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Really Retired

August 6 through 19
Written August 19

Dear Diary,

Just catching up.

Our first order of business after the month in France has been "recovery".    We unpacked and this left Marianne with all kinds of laundry.  We washed the cars.  We caught up with overdue bills and mail responses.  We said hello to the neighbors and assured them we were back and had not left for good.

We have gotten the garden and back field back under control, not perfect but good enough for our needs and to show to visitors.  It took perhaps four or five longish days of three to five hours work, not bad considering there were five weeks of no garden work at all.  In the end, I decided that "major" garden work may be more satisfying than maintenance because there is so much visibility to the progress.  This bodes well for recovery from future trips.  The only specific hazard was a bug bite I got that turned my whole forearm purple, as if my arm had been put through a clothes wringer (-- who even knows what those were!).  The doctor's reaction was something like "Wow, that's a good one.  But not dangerous."

Another part of recovery has been reestablishing our eating and drinking pattern to be in line with our quieter, at-home lifestyle.  While traveling in France, we walked a great deal and this permitted plenty of eating and wine drinking.  It was certainly fun, but not a regime we have here in quiet Pommersfelden. It's back to bread-free days and mostly wine-free evenings, at least until Italy.

More than simple recovery, our time has been spent doing the series of chores that accumulates while on vacation.  While I had been "recovering" the garden, Marianne worked on a thorough house cleaning from top to bottom (both buildings).  It's not as if the place had gotten dirty, since there had been no one inside, but that Marianne has pretty high cleanliness standards.  In fact, I didn't include before and after pictures because the contrast would not have properly illustrated the amount of work she put in.

Another chore is the current difficulty we have shifting health insurance.  At retirement, we needed a new solution to take over from the heath insurance we had as part of my job.  We started working on this six months ago, and have not yet successfully finished all the paperwork.  We have been turned down by all the German insurance companies for "private" or voluntary insurance, but now we are trying to get the state-required minimum insurance.  In principle, we are entitled to subscribe, but the insurance company we have ended up applying with is very slow to complete the process.  I actually do not have complete faith that they will honor their proposed contract so, meanwhile, I need to work on Plan B: Extend my employment insurance via COBRA.  Plan B has the undesired consequence of establishing an 18-month limit to how much longer we can live in Germany.  That has all sorts of consequences.  We'll see.

d120819_08_newRide.jpg The Boxster had earned a service trip from all the French kilometers and to make it an option for the trip to Italy.  That service trip found an oil leak that needs to be fixed before our trip, so the little car will have two hospital visits this month.  The car is over ten-years old and has always been serviced regularly, qualifying it as a "Porsche Classic".  That qualification entitles us to a small discount on parts and services and that's nice, but the bigger benefit is the free loaner car, such as a brand new 911 Carrera.  Visits to the Porsche shop are always expensive and this may be one of the reasons why.

We also need to get my car serviced.  Before our trip, we had ordered a new catalytic converter for the Audi, since we were getting the "check engine" light from time to time and the mechanic said it was due to the intermittent failure of the expensive exhaust cleaning system.  The replacement piece came in, so the car goes in the shop this week.  No fancy loaner however.  At times like this, I wonder about our plan to keep our cars until we change countries, but that is indeed our plan.

Friends and Family

Recovering connections with friends sometimes interferes with out calorie discipline, especially in summer beer garden season. In the first week we were back, we joined friends Dale, Peter, Marilyn, and Dieter at a beer garden they introduced us to a few villages west of home.  It was one of those peculiarly German places where folks come to sit on rough benches and eat hearty local food and drink regional beer and wine, while enjoying the Bavarian summer evening and good conversation.  Surrounded by young and not-so-young people having fun, it's a great way to have a few extra calories.

We also had US visitors.  Sandra and Bob and their two kids Audrey and Zach visited and it was fun showing off a small amount of Franconia. We squeezed in two evenings of sitting on the patio, enjoying the summer sunset, a bakery breakfast at Burkhards, a tour of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and a late-afternoon  snack at the Kellerhaus Cafe.  Maybe next time we can convince them to spend even more time, since we do enjoy visitors and there is still more to see.
d120819_31_Sean_Patrick.jpgd120819_32_RyanAndS.jpg Last but certainly not least, we received word that we have a new grandson, Sean Patrick Trotter, born on August 13, weighing 8 pounds.  Geoff assures us that Suzanne and the baby are doing fine and Ryan seems to like the idea of becoming a big brother.  Events like this make us regret living so far from family, but we are comforted in knowing that the young family does have plenty of local family support in Maryland and we will be able to meet Sean in just a couple of months.

Really Retired
After a month-and-a-half of travel and recovering from travel, including catching up on chores, family and friends, it does seem like retirement is setting in.  Mostly, it is the sense of time and urgency that is different.  Something not done today can generally be done tomorrow, or the day after.  While it seemed like we had filled the retirement half of 2012 with travel, not having to mix in work commitments means we do have time for gardening, reading, writing letters and this diary, Marianne's painting, John's photography, and visiting local friends. 

We even managed "small" travel, such as up to Bamberg for a Jazz and Blues festival (another excuse for bratwurst) and an overnight in Kronach for our 20th wedding anniversary.  We celebrated our 20th last year too, but a week after that celebration, we noticed that we had jumped the gun by a year!
Bamberg Jazz and Blues Festival
Kronach castle and church -- standard German historical town fare
Nice Hotel -- The Kronacher Stadthotel - Pfarrhof
Anniversary Dinner at Brewery Inn "´s Antla" ("Little Duck" in Franconian)

Yesterday evening, we went out for an evening drive, enjoying the warmth with the excuse of taking sunset pictures.  This morning, I watched a hot-air balloon land nearby.  We had a leisurely breakfast. Marianne left to go talk with Gretel, our neighbor, while I took pictures of backyard flowers, pictures I have taken before and will take again.  At two or three we will have our Sunday dinner and then Marianne should be able to get in her art-studio time.  I'll read.

I think I can get used to this.

John and Marianne


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