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?

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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!”

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

Grandparenting

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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Thoughts from a Travel Buff: Is Home Exchange Right for You?

We’ve just returned from an immensely enjoyable week in Victoria, BC (a two-hour drive from our home). While there, we explored many breathtaking hiking trails, had some magnificent beach time, bought our groceries at local farmers’ markets, took in a couple of IMAX films…and had a restful and rejuvenating stay.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking— “these people are traveling fools! Do they ever stay home?” We love our home, and we do stay here…sometimes. As our retirement allows us the time and flexibility to travel, and there are many people and places that we want to see, we take advantage of this freedom whenever we can (while we can)! Adding to this, our travel tastes are simple, so we have been able to get around quite affordably. Since retiring, all but two of our excursions have been road trips. For accommodations, we have been fortunate to be able to stay with friends/family, find low-cost roadside motels and to use home exchange.

In fact, our recent trip to Victoria was a home exchange (and our fall trip to Palm Desert will be one as well). We became part of this network over twelve years ago when we were living in Beijing. A friend of mine, who was an experienced home-swapper, tried to describe it to me. “The best thing about it is not the money saved…it’s something more than that..”, she just couldn’t find the right words to explain. After doing our first exchange (2004), I knew exactly what she meant.  For one thing, it was the space– not being confined to a small hotel room and not being tightly surrounded by tourist traps. It was also the freedom– especially the freedom to read my book in peace, as the television blared out Richard’s favorite shoot-em-up kind of movie…in another room. It was the ability to buy fresh, local produce and prepare this in a proper kitchen (not being restricted to endless restaurant meals). Even more importantly (at least for us), it was about being part of a neighbourhood and being able to have more genuine local sights and experiences right outside our front door. However, the money not drained away by accommodation costs and constantly eating out should not be overlooked…you can save heaps.

Started by  Ed Kushins in 1992 as a printed mail-out, homeexchange.com (the site that we use) has grown into a vast social network. It was one of the early businesses to adopt “collaborative consumption” (Source).

Is it safe?  Experienced, credible home exchange organizations put several tools and guidelines in place to help with safety and security for all of their home exchange clients. For example, homeexchange.com includes 24/7 on-line member support, detailed member profiles, private/secure messaging systems, comprehensive home exchange agreements, verification of phone numbers/email address/social media accounts as well as verified reviews.

Along with these features, insurance companies generally welcome clients using home exchange as, statistically, break-ins are reduced when a home is occupied (Source).

It is also important that the individuals taking part in the exchange use due diligence. It is highly recommended to meet with your insurance agent and verify that your coverage is adequate. It is also important to take ample time to establish clear communication with potential exchange partners.

My husband and I have completed fourteen very successful home exchanges to date. We have our fifteenth exchange coming up shortly plus one ‘in the bank’ (they’ve stayed at our place in Beijing, now we just need to find the time to get to Panama!)

Do I recommend home exchanging for others? We have loved our home exchanges, and this method of accommodation has worked out very well for us. That being said, I recognize that this type of arrangement is not for everybody. If you are interested in the concept of home exchange, I  highly recommend investigating it, looking around, asking questions and seeing if this is something that you feel comfortable trying. If it is, again I stress the importance of taking your time in the process. If you feel rushed or pressured by another party, or if your gut just says “no,”  my advice is to skip that exchange and wait for another one that feels right for you. Homeexchange.com currently offers 65,000 listings in over 150 countries. With a bit of flexibility, your options should be plentiful!

 

Feature Photo:  Victoria, BC: only a two-hours’ drive from our home but it felt that we were worlds away.

Photos Below: Previous Home Exchanges (many on which one or more of our other family members joined us).

CIMG0162San Francisco, USA, 2004

 

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Maroochydore, Australia, 2006

 

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Phoenix, Arizona, 2012

 

 

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Six Fours les Plages, Southeastern France, 2014

 

 

 

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Vancouver, BC.  Due to the extreme generosity of our home exchange partner, we enjoyed numerous stays here.

 

To list only a few!! We also had home exchanges in: Paris, Prague, Bangkok, Las Vegas, Ladner (BC),  as well as in three different accommodations in Vancouver (BC).

 

Canada 150 Mosaic: My (Brief) Stint as a Painter

You’d think that I would have gotten the hint at Paint Night (or long before that, actually).  I seriously cannot paint! But when two friends mentioned that they planned to take part in a mosaic painting activity that was taking place in our town, I immediately signed up!

In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday (July 1, 2017), Lewis Lavoie, Paul Lavoie and Phil Alain initiated a very ambitious endeavour, entitled “Canada 150 Mosaic”. Through this project, the team members work with 150 different communities across Canada. In each selected town or city, people of all ages, and of all artistic abilities, gather together to paint images on 10 cm X 10 cm ceramic tiles. The individual pictures can be of anything that represents the participants’ local area. When completed, over 80,000  tiles will create 150 separate, but connected murals. The murals will reside in the communities where they were made. If they were all joined together, the unified artwork would measure the size of four football fields! (Source)

It was an incredible vision. Still, two days before our town’s ‘paint-in’, I panicked. What could I paint? More specifically, what could I produce that I wouldn’t be mortified to see every time I passed by its prominent display in our City Hall?

Gathering all artistic supplies that I owned (a couple of highlighters, a few old crayons, and some white computer paper), I set out to draft a simple mountain and water scene that I thought that I could handle…one that wouldn’t embarrass me too much.  When I was finished, Richard walked by, and I asked him what he thought. “Could you get a friend to help you?” was his earnest reply. Ouch!

To make matters worse, one of my friends suggested that I look at the Cochrane, Alberta Mural website, where you can see each individual tile, as well as the whole mural put together. My advice to anyone who is just about to paint their tile for this mural project is “Don’t look”! There was no way that I could have painted any of those tiles…not even the ones that were done by primary school students. I was seriously doomed.

I am nothing if not tenacious. After watching several YouTube beginner’s painting tutorials, as well as running out to our local craft store, I had a simple plan that I believed that I could follow.

Our community’s paint session happened over a lovely weekend on our town’s beautiful beach front. The organizers were friendly, easy-going and encouraging. Like the nerd that I am, I lined up my paint supplies, and my practice painting that I had prepared, and I began. My completed tile will never provoke any genuine “oohs” or “ahhs”, but I was proud of myself for trying…and for not embarrassing myself too badly!

This is one of the great joys of retirement. In my work life, I mostly stuck to what I knew…what I was confident in and what I believed that people expected me to do. In my thirteen months of retirement, I have already experimented with countless activities in which I have very little background. I no longer feel that I need to stay confined to what I believe I do best. The sky is the limit!

Special thanks to the Canada 150 Mosaic Team for envisioning, and actualizing, such a cool commemorative for Canada’s 150th birthday!

 

Feature Photo: The beginnings of the Parksville Mural

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Top Ten Lessons Learned on the Camino Trail: Personal Reflections

  1. I can go for days without any computer, tablet or phone connectivity. I can and I did. The world did not end. Who knew?
  1. I cannot plan everything. Even I (who previously thought that spontaneity was for slackers) have begun to realize that improvisation is often the most challenging and rewarding commitment of all.
  1. Music is a powerful tool. Numerous studies have repeatedly found music to boost mood, memory, learning, immune systems and performance (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3). After successfully using music to get me up the most difficult climbs, I am now a devout believer!
  1. I am an extroverted introvert. I love building connections with others (the Camino provides an ideal environment for this). I also need my alone time (once again, the Camino provides).
  1. The journey (heavily) outweighs the destination. Our deepest and fondest memories are not of where we ended up each day, but how we got there, who we met, and what transpired along the way.
  1. I need fewer material goods than I had realized. Excess stuff merely serves to weigh down the body, the spirit and the mind.
  1. I can achieve more than I ever believed I could. I simply need to start by putting one foot in front of the other (and one word down on my page)!
  1. On the Camino, kindness was the rule, never the exception. If kindness can be the norm on the Camino, can we also not make it the rule in our daily lives?
  1. There is incredible serenity in living life more slowly. (Just ask Eugene!)
  1. For some inexplicable reason, I have been blessed to meet and marry the most incredible person that I have ever known. This is a lesson that I already knew well, and it was continually reinforced on our travels. When the road became tough, Richard earnestly offered to carry my backpack with his. Although I never took him up on this, the offer alone made my pack feel much lighter. When my toes became battered and bruised, from too much rapid downhill, Richard lent me his hiking sandals and carried my boots. More importantly, without the distractions of home (and technology), we discussed our future, reminisced about the past, admired each other strengths and laughed…a lot!

For these reasons and more, we will be back.  In just over a year, Richard will turn seventy. It is our current plan, God willing, to return to where we left off in Najera and complete the remaining 600 kilometers from there.

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To be continued in September 2017! (In the meantime, I will go back to my regular weekly posts…now, what will I do with all of that free time?)

Days 9 & 10 – Bilbao: A Change of Pace

Our one-and-a-half days in Bilbao were exactly what we needed before the long flight home. Although my mind would not shut down (even when it was supposed to be in sleep mode) my legs instantly became heavy. I was extremely glad to have that first half day to humour the parts of my body that wished to do nothing but loaf.

That gave us one full day to explore the sights, sounds, and tastes of Bilbao. Sadly, it was a holiday Monday so many places, including the famed Guggenheim Museum, were closed (sacrilege, I know—but we still enjoyed viewing the museum grounds which in themselves were incredible). We meandered the many narrow streets, wandering through little parks and plazas, marveling at both the quaint shops and the striking churches as we went.

Grand old buildings stood beside sleek modern ones striking a vivid contrast between old and new. That scenery was in complete harmony with the local people who dotted the streets and parks, especially in the evenings. Young and old–traditional and trendy– met and mingled, chatted, ate pinchos and took their time. No one seemed to be in a hurry. Their restful, relaxed attitude was contagious, and just what the doctor ordered.

Serendipitously, we came across an amazing little restaurant, with absolutely the best pizza that either of us had ever tasted. “Yeah, right,” I can hear you thinking. But it was true. The absolute best – so much so that one bite alone was worth the entire trip to Bilbao (well…almost)! See photo below.

It was a lovely day and a half, and we were glad that we had had the extra time visit that amazing city. But…we already missed the trail!

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La Tagliatella. Calle Licenciado Poza, 55, 48013 Bilbao
+34 944 27 81 81      http://www.latagliatella.es/restaurantes/latagliatella-bilbao-licenciadopoza

 

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