Browsing "Retirement"
Mar 7, 2016 - Retirement    No Comments

Dear Radio Diary: It’s me, Barbara

“Arbitron” showed up on my caller I.D. so often last month that I finally decided to pick up and tell whoever it was to get lost. Turned out they were calling to ask me to keep a Nielsen Diary for one week of listening to the radio (you know, the thing that came with your car and is built into your alarm clock). If I agreed they would send me a small cash gift.

radio-grandma-memeHmmm. I wondered whether anyone besides semi-old, semi-retired white ladies is listening to the radio, and how they figure in podcasts. I wondered how honest I’d have to be. Well, it would be for only one week, and my only paying gig is as a college adjunct. I’m in!

In the mail came a packet from Nielsen containing two copies of their Radio Rating Diary with instructions and a crisp George Washington in each. My husband had no interest in participating, so I pocketed his buck and mine. Halfway to a grande latte.

The diary asks you to note the time, the station (including Internet or satellite), and whether you’re listening in your home, car, work or “other place” – like the deli counter at Price Chopper, where WAMC’s “The Media Project” livestreamed through my iPhone as I ordered a half-pound of low-salt turkey breast – but fails to ask about podcasts. Read more »

Jan 23, 2016 - Retirement    2 Comments

13 lessons from retirement

Six months into semi-retirement (having left the daily newspaper business to teach University at Albany students how to enter it), here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Getting dressed is overrated.
  • Full-time, part-time and no-time employees spend weekdays doing the same thing: Slurping coffee while scrolling Facebook, shopping online and playing Words with Friends. The only variation is the paycheck.
  • You find unfulfilling the transition from bossing around humans to

             My only employee now is a cat.

    giving orders to a housebound cat (Get off my keyboard! Stop throwing up!), despite similarly indifferent responses.

  • You feel less guilty about time spent watching cardinals at the bird feeder, but more guilty about not keeping it filled – and a little sorry for the cat yearning to be free.
  • The exertion of an afternoon reading “The New Yorker” is enough to warrant a nap, even if you only read the cartoons.
  • No longer pressed to plan and do the week’s grocery shopping on crowded Sundays, you end up running to the store on Monday — and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (if dressed).
  • Every day is Saturday.

Read more »

Nov 17, 2015 - Retirement    No Comments

Practicing ’til it hurts (my partner)

Ellen Bradley wears a football helmet to play tennis – when I’m her partner.

My first serve during a recent match bounced off her noggin and popped over the net, but for some reason did not qualify as a “let.” The second almost took off her ear. The third, she assured me, only grazed the edge of her racquet.


                   Ellen practices her defensive
                          tactics with Barbara

Ellen is lucky that my serve has all the power of a thrown noodle. And I’m lucky to play doubles with an incredibly patient and encouraging group of women.

Toss higher, I was advised. Point your feet toward the net corner pole, was one suggestion. “Give me a second to get out of your way,” pleaded my next scheduled partner. Take up tiddlywinks, thought everyone else.

This summer I took tennis lessons, hoping to surprise my fall league-mates with a big girl serve instead of the side-arm Lob of Death. Smalls     Sometimes I win the point because the receiver has dozed off waiting for the Lob of Death to land, but each time I feel like Smalls in “The Sandlot” when he hand-delivers the ball instead of throwing it.

Our league plays “first in.” If it’s your first serve of the set you get as many attempts as needed to reach the service square. My opponents have time to get a pedicure, air dry their toes and re-tie their laces before smashing my Lob of Death down the alley.

I’m reluctant to name my tennis teacher, because it’s not her fault that I’m in the Double Fault Hall of Shame. “What should we work on today,” she would ask. “Everything,” I’d reply, feeling like everyone in “Groundhog Day” except Bill Murray.

The other day my father re-told a story about a not-very-good golfing buddy in Florida who bragged that he was the No. 2 golfer at Kings Point. My incredulous father said, “If you’re No. 2, who’s No. 1?” “Everyone else,” his pal replied.

That’s me on the tennis court, with a well-earned lack of confidence.

A friend recently asked if I’d like to learn bridge. I’m tempted. In bridge, it’s no insult to be the dummy. No one’s ever been injured by a crazy card shuffler. The only thing hurt by a poorly played hand would be my pride.

But I’m not ready to retire my racquet. Despite Einstein’s riff about insanity, I’m determined to keep trying. Please watch out, Ellen: Don’t endanger that great smile by looking my way.

Nov 4, 2015 - Retirement    No Comments

Retirement is a full-time job

This vacuum sucks.

And not in the way a vacuum would consider a compliment.IMG_1748 (2)

After taking out and shaking out the floor mats and dropping six quarters into the machine at the corner Mobil gas station, I expected crumbs, seeds, kernels, fuzz, leaf bits, gum wrappers and dirt to leap off the car floor and into the blue hose. I expected a suction that, if accidentally aimed at the cat, would require the screeching feline to be retrieved from the machine by its tail.

This vacuum had all the pull of John Boehner.

But in my semi-retired status I have no semi-valid excuses for a dirty car. And on this decent fall day, I was desperate to do something semi-useful while continuing to avoid raking our leaf-carpeted lawn.

After the disappointment at the gas station, I decided to give my aging Kenmore upright a shot. First I had to move the grill, bicycle and old patio chairs (replaced but, true to form, not discarded) to the other side of the garage to be able to pull the car in near an outlet. Then I lugged over Old Faithful and plugged her in.

I guess none of has the suction we used to. Still, she did better than the Mobil vacuum, with no quarters required, and Ms. Kenmore toppled over onto the concrete floor only five or six times, without cracking her plastic body. Next I dusted off a spray bottle of leather cleaner from the first Roosevelt administration and spruced up the seats, shined up the dashboard and successfully killed another afternoon.

Having checked off a chore that wasn’t even on my to-do list, I suddenly remembered one that was: staining our two cement steps to protect the repairs made in the spring by Tom, a mason by trade and my go-to guy for anything more complicated than changing a three-way bulb.

My painting ability begins and ends with knowing which end of the brush to hold, assuming someone has correctly handed me the brush. But Tom assured me this is something I can and should do.


My first mistake was agreeing with him. My second was, in a spurt of newly retired enthusiasm, buying a can of stain and a sprayer, knowing deep in my heart that having to mix stain with water, fill a sprayer, and spray was a disaster waiting to happen. Suddenly it was two months later and three weeks into October, with colder, darker and wetter days looming and the window of opportunity closing.

I called Tom in hopes of a bailout. You can do it, he repeated, encouragingly. You should have bought stain that you don’t have to mix with water. Use a two-inch brush. Be sure to clean the steps with bleach first. Remember you need a pod (whatever that is) to hold the paint and water. Get a good drop cloth and it will last you the rest of your life, he added, while I’m thinking that lifetime guarantees don’t impress me at this stage of the game.

To my surprise, Tom showed up 20 minutes later at Sherwin Williams, where I was fretting over brushes, drop cloths and non-diluting stains, and guided me through the purchase. To my surprise, he still expected me to do the job myself. And to my surprise, I did.

Now, darn it, I’ve got to pick up the rake.