Shy and Retiring

Posted: 15th September 2013 by admin in Blog
Tags: , , ,

This week I was interviewed by the nice folks at Zen Parenting Radio (, Cathy and Todd, and they’ll let me know when the show will air. We spent about half our time together talking about my work with LGBT kids and the other half talking about Urban Tidepool, both the book and this blog.

It went better than most conversations in which I disclose being a social worker. You know the ones—where the person you’re talking to looks at you as if you’ve just said you have an infectious disease and responds with, “Oh, you must find that sooo rewarding!” because it’s nicer than saying, “Oh, I’m sorry you drive a rusted out old clunker with Flintstone brakes. What were you thinking when you picked a major?”

Social work as a profession is a curious experience. It’s the only profession I can think of where the people involved put themselves tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes up to $100,000, into debt to get a degree in order to get a job that doesn’t pay enough to allow one to live AND pay off the student loans needed to get the degree needed to get the job he or she just took. Do you see the dilemma there? Social work as a profession is so undervalued that sometimes people in the early stages of their career can’t afford to take job within the profession—or have to take two or three jobs to be able to meet their expenses.

In my last job in NY, my supervisor once asked if I’d heard of the social worker’s investment club. I laughed at her. I thought she was joking. When I realized she was serious, I walked out of the room thinking it was the best example of an oxymoron ever invented. Investment club? So we could retire? Most social workers I know don’t labor along the delusion that they’ll ever be able to retire. They plan to die at their desk, at which time they will be promptly filed in the manila case folder of whichever case they happened to be working on the time. It saves on funeral expenses.

That said, I have given some thought to options for my retirement, even before I got the brilliant idea to invest every free moment in writing a book. Occasionally, I go to meetings and share some of my strokes of genius with the other attendees. To date, no one has chased me out of the room with a butterfly net. I think, though, that secretly they may be jealous that they haven’t thought of these things.

My first inspired plan for retirement was the Chihuahua dairy farm. Picture that. It would be a low level of investment, because it wouldn’t need a lot of room— a herd of Chihuahuas shouldn’t take up a lot of space. My goal: produce Chihuahua cheese. I could envision lots of little stools where we would sit to milk the Chihuahuas and thimble-sized buckets for collecting it. It wasn’t until a friend was kind enough to point out that Chihuahua cheese doesn’t really come from Chihuahuas that I realized I probably needed Plan B.

When I finished grieving the loss of my faithful herd of Chihuahuas, I decided to try to tie my retirement plans to the few business trends I could see overtaking the human services profession. With all of this talk that the 90s brought us of one-stop shopping for all of one’s physical and mental health needs (what the hell happened to consumer choice?), I began to contemplate how professional women are forced to waste time on mundane appointments. Surely we could combine some of those appointment services into the one-stop model. I decided on the spot to go to medical school to become a gynecologist. When I was through with medical school, I would go through auto mechanic school. Another vision came to me—a women’s clinic where people could get their annual GYN exam done while at the same time, the oil was being changed in their car. I even had a name for it: Safety Smear.

The time commitment seemed a little daunting, all that med school and auto mechanic stuff. I kept exploring. When I enrolled in culinary school, I thought I had hit on the answer. My pastry chef training was about being creative and making beautiful things. Unfortunately, it also made me about as round as I am high, so that really wasn’t going to work. I had to ask my fabulous spouse if we could let a few things out, so I’d be more comfortable. She asked me which pants I wanted done. I told her I was thinking more about the doors of my car. That’s where we drew the line on the culinary retirement plans.

So here I am. I have a book written and I’m shopping for an agent. It hasn’t put me thousands of dollars into debt or forced us to let out the doors on my car. As retirement plans go, it seems more appealing than falling over at my desk and being filed with a copy of our annual audit. Just between us, though, I do miss the Chihuahuas.


  1. Georgia says:


  2. Carolyn says:

    Ah, if only the readers could see you demonstrating the milking technique… upon reflection, that may have been the moment I knew I loved you.

  3. The whole room was doing it–I was not alone!

  4. Carolyn says:

    Nope, the first time I had a private viewing.

  5. JH says:

    This is a great blog (not to mention photo), and a really nice person writes it.

You must be logged in to post a comment.