This is What Retirement is All About

The trill of a Spotted Towhee resounded above the excited chatter of the Chaparral Elementary second graders as they marveled over the proliferation of Cottonwood Leaf Beetle pupa. I cupped my hands behind my ears to signal for them to be quiet. When everyone could hear the bird, I asked them to place their curled fists, mimicking binoculars, up to their eyes to look for it. The towhee flew out onto a bare branch displaying its rusty flanks, black head and back, and black wings with white spots.

“Oooh,” the children chimed. They were genuinely excited and proud of themselves for spotting the vibrant bird.

I also glowed with excitement to be able to share my passion during their nature walk on a field trip at the Rio Grande Nature Center, and thought, “This is what retirement is all about.”

Life has been good in the year since I retired from the Center for Development and Disability at the University of New Mexico – filled with opportunities to learn new skills and pursue my interests.

Before I could lead nature walks solo, I shadowed others who were experienced, many of them former teachers. What are the techniques for engaging children of various ages? How much information can they absorb? What props help children have a more visual learning experience? How can I keep their attention? Can they be interested in nature beyond bugs?

After working in an office setting for over 40 years, it is a joy to be outside whenever possible. In warm weather I can linger over coffee and the morning paper on my patio. I can putter in my garden. At any time of the year I can enjoy a walk with a friend. And, every Thursday I can head to the foothills, bosque or a mountain canyon to go birding with Central New Mexico Audubon’s Thursday Birders.

Today as we walked through a riparian area near the Rio Grande River adjacent to Socorro, we played hide and seek with bright red Summer Tanagers, Bewick Wrens and White-breasted Nuthatch, among other birds. The cool sunlight reflected patterns through the leaves of the cottonwood trees. I sighed and thought, “This is what retirement is all about.”

One of the benefits of retiring from the university is the opportunity to take classes at no cost. As a self-proclaimed techno-weenie, I ventured tentatively into a class on how to create a blog, which enabled Judys Jottings to evolve from an e-mail format into a blog. Enamored with the process, I now maintain two blogs – the other one, It’s a Bird Thing, to share my birding adventures. Next was a class on Photography with a Digital Camera that allowed me to explore the capabilities of my camera, learn how to edit my photos and expand my photography horizons. And, my final educational foray has been two classes in web design. The chance to learn and to grow – This is what retirement is all about.

“I no longer feel pity for people with disabilities,” proclaimed one of the masters-level social work students I supervised through Designing Dreams at The Arc of New Mexico, as we discussed her year’s practica experiences. How rewarding it has been to see the two students grow and develop during the past school year. A chance to share my talents and expertise – This is what retirement is all about.

“Want some grandma time?” my son BJ cooed to his then one-month old daughter when I was visiting; then he handed her to me to cuddle.
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For four days there was no agenda except to enjoy my grand-daughter Lilli. As if by magic, I easily settled in to the rhythm of a new baby. I burped, bounced, rocked and gazed in wonderment, with no other agenda – then got on the plane and flew home. Time to make trips to California every few months – This indeed is what retirement is all about!`

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