Being retired is an interesting time in life. It’s a period where you can be as busy or quiet as you choose. Saturday doesn’t have to be the day for daily chores that used to be crammed into this 24-hour period like it did when you worked outside the home.
These days, few people leave a work place on their own terms. Most of my friends simply quit working because they were down-sized, their unemployment insurance ran out, and they couldn’t find work afterward. I don’t know anyone who got a gold watch.
I’ve reinvented myself numerous times to keep working. After college graduation, I worked as a freelance writer. After a divorce two years later, I found employment in a small ad agency as a project manager. When the company had money problems, I was laid-off. Three months later I went to work as a Communication Specialist at a Fortune 500 company. I was hired to spearhead website development. At the time, I didn’t even understand what “the web” was, but I pushed ahead and saw the medium’s potential when so many others didn’t. After three years on that job, an Italian company purchased the firm and most of the folks in my department lost their jobs.
Six months later, I found the best position (next to being retired) at a mid-size company as the E-Commerce Administrator. I had a supportive boss believed in my abilities and acted as a coach when we discovered uncharted territory. I met with all the company leaders to ascertain the activities in the company which could be automated using E-commerce. With the information I got from them, I developed a five-year plan of action. Unfortunately, 9-11 happened which affected the company in a negative way, and once again the bean counters eliminated my job. Six months later, the entire marketing department got walking papers.
Six months later I worked at another small ad agency for about eighteen months and learned the owner was an entrepreneurial nut with no sound business sense. She fought me at every turn, and I was just trying to the job for which I was hired.
A year later I decided to try something else. I became a financial adviser. After six years of working on commission and selling investments and insurance in a depressed area, I got burned out and quit. I never worked out of the home again.
Is it any wonder I love being at home as a care-giver for my husband who suffers from MS?
Now Saturday is just another day in the week. I no longer need to jam my household chores into this day. Heck, half the time I don’t know it’s Saturday!
Since being at home, I had a chance to explore my creative side. I designed costume jewelry and explored selling it on a website. Not one of my best moments.
I’ve explored painting on canvas with acrylics. Like writing, painting is a continuous process. Pictures I painted three years ago show me how far I’ve come. When I study my mentor’s paintings, I realized I have a long way to go.
Best of all, I got a chance to write and publish. If I didn’t leave my “day job,” I wouldn’t be able to explore my creative side to the extent I have over the past six years. I’ve written eight novels and constantly strive to hone my craft.
Every time I drive down the expressway, I thank my lucky stars I don’t have to do it five days a week any more. And who wears a gold watch any more? I can use my phone to tell me what time it is.
APPLE PIE & STRUDEL GIRLS
Lacrosse, Wisconsin 1937—Josie Schneider woke to a rattling alarm which jolted her from a restful slumber at four o’clock in the morning. Since her tenth birthday she got up early to milk the cows before going to school. She crawled out from under the heavy quilt and stepped onto the ice cold hardwood floor. She slipped her long legs into overhauls, threw on an old flannel shirt her brother outgrew, and finished by pulling on thick wool socks and heavy rubber boots. She crept down the creaky wooden stairs, made her way through the country kitchen, and out the back door. She tramped down to the barn still half asleep as she shivered in the darkness. Secretly she wished Betsy and the other girls could wait to relieve their milk at a more civilized hour.
When Josie opened the barn door, she breathed in the familiar earthy scent as Betsy greeted her with a loud moo.
“Well, Good morning to you too, girl,” she laughed at the heifer she raised from a calf. Time seemed to fly by; Betsy turned six years old this year, and she gave birth several times to calves of her own. Even though family’s small herd only provided milk for local people, milking ten cows before school everyday proved to be hard work. Josie placed her milking stool beside Betsy and rested her head on the cow’s left flank. She reached under the cow and began to pull one utter after another. Betsy seemed to sigh at Josie’s touch as the milk filled the bucket in squirts. Josie relaxed, too. Somehow this early morning chore always grounded her.
She let her mind wander as her hands worked on each cow. She grinned when she thought about Donna and Rosalie being assigned this chore. Their noses never got close to the barn because they complained about the dirt and earthy stink. If Josie spoke about farm things, the two other girls’ eyes glassed over. Her friends didn’t understand her love of the farm because farming is a lifestyle not just a place to live. Every person from the youngest to the oldest works for the welfare of the whole; everyone understands their place and responsibilities, and they go about their business without complaining.
Josie didn’t want to grow up anywhere else. Life on the farm equated freedom. Josie loved the fact no one expected her to behave like a prissy girl. She wore blue jeans, flannel shirts, and work boots most of the time. Her tall willowy frame, combined with her physical strength made her a natural athlete, while her porcelain complexion and contrasting wide-set dark eyes gave her a look of feminine softness. Josie never put on airs to be someone other than herself. She loved the simple life, but after graduating high school things would change. For the first time, she planned to leave the farm and attend the university to become a. surgical registered nurse.
After Josie emptied the last bucket of milk into the processing container, she said goodbye to Betsy and the other “girls” and shut the barn door. A hearty breakfast would be waiting on the table for her. Her mom always sent her family off with full stomachs of eggs, bacon, and toast made from homemade bread. Mrs. Schneider’s duty amounted to good cooking and keeping a warm, inviting home.
Josie carried some guilt when got to school because she learned her friends went hungry some of the time. Donna Jean happened to be one of those people. Since the crash of 1929 her father only worked a few days a week, and he drank most of his paycheck. Josie’s mother always packed an extra apple and sandwich for her friend.
Berlin, Spring, 1937—The parents of sixteen year old Marta Schmidt expected her to find a suitable husband after her graduation from secondary school. Marta loved art, not boys, and finding a husband now was unthinkable. She lived in her imagination. She dreamed of sailing away to Paris and Italy so she might enjoy the work of the masters. She envisioned standing in front of famous sculptures and paintings for hours at a time.
Unlike her good friend Heidi, Marta didn’t share her parents with other siblings. She got used to being alone in quiet places. She didn’t see herself married changing baby diapers, cooking, and cleaning. She wanted to experience the world through her own eyes.
Unfortunately, her status as an only child always put strict boundaries around her. Her parents rarely let her out of their sight, so convincing them to allow her to go to Paris as a graduation present required special planning. She practiced ways to engage her father in such a conversation. Now it was time to put her escape plan into motion.
Like most evenings, Marta’s father sat at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. He didn’t acknowledge Marta when she entered the room and stood beside him. “Vater?”
Klaus hated to be interrupted and his irritated tone reminded her of that fact. “Yes, Marta?”
“Vater, I need to speak with you about something very important.”
His interest laid elsewhere. “What?”
Marta took a deep breath and blurted, “I want to go to France this summer.” She stammered. “For a graduation present.”
Her comment caused Klaus to drop the paper into his lap and glare at his daughter. “Whatever are you talking about?”
Marta threw her shoulders back and gazed at her father like one of his subordinates in the army. “School is nearly over. I worked hard and received top grades, and I believe I deserve a special gift for my efforts. I want to travel to France for the summer.”
Klaus laughed. “Such a crazy idea! France?” He went back to reading his paper, thinking he effectively dismissed her.
Through the years, Marta learned her father said ‘no’ as a reflex before he thought about anything. Marta ignored his reaction and kept the course. “I want to visit the Louvre and the other art museums. I love the French Impressionists and pictures in books do not do the masterpieces justice. I want to walk along the Seine and sip coffee in the sidewalk cafes. I want to eat baguettes and brie. Please Vater. Give me permission to go. You can choose any chaperon you wish.”
Klaus dropped the paper into his lap and studied Marta’s classic Aryan face. “I do not understand where you get such head-in-the-cloud ideas.”
“Please Vater. Promise me you will consider my request.” Her voice became whiny.
He glared at Marta, and shouted. “Stop whining! You sound like a spoiled child! No daughter of mine will appear weak.”
Marta dropped her eyes to her shoes. She let herself down. Why did she resort to childish behavior? She remained standing like a disciplined soldier. Klaus witnessed her willingness to take his wrath. Deep down he didn’t want to deny her, but her request went way beyond anything she ever asked for in the past. “Humph.”
“Thank you for considering my request, Vater.” She hugged him.
“I did not grant you my permission. I said I would consider your request;I must speak with your Mutter before I make a decision.”
Marta put out a pouting lip. “Mutter will never approve. She wants me to marry Franz or some boy like him. He’s such a bore. I do not want to marry now. I want to experience the world first.”
“Girls do not explore the world. Didn’t the BMD teach you a good German woman is destined to care for her home and family, not to go gallivanting across the continent to eat bread and cheese?”
“Yes Vater.” Marta bit her cheek to hold back the tears forming in her eyes; she never allowed herself to cry in front of her father. His tendency to slap her when she cried deterred her.
“I think you should marry, too. Franz is a good catch.” A slice of a smile crossed his lips. “But I can tell this trip is very important to you, ja?”
“More important than anything, Vater. I promise when I come home, I will get married as you and Mutter want.”
Her father stood at attention, dropping the paper to the floor. “When I speak with her, I will tell her your marriage intentions, Liebster. Now get ready for bed.”
“Yes father.” She ran to her upstairs bedroom with hope in her heart knowing full well she would never marry Franz Reinhart.