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Learning to live the retired life, and loving it

Being on the cusp of the baby boom has given me a couple of years' head-start on the retirement phase of my life. After so many years (almost all of my married life) I had worked, raised a family, cleaned, cooked, did laundry, shopped, sewed costumes and clothes, attended school events, yelled, wiped tears -- well, you get the idea -- suddenly it was all over. The children are grown, and so are my grandchildren. It has been two years since I retired.

My husband had been retired 10 years already and had the house to himself all those years, so I had to tiptoe in and make a place for myself. I asked him about chores he was doing that he would like to get rid of and he said "none." Hmm, well, now what?

Sleeping was another problem. I would dream about work all the time and sometimes would wake in a panic thinking that I had slept through the alarm and was late for work.

The next thing to deal with was my closet. Clothes, shoes? Oh, I have a lot of each, but nothing suitable for being home all day long. Usually by the time I got home from work and made dinner, I would be ready for my pj's, so home clothes never were a problem or a thought.

So here I was with some decisions to make. One of my going away gifts was a journal that I do use. It has brought a little order to my life, which was always orderly but now seemed to be at sea. I was missing my co-workers (not the job) and the day-to-day bond that we had with each other.

The first decision that I had made was that I was not going to work, not even part-time. I was going to take a year off, get my house in order, do those projects that I had sitting around for years, and get my head in tune with this phase of my life -- which, by the way, I did.

We planned a monthlong trip around the country that was the best trip ever. We were able to take our time and decided to drive so we could see as much of the country as possible. My husband is a master of trip planning and this one was perfect. We even got to see some family, especially a beloved uncle who died three months after our visit. He was thrilled that we included him in our travels. Last year we traveled to the Canadian Maritimes for three weeks. Another wonderful trip.

We also dealt with family illness and other losses in the first year of my retirement. If I had been working, I would not have been able to concentrate on the job because of all that was going on. I was grateful that I was able to be available at a moment's notice.

After the end of the first year of retirement, I decided I needed something to do that was satisfying and was a help to the community around me. Once you get your house in order and do all those projects, there is just not that much to do around the house.

I had always wanting to teach reading to children who were having trouble in school. I emailed the Erie County Library and asked if there were any programs in my area that I could help in. And yes, they had a program at the elementary schools in my town.

I signed up, and it was the best decision that I could have made. This is my second school year doing this and I love working with the children. I have had first to sixth-graders and this year I have fourth-graders. I enjoy every minute of it. (Plus, I get to choose the days and times that I volunteer.)

So my advice to new retirees is to relax (I really mean that) and give yourself some time off to adjust to this gift of time. I love taking time to read the newspaper over breakfast. I love getting up and going to bed when I feel like it. I love doing anything when I feel like it, and not doing anything if I don't want to. I love that we can take as much time as we want to travel. I love being able to stay in if the weather is bad and cozy up on the couch with a good book.

In short, I love retirement and the freedom it brings to my life.