Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Try It, You'll Like It.........

Disclaimer:  Sorry folks it's past my bedtime and my hands hurt. Hopefully any typos will add a bit of humor to your evening.

Last year, I decided that I was going to grow vegetables-lots of vegetables-in pots on my patio. Mind you, I had never grown so much as a petunia, being married to the guy who used to meditate and think he was one with the lawn. I knew that things grew-that was about it. I purchased (for almost free) some books, got some plants. I dug, I planted, I watered. I fertilized, I watered again (hey, it's Texas).I made a huge mess on my patio-and ended up with lots of white flowers, but no tomatoes. The end result was that I am apparantly not a very good gardener. More importantly, I suspect, gardening gave me no joy. I know now that I can garden if I have to. Meanwhile, I'll visit the farmers market, thank you very much.  On the other hand, I'm glad I tried my hand. It was a worthwhile experience no matter the end result.

While the above paragraph is about gardening, the lessons learned work for most aspects of retirement.  New experiences are worthwile-in and of themselves. Just for the fun and adventure, even if they don't "take".

Since I entered the "retirement zone", much of my time has been spent enjoying hobbies and interests developed in earlier times.  I've spent a fair amount of time sewing and quilting, traveling, reading and doing all the things I felt I never had enough time for in pre-retirement.  I've always felt that folks who develop interests in the working life are better prepared for for retirement than those have not. It has certainly worked for me.

But I've also tried many new things.  On some level, I prefer a laid back, moderately active day to day lifestyle-with periods of travel and other "adventures" thrown in.  Even so, I have a long list of things I want to do "someday".  Only of course someday is now.  Also, as laid back as I am,  I'm a plan by the seat of my pants, always open to new ideas person.  And of course, I'm a "let's" girl.  As in, when someone comes along and says "let's learn the Horah so we can dance at Bill's wedding" my answer is likely to be "sure, why not" assuming no physical damage is involved.

What's important here are not the specifics, but rather being open to new experiences. Many things I try (such as the above gardening, and learning golf) get left behind. Ruled out as "I was glad I tried it but...." For me at least, that's okay.  I'm not the mom who told her kids that if they signed up for ballet they could never stop. I'm the one who told them to try it for a couple months and if they didn't like it then they could try something else. My philosophy of life in general. The end result is that I learned something new, developed new skills and expanded my confidence all in one. I've realized that I like going to school, but not going to school. In the future I'll take courses that interst me-and if I ever get to that degree, THEN I'll take those required courses. Meanwhile, I'll learn what I want when I want.

Trying new things is always a risk on some level. In addition to those things I tried and dropped (whether I was good or not), there are things I've tried, enjoyed and kept in my life-even though my skill ability will probably always be what we in the quilting field call a confident beginner. In other words, I don't care if I'll ever be good or great. I just like playing. Swimming (with my damanged knee I'll probably never get beyond dog paddling), Yoga (I'm terrible but I love it and it increses my flexiblity), drawing and cooking (I was married to a chef for twenty some years) are all things I like doing-even if I end up always being a rank amateur. For me, the process counts as much as the end result.

On the other hand, there are some thing's I've tried that have either become passions, or really increased my skill and confidence.  I'll say here that my husband and I were both independent types and as such we took separate and family vacations at one time or another (he had no interest in a quilting conference, and I no desire to ski Mont Blanc). However, I am a road tripper at heart. Taking the risk for my first two week trip alone was well worth it-I discoverd not only that I am confident traveling alone, but I actually enjoy these trips. I've learned that I love painting and making jewelry. The list could go on.

In fairness to other frugalite types out there I need to add that trying to things can be cost effective. You dont need a mint to expand your horizons. Be it traving on the road or learning to garden, you can do it on the cheap. Often when I see articles about frugal retirement, they talk about downsizing. Some folks seem to assume that means becoming insulated and leaving all the joy behind. There are many, many cost effective ways to try new things. My community college has a senior program-it costs $85 a year and one can take as many courses as they like. When I learned to sew, I did it with a needle and thread and then a basic sewing machine. Even when it comes to golf, my class was through the recreation center-and my clubs loaned. Yes, there are some hobbies that require a large investment if you continue onward (golf, boating, flying and perhaps sky diving being the most obvious). Most passtimes can be enjoyed and learned for minimal amounts of money-all thats needed is your time, interest and a way to learn (be it in person, from a book or on the web). Again, frugality is not about deprivation, unless you make it so.

Finally, my story on open minds and trying new things for this evening. Although the whole vacation is a story in it's own right, I've been known to talk about taking my son to Normandy, France for a week (the same son that watched The Longest Day. In black in white, at six years old, twice in a row. Willingly and happily).  At the end of our week, on the last day, I decided we deserved on evening at a really good restaurant. When my appetizer came, my twelve year old looked at me and said "What is that??". I thought a minute and I said, "Well, I could lie to you, but I won't. These my dear, are snails". At which time he wrinkled his nose and said something that cannot be repeated.  I added "Well, Im not going to force you, but you love butter, you love garlic and you love french bread. You really should try one". 

 The moral of this story?  Never teach your child to eat escargot. Or steak tartare. Or lobster. Because then he grows up to expect escargot shells and tinned snails in his Christmas stocking. Sometimes new experiences are overrated.


  1. Barb,
    I agree with you completely that it is all about the process - or for us, the journey. We too had a lot of interests pre-retirement that sustained us early on and we have cultivated some new ones of late. Not all will "stick," but we will be entertained for a while.

    We are just happy to be in a good place right now and healthy enough to enjoy the path we are on.

  2. I can't remember which financial book I might have read it in, but a statement I've tried to live by is "Be very careful what you get used too."

    And I completely agree that sometimes simply sampling something is good enough. What comes to mind is our recent experience with paddleboarding. It was loads of fun, and we'll definitely do it again, but likely just once or twice a year. Our initial thought, I'll admit, was to buy a pair, but we quickly gave that up when we saw how much they cost! Plus, we did the math and realized it would cost us between $15 - $20 each time, just to get to where we could park and use them.

  3. I love your posts! I like to try a lot of different things, and yes,sometimes I abandon them, but LIFE IS LARGE , I have so many things to try.. to play with..some of them I keep.I got into PAPER CRAFTS big time and it has been a huge hobby for 10 years now--and paper is everywhere.. not an expensive hobby (it CAN BE, but it's fun to find treasures in the trash, on the ground, or..everywhere..)

    Any suggestions for how to help my husband relax about retiring..I am afraid he will never feel he has "enough" to retire. He has his own business..I think it is time to sell! I did finally retire, I could not continue to work in the world of health care any longer. I'm 59. No amt. of "extra" money is worth it! SPENDING less is fun,I have always been good at budgets and enjoying life on a dime..

    Anyway--I love your sharing.Want to hear detailed road trip reports.. if my husband does not retire soon I may be doing one all by myself!!!!

  4. LOL I didn't have good luck with growing veggies either but darn it all I still try nearly every year and and thinking about planting some for the fall! :-) I also love to try new things but find with working this crazy shift I dont have the time for all I want to do and with no other means of support I guess I'm stuck. I did find out that if I can hang in there 10 more yrs I can retire with medical(provided no layoffs or them changing the rules!) the best scenario would be a great enhancd retirement pkg like they gave in 2003 - they added 10 yrs to yrs of service or age and the 45 yr olds were eligible but I'm just now 45 so I was out of the deal but 4 people here out of 12 got it! they got other jobs AND full retirement and kept their insurance even if they got other jobs. I can pray!
    I love your opening comment about meditating with the lawn! ;-) I'm also enjoying yoga even though I look nothing like what they do on the dvd!

  5. Had to laugh about your gardening attempts because that's "me" too and the whole process, including that darn clean-up was so unsatisfying to me and not how i want to spend my time.

    And so instead, I took 4 months of private piano lessons, to get me to the next level, and that worked, so now I enjoy playing the piano and learning new songs each month - way more satisfying to me than gardening. S.

  6. Tamara, honestly I think anything to do with boating or flying kind of is out ther ein it's own level.....Once I took flying lessons. I thought I wanted a small plane, but then better sense got the best of me,

  7. Susanna I will try again-but as a fun thing in a few pots, not as a mission if you know what I mean. Here in texas of course we actually have a fall planting season. Wonder if I can grow pumkins in a pot>>

  8. Madeline I have no answers. I actually think I have enough to retire, in theory. Honestly, I think most folkls who have their houses paid off, can acess some kind of decent insurance and have property taxes that are not simi valley style will probably do okay on their incomes. Most all of my financial issues come because I have a mortage and one that is half of what I take in. Hence my need to try and bring in some more cash before they come and take me away.

    but seriously, perhaps he is afraid of boredome or not being satisfied in retirement? That does tend to be a guy thing sometimes.

  9. Well about the tomatoes...they have turned out to be very late to mature...not unlike me! But they are definitely worth the effort.

    As for giving your children steak and lobster, I have come to believe that if they are born with the "fancy gene" they will find it on their own. At least my children did.

    I love the analogy of starting a new experience or garden to retirement. Like the rest of life it is all about finding or learning new things. Otherwise we may as well be....well you know where I'm going with this.


  10. I think they make book I read said anything can be grown in a pot..I don't believe them! I'm in Houston and have a townhome so I had a fwe in the ground and a few in pots- the small tomatoes did well and a couple of years ago the peppers in the ground did well later in the summer and fall or what passes for fall here as you know! I still love looking through container gardening books. I used to go to a website called gardenweb - don't know if it's still there-and they had all kinds of forums - even balcony gardening!

  11. I don't know why, but for some reason I love this post. As for me, I recommend gardening for any frugal retiree. Hours and hours of entertainment, plus a little bit of exercise, over a four or five month period, all at minimum cost.

    And if you're lucky, you might even get a tomato or two out of it!


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