Friday, November 22, 2013

On Comfort and Contentment

Two weeks ago, I went with my sister to buy a new bedroom set. This set is one of those everything matches, full on good top of the line bedroom sets.  I was sitting in the recliner near by as I heard her finish the transaction, she and the sales guy were conversing. While I did not hear all of the conversation, I did hear her say, "Well, up until now I spent all my money on travel and stuff, and a metal bed frame worked just fine.  Now, my first priority is being comfortable".

To many people, either of the words above have a bad connotation.  I doubt that I will every stop challenging myself, mentally or physically in some way. Still, I agree. A high priority for me in retirement is to be both comfortable and content. For some reason I am appreciating this more now that I am settled in a new home.  I am realizing that I enjoy spending more time home or close to home than ever before (it's not just location-I had begun to realize this in Texas as well). While I am not about to give up a my social life, travel, going to school or the rest of it, I LIKE being at home-in my house or in my yard. It is becoming my favorite place to be, much of the time. As is, quite frankly, doing nothing on occasion-or at least not very much!

My exception to doing nothing outside is this puppy. This will be my firepit until I manage to get a restaurant sized heater for the patio. I see pinon wood in it's future with the swing immediately next to it.

I was raised in a family where I was challenged from youth.  My father accepted a civilian job overseas when I was ten. Both my parents felt that in terms of money and opportunity both should be spent taking advantage of what was readily available. One Christmas was spent in Cairo on the backs of camels and one was spent skiing in the mountains. My girl scout youth was spent hiking up and down the Rhine and staying in youth hostels that were in cold castles.

 I of course carried on this tradition. During three years in Germany as a single person I traveled many places (including to my sister's dorm at the university of Paris which included a Turkish toilet).  My now thirty four year old was sleeping on the floor of a four person tent next, to mom, at the height of the summer in Virginia Beach when she was six months old. I married a guy who took me back to Europe, where our time was spent in one of two ways. Busy weekends were spent refereeing sporting events, doing amateur theater and going on scout camp outs.  Uncommitted weekends were spent throwing things into the car on Friday and returning Sunday evening. My twenty four year old son still has the standing joke (or complaint, depending) that goes "Oh, look!! Another cathedral!!" (Remind me to share about having to drive THROUGH Chartres without stopping.) 

 We loved and adored traveling, and living in Europe.  We were willing to commit most of our resources to travel and our other high energy activities. (paying Euros will being payed in US dollars on top of it all). Life was busy, active and involved, most of the time. We were the kind of people who never said no to much of anything. Of course the end result of that was many rotisserie chickens and soups and sandwiches for dinner and the occasional need to lock ourselves in in Sundays.

Now in retirement, I am finding life has a different chapter. Retirement is different things for different people. Some folks have need to make up for all the things there was no time for in their previous life. Some need to challenge themselves to do as much as they can in as much time.  For me, it is just the opposite.  While my retirement will never be spent only in an armchair watching TV or playing bridge, I prefer to go much slower. I also am willing to spend more of my limited money to get a certain comfort level, probably because I spend so much time here (again, may retirees are settled into houses they have lived in forever. Part of being a vagabond is making those kinds of changes). In general, I guess I prefer a "slower" lifestyle these days.

Make no mistake, this in no way means that I have decided to "settle".  For example, I still travel, but one or two road trips a year (perhaps three this year) lasting a few weeks with the occasional weekend trip.  While I watch pennies, my hotel and dining requirements are no longer of the hostel, camping or motel six variety. I don't travel long distances in planes because it makes me claustrophobic (an exception next year for Germany).  My travel destinations are places that provide interest, but are not extreme.  I would prefer to enjoy the beauty of the gulf coast or a leisurely drive along the California coast rather than say, biking in Moab. And I am happy to sit for a few hours or more on a balcony of a hotel overlooking the ocean.

I also have what-for me-is a full physical, mental, social and spiritual life. I'm not an athlete and rarely break a sweat.  I walk two active dogs and swim in a therapy pool. I continue to take college classes where I am amazingly challenged by those forty years younger on occasion (my reason for choosing college rather than lifelong learning). My goal remains to learn a new skill every month or so (Metalwork coming up), and I've started designing as well as creating. I socialize through church, quilting and school, and family.

Still, a very large part of my life is spent, being comfortable and content, at home. This past week I went to church. I had a rotating church dinner group one evening and a monthly quilt get together another day. Other than that and my daily exercising and errand day, I was at home the rest of the time-and fully content to be so. One day, I sat in my comfortable by the window chair and read a whole book on my kindle (Second Watch, by JA Jantz).  Last night, with glasses of wine and chili and cornbread, we watched what we had hoped would be the demise of the New Orleans Saints. Because my house was packed in an extremely haphazard manner (that happens when your buyer wants to close in two weeks!!!), I had my son bring all of the Christmas items into the studio, where I have been unpacking and sorting. Today I plan to leisurely sew and then watch The Kiss of the Spider Woman (feel free to ask) Kleenex in hand-after watching Shark Tank.

Sometimes you gotta fight for the chair. And yes, snow has come to Colorado. Note that my car is not cleaned off and unmoved. Ha!

It works for me!

Oh and just so folks know that I occasionally am capable of being organized and/or a planner, I thought I would share my past two days. First (also while sitting in that blue chair), I got out my little planning note book and actually made a plan for the holidays. Yes, I actually made lists. It may never happen again until next Christmas, but there you are.  A list of kinds of cookies (over twenty). A master gift list.  Menu plans (fortunately I am not hosting Christmas this year). Gifts to make and what  I need. Entertainment plans. Remember, this is only the Christmas me, not the real me.

Christmas Quilt number three-or at least the center of it.

The other area that I am a least haphazardly organized is my sewing-sort of. I tend to plan and shop for three our four quilts at a time.  While I enjoy finishing one at a time, I prefer to dovetail certain tasks-probably because my cutting table is also my design table, my altered house making table and the like. To that end, here are the before and afters of four different blocks of four different quilts-now to decide where to continue onward (all have other pieces that match). 

Off to that sewing table to find out, with eggnog in hand!


  1. Really good post, Barb. I could so relate. And hearing about your life of travel was so interesting. I am the same. I have done a lot in my life - chasing the career, traveling, devoting myself to my children - and now that I don't have those things to worry about anymore, I enjoy being at home and pursuing interests I didn't have time for before. And BTW, I checked out those books you recommended and they are really good. Thanks. Rosy

  2. Growing up I seemed to be moving all the time (house to house, province to province). Now I am content to stay home and do those things that interest me. Travel included of course, but now it is when I want and not because someone else says it is time.

    God bless.

  3. I love reading your posts Barbara. Your life reminds me of these beautiful quilts you make...colorful and warm.

    Be well and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  4. My husband is slowly building our first furniture. We have a dining table and four couches- but no bedroom furniture. Life on the move was fun. Life in one house is cozy ;)
    Happy Thanksgiving!


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