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.

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.

“Hi, Honey, I’m Home…Forever!”

There are endless quips regarding marriage and retirement.

“When you retire you switch bosses – from the one who hired you, to the one that married you.” (Gene Perret)

“When a man retires, his wife gets twice the husband and half the salary.” (William Mitchell)

“A married husband is often a wife’s full-time job.” (Ella Harris)

“Warning: Retired person on premises. Knows everything and has plenty of time to tell it.” (Annonymous)

And the title quote (also from Gene Perret).

I’m sure that you can add others….

A year before I retired, I diligently began to read all that I could on the emotional side of retiring. The work that I read on marriage and retirement stopped me in my tracks. Much of this research hammered out the frequently mismatched perceptions of couples once retiring (ranging from different opinions on money, time together/apart, chores, daily activities, travel, family commitments, etc., etc.). According to this research, this misalignment can lead to marital breakdown where, as several studies found, a quarter of American divorces take place with couples who are fifty-years or older. (Yogev, 2012) It can also apparently lead to such strange phenomena as
“Shujin Zaitaku Sutoresu Shoukougun,” literally “One’s Husband Being at Home Stress Syndrome.” (BBC News, 2006-11-29) The more I read, the bleaker the news. I quickly quit reading.

After nineteen months of being officially retired, what is my personal experience with marriage and retirement? Without being too much of a schmoopie, I couldn’t be happier. So much so that I went back to the research with fresh (but slightly more experienced) eyes. What did I find?

• Sixty percent of couples report that there is (ultimately) an improvement in their marriage after retirement. (Forbes, 2007)
• Compared with a matched sample of working men, male retirees
reported higher levels of marital satisfaction. (Kulik, 1999)
•Both wives and husbands tend to indicate greater marital satisfaction if they retired at the same time. (Forbes, 2007) Although, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, fewer than twenty percent of American couples retire in the same year.
• Married couples are twice as likely to save for retirement, often giving them more financial security in their retirement years. (Social Security Administration)
•Retirement reinforces the pre-existing quality of individual marriages, e.g. retirement tends to have a positive effect on marriages that were previously strong and happy, and a negative effect on marriages that were previously shaky. (Missouri Families)

I also went back to Yogev’s research. If I hadn’t quit reading her work so early, I would have realized that it was filled with practical tips and just plain good advice for starting retirement as a couple on a positive note. e.g. :

•Take time and think about what each of you would like to do during retirement
•Communicate openly
•Be specific by what you mean
•Be willing to compromise
•Set boundaries
•Find shared interests
•Ensure individual personal space
•Designate household tasks
•Allow yourself to take baby steps on new endeavors – you seldom need to rush
(Yogev, 2012).

As I perused these strategies, I shuddered with gratitude. I am realistic about my shortcomings and am thankful to have someone who balances out areas where I am not naturally inclined. As in dancing, the moves are more effortless, and enjoyable, with a strong, steady partner. Someone who can both seamlessly lead, and follow, allowing you to find your own unique steps as an individual while maintaining harmony as a team. For this, I am eternally grateful.

Happy 17th Anniversary, Richard. There are no words to express my deepest love and appreciation.

January 21, 2000
Back to the scene of the crime!

__________
Yogev, Sara. A Couple’s Guide to Happy Retirement: For Better or Worse …But Not for Lunch, Familius, Second Edition, 2012.

For those who have not seen Seinfeld’s take on schmoopies recently, you really should watch it now!
And if you missed my (slightly ‘schmoopied’) anniversary post last year, you can catch it here.

Enter If You Dare!!







When hiking the trails at Cameron Lake, on Vancouver Island, I came across several old cabins which made me pose the questions:

Would you enter?
Or dare peek inside?
Uninvited?
Today?
Even if you knew that hauntings, the ghost of Grandpa Bonney, the Cameron Lake Monster and Sasquatch sightings have all been reported in this area?
Even if you suffered from Friggatriskaidekaphobia?

Cameron Lake is surrounded by McMillian Park, lush with towering ancient Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedars. Overlooking the lake you will find train trestles with wooden platforms. The trestles, now inactive, boast an incredible history and stand as an iconic landmark. Sitting on the lake, below the trestles, are several cottages originally used by the workers who maintained the railway and safeguarded it from fire. The cottages since have been passed down to the families of these workers.

Cameron Lake has repeatedly been at the center of much intrigue and fascination. In addition to what has been mentioned above, there have been several mysterious events, often retold by locals. These occurrences include the crash of a small plane (1968) where the wreckage (still containing the remains of the four passengers) was not discovered in the lake’s waters until fifteen years later. (Additional Sources: 1, 2). There have also been unsolved reports of a three-foot monkey appearing in people’s driveways just a few kilometers away (despite no one in the area known, or licensed, to own such an animal). And then there are the stories for which I could find no shred of substantiation (other than to confirm that these stories do in fact exist). These include tales of a train wreck that supposedly lies at the bottom of the lake and has never been recovered.

Earlier this week, my husband and I donned our hiking boots and rain gear (it is Vancouver Island after all) and set out to capture a few extra photos for this post. The dark skies and drizzle were perfect for the photos that I had in mind.

When we first arrived along the shore, lined with small cabins, our eyes were immediately drawn to a string-bikini-clad bather. She seemed to be having her own photo shoot on the floating dock of one of the cabins. Before you begin imaging a warm climate, it was four degrees Celsius with a stinging rain. To my husband’s chagrin, I resisted the temptation to sneak in a shot of the event.

As we continued along, Cameron Lake did not disappoint and held fast to its reputation for giving cause to wonder. Does that not oddly look like some kind of monkey king deep in that tree? (Ninth photo, no special effects.) And look! There’s a strangely elongated face high on the other trunk! (Tenth photo, again no special effects.) Well, I might as well roll with the fun and get a shot of Grandpa Bonney himself…or the closest stand-in that I could find. (Eleventh photo…special effects may have been used!)

Happy Friday the 13th everyone!!

________
This post has been written for #ThursdayDoors, a weekly blog link-up hosted by Montreal blogger/photographer Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0. Why not check out the other ‘door’ postings…safe from the inside of your home?!

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.

Ties that Bind

There are things that I am afraid to put into writing for fear of making them too real.

For this week’s post, I had planned to write a lighthearted self-reflection on something or other. Then the past few days happened. Without going into specifics, these days have been tough beyond measure. All lightheartedness instantly evaporated. The importance of strong family relationships took over my field of vision and was reinforced more than ever.

I am part of a large extended family. The dynamics are sometimes messy, sometimes complicated and seldom quiet. Despite occasional squabbles, our family pack is a good place to be. Our bonds are strong.

In the past few days, these ties have been tested. Despite the size of our brood, every single individual has risen above their own pain to help one another. The cohesiveness of our fold has been commented upon by many.

In a previous post, I highlighted current research that has shown that nurturing and supportive family relationships can decrease stress levels. I looked specifically at expanding research that argues that family relationships can provide stimulation, purpose, a sense of connection and validation, especially when we are no longer in the workplace.

This past week, I was repeatedly struck by family members, at all stages of life, supporting each other. They each demonstrated incredible acts of selflessness, at the most difficult of times. I looked again at studies on families with this lens. The research was abundant.

Below is a small highlight of a smattering of takeaways that I discovered when barely scratching the surface of available sources.

Your Mom CAN Make It Better – In a 2010 study, conducted at The University of Wisconsin-Madison, researchers found that children who spoke with their mothers following a stressful situation, showed increased levels of oxytocin (believed to decrease our stress response). Source. This phenomenon has caused some researchers to comment that “Mothers know without being instructed how to soothe a child.” Source I was fortunate to be with my own mother at the start of this terrible week. In my case, I totally agree with this research.

Being a Parent May Increase Your Life Expectancy –

A study of 21,276 couples from Denmark, revealed that parents (both mothers and fathers) were four times less likely to die early from accidents, cancer, or other specific diseases. Although these results contradict the findings of many earlier studies, this does seem like a nice reward for all of those sleepless nights! Source

Caring for Others Helps Us Take Better Care of Ourselves-
Various bodies of research now suggest that taking care of people that we love may help us to take better care of ourselves. Included in this research is evidence that our immune function and stress regulation is improved when we are around our family and close friends. Source As you may have already suspected, according to researchers, family and friends are very influential in terms of our lifestyle.Source In one study, “36 percent of people say their nutrition is affected by influence from their friends and family. And 46 percent of people in the survey said that their loved ones make a difference in their overall healthy lifestyles.” Source

Siblings Decrease Loneliness and Increase Happiness –
Although much of this research was conducted on sisters, studies have shown that having a sibling is good for your mental health, and can help people (especially preteens) feel less lonely/less self-conscious and happier. Having a sibling was also linked with greater family communication as well as more inclination to do good deeds. Source

Blood Just May Be Thicker Than Water –
New studies from the University of Toronto reveal that, for seniors, having close relationships with family members is more important than friendships, especially in terms of life expectancy. According to this study, retirees who were very close with family members had lower mortality rates than those who relied solely on close friendships. (11th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association). Source

The pain of this past week will remain in the hearts of my family forever. But the selfless acts of family members that we witnessed again and again will equally never fade. I am immensely proud and grateful to be part of such an incredible family pack.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

What Has Your Dog or Cat Done for You Lately?

When I was cleaning up some of my digital photos this past week, I ran across the above baby picture of our dog, Cody. He is such a handsome dog (truly, see below) that I had forgotten what an incredibly adorable pup he was as well.  I stared fondly at the photo, lost in nostalgia.  Afterwards, my mood was noticeably uplifted for quite some time. Coincidence? Probably not.

Kate, at Views and Mews, often refers to herself as “waitstaff” for her four cats. I can totally relate. In fact, I often banter with my husband that in Cody’s eyes, my husband’s primary purpose in life is to provide exercise, entertainment and transportation, and mine is to provide food and drink. “What have you done for me lately?” I will often tease Cody, as he hangs out, rather impatiently, near his supper dish.

According to Time Magazine’s Special Edition “Animals and Your Health” (July 2016), Cody definitely pulls his weight. Research has repeatedly concluded that owning a pet reduces blood pressure in stressful situations and pet owners tend to have lower heart rates than their non-pet-owning counterparts. In one of a myriad of examples, heart patients who left the hospital after treatment were much more likely to survive if they owned a pet.  (Animals & Your Health, p 20)

More and more, pets have been used to help comfort survivors of terrible tragedies, revive long-forgotten memories for Alzheimer’s patients, sniff out cancer and detect harmful bacteria in water. They have also been found to lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease, help combat post-traumatic stress disorder, reduce loneliness, provide overall emotional support and ease the aging process…to list only some proven benefits of human interaction with their pets. (Animals & Your Health, p. 6)

In fact, “simply petting a dog generally decreases both blood pressure and heart rate and appears to raise levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and well-being.” (Animals & Your Health, p. 10) In addition to this, ‘Emotional Support Animals’ are now common alternatives to traditional medicines. (Animals & Your Health, p. 8)

In the US and Canada, more households have pets than have children. (Animals & Your Health, p. 6) In fact, 57 percent of Canadian households have pets which equates to 7.5 million homes. (Source) While the figures of what many people spend on their pets can be staggering (in 2015, it was estimated that pet owners in the US spent over 60 billion dollars caring for their animals), the benefits of pet ownership may be incalculable. (Source)

As for Cody…he doesn’t chase balls, doesn’t fetch sticks, does not reliably sit on command (see last post) and is an absolutely lousy watchdog. Regardless, throughout the last eleven years, he has been intricately woven into the fabric of our family’s pack. He has provided countless adventures, endless stories, and unparalleled laughter. Daily, he has ensured that we have gotten off of the couch, out of the house and into the fresh air. When we moved back to Canada and into our new home, he quickly introduced us to more neighbors than we would have met on our own.  Yes, Cody has definitely found his way into our hearts. Our lives have been forever enriched because of it.

What about you? If you have a four-legged critter in your life (or own a bird, or fish or reptile….) what has your pet done for you lately?

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Print Source:

Bjerklie, David (Ed.). (July, 2016). Animals & Your Health: The Power of Pets to Heal Our Pain, Help Us Cope, and Improve our Well-Being. Time Magazine Special Edition.

 

Retirement: Everyday Is Saturday–Or Is It?

My husband started it! Early in our retirement, he threw down the gauntlet and wanted us to preserve defined weekends. I pouted…just a little bit…okay, a lot! For years I had been totally sold on the concept that during retirement every day would be Saturday (or Sunday). To me, it was now like saying there should be no Santa or no Tooth Fairy! Why wouldn’t we want every day to be Saturday?

During the first two months of our retirement, we were fully immersed in intense house renovations (insane, I know – but it was cathartic and served as a great transition from work). At Richard’s lead, we did the renovations on Monday to Friday and took the weekends ‘off’.

With the renovations behind us, we have continued that schedule. As best as we can, we now try to make the weekends special and confine more mundane tasks and our ‘to do lists’ to the weekdays. In this way, we not only have defined weekends, we also have a weekly escape from household chores and other drudgery.

My husband just may have been on to something. In a study on ‘the weekend effect’, led by Richard Ryan at The University of Rochester, (January 2010) researchers tracked the mental moods and physical symptoms of working adults during both weekdays and weekends. Not surprisingly, participants indicated being happier during the weekend with less physical complaints.  “Weekends were associated with elevated feelings of freedom and closeness — participants said they were more often involved in activities of their own choosing and spending time with close friends and family members. People also felt more competent during the weekend than they did at work” (source). Even those who worked on weekends reported feeling happier on Saturday and Sunday. For this latter group, researchers suggested that it was probably because “cool events tend to happen on the weekend.” They also proposed that there was a likely social contagion effect, i.e. when other people are happy around you, you become happier yourself (source).

Live Science (February 2008) reported on another interesting study that found that weekdays often bring heavier rain than weekends. “Summertime storms in the southeastern United States shed more rainfall midweek than on weekends….The cause could be the air pollution created by the daily grind—traffic and business operations….The clearest day of the week was Saturday, with nearly twice the rainfall on the wettest day, Tuesday afternoon (source).

Could the ‘weekend effect’ also apply to retirees? Ryan’s study did not look at non-working adults, or at adults over the age of 62. However, it makes sense that special Saturday/Sunday events, weekend visits with working friends/family members, social-contagion, less rain, as well as old habits dying hard, could have a positive impact on a retiree’s weekend.

I began this post at the beginning of May (when weekend farmers’ markets/special events were beginning to step up in our area), and I once again experienced the “twin blog phenomenon”. To get more details for my post, I increased my on-line search for “retirement-everyday-weekend” and came across a blog post, Every day is Weekend In Early Retirement? by Mr.Firestation. That post was written just one day before my search. Seriously, how does this happen? I had never previously come across this blog, or this blogger. Regardless, Mr. Firestation and I had both been working on the same blog topic at the same time (and I discovered that many bloggers that I follow, follow his blog). I put my draft away for a while and wrote on other matters. Then, after a particularly fun and rejuvenating long weekend, I pulled out this draft once again.

It is true. Even in retirement weekends are significant. They cause an increase in special events, outdoor community activities, and a mixture of age groups out and about (or, in respect for our recent Canada Day, “oot and aboot”).  Used wisely, weekends can also provide a break from tasks and chores (which sadly do not disappear in retirement).

In response to the question “is every day the weekend in retirement”? Mr. Firestation sat firmly on the fence and concluded both “yes and no.” His reasoning was that for most retirees, weekdays are more relaxed than when they were working. Conversely, he also argued that weekends are even more special as retirees can avoid scheduling chores during that time, giving them even more time to take part in special events with friends and family. (source)

I totally agree with Mr. Firestation’s conclusion, and in the process, I have found a great new blog to follow.

Once again the weekend is near…bring it on!

Feature Photo: Cedar Sunday Market, Vancouver Island, BC.

SOLVING LIFE’S LITTLE MYSTERIES–LIKE ‘WHAT HAPPENED TO MY OTHER SOCK?’

Recently, I have found myself pondering some of life’s small, yet troubling mysteries. I’ve just finished doing the laundry, and you’ve read the title, so you already know where I am going to start. You guessed it,

What in the heck happened to my other sock?

Since we’ve retired, my husband and I have both lost many socks (a total first-world problem, I know). But seriously, where have they gone? We are both reasonably good housekeepers, so we didn’t accidentally leave one in between the couch cushions or lurking behind the clothes hamper. We didn’t just get half-dressed one day and wear a single sock home from the gym, and, unless they were covered in cheese, it is highly unlikely that our dog ate them. Although, according to the Inquisitr, 43 socks were once found inside the stomach of a Great Dane (note to all animal lovers: the dog has since fully recovered). This is an age-old question, with a broad range of answers ranging from Jerry Seinfeld’s classic stand-up to innovative websites exclusively dedicated to swingin’ singles socks. According to less tongue-in-cheek publications, with reduced flair for drama, if nowhere else in the house, your missing socks are likely caught somewhere in the depths of your inner washer/dryer (e.g. the gap between the washer tub and the drum, or in your dryer’s vent ducting). But please do not tell Richard this or our washer and dryer will be in pieces on the laundry room floor–he loves his socks!

Why am I more hungry after eating breakfast than when I skip it?

How many times have you been told about the importance of eating a good breakfast? The long-standing belief has been that breakfast gives you energy, provides essential nutrients, stimulates metabolism, boosts alertness, yadda, yadda, yadda (source). While I’ve been a long-time believer in breakfast, it seems a bit counter-intuitive that I am still hungry after eating a morning meal, and not hungry at all when going without. When I decline breakfast, due to 9 am yoga, I can easily forget about food until noon. When I do eat breakfast, more often than not, I find myself ravenous by mid-morning. It turns out that on their own, or in the wrong combinations, some foods like toast, bagels, muffins, juice and several fruits and cereals, can cause a spike, then subsequent drop, in blood sugar levels which send your body a signal that it is time to eat again (source). To counteract this, nutritionists recommend a high fiber, highly satisfying morning meal (think whole grain plus fat/protein) and experimenting with a smaller lunch or smaller dinner (source). However, it doesn’t end there. Many recent research studies now claim that the earlier research was observational, meaning that yes, breakfast eaters were often found to be healthier, but not necessarily because of when they ate their first meal of the day (source). Still others swear by skipping breakfast, citing research findings that claim breakfast does not manage blood sugar, does not increase metabolism, nor prevent muscle breakdown and confirming that breakfast can make you hungrier afterwards (source). This latter group often lists intermittent fasting as one reason for skipping breakfast and argues that this type of fasting not only reduces calorie intake and contributes to weight loss but also improves metabolic health, cardiovascular function, and blood glucose levels (source, source). I definitely discovered more than I was looking for here. At least now I can feel a bit less guilty, and understand why I am often less hungry when skipping a morning meal.

How can I possibly be more tired after a longer sleep?

In my career life, I mostly survived on five or six hours of sleep per work night, with a few slightly longer catch up nights on weekends. Since I’ve retired, I have been striving for a nightly eight-hour sleep (which honestly is hit and miss). What I have noticed is that on nights that I sleep longer, I am not always more refreshed…sometimes, much less so. This totally does not make sense, nor seem remotely fair. Thus, I’ve added it to my life’s (presently) unsolved mysteries.

According to sleep experts, one reason you may feel poorly refreshed after a longer sleep is that your internal clock has come out of balance with the external clock, similar to jet lag (source).

Our sleep takes place in cycles. Each sleep cycle is approximately 90 minutes long—give or take—and the average person has roughly five sleep cycles per night. When you sleep in, you often get woken up mid-cycle. If you wake up from your deep sleep, or REM, you can feel more tired and groggy upon awakening (source).

Recommendations to help keep your body clock on-track include: (1) Expose yourself to bright morning light, and engage in physical activity as early as possible (which are also common cures for jet-lag). (2) Regularly go to bed, and wake-up at roughly the same time each day, including weekends and holidays (yeah, right, next…). (3) Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and computer work immediately prior to bedtime as all three can keep you out of a deep sleep in the early part of your sleep cycle. Then your body may try making up for this much later when it is actually time to wake up. Hmmm, maybe advice number two was not so bad after all (source, source)!

Have a life’s little mystery of your own? Please share it here.