Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Trying New Things In Retirement-Take the Plunge

Most people know that I am a quilter.  I am blessed to have people that love my quilts, appreciate my quilts and on occasion buy said quilts.  Believe me, it’s a great feeling to hear someone say “You are SO talented”, or “I wish I could do the things you do”, some other kind of complements.  In other words, if you didn’t know that I like people to like my quilts, that’s something you know about me now.  Surprise!

Here are a couple other things about me, though.  First, I never even thought I was interested in quilting until about ten years ago, 2002 to be exact, and it was not planned. Never in my life had I thought to myself, “I know, I’ll learn how to make quilts”. At that point I had long given up sewing children’s clothing, and my creativity was fulfilled in other ways. 

 I had gone to Germany barely amongst the living and after my surgery (a story for a blog soon, I expect, in full), I would wander and explore while my husband was working and my son was in school. Military bases, especially bases overseas, tend to have every resource imaginable.  Bless them. A travel club. A teen club. An outdoor recreation center where one can rent tents, skis, you name it. And yes, you guess it, the trusty craft center with shared spaces, classes and all kinds of supplies for sale (these are all self--supporting activities).  I happened to walk in, and low and behold a group of women were quilting, they invited me and I sat down and joined in-dragged into the fold if you will.

Second, when I began quilting I was bad………..really truly bad. Bad enough that other people laughed (kindly, but they laughed) in the beginning.  There honestly are no words.  This is not me being critical of myself.  I sewed unevenly (and through my finger).  I cut fabric poorly (and cut my finger with the blade).  My quilts had holes, and gave new meaning to the word wonky.  I’m sure by now someone is wondering why on earth I kept on sewing.  The answer is…………..I LOVED it.  I loved the process involved. I loved the fabrics and the combinations. In fact-and this is the important part-even if my quilts still were wonky and had holes, I would still be making quilts. They might be on my own personal wall, or cut up into frames, but I would still be doing what I do.  This is not to say that I would not have become more skilled, in fact there is probably a correlation between the love and increased skill-at least in this case.

Third, this is by no means the only skill I have tried in retirement. I also attempted to container garden and paint and draw-all things I tried late in life post retirement.  I am an expert in neither of those things-and that's okay.  Awhile back I touched on this in another blog post-the need to not do everything well, if you will. It bears repeating though, in this time of semi retirement and retirement when people are looking to try new things, explore new hobbies and so on.

My container gardening was a chore, AND I did so poorly at it that I dropped playing with plants. Had I enjoyed the process or been more successful, I might have continued. In this case I chalked one "try" up to history and moved on. 

 The painting was a joy, but less than successful in the long least up to this point. It would seem that while I have a good eye for color in all forms, my drawing and sketching is well, pretty sad. Even after enlarging a collage onto the wall and drawing lines, my painting of said collage is there, just. However, because I mixed all the colors properly in terms of shade and hue, I got an A in the class.  In this case, I've decided that I'll continue painting indefinitely and if I get better, fine.  If not, that's also fine. I enjoy the process of playing with the paints, mixing the colors, matching the hues of nature and so on.  I still enjoy an hour or so spent with this way. In fact, since I'm obviously not a "drawer" or "painter" I've been considering how I can add paint to fabric and papers and end up with some sort of college, I suppose.

While this blog has been about certain kinds of hobbies and pastimes, what's true here can be true anywhere, no matter if we are talking about volunteer, travel or other "new" retirement passtimes.

Before I thought about retiring, when my husband and I were in the talking stage, I imagined that I would spend time gardening and grow herbs and plants on the patio, I thought it might be nice to draw or paint, and quilting was barely on my radar. I also had thoughts of volunteering, travel and social activities, some of which have changed and some of which have remained the same.

Since that time I've learned a few things about plans and trying new things: things:   

  • It's okay to let go of plans/dreams and realize they aren't working the way you thought. Life is meant to be joyful after all.
  • It's okay to play with different things, and do things just because they are fun or rewarding-no matter your skill level, be it golf or anything else.
  • Finally (and this may seem contradictory at first), sometimes it does work to try and try again.  In the right circumstances, if it's something you enjoy.  Had I stopped quilting in the beginning just because I made a few mistakes, I would certainly be in a different place right now-and probably not know what I have missed. The difference between the quilting and gardening was enjoyment, at the bottom line. Because I enjoyed, I was willing to continue, and because I continued I got better (slowly, but better)!

Unfortunately, being the kind of person who looks out the window at the beauty of nature while quilting, it has not been that long since I sewed through my finger. Tetanus shot, anyone??  Before too long I'll be finding out if home canning is a chore or a joy-I'll let you know!


  1. Barb, I think what really matters is that each of us do something (or several things) that entertain, delight or fulfill us in some way.

    It is wonderful to stumble upon that one thing that truly lights you up, but the only way to do that is to experiment. My discard pile is pretty high and that's fine by me. It reminds me that I am still curious.

    Good luck with canning. That turned out to be something that my husband enjoys, but not so much for me. Off to play tennis.

  2. I think I'm looking forward to the canning but we shall may well be that I end up only canning those gourmet type of things that I use as gifts and so on.....

  3. My plunge is NOT to spend any more money on classrooms -- lol. The plunge is more about the adventure in getting comfortable with myself these days. Easel and paints are purchased for the fall!

  4. I enjoy your blog, Barb. I have just entered the world of the newly retired and am struggling at the moment as I have to ask myself, "Am I really as boring as I seem right now? as I find my way, your blog is helpful. If you are interested in reliving your early retirement, you might enjoy my blog. I at least try to find the humor in it all.


Living With One Car in Retirement-Or Any Time

From 1987 until 1996, my husband and I were a one car family-with one and then two children. In 1997, we inherited a second car. Which ...