Commencement speeches

My wonderful daughter-in-law, Siwei, earned her second LLM (Master of Laws- this time in taxation), and we celebrated her hard work and accomplishments last night and today.  I listened in awe as the dean of Boston University’s School of Law gave her moving commencement speech this morning.   Dean Maureen O’Rourke spoke with passion and eloquence. She spoke about the state of our political mess. Some might say she spoke in code.   I don’t have a problem with code. You don’t need a law degree to read between the lines of her speech.  You don’t need a law degree to feel moved by the words from Declaration of Independence.  Referring to the rich diversity of the student body, the inclusive nature of the community,  the importance of standing up to the nonsense and dangerous people who want to change the very fabric of our nation–her words gave me hope. I wish I had a copy of her speech.  I imagine she’s not the only commencement speaker in this country praising knowledge and reason, compassion and action over ignorance, complacency, and fear mongering.    I can’t imagine any commencement speaker inspiring graduates with this “advice”:  Go out there and build a wall-the taller the better-and get someone else to pay for it.  Go forth and discriminate against people who dress differently, practice a religion you don’t know much about–and you don’t really want to know about because you shouldn’t care. Never worry about those who suffer every day in this country from the indignities of poverty, and the millions of people in other places in this world who must leave their war ravaged homes just to survive. They’re not your problem.  The environment?  Why should you care about the planet?  There are other planets out there.  You worked hard, you earned your degrees–so enjoy the fruits of your labor, graduates.   Congratulations!  

No, you won’t hear that commencement speech, thank goodness.  And yet, this year you just might hear something like it from a Republican presidential candidate (code for Trump).  Go figure.

Eat, Love, Write

Last night I had the pleasure of listening to three incredible artists talking about creativity at The Connecticut Forum in Hartford.  Elizabeth Gilbert, Niles Rodgers, and Bill T. Jones are inspirational in unique ways.  I may never find an agent, a publisher, an enthusiastic reader (other than my husband) or anything close to fame and fortune. .. but thank you Elizabeth, Niles and Bill for reminding me to listen to that mosquito in my ear, that invisible pest on my shoulder telling me to “WRITE.”

 

Elizabeth GilbertNile RodgersBill T. Jones

May 11, 2016

I just read through January’s resolutions.  I think I need to start over.  Not that I’ve been wasting my time mind you.  In fact, as a retired school principal/pre-published writer, I’ve been happy and productive.  It’s just I forgot to read my resolutions after writing them. Apparently just writing them down and even publishing them on your blog isn’t enough.  Especially if you tend to forget silly things like resolutions.

This month:  I attended  The SCBWI Conference in Springfield, MA.  Learned a ton about writing Middle Grade novels.  I’ve also continued to write my own MG novel, which is without a title at the moment, but is about a toothless dog named Chester and a Magic 8 Ball.  It’s really about a girl who feels she has no control over the events in her life.

New Resolutions for the rest of May and all of June:

  • Reread resolutions at least once a week. No more forgetting!
  • Post to my blog at least once a week.
  • Complete draft of MG novel.
  • Read 4 more MG novels.
  • Send The Surrogate- my adult psychological thrillerto more agents (Remember, MD sent queries to 100 agents before finding the one.  I’m not even close to 100. I’m not even close to 50.)
  • That colonoscopy–Just do it!

INSPIRATION:  I’m always on the lookout for inspiration.  This month I discovered a Chinese proverb.  The best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago.  The second best time is now.   (I supposed one could say the same about colonoscopies.)

BEST BOOK READ THIS MONTH:    Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson.  HOW DID I MISS THIS BOOK?  It’s been around for well over ten years.  Oh, right. The best time to plant a tree or read a book or schedule a colonoscopy is. . . the second best time is now. 

New Years Resolutions

I have a new system:  Monthly resolutions.  I think these work much better than the yearly New Years Resolutions variety.  As I look back on 2015, I’m pleased with my accomplishments-some I never expected. For example, I never expected to write and complete my first novel.  I toyed with the idea, but I never actually sat down with pen in hand and a plan to make it happen. So how did it happen?  I sat down at my computer in March, and resolved to write 1000 words a day (not counting weekends.)  This system worked.  My goal was measurable, and doable.  Now I have 5 agents who have requested to read my novel.  And now I wait.  But no, I need to do more than wait.  That’s where January Resolutions kick in. Here they are:

1. Send queries for my novel The Surrogate to 50 more literary agencies.  (I have 28 so far-not nearly enough.) Also-continue to revise adding more words!

2.  Work with M.D. to complete/revise book proposal for Heinemann.  This book is called All I need to know about teaching kids to write I learned from reading Charlotte’s Web. The challenge will be to get M.D. to commit to a meeting to kick things off.

3. Lose 4 pounds.  I know-not easy.  I’m exercising like a crazy woman-I have a trainer, work out between 3-6 times a week, walk a lot. But my diet is the problem.  So for January:  Limit alcohol to 4 drinks a week (as opposed to every night), start with Blue Apron to eat healthier dinners, and avoid desserts!  That includes hot chocolate with whipped cream, damn it.

4.   Catch up with my bookkeeping duties for RBK.  I could do this in one day if I set my mind to it.

5.  Refine curriculum for Mediation Training-for Children’s Law Center.

6. Start “Tidying up” system with papers in study.  Just papers.  I can do it!

7. Finally: Schedule colonoscopy.  Just do it.

8.  Finally: Keep writing-get back on track with 1000 words a day-new year, new novel.  New month, new resolution.

Another Retirement Challenge

Yes it’s been months since my last post.  Since then I completed my first novel, traveled throughout the south of France with my amazing husband, joined a children’s writing critique group (we are called The Children’s Writing Collective), and I finally joined Facebook.  Of all those accomplishments, joining Facebook has been the most challenging.  I’m sure there’s a book out there called Facebook for Dummies, but I need something even more basic.  I need immediate help.

Why is my inbox inundated with requests to be my friend?  I know most of these people, I love most of these people, and I certainly don’t want to offend anyone.  But here’s my dilemma:  Will accepting their Facebook friendship morph into more demands on my time?  Okay I know I’m retired, but I don’t want to spend hours of my day on Facebook.

What if I just leave my Facebook page dormant-no postings, no pictures, no responses?  Is that acceptable practice?  What am I supposed to be sharing?  (OMG-just got another text from someone who wants to be my friend.  Don’t want to break his heart but. . . I may have to at the very least hurt his feelings.)  So I guess this is actually an existential problem: Why did I join Facebook?  What’s the purpose?  I joined as a requirement of my new Children’s Writing Collective group.  I expect there will be benefits.  But really, do I have to bare my soul?   Isn’t writing a blog enough?   Does the whole wide world need to know that I am off to my Barre class now and that it’s raining in Connecticut and I had Shredded Wheat for breakfast-with a sliced banana?

More tomorrow.

Retirement Challenge #1

Once I decided to leap into retirement, I think the first challenge was actually walking out the door of my school. Leaving my position as the principal of a K-4 Elementary School, was not an easy decision for me to make.  The kids didn’t make it any easier! My most treasured retirement gift was a book of letters from my students, including their adorable suggestions for a happy retirement.  Here are some highlights with updates on my progress-almost one year later:

Suggestions for what to do when I retire:

I hope you go to see a play in New York and climb Mt. Everest. (I have seen a few great plays in New York and many amazing productions here in Hartford, CT.  Not ready for Mt. Everest.)

Read a good book and jot down some notes. (I’ve read a ton of great books.  I really should jot down some notes.  Good reminder.)

I hope you go somewhere. (Yes, I’ve traveled to a few wonderful places this year.  China, The Bahamas, Key West, Ottawa, and New Britain, CT.  Oh yeah-Elmira, NY too.)

You should read a lot of good books and write a book. (Okay-I’ve read a zillion great books. I have written a few children’s books.  I’m also working on a novel. More about that later.)

Maybe you should get chickens and raise them from chicks. (Don’t think so.  I’ve eaten a lot of eggs though.)

My mom recommends these books: Out of my Mind, The One and Only Ivan, Wonder, and I recommend these two movies; Life of Pie, and Hachet (Loved Wonder. Great book!  Will get to the rest.)

Since you are leaving, here are some things you can do: You can be a lifeguard or even a doctor. (I haven’t trained as a lifeguard-but I’ve done a lot of swimming this year, in pools, lakes, oceans, and the very cold and gorgeous Farmington River.  As for being a doctor-I’ve told a few people that I’m considering med school-but that was just a sarcastic response to the question I keep getting asked-What do you do all day?)

When you retire, you can be a producer or a museum guide.  (Been to some great art museums this year, NBMAA and The Whitney. Maybe next year I can be a guide. Or maybe I’ll just continue to be a visitor.)

You can volunteer for anything. Do this because if you stay inside you might be afraid to go outside. (I’ve done some volunteer work which I enjoyed a great deal.  Looking forward to more. I do remember to get outside every day too. Great advice.)

And please be yourself.  (My husband keeps asking me: Who are you?  I guess retirement has made me just a bit more relaxed. Plus-I do the shopping, make dinner, and even make the bed. That’s my new self.)

When you retire you can be a Lego engineer.  (Really?  I don’t think so.)

You can be in the army, a detective, or a zookeeper. (Not gonna happen.)

You can be a basketball player and earn a lot of money. (Not in this lifetime.)

 

Almost one year later, and still learning to get the hang of retirement.  Having leaped into this state, without careful planning, I guess you could say, I’ve learned a lot.

Next post-I’ll try to explain another retirement challenge:

How to plan your son and daughter-in-law’s second wedding in just two weeks. 

 The Hill Stead

Hello world!

What’s a Retirement Leaper?

The first anniversary of my retirement is just weeks away.  I’m going to use this blog to look back at the highs, lows, and plateaus, week by week, month by month.  I’m going to find clues and maybe some wisdom along the way, something that just might help others who are looking forward to their retirement, or perhaps facing their imminent retirement with trepidation.   I may even find some insight to help myself enjoy the second year of retirement.  That’s what I’m hoping will happen.

Here is something I’ve learned about retirement:  People within the ages of 60-100, seem to fall into one of four categories:  A. The Workers.  Either because they need the money, love their jobs, or they are fearful of too much free time, these people continue to work.  B. The Planners. These individuals retire thoughtfully, with meticulous care. They pick a date far into the future, and develop their hobbies, procure their part time gigs, plan their travels, find meaningful volunteer work, and change their living arrangements to make the transition practically painless.  Then they pray like crazy that they will still have their health when the time comes.  This blog is not for them.  There are already plenty of online resources to support The Planners.  C. The Life’s a Beach and then you die-ers. These folks never really had to work.  There is no transition for these people because basically, their entire adult lives have been lived as retirees.  Their 24 hours a day are filled with activities that morph into a life well-lived. Kind of like the scientific principle of homeostasis. I have nothing against these people, other than it is difficult if not impossible to break into their club.  Once you’re ready to spend time with them, they are so set in their ways they want nothing to do with you. Especially if you can’t play Mahjong. D. The Leapers. This is my category-the retirees who are fortunate enough to stop working with enough financial resources to be comfortable-well, comfortable enough. But the individuals in this category haven’t planned a thing.  We take this huge leap of faith, figuring everything will work out. Many Leapers are like me; we don’t really have time to think about retirement when we’re working-because our work lives are too busy, too stressful, and we believe too important, and so we schedule think time for our post retirement lives.  Leapers like us, don’t look before we leap.  We think if we look-we’ll never leap, and then we’ll end up as Workers for the remainder of our days. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

First retirement challenge: Two weeks to plan my son’s second wedding.  Stay tuned for my next post.

July 2014