Life Before and After Retirement: Same Same But Different

I have a confession to make. I love blogging. I seriously do. I love everything about it (well…almost everything)! I love reading the thoughts of others who are in similar stages of life as I am. I love reflecting on what they have to say. I love having the freedom to send my voice into the blogosphere to be read and perhaps reflected upon by others.

A couple of weeks ago, I read a post by Kate (Views and Mews). In it, she discussed her changing outlook in retirement that was often polar opposite to how she felt during her career life (e.g. “Friday yay, Monday blah” suddenly morphed into “Friday blah, Monday yay!”).

When reflecting on Kate’s post, I had the sudden realization that I am the exact same person in retirement that I was in my work life. This shocked me. Somehow, I was expecting someone totally different!! Okay, so I do get more sleep, am more relaxed, have less stress (and fewer emails). But deep down, I’m the same ol’ Donna. You’d recognize me! Same values, same beliefs, same attitudes, same distinct habits (like my love of detail, my tendency to attack small tasks immediately and my ability to post pictures of an event on Facebook…even before everyone has arrived home from said event!)

While mulling this all over in my mind, I wrote last week’s post, A Retiree’s Job Description. I was overwhelmed by the thoughtful and insightful comments that I received from readers. You guys are good!! I was especially struck by Joanne (My Life Lived Full) who wrote that she “is not the same person today that she was six years ago.” Then Janis (ReitrementallyChallenged) suggested that maybe in retirement we “discover someone who has been inside of us waiting for permission to come out.”

So who am I now? The exact same person? Not the same at all? Or someone who was inside me all along…waiting for permission to be herself?

And then I realized that Janis was on to something! These bloggers were all on to something! Upon this reflection (which was A LOT OF INTROSPECTION even for me) I suddenly knew. It wasn’t that I am now the exact same me. Rather, I am more ‘me’ than I have ever been before. My career robes have been removed taking with them many expectations that had been placed upon me (a large number of them self-imposed)! I no longer need to be so acutely focused on a specific area. I’m less worried about disappointing others. This, in turn, has allowed me to be more open, less guarded and has given me additional time and freedom to…well…be ‘me’!

My work life (which I LOVED and for which I am eternally grateful) also helped to nurture and shape the ‘evolved me.’ (Seriously, where do you think I developed my hyper-focus on detail and my tendency to multi-task?!) But like a benevolent parent, work has released me to spread my wings and reconnect with areas of myself that sat dormant during my career.

In preparation for this post, I browsed through a pile of work photos to compare to my most recent shots. Definitely still me…but even more so!

“Same Same But Different”: Something that is substantially the same as something else but differs in the details.

For Whom the SEO Bells Toll

What is ‘SEO’ and what is it doing to our writing?

If you share your written work on-line (and care about anyone else ever reading it) you are probably quite familiar with the term SEO or ‘Search Engine Optimization.’ SEO ranks your posts based on what search engines consider most relevant to internet users.

More and more, as on-line writers, we are encouraged to improve our SEO scores. Cyberspace is now teaming with advice, apps and plugins to do just that. But what are the consequences to the the uniqueness of our voices, and the depth and purity of our words? Is all of this ‘search engine hype’ helping or hurting our writing?

Going hand in hand with checking the SEO friendliness of your post, such plugins as ‘Yoast SEO’ analyze the ‘readability’ of what you have to say. This is done by checking the length of your sentences and paragraphs. It is noted whether you’ve used transition words or subheadings and how often you’ve used a passive voice. On top of all this, Yoast calculates a ‘Flesch Reading Ease’ score. To obtain the highest possible Flesch score, you must limit yourself to short sentences and use only one or two syllable words. Also, your writing must be easily understood by the average 11-year old. (Yoast)

And Yoast is not the only plugin or app out to change our writing. The Hemmingway App claims to keep your writing ‘bold and clear’ (and thus SEO friendly). And Grammarly, although not specifically SEO-centered, sets out to “improve” your spelling, grammar, sentence structure and word choice…all of which the creators claim will also optimize search engine results for your post. (Source)

Overwhelmed but curious, I decided to try out all three apps/plugins. As they each have ‘free versions,’ what did I have to lose? Oh, and I need to mention, I tried them out not only on my writing but also on the Big Pappa’s. I was most interested in reading Hemmingway’s (the app’s) critique of Hemmingway (the writer). As many of us studied For Whom the Bells Toll in high school English class, I used the first page (346 words) of that novel. You remember:

“He lay flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of the pine trees. The mountainside sloped gently where he lay….”(you can read more here).

So how did Hemmingway, the author, do? That was interesting!

On Grammarly, he scored 79/100. Come on, Ernest, in most University grading systems, that’s only a C+! Points were deducted for:

“• Squinting modifier in second sentence, “The mountainside sloped gently.”
• Repetitive word ‘road” in opening paragraph.
• Overused word ‘solid.’
• Missing commas (on two separate occasions) before the coordinating conjunction and in a compound sentence.
• Unusual word pairs.
• Suggested to replace the word ‘pass.’
• Repetitive word ‘post.’
• Wordiness in one sentence.”
• (Also, Grammarly didn’t recognize the word ‘photostated.’)

On Yoast, Ernest received three ‘bad SEO’ ratings, one ‘okay’ and two ‘goods.’ Below are Yoast’s exact comments:

“• Bad SEO score: The text does not contain any subheadings. Add at least one subheading.
• Bad SEO score: 1 of the paragraphs contains more than the recommended maximum of 150 words. Are you sure all information is about the same topic and therefore belongs in one single paragraph?
• Bad SEO score: 11.5% of the sentences contain a transition word or phrase, which is less than the recommended minimum of 30%.
• OK SEO score: 11.5% of the sentences contain passive voice, which is more than the recommended maximum of 10%. Try to use their active counterparts.
• Good SEO score: The copy scores 87.4 in the Flesch Reading Ease test, which is considered easy to read.
• Good SEO score: 24% of the sentences contain more than 20 words, which is less than or equal to the recommended maximum of 25%.”

And finally, how did Hemmingway, the app, score Hemmingway the writer?

Concern was noted for:
“• 7 adverbs used. Aim for 4 or fewer.
• 4 out of 23 sentences were hard to read.
• 1 sentence was very hard to read.”

Strengths included:
“•Grade 6 Reading Level (good).
• Met the goal of 5 or fewer uses of the passive voice.
• 0 suggestions to use simpler sentences.”

My takeaway was that each of these plugins/apps do have their place. They can offer useful insights and provide much convenience. The caution is that they MUST be used as ‘suggested guidelines’ and not completely replace human proofreading. Surpassing all search engine mathematics, writers need to remain true to their own voices. I would hate to see appropriate 3+-syllable words, intricate paragraphs, and complex/compound sentences stripped from the internet. I would also hate to see emerging Hemmingways restrained by fear of the SEO police!

Oh, and what were my SEO scores for this post?

Grammarly assigned me a score of 93% (woo hoo… A- !)

The Hemmingway app rated my writing at a “Grade 7 Readability Level” (‘good’). This app liked my conservative use of both adverbs and a passive voice. It did, however, suggest that I use “simpler phrases” (e.g. recommended I use the word “greatest” instead of “maximum” (….which, as you can read above, would not make sense). This app also suggested that I make some of my sentences easier to read.

The Yoast plugin is never going to like me because I don’t tend to use subheadings in my blog posts. It gave me one big, negative, red circle for that! It also wanted me to use more transition words and gave me a cautionary orange circle for that. (Hey, what if I randomly inserted meaningless transition words into this post? Moreover. Likewise. Additionally. Similarly. Amazing, that worked! Goodbye orange circle!) The good news is that I did receive four positive green circles (for my short sentences, short paragraphs, restrained use of the passive voice and good Flesch reading score). I also snagged an additional green circle for cheating on my trasition words. And wait for it….

‘Subheading’

Ta Da!! Due to that stray, frivolous subtitle, Yoast just gave me my sixth green circle…and a ‘perfect’ readability score!

How does your writing rate? You can check it out here, here and here! What are your thoughts on all of this? All comments are appreciated.


Title photo made at Canva.com

Blogging Frustrations

You know when you work and you can easily pop next door and have Madeleine or Muhammad (or their counterparts) help with your tech related problems? I so miss that– especially when running a blog!

An ongoing area of blogging frustration for me has been finding the best way to let readers know when I have replied to their comments. Since this comment notification feature is standard in the free version of WordPress, this should be easy to add to a (not so free) self-hosted WordPress site, right? Wrong! Very wrong!

Being a risk-taker, I tried a popular comment plug-in called ‘Discuz.’ Perhaps it was just my site (or my set up?), but for me, Discuz included an overly active captcha. This meant many readers could not comment on my posts at all. That kinda was the opposite of what I was going for!

Being nothing if not tenacious, I tried again.

A few bloggers that I follow have been using CommentLuv. With this plugin, readers can leave a link to their most recent post. What was not to love? Well…a few things actually. Although readers could leave a link, the free version of this plugin has not been updated in WordPress for almost a year. And although I am sure I read a review otherwise, readers still were not notified when I replied to their comments.

Ahhhhhh!

I tried additional comment plugins. On some, readers wrote to say that they could no longer see where to comment on my site. (I am very thankful when readers take the time to let me know these things.) Other comment plugins, which seemed simple enough, had a confusing ‘must subscribe’ email checkbox. That would definitely prevent me from commenting if I saw this on a blog.

I tried writing on help forums. Nada. I tried asking other bloggers what they used. (I discovered that I have many blogging friends who either do not use WordPress or use the free version with that wonderful comment notification feature already included…lucky them!) In the meantime, I received numerous comment-related emails from readers (thank you again!). Some said they still could not find the comment section on my site. Some said that they assumed I was not replying to their comments (I honestly was)! Others asked what the heck had happened to CommentLuv (turns out that many readers did like that feature)!

Insert Me: Banging head on desk.
Insert Richard: “Why don’t you just do things the easy way, and switch to the free WordPress version?” (Seriously, has he met me before?)

Rarely doing things the easy way, I researched. I looked at some great blogging sites (like this and this). I kept on trying.

So where did I end up? For now, I have installed “Comment Approved Notifier,” which automatically sends an email to individual readers once their comment has been approved. Since I always reply to comments at the same time as approving them, this will be my sign to readers that I have replied to their comments. And, since this plugin plays nicely with others, I have also re-added CommentLuv.

Please, let me know what you think. Does this solution work from your end? Or is there a better alternative that I should be trying?

And what about you? What are your blog-related frustrations (as either a reader or writer of blogs)? Perhaps we can help each other (or better still, perhaps there are ‘tech experts’ reading this blog right now who are willing to help us.

#FridayBookShare: Cutting for Stone

One of my favorite aspects of blogging is the connection and interaction with others. I love finding new blogs that share similar interests. I also love how one site often leads you to other great sites on related topics. Comment sections have provided me with engaging exchanges, provocative ideas, and new/renewed friendships.

Through the Australian blog, Deb’s World, I discovered British author/blogger, Shelley Wilson, and her #FridayBookShare. This link-up provides a simple format (spelling out FRIDAY) that allows bloggers to share what they are reading and offers readers a quick peek at a wide range of books.

I’ve just finished reading Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone and thought that I’d give Shelley’s format a try. Here goes!

First line of the book:

“After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother’s womb, my brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954.” Okay…so there are arguably better lines in this novel, but this one is effective at introducing us to the main character’s unique voice…and chatty style!

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb:

Being a ‘do-it-yourself’ kind of gal, I decided to write my own blurb instead of presenting the one from the book’s jacket (as I believe we were intended to do). If my words below don’t convince you, please check out the blurbs on Amazon or Goodreads. The reviews, although mixed, are predominantly glowing.

Set in India, Ethiopia and inner city New York, this moving tale of twin brothers vividly unfolds its landscapes, histories, and characters with unforgettable humanity and compassion. I became so absorbed in the story that I could taste the injera (spongy Ethiopian bread) and smell the incense that was lit each morning. There are many aphorisms woven throughout the layers of the novel, most notably “The world turns on our every action, and our every omission, whether we know it or not.” I do recommend this book to others, but caution that it can be exhausting at times.


Introduce the main character using only three words:

Narrator, Conjoined, Betrayals

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book):



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Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?):

Written in 2009 by an Ethiopian-born medical doctor, by 2012 this fictional novel had been on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years and had sold over one million copies. (Source) As this novel contains numerous stories within stories, including key themes of family, identity, betrayal, suffering, political unrest, medicine, compassion and forgiveness…this book would likely appeal to a wide range of readers. I believe that it is also an excellent choice for many book clubs. I read this novel with one of my book clubs (shout out to Seaside Sirens). Once again the reviews were mixed, but the discussion was very stimulating.

Your favorite line/scene:

Throughout the novel I found myself underlying small sections of text that spoke so meaningfully, and often uncannily, to our current times.

After struggling to find my absolute favorite marked section, I decided to quit torturing myself and narrowed it down to three. Okay, okay…the final quote is really my favorite, but I thought that you would get a better sense of the wisdom of this book if I included additional excerpts.

Favorite Quote #3:
“The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”

Favorite Quote #2: “My VIP patients often regret so many things on their deathbeds. They regret the bitterness they’ll leave in people’s hearts. They realize that no money, no church service, no eulogy, no funeral procession no matter how elaborate can remove the legacy of a mean spirit.”

Favorite Quote #1: “The uneventful day is a precious gift.” What a brilliant reframing of “ordinariness” and a great reminder that our days do not need to be “a nirvana of extraordinary adventure” to be a blessing.

As I finished copying down these quotes, I could hear the television in the other room blare out the non-stop ‘Reality-TV-Syndrome’ of our current times. That made these quotes even more meaningful to me…and made me grateful for this sleepy, snowy February afternoon.

If you’ve read Cutting for Stone, what were your thoughts? Let’s talk!

Why not join in the fun? Use the above format to share your favorite novel. Be sure to add #FridayBookShare. Always in search of a good book, I look forward to reading your review.

“It Always Seems Impossible Until it is Done” (Nelson Mandela)

Last January 1st I made a single New Year’s resolution. I resolved to begin a blog containing my reflections as I transitioned into retirement. When I first moved to Beijing in 2001, I started a small journal that I emailed to friends and family. I, unfortunately, didn’t maintain that log for long, and always wished that I had. So many stories and newnesses from that period have been lost or modified over time.

I love to write, to wonder, to discover and to share. I now had a second chance with another new chapter in my life. Would I have any readers? I tried not to think about that part. I once again took a leap of faith.

If a crystal ball would have told me that within one year I would have written 71 posts, had 5,526 blog visitors (from 95 countries), 13,479 post views and 922 comments (plus an equal amount of blog comments on other social media links) I would have determined that the ball was broken! I realize that for the big and even medium-sized blogs out there these numbers may seem minuscule, but to me, they are a miracle.

As I continued to write and to read other people’s blogs, I began to discover what, for me, lies at the true heart of blogging. Keeping in touch with friends, building new relationships along the way, sharing ideas, connecting, reaching out, and inspiring each other have by far been the most rewarding part of the on-line writing experience. It is you that has allowed this to happen–and for that, I am both humbled and grateful. Blogging has also allowed me to process sorrowful events that have taken place for me this past year. Your kind words and sharing of your own experiences have deeply touched both me and my family.

In honour of this blogiversary, I have decided to shake things up a bit. I have updated my About Page (which you can check out here). I have also switched to a new theme (bye bye WordPress TwentyFourteen, hello TwentySeventeen). After my last comment update fail, I was hesitant to mess with my comment section, but I have added a feature that automatically allows other bloggers to link their most recent post. Fingers crossed that it works this time! I am also toying with the thought of switching to https (Secure Sockets Layer) but so far have remained firmly undecided on this move. If you have any feedback on any of these current or potential changes, I would love to hear from you. Also, if you are a blogger who uses WordPress Twenty Seventeen, and you have any cool tips, please share!

If you check out this blog even semi-regularly (or mean to) and have not yet subscribed, I would be grateful if you would do so. It is quick, easy and free (and you can do it by email or WordPress reader). Signing up helps you to ensure that you never unintentionally miss a post. And for me, it helps me to know that you are out there.

I am now off to choose my resolution for 2017. I am aware that resolutions do not work for everyone, but for me, a single, well-chosen New Year’s goal can be very powerful. I am finding my final selection to be much more difficult this year. In choosing, I hope to keep Nelson Mandela’s wise words in mind. Please stay posted!

Feature Photo created with: canva.com.

Thursday Doors: Christmas on Vancouver Island






I’ve been looking more closely at doors lately. Inspired by Montreal blogger, Norm Frampton, who hosts a weekly link up called Thursday Doors, I’ve begun to see the entrances to buildings in a brand new light. These shared posts, by bloggers from around the world, have taken me to new and intriguing places. They’ve also returned me to familiar places with fresh eyes. My favourite door posts so far (here, here and here) have done just that and have provided rich and intricate details of my own country’s architecture.

I became absorbed in these posts and wanted to join the collaboration. Several weeks ago, filled with enthusiasm, I went bounding outside with my camera ready. On that first outing, I came away empty-handed. It wasn’t as easy as I had thought. Many of our town’s most interesting buildings tend to have Home Hardware-like doors. I sucked back my initial disappointment. Silently I have continued my lookout. That door post remains a work-in-progress.

This holiday season has offered a playful spin on my endeavor and has provided me with much latitude for experimentation. It has also allowed me to give you a small teaser of some of our mid-Vancouver Island buildings (plus a couple of shots from Vancouver snuck in for good measure)!

Doors offer or deny access and connection. Welcoming or excluding they make a definite statement about their interiors…and about the people who dwell inside. In the spirit of the season, I kept my eyes focused on entrance ways that were festive, colourful and joyful. I looked for doors that simply or elaborately sent positive vibes and made me want to explore their buildings further.

In order of appearance (on the side column), here are my top picks. Vancouver Islanders – how many of the buildings do you recognize (without reading below)?

Crown Mansion Boutique Hotel, Qualicum Beach, BC. Originally built in 1914, and graced by such visitors as Bing Crosby, John Wayne, and the King of Siam (source) much effort has gone into preserving this home’s original grace and beauty. If you are in the vicinity, its restaurant, Butler’s, offers a first-class dining experience.

Tigh Na Mara, Seaside Resort, Parksville, BC. Founded in 1946, its name is Gaelic for “house by the sea.” This luxury resort with 192 handcrafted log guestrooms and cabins has evolved from humble beginnings of a single tent. Its spa was named number one in Canada (source).

Hospice Society at Oceanside, Qualicum Beach, BC. This 1913 home has been used by our local hospice society for over twenty years. Whenever driving by, this building makes me want to stop in and volunteer…especially at Christmas time.

Bear Lodge, Mount Washington, BC. In the 1970’s, Mount Washington became the first comprehensively planned ski resort in British Columbia. The resort village has continued to expand since then while remaining relaxed and affordable (as ski resorts go!). This pic was taken early morning when most other skiers were still fast asleep. Don’t the warm lights make you want to step inside from the cold?

A Bute Street Residence, Vancouver, BC. The next two photos stray slightly from my Vancouver Island theme. When walking down Bute, a residential street in Vancouver, I was immediately captivated by the elaborately decorated doorways of several houses in a row. This supports my deep belief that the spirit of the season is contagious…and that our neighbours do influence us more than we sometimes realize. This first Bute Street home shown is one-hundred and fifteen years old.

Ashby House Bed and Breakfast, Vancouver, BC. Also on Bute Street, this heritage-designated house was built in 1899. Converting this home into a bed and breakfast (1986) has allowed the owners to restore and preserve many of the home’s original features (source). The colour contrast between the building and its lighting quickly caught my attention and has put this B&B on my wish list of places to stay when in Vancouver.

Milner’s Garden, Qualicum Beach, BC. The piece-de-resistance of our area, and the feature photo of this post is this heritage house surrounded by 60 acres of woodlands and ten acres of garden. Visited by Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Lady Diana, Milner’s Garden (since gifted to Vancouver Island University) has quite the history. Every December, the gardens and its buildings are transformed into a winter wonderland (with festively-lit trails, a Teddy Bear’s cottage, and Santa’s Den) bringing out the inner child in all of us.

Be it with a simple wreath, or more elaborate lighting/ornamentation, have you decorated your front door to welcome in this holiday season?

Wishing you warmth and peace this Christmastime and the whole year through.

Thursday Doors is a blogging/photography challenge hosted each Thursday to Saturday by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0. If you are a blogger/photographer why don’t you join in?

Meeting Gideon Sock Puppet

I follow a delightful blog called “Dr. Sock Writes Here” by Gideon Sock Puppet. Immediately, I was intrigued by the name (which I never could figure out)! Once inside, I found intelligent and whimsical posts ranging on diverse topics of writing, painting, researching, teaching, skiing, gardening, cooking, hiking, literature and turning points…to name only a few! I was hooked and began regularly following along. I especially loved the author’s wonderings on retirement. Not yet retired, Dr. Sock was definitely flirting with the idea. I actually think back fondly to that stage. My foot firmly planted in two different worlds. Could I? Could I really? And if I really could…should I or shouldn’t I?

Dr. Sock is Canadian (another instant connection) and currently lives in a province that neighbours mine. In a recent post, she mentioned that she was spending the month of December in my small island town. Now that’s pretty cool…not many people vacation here in the winter! So, after my successful get-together with Janis from RetirementallyChallenged I sent Dr. Sock an invitation for coffee. She graciously accepted. We had our meet-up last week.

Once again, meeting a virtual friend in person for the first time felt uncannily like I was meeting an old friend that I had known forever. (Other than my initial embarrassment when the restaurant host asked me what my friend, who I said I would be meeting, looked like. Honestly, I had no idea! She never posts photos of herself!)

Dr. Sock also goes by the name of Jude. Almost instantly, Jude and I talked non-stop about family, passions, joys and fears. We, of course, spoke about blogging, work, and retirement (viz. should she or shouldn’t she?). We shared personal stories that I could never have imagined telling someone whose face I had not seen previously. But I had already seen her artwork (featured above), knew details about her family and could easily recognize her writing style. It’s a strange feeling knowing someone so well, who you truly have never met.

Jude and I have already planned to get together again. If you are looking for an engaging read filled with insight, joy, wonder and inspiration, you can check out her blog here.

Oh, and if you are wondering about her blog’s title (as I had been for months), Jude revealed that it actually means nothing at all. “I never actually intended to be a blogger,” she began. “I needed a quick blog for a course that I was doing. I give it no pre-thought. At the last minute, I realized that it needed a title. Earlier in my life, I had a sock puppet named Gideon. I have no idea how that idea came to me at the time. It just did.”

I am delighted that Jude has maintained her “quick blog” for over eight years. I am equally pleased that she has kept its original title. Fun, quirky and playful, this name hints perfectly at the unexpected adventures that you will surely find inside. Give it a try. I bet you won’t be disappointed!

The Power of Comments

I initially began this post not to write a full entry, but simply to thank readers for so generously commenting on my last write-up. The personal stories and advice that you shared got right to the heart of the matter. Your words were deeply motivating. So much so, Richard and I went straight out to our local tree farm, selected our treasure, and our holiday spirit began to pick up from there. Some of you suggested Christmas music/wine/appetizers by the fire. I must admit, that did work wonders! Many of you wisely advised not to get caught up in the stress of the season but to remain focused on what matters most and to let go of the rest. These words helped me to refocus. They also significantly brightened my perspective.

As I began to write this thank you, I realized something about blogging that I hadn’t really understood before. The main point isn’t actually the writing, or the posts, or the photos or the research. It’s the exchange–the dynamic interaction. It’s the debate and new ideas. Most significantly, it’s the connection and the deepening of relationships–both old and new.

It’s a bit of a conundrum to be a relatively private person with a public blog. (Duh to me, I know…but I believe that there are many others like this). Writing is cathartic for me. Pressing ‘publish’ is a leap of faith. As I sit and review the comments received in this past year, I am humbled. For each risk that I have taken in sending out my words, I have gained a hundredfold. Each post has been written for a different reason. On the lighthearted ones, we’ve shared a laugh. On the new discovery ones, you’ve shared your own adventures. On the difficult, most heartfelt ones, your outpouring of support not only comforted me but equally provided strength to Richard and my family.

I know that it is a leap of faith also to write comments. When I first began to read blogs, I never commented. EVER. I was new to the blogosphere, and I wanted to read anonymously. I preferred just to lurk. And lurking is okay. But as I ventured into both commenting, and receiving comments, a whole new world opened up to me. There is definite contentment in being a ‘regular,’ whether it be at your local coffee shop (where the barista begins to prepare your drink the moment that you walk in) or be it at a blog. As Julie Neidlinger of CoSchedule Blog so astutely wrote, “regulars can turn a blog from being a sequential posting of articles into something organic that references itself.” Regulars, and all commenters, help to create an extra layer that make a blog what it is. I am aware that there are numerous blogs that do not allow comments. There has been a heap of controversy regarding whether bloggers should disable their comment sections or not. For me, to remove comments from my blog would be like removing N-O-R-M from Cheers, or at least Uncle Leo from Seinfeld (not that any of you are Norm or Uncle Leo…but you get the idea)!

Energized by my new realizations on blogging and commenting, I tried to jazz up my comment section a bit by installing WPdiscuz. This plug-in allows commenters to edit what they have written, even after they have pressed ‘publish.’ It also offers an option for readers to give a ‘thumbs up’ to comments that they particularly like–sending the love to where it truly belongs! That and the promise of reduced spam sounded like a great step forward. Right? Wrong! I did have reduced spam. I actually had no spam…and no comments at all. According to people who have contacted me by alternative means, the ‘captcha’ feature completely blocked their comments out. If you use WPdiscuz (or are simply a whiz at this kind of stuff) and have a solution for my over-active captcha, please let me know. In the meantime, I have gone back to my regular comment layout (boring, I know)!

Thank you for reading, connecting, commenting and staying in touch. Your words and warm vibes have been greatly appreciated. And for readers who have never commented before, go ahead and give it a try. I would love to hear from you!

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Mood Boarding

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screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-2-58-29-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-22-at-10-21-46-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-26-at-3-11-23-pm Why do your homework just once, when you can do it six times?! In my last post, I mentioned that this week’s homework assignment, for Blogging Your Way, was to create a ‘mood board’ that best reflects the emotional side of our blogs. When first reading this task, I groaned. Artwork? Instagram? My comfort zone was once again being stripped away from me.

I researched. Mood boarding sounded even more complicated than I had imagined. I chatted with Richard. He thought it would be lame. I took a deep breath. I tried one. It really wasn’t so bad. I tried another. I surprisingly felt that I was getting the hang of it. And another. I could easily see how this could become an addiction!

Retirement Reflections turns one on January 1. (The only successful New Year’s resolution that I have ever made!) I had planned to do some blog-related pondering and reworking at that time. This assignment, along with the insightful readers’ comments on my last post, has put me ahead of schedule. Despite my initial fears, mood boarding has been an extremely focused way to help me zoom in on my purpose, and get to the core of what I most wish to express.

Alongside this post are six mood boards. Each one uses a combination of word cloud and a photo (or photos) from one of my past posts. Although this style may not represent a ‘traditional mood board,’ I felt that this combination was well-suited to my blog.

Once again your comments will be greatly appreciated (especially on anything that you believe is missing) and will continue to help with my blog retweaking.

Word clouds were created at: https://worditout.com

What Do Retirement Bloggers Look Like?

I’ve been striving to keep myself busy. Daily yoga, lots of time with friends and family, and my on-line blogging course have been key activities. I initially felt like an anomaly in my course, as all other participants were younger, and most were focused on design. Despite being totally out of my comfort zone, I have persevered.

One of the most enlightening aspects of this course so far was a homework assignment that we were asked to do with an on-line partner. I was fortunate to work with a young designer named Miranda. I immediately loved her blog. It was fresh, playful and on topics (design and interior decorating) of which I know embarrassingly little. As part of our homework, we were asked to list five things that we liked about the other person’s blog and five areas where we would recommend modification. For her first comment, Miranda suggested a change from my black blog background. Where I had found it ‘neutral’ (and thus less likely to clash with my feature photos), she was concerned it could appear oppressive. As you can see, Miranda won on that point. It is now pine green.

Her next comment threw me a bit off-balance and was totally illuminating. “I don’t believe that your title is good enough for your blog.” she began. “I imagined a little old lady, pottering about when I saw the title… but look at you!! Funky…love the denim jacket–not sure I know any granny who wears one!”

I totally had not expected that. I have never been one to avoid using the title ‘retired’ when asked what I do. Shamelessly, I have often shouted it out quite gleefully from the streets. I caught my breath. Do people really imagine “little old ladies (or gents) pottering about” when they hear the word ‘retired?’ And although I love being a grandmother, was I now considered a “granny?” Yikes!! My immediate fear was that I would need to rush into my closet, get rid of my denim jackets and don violet and lace!

In the comment section of a previous post, a few of us had a dialogue about ‘not your father’s (or grandfather’s) retirement,’ and how many current retirement bloggers are documenting new territory that has no steadfast map. After I first announced my retirement, I began to follow many of these bloggers. I appreciated the myriad of snapshots that they provided on what retirement can look like today. I gained a great deal from following them at that time, and continue to learn from them still. I have also learned significantly from partnering with Miranda, especially in terms of reaching out to readers. Although I easily let go of my ‘oppressive’ black background, I will need to reflect further on my blog’s title. That one is not as easy to rethink.

What do retirement bloggers look like today? Here is a small compilation of just a few of the retirement bloggers whom I regularly follow.screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-7-08-43-pmYou can check out their blogs, and the blogs of others, at my sidebar. You may just be surprised by what you find!

For our next homework assignment, we have been asked to create a mood board (on Instagram!) that visually captures what our blogs represent. Once again, this is totally out of my comfort zone… but it is very consistent with my current thinking. Watch for it here shortly!