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!