Does Retirement Equal Irrelevance?

I’ve been surrounded by thoughts on irrelevance.

A blogger, that I recently began to follow, shared that she was overwhelmed with feelings of non-importance as she completed her final term of full-time work and prepared for retirement.

While I was mentally composing a reply, I glanced at a television program that my husband was watching. Irrelevance of the aging seemed to be the entire plot.

My head reeled with frustration.

I fired up Google and typed in the words “retirement” and “irrelevance”. The first article in my search encouraged me to embrace, and enjoy, my insignificance. The second suggested that I get a tattoo.

I wanted to scream!

As I near the one-year mark of my retirement, it is a great time to stop and reflect.

I loved my job, had tons of responsibility, and people regularly sought my advice. I worked with incredible colleagues and was part of something in which I truly believed. I am very proud of that. When I retired, my position was filled by an exceptional candidate who continued on where I left off. No chain was broken. I joked as I left that within a few months everyone would say “Donna who?”. It made people laugh. But it wasn’t really a joke.

Since I’ve retired, I have regained blissful heaps of family time. Throughout my retirement, I have had the privilege of extended, non-rushed, quality time with my husband, my sons and their partners, my mother, my stepfather, my niece as well as my husband’s family. I was able to be there the day that my first grandchild was born. I will be there again when our second grandchild is born this coming November. I have been able to spend time with my dearest of friends—one of whom I have known for over 44 years and others who have crossed the divide from colleagues to lifelong friends.

I am no longer responding to a job description. There is no one to whom I must report. I have been given the freedom to be me. Full on.

All of the people mentioned above are a significant part of my life. They are my life. I have known some of them for their entire existence, or for mine. They are unconditionally there for me, and I for them. When one of us is no longer here, there won’t be a posted job description or replacement. As with my father, my sister and my grandparents who have preceded me, a chain will be broken. But also, like these cherished family members, we will continue to live on in each. People will recognize my mom’s smile in mine; my laugh in my son’s.

I close my eyes and shudder at how lucky I am to have the luxury of uninterrupted time to spend with the people that I love. When they call, I can and will be there. I have never felt so relevant.

IMG_5841

IMG_7707

An Unforgettable Evening

It had been a perfect evening on the beach. The campfire was intoxicating and the s’mores (with their melt-in-your-mouth chocolate, and gooey marshmallows, precisely smushed between two crispy graham crackers) had never tasted so good. While we savored our meticulously roasted treats, marvelled at the majestic skyline, laughed and reminisced, our dog fervently dug a hole in the sand. Did I mention that it had been a perfect evening? We truly thought that it had been.

The next morning, when we went to take our dog, Cody, for his walk, he could barely move. His eyes revealed a horrifying and unmistakable pain. We immediately drove to a nearby animal clinic. A blood sample revealed a higher than normal reading for Cody’s liver. The vet sent us home with some medicine for Cody to take with his food. After hours of patiently trying to coax Cody to take even the smallest sip of water, it was painfully clear that Cody would not, or could not, eat or drink.

We drove back to the vet. An x-ray was taken. The result: Cody’s intestine was fully impacted with sand. How was that even possible? Cody has a (very well-deserved) reputation for being the most finicky dog around –almost always sniffing his food with extreme caution — and then refusing anything not to his liking. Why would he eat sand?

Apparently, dogs digest sand more often than we would think. Sometimes, the sand is simply consumed by dogs picking up sticks, rocks and tennis balls on the shore. At other times, dogs find a piece of discarded food on the beach that they gobble down–sand and all.  And, most likely in Cody’s case, when dogs are digging with their paws and snout, dirt or sand is inevitably swallowed.  It can all happen in the blink of an eye. If the sand accumulation is not diagnosed correctly and quickly, the results can be costly—and worse—they can be fatal.

Sand impaction is caused by sand entering the intestines, aggravating the lining and creating a blockage. Symptoms of sand accumulation in dogs include: refusing food, lethargy, nausea, diarrhea, dehydration, and pain. As the sand impaction does not allow food to pass through the intestine, vomiting is commonly associated with this condition.  A mineral oil solution was given to Cody to help loosen the sand and get it moving.  This treatment should only be administered by a veterinarian as mineral oils can lead to aspiration phenomena if the dog then begins to vomit. Other treatments may include: IV fluid therapy, stomach pumping, medications to break up the sand, and surgery. It can take days for the sand to pass through completely. For Cody, the oil concoction began noticeably working within seven hours. Twenty-four hours after that, the sand had all passed, and Cody was back to his old antics. Insert immense gratitude and relief here!

What did we learn? All of the above. We had no knowledge of this condition previously. However, our biggest takeaway was not new learning; rather it was an invaluable reminder.  In less than an instant, the most ordinary, or even blissful time, can go horribly wrong. In our retirement, Richard and I have been extremely grateful for our time together and our time with friends and family and with Cody (who turns eleven in June). This incident made us more mindful of slowing down to appreciate all that we have.

As for Cody, are his beach days now numbered? Absolutely not. He loves the beach and has been there countless times before. But, going forward, we will be much more vigilant. And, Cody will be totally busted from digging on the beach from this point on!

13234894_10101711921881831_1036622962_o

Source 1

Source 2

Source 3

Source 4

On Blogging

One of the bloggers that I regularly follow just announced that he is ending his blog–or at least thinking about it. He hasn’t achieved the objectives he had set and is feeling the pressure of constant posting. He is witty and insightful. His posts make me laugh and reflect. Selfishly, I hope that he does not stop blogging.

It’s funny; I never really understood blogs when they first came out – and for many years avoided them like the plague (shhh, please don’t tell). Then I realized that much of what I was looking up on-line were actually blog posts – recipes, travel tips, how to fix this, what to do about that. Those on-line posts offered more than just information – they had a story and personality behind them. Then, when I began to plan my retirement, I was lucky to come across some great retirement bloggers. I loved the short, to-the-point snapshots of others who had retired ahead of me. Even when I disagreed, or couldn’t really relate to a particular experience, the posts made me stop and think.

Being a blog reader, I have found creative solutions to a variety of dilemmas. Blogs have offered voices of experience when I have ventured into a new territory. They have entertained me, made me laugh, and have had the power to move me deeply.

When I began blogging myself, I rediscovered the joy of creative writing – I had forgotten how much I had missed it. I was also able to keep in touch with friends and family around the globe and make new connections. I was able to shout to the hilltops my praise of another. My blogs have caused me to reflect deeply and to think things through in a new light. I didn’t have a particular goal when I started blogging – but I have been enjoying the process and the possibilities.

To me, starting a blog is like learning a language, playing a new instrument, or starting a new fitness routine. If you stop just because you reach a plateau, you will never know the rewards that may lie ahead. There have been a couple of bloggers I have followed that have now stopped blogging (or have taken a really long break). For me, it was like close friends moving away.

I get it…I do! It’s work and commitment. There are other things to get done. It is hard to constantly put yourself out there.  People may think that you stink.  But it is also exhilarating and challenging. And as the attached photos show, you can do it anywhere. I’ve actually composed several of my posts in the car, and two of them in the hospital waiting room. (Men over 65 + baseball = injury…irrefutably!)  Blogging can also give you something constructive to do when your spouse, for a random example, is caught up in watching too much Trump, or your youngest son (when back in town) is working on his research. And when you’re in the ‘zone’ there are few places better.

Of course, there is also the added dimension of reader comments. When sincere, and thoughtfully written, these comments have an incredible power to change writing from a solitary act to two-way communication and community building. Albeit, sometimes the community that we end up creating is not what we originally envisioned. The UK blogger mentioned at the start of this post, had set “the single goal of building an online community of retired men.”  While he may not have achieved that purpose (at least not yet), there is a community out there–and this response post is proof that it exists!

IMG_0449b

Thanks, Mom!

Out of all of the gifts for which I am most grateful, being blessed with a kind, caring, and generous mother stands out among the best. This single good-fortune has helped prepare me for so much that followed.

I grew up with the confidence that comes from having a central person in your life always believe in you, always be there for you, and tirelessly support your dreams—even when they seem to be impossible. Countless times my mother has eased my mind from what, at the time, felt insurmountable. Consistently, she has modeled determination, courage, and gumption. She has taught me not to confine myself to anyone else’s mold or expectations for me.

Also an incredible grandmother, a successful business woman (now retired), an awesome cook, and an eloquent dancer (to highlight just a few of her talents), my mother has instilled in me the belief that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to do. And, as the attached recent photos reveal, she is also gorgeous (sorry to embarrass you here, Mom)!

How can you adequately thank someone who has endlessly shown you infinite love and unconditional grace? Although I am not sure that this can ever be fully achieved—I vow to give it my best try!

Geek alert: According to recent surveys, more phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than on any other day of the year —37% more in fact! Other surveys have shown that Mother’s Day has the third highest attendance at Church, coming only behind Christmas and Easter (ironically Father’s Day does not have this effect on Church attendance – and even ranks behind attendance for Homecoming Day).

The North American version of Mother’s Day was initiated by Anna Jarvis, in 1908, as a time to honor the sacrifices that our mothers have made for us (source). (source). Ironically, Anna, who was never a mother herself, became disillusioned by the commercialism that resulted–something that she had never envisioned or intended.

Being a lover of holidays and special occasions, I am grateful that today has been set aside to reflect on all that our mothers have done for us, and to thank them in our individual ways. As for me, I will start with this blog (my mom is kindly a devoted reader)! And to Anna’s chagrin, today will also include cards, and presents (as well as phone calls and Mass). But mostly, for me, today is a day of reflection and the deepest possible gratitude for all that my mother has done. I will be eternally grateful for being born and raised by such an incredible woman.

IMG_6364

On the Road Again: Traveling Through Canada’s Western Provinces

We have now completed our 4,900++ kilometer road trip from Parksville, British Columbia to Winnipeg, Manitoba and back. The primary purpose of our trip was to visit my niece and attend the interior design exhibition that was part of her master’s program. The time spent with my niece, as well as the exhibition, were both totally amazing.

Also during our travels, we were able to watch our eldest son join 42,000 others in the 10K Vancouver Sun Run, catch up with Richard’s best friend from 7th grade, in Cranbrook, BC, and visit relatives both in Edmonton, Alberta and Kelowna, British Columbia.   This trip has helped me to check off all Canadian provinces and territories, except for Nunavut, from my ‘been there’ list. I feel bad about Nunavut, but somehow Richard wasn’t game for us to add an extra 2,382 kilometers to our trip  just to complete my punctilious checklist…harsh, I know!

An unexpected takeaway from our travels was an even deeper appreciation for the sheer breadth and beauty of Canada than my husband and I already had. When planning this trip, we were constantly met by choruses of “Why Winnipeg?” and “Prepare for the most boring drive of your life!”  To the contrary, we were never once bored on our drive. Rather, we were greeted by scenic views of rolling farmlands, statuesque granaries, quaint towns, cool cities and brilliant flocks of Snow Geese en route to nest on the Arctic tundra. We passed two people wearing large signs saying that they were walking across Canada (one of whom was carrying a canoe on his back). We visited Canadian places with funky names that I was totally jealous of when I was in Primary School (Thus, we now have photo ops from Medicine Hat, Moose Jaw, Indian Head and Cut Knife…to name only a few.) We frequently diverged from our main path, whether it was to drive through the curious arches of Russell, Manitoba or to explore a bit of Lloydminster which sprawls across both Saskatchewan and Alberta. Llyodminister is Canada’s only border city incorporated by two provinces that share a single municipal administration (very cool!). And in Winnipeg, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, along with its current exhibit by blind photographers, was simply incredible…. definitely do not visit Winnipeg without stopping by!

The other bonus of these travels was that we were able to refine our road trip skills even further. During our last long car trip, we struggled to include everything that we would need, and eliminate all that was unnecessary. This time, we more successfully refined our packing, while still preparing all of our own meals (except for when eating with family, or during included motel breakfasts). And before you start imaging horror dinners of Fritos and granola bars…we ate very well with most fare including chicken/turkey, rice, dairy, veggies, bread/pita and fruit/nuts for dessert. These road trip meals were definitely healthier for us, with less time spent trying to find appropriate restaurants or waiting for our orders at the end of a long day, and it was a huge cost saving for our three weeks away.

Our next planned road trip is a much shorter one from Parksville, BC to Seattle, Washington this coming June. Our youngest son will be traveling with us to compete in the Rock N Roll full marathon. As our dog will also be in tow, we will need to reduce and refine our road trip skills even further. All creative car-packing suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

IMG_7339