First blog post – Vertical & Breathing – It’s A Good Day!

This is the post excerpt.

July 25, 2018

It’s finally here….after working full-time since 1972, I’m retired!  Now that I have some time on my hands to do whatever I wish, I decided I’d like to start writing again….hence, this blog.  (My friends and co-workers should get a good chuckle out of the title, I’m sure!)

For starters, I want to let everyone know that the word “retirement” does not necessarily have to mean that you’ve fallen off the face of the earth, or woke up overnight to suddenly find yourself incredibly old, wrinkled or so totally decrepit that you can’t get out of bed under your own power.

What I’m here to tell you is that there is one word that fully describes the feeling of “retirement” – and that is FREEDOM.  No more alarm clocks to dictate when your day HAS to start; watches and calendars are only important for scheduling that annual trip to the doctor, dentist and eye doctor (and with all the apps on my Samsung Galaxy these days, I can easily schedule same – and with pop-up reminders, to boot!  Ain’t technology grand!)

I now find I have the flexibility to go on a spontaneous bike ride on my new Schwinn with my sweetheart John…take the dogs swimming at a secret swimming hole in my new hometown (more on that later)…go work out, or just randomly shop…without the stress of having to squeeze in quality time around my usual cycle of work, eat, sleep, repeat.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride – maybe I can give you a chuckle or two as I share what the words “Happy Retirement” mean to me!

I went offline since December 2018, as I had just retired a few months before, had packed up and left Massachusetts and was settling into my new home with my long-time love, John, at his house in Connecticut. Then, just as I was getting fired up to pick up my blog again, John suffered several major health crises. After having undergone a successful angioplasty for two major blood clots/DVTs in his femoral artery, John collapsed in the Surgical Unit the very next morning on June 27, 2019, and suffered a catastrophic hemorraghic stroke, which he was not expected to survive. Fast-forward to last November 26, 2019, after critical brain surgery, over four months in Yale New Haven hospital, (including an unexpected emergency gall bladder removal via laprascopic surgery); then 28 days at an acute rehabilitation facility, another 24 days at a subacute rehabilitation facility…and my Miracle Man, (who was predicted by one neurologist [whom I shall only refer to as “Dr. Doom”], to only come back to me with 60% of his mental, physical and emotional faculties intact and require long-term in-patient care in a nursing home), came home two days before Thanksgiving Day with walker and a hockey helmet. He has graduated to walking with a cane only as needed outdoors, no helmet since December, cares for his personal needs 100% now, celebrated his 70th birthday, works on his computer, watches TV, reads, etc., and even drives his John Deere tractor to mow our lawn now! His long-term memory is completely intact (short-term is improving daily). He just underwent two procedures to successfully remove dense cataracts in each eye, and he’s literally seeing the world through new eyes. Driving will hopefully start up in the not-too-distant future. Despite COVID-19, we are looking optimistically to a brighter retirement for both of us!

Oh, and by the way, on May 29, 2020, 83 years after his parents said “I Do,” John and I did the same! He jokes that it only took 7-1/2 years, his near-death experience and COVID-19 for him to finally wear me down to say YES!

Vertical & Breathing/It’s A Good Day: Christmas Musings & Memories 2018

Well, I finally got up the gumption to sit down and write on a cold, December Saturday. Though we have only had one major snowfall (so far) in mid-November, there has been a smattering of on-and-off flurries several times this month, with the promise of potential Christmas snow in the air. Not being a HUGE fan of snow myself (I much prefer sitting and looking at it through a window in my warm kitchen with my first cup of coffee, rather than be out in it), it finally dawned on me that I no longer MUST go traipsing outside at 6:45 AM to clear off and warm up my car, in order to drive through the white stuff to my office, while trying to avoid those who have completely forgotten how to drive in the snow. (It’s wintertime in New England, folks – DEAL with it!)  In fact, it was quite liberating to actually wake up at 7:30 AM that first snowy morning, roll over, smile at my sleeping man, and whisper to myself, “It’s snowing – AND I DON’T HAVE TO GO TO WORK ANYMORE!!!” Then I chuckled to myself, rolled over, caught another 40 winks. Boy, this retirement gig sure does have its perks!

And now that Christmas is nigh, and I have so much more time on my hands, I have actually relished leisurely putting up holiday decor in my new forever home in a quaint little town in Connecticut.  When I was still a working stiff at a major intercity bus company, I usually ended up decorating several trees, or assisting with decking the halls throughout our terminal, as well as coordinating my company’s giving tree each year.  As a result, my home Christmas prep was usually done in a frenzied rush, getting the tree up right after Thanksgiving was a major undertaking, and literally throwing the outside lights on the bushes and installing 3-foot illuminated dancing candy canes in the Japanese maple on the front lawn was something done a bit haphazardly by myself for years. (Why IN the tree? That way, the candy cane spikes didn’t freeze in the snow, and I could take them down before the spring thaw around St. Patrick’s Day in March!)


When John came into my life, it was rather refreshing to suddenly have a 6’5″ elf to wrangle Christmas decor on the front lawn, as well as at least get the tree up from the basement, lit up and stabilized in the stand for me, leaving the ornament hanging in my expert hands when I got home from work.  (Of course, now that I’m home all day, he decided to get a taller tree this year, and as I am vertically challenged myself, he ended up decorating 90% of the tree, leaving me to admire the end result….hey, works for me!)


As you can probably imagine, my alter ego, “Herself the Elf” has been faced with quite a quandary this year.  Since I am now retired, and moved about 90 minutes away from my Massachusetts home city since 1972, I no longer have so much daily stress and hustle & bustle to deal with – but I am also missing the bevy of bus drivers, office buddies and bus terminal cronies, as well as long-time neighbors and friends, to shower with my usual tons of Christmas cookies and fudge. Mind you, I come from a long line of pseudo-“elves” who not only baked cookies, whipped up homemade candy, fudge and the most amazing handmade ornaments you’ve ever seen, but truly LOVED every aspect of Christmas. My Mother was especially gifted at making Christmas a truly magical time for all of us, and was practically a legend in my little NY hometown for sharing her incredible cookies, gifts and her generous warmth of spirit with everyone who crossed her path….from family, friends, and neighbors, to the less fortunate in our community.


As an adult, I used to have an annual long-distance cookie baking competition with my Mom, whose “world record” was 1,472 cookies to my paltry second place personal best of 1,142 (but I make about 16-20 pounds of fudge as well – so THERE!) Like my Mom before me, most of the goodies were packed up for giving to friends and neighbors, and I used to love to make up platters of assorted homemade cookies and fudge for all my Peter Pan Bus Lines co-workers.  These intrepid folks have to drive buses, supervise dispatch operations, sell tickets and handle information and customer service calls on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, so I felt it was important to let them know their efforts were especially appreciated during this busiest travel season of the year. Since retiring however, though I have lots of extra time, I no longer have as many people nearby – so for the first time in about 35 years, I will be making only a fraction of what I used to…much to the delight of my immediate family and new neighbors (I hope!)  That being said, it’s time for me to head down to the kitchen to start a batch of red poinsettia cookies, or perhaps green Christmas trees – and if I feel like it, maybe some snickerdoodles to boot….(Mom would be so proud!)

Mom & Dad – Christmas 1990

But despite all the sweets-making, card-writing, gift-wrapping and carols playing throughout my new home, my thoughts always seem to go back to those happy, simpler holidays of my childhood…and I find I am channeling my Mom a lot these days – listening to classic Christmas songs as I bake, hang another ornament, or tweak a little of the decor in our house…at other times with the Hallmark Channel on TV in the background….and I find I am operating at a more peaceful, less frenetic pace than I have been since 1971 – my last “childhood” Christmas while still living in my parents’ little house prior to striking out on my own as an adventurous 19-year-old. I find myself getting lost in the memories of  the peace and joy, laughter and real love that emanated from my parents and siblings during those Christmases; the fun of finding or even making just the “perfect gifts” for my sisters, or my parents; Christmas caroling from house to house as kids; my Grandparents bringing that extra special brand of love with them when they came in from the “big city” to stay with us through Christmas week; and the gathering of extended family and friends at my Mother’s table on Christmas Day. There was always lots of time for visiting with cousins and at our neighbors’ homes throughout our school vacation, as well. Life was much less complicated back then, there was less emphasis on the material presents under the tree, and more on the giving of yourself, your time and helping others….which has always been the true meaning of Christmas to me….as I believe it should be!

      May All Your Christmas Dreams Come True; and Cheer & Peace Be Sent to You. 

 Spend Precious Time With Those Held Dear; Good Health to You This Coming Year!




Vertical & Breathing: It’s a Good Day/ Guess Who Went to See the Mouse!

Grand Floridian 10-1-18 Magic-Kingdom-Castle-Night-1024x756                                  1ST & 500TH  FANTASMIC BALLOON RIDE JOHN & FIGMENT

“What’s the first thing you want to do when you retire?” my fiance’ John asked me late in May, 2018.  After the insane six week period from early April till May 24th, wherein I had finalized training my replacement, retired from my 38-1/2 year career at Peter Pan, then turned 65 the following day; finally emptied and sold my house in Massachusetts where I had resided since 1991; then made the “big move” to my new forever home in Connecticut with my love of nearly six years, the answer was simple.  I had two choices: either a cruise or one of my bucket list items – to go to Disney World.  Well, as I had already been surprised by my love with a cruise to the Bahamas for my 60th birthday, it was a no-brainer…. I was going to SEE THE MOUSE!  (A wish is a dream you build on, or vice versa, as they say in Disney-speak, and who HASN’T wanted to see what the Wonderful World of Disney was like in real life since the age of five, right?) So my intrepid Disneyphile man went full steam ahead, planning the ultimate Disney experience for us, from soup to nuts.

Now to understand fully, you need to first know that John has been to every Disney park in the Orlando area for the grand total of OVER 500 DAYS since 1978. He knows this because, (being a detail-oriented, annoyingly exacting [dare I use the term anal?] engineer for United Technologies), over the particularly boring snowy winter of 2005, he actually took the time to calculate how many days he had spent at one or more Disney parks up to that point…whether he had gone alone or with ex-wives and family, to only one park, or 3 in one day, it counted as only a one-day visit.  Turned out that by 2005, he had amassed over 444 days….and he continued to go to Disney parks from 2005 to 2010 with his then-wife and her youngest child, and even by himself during breaks in business and training seminars for his company held in Orlando, West Palm Beach and at NASA, adding to the 444 day count. What better way to spend downtime than taking a ride on Splash Mountain, or visiting his buddy Figment at Epcot (what is it with engineers and Figment, anyway?) By the time of our escapade into WDW, he’d accumulated at least an additional 50+ days….hence, we were about to celebrate at least his 500th visit and my first time ever – a noteworthy event that was commemorated by Disney cast members “pinning” us with special badges stating our respective milestones (they are NOT referred to as “employees” in Disney-speak – that terminology doesn’t sound magical enough!)

So John planned every single excruciating detail, from finding the lowest possible crowd numbers (did you know “crowd days” are numbered from roughly 1 to 10, according to historic crowd density dates?), booking the best & least expensive flights (we learned NEVER to take Spirit Airlines again!), two weeks in a beautiful 2-bedroom “villa” at Orange Lake Resort in Kissimmee, his-and-her scooters from Gold Mobility Scooters (don’t laugh, they saved our arthritic knees and backs, Disney treats folks in wheelchairs and on scooters with TLC when it comes to getting into attractions, plus we always had a seat for fireworks-watching that didn’t have somebody else’s melted chocolate or gum on it!) He made several terrific restaurant ADRs (for those of you dear readers who are NOT in the know, that stands for “Advance Dining Reservations” at some of the insanely expensive sit-down specialty dining experiences at Walt Disney World – hey, somebody has to “feed the Mouse!”), and Fast Passes, Magic Bands, Memory Maker package, ad nauseum.  He even went so far as to find an additional surprise “bucket list item” for us to experience together – a helium balloon ride over Disney Springs….talk about leaving no stone unturned!

Magic Bands firmly attached to our sweaty-because-it’s-95-degrees-heated wrists, we first visited Disney’s Hollywood Studio, saw the not-to-be-missed Indiana Jones show, etc.  John had arranged for us to see the Fantasmic fireworks and light extravaganza from a great vantage point that first night at Disney – we attended a VIP dessert party, and got tasty adult beverages in special flashing keepsake mugs as well as incredible chocolaty treats while we watched one of the most beautiful laser light-water-fireworks displays I’d ever seen (up to that point). Second day, met up with my cousin and her family at Whispering Canyon Cafe’ restaurant at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and had a relaxing day poolside with them. (Until we’d talked in June, neither one of us knew the other would be at Disney at the same time, so this was a really happy coincidence). The next day, we visited Animal Kingdom & Epcot in one day, skipped a day to go shopping at Disney Springs, and tried for the first of several attempts to get on that helium balloon! (Winds had to be under 16 mph, and as luck would have it, Hurricane Michael was on its way, which, though it only dumped some rain on the greater Orlando area, made it far too gusty several days in advance to go up in any kind of balloon).

We did slow down the pace between park days to lounge poolside at Orange Lake, tube down the lazy river there, and take nice breaks from all the Disney frenzy for a bit.  We even managed to squeeze in a day in Tampa with my Florida family members, taking in The Florida Aquarium, which was a great attraction.

Not to bore you with every single detail of our vacation, but we covered everything from Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival (nightmare crowds on weekends!), Disney’s Hollywood Studio, saw a gorgeous lion and his lionesses at Animal Kingdom, went on every ride imaginable (yes, I got wet on Splash Mountain as well as the Frozen ride, went Soarin’ twice, and rode Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain as well), but we also visited Universal Studios in between. (We went on Rip-Ride-Rocket roller coaster (YOU MUST HAVE A DEATH WISH IF YOU DO THIS MORE THAN ONCE!), flew with Harry Potter, plus the Escape From Gringotts ride and the mystical, magical Diagon Alley, all of which were breathtaking and fun…and the frozen Butter Beer is not to be missed!) The highlight of our day at Magic Kingdom was the most truly incredible light and fireworks spectacular, voted the #1 greatest display in the world, set to the magnificent Disney themes from all their best animated classic films – and the grand finale, with Tinkerbell actually in flight amidst the fireworks, had all of us in the crowded streets alternately cheering, screaming and holding our breath! Most amazing thing I have ever witnessed!

To tell you this was a trip to remember is an understatement, but one thing will always stand out in my mind and my heart for the rest of my life…..that very first moment at rope drop at Magic Kingdom, when we were scooting slowly on Main Street amidst the morning throng, and John suddenly said to me “Look up” – and I saw the iconic Cinderella’s Castle up close and personal for the very first time. Yes, I got a lump in my throat….yes, I teared up….and yes, my inner child, five years old, immediately started jumping up and down (on the inside!) It truly was “A Magical Day”…and the experience of a lifetime!

(Oh, and yes, we finally managed on our 5th attempt to get on that damn balloon – and it was well worth the wait!)   Continue reading “Vertical & Breathing: It’s a Good Day/ Guess Who Went to See the Mouse!”

Verticalbreathingitsagoodday Road to Retirement: The Big Move!

I’m here to tell ya, preparing for your upcoming retirement ain’t for the faint of heart!  It’s really WORK!  There’s countless hours of preparation, researching Social Security and Medicare websites, trying to figure out how to maneuver through the myriad online forms, the system of the proper time to sign up for your benefits, pick a supplemental insurance plan, prescription plan, etc., etc.  If anything was meant to make you feel old and decrepit, this is it.  (I honestly think it’s a test, to see how badly you really want to retire!)

Just when you think you’re about to reach a human being after waiting 15 minutes on the phone, listening to canned elevator music, you get a recording telling you, “All agents are busy serving other customers. Your wait time is now 35 minutes. If you’d like us to call you back, please press 3 (or whatever).

I learned after the first couple of  attempts that a callback was definitely the better option, as you usually got a living, breathing person (usually being the operative word). But once it’s all set up, you actually start looking forward to the day when your first direct deposit check arrives in your bank account – and you are getting paid just to enjoy life!

Aside from this, the period from this past March through the end of May was mostly a blur for these two old codgers.  In the midst of clearing out my work area at Peter Pan, purging files, photos, shredding documentation from over 38 years of employment, training my lovely & talented successor Joelle, and dealing with the very emotional aspect of leaving my professional home and “family” since 1979, yada, yada, yada…I was also faced with the daunting task of selling my duplex where I’d lived since 1991.

As you might imagine, cleaning out 27 years of MORE stuff from a garage & basement, after a full day at the office wasn’t exactly my favorite pastime those last couple of months.  There were closets full of crap-e-ola to empty, discard or pack in copious amounts of boxes, bags and Rubbermaid tubs. (Did you ever wonder how somehow this “stuff” seems to magically accumulate overnight? I firmly believe that clothes, shoes, leather goods, etc. literally fornicate & multiply the moment you close the closet door!)

If THAT wasn’t challenging enough, my tenants left their side of the structure in a horrendously deplorable condition, which I don’t have to detail here – suffice to say, I had to hire a professional cleaning service (thank you, Jessie of Quality Cleaning!) who sent a crew of 4 to carry out 85 contractor bags of trash into a 30 yard roll-off dumpster for THAT SIDE ALONE.  They cleaned the unit from top to bottom, steam cleaned the carpeting and sanitized every hard surface in the place within an inch of its life…and 2 of her crew even raked my entire property for us, without being requested to do so.  (Who says angels don’t exist?) Let me tell you, folks, being a landlord ain’t what it’s cracked up to be –  never again, AMEN!

Now enter “Super John,” my intrepid partner in love and life, who turned out to be Iron Man in disguise! He tackled filling a 20 yard roll-off dumpster for my side of the duplex, broke down some large old pieces of furniture and trashed outdoor fixtures with no assistance; then in his “spare time,” decided to get a 15 yard dumpster at his (now our) house in Connecticut and cleared out those closets, attic and basement to make room for my truckloads of “stuff.”  (All that kept playing in my head throughout this entire process was George Carlin’s “A Place For My Stuff” – listen to it sometime, and you’ll catch my meaning.)  He made countless 3 hour round-trips to bring truckloads of boxes and bags to CT while I was at work, supervised contractors at my home who made the necessary buyer’s requested repairs in order to close the sale of the 2-unit duplex, which thankfully was finalized May 24th.  His biggest Herculean effort was the night of May 22nd, when John drove his second trip of the day – he piled his pickup with the last of our belongings, I finished loading up my car to the roof with clothes, personal effects, etc., and we took off for the final time to our new forever home. (No, the photo above isn’t John’s truck – but it came mighty close!) We eventually arrived in CT around 10:30 PM, bleary-eyed, exhausted and barely able to form declarative sentences…but we were DONE!   (For the better part of 6 weeks, John did the work of a 38 year old man – only to realize at the end of the day, he really is 68! Ibuprofen is now his new best friend – and mine as well.  If moving without the help of a professional moving service, or younger kids to help you load/unload, doesn’t kill ya, NOTHING will!)

Suffice to say, all’s well that ends well, and we are all very happy the ordeal is over – and our new life has begun!