Monday, May 25, 2009


A mere three working days left until retirement! And I’ve never worked so hard - stocking the shelves for the long fixed income fast, tidying the garden, preparing instruction books for the three women who will be replacing me on the route. (I like to think it takes three people to replace me but it’s just that the boss can’t hire anyone new just yet so she’s divvying my clients up between three existing routes.)
Enough about that - I promised to tell you the story of the “Dandelion Lunch”.
It was the mid-seventies. I was the divorced mom of a seven-year-old son - unemployed, barely surviving on Welfare and Food Stamps. One day in early April I was down to pocket change. It was time for desperate measures if I was to feed my hungry kid. I took to the streets (No, it’s not what you think! Shame on you!). I walked up to the store, bought a few chicken wings and on the way home I foraged along the roadside for dandelion greens.
“What’s this weird stuff?” asked my sweet son pointing to his supper plate.
“It’s gourmet,” I said. “They pay big bucks for this in fancy restaurants downtown.”
He stared at the mound of greens as if it had tentacles.
“But what is it?”
Here it comes, I thought, no way out now.
“Fresh Spring greens sautéed with shallots and chicken wings, topped with grated parmesan cheese.”
“Looks like weeds,” he said, prodding his lunch with one fork tine.
Having been backed into a corner I pulled the mother card.
“Just eat it or go hungry!” I almost added the bit about starving children in Africa - my mom’s particular favorite - but I’d pushed things too far as it was.
I can’t remember how much of that lunch my darling son actually ate - after all it’s been in excess of thirty years - yet I do remember enjoying it myself. Pretty tasty to my way of thinking - not to mention creative! But then I also believed he bought the “Spring greens” description. He was a grown man when he finally revealed he’d been wise to me all along.
“Jeez Mom, kids know a dandelion when they see one,” he said. “Even without the fluffy foofies.” I smiled at the use of his childhood term for the seed heads.
“I’ll have you know dandelion greens are extremely high in calcium and all sorts of other vitamins and minerals,” I countered, sinking fast.
“Sure, Mom,” he said with a smile.
Every April since, I’ve asked him over for lunch as soon as the first succulent dandelion greens sprout in the back garden. Most of the time he shows up. Laughing.
With retirement only a few days away I recall those long ago hardscrabble times - recall the lessons learned and how good it felt to survive on my wits. I was proud to be self-sufficient and resourceful in a desperate time - just as my parents were to have survived the Great Depression. In this new blog, “Dandelion Lunch”, I’ll explore nearly forgotten skills I am going to need to marshall once more as I learn to live well on a fixed income. But no more foraging on the side of the road - YUCK!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Retirement: Creative Frugality Rediscovered

In a few weeks I'll be retired from Geekatopia (see old blog: It's turning out to be much more work than I expected. So many considerations - Social Security paperwork, Medicare paperwork, budgets to hone, bills to pay off ahead of impending poverty - that sort of stuff and much more. Cutting ties with my employer is not something done lightly or easily. I'm up in the middle of the night wondering how my route will get done without me - wondering what I may have forgotten to pass on to the people taking over my work. I've given them many months notice but there is still so much to be done before I can make a clean break.

But it's a great adventure. Kind of like setting off into a vast wilderness with a daypack filled with granola bars. Scary. And exciting. I couldn't have picked a weirder time in which to give up the day job - imploded economy etc. When I tell people I'm retiring they inevitably say, "Oh, I'd love to retire but I can't afford it right now." Well, who can??? But did we wait until we could afford it before we: bought our new car, had a baby, went back to school, signed the mortgage? Nah. We're the children of the generation who survived the Great Depression - we're exhippies who lived on Food Stamps and airy illusions - we muddled through. Our idealism is boundless. Along the way we learned some valuable lessons about our own creativity and stamina. Wisdom and skills that we must now revisit as we set off in the unknown.

What's with the geodesic dome in the above photo, you ask. It's part of my retirement plan. Remember back in the 70s when people were "growing their own"? Now the term means something slightly different. It means raising a few organic vegies to stretch the Social Security check. In this new blog I'll chronical my rediscovery and recycling of nearly forgotten Hippie values and skills - ideas that are coming back around to serve me once more - things like repairing, reusing, recycling - rethinking how I live my life. In the next post I'll explain the name of this blog: Dandelion Lunch