A “Graduation” Trip

Because Canada was closed last summer (and still is as of April of 2021) due to the pandemic, we weren’t able to use our timeshare week in Whistler, British Columbia for 2020. We were fortunate enough to trade our unused vacation to Orange Tree Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona where my dad lives with a plan to celebrate my milestone.

Retirement Graduation TripMy husband called this my “graduation trip” to celebrate my retirement after 44 years of public service. It was a fantastic experience and I highly recommend going somewhere a few days after your retirement, primarily so that there is a break in your routine. No looking back!

I had a week to make the transition and to pack a suitcase and my golf bag.  This amount of time seemed just about right.  We flew to Phoenix, rented a car, and drove to Tubac Golf Resort.  My husband wanted to do something special before our timeshare week, so he took me there because it was the location for shooting one of his favorite golf movies, starring Kevin Costner and Rene Russo, Tin Cup.

He signed us up for the “Indulgent Golf Package” which is two nights in a historic Casita, two rounds of golf, and two breakfast burritos at the Cantina on the first hole. It was a magical place in the desert south of Green Valley, just north of the Mexican border.  I learned that the ranch was originally a land grant from the King of Spain to the Ortero family in 1685.  From this ranch, the family rose to prominence and became the “Cattle Kings of Arizona.”  In the 1950s, lead by Bing Crosby and other investors, the ranch was purchased and three 9-hole courses were constructed.  The longhorn cattle are still there and integrated into the course design.

I loved the historic feel of the place and as a beginning golfer, I appreciated the spacing of the women’s and men’s tees.  Even though I’m still learning, we were able to enjoy some rounds of golf with a different couple each day.  The husbands were pretty good golfers and both of the wives were beginners, so we could encourage each other.

At Orange Tree Resort we were in a wonderful central location north of Scottsdale.  We golfed three days and enjoyed meeting other couples and even had lunch together after one of our rounds.  I truly appreciated that I was in a beautiful warm place, meeting interesting people, trying something new, and walking five or more miles in a park setting with water fountains. I had to remind myself that if I hadn’t retired, I would have been on a Zoom Call in my home office that day.

I also really enjoyed taking two hikes in the desert. By starting out early enough we were able to hike mostly in the 70-degree weather, but by noon temperatures were in the mid-90’s so having a pool to dip in during the lazy afternoons was wonderful.  At the McDowell Mountain Regional Park, we saw hikers and many mountain bikers.  It has a rugged beauty and is a classic desert hike.  https://www.maricopacountyparks.net/mcdowell-mountain-regional-park-mm/ When we went to the visitor center we were asked whether we saw any rattlesnakes.  We said no!  The ranger shared that it is mating season and the rattlesnakes are all out and a little crazy.  Yikes!  It was probably good we didn’t realize that before we started hiking.

On our last evening before returning home, we went to Butterfly Wonderland. It was an inspiring way to end our trip. https://butterflywonderland.com We learned about the plight of Monarch Butterflies and experienced a tropical rainforest environment full of all kinds of butterflies, birds, and koi.  I was in awe of what we learned and what we saw. Retirement Graduation Trip

While it was good to return home to the spring-like weather of the Pacific Northwest after a ten-day trip to the desert, I’m so grateful for this time we had together to experience a different place, reconnect with family, make new friends, stretch my legs, swing my clubs and start the next chapter of my life. I’ve now graduated to feeling really retired!

A Perfect Day

I love to plan.  I worked as a planner for my entire career. I often get just as much or more joy out of planning something then I do experiencing the actual event. Of course, in real life, things don’t always go as you have planned, so sometimes there can be a disappointment.

I enjoy planning events, parties, and vacations. But during retirement, one of my goals is to slow down and just let things unfold. I have desired to be patient, be open to new possibilities, and not be in a hurry. I think I’m on the right track because by letting go of the planning, I recently experienced what I consider to be a perfect day.

A perfect Day in RetirementI have added structure to my week by joining two different women’s golf clubs in our area, playing in the mornings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Early in our discussions about what we would do once I was retired, was the commitment that on at least one day a week my husband and I would spend time together.

While I know there is never anything that is truly perfect, the Wednesday after we returned home from our retirement trip to Arizona ranks up there for me. My husband decided to research and plan our day. My job was to fill the water bottles and think about snacks for us.

We drove about an hour north of our home to Skagit County and Deception Pass.https://parks.state.wa.us/497/Deception-Pass

There is an amazing bridge that connects the mainland to Whidbey Island. At the other end of the island, there is a ferry to Mukilteo. As we were arriving at the parking area, the cloud ceiling was low and there was fog on the stretch of water that separates these two rocky places.  As the tide ebbs and flows, water rapidly rushes through a narrow gap under the bridge making it an incredibly unique place.

There are a series of trails in the park that loop back and forth between protected bays, rocky outcroppings, beaches, forest, and tide pools.  The area is full of history and the views are gorgeous. It wasn’t warm when we started but soon the clouds began to lift and the sun burned through the fog to reveal epic views at every turn.

I needed to be careful where I was stepping because I was snapping photos on my iPhone like crazy.  Neither of us, even though we have lived here our entire lives, have ever been to this special place so it was all new. We hiked to a high point just as the fog evaporated revealing gorgeous views of the snow-capped mountains on the Olympic Peninsula across Puget Sound.

As we sat on a big rock, breathing the clean air and staring out at the spectacular vista while eating our snacks, we reflected on how grateful we are to live in such a beautiful place. Our biggest realization was that as retirees we are privileged to do this during the weekday when there were very few people.

We explored the beaches and tide pools and then watched the fighter pilots circle in their Growler Jets from Naval Station Whidbey as they were practicing their take-offs and landing.  In Rosario Bay, we found theA perfect day in Retirement Maiden of Deception Pass. This very large wood carving, generously provided by the Samish Indian Tribe in 1983, tells the story of the legend of Ko-kwal-alwoot and celebrates their survival, and honors their traditions.


We continued hiking to Lighthouse Point and saw a pair of eagles soaring in the clear blue sky.  Then we observed some otters playing and fishing while we watched as pleasure boats made their way through the cut below the bridge. My gratitude for this special day my husband planned for us overflowed!

It was hard to leave but after seven miles of exploring, we decided to get a late lunch at the Shrimp Shack before returning home.  We shared a delicious meal outside on the picnic tables and then we both said to each other, “Where are we going next Wednesday?”

Farewell Ruby

When gas was around $4 a gallon and I was commuting to work each day in a carpool, I needed a new vehicle.  In the summer of 2015, we were all looking for more economical gas-efficient options.  My carpool partner had a huge diesel truck but fuel for his big rig was even more expensive.  

He also had a Harley Davidson road bike with the elevated seat for his wife.  He decided that we should commute by motorcycle.  It was fun and exhilarating riding on the back of his bike for that first summer but when the rains started I was looking for other options. I purchased “Ruby”, a ruby red (hence her name) Ford Fusion Hybrid.  She got 44 miles to the gallon and she has been a great car, especially when I was driving to work everyday and to Seattle sometimes.

During the pandemic I began working from home and Ruby was probably lonely.  She only needed gas two times during a 14 month period.  Not only did I stop commuting, but I stopped going anywhere at all. She sat in the garage unloved and un-driven.

The other day as I was giving Ruby a bath, ready to resume life and go golfing, I noticed that her tires needed to be replaced and her oil needed to be changed.  In fact, she was driven so litter that her tires had never been replaced.  And the oil was not because of any excessive mileage but because the months and months on the calendar had turned. It dawned on me that Ruby was no longer the car I needed for retirement life.

What worked well for me as an individual worker the past six years no longer makes sense for me now.  My husband is too tall to be comfortable (no headroom or leg room), my grandkids don’t all fit (not enough seats for four of them) and her trunk is too small for my golf bag and pushcart.

Yesterday I said, “Farewell to Ruby” and hello to a used Silver/Gray Explorer.  I haven’t figured out the name for my new girl but she definitely fits the bill for my new life.  She can seat six comfortably, has lots of cargo space for my dog Sadie, hiking boots, golf bags, and even a spot for a bike hitch. She can go skiing with her four-wheel drive and rack on the top and she’ll be ready to go anywhere I can imagine taking her.

In an earlier blog post, I thought about how my wardrobe needed to change and I spent time figuring out what to wear as a retiree.  It never occurred to me that the car I had as a “working unit” wouldn’t be the transportation I would need as a retiree. For you future retirees, this is something you may want to consider as you prepare.  Not what will I wear, but what will I drive?  I’m happy it was so easy to trade Ruby in for a vehicle that will take me where and when I want to go exploring.

You served me well these past six years, so farewell Ruby! May you go to a good home with someone that is still working. Because now my new job is to have some fun!

Riding Bikes with Daddy

In November last year, I wrote a blog post entitled “Saturday Mornings with Daddy.” I shared how much I appreciated hearing from my 86 year old dad when he would call me from Arizona on FaceTime each week.Riding bikes with Daddy in retirement This was usually after his 20-mile bike ride from where he lives in Scottsdale to Tempe and back. He bikes three days a week and does workouts and laps in the pool the other three days.  Every.Single.Week!

I ended the post with a desire to be with him in person and then go on a bike ride together. Of course, this dream would only be possible if and when we were all vaccinated and it was safe to travel. Now that I’m retired, my wish just came true.

During a few days on what my husband called “Barb’s graduation trip” to Arizona, we were able to spend time with my dad and stepmother between rounds of golf and hiking. We enjoyed a delicious lunch they prepared at their condo and then had a chance to catch up.  Another night we took them to dinner at a wonderful Thai restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale.

The highlight of my week was renting two bikes for me and my husband.  We picked them up the night before we hit the amazing trail system between Scottsdale and Tempe with Daddy.  We got up bright and early the next morning and were on our bikes by 7 a.m. The highs even in April were hitting 96 degrees and we were coming from 39 degrees in Washington so earlier is better.

Riding bikes with daddy in retirementMy dad is an amazing inspiration!  In fact, even though we are over 20 years younger than him, he kicked our butts.  We couldn’t keep up with him. It gives me hope that with his level of commitment I can get into better aerobic shape after sitting in a home office this past year.

He served as our tour guide and took us up hills and down, over bridges and through underpasses.  We kept falling behind and he was surprised we couldn’t catch him. He even had to slow down and let us take some water breaks. 

We road through parks, golf courses, and town centers.  The rocks of Papago Park and along the canal system that feeds into the man-made lake in Tempe were just a few of my favorite scenic spots.  The campus and the bike trails around Arizona State University is a diverse and vibrant place that had lots of students jogging, biking, and riding on scooters.

After three hours we were hot, tired, and hungry.  Daddy took us to breakfast at Randy’s for some old-fashioned comfort food. We went back to his condo and put on our swimsuits and floated in the pool for several hours.

I am so grateful for this time with him. I can’t remember having such an opportunity to truly relax with my Dad.  Usually, when we are together at holidays with the noise of kids running around, meals to prepare, and dishes to do, we don’t really get to talk.

Retirement is giving me precious time with those I love, a chance to explore and have adventures. I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing than “Riding Bikes with Daddy.”  I hope I can do it again this winter. 

The Easy Button

I’ve been thinking of ways to describe these first days of “post-retirement.”  What comes to mind is that it has been like pushing “The Easy Button.”  

Back in 2005, our team was in the midst of implementing drastic changes to the permit process and it was stressful and hard. In August of that year, Staples introduced the “Easy Button”, a big red novelty item for offices which was advertised as a fun way of relieving stress. The button did nothing other than say “That was easy” when it was pressed.

Whenever we would work on something that we thought would be challenging or difficult and then it turned out to be easier than we realized, someone in their cubicle would press the button.  We would laugh and then move on with our day.

I’m not sure what I expected would happen after I retired.  I’ve done plenty of reading, talking and thinking about this for months.  I felt prepared, especially with nine months of planning and lead time.  But in reality, at least so far, it was so much easier than I imagined.

Maybe I was just really ready to retire after 44 years.  With the pandemic stretching on, winter ending, our office continuing to be closed and looking forward to hugging my kids and grandkids now that we are all vaccinated, I could envision something else for my life. I think because I have so much to look forward to that there have been no regrets.

The biggest factor for me was returning my work laptop and having my access to the county email system turned off.  Not having the constant pressure of making decisions, processing information quickly and completing tasks associated with thousands of emails was like a weight lifted off my back. Another consideration is that I no longer have the responsibility for 130 employees, a multi-million budget and planning for future land use decisions out to 2050. I find myself less distracted, sleeping much longer and better and able to focus more.  I am able to be present in the moment.  Having new activities like golf and trips to plan and anticipate helped as well.

I’ve been learning that “every day is Saturday.”  My time is my own. I have an infinite number of choices to make about how I spend my day. Our wall calendar is filling up with fun things this spring and summer and there are no constraints on my time.

When people ask how it is going for me these days I find myself saying, “much easier than I thought.”  I’ve joined the ranks of the retired and I really have pushed the button.  Every morning now my big red button says, “That was easy!”

Cleaning out my desk

Barbara Mock cleaning out her work deskI retired on a Friday afternoon so on the following Monday morning I put away my little Costco table and table cloth.  Then we loaded up my laptop, monitors, and equipment and took it all back to the office. I never really made a permanent office space because I thought the pandemic would only last a few weeks or a month.  I never imagined it would be over a year and that we would still be closed to the public!

It was eery to go back to my office as there were only a few people in the building.  It felt almost like the apocalypse to walk through an empty building.  My administrative manager was going to meet me at 10:30 a.m. so I could turn in my equipment and she said she left four boxes for me to load up the contents of my desk.  I couldn’t imagine that I would have that much stuff to bring home, I usually travel light.

I started going through things and had a shock.  After 44 years, there was a lot more there than I could imagine.  I started throwing out lots of paper and documents that could be shredded but it was kind of like cleaning out an old closet.  

Each photo, item, or book brought back a memory and I was quickly overwhelmed.  It was such a challenge to decide what to keep and throw away.  Rather than take a lot of time to process everything in that moment, I ended up bringing home nine boxes!  What I thought would take a few minutes took an hour and a half.

Most directors are fired at some point in their career.  In fact, all of the 20 director’s before me were terminated.  I think that is why most of them just walked out.  I didn’t want to leave a mess for my deputy director, who is being promoted to my position, so I took my time to clean everything out.

My life is changing in a significant way and there is one thing in my office that I’ll really miss.  It seems silly but it is a live edge table that seats 8-10 people.  The wood it was made from is an 80 year old maple that fell in the forest and was rotting.  Loggers in the Oso area near Arlington found the tree and cut it into slabs.  The slabs were sold to a furniture builder who uses reclaimed wood to make furniture.  I was able to choose the slab and the legs from my old chipped formica table was re-used to hold this slab.

In 2013, the Oso area was the site of a massive landslide where 43 people lost their lives.  The ensuing media coverage, litigation, permitting, and public records requests along with the recovery of those who were lost affected me, my employees, and my department. Employees in my department lost friends to this tragedy and there is still grief around this sad event in Snohomish County’s history.

But this table was special to me because something that could have been chopped up for firewood was rescued and became a work of art. All the meetings, the lunchtime chats, the sharing that happened around that table are in my memory.  I used to spend time counting the rings to try and figure out how old the tree was.

One day the Mayor of the Town of Darrington walked in and saw my table and said, “That tree came from Oso, didn’t it?  I said, “Yes it did!”  He said, “I know right where it came from and who salvaged it.”  Then he told me how old it was. Incredible how everything is connected.

My table is a bit of a parable for me.  Out of death can come life. Out of an end, there can be a new beginning.  Something tragic can cause you to appreciate life in a way you never did before. Barbara Mock cleaning out her desk for retirement

Cleaning out my desk was an emotional moment.  Leaving my beautiful table was too. Packing four decades of stuff I had acquired over a career was bittersweet. But what happened after that was another surprise.  My administrative manager came to me and said she had something in the conference room she needed me to see.  

When I walked in, there were five managers and two administrative assistants, my director’s office team.  There were balloons, decorations, cakes and cupcakes, cards, gifts, and a delicious Thai lunch.  They had all secretly come into the office, (for most this was the first time since the pandemic started), to wish me well and tell me goodbye in person.

The end of this chapter is my new beginning.

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