First of the Month

Its August 1 and as usual I had some work tasks to get done, submit invoices, file and pay sales taxes, review the monthly budget, all part of the routine.  I like to get these tasks out of the way and think about our plans for the month.

This month I have several things to accomplish:

I will help our son get ready to return to school but first he is going to OBX with some friends.  And trying to keep the garden going through the heat of August.  Hopefully starting to can produce from the garden. I  have several home improvement projects planned.  And will share more on that- if I can remember to take before photos!  And for fun, we have one more beach trip planned.

Anyway, I hope your month is shaping up nicely!

 

New beginnings

I woke up Monday morning, the first working day of 2016 and didn’t have to get up and go.  An unusual feeling for me still.  With 10 months of retirement down, I have drifted into somewhat of a schedule that includes working out, pursuing hobbies, lots of reading, and consulting work.

Not being big on New Year resolutions, I haven’t made many as my resolve doesn’t seem to stick much beyond mid-January.  In the past, I found energy in the idea of new beginnings at the first of the year and often spent time on setting my house, literally and figuratively, in order over the holiday break.  I experienced that same energy again this year and have a great list of things to work on in 2016!

One thing I am doing is letting go of one consulting job that has not met my expectations as planned and picking up another one.  Developing my consulting company became one HUGE opportunity to learn new things in 2015 and hopefully will continue in 2016.  I find myself doing things and facing situations where I have no experience, and casting about for answers, guidance and resolve!

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Speaking of new beginnings, we went to the Dead and Co show at Verizon Center back in November.  We had a stellar time, one of the best shows of 2015.

Shuttering the Government

The clock is ticking on Congress, 5 days left to get some kind of spending bill passed.  Seems most of the talking heads agree on the silliness of going through another shutdown as a minority of members of Congress continue their march in support of the shutdown.  And the key contentious point seems to be funding women’s health?! Planned parenthood doesn’t spend Federal funds on abortions and there is much debate about the truthfulness behind the video touted by Carly Fiorini.  This morning’s Post has this article, Shuttering govt costs more than keeping it open, $2 Billion more!  Then the surprise of the day with Boehner’s resignation.  Like him or not, seems he is going to fall on his sword to keep the government running and that is a good thing.

Hopefully the Pope’s grace, humility, and prayers will have at least a temporary beneficial effect on Washington.   As I have said before the costs associated with government shutdowns are high, and it hasn’t seemed to make a difference in the past.  The Federal employees and the public they serve are the ones who suffer the most.

Routine



Its good to be home for more than a couple of days.  From June 18 through August 13, I spent 36 days away from home, about 2/3 of the time traveling to a beach twice, then to a conference and then to visit my mom in Missouri.  I’m trying to get back to a routine. I remember right after our son was born, my mom and godmother returned home after spending a couple of weeks with us and leaving me home alone with him. Mother kept telling me to put the baby on a schedule and I was clueless on how to get our little baby to eat or sleep at regular intervals.  I didn’t want to wake him to eat because getting him back to sleep was difficult.

While working I had a routine to my day, starting the day scanning news items and emails for brewing problems, making a daily to do list including phone calls to make and emails to send, reviewing the upcoming calendar for conflicts and to ensure coverage, attending meetings, and reviewing long term projects and monitoring progress.  All of this planning was quickly tossed aside to address the latest fire, be it a policy issue blowing up with unhappy constituents or operational issues like IT systems being down-that happened A LOT and appears to still be happening, or staff coverage or transportation problems.  A couple of weeks ago, there was a metro derailment at the Smithsonian, good news is that it was an empty train but bad because it shut down the station and the blue/orange/silver lines for most of the am commute.  I thought of the problems this caused back at my old position and all the kerfuffle and stuff just NOT getting done.

So I have an evolving routine including writing, working, walking, gym, and gardening (early morning before it gets so hot!).    Over the next week and a half, I add in helping son get ready to return to college.  And then I head back to the beach as we close soon on the condo!


IMG_2671We enjoyed another routine the other evening, catching ZZ Top with openers Blackberry Smoke at Wolf Trap.  Those guys have it down, what a show!  Loved the screens playing videos on either side, and they played a lot of songs doing most of their major hits + some covers.  Heres the setlist:

  1. Got Me Under Pressure
  2. Waitin’ for the Bus
  3. Jesus Just Left Chicago
  4. Gimme All Your Lovin’
  5. I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide
  6. Pincushion
  7. I Gotsta Get Paid
  8. Flyin’ High
  9. IMG_2688Foxy Lady
    (The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)
  10. Catfish Blues
    (Robert Petway cover)
  11. Cheap Sunglasses
  12. My Head’s in Mississippi
  13. Chartreuse
  14. Sharp Dressed Man
  15. Legs
    Encore:
  16. La Grange / Sloppy Drunk Jam
  17. Tush
    Encore 2:
  18. Sixteen Tons

I loved the second encore, after researching a bit, ZZ Top plays Sixteen Tons in concert more than any other band. Weird moment after the show, while waiting on hubby to come back from the restroom, a guy walked by asked me what I thought of the show, I replied that I loved it, especially Sixteen Tons, and he was all upset  “they didn’t play LaGrange!”  I was like oh well, and shrugged my shoulders as he walked away.  But they did play LaGrange – so not sure where he was?

One more freaky, funny side show item, do you remember spray tans?  And how your skin can turn orange from it?  We arrived around 6 pm and were waiting in the parking lot as the venue didn’t open until 6:30.  A lady walked by with the most orange legs I have EVER seen, I thought about a photo but isn’t that rude?  I mean Hokie Orange, Neon Orange, Not Attractive At All orange.  After she passed, we caught her backside and the orange ended at the knees going up and the ankles on the way down to her feet, and pale white took over.  I REALLY wish I had taken a pix.  Too funny! Hubby was like “does she think that looks good?!!!”
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Just Zippy!

It seems I have a lot on my mind however when I try and put it down on paper… pffft! its gone.  This will be a disjointed and rambling post as I write about the stuff filling my days.

I have a consulting agreement and have been helping a company with proposal development.  I have found it interesting, challenging, tiring, and rewarding.  I have established my own LLC, set up the accounting, generated invoices, ordered business cards, and am in process on my resume, business plan, paying taxes, so I have more work to do.  I also have to figure out how to get more work!  I definitely am “busy learning on the learning curve” as Jeb in Donna the Buffalo sings in “Conscious Evolution”.  One of my favorite DTB songs, I once wrote a paper on the song for one of my classes at American University.

On the Beach condo front, we should close on Friday though I am not convinced we will.  What a cluster this whole transaction has been.  I started to write down all the craziness but think I better not.  Suffice to say I will be so glad when this is done. I plan to go to the closing and then stay at the beach for 2 weeks, something I have dreamed of doing for awhile.

I do love to make lists so have lists of all the things that I will take down to the new place.  Also saw two good book lists in the Post this weekend.  From this article on Heres what to read this summer if you are entering law school, several books caught my eye – In Cold Blood, To Kill a Mockingbird, the Federalist Papers.   I have read the latter two before but am sure they are worthy of a re-read.

Another book list comes from the Post’s Book World, 23 books we’ve loved so far this year, several on here caught my eye, Delicious Foods, Not what you would think, more of a thriller than anything, The Green Road and The Whites look intriguing also.

I am reading How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free, lots of good ideas and advice.  And I felt wild and free in June when I went zip lining for the first time.  A bit scary for sure, I admit to shaky legs on the first one or two jumps.  I will definitely do this again.IMG_8445IMG_8519 IMG_8595

Semi

On Monday, I went from retired to semi-retired.  Signed an agreement and received a statement of work to do some consulting.  And I went to work yesterday!  I think I will like this engagement as it uses my knowledge and work experiences.  So my retirement lasted 106 days–my hubby asked that I not do anything for 60 days and I made that.

Some may wonder why do I want to work if I don’t have to work for the money?!  The main reason is  I really want something to occupy me though I have found a lot of things to do in the last 100+ days, like gardening, cleaning, organizing, buying a beach condo, and traveling.  I haven’t felt like my mind was engaged.  Do you know how you feel when you are mentally challenged on some task or project?  I like that feeling, maybe there is some adrenaline rush or sense of satisfaction?

Since retired, I have worked soduku, played words with friends, read a TON of books (not really as most are on my iPad!), prepared budgets, organized documents for the beach condo, and still I have found myself just a teensy bit–here is that dreaded word, BORED.  Did you hate when your child would come up and say, MOM, I’m BORED!  My son soon learned to not say that to me as I always found him something to do and he probably didn’t like it much!  A good lesson I learned from my mom.IMG_2429 IMG_0082

Anyway, here are a couple of photos from the community garden.  A little frog on the catch basin, and this after one of the gardeners insinuated that I used PREEN on my garden because it was weed-free and of course the PREEN killed all of our garden frogs!  I think the snake(s) ate some of the frogs, as the hunting was pretty easy.  And we have one water barrel full of tadpoles…  The second photo is the butterfly garden with jo-pye weed, milkweed, clover, etc.  The milkweed started blooming so am on the lookout for the monarchs!

Just Beachy

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I have dreamt and planned to live near the water some day.  Preferable coastal, not necessarily beachfront. And then kind of spur of the moment yesterday, we put an offer on a condo at Ocean Isle Beach, one block off the beach.   After a little negotiating, we have a deal and will close on it in July. Buying it with my sister-in-law, I told hubby this am that he is now in a partnership with BOTH his wife and sister.  He doesn’t think he stands a chance!

We love this beach community and go every year, its very laid back, not too touristy, and family oriented.  DSC_0035

The community has boat docks for fishing and tieing up when the tide is in.  Lovely sunsets too! During low tide, you can go to the western point and find all kinds of shells and sealife in the tidal pools.

I don’t quite have the hang of adding photos in wordpress.  I will keep practicing for sure.

On the work front, I hope to be re-employed within the next couple of weeks, lord knows will need the extra cash now!  I have been talking to a consulting firm and think I may have my first gig!

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I really wanted that shark’s eye however a hermit crab beat me to it.

Day 1

Just a quick post on day 1 of retirement.  I read this article, How Baby Boomers can revamp the economy, in the Post this weekend.  Some interesting thoughts on how  the concept of retirement is evolving.  I don’t intend to not work.  Just have not figured out what I will do other than take photos of the 6 ladies who frequent the backyard.

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I took these right before a big snow storm over President’s Day weekend.  And then here, one doe feeds at the bird feeder.

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The ice from yesterday’s storm is melting and I have some plans for today, nothing exciting.  Just doing what I want to do, no have-tos for now.

Re-Tired Message

The following message is what I sent out to all Farm Service Agency employees yesterday, on my last day in the office.  I wish I had written all of it, I did have help from our public affairs director.  He is so talented.  He reminded me that I don’t have to write in bureaucratese anymore!  I should write how I feel!  I hope I can re-train myself.

Woke up to a 2 hour delay due to another passing snow storm.  So my quiet cake and coffee reception was just that, exactly what I wanted.

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FSA Friends

As I prepare to retire on February 28, already I feel a gamut of emotions, from the fulfillment of attaining another milestone, to the joy of anticipating new days ahead.  I also feel the subtle apprehension of reaching the next juncture of my life.  And by now, I’ve felt the tears of my final conversations, knowing that in a few short days soon, I’ll be completing the boxing up of records and mementos, taking that last look around my room, clicking off the light, locking my door, and hearing those echoes of my footsteps down the long, tiled hallways of the South Building for the very last time.

I have had a truly remarkable career with USDA over the last 34 years.  I started with the Office of Inspector General, where some of my first assignments were auditing the county offices of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service across the Midwest.  Those days provided my first experiences with this incredible nationwide network of dedicated local staff – inspirations that have guided me to this day.  Later, I transferred to ASCS’s Kansas City office, and then to Washington, D.C. where I’ve worked hard to use my experiences during my earliest days in the field to keep the confidence of our county staff throughout the performance of my duties.

Right from the start, I became dedicated to FSA’s important mission of supporting and enhancing American agriculture, assisting our farmers and ranchers to become the most productive and efficient producers as they could be.  As I helped to implement six different farm bills, each time from a different perspective, my appreciation grew further as I saw how my colleagues kept their commitments to American agriculture and rural communities, through teamwork and cooperation.  I have been so fortunate to have had mentors, teachers, and brilliant leaders who provided me not just with many incredible opportunities along the way, but with many insights and inspirations that helped to light the path.

That’s why I will miss coming here every day – – because I love working with all of you.  I have always found FSA employees to be the best:  you are creative, collaborative, and compassionate.    FSA truly is and will continue to be the “Can-Do” agency.   As my days draw to a close, I am so grateful that I can say how proud I am of my career with FSA.  And most of all, I am so proud of what we have accomplished together.

All the best,

Candy

21st Century office concepts

At my workplace, the powers that be (GSA and the Department) continue to push the Agency to reduce our physical footprint.  In the next couple of years, the Powers want us to reduce space by 25%.  With almost 2200 locations, it is daunting, especially since the Appropriators continue to include language prohibiting office closures.  And the Powers push the open office concept and telework as the ANSWERS.  Other agencies like GSA and the Forest Service adopted the OOC (open office concept), or hoteling and supposedly it works great!!  Until you start talking to the employees (Not managers) who have to live it.  Telework is a little different, employees continue to love it however managers have to manage employees’ conduct and output for it to work for the organization.  The Patent and Trademark Office’s lack of management over telework has guaranteed them an appearance in at least Congressional hearing.  WashPo article on PTO Telework investigation  PTO was an early adopter of telework and GSA was the first to push hoteling with even their Administrator, Dan Tangherlini, sitting in an open office every day.

So recently I have noticed more articles on OOC and whether or not it really works. This GovExec article on OOC appeared last week.  This Forbes opinion post on OOC is from December.  Does this reflect a trend to curtail OOC?  I can think of more reasons to re-examine OOC then to take the plunge.

When I first started working in 1981, most offices were open.  As a junior level professional, my desk sat in an open bull pen with rows of desks.  I had a phone and a 10 key – no computers or word processing equipment at that point.  I was not near a window as those desks were for more senior staff.  We were not supposed to make personal calls on the work phone.  Seems like we have come full circle in 30+ years, and I remember that wasn’t a great environment.  Absolutely no privacy, maybe more productivity because all you could do under all the scrutiny was work!

Since I became a manager in 1991, I have been involved in many office moves.  From desks to cubes, moving entire units from one location to another.  I don’t care for office moves at all.  Employees tend to hyper focus on their space.  You have the office decorator – who has every tchotchke (hundreds) lined up on their cube, the hoarder-who has every file or piece of paper they have touched in the last 20 years, the litigator-who gets out the tape measure to ensure the equity in space and desk placement, and the privacy freak-who wants their cube positioned so NO ONE CAN SEE THEM.  Pleasing all these types proves difficult at best.  And moving employees brings out the kvetching on a large scale.  Of course I don’t remember those employees who didn’t complain and moved easily.

Anyway, I will continue to follow these topics.  Will save my thoughts on telework for another post.

Candy