Change of seasons

By Jeanne Reynolds

Our neighbors — catty-corner behind us to the left — are closing on the sale of their home this week.

But they are way more than just neighbors, and this is way more than just a real estate transaction. For almost the past quarter century, my husband and I “grew up” as a married couple with their generous, kind and loving example of what it means to be a family, a neighbor and a friend.

And we’re happy for them as they move full-time to their retirement dream home on the lake, near the mountains. (OK, let’s be honest, it’s not the geography but the grandkids singing the siren song.) But happy in a bittersweet kind of way.

I mean, we get it: We’ve also built our someday-retirement home, albeit in the opposite direction in the lowcountry as opposed to the upstate. But we’re still straddling both worlds — and we’re not ready for them to leave ours.

In fact, lately it feels like a stream of friends are moving on in their lives. Another set of neighbors on the same street moved earlier this year, and our financial planners who’ve also become wonderful friends are selling their Columbia house in favor of their mountain home. I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. We’re all about the same age. And we’re all gradually moving to a new season in life.

Autumn Maple leaf transition

My new season became more of a reality when I semi-retired the middle of this year. It’s given me the flexibility to try some new writing ventures and to spend more time smelling salt air and pluff mud. I’m still figuring it out, but that’s part of the fun.

Another change involves this blog: This will be my last post, at least for now. It’s a little bit scary to give up something I’ve enjoyed so much for the past two years. Where else will I find the creative license to write about whatever pops in my head or feels closest to my heart at that moment?

But two things: One, like our neighbors moving to the lake, it’s the right time. And two, (which I also fervently hope is like our departing friends) it’s not an ending. It’s a change of seasons.

Thank you so much to those who’ve taken time to read my ramblings. I hope our paths will cross again someday. Meanwhile, I’ll tell you the same thing I plan to tell those neighbors:

May the road rise to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the rain fall softly on your fields.

And until we meet again, may God hold you gently in the palm of his hands.

 

Lady of leisure (or not)

By Jeanne Reynolds

Wow, what a great day I had today!

How often do you say that? Me, probably way less than I should. (Note to self: Pencil in “gratitude” for another blog topic.)

Here’s how it went:

I got up at 6 a.m. and ran a few miles to loosen up for a golf tournament. My playing companions – unknown to me until this morning – turned out to be extremely congenial and we cheered each other on through the round even though we’re also competitors. I played well enough to leave feeling good despite the (literally) 100-degree heat. On the way home it was still early enough to accomplish several errands (bank, gas, grocery store). I took a shower, did a load of laundry, checked work and home email and paid bills. Shortly I’ll be ensconced on the couch with a good book, a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers to relax before dinner, most of which the good folks at Publix have already cooked for me.IMG_3868

And I get to do it all again tomorrow.

That might not sound like paradise to you, but for a runner/golfer/ task-focused list maker/wine drinker/reader, it’s about as good as it gets. If this is what retirement will be like, I’m all in.

My past year of baby-stepping toward that promised land took a leap forward this month when I officially announced my plans to step down from my management role for a part-time job as a writer. 20 hours a week of (mostly) my choosing, a mix of in-the-office and at-home, doing the “fun” part of the job. And possibly most importantly, keeping the same health benefits. (Is that a sign of the times or what: “Will work for health care.” Another blog topic for another day.)

My “new life” starts in July, but I’m getting in some early practice by interspersing a few vacation days into my work week for golf (this week) and the beach (next week). And so far it’s exactly what I hoped it would be: a just-right blend of deadlines and downtime. Time really is the ultimate luxury.

I hear from friends who’ve trod this path before me that they’re so busy in retirement they don’t know how they ever had time to work. And to be clear, I’m only semi-retiring. Between those 20 hours and some freelance work, I’ll be spending plenty of time at the keyboard.

Still, I have to say taking this step is just a little bit scary. I think we’ve planned and saved carefully (with some excellent expert counsel) so we can afford it, but who knows what could be lurking around the corner? And I wonder if I’ll miss being in the middle of everything, in a role where people seek my help but not necessarily my opinion. Will I still count?

There’s only one way to find out.

If Change Is Good for You, Why Is It So Hard?

By: Jeanne Reynolds

Ever since we got married, my husband and I have shared a dream for our retirement that would combine our love of the North Carolina mountains and the South Carolina lowcountry. We’d have two small homes — one in the Asheville area and one near the coast — and split our time between them. We’d have the best of both worlds.

We searched for months and years and eventually bought lovely lots in beautiful areas: one in Mills River, between Hendersonville and Asheville, and one on Cat Island, minutes from Beaufort. Toward the end of the recession, thinking construction costs were about as low as they were going to get, we started building the first of these homes. If you’ve read any of my earlier posts, you know it’s right on the marsh and immediately became my happy place. We planned to build the mountain home several years later, when we retired and sold our home in the Midlands.

Everything is going according to plan, right? Well … yes and no. We soon found owning and maintaining two homes is a bigger challenge than we expected. And the final price tag of the new home was significantly higher than we originally anticipated. On top of that, the taxes, homeowners’ dues and road assessments on the other lot meant we were writing checks every year for the privilege of owning something we wouldn’t benefit from for many years.

So we made the difficult decision to let the mountain property go, and satisfy our summer cravings for cooler, leafy surroundings by renting from time to time. But during more than a year on the market, we didn’t get even the tiniest nibble of interest. It was so long, the listing agreement lapsed and we didn’t even remember our agent’s name.

That was until a couple of weeks ago, when out of the blue he called to tell us someone wanted to look at our lot. Within days we had a signed contract, with a closing rapidly approaching.

And now, suddenly, I’m sad. Relieved, but sad.

It’s hard to let go of a dream, even when you know it’s the right thing to do. It’s hard when your head and your heart are in different places. Sometimes it’s hard to admit when your dreams themselves have changed — that might mean admitting you yourself have changed, in a way you didn’t plan.

However, I’m making a conscious decision not to second-guess our decision. That means separating sadness from regret, because regret is a waste of time. Learning from past mistakes is one thing, but wallowing in the “what ifs” and “should haves” is unproductive, and constantly looking backward instead of forward can be dangerous (remember what happened to Lot’s wife).

Change may be good for us, but sometimes it’s just hard. And that’s OK.

It’s All About the View

By: Jeanne Reynolds

In just a few hours, I’m leaving work a little early (Boss, if you’re reading this, I worked through lunch today for this very reason) and heading to our dream someday-to-be-retirement home near Beaufort for the weekend.

I love that house. I love the barely-there moss green walls offset by bright white trim. I love the soaring ceilings with exposed beams. I love the speckly gray granite countertops and the mixed-width natural finish wood floors. I love the tabby fireplace that opens on three sides so we can enjoy a fire inside or out. I love the walls of windows that look out onto the marsh because most of all, I love the view.

cat-i-view

Ah, the view. It’s why we bought that particular lot and why the house is designed the way it is. When anyone who’s never seen it asks about the house, I whip out my phone and start scrolling for a photo that captures its essence … and always end up showing a picture of the view.

We’re about 25 feet from the marsh (elevated, of course — we do have hurricanes with those pesky tidal surges around here). The water and grass change constantly with the tides and seasons, and the sky changes with the time of day, so the view does, too. Many kinds of birds whose names I don’t yet know visit frequently. We’ve seen a family of raccoons and small herds of deer, too, but those are sprinkles on the icing of the cake that is sky, water and grass.

the view_Every Woman Blog

As much as I love how the inside of our home turned out, it’s when I look at the world outside it that I truly appreciate its serenity and beauty.

And suddenly it occurred to me life is like that, too.

When I stop paying so much attention to what’s going on inside of me and raise my gaze to the world around me, that’s when I can see — literally — the bigger picture. Like looking at the stars on a clear night, it makes me feel incredibly small and exponentially expanded at the same time. I’m a part of this. A very small part, but a part. And it’s so beautiful out there.

What a view.

Friends … Forever?

By: Jeanne Reynolds

 

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One of my dearest friends had a birthday a week ago. It was on my calendar (in two places). Did I send her a card or call or email or even text?

I’m really ashamed to admit it, but no.

I could blame the hurricane and the toll it took on our home near Beaufort, my time, energy and mental capacity, but that’s just a convenient excuse. The fact is, although we worked together for years and years, ran together and even travelled some together, nowadays we rarely see each other. A few years ago she left the company where I still work, so now it takes extra effort to keep in touch. Sometimes we do better than others.

 

forever friends

This got me thinking about the effect of changing work situations on friendships. All of us have had good friends who changed jobs or moved away or just aren’t right there every day any more. This is starting to concern me more as I near retirement and wonder what other friends might gradually slip away when they’re no longer part of my 8-5 routine.

Of course, it’s great to make new friends, too, and I’m doing that as my life patterns start to change. But there’s no replacement for friends who knew you back when … and still love you anyway. If you’re lucky, you have at least a few of these in your life. Forever friends.

How will I keep in touch? I have a few ideas, and I’d love to hear what’s worked for you.

  • Always celebrate birthdays, even belatedly, even if it’s embarrassing to admit the date got away from you. OK, I just texted an invitation to my friend and she’s replying as I write. Stay tuned.
  • Meet for lunch or happy hour now and then. Include other long-lost friends and reconnect with several people at once.
  • Sign up for a race or volunteer event together.
  • Get tickets to a concert or play together.
  • Take a class or Bible study together. My church has short studies around Lent and the holidays that aren’t a big time commitment but remind me why we connected in the first place.
  • Follow each other on Instagram. I’m not a social media maven and have neither the time nor inclination for constant Facebook check-ins, but it takes seconds to post a photo on Instagram. And a picture’s worth a thousand words, right?

Now, I may find I’m the one who has to take the initiative to make these things happen. I can either let that bother me or accept it as worth the value of keeping someone wonderful in my life. If it gets to the point that it’s not, it’s time to let her (or him) fly away.

Oh, this just in: She said yes! We’re meeting for lunch tomorrow. Better late than never, especially when it comes to old (forever) friends.

Introducing Our New Every Woman Bloggers: Meet Jeanne Reynolds

Jeanne Reynolds

I’m a writer, runner, golfer, reader and musician. Also a wife, daughter, sister and friend. But I notice whenever someone asks who I am, I start with what I do. Because after being in the work world full time for 38 years, that’s how I identify myself.

 And that’s changing.

I recently transitioned to part-time hours, with the goal of — eek, kind of afraid to put it in writing — retiring in the next year or so. I’m excited about the new adventures I’ll now have time for, but also nervous. Who will the “new me” be? How will I keep the wonderful friends from work? Where do I want to use my experience and talents outside a cubicle? Am I doing the right thing, and is it the right time?

 Maybe you have some of these same questions if you’re changing jobs, leaving the work world to care for family, changing relationships or becoming an empty-nester. I’m looking forward to sharing what I discover, and hearing your advice, too.