded with pins for shower cleaning tips along with photos of gross toilets that needed an intervention. I wanted to say, “Wait, no need! I’ve already know what to do about the shower, and God help me if my toilet ever looks like that!” But like most online apps, it’s programmed to show you more of whatever you searched for in the past.

The real magic happened when I followed a few friends. They like such cool stuff—who knew it even existed? ceramic sculptureI’d never have found such amazing ceramic sculptures or incredible fiber art if I hadn’t started following a sculptor friend and seeing her pins. That led to people across the world pinning my pins. Amazing.fiberart

My friends’ pins also led me to explore in a more playful way—not searching, just wandering in playland. That’s how I learned more about jadeite glass and how to grow fragrant lemon seedlings from lemon seeds . . . in case I ever want to.

Now Pinterest is my first stop for recipes, crafts, and garden ideas. I’m not a clever person who thinks up how to make Santa hat appetizers from strawberries and banana slices, but now I can impress my friends with that trick if I ever need to.

Messing around in the quilting and sewing pins gave me a zillion ideas for projects. And I never would have seen antique sewing scissors and sewing kits without Pinterest. antique sewing kit

This year, when I started planning my flowerpots for the patio, I turned to Pinterest for inspiration.flowerpot

What I’ve discovered is that at worst, Pinterest is harmless, but addicting, fun. I can collect eye candy and daydream (without obligation) about cool projects I might do. At best, it’s a good resource for inspiration.