Gunnerson Holiday Letter 2018

Augendo et dolo

In between trying to warm up from an unseasonable cold snap and whining about the lack of snow in the mountains and consequent lack of skiing, it seemed like an appropriate time to start on the holiday letter.

Since I am now unable to provide a proper entry in any forms that request either "employer" or "occupation" - despite an exhaustive study of "Principle Business or Professional Activity Codes" table in IRS publication number 24329W, I have been unable to find an appropriate entry for "Playing with LEDs and laser cutters, doing home improvement, working on crosswords (New York Times in ink, bitch), and generally farting around" - one might perhaps think that I would therefore be able to get an early start on the holiday letter.

If, of course, one had never met me and had no knowledge of my previous holiday-letter-writing excursions and general laziness.

I can truthfully assert that I did think about the letter back in September and entertained serious designs on getting it finished early, but after resting for a few minutes the feeling thankfully passed.

I should also note that those who expected an improved product due to my newly-increased free time are likely to be disappointed...

Matriculation Termination

It was a happy day when Samantha's parents watched her walk across the stage to accept her diploma, the summer sun glistening off her hair as a light breeze played with her hair like a kitten chasing a piece of yarn. Except that is wasn't summer, as Samantha finished all of her requirements after winter quarter and graduated in March. And while there was reportedly a stage involved, there was no walking across it - at least no walking across it by the aforementioned offspring, who decided not to walk. I regret that I did not take the opportunity to ask her that since she decided not to walk the walk, whether she was intending to talk the talk, but it did not occur to me. The kitten was real. Though in the interest of correctness it is perhaps better to describe the feline participant as an "ex-kitten".

Samantha's degree is in Mathematics, and I discovered to my chagrin when she attempted to explain group theory to me on a car ride that it is very likely that I am the least educated person in my immediate family.

Yard Work

In a bid to delay the inevitable - the planting of a lawn in the front of the house and the hiring of various youngsters to trespass so that I can require them to vacate said property - we decided to redo our backyard.

We had paid some work to be done a few years ago, putting in a nice paver patio, a path down one side, and a small lawn, and that work was done well. But the planting beds were a combination of planter blocks and clay, the lawn had deteriorated significantly, the original fence was about a foot below the current yard level, and - most importantly - the yard was noticeably deficient in "features".

Kim took lead on this project, which meant she did the landscape design, the planting bed design, the material investigation, pretty much all the smart stuff - leaving me to take on the manual labor & tech role. The former involved moving a whole lot of planter blocks (720) and bricks (250) from the front yard to the back yard, putting them in place, digging, leveling, and quite a bit of whining. Which was fine. The tech side involved low-voltage lighting in the beds, on the house, under the patio umbrella, and some custom hardware to control them with a web interface and an app. And to control the pump on the very nice stone water feature that sits in one of the raised beds. We finished this in late September just in time to head inside for the winter, but I did find that I have little objection to sitting outside in the late afternoon listening to music on the outside speakers that were part of the build.

Retirement bewilderment

In preparation for my retirement, I read a few books - "Adventures in Retirement", "The Joy of Not Working", and "Screw the Kids - I'm going to Vegas!". That's actually not true, I deliberately didn't make any specific plans for what I would do for the first 6 months of so (the backyard was a plan made for me, not by me...). And I mostly enjoyed that time, but I still find myself captive from something that I learned from the puritans back in Mrs. Larson's class in 3rd grade - not their banning of celebrating Christmas and belief in fairies, because we didn't learn that - but rather their work ethic. And from that time until last fall, work was just something you did, and it's a little hard switching from "works going to suck today but I have to go" to "screw weeding the lawn, I'm going to watch Maury"... Which is why I generally say that retirement is great when people ask, because the real answer - that sometimes I have a hard time enjoying it because I have issues - is a bit like telling your crazy aunt Susan that the 1970s-vintage potholders she gave you weren't at the top of your Christmas list. After the first 6 - well, actually, 9 months - I started feeling human and things have settled down into a new normal. I'm riding my bicycle a bit more - but not a ton more - doing more electronics, playing with my maker tools (laser cutter, handheld CNC router, reflow oven, plus a new welder that I got for Christmas that is still in the box and is going to stay there until I get this letter finished), spending a bit more time at the gym to fix some physical issues that have built up over the years (still no progress on the mental issues). And I'm making crappy progress on the big list of projects I want to work on, so that's really no different than before I was retired. I did get one project done:

Holiday Lights

This year's project is one that definitely got away from me. I first wrote about in on January 4th of 2018, and at that point the concept was to build some small (6") light globes that I could use to decorate the bushtree in one corner of our house. I *did* accomplish that in time - here's a short video - but it also turned into remote wireless control of the globes (not yet implemented in the display), and small business selling a kit for the globe. Though "selling" is perhaps a slight overstatement, since I have so far sold a total of four of the kits.

Here's a crappy video of all the lights for this year.

Kim's Guide to the Successful Adoption of a Retired Spouse

A little over 18 months ago, I decided it was time to do some research on what steps I needed to take to adopt a retired spouse. In the past, I have been involved with many successful adoptions of feline and canine companions but I felt that this new adoption process might provide some unique challenges. I hope by sharing my experience that I can help many of you who are considering this major life altering event find success too.

Challenge 1: Finding the right available spouse

In my previous experience with adopting animal companions, I was able to go to several online sites that allowed interested parties to read about cats, dogs, guinea pigs, etc. that were available to adopt out to deserving families. I figured I it should be easy to do the same for this search as well. I tried several different search terms and quickly determined that there are a lot of creepy individuals on the internet. After many failed searches, I gave up on that route. I should add here that I did have some definite limitations to my search. Due to some strong family values I was limiting my search to only 1 retired spouse. I also limited my search to men in their early to mid 50's as I wasn't up to the task of being responsible for a man much younger than me or for the additional responsibility that can arise from choosing a man much older than me. After much consideration, I settled on a man in his early 50s who had the added benefit of living close by so I would not have to pay for transport expenses.

Challenge 2: Determining if you have the finances to support this addition to your home.

I have made career choices throughout my adult life that have led to a great deal of personal satisfaction but if I am being brutally honest, have not always provided an income that could support me in the manner I have become accustomed to. Therefore, I added another limitation to my choice for a retired spouse; he had to come with a financial packet that would ensure that he could support himself with no additional monetary support from my job. I was fortunate because the individual I alluded to in Challenge 1, had chosen a very lucrative career path and so I would have no worries related to supporting him.

Challenge 3: Finding a candidate who shares some common interests.

I grew up enjoying playing sports as well as being a spectator of many sports. In particular, I am a huge football fan. I also lead a somewhat active lifestyle in that I like to ski in the winter and take vacations that involve activities like biking. I needed to find someone who shared my passion for football as well as someone who liked to at least ski. Once again, my candidate turned out to be a good choice in this category as well. In fact, I may have overemphasized this point on my application because the candidate who I ultimately chose is a bit of an exercise fanatic---not too much thankfully. As I indicated, I ultimately chose a man in his early 50s to adopt as my retired spouse. I have learned a lot over the course of this first year.

Lesson 1: There is a honeymoon period

Initially, we came up with a list of projects that would allow my newly retired spouse to stay busy and take care of some projects around the house. This is sometimes called a ‘Honey-Do' list. I readily admit, my list was quite long. We wrote out the list and tried to categorize the items to allow for easier implementation. Some of you saw this list last winter as it was posted on the shower walls in the newly refinished downstairs bathroom. But like all honeymoon periods, this one was short lived. The Honey-Do list has gotten a little shorter over the past year, but other more interesting projects were taken on by the retired spouse. My adoption choice has a passion for electronic devices and is quite adept had creating new ones. Over the course of many weeks, he created a kit by which a person could build a really cool lighting project. (Note: you can see examples of these in action in our annual Christmas light display)

Lesson 2: Curious spectators

Since I adopted my retired spouse, I have been asked numerous times " Kim, what is it like to have a retired spouse?" My answers have varied but I have started to tend towards "It is fine". In actuality, the transition has had its ups and downs. My previous un-retired spouse had not been happy in his job for quite some time. It was refreshing to come home from work and be greeted by a happy spouse. I also have really enjoyed coming home to find either dinner prepared or at least the menu decided. This was not common in the period before the adoption. But if I am being honest, I do have days when it is hard to go to work when the retired spouse is still in sweats and for whom the biggest challenge is which exercise activity to choose that day.

Lesson 3: Retired spouses are reticent to spend money.

Spending lots of money has never really been the way I live my life. A modest childhood instilled in me the desire to work hard, play hard, and always pay your bills. However, in choosing my retired spouse I did not take into account that he might be even more frugal than the pre-retirement spouse I had shared a life with. Don't get me wrong, I still am a regular at Starbucks and don't think twice about purchasing a season pass for skiing. I have heard horror stories about retired spouses spending the entire nest egg so ultimately, I am happy that I chose the frugal model. I am hopeful that as time passes and the retired spouse becomes adapted to his new circumstances that he will be able to enjoy the monetary rewards of living a frugal life. In conclusion, it has been a roller coaster of a year. I think I have adapted well to sharing my home with a retired spouse. Fortunately, like other successful adoptions I have been a party to, my retired spouse has adapted quickly to our home and family members. Cleo likes that she has someone to spend time with every day and Dozer has lost quite a bit of weight due to a regular walk schedule. I would not change the timing of this adoption as I am truly enjoying having my spouse be more happy and relaxed. My future plans are to do some retraining so that more of the Honey Do List is accomplished. I also hope to make adjustments to expectations so that the retired spouse finds other ways to enjoy retirement that does not only involve preparing dinner and completing the Honey Do List. If you are considering adopting a retired spouse, I recommend that you go for it. The rewards are immeasurable (no really, I have tried measuring them---it doesn't work).