Face-to-Face

Deb's World

When I first made the decision to begin blogging, I believed that it would be a great way for me to record my thoughts and experiences as I transitioned into retirement. I also hoped that it would help me to keep in touch with friends around the world, especially since I had just returned home from living overseas. What I didn’t realize at the time, was the additional bonus that on-line writing would bring, namely being part of a blogging community.

Early on, my blog has helped me to connect with others–many of whom are on their own retirement journeys and many of whom I will likely never meet in person. Without even realizing it, I began to develop relationships with other retirement bloggers. I gained insights from their blogs and comments. I had many morning chuckles over their anecdotes. I looked forward to their comments and wondered about them when they had a sudden gap in their postings.

One of the retirement blogs that I began to follow early on was RetirementallyChallenged. I love that blog! The author, Janis, is slightly ahead of me in her retirement journey. Her blog has helped me to reflect further on my own retirement process. The other striking feature of Janis’ site is her irrepressible gratitude. This mindset is something that I  deeply wish to maintain in my own retirement.

A few months ago, I posted about coming to Southern California for a home exchange. On that post, I received a comment from Janis suggesting a mutually convenient meet-up. I was thrilled! Being a relatively new blogger, I had a million questions for her (although I don’t think that I forewarned Janis about this at the time).

Last Monday was the day of our get-together. The Lazy Dog Cafe in Temecula was our meeting place. For me, it was like catching up with an admired friend and mentor. We had barely settled in when my blogging questions began pouring out. Janis more than obliged – she also fired questions right back at me. It was incredibly stimulating.

“Are you familiar with the term ‘elevator speech’?” Janis asked.   “Yes,” I answered quietly, wondering where this question may lead. “What is your elevator speech for your blog?” I hesitated. If I said that my blog housed my personal reflections as I transitioned into retirement would that be too obvious, too corny or too open for (constructive) criticism? I said it anyway. I then quickly extended my answer to include that  I believed that many current retirement bloggers were writing about a new, emerging retirement reality–very different from the retirement of previous generations. I definitely include Janis’ blog in that circle, and … hope to include my own as well. I believe that this acknowledgment struck a chord for both of us. Janis also gave me some great advice about blog comments that I plan to test out in the next couple of weeks. I will keep you posted regarding that experiment!

Although they only joined Janis and me part-way through our visit, my husband, Richard, and our dog, Cody, also took part in the meet-up.  This helped to extend my ‘blog reflection afternoon’ as on the drive home, Richard and I continued the discussion on what I get from blogging, and from being part of an on-line community. (Spoiler alert: The short answer is that I get more from both than I ever realized was possible…but that’s a whole different post)!

This visit was a very positive experience for me, and I hope it was for Janis as well.  We left The Lazy Dog Cafe agreeing that we would both post about our time together. You can read Janis’ version here. Oh, and the other real cool thing about blogging–two people can write about the exact same event with entirely different perspectives. Since I had written all of the above paragraphs before seeing Janis’ post, when reading her version I kept wondering, ‘why didn’t I think of that?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Roger Daltrey

 

 

 

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Peter Townshend

 

 

 

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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)!

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Photo Credit: saladofitness.com

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)!

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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!