The most common question that I have been asked since retiring is “What do you do all week?” The short answer is “no two weeks look alike”. Here’s a sample from this past week using an Almost Wordless Wednesday format. (I do realize that it’s Monday…and this post is not exactly wordless…thus the ‘almost’!) I’ve also included both weekends to give you a broader cross-section of possible activities and events. Enjoy!
I’ve been rethinking my Christmas traditions this year. A bit like closet cleaning, I want to ensure that I thoughtfully keep what is meaningful, retire what no longer fits, and make room for new traditions that will add value and substance.
When thinking about Christmas cards, I researched the history of Christmas card sending. (Why? Because I’m me!) The first printed Christmas card, 1843 (shown above) depicted the importance of generations of family celebrating together, service to others, as well as symbols of eternity (sprigs of holly ) and of faithfulness/God’s path (ivy). Source I love the timelessness of this message. After all, isn’t this what the core of this holiday season is all about? Okay, okay…you looked closely! So, the card also depicts a child being served wine (while the other children dig into their plum pudding). Maybe this just means that we should never take ourselves too seriously. Or maybe the controversy caused helped to sell more cards! Either way, the timelessness of the message remains.
For many, many years I sent out handwritten cards with personalized greetings. Despite my best efforts, there were always people that I missed…and despite me sending early, there were often mail delays. For a few years, I tried e-cards. They did allow me to reach more people (and on-time), but every year several cards were left unopened. (With all of the confidence that I can muster, I am hoping that this is a statement of e-cards themselves and not of my friendship with those individuals!) Short of smoke signals, carrier pigeons or an insanely large banner in the sky, I tried to find a creative and heartfelt way to get my message out to you. You, who are so generously keeping in touch.
I wanted the perfect message. A message that would fully express how much I appreciate you. A heartfelt thank you for your extra efforts to keep in touch (and for following this blog!). And finally, a message that sends positive thoughts across the miles. I also wanted to send along some goofy Christmas photos…Yup, I dragged Richard out for another Christmas photo shoot….this time with a twist!
It was a tall order. My search through the internet at first trapped me in the ‘terrible toos’. The sample verses that I found were too general, too corny, too mushy or too artificial. Unlike many Christmas messages or letters, I don’t need to fill you in on key events in my life for this past year. By virtue of scrolling down, you have this information at your fingertips!
I then came across the following writing by Oren Arnold, novelist and journalist (b. 1900 – d.1980).
Christmas gift ideas / suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.
Arnold’s words completely resonated with me. They so eloquently stated the core of what I wish to express in this post.
And so, I have wrapped up Oren Arnold’s powerful message in my own heartfelt words. I send them with sincere wishes of peace, love, and gratitude across the miles. May we all be more like the Whos down in Whoville — loving life, rejoicing in what we have, overlooking insult and joyfully celebrating community. Our vision becomes filled with what we put in our focus. If we all keep our visions fixed on these values, we CAN tilt our world towards peace. Undeniably.
Thank you for following along with me during 2016. I greatly look forward to remaining in touch in 2017! And now for those photos…
Featured Photo – Image of the Firstchristmascard. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Remaining photos are from Donna & Richard’s 2016 Christmas Card Photo Shoot!
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!
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!
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!
We sat beside each other in Grade 9 Science class–not because we were magnetically drawn to each other–rather because our teacher had seated us alphabetically. With different family backgrounds and very different life experiences, we had little in common. Despite these differences, we became extremely close friends. At the end of Grade 12, she left for a career in the Armed Forces while I continued to Grade 13 and then to University. For the past forty years, we have never again lived in the same city – and often not the same country. Still our friendship has remained strong – never wavering, never fading– even though, at times, we have gone many years without seeing each other (and many of those years were pre-email, pre-Facebook and pre-social media of any kind)!
I just had the chance to spend time with Jo-Anne when she, and her husband, visited us on Vancouver Island this past week. Immediately upon her arrival, the years and distances vanished as if we had just been together yesterday. My heart leapt. We spent days talking, laughing, eating and shopping as if we were 14 year olds all over again. We shared our deepest secrets, snapped selfies and were comfortable in each other’s silences.
The benefits of strong, positive friendships have long been proclaimed. They nurture our deeply human need to share our life experiences. They support us and give us strength. In one study, participants stood at the bottom of a hill and were asked to estimate the steepness of the hill as they began to climb. When they stood alone, they believed the steepness of the hill to be much more extreme than when they stood with a close friend (source). Another study, from Harvard Medical School, discovered that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop severe physical problems as they grew older. The results of this study were so significant that the researchers concluded: “not having close friends or confidants was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight” (source).
Throughout my life, I have been blessed with many strong, incredible friendships. These friends have seen me through both good and tough times, have challenged me to be my best and have supported me when I began to waiver. I have known that they are right beside me even when they are not physically there. After getting to know some of my closest, long-time friends, my husband once commented how different they were than me – especially pointing out their relaxed, easy-going natures (ouch!). Opposites can attract…and in each of these cases I am glad that they stuck with me.
Recently I posted a blog on aging well. My goal is to follow the fundamental principles listed there. Maintaining strong friendships is at the top of my list. As friends are “the family that you choose” (Jess C. Scott), they grab the baton to go places with you that are reserved just for them.
I’d like to take this time to sincerely thank the friends who have so profoundly influenced me. Without them, the highs of my life would not have been as high (if they had existed at all), and the lows would have been unbearable. Without them…well, that is something that I simply do not wish to imagine.
Jo-Anne and me 44 years ago
When I worked overseas, I used to marvel at the trailing spouses (usually Tai Tais) who I would hear busily planning their weekday afternoons – a workout, perhaps some shopping and then lunch with friends at some great restaurant. Lunch? Midweek? During the daytime? That, I honestly could not fathom. Being a school principal, I seldom ate lunch, at least not during the day, rarely in a restaurant with friends and never leisurely. How I silently envied those ladies who lunched. Don’t get me wrong, it was not the frequent connotation of ‘money to burn’ that captured my awe, but the sheer freedom that their lifestyles implied.
Recently, at our Newcomers’ Monthly Ladies’ Luncheon (yes–midweek, during the work day and unhurried), I looked around and caught myself. This is the moment of which I had long often fantasized–I didn’t want it to slip away without savoring it just a bit more. In life, we often spend much time dreaming of deeply desired future moments, both big and small. Then our present day realities consume us, dampening the sustained awe that these realized moments truly deserve.
Think back to that yearned for job, house, marriage, child–see them in the craziness of the present moment, and then look at them through the eyes of your younger self. “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” –Thornton Wilder
I left that lunch vowing to take the time to look at my current life from the point of view of a much younger me. “Pretty amazing!” I can hear my younger-self saying. And right then and there, the routines of my present-day life regain their rightful magic!
What would the younger-you say of your current life and treasures?