March 5, 2017

Time Spent in Self-Reflection

Filed under: Aurora,Everyday Life,Family,Wildlife — Susan Stevenson @ 10:01 pm

“Time spent in self-reflection is never wasted – it is an intimate date with yourself.” ~ Dr. Paul T. P. Wong

Hello faithful readers. This is the longest break I have ever taken from blogging, and if you’re still here, I want you to know I appreciate it. It has been a time of adjustment, organization, and reflection.  Where to begin…

As you know, Steve is now fully retired. His last day of work was on May 2nd. The summer kept both of us busy, although we spent a lot of time apart too – which certainly isn’t the norm for us, especially in the summer. Of course, I had a great excuse for being gone from the end of July until mid September! I was privileged to be with my granddaughter for the first nearly 6 weeks of her life. While I was gone, Steve hitched up the camper and headed to Valdez for some fishing. He had problems with the camper both coming and going. These mishaps, combined with vacationing alone,  Raven ripping a toenail off while camping (she’s fine), the quiet in the house when he returned – along with the lack of socialization, did not make for a good summer for Steve.

By the time I arrived home the second week of September, Steve was starved for attention, human conversation and interaction. And while I most certainly missed him while I was gone, and loved all the doting and sweetness he showered on me with when I came home, it only took about a week for me to realize that I was not totally prepared to have him in *my* space 24 hours a day. And he wasn’t prepared to be there.

RHS – Retired Husband Syndrome – is a real thing.  Google it. I skimmed several articles and found my share of humorous or b*tchy stories about life after retirement. But I also found informative articles too. And I can’t tell you how relieved I was to learn that this isn’t something unique to our relationship.  Don’t worry…. we’re in it for the long haul.  I just didn’t expect to be constantly reminding myself of my marriage vows 25 years in! There are many more things to adjust to than just having your mate home with you all the time.

Every couple is unique, so the adjustment to such a big change is going to vary too. When I married Steve, he was active duty army. I was a very independent single mom, which is one of the things Steve admired most when we met. After he moved me and my boys to GA, my life revolved around him and his duties as a soldier. I did my best to be home when he was home, because our separations were so frequent. After the boys left the nest, and I started working for myself, I continued to do everything I could to be home for him when he was home. When he retired from the military and went to work for the mine, he worked rotating shifts, but we knew his schedule a year out. I made sure to plan my calendar to coincide as much as I could.  I wasn’t forced to do this. It’s something I wanted to do. I looked forward to spending time together when he was home, because those times were so infrequent.

Fast forward 24 years…. Steve retires. He’s home all the time. At first it’s awesome. It’s like vacation or a never ending holiday. We’re being lazy, watching movies, eating junk food, and we don’t even care what day it is. But of course, this isn’t the retirement plan we’ve been working toward. So I slip back into my normalcy – which is scheduling portrait sessions, editing photos, writing, and going on the occasional scenic drive or camping trip with friends. But things aren’t normal. There is one huge difference. I am never alone. And it’s hard for me to get used to that.

I have always needed alone time. It’s something I grew quite used to as both a young, recently divorced single mom, and as the spouse of a soldier. I like quiet time. I love my solitude. It’s the way I reflect, refresh, and re-energize. When Steve was working, I woke to quiet. I’d come down to a quiet kitchen, pour some coffee, interact with Raven, and catch up on the news.  If I didn’t have any sessions scheduled, I would leisurely dress for the day,  make a list of things to do,  load up the car with Raven and my camera, and head into town – where I might window shop, or take a walk at Creamers Field, or just drive around town looking for photo ops. I always made sure to be home by the time Steve woke for work (or came home from work, depending on his shift). He was happy I was there to welcome him or send him off, and I was happy I had an enjoyable day with myself. On his off day, we would do whatever he wanted to do, or something we both wanted to do. Sometimes he went off alone to fish or golf.  It was great and everyone was happy.  But now it’s over – or rather that routine is over.

Of course the happiness is still there – for so many reasons. We are happy because we love to plan adventures, and we love to RV, and now we don’t have to follow any schedules. And we’re thrilled because we bought a new camper (and will be picking it up this summer), and we’re planning a Lower 48 adventure. But sometimes the happiness can be muffled by the worry or stress or fear that retirement can bring.  It certainly doesn’t help that retirement is still synonymous with *old*. We don’t feel old, and I know a lot of you don’t feel old either! But it is sobering to know that we have less life ahead of us, than we do behind. And you never know when life can be snatched away. (My father was only 62 – Steve’s age – when he died.)

In January, Steve thought he was having a heart attack. It happened at 8am in the morning. We were both up, drinking coffee and watching the news. Trump had just been sworn in a week prior and every single TV channel was broadcasting the divisiveness of our country. People were marching and protesting, and we both found ourselves sucked into the news chaos. We had our own heated discussions about politics, and I know we weren’t the only couple feeling the strain of an election year – particularly this election year. One minute he’s sitting next to me in the living room, and the next thing I know, he’s calling me from the bedroom. When I went upstairs, he was monitoring his blood pressure (he has a BP cuff) and all the readings were high. His pulse was racing, he was clammy, and his chest hurt. I called 9-1-1. Paramedics arrived and took him to the hospital, where he underwent a barrage of tests for several hours. Fortunately, it was not a heart attack, but a severe anxiety attack. That experience put everything in perspective. We are both so thankful it wasn’t his heart. His stress and anxiety are being managed now, and things are so much better!

A few days ago, we put a deposit on our new travel trailer. We spent nearly a month talking, researching, and negotiating with several dealers – THAT was super stressful! You would think buying a new camper would be exciting. Until we take possession, outfit it, and begin our first journey, we’re both anxious and overwhelmed by all the things on our list we need to check off before we embark on this first adventure.

One good thing that has come out of Steve’s retirement – and his health scare – was that we’re really talking to each other now. But most importantly, we’re listening to each other too. There is no way for a retirement plan to work if you’re not on the same sheet of music. We have survived so much worse, and we know this too shall pass.

On top of our health worries with Steve, we discovered that Raven has a mass in her abdomen. At first they thought it was a tumor on her liver, but an ultrasound and blood work made the vet think it could be her gallbladder instead. The vet didn’t say it’s cancer, but we haven’t ruled anything out. We’re waiting for another ultrasound concentrating on the gallbladder and, if warranted, some medication to help. Needless to say, this has been very difficult for both of us, but especially Steve. Raven is not a formally trained PTSD dog, but she has been exactly that for Steve. When Steve becomes frustrated, or raises his voice, Raven immediately positions herself so that her face is as close to his as possible. Immediately, he is distracted by her presence. As he pets her and calms her, he calms himself. It is really such a wonderful thing to witness, and the love they have for each other is quite special. We know we won’t have Raven forever, and due to her recent health issues, we’ve had several conversations about the “what ifs”.  This hasn’t helped Steve’s anxiety levels either.

Then, bringing more worry to my family, my younger brother was recently diagnosed with colon cancer. He’s already had surgery, and we are now waiting to learn the treatment plan he faces ahead. If you’ve been reading me for a long time, you may remember my mother died of colon cancer. My grandmother did too. This is why my brothers and I are tested more frequently than the general population. We are hopeful that with Marc’s regular/frequent screenings, the cancer has been caught early enough for a complete recovery.

It has been a heck of a roller coaster ride these last few months, to say the least. But we’re on an upswing now…. the light is coming back, plans are coming together, and we’re both feeling so much better. One step at a time…

JANUARY and JULIET

I flew to WI just after New Years, to see my beautiful granddaughter again. I couldn’t stand being away from her! Of course I was thrilled to see my sons and daughter-in-loves (one soon-to-be) too.  I only stayed for 10 days. While in WI, we had wintry weather, and at times it felt colder than Alaska. I stayed with Chris and Kimberly this time, as Brandon and Becky were working, and Chris was able to take vacation days while I was in town. I did stay over with Juliet a few days, and looked after her while her parents worked. I love spending time with this beautiful baby!

Here are a couple of photos I took of Juliet while I was visiting.  She is such a happy baby! She is now 7 months old, and her first tooth just broke through her gums. (She wasn’t quite 6 months old in these photos) She rolls over in both directions, loves her Jumperoo, and has an appetite for vegetables of all kinds. Becky buys organic produce and cooks and purees it for Juliet. She has such a good appetite! I’m happy about that, as I am rather picky (as is my eldest son). Brandon was never picky, and Juliet appears to take after her daddy.  I miss her so much, and can’t wait to see her again in a few months! I am especially excited about Steve meeting her for the first time. I know he will love her as much as I do! It’s easy to fall in love with this perfect little girl.

 

My beautiful granddaughter, Juliet Rose!

Juliet Rose in a tutu Juliet Rose Juliet Rose

Steve and I are planning to drive to the Lower 48 in late April or early May. We’re picking up our new travel trailer in IL – less than 100 miles from the boys in WI. (Manufacture and delivery averages 8-10 weeks) This way, we have a home base while we’re waiting to take possession, or while we’re having things on the inspection punch list taken care of. And I’ll get to see my precious granddaughter again! Once we’re on our way, we plan to spend a few weeks exploring a few of the western and northwestern states before returning to Alaska in time to enjoy at least some of our short summer.  We’re both excited about our maiden voyage, and also feel much less anxious because we’re really not on any timeline, and plan to just ‘go with the flow’ as to when we leave WI and begin this first adventure.

Another reason for our visit is to attend my eldest son Chris’ college graduation. He has been working full time and putting himself through college for nearly a decade, taking classes when he had the time and money to do so. He’s finally going to graduate in May. We are all so proud of him! His degree is in some aspect of Information Technology/Computers, but I’m not sure of the details. He’s working in an Intern position this final semester, which is providing him with much needed hands-on experience. I know he’ll be happy when school is finished. It’s been a tough few years for him. Way to go, Chris!

LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW! 

Our winter season started off rather slow, but February sure made up for it! By the end of February, the airport was reporting almost 80″ of snow in Fairbanks. Of that 80″, more than 73″ fell in the last three months! This is why we feel like it’s been a super snowy winter.

How thankful Steve is for a snowblower, when having to tend to our rather long driveway. When we get dumped on, he sometimes has to blow off nearly a foot of accumulation. We are fortunate to have local residents with plows on their trucks, who take care of our road. (We are so thankful for this selfless service to our neighborhood!)

We have also had super cold weather these last couple of months. As low as -45F on January 18th. Of course we had to do the “boiling water to snow toss” (third photo, top row), but for the most part we were in deep hibernation. No one wants to go out at those temps. Even Raven wears her coat in addition to her booties on days like those. The few times we did get above zero, Steve and I were eager to bundle up, and bootie up Raven, and take walks around the neighborhood. We were so crazy with cabin fever! What a beautiful snow globe world we live in! Those walks were so therapeutic, despite the chapped faces.  We’ve made it a habit to walk whenever it is above zero, which has been more frequent lately. Below, I’ve posted some photos from various walks around the neighborhood, as well as some of the views around our property.

Morning Ice Fog Raven running through the snow Tossing boiling water into the air
Steve and Raven enjoying our walk Deep, deep snow Looking for the squirrel
View from our bedroom window Squirrel path Winter Landscape
Snow on a Fence Drifting snow Another view from our bedroom window

DRIVING THE STEESE

After a few days of above zero temps and sunshine, Steve and I were ready to take a much needed scenic drive. We decided to drive north on the Steese Hwy at least as far as Chatanika (about 35 miles from our house). We were both in need of a change of scenery, and the sunshine beckoned us into the great outdoors. The orange light of the sun was absolutely amazing!  All the trees and shrubs were coated in thick frost, glowing in the bright sunshine. It was so magical! We saw many signs of wildlife, as tracks criss-crossed the fresh snow, but none of the creatures who made those tracks. And then, only a few miles from home, this beautiful moose was spotted on a narrow side lane. As timing would have it, the low sun perfectly illuminated the birch trees, bathing them in the orange light of late afternoon.

Moose in Afternoon Light

Steese Highway Sun tipped trees Steese Highway Early afternoon sun Steese Highway - Cleary Summit
Steese Highway Low afternoon sun Frosty trees Steese Highway Sunburst
Snowy trees Steese Highway - Chatanika River

THIS AND THAT

Steve snowshoeing a path for RavenLook how deep the snow is!Despite the bouts of cabin fever, all is not bleak here in North Pole. We do have some of the most amazing views from our home.  Sometimes several days will pass in between my ventures out into the community. More often than not, I am content to stay inside where it’s nice and warm, with my family beside me. There is always a beautiful view out my windows, and the entertainment of the smallest creatures fills the days with smiles and joy.

Raven isn’t an outdoor dog, so she only goes outside when she has to tend to business. We put her booties on her when it’s below zero to protect her paw pads. With all the snow we recently had, Steve had to continue the snow blown paths on snowshoes, so that Raven wouldn’t drown. We call these “potty paths”. Raven is quite spoiled, but I also have quite a few friends who did the same for their furry kids! The photo of me was taken during a lull in our most recent storm. We got more than a foot in one afternoon, and had several days of significant accumulation. Steve made a video of me being silly and throwing myself into the snowbank in our front yard. I had much more fun than I expected!

If you can’t see the video above, click here to view it at Vimeo: Playing in the Snow from Susan Stevenson on Vimeo.

SUN DOG

A sun dog (or mock sun), is an atmospheric phenomenon that consists of a bright spot to the left and/or right of the Sun. They often occur in pairs, one on each side of the Sun. The meteorological name is parhelion (plural parhelia). Sun Dogs are a favorite part of winter. Sometimes the rainbow spots on either side are super bright and colorful. Other times, you have to squint your eyes to pick them out from the bright backdrop. The photo below was actually taken on a day that was much brighter than this photo shows. But I took this photo through Steve’s windshield (polarized coating), which enhanced things a little bit, and then adjusted it further in Photoshop to bring out the parhelia on either side of the sun. In reality, the sun was super bright, and it hurt my eyes to look too long in that direction.

sundog

THE VIEW FROM MY COCOON

This collection of photos was taken from inside my home, looking out windows and doors at the world around me. I have often complained that winter can be a long period of black and white and grey, and the lack of color really brings me down. With this winter being tougher than most – as we had retirement in addition to darkness and cold –  I made it my mission to notice the color in my world. There is a lot more of it than I paid attention to. Some of it is man-made (my decorating choices), and some of it is nature-made. And some of it is a harmonious mix of both.  But nothing compares to the joy my little wild friends bring me.

Sunrise and stained glass Morning Light Kitchen glass
Spruce trees in early morning light Stained glass and colored bottles Sunset from the bedroom
Sunset Redpole and Bird House Squirrel Whack a Mole in yard

AURORA – THE GREATEST OF NIGHT’S JOYS

Despite the winter weather, we have been lucky to have several clear nights and an active aurora. Unfortunately, when the mercury falls below zero, I am less apt to venture far from my home – especially alone. Now that my usual aurora chasing friends have moved away, or can’t stay out late, I don’t get the opportunity to venture too far. Steve would drive me wherever I wanted to go, but I feel terrible making him do that. Especially if there are lulls in activity – which can be very boring to a non-“chaser”.  I’m content to stay close, with the occasional drive to Nordale Rd for a more open sky. The following photos were taken from my front yard over the last two months.

January 18 Feb 2 Feb 2
Feb 15 Feb 15 Feb 15
March 1 4am March 1 March 1
March 1 4am March 1 March 1

This pano was taken from my corner. My house is in the trees in the center of the photo. From up at the corner, I have a more open view of the sky. I don’t go that far when I’m only in pjs and boots, even though it’s only about a hundred yards. In the front yard, Steve keeps an eye on me (if he’s awake).

Aurora over my neighborhood - March 1st into the 2nd

When the sky started going crazy, Steve offered to drive me to Nordale Rd for a better view. We pulled out at Nordale Flats and watched the show for about 45 minutes. The temperature continued to drop until we saw -32F. My fingertips were pretty numb by the time I gave up. The sky exploded just after I left (as usually happens), but I was happy to be in a warm truck with heated seats.  I took this pano from Nordale Rd. I call it Nature’s Drive-in. As you can see, Nordale Rd brings out a lot of photographers. The folks in that car either had their moon roof open, or were smoking like a chimney. The glow you see above their vehicle is oncoming traffic lights reflecting on the steam – or smoke – pouring from their vehicle.

Aurora over Nordale Rd - March 1st into 2nd

This month is sleddog racing month, with the restart of the Iditarod happening right here in Fairbanks again this year. In fact, the race starts tomorrow, and Steve is going to take me into town to scope out a vantage point so I can grab a few photos. Might just have to turn it into a date day.

We have several other races this month, and the Ice Park is open again. We’re planning to go to the ice park this upcoming weekend, after the multi-block sculptures are done.  I like to go in the daylight hours and again at night to see the sculptures under colored lights.

I noticed the sky was starting to get bright by 6:20am. That makes me so happy!

I will try to be more present here. I still have so many photos to go through and edit from all my travels over the past year. On top of that, Steve and I are trying to downsize as much as possible (rid ourselves of clutter). We have donated quite a bit to Value Village, and the Literacy Council bookstore, and have a few things we’d like to try to get a few bucks for. We plan to put the proceeds in an envelope for our upcoming trip. Maybe we sell enough stuff to cover some of our gas expense.

Until next time…

22 Comments »

  1. Ah Susan, my husband also failed retirement. After about 6 weeks he went back to doing his old job (Respiratory Therapist) PRN, which means as necessary. He ùsually works 2-3 days a week and he chooses the days. Nice!! I think retirement is easier for women……we always can find plenty to do and usually have several hobbies and interests. Harder for men…..they don’t quite know what to do with themselves. My point is, just hang in there and you two will find the balance that works for you. We all have been through it. Enjoy your blog and photographs so much. Have been to Alaska 3 times…..hoping to make it one more time. God Bless, Carol

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Carol and thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. I appreciate your thoughts and I’m glad to know this isn’t anything out of the ordinary. If we didn’t have such a long winter, perhaps it would have been a little easier for both of us. Steve loves to fish and golf, and I know he would have eagerly busied himself with his hobbies. But all this snow (and cold) isn’t good for folks who aren’t avid snow enthusiasts. Don’t get me wrong – I love winter! And I love AK in the winter with the aurora and the beauty and the winter events. But when it’s -20F, no one goes out unless they have to. Too many days of that and things start to look a bit bleak. We’re excited to begin snowbirding eventually. But this summer we’re excited about seeing the kids and other family and friends in the Lower 48. Something exciting to look forward too. (And too busy to stress!)

    I hope you find your way back to AK again soon, Carol. Being as you’ve been here 3 times already, I suspect you’re a fan of this beautiful state too. 🙂 Take care!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Carol Baden — March 6, 2017 @ 4:08 am

  2. Welcome back to the blogging world. We’ve missed you! Sounds like you’re adjusting well to all the changes, even if it’s taken some time. Being a former military wife myself, whose husband was gone a lot, I can empathize with you about the alone time and how it’s definitely an adjustment period!! Even now, in my divorced and dating phase, I cannot adequately explain to people how much I enjoy my alone time. I’m sure most military wives feel the same way — you have to be so independent and you set your own schedule so to have readjust that as life changes, is a very hard thing to do. Not that we don’t love spending time with others, but we do enjoy the alone time!

    Anyway, glad to read your update. Glad Steve’s health scare was just anxiety and not a heart attack — how scary! Praying that Raven’s health issues are resolved soon. I know how much your pup means to you and they’re like little children. I just had my 16 year old pup put to sleep before Christmas. The hole it leaves in ones heart is huge.

    Can’t wait to read more of your adventures as you guys travel this spring and summer. As always, I live vicariously through you, especially during the winter, as we’ve spent a sweltering couple of “winter” months here in SC with temps in the 70s and 80s!

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Lori and thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Not having my alone time has been the hardest thing to adjust to. Even when Steve goes upstairs to sequester himself in the bedroom watching TV, knowing he’s there is not the same as a totally empty house. But it helps! Steve’s been great about doing all the grocery shopping too, so that takes him out of the house for an afternoon now and then, and I look forward to those hours too. Thank goodness he’s understanding when I tell him he needs to go find something to do. I was so worried he would feel insulted or like I didn’t love him, but he totally gets it. (Because he probably enjoys the alone time too!) So yes… it’s a pretty big adjustment for everyone. Now that we have a plan coming together, we’re at least staying focused on the adventure ahead. Next up…. seeing what spending several months in 350sf is like. *grin*

    [Reply]

    Comment by Lori — March 6, 2017 @ 4:46 am

  3. Susan,

    Wow, what a post! The photos are awesome as always.

    I hope everything works out for you and your family. Know that my prayers are with all of you (including Raven, of course) as you go forward. I wish you all perfect health and happiness.

    Take care of yourself as you nurture everyone else. We sometimes forget to do that as we care for husbands, children, grandchildren, siblings and pets.

    Love and prayers, my friend.

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Charlene and thanks for making it through this long wordy entry. It has been a heck of a year for us. Steve didn’t plan well enough for all the time he was going to have on his hands and I suppose he expected I would fill those hours. While I love to spend time with him, I don’t think anyone can go from healthy separations each day to seeing each other 24/7. I know it has been as frustrating for him too.

    January was a super hard month for us with the post-holiday mood let-down, my trip to WI, family crisis’, health issues, Raven, etc. Then, when Steve had his anxiety attack, we were both so scared! As awful as that experience was, it was exactly what we needed to snap out of it. Things are so much better! We’re finding out what works for us in regards to togetherness, alone-time, hobbies, etc.

    We also realized that because we are not winter enthusiasts, we spend way too much time indoors. While we have nothing against hibernation, now that we’re retired, and have the time to do whatever we want, we don’t want to waste a minute. Which is why we’re hoping a snowbird lifestyle will work for us. We’ll see what happens! We won’t know how things are going to turn out unless we go for it. 😀

    Thank you for your love and prayers, Charlene. And always being a listening ear.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Charlene Murray — March 6, 2017 @ 9:21 am

  4. Love the video! Fun at the North Pole. Looks like temps have really fallen again. Jim and I were so lucky with all of our travels when we visited. The lowest temp we had was 3 when we left Fairbanks to travel to Valdez. Again, it was so nice meeting you! It truly was one of the highlights of our trip. Alaska was all and more that I was hoping for. I truly believe a little of my soul will always be there. I am so sorry we didn’t take a picture. Hope to see you this summer on your travels. Our home will always be open to you and Steve.

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    We have beautiful sunshine today and lovely blue skies. At -5F, we’re not too cold (yet). I do think we have another cold snap coming our way.

    I’m so glad you had such a great trip to Alaska! 😀 Thank you for the offer of hospitality. I will try to keep everyone posted as to our travel directions. 🙂 We plan to visit KC area to see Steve’s son and family, as well as friends in the Leavenworth area, so hopefully we’ll have time to squeeze in a visit with you both and you can meet Steve. 😀

    [Reply]

    Comment by Kelly Kurtz — March 6, 2017 @ 10:01 am

  5. So happy to hear that everything is coming together for you both and Steve’s health is good …. give Raven a forehead kiss on my behalf
    Best wishes to you both

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Thanks France. We’re glad to be moving forward. So many details to tend to, even for a short trip this summer. Once it becomes a lifestyle, even more decisions. It’s exciting and stressful at the same time. Now that we put a deposit on the camper, we’re getting excited about the trip and travels.

    [Reply]

    Comment by France Duran — March 6, 2017 @ 6:56 pm

  6. Hi Susan,
    Liked the video, it disproves the theory that retirement is synonymous with *old*. And I never get tired of seeing aurora pictures – they are fantastic!

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Larry, and thanks for commenting. I should try to limit my introspective moments when I lament the passing of years. As long as I can still throw myself in a snow drift, I feel I’ve got a lot of life left in me. *grin*

    It has been wonderful to see the aurora again! With all the snow we’ve had, clear skies have been few. What a light show it was! Take care.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Larry Klein — March 7, 2017 @ 10:02 am

  7. I missed you!! So glad you are back – and getting into a new routine of life. My Hubby just retired – and I am the one still working. I can see already that there will be adjustments to be made, new ways to look at things and a new way to spend time together. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings as they certainly will help me, and, I expect, many others.
    I will never tire of your photos – you have a gift.

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Tina! I have missed being here writing, but have had so many other things to worry about over the last few months. It has been challenging for both of us, and involves a lot of renegotiation, giving each other space, and in our case a re-delegation of household chores, errands, etc. I found over the last few months, that I was having flashbacks of my parents after my father retired (he was able to retire early – age 57). I can now remember little comments my mother made to me about my father wanting to write out the bills the first of the month – something she had done for more than 20 years, and how she didn’t like the way he filled in the ledger. At the time, it seemed like a trivial complaint to me. Now I know just how BIG it was/is! Communication, communication, communication!! It’s amazing how *lost* a man can feel when he retires. If he doesn’t keep busy (even with hobbies), he’s going to go crazy or grow old fast. We are so excited about our upcoming travels! But we also know this will be another test (longer time in a cramped space). I think we’re going to be just fine.

    Thanks for commenting! Take care and good luck to you both!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Tina Ruf — March 7, 2017 @ 12:24 pm

  8. What a story again Susan and so many respect for you both to find your way in this. I know how difficult this good be in a marrigae.
    Love your wonderful pictures.

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Retirement is a much bigger adjustment than people imagine! We were totally unprepared for some of the stupid little stuff that was happening – just because we were in each others space all the time. When you’re accustomed to having time to yourself (we both had quiet time before Steve retired), and all of a sudden you don’t have that time, it’s difficult to get used to. But we’re doing just fine. We’re both excited about the future and traveling and seeing family and enjoying this time in our lives. Thank you for reading and for your lovely comment, Marjo.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Marjo Slingerland-Boks — March 7, 2017 @ 12:33 pm

  9. Hi glad to see your back. Was great to hear from you and see all your posts. Never tire of seeing the lights. I guess retirement is even harder there when you cant just get up and go out some place when its 40 below. That is a lot more to cotend with I’m sure. I know once the days start getting longer it will get even easyer. Glad to see all the snow. We got about half an inch last month and about 20 inches all year so far. Spent one whole week in the 60s for the high. Not much snow predicted for the rest of the year eather. Glad Steve is ok will be praying for both him and Raven. My one buddy just had to put his Greman Shepperd down. He was laying on the floor with him crying and Chopper was licking his tears. That made me cry. As soon as Chopper seen my truck turn thr corner he was on his feet and jumping around waiting for me to get out of the truck. He wanted to bury him in my back yard but couldn’t get ahold of me so had him cremated so he can spread his ashes in his yard. It was sad to see him go only suffered for a couple days. On agood note just glad to have your post back and looking forword to the next one. Take care and stay warm..

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Bruce and thank you for stopping by to read and comment. Being retired here in winter is really hard. Much harder than it probably is in the L48, I think. Especially when it’s well below zero in temp. No one wants to go out in that, even if you are an outdoor winter enthusiast! But now we know what to expect, and since we won’t be snowbirding until winter of 2018-19, we have already planned to take a trip someplace warm next winter to help us get through it.

    So sorry to hear of your friends German Shepherd. It is so sad when we have to say goodbye to our furry loved ones. I know it’s going to break both our hearts to say goodbye to Raven, but we are keeping our hopes up that it’s nothing serious with her, and with the proper care she’ll be OK for another few years or so.

    I don’t know if we’ll get to meet this summer as we are now staying Madison and west, but once we head down for snowbirding, we’ll see about making that happen. I want to come back to your corner of the country to see more of Amish country.

    Take care, Bruce!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Bruce Rufer — March 8, 2017 @ 3:02 pm

  10. Thank you, for being so candid about you and Steve and the struggles you were faced with. As a comparatively new reader to your blog, I learned a lot.
    I am very much like you, in that I cherish my solitude a great deal. Maybe that’s one of the reason why my daydreams almost always include a cabin in Alaska as my own personal refuge, as my imagined ideal of wintry solitude. I know I romanticize things a lot – as is probably expected from someone who has never experienced winters like yours – and I know by now that reality looks different. My idolized daydream shifts, the more I learn from following your blog – but it never wavers. I still want to visit Alaska at least once in my life and I know I will make it, one day.
    Lovely pictures, as always! <3
    Stay safe and stay warm!

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Nina and thank you for reading and commenting. We were both very surprised by the difficulty of the transition – especially being around each other all the time. While I have hobbies and interests (and friends) I can be busy with, Steve never really developed any hobbies besides fishing and golf. And while ice fishing is definitely an option (but not something he likes to do), both these sports can only be enjoyed during warmer weather. Add in -35F and colder temps, and even plans to try snow-shoeing or x-country skiing take a back seat. So, needless to say, Steve was looking toward me to keep him busy or entertained. There are only so many errands you can send a guy out on! Because Steve was also feeling rather useless after a lifetime of hard work, he became short-tempered, which of course made me want to spend even less time with him. When he had his panic attack, and thought he was dying of a heart attack, it really jolted him. Sometimes you need these moments to put things back into perspective. Thankfully, the light is returning quickly, and even though we still have negative temps, the bright blue sky makes it much more pleasant to be outdoors. And now that we’re planning our trip to the Lower 48, things are looking up even more. I have found that the best way for us to start the day is for me to tell Steve what I have planned and then ask him what he has planned. I also have a list of things to do on the kitchen counter, and when he has nothing planned, I ask him to pick a few items on the list and take care of them. It’s almost like entertaining a child during summer break, but I also understand that Steve hasn’t really had all of this time on his hands before and until he gets his new routine down, he needs the help. I am just thankful we’re through the hardest part. I think moving forward will go much more smoothly now. As for my solitude, when I want/need it – I take it. Steve understands now that it’s not because I don’t like his company. He also knows that I’m going to be much happier when we reconnect.

    Thanks again for commenting Nina. As for your dream to live in Alaska – it is a beautiful place and even though I have some problems with the darkness, it has never made me feel like leaving. Alaska is HOME. And even if there comes a day when it’s not our physical home – it will always be home in my heart. Yes, there are challenges – particularly in the colder and darker interior, but if you appreciate your solitude, you’ll be just fine. I never had a problem finding indoor things to tend to (reading, photography, crafting, etc). I do hope you can visit someday soon. Take care!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Nina — March 11, 2017 @ 1:10 am

  11. I love this post….I love your honesty 🙂 I think I relate when Ryan has multiple days off from work! You guys are going to rock it this year and it will all slowly roll into an awesome routine for both of you. I will just go back to all your wisdomley advice when Ryan retires 🙂 xoxox Lacey

    [Reply]

    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    THings are SO GOOD now, Lacey! Better than they have been in a very long time! Steve talked to a professional, is managing his stress better, and is finding his routine. I’m going about my life as normally as possible, and we’re both super excited about our upcoming adventure.

    Retirement is challenging for just about everyone. It involves HUGE changes in so many aspects of your life. You’ll be reminding yourself about the *till death do us part* thing quite a bit. 😉 But once you get through the anxiety, worry, and the unknowns – and start to work on a plan – it is really, really great. (I’m hoping to blog before we leave… working on that today hopefully!) Miss you, my friend!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Lacey — April 23, 2017 @ 1:34 am

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