How to Get Yourself Invited to Dinner

I am writing this post on a bit of a dare. If you have been following my blog/Facebook page/life in general, you already know that I am in Palm Desert for a month-long home-exchange. As my husband and I didn’t know a soul who would be in the area during this time, I had assumed that my days here would be quiet. I imagined myself doing long-avoided tasks (like cleaning out my iPhotos) as my husband golfed. Okay, so we already knew that we would be attending the Epic Desert Trip Concert that took place last weekend. We also knew that my parents would visit during our final two days here. But I had no plans for the remaining twenty-three days. Trying to stay active, I decided that I should join a yoga class.

So I did.

The second class that I attended happened to take place on Canadian Thanksgiving. One of the participants overheard that I was Canadian and introduced herself (also a Canadian from the Vancouver area). I asked if she knew where my husband and I could find a place to eat for Thanksgiving dinner. It was an innocent question. “After yoga, I’m on my way to pick up friends from the airport. You and your husband should come join us for dinner”, she generously offered.

So we did.

It was a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner with barbecued steak that was delicious (we brought the pumpkin pie)! We chatted as if we had known our new friends for years. My husband and I had a fantastic time. We understand about turn-taking and repaying generosity, so naturally we invited the whole gang to dinner at our place (plus their two additional guests who would be staying with them shortly).

“How’s Thursday next week?” I offered. Everyone agreed. I then found out that there is a truly fabulous evening market on Thursday nights in Palm Springs. If avoidable, I didn’t want to miss that. I knew that we couldn’t do the first weekend because of the Desert Trip concert. We couldn’t do the following weekend because the four guests would be gone. “How about Monday next week?” Everyone agreed. Then my husband reminded me that we had planned a quick overnight trip away from the desert for the start of the week, so that date didn’t work either. Tuesday initially sounded good–but would we be back in time to prepare dinner? “Okay so let’s go with Wednesday.” Wait, that’s the night of the U.S. Presidential Debates–which are always best watched alone (especially when friends have different points of view)!

Before I could even suggest Friday, there was a group huddle–without me. “You and Richard are coming here for dinner on Tuesday” I was informed, with no chance to defend myself.

So we did.

The menu was barbecued fish tacos– which were incredible. (We brought the home-made cheesecake).

“You seriously need to post about this,” I was dared.

So I did!






A Postcard from Desert Trip

I sit and mentally savor the list one more time: Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Roger Waters and The Who. Not long ago, this line-up would have sounded too good to be true. Yet, here I am at the end of Day Three of what has been referred to by many as ‘the greatest concert that was ever staged.’  It has also been dubbed ‘Seniors’ Woodstock.’

Like Woodstock (1969), Desert Trip celebrated the soul-grabbing power of rock culture. Its repertoire brimmed with weighty songs that have become the anthem for many.

Unlike Woodstock, admission to Desert Trip was not cheap. (Free to $18 for a three-day pass to Woodstock vs. $399 to $1599 for a similar pass to Desert Trip.) Most believed that the Desert Trip audience would be boomer-heavy. Participants were actually quite mixed age, with a strong smattering of ‘millennial hippies’ throughout. Although there was on-site camping, Desert Trip was not a muddy, free-love experience. It was extensively planned, precisely executed and inarguably bore more than a touch of commercialism at its core.

I stood (or rather swayed) in awe as some of the most iconic rock stars of the last fifty years took the stage. Never previously have the stars of this lineup all appeared together on the same bill. My entire being pulsed in the understanding that I was witnessing something not quite seen before…and likely never to be seen again.

I was only eleven years old when Woodstock took place. Yet I grew up believing in the ‘free spirit’ and ‘everybody is my brother’ community that Woodstock was touted to embody. Before arriving at Desert Trip, I feared having this idealized notion shattered by cliche. To the contrary, performance after performance Desert Trip rose high above platitude.

Bob Dylan opened the three-night event the day after he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. That touch alone significantly upped the ante of an already highly revered line-up.  Dylan gave a memorable performance, despite never speaking to his audience directly, and not allowing his close-up to appear on the screens. Then The Stones took the stage. Jaguar began with a playful nod to the average age of the performers (72), coining it the “Catch ‘Em Before They Croak” tour (getting ahead on the joke of this being the  “Rockers with Walkers” Festival). He then continued on to strut, ensnare and encapture until his audience was totally hooked. The Stones stunningly belted out old songs, new songs, and new takes on much-loved classics in a way that was simply heart-stopping.  Just when you thought that nothing else could possibly match this, it was Day Two.

imagesimg_9601Legendary Bob Dylan opened the three-evening music fest.




Regardless of your view, the ‘colourfulness’ of the Rolling Stones was impossible to miss.



As we attended the second weekend of Desert Trip, I assumed that we would receive the exact same sets that the artists had delivered during their previous performances. Not necessarily, especially with Neil Young. He actually stopped a song that his band had begun because they had played it the weekend earlier. Young made sure that he had a bit of fun with the audience as he did this. And true to character, he had political points to make (with much of his wrath directed at the California Seed Law).



Neil Young performed ‘Harvest Moon’ just as a full Hunters’ moon was rising on the horizon behind him. The timing was  magical!


Young was then followed by Sir Paul McCartney. McCartney was so genuinely intimate with the crowd that I almost felt like I was in his studio as opposed to standing in a field with over 75,000 other concert goers. He invited Young back onto the stage for a few songs, while surprise guest Rihanna also joined him for a duet.



McCartney and Young performed “Why Don’t We do it in the Road?”


When the concert-goers became fully seasoned and hungry for more, Day Three shifted its tone and, to some extent its stakes, while continuing to deliver at the same extraordinary level. The Who set the bar for the evening. After witnessing Roger Daltrey’s vocal runs and Peter Townshend’s power chords/guitar windmills, you knew exactly why they have achieved legendary status.   Adding to the sheer intensity of their music was Zak Starsky (son of Ringo Starr) on drums. In a word, his performance was exhilarating. Before leaving, Townshend warned the audience that they would need to get their “brains in gear” for Roger Waters’ upcoming set. He was absolutely right.



Roger Daltrey






Peter Townshend






Zak Starsky


After Weekend One, Waters had sparked much controversy for his ‘stick it to the man, flying pig’.  It would be a mistake to let this controversy overshadow the sheer mastery and brillance of Waters’ surround-sound rock opera that unfolded.  Despite your own thoughts on this, Waters was consistent in his message and his beliefs, as were the other performers of Desert Trip. The artists of all six bands proved that they still have much to say, and have not lost their passion or their creativity for expressing their point of view.



Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd) and his Flying Pig made his thoughts about ‘the man and his wall’ very clear.


If you can’t make out the words in the pic, your best guess is likely correct!






And yes, the crowd definitely added to the experience. On Day One we sat behind a group who took the words ‘Desert Trip’ seriously as they passed around a pipe and smelled of strong cigarettes.  On Day Two, the pair in front of us did what they could to express free love. On Day Three, it seemed that all of the women surrounding us had received a prior memo stating that pants were optional.


So was it actually ‘the greatest concert ever staged’? This can only be determined by the mind of the beholder. Regardless, on countless levels, Desert Trip would be very, very hard to beat.

I have madly scrambled to get this all down just hours after the final performance ended.  Still reveling in the sensations of the weekend, Desert Trip has stirred my very being. If these artists can do all this at 70+, including writing and producing new material, what can I do when I reach that age?  It was a bucket-list weekend come true and one that I will never forget.

For more information on this iconic rock festival, check out Desert Trip’s home site or Desert Trip by the numbers. And, please feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


img_9584 So glad to be able to say, “We were there!”

Palm Desert: A Change of Perspective

My husband and I first visited Palm Desert (Palm Springs area) in July 2000. Friends had lent us their condo for a week. Although we were grateful for their generosity, and we certainly enjoyed our trip, we never really got into the Palm Desert vibe.

The summer in the desert was hotter than hot. Even the unheated swimming pools were too warm to swim in, providing little relief. Hiking, which we loved, was out of the question for us mere mortals. We tried to golf–it was the hottest that I ever remember being in my life. The alternative appeared to be indoor malls, overpriced restaurants, bands that we simply weren’t into and casinos.  Even if we excluded the heat, everything around us looked a bit artificial. The average age was definitely ‘senior’ and the pace was much slower than we had expected.

Flash forward to October 2016. We are in Palm Desert to see the iconic Desert Trip Concert (stay tuned for next week’s post). We are also here on a month-long home exchange. In short, we have quickly fallen in love with this area. Guaranteed sunshine, breathtaking panoramic views, balmy evenings, cozy downtown areas, world class art galleries, foodie’s paradise, shop-worthy outlet stores, every sport imaginable..and very affordable yoga and golf ($30/month for daily yoga and $19 + $5 cart rental for 18 holes of golf). I even tried ‘chair yoga.’ Now, before you start imagining me at a senior citizen’s centre, it was a surprisingly great workout (telling me once again that my balance is okay, but my hamstrings are akin to Fort Knox)!






Photo Credit:

To rhapsodize further, there is an old Hollywood charm and a definite retro-glamour here, especially when meandering down Palm Canyon Drive. The entertainment offerings showcase both current and vintage names. Desert Trip aside, live entertainment for this month also includes: Kayne West, Robin Thicke, Jo Koy, Arsenio Hall, Foreigner, ZZ Top, Tears for Fears, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Clint Black, Dwight Yoakam, The Doobie Brothers, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffett and Tony Bennett…to name only a few. On a budget? Many of the community complexes, as well as local casinos, offer great entertainment for no cost. In preparation for Desert Trip, Richard and I attended a free Mick Adams and The Stones concert. As we looked around, there were people of all ages in attendance. Many were shaking it on the dance floor, others were enjoying the music over a glass of wine, while others were providing free vocal backup (yup, that would be Richard)!






Photo Credit: MickAdamsStonesTribute

On this visit, Richard and I have both found it incredibly easy to be here. Palm Desert has the advantages of a dynamic city and the feel of a small town. Adding to this sense of community, our home exchange is in Sun City, a large gated compound containing over five-thousand homes. On the first day, I nerdily checked the program guide hoping to find a yoga class. Overwhelming, I found several yoga classes along with seventy-five other chartered clubs/groups (ranging from Writers’ Circle, Camera Club, Model Railroaders,  Democrats in the Sun, Sun City Republicans and much more). Most impressively, as an area that hosts an ever increasing onslaught of tourists and snowbirds each year, everyone that we have met so far has been friendly, welcoming and extremely helpful.

What has made the dramatic change in our point of view?  Undeniably, the October Palm Springs’ weather is much more pleasant than that of July (highs of only 91 degrees Fahrenheit, instead of 108)! Also, although we don’t like to admit it, our perspectives have changed as we have…well, matured. But, the most likely reason of all is that Palm Springs has evolved as well. In March 2016, Gogobot’s travel website listed Palm Springs as “the number one, hippest mid-sized American city.” (Source) Some things truly do improve with age!

Feature Photo: My weekly blogging view has changed significantly…although Cody continues to remain underfoot!



Retirement Responsibilities

So far, I’ve written a fair amount about the perks and freedoms of retirement. Without a doubt, the list of retirement pros is long. However, I would be neglectful not to portray the flip side. As the famous saying goes: “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With (great) freedom comes (great) responsibility.”(Source)  I initially began the following as a simple list of bullet points that could be included in a retiree’s ‘job description.’  Once I started writing, I began to realize the vastness of this topic. My sincere apologies to anyone reading in a hurry!

Do Your Homework – After my husband and I made the financial decision to leave our jobs, I began to research the emotional side of retirement. I found the quickest and most interesting way to do this was to follow retirement bloggers. Instantly, I could read personal accounts of the daily highs and lows of retirement, and learn from others who had pioneered ahead of me. I believe that this single decision helped best prepare me mentally for my life after leaving the workforce…often in 800 words or less! Some great blogs to check out are listed on the sidebar of this post. In addition, I have quoted from a few of these retirement blogs in this article.

Find/Maintain Purpose – When high expectations are not met, boredom and frustration can set in. As author/blogger, Tom Sightings has recently posted, ““We need activities that stimulate our imagination, connect us to other people, and help us develop a commitment to something more than our own self-interest.” Not finding purpose is frequently cited as a chief concern among those struggling with retirement.

Expect the Unexpected – According to the Ontario Securities Commission Report (2014), more than 50% of Canadians, aged 50 or older, said something outside their control negatively affected their retirements. The unexpected can come in the form of health issues for yourself or a family member. It can also come from the sudden decline/loss of an investment or property. Backup plans and safety nets are essential, especially when you do not have a steady employment income.

Watch Expenses – Following the above, balancing and prioritizing finances are critical skills, especially in retirement. Budgeting for your expenses and cutting back on extravagant or unnecessary expenditures (i.e. living below your means) helps provide extra security in retirement and a less stressful post-career life. A Dave Ramsey quote (recently cited on Mr. Fire Station’s early retirement blog) is very appropriate here: “A budget is telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.”

Become a Jack (or Jill) of All Trades –  In the workplace, it is often easy to access the skills of other people, leaving you to focus on what you do best. Prior to retiring, my husband and I seldom worried about computer troubles, or editing, or…well, many things! Complicating this matter further,  living overseas gave us quite affordable access to housekeeping, maintenance workers, spa services, movers, etc., etc. The day that we retired, these all became ‘luxuries of the past.’ We have each become much more versatile in our skill sets.  We now know more about our computers than we ever thought possible. We confidently tend to household chores and maintenance tasks, We eat out less often. Even home manicures/pedicures/hair coloring are now part of my regular routine (shriek here)! Going along with the above bullet-point, the more that you can do for yourself in retirement, the broader your financial safety net will be.

Use it or Lose it – It is common understanding that a decline in cognitive and physical performance takes place in our senior years. Although many factors can contribute to this, the ‘use it or lose it’ theory is frequently cited.   Thus, daily activity, self-care and not letting ourselves fall into sedimentary routines is essential as we age. The great news from researchers is that although it may take more effort to learn new information during our retirement, our foundation of knowledge and experience can far outweigh that of youth. (Source) This same body of research indicates that those who keep themselves informed and up-to-date in their post-work life tend to have a much higher retirement contentment rate.

Enter with your own self-esteem and self-worth fully intact –It is said that in a wolf pack, wolves instinctively admire the role/position that other wolves have in the pack at that moment. (Source) During our career lives, it is often easy for people to connect with us, or instantly feel respect for us, simply based on our job titles. Replacing that career title with the word “retiree” usually does not pull the same punch. (Janis at RetirementallyChallenged covers this topic nicely!) It is essential to come into retirement with a healthy self-concept and our own intrinsic motivation. I can’t help but link a BlitzZoom video here—It’s appropriate…and makes me laugh every single time that I watch it!

Have a Caregiving Plan (both for giving and receiving care) –Last year, the cost impact of caregiving on American female caregivers, in terms of lost wages and Social Security benefits, was $324,044.  [Source) Caring for an ailing parent, spouse or simply for grandchildren is a reality for many, especially retirees. Due to the demands of this multi-faceted role, it is important that caregivers also take care of themselves and get the support that they need. Essential resources for caregivers include: respite, up-to-date information, training, home modifications and support groups/family counseling. Blogger Kathy Merlo has recently posted on this topic, offering practical self-maintenance strategies for caregivers.

Nurture Relationships – I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Having strong, positive relationships has been solidly linked with longer life.(Source) Having friends to turn to decreases social isolation, provides emotional and physical support, helps us to manage stress and, according to some research, improves our immune systems. (Source) For married retirees, the importance of healthy communication, flexibility and give-and-take cannot be understated.

 Give back – Retirement is a great time to reflect on the joys and opportunities that we have had in our lives. It is also a great time to give back to others. There are endless ways in which to do this. Local volunteer organizations, like Volunteer Canada,  connect volunteers with others who need their skills/support. Still hesitant? Helping others increases self-esteem and offers multiple health benefits. Volunteering also provides personal empowerment and stimulates the release of endorphins, which can improve nervous and immune system functioning. (Source)  Linda, at Thoughts From a Bag Lady In Waiting, wrote a very eloquent reflection on her experiences volunteering at the Oinofyta Refugee Camp in Greece. Your giving back contribution does not have to involve a major commitment…every little bit counts!

The above only begins to scratch the surface of the ‘Retirees’ Job Description’. What responsibilities would you like to add? I would love to hear from you!






You Know You Are Retired When….

Here I am packing for another trip. In the past, this would not have been unusual if it were official vacation or even business travel. But, it’s simply a random October get-away. Insert light bulb going off here: ‘I am retired!!’

As strange as it may seem, I often forget that I am no longer employed. This isn’t only due to my  ‘ingrained work patterns’ (although I definitely have them). It’s more that the things that I do in retirement have become my job (both my passions, and my responsibilities—the exciting, and the mundane). After all, I retired from a position…not from life.

This blog, cooking, house/yard maintenance, dog-walking, budgeting, exercise, travel and taking care of the ones that I love…are all part of my current job description.  It’s a flexible, fluid list that shifts and is modified daily. Still, there are moments when reality strikes me, and I blurt out loud, “It’s true…I really am retired!” Here are few of my defining retirement moments.

Loafing and Puttering: It’s a brand new skill for me…but I honestly believe that I am getting the hang of it.

Realizing that Other People Still Work: When I take out the recycling, I am always surprised to see people walking onto the school bus, or getting into their cars, briefcases in hand. I am reminded that it is no longer a holiday. Seriously, it jolts me every single time.

Does Anyone Really Know What Time it is? I am frequently unsure of what day or date it is (except for garbage and recycling days…because I have an email reminder sent to my phone)!

Casual Friday Anyone?  What I used to wear for “Dress Down Day” at work is now what I wear when I want to dress smartly. Me in jeans is now me gussied up.

Empty Store Syndrome: I now know what the inside of a mall looks like on a non-weekend, non-holiday. There is so much space — it almost echoes! Really, who knew?

Forbidden  Fruit: My Book Club meets on a Wednesdays at…wait for it…1:30 p.m.!  My walking group also meets midweek and midday. In my previous life, I had no idea that this would ever be possible…or allowed. (In a future post, I will mention more about the average age in our small town. Spoiler alert: It’s old!)

How Early is Too Early? Richard and I regularly eat dinner three hours earlier than we did during our work lives. (And I say ‘three hours’ because I don’t want to embarrass myself and admit that it is sometimes ‘four.’)

Open Classroom: On a previous post, I received a very insightful comment from a reader named Marilyn. A lifelong learner, she wrote that one of the best features of her retirement is that she now gets to choose her lessons….and her teachers. This is an aspect of retirement on which I wish to capitalize further.

Task Completion:  Similar to the freedom to choose your own learning, is the freedom to complete your tasks at your own pace. I can binge-task on one day, and play hooky the next. (I also have ‘pajama days’, like today, where I just get stuff done…without ever getting out of my PJs). I can abort an unfulfilling task half way through, or simply shelve a project for a very long time. Ignoring tasks in front of me was an unfamiliar concept to me during my work life.  But, like with loafing and puttering, I believe that I am quickly catching on!

24/7:   I now get to do things in ‘real time,’ with much less need to delay gratification.  A perfect example is the day that our first grandchild was born. He arrived earlier than expected. The moment that I got the call, I was on the next ferry (literally) and was able to meet Charlie shortly after he was born. I plan to do this again when our next two grandchildren are born (this November and December). Now, how cool is that?

So, what are your defining retirement moments (real or imagined)? I’d love to read them!


What Has Your Dog or Cat Done for You Lately?

When I was cleaning up some of my digital photos this past week, I ran across the above baby picture of our dog, Cody. He is such a handsome dog (truly, see below) that I had forgotten what an incredibly adorable pup he was as well.  I stared fondly at the photo, lost in nostalgia.  Afterwards, my mood was noticeably uplifted for quite some time. Coincidence? Probably not.

Kate, at Views and Mews, often refers to herself as “waitstaff” for her four cats. I can totally relate. In fact, I often banter with my husband that in Cody’s eyes, my husband’s primary purpose in life is to provide exercise, entertainment and transportation, and mine is to provide food and drink. “What have you done for me lately?” I will often tease Cody, as he hangs out, rather impatiently, near his supper dish.

According to Time Magazine’s Special Edition “Animals and Your Health” (July 2016), Cody definitely pulls his weight. Research has repeatedly concluded that owning a pet reduces blood pressure in stressful situations and pet owners tend to have lower heart rates than their non-pet-owning counterparts. In one of a myriad of examples, heart patients who left the hospital after treatment were much more likely to survive if they owned a pet.  (Animals & Your Health, p 20)

More and more, pets have been used to help comfort survivors of terrible tragedies, revive long-forgotten memories for Alzheimer’s patients, sniff out cancer and detect harmful bacteria in water. They have also been found to lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease, help combat post-traumatic stress disorder, reduce loneliness, provide overall emotional support and ease the aging process…to list only some proven benefits of human interaction with their pets. (Animals & Your Health, p. 6)

In fact, “simply petting a dog generally decreases both blood pressure and heart rate and appears to raise levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and well-being.” (Animals & Your Health, p. 10) In addition to this, ‘Emotional Support Animals’ are now common alternatives to traditional medicines. (Animals & Your Health, p. 8)

In the US and Canada, more households have pets than have children. (Animals & Your Health, p. 6) In fact, 57 percent of Canadian households have pets which equates to 7.5 million homes. (Source) While the figures of what many people spend on their pets can be staggering (in 2015, it was estimated that pet owners in the US spent over 60 billion dollars caring for their animals), the benefits of pet ownership may be incalculable. (Source)

As for Cody…he doesn’t chase balls, doesn’t fetch sticks, does not reliably sit on command (see last post) and is an absolutely lousy watchdog. Regardless, throughout the last eleven years, he has been intricately woven into the fabric of our family’s pack. He has provided countless adventures, endless stories, and unparalleled laughter. Daily, he has ensured that we have gotten off of the couch, out of the house and into the fresh air. When we moved back to Canada and into our new home, he quickly introduced us to more neighbors than we would have met on our own.  Yes, Cody has definitely found his way into our hearts. Our lives have been forever enriched because of it.

What about you? If you have a four-legged critter in your life (or own a bird, or fish or reptile….) what has your pet done for you lately?




























Print Source:

Bjerklie, David (Ed.). (July, 2016). Animals & Your Health: The Power of Pets to Heal Our Pain, Help Us Cope, and Improve our Well-Being. Time Magazine Special Edition.


A Walk in the Hood

My friend, Louise, has a house and family in California. Still, she returns to Vancouver Island for a few months every year.  “It’s the small towns out here that continue to lure me back,” Louise has frequently proclaimed. “There’s just so much going on…so many cool things to try out….It’s never boring!”

c685a495b67333a66faaf35b61441110Photo Credit

Today was an excellent example to substantiate Louise’s claim. For the first time in weeks, Richard and I awoke with nothing written on our calendars–no one expecting us anywhere, no place that we had to be. You’d almost think that we would lounge around in our PJs all day, drinking coffee and reading the Sunday News…that would make sense, wouldn’t it?


Somehow that didn’t quite happen. The SPCA was hosting their “Paws for a Cause” walk at ten a.m. at a park nearby. That was a respectable hour to begin, and you didn’t need to register in advance. We made it there in plenty of time for signup (as well as to dig into the complimentary coffee and donuts). We then joined local dog owners, and their dogs of all shapes and sizes, for a two-and-a-half kilometer walk along our town’s beachfront. The scenery across the shoreline was in full majestic splendor, complimented by the crisp September air.



Afterward, we joined in a few dog-themed games. Cody came in second in the ‘bobbing for hotdogs’ contest (seriously, we were shocked) …but dead last in the ‘sit on command’ game (that was no surprise at all). After the humiliation of the second contest, we headed to our local Starbucks. I had recently sampled their new Salted-Carmel Mocha, and I heard it calling my name!


   Photo Credit

Sitting outside at Starbucks, we saw a sign for ‘Party on the Drive.’ This is an annual celebration, in one of our beachfront resort areas, that features music, food and a variety of works by local artists. Last year, over 7,500 visitors attended this one-day event (that’s more than half the population of our small town).  We checked Google Maps–it would be a pleasant thirty-minute stroll. That sounded great, so off we went.

It took us way more than thirty minutes to get there because there were so many interesting things to stop at along the way. The ‘Orange Bridge Flea Market,’ the local roadside seafood vendor, a visit to our favorite corner store and the side trip to the estuary that Cody insisted upon, were just a few of our delays.

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We finally made it to Resort Drive, and the event did not disappoint. The wood fire pizza alone was totally worth the entire trip! We spent much time browsing, eating, and listening to the featured performers.



On the way back home, we stopped at a local fruit and vegetable stand to pick up a few fresh items for dinner.  After our earlier indiscretions of special coffees, donuts, pizzas…and much more, a nice dinner salad was totally welcomed.img_9234

Louise was right. Small town living, especially in an island resort area, possesses a most definite charm! How about you? What is a favorite feature of your neighbourhood?


Playing Hooky

Labour Day Syndrome—almost every student and educator has experienced this condition to some degree, even if they call it by another name, or start their school year at a different time. You know, that restlessness deep in your stomach that begins to churn as the last weekend of holidays comes to an end, and a new school year begins. Your mind races with all of the changes that lie ahead. As much as you are caught up in the excitement of that newness, your spirit pleads for just one more day of summer vacation.

This Labour Day weekend my husband and I spent tent-camping at French Beach Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. It was the first camping that either of us had done in over fifteen years. We fumbled along without some important items that we had forgotten to bring. (A comfortable pillow…who knew? An axe that actually had some hint of sharpness…seriously!) Nevertheless, we felt like MacGyver when we were able to make things work with alternate resources…or with Richard’s Swiss Army Knife.

Once we had everything set up, we quickly established a comfortable routine. This included much lounging on the beach, decadent reading time, long dog walks to the general store, and me stubbornly proclaiming that the tracks that we had just seen in the sand were not that of a dog but were most definitely made by a cougar…and quite recently at that! And, if I may humbly add, we had some incredibly delicious campfire meals. Seriously, Anthony Bourdain should have dropped by!

We had booked our camp reservations to include the three days before Labour Day and the one day after (when most other campers would be gone). That meant that the first three days were packed, filled with parents and children cramming in the final days of summer. On the morning of the official Labour Day, I awoke to a child’s screams of “I HATE school”, as his parents hastened to deflate their quickly fading, plastic summer gear and re-stuff it all into their van. Poor guy,  he definitely had a serious case of Labour Day Syndrome.

And then a strange thing happened. I felt guilty. Not quit-retirement-right-now-and-follow-these-crowds-back-to-work-guilt (surely, you jest)! But it was raw guilt none the same.  I know, I know.  I may have mentioned in more than one post that retirement (so far) had been a relatively easy transition for me. And I believe that it has been.

But still, the feeling that I was supposed to be doing something else…like I was currently ‘playing hooky’ was there. And it makes sense. For 53 years, I had experienced a finite last day of summer holidays immediately followed by the first day of a new school year. I acknowledged the feeling, respected it, and then let it pass.

I am now calling upon all retirees, and retirement bloggers, out there. Has retirement guilt caught you by surprise? If so, how have you handled this?

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French Beach Provincial Park is an amazing place to camp, or even just visit for a day hike or picnic lunch.











Shout out to French Beach Market and Owner/Artist Christopher Lucas.If you are ever anywhere near Sooke, BC, I highly recommend stopping by. Five dollars will buy you a coffee and muffin (with chocolate spoon included), or a hot shower and towel, or a much-needed bag of ice. And Christopher will gladly give you a tour of his artwork which is incredibly impressive!11400971_1400217626975575_6683808287373456558_n 11400984_1400217610308910_4584297985122178868_n img_9105

We’ve Become the Hewitts

My husband and I have been long-time friends with Stan and Deidre Hewitt. That’s not their real names, but let’s call them that for the purpose of this post – they’ll recognize themselves soon enough.

The Hewitts retired a couple of years before us. ‘Extremely active’ does not begin to describe their lifestyle. At their home in BC they both regularly golf, cycle, camp, garden, cook, entertain, help out with the grandchildren (and the grand-dogs). They also are avid downhill skiers. Frequent travelers, they spend much time in California and Arizona, as well as trips abroad (they’ve recently returned from cycling in Cuba). Stan, the poster-child for retirement-energy-extraordinaire, frequently competes in triathlons and other endurance sports. In fact, Stan regularly sets his alarm clock for six a.m. each day simply because he does not want to miss anything. Deidre, an avid reader, said that she used to read multiple books per week…before Stan retired. “The year that Stan joined me in retirement, I barely finished a single book”, Deidre told me–with her broad smile, “we were simply too busy!”

Each retired couple that we know models a unique retirement lifestyle.  Some are much more content with a gentler, stay-near-home pace, while others maintain lifestyles that definitely rival the Hewitts for speed, stamina, and travel miles! When planning for our retirement, we were aiming for a balance between the two ends. In my mind’s eye, we were currently living that average, in-between lifestyle.

Yesterday, at a family gathering in Vancouver, a friend innocently asked, “how was your recent trip?”  I stared blankly. Was she talking about Kelowna, where we had just driven back from that morning? Or Victoria, where we were last week? Or Spain, where we were less than a month ago? Or England where we were for our youngest son’s graduation just before that?

“We’ve turned into the Hewitts!” I exclaimed to my husband once we had returned home. “How so?” he asked. I handed him our September calendar. “Four nights of camping, followed by family visiting from out of town, followed by another family outing in Vancouver, followed by our road trip to Palm Desert,” I said, highlighting only the key events. “You left out the visit from the Hewitts,” Richard said. “They emailed this morning–they’re stopping by in the middle of the month on their way to Tofino.”

So, maybe we do currently have a rather active retirement lifestyle. Like the Hewitts, we are having tons of family-time, friend-time, exercise, and adventure. We have also been able to do this in very low-cost ways (often with dog-in-tow). Most importantly, we are loving every minute of it. When it’s time to take a break or slow down a bit,  I know that we will do so.

As I am typing this, the phone rings.  A couple of minutes later, I grab my September calendar, smile,  and add in just one more thing!


For years (28 to be exact), my mother has been extolling the virtues of grandparenthood. “If I knew how wonderful it was to have grandchildren,” she has often said, “I would have had them first!”

Last week, our daughter-in-law (DIL) stopped by for an overnight visit with our first grandson, Charlie, who has just turned one. My husband and I eagerly offered to let our DIL sleep in the next day. “We can take care of everything,” we offered with confidence. Taking us at our word, at five a.m. our sleepy DIL handed us a not-remotely-sleepy Charlie. He was wet, hungry and ready for action. Where should we begin?

The diaper. My husband and I each gave a silent prayer and a brave sniff. Praise be! The diaper was only wet!! We changed it with relative ease—hurdle number one: check!

As I am a sentimentalist and a very practical person at heart, I have kept certain items that others would have tossed long ago. Thus, we set up the highchair that our youngest son used 28 years before. It still worked perfectly. Hurdle number two: check! Our DIL had said that Charlie’s food was in the green bag. The correct bag was located with formula, bottles, baby food jars and some ‘easy squeezy packs’ containing such food blends as ‘Organic Apple Broccoli Peas Brown Rice’. “Do you think we are supposed to heat this?” I asked aloud. Richard looked at the package, and at me, as if we were both from Mars. That was seriously no help. After a bit more rummaging, I found an “organic pear banana kiwi” food pouch. That sounded like a good breakfast food…and it wouldn’t need to be heated. We went with that. Hurdle number three: check!

I left the bottle preparation to Richard…and I was glad that I did. “Why do they make the print for the formula instructions so small?” Richard grumbled. “And why don’t they say if we need to boil the water or not.” “There’s cooled boiled water in the kettle,” I said. Hurdle number four: check.

Charlie seemed pleased with our selections, and our preparations. He ate, drank and played happily. Feeling triumphant with our successes so far, we decided to take Charlie, and our dog, Cody, for a walk. How hard could that be?

“Socks,” Richard uttered and repeated. “Charlie will need socks.”  My DIL and Charlie were sharing a single duffle bag for their clothes and personal items. The duffle bag was upstairs, right beside the guest bedroom door. I tried to sneak upstairs quietly but Charlie, quite loudly, made it clear that he was not staying downstairs with Grandpa. “It’s a woman’s touch,” I said shrugging, as I quietly carried Charlie upstairs.

Lawrence of Arabia could not have gotten through that duffle bag! Seriously, babies require lots of stuff! I tried to be quiet. I honestly did. But Charlie kept finding things that banged together nicely…and loudly!

“Do you need something?” my half-awake DIL murmured, now standing before me. At that precise moment her bra was in my hand as I rifled through her things. “Socks,” I stammered. “Richard thought that Charlie would need socks.” Without even adjusting her eyes, she picked up Charlie’s socks from the middle of the (now incredibly scattered) pile. How did she do that? Hurdle number five: partial check!

With that, I grabbed the first tiny short-set that I could see (which I later found out were Charlie’s swim shorts and UV protection swim top). Back downstairs, we quickly dressed Charlie–socks, UV protection and all. We put Cody on his leash, Charlie in his stroller and off we went.

We were very proud of ourselves. Charlie had been changed, dressed, fed and (gently) wrangled into his stroller. We could do this! We made it to our local coffee shop and sat at an outside table. The breakfast special was coffee plus bacon and eggs on an English muffin. It came with a side of watermelon slices. That sounded like a just reward for our efforts. We ordered two. I would like to say that they were delicious, but Cody managed to abscond with most of the bacon and Charlie was intent on eating all of the watermelon. “Is he allowed to have unstrained watermelon?” Richard asked. “I won’t tell if you don’t,” I pledged.

We finished our breakfast—baby, dog, and grandparents now happy and content. Charlie fell asleep on our way back home, allowing his mother even more sleep time. All hurdles had now been successfully completed: double checks…with a bonus mark!

The entire experience was amazing. So many little joys that both Richard and I had forgotten. As we now have two more grandchildren on the way, we say: “Bring it on…we can handle it!” Just ask Charlie.

P.S. My mother was right. Having a grandchild is very cool indeed!

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