Retirement ~ Time to Smell The Roses

My usual morning routine is one that sometimes takes two hours to complete after I first get up in the morning.  By the time I get up, my husband has made my coffee and read one newspaper.  As I descend the stairs, I hear Boston run to get a toy so he can greet me with his happy morning dance as he begs me to admire his toy and pet him.  I then kiss my dear sweet husband, pour my coffee, and settle down in my favorite red chair to watch the Today Show and read three newspapers, The Pueblo Chieftain, The Gazette Telegraph, and The Denver Post.  I always read for an hour while I sip my coffee before I finally make my breakfast.  My hubby is probably already to take the dog for his morning walk by the time I eat.  On summer mornings, we do our morning newspaper reading and chatting on the back deck.  I love retirement.  There is no rush to get out the door.

Yesterday, on Thursday, feeling especially good mentally and physically, soon after pouring my cup of coffee, I heard Lionel Richie singing on the Today Show.  I couldn't stop myself.  I was dancing around the kitchen and family room, coffee cup in hand to "Oh what a feeling, we're dancing on the ceiling."  "This is a great way to start the day," I thought.  I even posted on Facebook that I was starting my Friday off right by dancing to Lionel Richie while I drank my first cup of coffee.  Then, I took my medicines and saw the pill container said it was Thursday.  Then, my daughter-in-law posted on Facebook, "Wait, isn't it Thursday."  Yes, it was Thursday, but I am retired.  It is hard to know what day it is.  It felt like a Friday to me.

Today, Friday, the 17th,  the man and I both slept in.  The dog didn't wake up my hubby, so we were able to sleep until we were both awake.  In fact, I think I woke up first.  That is a rarity.  "Oh well, it is a Saturday, so we can justify sleeping in," I thought upon awakening.  But, when I read the paper, I realized it was not Saturday, it was Friday.  I've been confused on what day it is for two days.  Every day in retirement feels like Friday or Saturday.

I usually fix big breakfasts on the weekend.  Of course, today was not the weekend, but I thought it was.  We had gotten up late, so it really felt like Saturday.  Before breakfast I slipped out to the garden to see what was ripe.  I picked some cherry tomatoes, snipped some chives, got some Pueblo peppers out of the freezer and made us a frittata.  I've never made a frittata before.  It was quite yummy.  We also had fresh raspberries and blueberries in Greek yogurt.  This was really a Saturday or Sunday breakfast.

After breakfast, I again slipped outside.  It was so nice and cool outside.  I sat on the deck and thought of how much I love this house.  While we were both working at demanding jobs, I dreamed of just enjoying my house and yard after I retired.  Today, as I sat out on the back deck, I looked over to one of my favorite sights, my back rose garden, the one I planted the year I retired.  I call it my Peace Garden.

This summer has been a hot one.  I thought these roses would never come out of it in late June and throughout July when they looked done for, but I kept up with the feeding routine, I made sure they were watered, and I deadheaded every few days, although all through July I had few blooms, and the few blooms I had dried up on the stems.  Now, the weather is cooling and we've had some rain.  The roses are having what I call a second blooming.  Isn't that what retirement is all about?  A second blooming.  The second blooming is almost the best.  The colors are richer, deeper, and the blossoms are fuller when roses bloom in late summer and early fall.  It is true, "Gardening is a form of autobiography," I think as I look at the roses.

My eye catches one rose bud on the Peace Rose.  It is so stately.  I venture down the steps into the garden to take a closer look at this particular rose.  I capture it with my iPhone camera.

I haven't seen quite as much pink on the edges of these roses until now.  The cool weather is allowing the pinks to show their hues.  This rose, the Peace Rose, was planted in 2006 when I retired.  It was the first rose in the garden.  It was selected because it is one of my favorite roses.  Introduced by in the United States in 1945, the year of my birth, it was given to delegates of the first meeting of the United Nations with a note that read,  We hope the 'Peace' rose will influence men's thoughts for everlasting world peace.  

I really do love this rose.  It is the one I usually choose to place in a vase in front of my father's portrait when I have them in bloom.  I do this to honor my father and his time of service in the war, and to remember the time when I was going a bit too caustic and angry about a problem during my divorce many years ago.  As he listened to me rant, my father said nothing as he held up his two fingers in a peace sign.  That simple gesture spoke volumes to me, and I calmed down. My father was not one to go around putting up the peace signal, but he did so that day to send me a message.  I got it, and I haven't forgotten it.  Peace!  It is a beautiful thing.

It is such a great thing to have time to smell the roses and think about the reason I have a garden.  I have a garden because I love to create beauty.  I also love to have a creative outlet, and gardening allows me to do that in a way that is physically, spiritually, and mentally satisfying.  I thought I would spend my retirement years working as a master gardener.  I even took the course and have the certificate, but I don't consider myself a master gardener.  I still think of myself as a "dig in the dirt" kind of gardener.  I design in my head as I work the ground.  This means I have had some major design flaws in my yard.  It means I am always digging something up and moving it somewhere else.  It means I have not always considered nature, space, and placement as well as I should when I garden, but I am learning.  I keep some notes along the way.  I have a file in my garden shed where I keep the original receipts or tags for the roses and perennials I have planted over the years.  I try to have a rule that if I can't say the name or remember the name of plant, I don't plant it.

My gardening has been very hit or miss this year.  The heat has been a factor.  My health has been another factor.  And, we have our house on the market, so I have not made any huge additions to the garden.  I just try to maintain it and enjoy it.

I don't know how I will part with this beauty if we ever actually sell this house and move.  This is Easy Does It.    This beauty was planted in June of 2010 after being purchased to be planted in my Peace Garden in memory of my daughter Julie after her death.

Julie at her class reunion dressed in a shirt covered with orange flowers
This is the perfect rose to honor Julie.  The color reminds me of her.  Julie wore a lot of orange.  She had a vibrant personality and could carry off wearing such a bold color so well.  I love the touch of yellow, and a bit of pink and apricot in this rose.  It is complex in its color scheme just as Julie was complex in her personality.  Perhaps, the rose reminded me of her dressed in a top she used to wear that suited her so well.

Another flower I love to admire in my Peace Garden, is the Queen Elizabeth.  Introduced in 1954, it is sometimes known as the Queen of England rose. Interestingly, this rose did not bloom this year until the week of the Queen's Jubilee.  When it first bloomed this year, it bloomed all week of the Jubilee, and then it stopped blooming because of the heat.  It started blooming again when the Olympics began. I guess it identifies greatly with its British roots.

This rose is easy to grow and rewards me with beautiful sweet smelling bouquets.  I prefer to cut the buds for arrangements because they are so beautiful.  I like them better than the fully blossomed flowers.

I love deadheading my roses.  It is a very relaxing pasttime for me.  Working in my roses gives me time to think, to reflect, to smell the fragrance of the beauty of the plants I treasure.  As I clip the spent blossoms, I always toss them into one my great treasures:  my father bucket.  I love this bucket because it reminds me of my father.  It is a simple galvanized work bucket that still has paint splatters and cement attached to the surface inside and out of the pail he used as he went about working on the home he loved to maintain.  I think of how important it is to stay connected to the simple pleasures and pride that work can bring.  I am grateful to find beauty in a bucket full of spent blossoms.  I am grateful for this time in life when I can just putter in my garden while literally taking time to smell the roses.  It is good to not have to know what day it is, or even what time it is.  Time is suspended as I ponder all the sights and smells of my garden.  I treasure the memories that such times evoke within me.

The Garden: A Form of Autobiography

If gardening truly is a form of autobiography, then I would have to say that my gardening this year could serve as a metaphor for my life for the past month or so.  Mostly, I have felt that I have been living in a hit or miss style when it comes to gardening, blogging, house keeping, and journaling.  Perhaps, I have an excuse for this style of living.  Perhaps, I do not.

It has been a hectic past four weeks.  Family has been visiting.  I have many trips up and down I25 from Pueblo to Colorado Springs to visit my son while he was staying at his mother-in-law's house, or to keep doctors' appointments.  I have also made my share of trips up and down I25 between Pueblo and Erie, Colorado to babysit grandchildren and help out my daughter Amy in other ways.  And, I've even made a trip up North to work on a professional project with which I have been involved over the summer.

I have struggled with anxiety, stress, pain, and grief throughout the summer.  I am finally feeling better.  I am learning to deal with my stress better.  I'm no longer quite as surprised by the waves of grief that continue to wash over me.  I am learning to expect this as I move forward in the healing process.

Most mornings begin with me reading the newspaper, drinking my coffee, eating my breakfast, and chatting with my man while we sit on our back deck.  I'm grateful for such an unhurried, peaceful way to start the day.  I love the comfort the beauty of my flowers give me.

Today, I did get out of my hit or miss mode and got the roses deadheaded.  I also gave the lavender a hair cut since I had neglected to harvest the blooms when they were in their prime.  I am hoping for a second blooming.

I keep my old Olympus C740 in the shed to use to record work done on the yard and garden.  I also take photos to remind me how a certain bed was planted the year before, or to remind me of lessons I need to learn as I plant in coming years.

Yes, gardening is a form of autobiography.

Autobiographical Lessons from This Year's Garden

  • Spacing and planning ahead

I love my zinnia bed in the front yard,
I failed to space my planting appropriately.
I have that problem in life.
I had five kids in ten years.
This is another illustration of my spacing problem.
My kids, and my zinnias, are a beautiful sight to behold,
maybe a wild, blooming bunch of them all together is not a problem after all.

  • Think before you commit to something that might be a hard thing to remove in your life.
I once loved the look of Russian sage that grew in hedges I saw as I drove through town.
I planted three for four of them to use as a hedge in my front yard.
My neighbor put weed killer on all but one of them,
I was so upset with him at the time.

Later, I dealt with the reality of that big, land grabbing, spreading plant that I added to my landscape.
I no longer loved it.
It took two years of applications of weed killer,
an ax,
a shovel,
and a strong man
to get rid of the roots that this plant put down.
Finally, it is gone.
It no longer sends out new plants.
I research things a bit more now before I let them become rooted in my life.

Digging out Russian sage
Using an ax to get the job done

  • Gardening and grief

As in gardening, we must make choices in how we respond to grief.
Grief adds many textures, colors, and dimensions to our lives that were not there before.

We have a choice on how we respond to grief.

In the early days of the grief experience, we sometimes think our lives will  never bloom again.

During a time of mourning and grief, everyone turns to something.
Making choices that mask our pain is done because we believe this will make our pain go away.
In reality, such choices can delay our healing.

H. Norman Wright said that after the loss of a loved one
it takes at least eighteen months 
to experience longer stretches of time with less pain.

By trusting God's healing grace,
I find I am moving forward 
in life
in healing.

Grief changes everyone.
Grief is hard work.
Doing the hard work of grief brings the lessons that only grief can teach us.

When we invite grief to changes us,
it deepens us.

It grows our souls.

We find peace.

* Many of the lessons on grief quoted in this post were taken from Susan Duke's book, Grieving Forward, Embracing Life Beyond Grief.

** All of the flower photos were taken today in my garden.
  • The pink rose bud:  Queen Elizabeth
  • The white rose:  Pope John Paul II
  • The red rose: I did not record the name for this rose.  I named it Julie many years ago.  
  • The pink/yellow rose:  The Peace Rose