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!

Cover image created with: https://www.canva.com.

Kind Words

良言一句三冬暖
“One kind word can warm three winter months.” Chinese Proverb

I’ve been feeling yucky. Nothing specific. As colds, flu and many other ailments have been going around this time of year, my mind became overactive with possible causes for my affliction. I woke up this morning completely sapped of energy, despite a full night’s sleep. “Perhaps I should skip yoga and simply stay in bed,” I moaned aloud.

! quickly checked my iPhone. (Heaven forbid I miss any late breaking news, despite my misery). What I read changed the course of my day completely.

I received a message from a colleague whom I had worked with before I retired. She was a teacher when I worked with her, and she was now a school administrator. In her letter, she clearly articulated the type of leader that she had worked so hard to become. She remorsed about words and actions that she wished she would have done differently along the way. She spoke about the difficulty of staying positive in climates of toxicity. For her, the first school that she worked at as an administrator, bore such a climate. There she met a young teacher who struggled personally and professionally. She worked hard to build trust with him, inspire him and help him to feel safe.

To make a long story short, that struggling teacher got it together and had just been offered his dream job at his top choice school. The first thing he did (after accepting the position…and perhaps phoning his Mom), was to write to my former colleague to thank her for all that she had done for him. She then immediately wrote to me and passed on her own appreciation for me inspiring her, especially in terms of investing in relationships. Her kind words touched my soul and instantly soothed and invigorated every fiber of my being.

It is a commonly known psychological principle that kind words have the power to heal, while a single derogatory statement can remain negatively trapped in our brains forever. It is no surprise that research has continued to produce increasing evidence regarding the incredible power that our words have on each other. In Words Can Change Your Brain, the authors argue that positive words strengthen areas in our frontal lobes and promote healthy cognitive functioning. Such words propel the motivational centers of our brains into action and build resiliency. (Newberg, Waldman, 1994). Taking this concept even further, Massaru Emoto’s The Hidden Messages in Water discusses research that gives strong implications on how our words, and even our thoughts, can profoundly impact the earth and our personal health. (Emoto, 2004).

After reading (and I confess, rereading) my colleagues’ letter, I quickly got up and got dressed for yoga. I was invigorated and was now ready to take on the day.

Words. They have the power to hurt or to heal. How will you use them?

__________________________

Full Proverb: 良言一句三冬暖,恶语伤人六月寒
“One kind word can warm three winter months, while vile talk wounds like bitter cold in June.” ABC Dictionary of Chinese Proverbs (Yanyu)
Editor: Rohsenow, John S.

Retirement: Am I Still Transitioning?

A year and a half ago, my husband and I took the ‘leap of faith’ into retirement without a clear map of what we wanted our post-career life to look like. We did follow our plan to relocate to Vancouver Island. We have also been spending much time with family/friends, enjoying our grandchildren, meeting new people and traveling…all of which we had hoped to do.

In fact, our retirement so far has been a whirlwind of family time, social time and travel. It has been the gaps in-between those fast-paced times which gives me pause to wonder, “Am I still transitioning?” “Should I have a more established routine?” “Am I achieving what I wanted from this amazing gift of freedom?”

We had decided to give ourselves ample time to transition. But how long does transitioning take and should I be doing something more with my retirement? Volunteering? A deeper commitment to my community? Contributing to world peace? Or even just achieving a more established routine or engaging in some form of ‘employment’ (shriek here)!

Originally led by the work of Professor Robert Atchley, (The Sociology of Retirement, R. C. Atchley – 1976), researchers suggest that the psychological process of retirement follows a similar pattern to other major areas of transition, and can be divided into distinct stages. Researchers also suggest that it is not always necessary to complete each of these stages sequentially before moving onto the next. Also, like many other transition models, there are several variations on the labeling and description of the phases. The sources are endless. I have listed just a few of them here. (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, Source 4).

The core phases are often described as follows:
1. Pre-retirement – Planning Phase
2. The Final Days of Work – Farewell Phase
3. The Initial Days of Retirement – Honeymoon Phase
4. So this is it? – Disenchantment Phase
5. Building a New Identity – Reorientation Phase
6. Moving On – Establishing Routine and Stability Phase

And there it was, staring me in the face–the disenchantment phase. It hits us all, even if just fleetingly — especially after travel or holidays. As Abba so appropriately asked in their song, ‘Happy New Year’*, What do we do at the end of the champagne and fireworks? How do we know if we are going astray, or do we keep on going (astray) anyway? (Source 5).

And that really is the question that I have been asking myself this post-holiday season, after my eighteen months of retirement. Luckily, again, according to researchers, it is these exact questions (Who am I now? What is my purpose?) that we need to ask ourselves in order to achieve closure from our working days and fully embrace our retirement years.

Currently, I would say that I am juggling between Phases 3 and 5, with a healthy dose of Phase 4 mixed into the intervals. I’m definitely not at Phase 6 quite yet. Since that stage is about ‘finding stability and routine,’ I think I’ll keep experimenting with what’s out there for a little while longer!

If you are retired, do these phases seem familiar to you? Are there any additional phases that you would add?

___________________________________

*When I was part way through writing this post, I came across Abba’s song ‘Happy New Year’ featured on Hugh’s Views and News blog. It fit in perfectly with my theme. It is truly amazing how often this ‘synchronized blogging’ happens. You can check out Hugh’s post here.

Reflections on Christmas 2016

I was hesitant to fully engage in this holiday season. There were noticeable absences in our recent family photos. I forced myself to decorate. I forgot to download my Christmas music. I let Costco do my baking. The festivities that I had always embraced so naturally didn’t feel the same as they had before.

I continued putting one foot in front of the other. Faking it until I could make it. I knew that Richard noticed. Of course he did. He was doing the same.

And then it snuck up on us. In small increments at first. It began with friends and neighbours. Some came to call. Others invited us out. Understanding, empathy, and connection are deeply seeded needs of the human experience.

It then continued with our children. Spending time with our sons and their wives/partners brings pure contentment to my soul. Adding in grandchildren is a joy that I can never adequately describe. Reunited, we told familiar stories. We laughed at tales that had been retold a hundred times. We slipped into the comfort of not having to pretend. We luxuriated in the warmth of family. Our shared experiences continued to bind us more tightly than ever.

We hung our stockings near the fire. This year we hung not only our current ones…but also the stockings of loved ones who are no longer here.

During one family gathering, Richard and I looked at each other, simultaneously overcome by emotion. We both deeply felt the presence of those who could not be seen. The feeling was unmistakable. We now recognize that day as a turning point toward healing the pieces that have been taken from our hearts.

It is said that at the end of our lives it is not our careers, our money, or our possessions that we reach for. Instead, it is the gift of family that we yearn for and hold most dear. That gift, Richard and I have received in abundance. For this, we are most deeply grateful.


This post has been written in memory of our loved ones who have so immeasurably enhanced our lives. It is especially dedicated to our first granddaughter, Baylee Jade Kailuweit-Wageman who was born October 28, 2016, and sorrowfully passed away two days later. Rest in peace beautiful Baylee. You have enriched our hearts profoundly, as only an angel could.

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?

With Heartfelt Gratitude

“Grief is love with no place to go.” Helen Macdonald

Less than one month ago, my husband and I sat atop a cliff in Mt. San Jacinto, just outside of Palm Springs. Surrounded by friends, health, adventure and each other, we were acutely aware, and immensely grateful, that our lives were deeply blessed.

Days later, we sat amidst a devastating family tragedy. We watched helplessly as the hearts of our children, as well as our own, shattered irreversibly. Mere days after that, our beloved husky, Cody, sorrowfully passed away. The final images were so painful that I have done everything in my power to block them.

Our souls went dark. My husband and I sat alone in our island home, sapped of all energy.

On the evening of Cody’s death, I picked up a pen. Unconsciously, my raw emotion began to drain. I did not self-edit. I did not polish.

I showed that post to my husband. I watched him nod. I hesitantly pressed ‘publish.’ I put my computer away and tried to distract myself through restless sleep, and robotic activity.

Instantly the outpouring began. We simply hadn’t expected the enormity of this. Kind words, heartfelt empathy and an infinitude of signs of love and support began to bathe us. Phone calls, emails, messages, comments, notes and gifts at our doorstep swiftly appeared. Across miles and time, family and friends gathered around us, both face-to-face and virtually. The strength that we received from this incredible generosity was truly incomprehensible.

We know that our healing will take its time. We are deeply grateful to each and every one of you for reaching out to us with your words, thoughts and virtual hugs across the world. My husband and I can never adequately express just how much your compassion and thoughtfulness means to us. We bear witness that kindness truly does prevail.

Face-to-Face

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retirement Responsibilities

So far, I’ve written a fair amount about the perks and freedoms of retirement. Without a doubt, the list of retirement pros is long. However, I would be neglectful not to portray the flip side. As the famous saying goes: “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With (great) freedom comes (great) responsibility.”(Source)  I initially began the following as a simple list of bullet points that could be included in a retiree’s ‘job description.’  Once I started writing, I began to realize the vastness of this topic. My sincere apologies to anyone reading in a hurry!

Do Your Homework – After my husband and I made the financial decision to leave our jobs, I began to research the emotional side of retirement. I found the quickest and most interesting way to do this was to follow retirement bloggers. Instantly, I could read personal accounts of the daily highs and lows of retirement, and learn from others who had pioneered ahead of me. I believe that this single decision helped best prepare me mentally for my life after leaving the workforce…often in 800 words or less! Some great blogs to check out are listed on the sidebar of this post. In addition, I have quoted from a few of these retirement blogs in this article.

Find/Maintain Purpose – When high expectations are not met, boredom and frustration can set in. As author/blogger, Tom Sightings has recently posted, ““We need activities that stimulate our imagination, connect us to other people, and help us develop a commitment to something more than our own self-interest.” Not finding purpose is frequently cited as a chief concern among those struggling with retirement.

Expect the Unexpected – According to the Ontario Securities Commission Report (2014), more than 50% of Canadians, aged 50 or older, said something outside their control negatively affected their retirements. The unexpected can come in the form of health issues for yourself or a family member. It can also come from the sudden decline/loss of an investment or property. Backup plans and safety nets are essential, especially when you do not have a steady employment income.

Watch Expenses – Following the above, balancing and prioritizing finances are critical skills, especially in retirement. Budgeting for your expenses and cutting back on extravagant or unnecessary expenditures (i.e. living below your means) helps provide extra security in retirement and a less stressful post-career life. A Dave Ramsey quote (recently cited on Mr. Fire Station’s early retirement blog) is very appropriate here: “A budget is telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.”

Become a Jack (or Jill) of All Trades –  In the workplace, it is often easy to access the skills of other people, leaving you to focus on what you do best. Prior to retiring, my husband and I seldom worried about computer troubles, or editing, or…well, many things! Complicating this matter further,  living overseas gave us quite affordable access to housekeeping, maintenance workers, spa services, movers, etc., etc. The day that we retired, these all became ‘luxuries of the past.’ We have each become much more versatile in our skill sets.  We now know more about our computers than we ever thought possible. We confidently tend to household chores and maintenance tasks, We eat out less often. Even home manicures/pedicures/hair coloring are now part of my regular routine (shriek here)! Going along with the above bullet-point, the more that you can do for yourself in retirement, the broader your financial safety net will be.

Use it or Lose it – It is common understanding that a decline in cognitive and physical performance takes place in our senior years. Although many factors can contribute to this, the ‘use it or lose it’ theory is frequently cited.   Thus, daily activity, self-care and not letting ourselves fall into sedimentary routines is essential as we age. The great news from researchers is that although it may take more effort to learn new information during our retirement, our foundation of knowledge and experience can far outweigh that of youth. (Source) This same body of research indicates that those who keep themselves informed and up-to-date in their post-work life tend to have a much higher retirement contentment rate.

Enter with your own self-esteem and self-worth fully intact –It is said that in a wolf pack, wolves instinctively admire the role/position that other wolves have in the pack at that moment. (Source) During our career lives, it is often easy for people to connect with us, or instantly feel respect for us, simply based on our job titles. Replacing that career title with the word “retiree” usually does not pull the same punch. (Janis at RetirementallyChallenged covers this topic nicely!) It is essential to come into retirement with a healthy self-concept and our own intrinsic motivation. I can’t help but link a BlitzZoom video here—It’s appropriate…and makes me laugh every single time that I watch it!

Have a Caregiving Plan (both for giving and receiving care) –Last year, the cost impact of caregiving on American female caregivers, in terms of lost wages and Social Security benefits, was $324,044.  [Source) Caring for an ailing parent, spouse or simply for grandchildren is a reality for many, especially retirees. Due to the demands of this multi-faceted role, it is important that caregivers also take care of themselves and get the support that they need. Essential resources for caregivers include: respite, up-to-date information, training, home modifications and support groups/family counseling. Blogger Kathy Merlo has recently posted on this topic, offering practical self-maintenance strategies for caregivers.

Nurture Relationships – I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Having strong, positive relationships has been solidly linked with longer life.(Source) Having friends to turn to decreases social isolation, provides emotional and physical support, helps us to manage stress and, according to some research, improves our immune systems. (Source) For married retirees, the importance of healthy communication, flexibility and give-and-take cannot be understated.

 Give back – Retirement is a great time to reflect on the joys and opportunities that we have had in our lives. It is also a great time to give back to others. There are endless ways in which to do this. Local volunteer organizations, like Volunteer Canada,  connect volunteers with others who need their skills/support. Still hesitant? Helping others increases self-esteem and offers multiple health benefits. Volunteering also provides personal empowerment and stimulates the release of endorphins, which can improve nervous and immune system functioning. (Source)  Linda, at Thoughts From a Bag Lady In Waiting, wrote a very eloquent reflection on her experiences volunteering at the Oinofyta Refugee Camp in Greece. Your giving back contribution does not have to involve a major commitment…every little bit counts!

The above only begins to scratch the surface of the ‘Retirees’ Job Description’. What responsibilities would you like to add? I would love to hear from you!