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Work, Retirement and Service; blowing my own horn!

by on May 25, 2013

I’ve been lucky and blessed many times in my life! There were times when I didn’t know that. There were times when my whole world had collapsed and I’ve survived the crashes. Life is that way…ups and downs, highs and lows etc.

If you live in a small community like I do, you quickly find out how ‘small’ the world is! Everyone knows everyone and the connections are everywhere….even far into your own past; where you lived, who you knew…long before you even GOT  here were you live today! You just never know!

On May 23, 2013 I went to two separate events.

The first was a retirement party for the former Union President of the local I belonged to when I was working at Fort Drum, NY. She’s an amazing person; married one child. Worked her full-time government job, 30 years, on top of her full-time Union (non-paid) position. She stepped down from the Union office, after 18 years, a couple of years ago to finish her education and got a position in Human Resources. With government downsizing she was offered a ‘buy-out’ for early retirement at 55. She’ll probably take another job within a year! I really owe my own retirement to this woman!

I joined the union around 1992 when I first became aware of some ‘issues’ that could undermine my employment. At that time I had ‘gone public’ with my non-christian beliefs and was immediately attacked, from all sides. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I was naive. Long story short…I was discriminated on religious grounds. If it wasn’t for that President and all the stewards who taught me the right way to communicate and who worked with me on the labor/management grievances I may NOT have been able to hold on to my job! As it worked out, in 1998, it was ‘agreed’ between the Army department that I worked for and the Union that if there was ONE more episode of discrimination against me, the Union would file a case with the Supreme Court. We had 7 years documentation! Over the next few years, people learned that discrimination was not acceptable and this was BEFORE 9/11! The military is a very different environment that most civilians know nothing about!

On Sept 10, 2001, I was assigned to a new military dentrist. An American citizen of Iranian background. From Sept 11…he was targeted, as I had been, with religious discrimination! That put MY non-christian position in a new light! Afterwards, I worked with a dentrist, Korean born with his traditional religion and then a Mormon dentrist! I was ASKED to help new military and civilians workers understand the traditions of non-christian faiths, ie. Pagans and Heathens (which I am). I was also listed as a contact ‘advisor’ for those traditions with the Army’s chaplain’s office on post!

But…there were always flare ups…with civilian co-workers; it’s called ‘violence in the workplace’. It was with the help, of the Union President and Stewards, the EEO office, Employee Health, and the Socialworkers & Psychologists from the Drug/Alcohol/Abuse departments, that I was able to STOP that discrimination! In fact, my case and what we ALL did to get it stopped, FORMED the core framework, of the current program on Fort Drum’s VIOLENCE IN THE WORKPLACE! That’s a big accomplishment! I talked to the ‘powers that be’ in management about yoga, as a means of stress reduction; today years after I left work, yoga is being offered on post, by one of my yoga instructors! It was common for co-workers and managers to see me do my ‘tai-chi’ during my lunch break!

By 2005 my work days were calmer and when I learned that I could retire by 2007, my focus was on that…retiring ON MY TERMS, within the system of course. I retired February 1, 2007, at the age of 60, with 22 1/2 years of government service! I also had a annunity from my 401 that started then, payable for life. I started collecting my Social Security (which I paid into for about 35 years) at 62.

I have been lucky and blessed. My health is good but do have some limitations. I do yoga, tai-chi, walk, bike, and use a gym. I have been retired now for 6 years, in my 7th year and I’m loving it! In that first year, I and my companion started a medium size garden. I started my jewelry business with a product line of semi-precious gems with healing qualities that I sell at various craft shows.

The second event I went to on, May 23, 2013, was the annual Hospice of Jefferson County’s Volunteer Appreciation Dinner. I volunteer to be with those that are dying and their families. Unknown to me, until that evening, I was reconized and awarded for my 5 years of service! Time certainly flies by when you are busy and in service to others!

Before retirement I knew I had to do ‘service’. I had exposure to Hospice, and its care, many years earlier when my father-in-law died and had always supported it via fund-raisers and donations. Now, I could and am actually a part of Hospice. There’s mandatory training and continuing educational requirements. I go to people’s homes, hospital rooms, nursing homes. Our county just opened a new state of the art 8 bed facility this past year! During my summer selling season I donate $1 per item I sell to Hospice; $75 to $100. It’s not about the money, it’s about putting the name of Hospice out there and many people WANT an opportunity to help.

I had done service many times before. In the late 80’s, a series of  bad decisions, led me into a period of unemployment, re-evaluating and eventually I had an opportunity to move to Watertown NY with a new job! The first couple of years was difficult, it was a private dental office, and I was still waiting for an opening at Fort Drum. I had 5 years federal work service from the VA. So, to give back to Watertown, for their help in helping me out when I first came here, I volunteered and did service at the Food Pantry. I joined the Urban Mission eventually getting on the broad of directors. But, to be on that broad one had to belong to a ‘church’. I had, by that time, turned away from the christian religions and returned to my ancestor’s Heathen beliefs. And so I had to leave those christian ‘services’. Their loss!

I was very active in my Heathen community for over 15 years; actually it was another full-time career, without pay, done for the love of the Gods and folk. I’m known as one of the ‘movers and shakers’ of that Reawakening movement. I retired from that ‘service’ around 2004.

In 1998 in an effort to ‘resocialize’ myself, I joined a local chapter of Parents Without Parents and was the editor of their monthly newsletter for a year. That is where I met my companion; he was the President of the chapter. I also joined a local chapter of AARP and was the President for 6 months (it was too political).

In the first local yoga studio I belonged to, for 5 years, I did service of cleaning in addition to helping out during various workshops and events. In my current studio, where I’ve been for 10 years, my service is more on the ‘encouragement’ side of things. I open the studio when there is a need, help new folks get the ‘lay of the land’ and in general ‘support’ students and instructors alike.

I’ve had an opportunity to do a couple of retreats at a Buddhist center and had the honor to do service (cleaning) at shires, offering tables and helping various Buddhist nuns! On one occasion I was priviledged to have a bit of milk the lama did not finish! Rewards of doing service is great.

I’ve been lucky and blessed many times in my life! and didn’t know it. There were times when my whole world had collapsed and I’ve survived the crashes. There were times when my life was charmed! and I know it.

Hey, it still is! And so can yours! do a little service!

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