CHRISTMAS LETTER MEMORIES – RETIREMENT

2008   Stanwood

Barbara is missing her involvement in adult education. We were able to sponsor several progressive study groups in our local church and we both enjoyed being involved in those groups.

In late August, Barbara traveled with three friends to Southern Congo, seeking to establish some relationships there as she begins a term as co-chair of the Bishop’s Task Force on Hope for the Children of Africa in the Pacific Northwest Conference. We are in the process of raising $225,000 to construct a boy’s orphanage there in Lubumbashi.

Both of us enjoy good theatre, so we are signing up for as many as we can handle from Vancouver, BC to Seattle, WA.

The biggest news for John is that he didn’t have to cut back on the dahlia hobby. A gentleman farmer (actually a doctor) gave him a garden plot on his farm, so he was able to save his favorite dahlias for another year.

Most of my retirement is spent killing weeds. It is easier than herding cats. Many people have remarked on how “relaxed” I look. It may be true. The pressure of being “available” 100% of the time may have been wearing on me more than I realized. Whatever! I am still keeping busy. I volunteer to read the local newspaper on audio tape, helpful to some who have sight issues. Driving a van for trips sponsored by the Senior and Community Center gets me out and about some. A backlog of reading is also enjoyable.

It is expected that we absent ourselves from the Stanwood church for a year or so. We are taking advantage of our situation to visit many other churches and that has been enlightening. Barbara misses the regular involvement in a local church.  (Added later: we visited 45 churches during that year and never had a bad experience, sermon wise.  Barbara shared that fact with some clergy in a meeting and they scoffed. That told me more about them than they may have intended. I am glad to be retired.

We will continue to be involved. I accepted election as the Conference Secretary for the PNW Conference for the next four years. Barbara is co-chair of the Bishop’s Task Force for the Hope for the Children of Africa. She will keep busy, even if she already has the Bishop’s Award.

Travels together: Jurisdictional Conference in Portland, OR; Dadd family reunion in Huntington, Indiana; officiating at a wedding in Henderson, Nevada; two Older Adult camps; and a Primetimers Event in Georgia.

2009   Stanwood

It’s now been more than a year since John retired. We’ve visited more with friends, not set the alarm most mornings, read more of the newspaper both on paper and on-line, entertained more, worked on the house and yard (some), traveled and mostly set our own schedule.

Travel: To Turkey in May with two scholars: Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. Had the fun experience of meeting Barbara’s siblings in Istanbul under the spires of the Blue Mosque. Taking advantage of the slow economy, we took our first cruise. It will not be our last, though John cannot talk Barbara into an Alaskan cruise for some reason. We “did” the Panama Canal. A much shorter trip took us to North Vancouver Island in Canada. We also explored Southern Arizona and returned to Alaska to celebrate 50 years of Alaska Pacific University.

Barbara finally got the bedroom walls covered with many of our 180+ baskets collected from all over the world. They have come from places we have visited or from places where friends have selected one for us.

When possible, we attend the Stanwood UMC. During our year of hiatus we attended 45 different churches, including four churches named “Trinity” in Vancouver BC; Ballard, WA; Huntington, IN and Savannah, GA. Heard good preaching and experienced good liturgy.

With lots of help, Barbara was successful in raising more than $225,000 for the new boy’s orphanage building in the Congo. That put a smile on her face. Actually, when she computed the figure that took them over the goal, she let out a loud whoop that sent John scrambling to check on her welfare.  Funds were forwarded to Africa and the building is under construction. She continues as co-chair of the Bishop’s Task Force on Hope for the Children of Africa, the group working on the partnership with the UMC in the Congo, especially the orphanages and women’s centers.

She led an adult education experience at Stanwood UMC this Fall.

John’s brother Lee died this past year in July and we celebrated his life in November at the OK Corral in Apache Junction, Arizona, where he worked for many years until his health declined.  (At the close of the service, a cowboy took his ashes on a horse and they rode away while we sang “Happy Trail to You”.  It seemed to fit. His ashes are on Superstition Mountain.

John raised a total of 300 dahlia plants.  Entered a sunflower in the local far on a whim and got the “Best of Show” award. So much for the dahlia expert.

John is doing some volunteer work in our community and preaching a wee bit when asked. Wonderful to be able to use the same sermon more than once. Some people are wondering why John is smiling so much, but retirement is agreeing with John.

2010   Stanwood

Travel: Trips to Copper Canyon in Mexico and to Costa Rica. John finally talked Barbara into a short cruise to Alaska (we lived there for 33 years). We had the opportunity to see Misty Fjords near Ketchikan and Tracy Arm near Juneau, both on our wish list. We also went to Anchorage for Alaska Pacific University events in September. (We were recognized for our financial support of the University.)

When invited to share in the centennial celebration of (United) Methodism in southern Congo, Barbara led a small delegation. While there, they shared in the dedication of the Boy’s Orphanage (Jamaa Letu) that has taken a great deal of her energy in recent years. The Bishop even named the buildings in honor of Barbara and Mama Francine Tshishola, the director of the orphanages.  It is called BART.

Barbara continues her involvement in adult education at Stanwood UMC and Rotary also gets some of her volunteer energy.

John’s activities include gardening, transportation services to medical appointments, reading, good theatre and a wee bit of preaching.

He succeeded at cutting back on dahlias and experimenting with plants that produce food. The most exciting accomplishment was two heads of broccoli the size of a soccer ball.

Aging is also an issue.  High blood pressure and the organ that gives men lots of fits.  I started doing Santa Claus at Christmas time.

2011  Stanwood

We went to Machu Picchu (Peru) and Galapagos Islands (Ecuador) in March with a side trip to the Amazon River. In August, we traveled the coast of Norway with side trips to Iceland, Denmark and Sweden. We spent two weeks in Hawaii in February and another week in May. There were also trips to San Francisco and Phoenix for Barbara’s church involvements. We both attended Barbara’s 50th class reunion at Albion College in Michigan and the 50th anniversary of Birchwood Camp in anchorage, Alaska. We also visited ten national parks, monuments and other sites in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. All together we sent 90 days away from home this year.

We didn’t mention in last year’s letter that we spent one week in December in Salt Lake City as volunteers at the UMCOR Depot West. John traveled all the way to Seattle (50 miles) for the International Lion’s Convention, helping promote PETS (Personal Energy Transportation Hand Bike).  $250 provides one for some one.  Check it out at petproject@giftofmobility.org

Barbara continues to spend time and energy on helping the United Methodist orphanages in the Congo. We are excited that the new boy’s orphanage buildings are now being used. Over 75 children and teens are in care.

We are also using the blessings we have received from work and family to support some good causes: an endowed scholarship in Barbara’s name at Alaska Pacific University and another endowed scholarship in our names to support a university student in the Congo, which now requires $2,500 per year including everything. Education is important to us, so this is one way for us to say so.

Garden space increase by 125 per cent. So forget any comment I may have made about cutting back on dahlias.  I am also growing miniature pumpkins.

Spending time as Santa’s helper has been very interesting. I subbed at Lights of Christmas one night last year and related to 325 children and youth in five hours. This year it was only 292. When we were in Salt Lake City a year ago, a beautiful child decided I was the “man” and she pushed her parents into following me until she could inform me about what she wanted for Christmas. Her parents were thrilled that I would take the time to talk to her. We felt pretty good about it ourselves.  How did she know???  Must be the beard.

2012   Stanwood

A major event of the year was the celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary in June. We hosted a celebration at our church and family came from afar.

Less travel this year: 50 days for John and 80 for Barbara. We celebrated John’s 75th birthday in Hana, Maui, Hawaii.

Barbara visited in the Congo in May for a Roundtable planned by the mission board with both local and international partners. the goal was greater communication and cooperation.

Some church trips gave John more than enough travel experience: Tampa, Portland and San Diego.  His family lost two members this year, both sisters-in-law: Barbara in Paxton, Illinois and Shirley in Mesa, Arizona. We made a quick trip to share in a graveside service for Barbara in Fisher, Illinois.

Barbara was a delegate to the United Methodist Western Jurisdictional Conference in San Diego with major responsibilities as chair of the Program and Arrangements Committee. This concluded all her positions in the general church.

Barbara and Barbara’s sister enjoyed a trip to Scotland in August, without John, though he was invited.

Gardening dominated John’s year with 445 dahlia plants, but who is counting? Lots of beautiful blooms. We calculated that we spent 30 hours digging and cleaning them in October, must of it in the rain. Similar amount of time was spent dividing and storing them.

Promoting PETS is John’s main passion in life.

He continues to be Santa’s helper, but with a fake beard. After some 30 years with a beard, I am trying a new look. My new best friend says that I look twenty years younger. The best story came from a woman to whom I regularly take an item. She looked at it, then at me and said: “Usually John Shaffer gives this to me”.

2013  Stanwood, Washington

We both went to Germany and New England. After attending the International Lion’s Convention in Hamburg, we traveled on the Elbe River into Martin Luther land. John was disappointed to learn that Luther actually didn’t hammer a nail in the church door when he posted his protests.

We went to Harrison Hot Springs in Canada en route to a lecture at Vancouver school of Theology that was cancelled just hours prior to our arrival. After the hot springs, John was so mellow that he didn’t even mind.

Barbara serves on the board of our Rotary Club and is the treasurer of the AAUW branch.

Barbara’s sister and Barbara enjoyed a trip to Ireland in August, without John, though he was invited. (repeatedly)

John has discovered that at age 76, I am getting older.  Doing physical therapy and trying to avoid shoulder surgery.

John continues to be Santa’s helper, but with a real beard this year. Going without a beard was an interesting experience, as many people who know me with it, looked right past me or through me.

2014  Stanwood, Washington

John had rotator cuff surgery in January.

We took a trip to China in May, repeating some of the same things John did in 1975 and Barbara did in 1979. It was interesting to see the contrast with 2014. The highlight for John was a day at the Terra Cotta Warriors display near Xian. Worth the whole trip for him. Barbara marched up 125 steps to both the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower in Beijing, all on the same day.  (Three women took care of me on that trip.  We privately referred to ourselves as the three cucumbers and the general – you would have had to be there to understand.)

Then in October, we went to Africa, beginning with the Democratic Republic of Congo. This was Barbara’s fourth trip to the Jamaa Letu Orphanages (JLO) and John’s first. After a week there, we joined a commercial tour of game reserves in Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. We visited Johannesburg and Victoria Falls in 1971, but everything else was new. the game sightings in Botswana did not happen; because of Ebola concerns, health officials refused us admission due to our time in the Congo. We enjoyed game reserves in Zimbabwe for 3 extra days, and then rejoined our tour group in Zambia. We saw all the big game animals plus lots of smaller ones. Elephants and more elephants which are really impressive, plenty of giraffes, a couple of lions, lots of antelope of several different species, both black and white rhinoceros, hippopotamuses, even a group of army ants on the move. We were moved by the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and a visit to Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned for too many years. Barbara’s sister Midge traveled with us.

A personal highlight turned out okay. Well, not exactly a highlight. Lightening hit our house, brought in by branches from a 90 foot sequoia tree that was a major feature of our property. It was located twenty feet from our house. Planted 50 years ago, it was 17 feet around at the base and 6 1/2 feet wide. The lighting split the tree for 40 feet and cracked it the entire length. John knew it had been hit when he found twenty gallons of mature and green cones lying on the ground the next morning. Professionals took it down in three days. Destroyed our modem, router and printer, too, but nothing more.

We are wondering about lightning. The plane we were to fly home on from Africa was hit by lightning as it landed in Johannesburg. We got home a day later than we planned.

John is giving up his “U Pick dahlia garden”, turning it over to someone else. It was fun sharing the beauty of this flower with others. While he is no longer in constant pain from his shoulder injury (fixed on January 15th), aches and pains are sending messages that it is time to slow down a little. He will keep the vegetable garden to supply miniature pumpkins for Barbara and a few other items for us to eat. There will still be dahlias in our yard.

Barbara continues to spend a lot of time and energy raising financial support for the two Jamaa Letu orphanages which was the reason we included the Congo in the Africa trip. Nearly eighty kids in care. There are never quite enough funds. And the kids are growing up so some are going to University for which funds are also needed. Ten students this year.  Want to sponsor an orphan for $493 per year?

The Task Force has accepted the challenge of funding the older students with their post-secondary education or training. The budget is $3,000 per year, all-inclusive of all costs per student. This fulfills the meaning of the words ‘Jamaa Letu’ which translates as ‘Our Family’ in Swahili.  (It was a joy to see the young woman who graduates in 2015 with a degree in Public Health. She gave us a sincere invitation to her graduation ceremony.  We will not make it.)

Each of us leads a small group which we call ConneXion groups. Weekly meetings in modules of twelve weeks so we get to know each other quite well. Barbara leads the Tuesday Bible study group in our local church, now in its fifteenth year. The class tackles some serious study materials together. A highlight of the week for her.

In the larger United Methodist Church, Barbara serves on the board for two foundations with substantial assets, one for the Pacific Northwest Conference and one a national foundation which funds postsecondary education for UM Students at UM-related schools.

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