‘We Are the World Blogfest’

We Are The World

Every last Friday of the month, Ally posts a good news story for ‘We Are The World Blogfest,’ And every last Friday of the month, I think “Oh man, I wanted to join in too….I definitely will next month.” But then I forget, and the pattern repeats itself.

‘We Are the World Blogfest’ seeks to “promote positive news stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit.” The intention is to increase our awareness of daily kindnesses that receive little recognition and are so often strangled by negative news stories around us.

To help me commit to a monthly #WATWB post, I am asking for your help (yes yours!). In the comment section below, please tell me about a heartwarming piece of ‘news’ that moved you recently. It could be something that you witnessed yourself or a simple video link. I will then read more about the piece that you shared and include it in an upcoming #WATWB post.

For example, here is a story about Mikko Meldrom and his wish for his 9th birthday.  It is Mikko’s kind of thinking that helps make our world a better place.

To further set the mood, I leave you with a link to one of my favorite videos about how small, positive actions can have life-changing consequences. When viewing this clip, you may wonder why I have chosen a link from a Thai insurance company. ‘Fake news!’” I hear you cry. And yes, this is ‘just a commercial.’ But its message is very powerful and achievable — and that’s the whole point of this blogfest.

Your turn. Please don’t be shy. What good news has moved you recently? If nothing comes to mind, please take a quick look at your favorite information source. I’m confident that something good is there – you may simply need to unbury it!

Loafing and Puttering…How I’ve Missed Thee!

One of my favourite features of retirement is the ability to ‘loaf and putter’ whenever I like. Okay, maybe not precisely ‘whenever I like’…but pretty close. One of the things that I was looking most forward to when we returned home from our Camino Adventures on September 1 was loafing and puttering. Somehow it didn’t turn out that way. With just twenty-seven days between our returning home from the Camino, and heading out to our Home Exchange in Palm Desert — with Richard’s 70th birthday thrown in between — things were a bit crazy.  So, what did we do during that time?

Here’s what my calendar said that we did:

• Planes/Trains/Buses/Ferries/Kindly Neighbours involved in our return home
• Happy Hour with neighbours
• Catch up with other friends/family
• Monday Euchre Club
• Tuesday Volunteer Dog Walking for SPCA
• Wednesday and Weekend Walking/Hiking Group
• Twice monthly Book Clubs
• Newcomer’s Monthly General Meeting
• Newcomer’s Supper Club (Let’s Do Dinner)
• Artists’ and Crafters’ Monthly Working Session
• Trivia Pub Night with Friends
• Coffee with Friends
• Lunch with Friends
• Meet up with fellow blogger (Dr. Socks)
• Visit with one of our sons, DIL & granddaughter at Nanaimo Campground
• Visit from close out-of-town friend (two nights)
• Drive friend to  Victoria airport (five-hour return trip…worth every minute)
• Dentist Appointments (two) and Hairdressers
• Preparing for Richard’s 70th birthday celebrations (this deserves many lines!)
• Ten people sleeping at our place (two+ nights) for Rich’s birthday weekend
• Pizza supper of fourteen people at our place
• Backyard BBQ to celebrate Rich’s Birthday (forty friends, neighbours, family)
• Prepare for upcoming home exchange to Palm Desert
• Drive to Kelowna (six+ hours) to spend time with family en route to Palm Desert
• Three nights in Kelowna
• Three days drive to Kanab, Utah to visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
• One night in Las Vegas (we met one of our sons who was at a convention there)
• One night in Yuma to help my parents sell their Park Model Home
• Drive to Palm Desert (for a five-week stay)
• Not on my calendar, but equally included in this time period were  blogging, Guest Posts, volunteer website work for Newcomers, household chores, shopping, cooking, etc. etc.

When I was working,  I never understood the retirement saying “I don’t know how I had time to work?” I completely understand this now!

For those who prefer visual input, here, in random order, are some pics from our small gap between the Camino and our Palm Desert Home Exchange.

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Let the ‘loafing and puttering’ officially begin!

Everyday Miracles

Everyday Miracles

What would you do if you believed you had less than five years to live? I now have a realistic answer to this question.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m lousy at the yoga pose, Downward Facing Dog. I mean REALLY LOUSY! My shoulders and upper body give out quickly. I lose my breath and my heart races. I happened to mention the ‘breathlessness’ part to my doctor. I had visited her to discuss some inexplicable random pains in my upper arms. “Hmmm,” she said. “Let’s order a chest x-ray just to be safe.” That was May 3. On May 10, my doctor called me back in and asked my husband to join us. That did not appear to be a good sign. The words “loss of mass in your upper lungs, thickening of your lung walls and a three-centimeter shadow at your lung center” stung in my brain. “Suspected Pulmonary Fibrosis” was written on the x-ray report. That definitely was not good news.

A CAT Scan was ordered as the next step. In British Columbia, it’s currently a minimum two-month wait for that type of exam. I was given an appointment date of July 6. In the meantime, my husband and I prayed and read. What we read was not encouraging. It was the opposite of encouraging.

Pulmonary fibrosis is the scarring of the lungs. It is a progressive disease which makes breathing difficult. Treatment options are limited as this disease currently cannot be reversed. The survival rate for most patients is less than five years. Source.

My husband and I met with our doctor again. She was kind and sympathetic but did not try to placate us about the potential road ahead.

Instantly and simultaneously, my husband and I knew how we wanted to live the rest of our lives, regardless of how much time either of us had. I wasn’t experiencing any symptoms (unless you include breathlessness from my least favorite yoga pose)! Richard and I wanted to get out there. We wanted to live our lives as fully as possible. We wanted to remain active and adventurous for as long as we could. Truthfully, we wanted to be even more adventurous! We wanted to relish in our family and friends and be there for them, without burdening anyone. We wanted to remain grateful for every single day that we had. And, we wanted to be in it together.

We decided not to share this information with anyone until we knew more. After we received the scan results, we would decide how to proceed from there.

With incredible good fortune (and a bit of cash), we were able to get a private scan done in Vancouver. Remarkably, we were able to do this in May instead of July. There were exactly two weeks between receiving the original x-ray report and my CAT Scan in Vancouver. There were then two more days before we could find out the scan results. (Total time span: May 3 – May 25).

So what did we do during that time? Mostly, we did what we usually do. We walked dogs for the SPCA, went to the gym, spoke with our sons and my niece on the phone/Skype, hung out with friends and attended local events. We continued our planning for our Camino Trail hike this coming summer. I went to book club and yoga (and yes, I kept up with my attempts at the dreaded Downward Facing Dog). I was also extremely fortunate to be able to spend the week of Mother’s Day with my parents (which was amazing). Oh, and I also wrote a guest post on ‘Happiness’ for a blogging friend of mine. Lying underneath all this was a heightened appreciation for all that Richard and I have, and for all those whom we’ve been blessed to hold so dearly in our lives.

And, I have never felt so loved. Richard was amazing. How could I selfishly want more?

I quit reading about the disease. I would make a plan with my doctor once we had conclusive information. I continued praying. In prayer, I fully believed that everything was okay, even though my recent chest x-ray suggested differently.

“I believe in miracles,” I told Richard. “A single lab report is not going to get me down. It does not have my consent!”

Then, late last evening when I was leaving a Newcomers’ meeting, my doctor called. The CAT Scan of my heart and lungs was ‘completely normal’ for my age, height, and weight. The three-centimeter shadow was a benign air-cyst that posed no danger. The loss of volume frequently happens with age. I was given a clean bill of health!

I hung up the phone and relayed my doctor’s message to Richard. We were filled with intense love, gratitude and the unwavering knowledge that miracles, both big and small, happen every single day. It is this knowledge and emotion that I wish to keep at the center of my life for however long my life may be.

Feature Image: Canva.com

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.

A Retiree’s Job Description

Retiree's Job Description

When reflecting on core areas where I spent my time during my work life, compared to how I now spend my time in my retirement, I thought it would be fun to compare ‘job descriptions.’ I began by quickly checking to see what the internet had to offer.

I Googled ‘Retiree Job Description.’ Nothing pertinent. I tried again. Still nothing at all. How could this be? Isn’t Google the storehouse of all ideas no matter how unique, obscure or wild and crazy they may seem?

Perhaps it was due to my diminishing research skills (say it isn’t so!), but I came up completely empty-handed in my search. I then decided to write a basic ‘Retiree’s Job Description’ myself. How hard could it be? Besides, I had almost written this job specification previously, but that post got carried away in a different direction. With a solid network of retirees/bloggers/creative thinkers out there, I am hopeful that others will jump in and add their suggestions (both serious and otherwise). Here goes!

Job Title:

Retiree

Reports to:

Self

Job Purpose:


Leaving one’s career/employment to pursue passions such as leisure, travel, hobbies, volunteerism, etc., and of course, family, health, and balance.

Duties and Responsibilities:


• Envision and take responsibility for your own schedule
• Initiate and plan activities
• Prepare budget and monitor expenditures
• Set your own hours
• Invest in your friendships and relationships (especially with your spouse/partner…you’ll likely be spending significantly more time together than you did when working)
• Experiment and take (smart) risks that will help you enjoy this position to its fullest
• Stay physically and mentally fit. Regularly engage in exercise and new learning. This is a core responsibility of retirees (If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it!)
• Expect the unexpected….and be prepared to deal with ‘wildcards’ that may be thrown your way

Requirements:


In their book, Retire Right – 8 Scientifically Proven Traits You Need for a Fulfilling Retirement, Drs. Fraunfelder and Gilbaugh list the following as key traits of retirees who have indicated successful transition into retirement.
• Ability to plan ahead
• Positive attitude
• Acceptance of change (willingness to adapt and adjust)
• Support network of family and friends (and pets)
• Healthy lifestyle
• Sense of purpose
• Engagement in a variety of enjoyable leisure activities
• Spirituality

Assets:


• Conviction to view this position as a door opening as opposed to a door closing
• Ability to suspend ‘overthinking’ and enjoy this luxurious position that is denied to so many
• Willingness to give back to others/leave a legacy (How do you wish to be remembered?)
• A versatile skill set will greatly assist with the ‘monitor expenditures’ requirement for this role
• Healthy (but not over-inflated) sense of self-worth
• A genuine sense of gratitude

Working Conditions:


You will be responsible for setting your own hours, priorities and agenda. Do not assume that the position of retiree is ‘obligation free.’

Direct Reports:


At any time, you may be asked to oversee others who require your support and Caregiving. This includes, but is not limited to, grandchildren.

Approved by:


RetirementReflections.com
April 2017

So, what did I miss?

Rocket Girl…and Equality Among the Sexes in 2017

When my youngest son was in kindergarten, I was a middle school principal. My son’s school principal was female. Many of my closest friends were also…you guessed it…female principals. This caused my five-year-old to innocently ask, “Can men also be principals?” “Only when they are very, very good,” I said with a wink.

One of my book clubs is currently reading Rocket Girl. This ‘creative non-fiction biography’ pieces together the life of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s first female rocket scientist, and ‘unsung heroine of the space age.’ Source.

When introducing this novel at our book club, we also touched on the similarly-themed movie, Hidden Figures. In both works, obstacles to women (often combined with other barriers of racial prejudice, poverty, etc.), in male-dominated fields, sat continually at the surface. This evoked a spirited book club discussion as to how far we truly have come in regards to ‘equality among the sexes’ in 2017. Our group remained divided in their responses to this question.

Stimulated by this discussion, I did some checking.

The Global Gender Gap Report 2016, produced by The World Economic Forum, examines ‘equality’ between men and women in four different areas (education, health, finances, politics) in 144 countries. This document also highlights countries, that within their region and economic group, provide opportunities and distribute resources more equitably among the sexes.

What were the findings?

For the 144 countries studied, in 2016, the gender gap between education and health outcomes had closed 95% and 96% respectively. However, gaps between political attainment and economic participation had only closed 23% and 59%. In summary, this report stated than an average gender gap of 31% remains. Source 1. Source 2.

It is frustrating that the road to gender equity often contains steps forward mixed with several steps back. (68 countries increased their gender equity in 2016, while 74 countries saw decreases. Overall, the economic gender gap reverted to where it was in 2008!). Adding to this discouragement, geographic areas that I consider to be the most liberal (like my own), often ranked far behind other areas regarding this attainment. Iceland, Finland, and Norway took the top three spots of the World Economic Forum’s Gender Equity ranking. Canada placed 35th overall, while the US placed 45th (down from 28th in 2015). Source. Report findings reveal that if the rates of change seen in the past ten years continue as is, South Asia could see a closing of their overall gender gap in the next 46 years. Whereas, due to its slow progress over the past decade, the North American gender gap is currently predicted to take 158 more years to close. Source.

Of course, these projections are just that and cannot be interpreted as conclusive facts. However, by documenting, graphing and highlighting present trends, these stats are an eye-opener and urge a strong call for action.

Do any of the above figures from the World Economic Forum surprise you? What are your thoughts?

Also, if you are interested in finding out more about Mary Sherman Morgan, I found Rocket Girl to be an absorbing, fascinating read…and a great springboard for provocative, engaging discussions!

Cover image created by Canva.com

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

Humane Communities

On Tuesday afternoons, my husband and I walk dogs at our local SPCA. Due to the SPCA’s long-standing efforts on spaying and neutering programs, as well as our community’s responsible dog ownership, there are often no dogs for us to walk. This is a very good problem to have!

Earlier this week, we attended a reception for SPCA volunteers. The guest speaker was Geoff Urton from our Regional SPCA Office. His topic was ‘Humane Communities.’ The broad goal of Humane Communities is to nurture empathy and compassion for both people and animals in community members of all ages. Often the word ‘people’ is left out of the above definition which is ironic as humanity lies at the center of this body of work and is key to its success. If we do not have understanding and compassion for humanity, how can we genuinely have empathy for other members of the animal kingdom? Renowned for their passionate work for animals, the SPCA has also adopted such people-centered programs as ‘Not Myself Today.’ This initiative aims to reduce the stigma of mental heath and foster safe and supportive environments. It is programs like these that help make the SPCA an incredibly well-rounded organization.

Being a long-time believer in the importance of animal welfare, I was excited to hear what our speaker had to say about the topic at hand. While the BC SPCA has been taking a number of steps to ensure Humane Communities (progressive animal control bylaws, farm certification, low-cost microchip programs, grant funding, wildlife preservation programs, animal shelter and services, etc., etc.), this was not the focus of Geoff’s address. Instead, he turned the microphone over to those of us sitting in the audience.

Many of us, including me, shifted uncomfortably. It became clear that the keynote’s message was that it is YOU and ME, not our local animal shelters or SPCA, who create and sustain Humane Communities. While government, animal organizations, law enforcement, veterinarians, schools, etc. all play a key role, the ultimate responsibility is for the citizens of communities to envision, aspire, speak up and create a better, more humane world.

Through his collaborative presentation, our speaker left us with two challenges. What kind of world do you want to live in? And, how are you going to make this happen? His first question was the easy part. The hard part is having the courage and the confidence to know that I can make a difference…and the gumption to jump in and make a start. For me, what is needed is the resolution to make the transition from a ‘long-time believer’ to a ‘passionate and committed’ one.

What about you? What is your vision of a Humane Community? What is one small thing that you could do that would help bring your surrounding environment closer to that vision?

You can read more about Human Communities here and here.

Alone in the Classroom…and the Love of Words

The above quote is spoken by the narrator of Alone in the Classroom as she pieces together fragments of her ancestry in search of self-acceptance. Although this novel has arguable flaws in plot and structure, this quote gives us a taste of Hay’s distinctive style, evocative descriptions and provocative messaging. From the woody smells of childhood to the villainous school principal who “moved through the school like mustard gas,” Hay’s artful prose invigorated every fiber of my being. I was reminded once again about my on-going love affair with words, and their intoxicating magic.

According to researchers at Washington State University, a single word has the power to “inform, persuade, hurt, ease pain…get your point across, or destroy any hope of your ideas ever being understood.” In the fatal example of the Japanese use of the word “mokusatsu” at the end of WWll, one word can trigger unspeakable horrors. (Read more.)

Multiple researchers have supported the claim that reading great literature improves us as human beings. Studies, both with adults and with children, have indicated that “individuals who frequently read fiction are better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective.” As an interesting aside, no similar effect was noted when participants watched television. (You can read more here.)

As Hay continued to lure me with her skillful prose, BAM! I was transported back to the long, hot, restless summers of my own childhood.

“Newspapers of old smelled damp, inky, pungent. We would lie on the floor when we were kids, our noses inches above the paper, and devour the comic strips that were so glamorous in those days, the women and the men bewitching, all chiselled cheekbones and thick hair, full lips and swelling breasts. The damp wonder of romance, and the excitement of the world out there awaiting us – it was all transmitted directly into our noses through newsprint and ink.”

and

“Roads were narrower…more shaded. Cars less common and slower. Summer feet were bare and tough, or shod in old leather. Faces were careless of the sun. Noses burned, and children aided the peeling by picking the skin loose and giving it a fascinated tug. As many peelings per summer as there were pips in a winter grapefruit.”

What about you? What is your relationship with words? Is there a recent, or favorite passage, that has transported you in time? Please share!

And while we’re sharing a love of words, a new children’s book in the Piper Morgan series is being released on April 4. This series is written by Tennessee author and blogger, Stephanie Faris. You can check out more details here. This is a non-sponsored recommendation.

Featured image created by Canva.
Feature quote from Alone in the Classroom, Copyright © 2011 by Elizabeth Hay. Publisher: Emblem Editions.

Dolce Far Niente

I have a dirty little yoga secret.

I don’t love savasana.

My mind and body refuse to stay quiet. Together they plan and scheme. They want to be doing something…anything but stillness.

And that leads me to this post that has refused to be shelved.

This past October, I had written the following entry. Then, as our days turned into sadness, this piece was put aside. But it refused to lie still. In November, I received a letter from my sister-in-law. In it, she included the following quote:

“If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.” Lin Yutang

This forgotten entry came to mind and tugged at me. But I had other things to get out.

Last night, in the quiet of early February, I watched an old movie on Netflix. The famous line, “dolce far niente,” again gave me a shove. Here is the post that would not remain silent–a confession of sorts:

There are many areas that are not my strength. Consciously ‘doing nothing’ tops this list. Throughout my work and school life, there were always so many things to get done. I hated the pressure of trying to complete things at the last minute. To counterbalance, I attempted to use my time wisely–perhaps a bit too wisely. I was always cramming in little tasks here and there so that I wouldn’t need to worry about them later. The problem was that a multitude of other tasks always snuck in to take their place. Always! A middle-school student, who frequented my office when I was a first-year principal, kindly tried to offer me some advice. “You should pay yourself first,”  he said. “You know, like have fun and take breaks before you do the other stuff. The work part will always be there — it doesn’t go away.” These were very wise words, especially coming from a thirteen-year-old. If only I would have/could have heeded them.

A blogger that I follow, previously posted that he has been focused on saving money his whole life. Although he is now retired, and financially solid, it is still very difficult for him to spend money. His saving patterns are ingrained. This is my exact same dilemma — but my ingrained patterns are with time.

On one of the final days of our October home-exchange, my husband suggested that we spend the afternoon sitting around the pool. All afternoon! I don’t swim (okay, I can swim, but I usually choose not to). And the hot tub was too cool for my tastes. I had just finished my book for book club and didn’t want to start another until I had allowed my mind to ruminate on that novel a bit more fully. What would I do during all of that time, especially when Richard was napping or swimming? More importantly, how would I prevent those many pesky tasks from calling my name? You know, like the vegetables in the fridge calling to be chopped for dinner. The laundry in the hamper begging to have their turn in the washing machine. The jumbled pile of receipts demanding to be sorted in preparation for going through customs in a few days. Even my yoga mat was imploring me to work on my downward-facing dog. (Not being into hot yoga, it was simply too warm to pull my mat outside and practice there.)

Richard, who is fabulous at enjoying the moment, modeled. He comfortably sat in the lounge chair, leaned back and enjoyed the rays. He took a dip in the pool then sipped the hard-lemonade smoothies (that I had snuck out and made). He relaxed and napped peacefully. I so admire that!! I tried to do the same. I really did! I squirmed. I wiggled and jiggled. I flipped through a magazine. I took a few sneak peaks at random messages on my phone. I did manage to do (almost) nothing for most of the afternoon. But when Richard left for a late afternoon walk, I madly scrambled and did all of the jobs listed above (okay, except for the downward-facing dog).  I was left with the knowledge that ‘relaxing idly’ is a skill that I simply do not possess…not even in retirement.

Dolce far niente….the sweetness of doing nothing.

If you have mastered the ability to kick back completely, what advice do you have for a wanna-be lounger like me? And if ‘chilling out’ isn’t your natural thing, what strategies have you discovered to overcome this? Please share!

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