Category Archives: Reinvention

How to Overcome Your Work Ethic in Retirement

My husband suggested this blog topic, which made me smile. We both struggle with this affliction, though I suspect I have a worse case.

I’ve always been an efficient multi-tasker—well, a multi-tasker, anyway. Like a juggler on a unicycle, for years I’ve kept multiple balls in the air as I lurched from crisis to near-disaster and back again. It helps to think of it that way, to visualize my former self peddling frantically while wearing a sparkly tutu and giant clown shoes, an exaggerated look of panic on my painted face. Makes it easier to set down the balls and step out of the center ring in search of a new role.

But now that I’m retired-ish, who’s checking to make sure I’m achieving adequate yearly progress? (Sorry—having worked in the public school system, certain odious phrases just come naturally to me. Add that to my to-do list: banish the buzzwords.) Bereft of job assignments from without, I’ve become my own worst boss.

Even though it’s going on three years since I left full-time paid employment, I have a full-time to-do list. I want to exercise for an hour each day, keep the house and garden clean, practice Spanish daily, write at least a thousand words of fiction each day, plus a weekly blog post, read and comment on the work of my critique partners, read fiction for fun, stay informed about current events (talk about your juggling clowns), travel, sew, cook healthy and creative meals, make new friends, keep the old, visit family, explore new places…

Holy cow, this is worse that before! And then, god help me, I took on a part-time job. Two, actually.

Enough! I retired with two goals in mind:   #1: write, and #2: enjoy myself.

So what if I waste an hour or two reading interesting stuff online? All my life, I’ve relaxed by reading magazines—and what is the internet but one big magazine?

So what if I don’t hold myself to a strict workout schedule? I move around pretty well most days and get to the gym often enough to justify the cost of membership.

So what if I still haven’t yet published a book? A quick glance at Amazon reminds me I could self-publish anytime. I prefer to plug away at my manuscripts in hopes of eventually achieving traditionally published status. If I don’t, readers await elsewhere.

Henceforth—a momentous-sounding word, right?—henceforth I shall remind myself that my number one obligation in retirement is to enjoy myself. I’ve earned a break for all this frenetic busy-bee-ness.

Besides, those clown shoes gave me blisters, the greasepaint gave me pimples, and that unicycle seat chafed. Time to relax.

An Experiment in Semi-Retirement

retired-teacher

During my last walk through the halls of Bitburg American High School, I tried to predict what I’d miss the most about my job. I suspected it would be the feeling of belonging, of making an important contribution. Or would it be the abundant social contact? That seemed less likely; on the introversion scale, where one is a bubbly cheerleader and ten is a cave-dwelling curmudgeon, I’m about a seven. I enjoy spending time with children and teens, but being with them all day was exhausting. I truly miss laughing over lunch every day with my fellow teachers, and commiserating out in the hallway between classes. But what I miss the very most is…

My paycheck.

OK, go ahead and throw spit wads. We teachers are supposed to subsist on sunshine and kid’s smiles, unconcerned with pedestrian matters like financial compensation. But there you have it—the freedom of retirement comes at the price of having to pay more attention to my pennies.

And so I’ve been exploring options for making a little money on the side—that is, until my books hit the New York Times Bestseller List and I start raking in tall piles of money. (I’ll pause now, until all my writer friends stop laughing…Still waiting…Come on, guys…)

Last year’s foray into substitute teaching was lucrative, but not something I care to repeat. We all have our childhood memories of those poor subs, pelted with spitballs, epithets and disrespect. Actually, the worst thing about subbing was the boredom. There’s seldom any teaching going on, and that’s quite understandable.

If you’re, say, a chemistry teacher, do you really want some stranger with a degree in English mucking about with your expensive supplies? If you’re a P.E. teacher, do you want some former music teacher to be the only thing between forty rambunctious tweens and total mayhem? No way—you prepare a stack of handouts or an education film for those inevitable days when you’re felled by the flu.

Instead of hiring certified teachers as subs, the public schools should recruit moms and dads who’ve raised big broods. They have the skills most needed by subs: eyes on the back of their heads, and that stern mom/dad glare that forces kids to drop the spit wads, stop poking their classmates, and hush.

This year, I’ve stumbled into three different mini-jobs: I’m teaching French to little kids and adults, helping teens to prepare for the SAT/ACT, and editing a writing buddy’s manuscript. This is more or less the kind of patchwork arrangement I imagined when considering retirement: I bring in a few bucks from here, a few from there, trying out jobs that offer less remuneration but more fun. Although I could happily spend most of each day writing, it’s good for me to get out of the house and interact with non-imaginary people every day.

And so I’m working on finding my new rhythm, balancing the demands of these different mini-jobs with my not-yet-paying writing, as well as trips to the gym and time spent with my oh-so-patient spouse. And I’m back to writing lesson plans again. It’s funny, my writing is more consistent now that I must squeeze it in between work sessions. Who’da thunk it? I guess some of us just need more structure to our days.

Feast or Famine

lonely beach

View from near the Cliff House, San Francisco

It’s the beginning of summer break, and the teacher mindset is still firmly rooted in my brain. I can’t help but feel a bit giddy when I see the kids celebrating the end of another school year. On the other hand, there’s a bit of a hollow thunk—echoes of summer loneliness from years past. I taught on U.S. military bases in Europe, and during the school year I had lots of fun companionship: my work friends were my after-work friends. But when the school year ended, my teacher friends scattered, many returning to the U.S. for the summer, leaving me with lots of free time but few companions to share it with.

One of the challenges of starting a new phase of life in a new place is finding interesting people to hang out with. We’re retired, but most of our friends and family are not, and that can make for more alone time that we’d like. Even an introvert like me craves company other than dear hubby from time to time. I continue to explore Meet Up groups in order to meet interesting people, especially newcomers to Tacoma who don’t yet have full dance cards. I’m meeting some very interesting women via a walking group, and plan to jump back into dance classes soon. Still, I must put forth an effort to find companions, and my friend-making skills, never very strong to begin with, have atrophied from so many years of living in a close-knit community. So far, it’s a hit-or-miss process: times when there’s lots of social fun to be had, followed by stretches where the few people I know well are all booked up. This is one of those famine times.

A few weeks ago I was feasting, surrounded by friends and family to celebrate a very happy occasion, my step-son’s graduation from medical school. The G clan gathered in Phoenix: three generations of extended family and friends, plus three generations of his marvelous girlfriend’s family. We rented a huge house where we cooked too much, laughed loudly, played guitars and splashed in the pool. It was a wonderful chance to commune with the family, and I was sorry to see it end—though not too sorry to leave behind Arizona’s extreme heat.

San Francisco

The view from Land’s End, San Francisco

Before that, I spent a week visiting my mother and daughter, who live together near San Francisco. I got to spend a day with the S clan, catching up with my brother and sister and their families. To celebrate my daughter’s twenty-third birthday, we went to see Beach Blanket Babylon, a hilarious musical send-up of current events, featuring outrageous costumes and huge hats. If you find yourself in SF, you must go see this show. We also walked lots: along Land’s End, and through Golden Gate Park, one of my favorite places.

The pagoda at Stowe Lake

The pagoda at Stowe Lake                           

The Rose Garden in Golden Gate Park

The Rose Garden in Golden Gate Park

The rose garden was in full glory, and Stowe Lake drew lots of happy people paddling and strolling. We also took in an exhibit of Oscar de la Renta’s dresses at the De Young Museum, including these two, worn by Sarah Jessica Parker and Taylor Swift. Lovely, eh?

dresses

Makes me want to take up sewing again.

But now we’re home again, and the pendulum has swung back to the solitary side. I must get back to work building new connections. Eventually, I’ll find the right balance between alone and together. May your summer be filled with as much company as you want—and as much solitude.

Ready for Launch

graduation hats

Eleven more days until graduation! A student has scrawled this joyful message across the classroom whiteboard in two-foot-high letters. I’ve spent the past few days substitute teaching for high school seniors, and graduation is the number one topic. Next week our clan gathers to celebrate my step-son’s graduation from medical school. All this excitement and preparation brings the memories tumbling back—memories of the many (26!) high school graduations I attended during my teaching career, including my daughter’s, and of my own graduations.

The kids I’m working with this week have to fill out a lengthy statement of their post-graduation plans before they’re allowed to “walk” (across the stage to receive their diplomas). I was touched and tickled as I watched the students scramble to complete this requirement. These are AP classes, so most of the students are college-bound. One young man, however, kept exclaiming, “I have no fricken idea what I’m doing next year.”

I feel for this kid. So many students reach this age with no plan for their future—beyond celebrating their freedom from high school. Once that victorious moment arrives, though, they cling to the edge of the precipice, afraid to leave that familiar ground and jump into the unknown. I remember how, after graduation, the ex-seniors of Bitburg High School would return to the school to hang out, only to be chased away by the office staff. “You’re done! Go!” Go where?

Me, I was ready to leap into my next adventure—four years in the army. I was more than ready to be all I could be, to get out of town, and to escape the shame of not going to a four-year college, like all my friends were doing. And yet, I remember that moment right after graduation when we all filed back into the small gym to turn in our graduation gowns. It was like one of those movie scenes; I stood google-eyed in the middle of a spinning blur of happy, crying, hugging, shouting people. And I said to myself, “What now?” It seemed surreal—how could high school possibly be done, just like that? In comparison, my two college graduations were a piece of cake. But then, I had a plan; there was no cliff-jumping when I left college—at least not without a parachute.

For my step-son this graduation is a victory, but I get the feeling he cares much less about the actual ceremony than his family does. His mind is on the next step, residency. But the clan will be there in force to cheer him on. It will be a fine party, worthy of the joyous occasion.

My daughter didn’t have that wall of family to cheer at her high school graduation, and that’s one of my greatest regrets. Her dad and I were in the middle of a very acrimonious break-up, and we sat on opposite sides of the auditorium. We were in Germany, and I couldn’t offer to house visiting family in the war zone that our home had become. And so I sobbed through her graduation ceremony alone, surrounded by big, boisterous clans. I was so proud of my daughter, who celebrated with her friends, despite the chaos at home. She had a plan—a plan that changed, as it turned out, but she’s still making me proud. She leapt into the unknown.

To the class of 2016, I wish you courage, joy, and happy landings.

J is for Junior Senior

J

Warning

WHEN I AM AN OLD WOMAN I SHALL WEAR PURPLE
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week

And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

by Jenny Joseph

I admit it: I signed up for AARP as soon as I turned fifty. While some of my peers do everything possible to deny/hold back their entry into the “golden years,” I dove in enthusiastically. Heck, I made a splashy cannonball. Kasploosh!

No one can hold back time’s progress, so we might as well embrace the life phase we’re in. Fifty-somethings aren’t quite senior citizens, but many of us become grandparents during this decade. I figure I’m a senior citizen in training. If fate doesn’t swoop down on me with a nasty illness or accident, I can probably count on another twenty-five or so years of active life, maybe more. I’m feeling optimistic about this post career/second career phase, and looking forward to becoming a fascinating, feisty old lady. Might as well start training now.

I’m actually getting a kick out of hanging out with older people and trying some typical “old folks’” activities. It turns out I enjoy golf, though I have a long way to go before I become proficient. Those white-haired ladies with a killer golf game are pretty impressive, you must admit. And I love my mid-day Zumba class, which is mostly full of older ladies—say, sixty and up. Molly, our sixty-something instructor, is a paragon of fitness and good cheer. I want to be like her when I reach that age.

Have you heard of Ashton Applewhite? She’s the author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism and host of the funny, thought-provoking blog Yo, is this ageist? How about Dr. Bill Thomas and his The Age of Disruption Tour? Here’s a link: https://drbillthomas.org/?mc_cid=8f0cc3f0cc&mc_eid=d2e30cd7d3

These two consciousness-raisers are making great strides in changing the way we think about ageing, and are excellent role models for junior seniors like me. I have no intention of dying my hair gray—what is up with that weird trend?—but perhaps I’ll start looking for the perfect red hat, just so I’ll be ready.

 

H is for House Surgery

H

Disclaimer: Today I’m writing about what’s come to be called a “first-world problem.” I’m well aware that, in global terms, I’m very wealthy. I’m grateful to have a house to live in, plenty of food to eat, plenty of clothing to keep me warm, and access to clean water and medical care. I well know it’s pure luck that I was born into a middle-class family in the U.S., rather than a poverty-stricken family in a less-developed country. That said, today I’m writing about house renovation.

Our house was built in 1956, and the kitchen has not been remodeled since. No garbage disposal, no dishwasher, and a very basic electric stove. It was bright and sunny, but since we plan to stay in this house until we’re wheeled out, Hubs and I wanted a nicer kitchen. (I wish I could show you a “before” photo, but they didn’t turn out.)

After lots of research and three bids, we chose Fine Design Interior Remodeling out of Graham, WA, to do a total renovation of our kitchen. Their plumber, Randy, is also re-piping the whole house.

You know that scene from E.T. when the haz-mat team covers the protagonist’s home in plastic and wheels poor E.T. out on a stretcher? That’s what our downstairs looks like, in preparation for cutting away chunks of the ceiling and walls to reveal the old pipes. Most of the kitchen floor is now gone, so that the plumber can access the water and gas pipes there. All weekend, we’ll be walking on a precariously-balanced jigsaw puzzle. The water is currently turned off while the plumber does his thing. Ugh.

Day one of renovation. Notice the lovely linoleum.

Day one of renovation. Notice the lovely linoleum.

And here's day two. Notice the 1950s linoleum? Kind of cute.

And here’s day two. Notice the 1950s linoleum? Kind of cute.

And here's what it looks like today, day five.

And here’s what it looks like today, day five.

For the time being, our “kitchen” in the living room consists of an electric skillet, a slow cooker, and a tiny microwave. Of course, we also have a coffee maker and a toaster, and a grill in the back yard. I’ve cooked dinner at home three out of the first five days of this adventure. In fact, being a good home cook is so much a part of my identity that I’m already experiencing withdrawal jitters. And even though we’ve budgeted extra money for dining out during this period, my inner tightwad winces at the high cost of non-fast restaurant food.

But I feel so discombobulated! I can’t tell you how many times this week I’ve headed for the kitchen to fetch this or that, only to bump into reality—ain’t no more kitchen in there. The guys working here could not be nicer or more accommodating, under the circumstances. Still, it’s not pleasant feeling like an intruder in my own home as I tiptoe through the construction site toward the fridge. And even though I’m not doing any of the work here, I feel really pooped at the end of each day. That must be stress-related.

Good news: The water is back on! Randy the plumber showed us the old metal pipe from beneath the kitchen sink, which was as thickly-crusted with gunk as a heart-attack victim’s arteries. Any day now it would have sprung a leak and flooded us out. Whew!

Stay tuned for further remodeling adventures.

F is for Friends

F

I don’t regret leaving my childhood home at almost eighteen, but that decision changed the rhythm of my life in ways that still echo today. Had I stayed in California, I might never have visited Europe. My four years in the Army and twenty-six years teaching for the Department of Defense Schools allowed me to travel to places I could never have otherwise afforded to see.

Bernkastel-Kues at Christmastime

  Bernkastel-Kues at Christmastime

The cathedral in Koeln, Germany

The cathedral in Koeln, Germany

Chateau Azay-le-Rideau, Loire Valley, France

Chateau Azay-le-Rideau, Loire Valley, France

All that travel opened my eyes to other ways of being in the world, other ways of enjoying life, and I’m a better person for having sampled other cultures. But the ride couldn’t last forever; my husband and I retired to Tacoma, Washington in 2014. Now we’re nearer to our families, but much further from our friends.

Many of my friends are still in Germany; others are scattered across the U.S., Canada, Spain, and who knows where. And while social media provides us a way to stay in touch, it’s not the same as spending time in person. I can’t just take my laptop with me to a bar, restaurant or concert and fire up Skype. While I love hearing from far-flung friends and seeing photos of their travels and celebrations, I really miss sharing experiences with them.

And it’s harder to make new friends at this age, especially with people who’ve lived in one place for a long time—their dance cards are full. I realize that for the past thirty years I never had to work very hard at making friends. Because we U.S. ex-pats clustered together in tight-knit communities, my work friends became my after-work friends. Now I’m a tiny guppy swimming in the Puget Sound, looking for like-minded people to spend time with. It’s a slow process, dear reader. Being somewhat shy in person, it’s hard for me to ask a relative stranger on a “date,” but that’s what I’ll have to do until I find my tribe. Wish me luck.

 

B is for Belly Dance

B

She’s been a friend of mine for a long time, though we haven’t spent much time together lately. She’s exotic, quirky, a bit “out-there,” and there have been times, I’m sorry to say, when I’ve been embarrassed to be seen with my old friend. I’m ashamed of that—letting peer pressure and societal expectations make me shun such a faithful friend. True, she wears a lot of eye make-up—she has a special fondness for Egyptian kohl. True, she does wear a lot of ethnic jewelry—she’s very fond of sparkly, spangly, jingly things. True, she does wear her hair long and wild, when others her age would cut it off and don more conservative attire. Those who don’t know her might be tempted to call her a tramp, a slut, the whore of Babylon, even. But my old friend is wise and joyful, and knows how to shake her lush, womanly ass to impressive effect. She’s generous, kind to all women, non-judgmental, and loves to party. And, most importantly of all, being with her always makes me happy. Her name is Raqs Sharki. (That’s “belly dance,” in the common parlance, though she prefers “Oriental dance.” Still, she has a good sense of humor and won’t hold it against you if you get her name wrong.)

I first met this lady long ago, at 16 or so. My friend and I were at the Hungry Mouth Restaurant in San Francisco – a hippie-dippy vegetarian place on Clement Street, below Walt and Magana Baptiste’s yoga and dance studio. My friend told me that if we were lucky, we might catch a glimpse of the belly dancers. And were we ever lucky! While we tucked into our spicy peanut-noodles, down the back stairs they trooped, skirts swirling and beaded hip belts jingling. They were lovely, stunning – the most interesting “older” women my young eyes had ever beheld. They must have been rehearsing for a performance, as there were at least six of them in full costume, pausing for tea and pastries. Their ripe, full breasts jiggled and threatened to spill out of their spangled bras as the dancers leaned over the table to help themselves to treats. Their hair was long and wild, their faces slightly lined, a bit soft, and very knowing. Their flashing eyes were rimmed with kohl. Their naked bellies were soft, round, and unashamed. They laughed, and chatted in deep, throaty voices, and one of them, noticing our gaping stares, turned to wave at us over her bare shoulder.

“When I grow up, I want to be them!” I said.

Seven years later, an ad on a bulletin board at my college in Alabama led me to an odd little shop, where R. assembled balloon bouquets and sent costumed characters out to deliver them. R.’s belly dancer was going back to school, and she agreed to train me as her replacement—bless her. She furnished me with music, VHS tapes (this was a while ago, y’all), and the basic moves to put together a three-minute dance. I put my sewing skills to work, and soon I was outfitted like a thrift-store Scheherazade. What I lacked for in lush curves and sultry grace, I made up for in skinny enthusiasm. I felt so damn gorgeous in my first costume, especially once I added a thick, wavy, auburn wig.

Rhonda Belly Dancer age 25

I continued to dance after moving to Germany. In fact, the belly dance scene there was, and remains, huge. Classes for orientalische Tanz attract interesting women from all walks of life, and my classmates were always open, welcoming and great fun. Eventually, I found my way into a performance troupe in Würzburg called the Meharis. Our teacher, the lovely Sanna, told us this means “white racing camels” and is a term of high praise. Performing with the Meharis was a hoot, and the highlight of my years there was a solo performance in which I balanced a sword on my head.

Rhonda with Sword 2004

Besides a low-impact aerobic workout that’s easy on the joints (unless you try some of the more acrobatic moves, like sudden drops to the floor from a deep back-bend), belly dance has provided me with a wonderful sense of solidarity. I’ve danced beside a tattooed young musician, a nuclear physicist, a newspaper journalist, a teacher, a business owner, a stay-at-home mother, a government official, a professor of medicine…and we all encouraged and supported each other, reveling in the uplifting group energy of joyful dance. For a few hours each week, we were sisters in dance.

And today, the friend who originally introduced me to belly dancer is taking me to a big dance event in Seattle, where she’ll be vending finger cymbals. This will be just the kick I need to get my hips up out of my chair and shimmying again. See you Monday with photos from Cues and Tattoos, a belly dance trade fair/show in Seattle!

A Is for And

A

Don’t you just love a fresh start? A new year, a new home, a new job–there’s an undeniable rush of hope and possibility when starting a new chapter in life. The transition from full-time employment to retirement is more than a new chapter–it’s practically a whole new book. I never expected to make this transition so soon, but Lady Luck gifted me with a shot eat early retirement, and I dove in like an Acapulco cliff-diver–kasploosh! Now I have what I yearned for during my many years of teaching: lots of glorious time to explore all those interests I could never really fit into my busy working life. It’s a trade-off, to be sure: less money but more time. Let the fun begin!

Ahem. Shuffle. Stare at computer screen. Get distracted by flashing ad and follow it down a rabbit hole of internet fluff.

Here’s the thing about unlimited possibilities (well, limited by my wallet): how do I chose what to do with all this time? I wanted to write, of course, and work out regularly, and learn to paint with water colors, and travel to Canada and Latin America and parts of the U.S. I’ve never seen, and take gourmet cooking classes, and learn to play the guitar and golf and the piano and speak Spanish, and take singing lessons, and try pottery, and explore all the cool shops and museums and hiking trails and towns and parks and…

Really, what I want is to try as many different creative pursuits as possible. Why should I limit myself to just a few? And perhaps this indecision is actually not a bad thing. My main creative focus is writing, true, but dabbling in other creative pursuits could only be good for me, right? It’s like cross-training, cross pollination, food for thought. And one of the blessings of being this age is that I don’t care as much about what others think of my efforts. I’m very comfortable being a bumbling, bungling newbie who makes lumpy sculptures, lopsided drawings, and speaks Spanish like a tongue-tied three-year-old. Here’s to trying new things.

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up By Rhonda G., grade 47

(Given that I’ve been taking some course or other every year since I left high school, I guess I can keep counting, eh?)

So, I’ve found my calling at age 52. (I’ve always been a late bloomer—hence the name of this blog.) Part of my mission here was to figure out how to spend the next phase of my life after the blessing of early retirement. And I sort of expected an Oprah-worthy moment when I finally realized what I was put on this earth to do—you know, velvet curtains parting, a dazzling spotlight, a snazzy make-over, a sparkly dress worn over three pair of Spanx. But no, the revelation came without fanfare: I’m a writer. Duh.

I’ve been a book nut since I was a wee tot, and I thank my parents for cultivating that passion by stocking our bookshelves so well. Does anyone remember those Time-Life series, with the great photos? The Emergence of Man, Foods of the World, The Old West, The Explorers, The Oceans. And we had Nancy Drew, an illustrated children’s Bible, Doctor Seuss, Peanuts

And I’ve always been a storyteller, whiling away the hours inventing stories when I should’ve been doing chores or attending to homework, or sleeping.  How could I sleep when my heroine was in the middle of chasing down miscreants and saving Gotham city alongside Batman? OK, my early work was pretty derivative; nowadays it’d be called fan fiction. But the point was that I was always spinning stories in my head.

Now that I’m retired from teaching, my writing hobby has become my full-time occupation. Since November, my nose has been buried in my keyboard, and I’ve got the extra eight pounds to prove it. (Next post: The Writer’s Diet. Step one: get out of the chair.)

I’ve finally finished editing my first novel and have launched it into the great, wide world in search of a literary agent. I even have a pretty box ready to collect all the rejection letters. Meanwhile, novel number two quivers in its folder, ready to be shaped into a firm, tight narrative—which  takes as much time as shaping up a flabby body, and just as much sweat and tears. I’ve also attended my first writers’ conference and have even printed up my first set of business cards identifying me as a writer. Have I been paid one cent for my writing? No, but I shall be.

I love writing fiction like beavers like building dams, like army ants love devouring grasshoppers, like Vikings love pillaging villages. I love creating characters and then watching their whole world materialize around them. I love combining people I’ve met into a new character who has this one’s panache, that one’s colorful idioms, and that other one’s tendency to embellish the truth. I’ll admit it—I do love doling out comeuppance to dastardly evildoers. And how much fun is it to play matchmaker and watch a couple fall in love!

But here’s what makes me think I’ve found my true calling: I even enjoy the revising, the editing, the tightening and polishing. You’d think that after revising an entire novel five or six times, I’d get a little tense, a little downhearted when someone suggests that I take another look at this or that issue—but I don’t! It’s not a setback so much as a learning opportunity, and I’m learning so much from the feedback of my beta readers (folks on whom I inflict my novel-in-progress) and my critique groups.

It’s interesting how very much I’m learning from other writers who are much younger than me. And why not? Any avid reader who informs herself about the writer’s craft and who has a keen eye for detail, a keen ear for words, has much to teach me. This is an interesting twist, as I’m used to being in the teacher role. But hey—one of my avowed goals here is to resist ageism and provide a good example of a mature woman who’s living her life (joy)fully. So there you go—write on.