Semi-Retired?

It seems surprising, but. mostly by accident, I seem to have become semi-retired over the past months. My work as an interim pastor came to an end in May, followed by a bike trip that needed to be cut short in July. Since then, even though I am working on a number of opportunities, work responsibilities with a paycheque have been a very small part of life.

I’m not complaining. The lazy mornings, the book reading (for fun), the long bike rides with friends, the freedom from schedules and responsibilities have been nice. Its given me a glimpse of what it might mean to be retired. I’ve actually been able to accomplish quite a few things.

A year and a half ago, J took over my shop in the shed. She hired a contractor to insulate and finish it so she could move her pottery in. I was left with one wall and a shelf for my tools and hardware, but, she was jealously eyeing that space as well, providing all sorts of “helpful” suggestions for other places this stuff could go.

I started the process of moving, just to the other side of the wall. The first thing needed was a new work bench since my old one is now a pottery table. I also needed to come up with a neat and tidy way to store the tools that were hanging on the wall. So, with plans and lists, I went off to the lumber yard with my trailer.

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I’m pleased with the result. The new workbench and cabinet are both on wheels 0D8F769E-30E1-47CF-A945-D1F3EF43ADD2so the space is easily changed to allow the tractor and snowblower access in the winter time. I will admit, if I buy many more tools, I’ll need to build another cabinet.

So, in good retired fashion, I’ve spent more than a week getting ready to do something. But now, what to do? While we are nowhere near living in poverty, the lack of a regular paycheque does slow one down from just running out and buying more stuff, even if it is retirement project building material.

In the purge from J’s shop, a cupboard her dad had made as a dresser ended up sitting outside the door on its way to the burn pile. It was made of plywood, painted, covered with stickers and the scribblings of more than one kid. I “rescued” it, broke it down, and re-purposed it as a bird house. 20151008_090934

I know this stopping place is only a temporary state. While I am a little anxious to get the next stage of the journey underway, there is something rejuvenating about this time of being between things.

The birds might be happy too….

We’re on a Youtube Video

Back in the spring, a friend heard about our biking adventures and suggested we should be part of a video series the local health unit was doing on active living. We agreed, and, what seemed like a very long time later were contacted to do an interview.

At the time, we just happened to be on a three day ride that covered theater in two nearby (100km away) towns. The video is taken on the afternoon of the 2nd day.

The other cyclists are our regular Friday morning cycling group. We meet with them year round for coffee and when the weather is favourable we ride together too.

So far, it doesn’t appear that our video is going viral.

The Year End Wrap-up 2014

2014 is rapidly slipping behind us. Its been a year of change, a year of some uncertainty,  in many ways, a year we will look back on with mixed feelings.

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One of many beautiful pieces coming from the shop

J and I have both seen the direction of our lives change this year. J’s maybe more than mine. In April, after a really bad season of winter driving, she left her job at the YMCA. It just wasn’t fun anymore and the pay didn’t cover the aggravation. She’s not one to sit quietly though. She had been taking some pottery classes from a local potter and her creative side was tickled. The workshop in our drive-in shed was commandeered and renovated, equipment and supplies purchased, and now there is a steady flow (trickle?) of wonderful pottery coming out of it (there are a few things going into the scrap bucket as well). She’s even had a few people wanting to buy what she makes, which wasn’t the intention at all.

20141127_090230While it may seem like we should call J’s year the Year of the Pot, we could also call it the Year of the Sock. She had been an avid knitter before, but this year it seems to have become a passion with 26 pairs of socks completed along with a number of sweaters, shawls and other pieces. Her hands are never idle.

I started the year with three hats to wear and ended it with only two.

In October, I graduated from the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary with a Master of Christian Studies to go along with the Master of Divinity I completed last year. For a while anyway I will no longer be able to call myself a student, at least in the “enrolled somewhere” sense.

Photo courtesy Annelies Numan

Photo courtesy Annelies Numan

In February, after having been called by my local church, I was examined by my denomination and ordained as a Minister of the Word in the Christian Reformed Church. We had a wonderful ordination service and  party afterward. I’m apparently a Reverend now, but I don’t really like the title and I feel no more reverend than I did before. My work at the church has been fulfilling. I’ve learned a lot. Since it is an interim position, I know I will be replaced; there is always a feeling of uncertainty about what the future will hold.

I also continue to work as a sheep and goat nutrition consultant. This work, for a number of reason has slowed somewhat this year but still manages to fill in the cracks with interesting work outside of the theological world.

The tamdem along the Natchez Trace Parkway

The tamdem along the Natchez Trace Parkway

With all of these part-time things going on, J and I are able to enjoy a lot of flexibility in our lives. We need it because we love to travel. In February we went with our entire family to Nevada and Arizona. While Las Vegas was part of the trip, the highlight was the three days we spent at the Grand Canyon. In May J and I rode the entire Natchez Trace Parkway from Natchez Mississippi to Nashville Tennessee on our tandem. Later in the summer we did a three day trip in southern Ontario. We spent more nights in our trailer than we have any year in the past, catching long weekends and a full week in early September.

Of course, our litany of travel wouldn’t be complete without those trips to see our family. In August we made our last trip to Edmonton to see our daughter R defend her PhD thesis. They have since moved to Ottawa (we can drive there!!) where R is working at the University of Ottawa on a Post Doctoral Fellowship and JW is working for a company that makes software for accounting firms. Their son, D, will be getting used to going to a daycare in the new year.

In late November we traveled to San Francisco where our son, J, continues as a Software Engineer at Google, and his wife, L, is working as the producer of an independent film coming out in the new year. The sights and sounds of this city are always exciting. This year we had a new experience there, crabbing. It was cool, but we only caught a shoe and ended the day with a big feast of crab from the Whole Foods grocery store down the street.

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I’s baptism

J and M, still living in Toronto, are close enough to drive to for a visit. In June, little I was born, healthy and happy. By September J was enrolled and busy with classes as she starts working toward a Master in Information Science. M works as an engineer during the day, but is increasingly busy with independent engineering work in the evenings. He completed his real estate licence this year as well.

With only a few days left in the year we are looking forward to 2015. We know there will be uncertainty, but we already have some pretty major plans for the year (more on this later) and are looking forward to what God has in store for us.

A Short Cycling Break

Last week we took a short break that combined cycling, theater, and food, all things we enjoy. We returned yesterday afternoon after three days of nearly perfect conditions, virtually no wind, absolutely on rain, and temperatures in the high 20’s, hot, but not uncomfortably so.

The Oxford Inn in Stratford. Charming

The Oxford Inn in Stratford. Charming

Our journey took us 90 km, from home to Stratford the first day, to the Oxford Inn B&B and a wonderful evening at the Stratford Festival Theatre with friends. The friends met us at the Parlour Gastro Pub and then provided transportation for us to and from the production of Crazy for You. I’d never been to a play in Stratford and it was certainly a wonderful experience. We’ll need to try some real Shakespeare at some point.

Getting ready to leave after a stop in a St Marys park

Getting ready to leave after a stop in a St Marys park

The next morning it was up and on to Grand Bend via the village of St Marys. Fueled by Grant’s wonderful B&B breakfast we made the entire 92 km trip to Grand Bend with no lunch. We stopped at the grocery store in Grand Bend to pick up some food which became something of a lupper. We had intended to go out for supper, but the pool and comfy deck chairs at the Grand Hideaway B&B held us until it was time to get in the taxi to go to the Huron Country Playhouse for an opening night production of Les Miserables.download We where held through the night with Haagen-Daz ice cream.

Day three started with filling up on an even larger breakfast than the morning before, served by B&B host  Peter, a professional chef. 90 km later we were home, but not before stopping for more food at Bartliff’s Bakery in Clinton (you just can’t bike past Bartliff’s)

We mostly stayed on what should have been quiet country roads for this trip,  without any serious incidents. Grand Bend itself was a nightmare with one yelling motorist and a couple of near misses. East/west roads in southern Huron County were very busy on our Saturday trip home and motorists seemed to have little time or space for our bike. We were pushed off the road twice, once by an oncoming car passing two slower vehicles. The gravel on the shoulder was very loose, bringing us to a full stop, but without damage or injury. There was a close call with a pick-up truck in Clinton, which, on sober reflection, may have been my fault.

Apart from those small annoyances, we had a great few days away. Sun, wind, humming wheels on the road and great company. What could be better?

Lost and Found (Guest Post)

While J reads all my posts before they go up, mostly for grammar, but also for her input which I crave, she usually doesn’t write here. Today she has something to say which doesn’t really fit on her blog Beyond Donnybrook. Enjoy!

It is traditional in the Christian Reformed Church to present a newly married couple with a Bible.  It’s more of a symbol than anything else, after all, these (usually) young adults more than likely already have more than one bible in their possession. But there’s something special about this first gift.  It represents a faith passed down from generation to generation.  It represents the hope that this new family unit will be grounded in a faith holding them together through both the good times and the not so good times.  It reminds everyone that this new marriage is not just about two people, but about a God who is in every part of our lives.  It also gives a strong sense of community, this is not a gift from an individual but from the entire church; a community in which at least one of the main characters grew up in, a community which cares about these people and really wants to see this new marriage thrive.

In recent years, Ken has often been asked to present the “wedding bible”.  He’s been honoured to do so and has done it willingly.  For many of the young couples, Ken has been their youth leader and catechism teacher; it fits that he would be asked.  However, I’ve felt slightly uncomfortable with it. Not because he can’t talk in public, not because I thought the entire presentation was a bit silly (quite the opposite).  It’s because we lost ours.

We lost ours!!!

How does one lose their wedding bible!?  For years it lived on top of fridge; used for family devotions after meal time.  Occasionally it would be used for some bible study or other, but it always came back to its home.  One day, I noticed it was gone.  I’m not exactly sure when it happened.  Meal time family devotions didn’t happen after the kids got older and started moving out and the wedding bible didn’t get used every day.

We’ve got other bibles–I’ve never counted them all, but there’s multiple versions and duplicates.  In recent years we’ve added electronic versions.  We didn’t need that particular book.  But it bugged me.  I searched everywhere.  I’ve checked every pew bible in the sanctuary at church.  I’ve searched every closet in the church building. I’ve asked friends to check their house. One of us must have taken it with us and left it somewhere, but it was no where to be found and I gave up.

I do not know why I looked at this particular shelf one day last week.  Why did I shove aside a pile of children’s books and comics?  Why did I look at the row of discarded text books?  I have little interest in the “structure of meat animals” or the “breeding and improvement of farm animals” or even “animal reproduction”.  At one time, these books were important, I spent hours with them; now, they are simply sitting there, waiting for me to have the courage to toss them.  But on this day, I did move some books around and I did look at the back of the shelf.  There it was!

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Nine years ago we moved.  There was only one book to pack in the kitchen but many to pack up in the “play” room.  Obviously, our wedding bible got packed with the old textbooks and in the flurry of unpacking it got shoved onto a shelf to be completely forgotten. The devotion book stuck in the bible is from February of 2005, about the time I started packing and purging for our move off the farm.

Looking at the book now, it’s nothing special.  Just a little bit larger than a pew bible and showing signs of wear.  The inscription inside makes me angry.  No one, absolutely no one, ever calls me Mrs Ken deBoer!!!  There’s no place to record family history, this will not become a family heirloom.

But I’m happy to have found it back!

First Ride of 2014

Finally, today was the day. The first bike ride of the season. We are a little picky about the first day. The temperature needs to be above 10 degrees Celsius, it can’t be raining, and it shouldn’t be too windy.

BkkLcoYCcAAuC8MToday it did make it to 10 degrees, but with the breeze, which was not strong enough to keep us home, they say it felt like 8 degrees. It was dry though, but, with the snow banks slowly melting the shoulders of the road were pretty soft. We dressed for the weather, lots of layers and made the initial ride on our touring bikes.

I don’t think we have ever had such big snowbanks on day one.

The ride felt good. We’re looking forward to lots more.

2013 Christmas Letter

Christmas time is a good time to reflect on the past year. It is at this time we remember the Gift God gave to the world. It is also a time of giving gifts to each other, appreciating and enjoying these gifts. We were given the gift of another year, with all of the good and exciting things that happened in it. While 2012 revolved around the growth of our family, this year was more about travel and milestones.

Introducing D to Sesame Street

Introducing D to Sesame Street

We were in Edmonton twice this year to visit with our Grandson D and his parents. He is growing up so quickly. Our last visit in October was wonderful, because D, now walking, is so responsive. We visited the zoo together where he became totally enamored with the domestic pigs, mimicking their grunts at every opportunity. Google talk has been a wonderful tool for keeping, and growing our relationship. I find it amazing the way a eighteen month old can seem to understand that the folks on the screen talking to him are real, as he interacts with us, just as if we were in the same room. Our son-in-law, J, has finished his PhD, with his defense in September. R, continues to work on the last stages of hers and hopes to complete this spring. They are doing a great job of balancing their lives as students and parents.

J and Clementine out for a drive

J and Clementine out for a drive

In February we traveled to San Francisco to visit J and L and our newest grand puppy, Clementine.   J continues his work with Google and seems to be flying around the world on business even more than he did before. L has left Google for a job with a company that makes a robot which is run by an iPhone. This company is based in San Francisco, saving her the commute to Mountain View which J continues to make. Clementine goes to work with one of them, most days.

J and M in Toronto came home a couple of weeks ago with news. They are going to be parents to more than two dogs and a cat. The baby is expected to arrive sometime in June. This news has put a little more pressure on them to finish the work they have been doing on their house.

Doggie messengers

Doggie messengers

They have been renovating the attic for a master bedroom and still have work to do on the main floor. M completed the requirements for his engineer’s stamp this year and also got his real estate licence. J continues to be active in her church as a youth leader and in her knitting group.

Last month we said goodbye to Liia. It was tougher to let her go than either of us had imagined.

Liia May 2004-Nov 2013

Liia May 2004-Nov 2013

Over the years on the farm we had, in one way or another, had animals come and go in our lives. Liia had entrenched herself in a much more intimate spot  than any of those others. We still feel her absence every day. For the first time in over 30 years, our house is pet-free.

History and cow pastures in Ireland

History and cow pastures in Ireland

This year, we joined the group we walked the Camino with in 2011 to visit the high holy crosses of Ireland. We decided that an eleven day bus trip in Ireland was not really an active enough holiday for us, so we extended it with a sixteen day bicycle trip. Ireland was a wonderful experience. The people are amazingly friendly and the history of the place is deep. The history surrounds you in castles, tower houses, and cottages.

Across a two lane road in Ireland

Across a two lane road in Ireland

Much of it just left where it is, protected by law and maintained by sheep and cattle. We were gone nearly a month.

J continues to work at the local YMCA as a personal trainer. She has also rediscovered knitting putting together socks, shawls, sweaters, and most recently Christmas balls. She has also started playing with clay at a local pottery shop.

Some of the many Christmas balls

Some of the many Christmas balls

The first days were pretty frustrating, but now warns me a new shelf might be required for all of the pottery she is bringing home this week and is hoping to make in the future.

A couple of years ago, J and I started taking dance classes. Initially, it was to keep from embarrassing ourselves at J & M’s wedding, but, finding that we enjoy doing this together we have continued. We don’t get a lot of chances to show off our skills, and maybe that is not even the point of the classes for us. For us, it something we can do together when biking, canoeing, and travelling are not possible. It’s good to have a best friend to share life with.

In April, I finished the last class of the MDiv I have been working on since 2009. In June, I was declared a candidate for ministry in the Christian Reformed Church. In September the congregation in Lucknow, my home congregation, called me to be their interim pastor.

Graduation October 2013

Graduation October 2013

While it seems like the end of the journey, it’s really just another way point. I’m enjoying the work at the church and look forward to the next couple of years here. The call is a part time one and I continue to consult with sheep and goat farmers through Threefold Consulting.

As the year draws to a close, we look forward to 2014.  We’re already talking about the cycle trip we hope to make, the canoe trip in Algonquin, the new grand baby. How many times will we get on an airplane next year?  Even as we talk about these things, we recognize life is fragile and we’re in God’s hands; whatever comes, we trust it’s part of God’s plan.