For some people, retirement is a time to kick back, relax, and do a whole lot of nothing. But East End resident Florett Dixon has a different kind of retirement philosophy: do a little bit of everything.
The 62-year-old retired investment officer wears many hats. She’s at once a homemaker, family chef, pen pal to hundreds of friends around the world, and a multi-talented crafter, making her own shopping bags, desk caddies, needlework designs, thatch baskets and plait work.
Mrs. Dixon does all this and more despite having had surgeries on both arms for a rotator cuff problem and attending therapy twice a week. Her husband Edwin Manley Dixon is very supportive. He proudly states that he too is keeping busy and in the process of repairing an old thatch basket, which was given to him by his father, the late Edlue Dixon, who passed away in 1988. Mr. Dixon still uses the basket to carry produce home from the family land.
A favorite pastime of Mrs. Dixon’s started when she was in her twenties. After assisting her children with homework and meals, she would sit at the dining table to read and answer letters. “I got a glimpse of a ‘friendship book’ a pen friend from England sent one of my co-workers,” she said.
“The co-worker wrote my name in the book and I received 40 letters the very first time.” Mrs. Dixon wrote back to all 40.
“What is exciting about letter writing is, there are parts of the world that I will never get to visit in my life time … by writing to others, it gives me the opportunity to learn about their culture and life through the letters we write to each other,” she said.
Mrs. Dixon writes to friends from all over the world, She even has pen pals as close as Jamaica and as far away as Reunion Island, near Madagascar.
She also exchanges gifts with a lot of her pen pals. “I get some that want used stamps, fridge magnets, postcards, stones, spoons, tea-cups and miniature glasses. Even gel pens are exchanged,” she said, adding that in some parts of the world they do not get gel pens so they offer to exchange something for a pen.
Now, with 415 pen pals in her collection, at the time of writing Mrs. Dixon already had 360 Christmas letters sealed and ready to go.
Recyclable feed bags
“A lot of things can be recycled, that’s what we would do long ago. I learnt a lot about reusing things from my mother, Carmen,” observed Mrs. Dixon.
For instance, there are many uses for animal feed sacks with pretty printed designs, and if you have cows, like the Dixons, they are easy to come by.
Mrs. Dixon said, “When the supermarkets started charging 5 cents for a plastic bag and $1 for ones made out of some sort of paper cloth that would tear up before I got home with the groceries, I decided I was not doing that anymore, I was going to make my own bags.”
She said it suddenly dawned on her what material to use after seeing her husband throw away the plastic cattle feed bags.
Mrs. Dixon took the feed bags home, washed them in bleach and hung them out to dry.
Next, she had to figure out how to construct the bags for them to last. “I sat down, measured and pondered over it until I finally took two bags to make one grocery bag because I wanted it to be good and strong,” she said.
She cuts the string and paper strips off the top and bottom of each bag and reuses them to strengthen the bottom, and reuses the string to sew the bags together by hand. She makes sure that both sides of the recycled bag carries the same cow logo and design. The straps are reinforced from the bottom so the bags are strong enough to carry heavy groceries, such as meats and cold items. For dry goods, Mrs. Dixon bought canvas cloth to make bags that will last her longer than the ones she buys from the store.
The bags are not for sale; when she is finished making them Mrs. Dixon plans to hand them out to her neighbors and family and keep some for her personal use.
Mrs. Dixon has also found a way to make use of the tin cans she once threw away in the garbage – she recycles them into desk caddies.
Digging out a plastic bag with cleaned and washed tin cans of various sizes, Mrs. Dixon explained how she neatly cuts off the rim from the can, sprays the cans black, and glues them together to make a desk caddy to store items like pens, staples, and pins.