The most common question that I have been asked since retiring is “What do you do all week?” The short answer is “no two weeks look alike”. Here’s a sample from this past week using an Almost Wordless Wednesday format. (I do realize that it’s Monday…and this post is not exactly wordless…thus the ‘almost’!) I’ve also included both weekends to give you a broader cross-section of possible activities and events. Enjoy!
You know when you work and you can easily pop next door and have Madeleine or Muhammad (or their counterparts) help with your tech related problems? I so miss that– especially when running a blog!
An ongoing area of blogging frustration for me has been finding the best way to let readers know when I have replied to their comments. Since this comment notification feature is standard in the free version of WordPress, this should be easy to add to a (not so free) self-hosted WordPress site, right? Wrong! Very wrong!
Being a risk-taker, I tried a popular comment plug-in called ‘Discuz.’ Perhaps it was just my site (or my set up?), but for me, Discuz included an overly active captcha. This meant many readers could not comment on my posts at all. That kinda was the opposite of what I was going for!
Being nothing if not tenacious, I tried again.
A few bloggers that I follow have been using CommentLuv. With this plugin, readers can leave a link to their most recent post. What was not to love? Well…a few things actually. Although readers could leave a link, the free version of this plugin has not been updated in WordPress for almost a year. And although I am sure I read a review otherwise, readers still were not notified when I replied to their comments.
I tried additional comment plugins. On some, readers wrote to say that they could no longer see where to comment on my site. (I am very thankful when readers take the time to let me know these things.) Other comment plugins, which seemed simple enough, had a confusing ‘must subscribe’ email checkbox. That would definitely prevent me from commenting if I saw this on a blog.
I tried writing on help forums. Nada. I tried asking other bloggers what they used. (I discovered that I have many blogging friends who either do not use WordPress or use the free version with that wonderful comment notification feature already included…lucky them!) In the meantime, I received numerous comment-related emails from readers (thank you again!). Some said they still could not find the comment section on my site. Some said that they assumed I was not replying to their comments (I honestly was)! Others asked what the heck had happened to CommentLuv (turns out that many readers did like that feature)!
Insert Me: Banging head on desk.
Insert Richard: “Why don’t you just do things the easy way, and switch to the free WordPress version?” (Seriously, has he met me before?)
So where did I end up? For now, I have installed “Comment Approved Notifier,” which automatically sends an email to individual readers once their comment has been approved. Since I always reply to comments at the same time as approving them, this will be my sign to readers that I have replied to their comments. And, since this plugin plays nicely with others, I have also re-added CommentLuv.
Please, let me know what you think. Does this solution work from your end? Or is there a better alternative that I should be trying?
And what about you? What are your blog-related frustrations (as either a reader or writer of blogs)? Perhaps we can help each other (or better still, perhaps there are ‘tech experts’ reading this blog right now who are willing to help us.
If you’ve read my recent posts, you already know that I am a bit of a ‘Savasana disaster.’ I am totally aware that all true yogis (and yoginis) out there will cringe at such a phrase – but it’s true. When the rest of the class settles down so seamlessly into their final pose, lying on their backs in perfect stillness, I fidget. I discreetly try to put on my socks (can I help it if my feet get cold?). In the process, I accidentally knock over my water bottle. I think about reaching for my extra sweater, but I fear that will end in another disastrous consequence. I suddenly can’t remember where to position my hands. I then peek down and notice that my tank top has slipped significantly below my bra-line. My mind starts racing. How long has my top been like that…and who has seen what? And so it continues… until the teacher’s voice softly suggests that we begin to move our toes gently. At least I am on-track there–both sets of my toes, as well as my adjoining feet, have been wiggling non-stop for quite some time.
After this confession, I have no explanation why I recently signed up for a Yoga Nidra class. Yoga Nidra is a bit like an hour-long Savasana. (What was I thinking?!) It’s a relaxation technique where yoga students recline in complete stillness. They are then guided by their teacher’s voice to focus on their slow, relaxed breath, engage in guided visualization and completely let go.
The benefits of Yoga Nidra are said to:
• help consolidate our body’s energy and relax the nervous system
• calm the mind
• release tension
• promote deep rest and relaxation
• counteract stress
• help relieve depression and anxiety
• reduce insomnia
• increase awareness of the connection between body, mind, and spirit
(Source 1, Source 2, Source 3)
Everyone of all ages and ability levels can participate in Yoga Nidra. In order to enhance your practice, it is recommended to:
• wear loose, comfortable clothing
• use props (bolster under knees, neck pillow, eye mask, blanket) to increase comfort
• practice in a peaceful environment (calm, comfortable, clutter-free)
• allow a couple of hours between your last meal and your yoga class
• if there is no Yoga Nidra class offered in your area, you can practice at home with one of many free or purchased audio guides (example). Source 4
So with all of my ‘savasana-related baggage,’ as well as being a bit ambivalent about most things ‘meditation-related,’ I attended my first Yoga Nidra class last weekend.
What was my experience?
It was amazing. My body and mind relaxed instantly. Everything slowed down. For the first time that I can remember my mind quit preparing and rehearsing productivity lists. I experienced the immensely satisfying feeling of being in a deep sleep…while still awake. Instinctively, I turned my palms down and pressed into the floor to prevent the sensation of floating away (totally strange but true). I left feeling more refreshed, rejuvenated and relaxed than I have for quite some time.
After class, a fellow yogini invited me out for tea and pie. A Sunday afternoon simply doesn’t get any better than that!!
Last January 1st I made a single New Year’s resolution. I resolved to begin a blog containing my reflections as I transitioned into retirement. When I first moved to Beijing in 2001, I started a small journal that I emailed to friends and family. I, unfortunately, didn’t maintain that log for long, and always wished that I had. So many stories and newnesses from that period have been lost or modified over time.
I love to write, to wonder, to discover and to share. I now had a second chance with another new chapter in my life. Would I have any readers? I tried not to think about that part. I once again took a leap of faith.
If a crystal ball would have told me that within one year I would have written 71 posts, had 5,526 blog visitors (from 95 countries), 13,479 post views and 922 comments (plus an equal amount of blog comments on other social media links) I would have determined that the ball was broken! I realize that for the big and even medium-sized blogs out there these numbers may seem minuscule, but to me, they are a miracle.
As I continued to write and to read other people’s blogs, I began to discover what, for me, lies at the true heart of blogging. Keeping in touch with friends, building new relationships along the way, sharing ideas, connecting, reaching out, and inspiring each other have by far been the most rewarding part of the on-line writing experience. It is you that has allowed this to happen–and for that, I am both humbled and grateful. Blogging has also allowed me to process sorrowful events that have taken place for me this past year. Your kind words and sharing of your own experiences have deeply touched both me and my family.
In honour of this blogiversary, I have decided to shake things up a bit. I have updated my About Page (which you can check out here). I have also switched to a new theme (bye bye WordPress TwentyFourteen, hello TwentySeventeen). After my last comment update fail, I was hesitant to mess with my comment section, but I have added a feature that automatically allows other bloggers to link their most recent post. Fingers crossed that it works this time! I am also toying with the thought of switching to https (Secure Sockets Layer) but so far have remained firmly undecided on this move. If you have any feedback on any of these current or potential changes, I would love to hear from you. Also, if you are a blogger who uses WordPress Twenty Seventeen, and you have any cool tips, please share!
If you check out this blog even semi-regularly (or mean to) and have not yet subscribed, I would be grateful if you would do so. It is quick, easy and free (and you can do it by email or WordPress reader). Signing up helps you to ensure that you never unintentionally miss a post. And for me, it helps me to know that you are out there.
I am now off to choose my resolution for 2017. I am aware that resolutions do not work for everyone, but for me, a single, well-chosen New Year’s goal can be very powerful. I am finding my final selection to be much more difficult this year. In choosing, I hope to keep Nelson Mandela’s wise words in mind. Please stay posted!
Feature Photo created with: canva.com.
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?
Why do your homework just once, when you can do it six times?! In my last post, I mentioned that this week’s homework assignment, for Blogging Your Way, was to create a ‘mood board’ that best reflects the emotional side of our blogs. When first reading this task, I groaned. Artwork? Instagram? My comfort zone was once again being stripped away from me.
I researched. Mood boarding sounded even more complicated than I had imagined. I chatted with Richard. He thought it would be lame. I took a deep breath. I tried one. It really wasn’t so bad. I tried another. I surprisingly felt that I was getting the hang of it. And another. I could easily see how this could become an addiction!
Retirement Reflections turns one on January 1. (The only successful New Year’s resolution that I have ever made!) I had planned to do some blog-related pondering and reworking at that time. This assignment, along with the insightful readers’ comments on my last post, has put me ahead of schedule. Despite my initial fears, mood boarding has been an extremely focused way to help me zoom in on my purpose, and get to the core of what I most wish to express.
Alongside this post are six mood boards. Each one uses a combination of word cloud and a photo (or photos) from one of my past posts. Although this style may not represent a ‘traditional mood board,’ I felt that this combination was well-suited to my blog.
Once again your comments will be greatly appreciated (especially on anything that you believe is missing) and will continue to help with my blog retweaking.
Word clouds were created at: https://worditout.com
You’d think that I would have gotten the hint at Paint Night (or long before that, actually). I seriously cannot paint! But when two friends mentioned that they planned to take part in a mosaic painting activity that was taking place in our town, I immediately signed up!
In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday (July 1, 2017), Lewis Lavoie, Paul Lavoie and Phil Alain initiated a very ambitious endeavour, entitled “Canada 150 Mosaic”. Through this project, the team members work with 150 different communities across Canada. In each selected town or city, people of all ages, and of all artistic abilities, gather together to paint images on 10 cm X 10 cm ceramic tiles. The individual pictures can be of anything that represents the participants’ local area. When completed, over 80,000 tiles will create 150 separate, but connected murals. The murals will reside in the communities where they were made. If they were all joined together, the unified artwork would measure the size of four football fields! (Source)
It was an incredible vision. Still, two days before our town’s ‘paint-in’, I panicked. What could I paint? More specifically, what could I produce that I wouldn’t be mortified to see every time I passed by its prominent display in our City Hall?
Gathering all artistic supplies that I owned (a couple of highlighters, a few old crayons, and some white computer paper), I set out to draft a simple mountain and water scene that I thought that I could handle…one that wouldn’t embarrass me too much. When I was finished, Richard walked by, and I asked him what he thought. “Could you get a friend to help you?” was his earnest reply. Ouch!
To make matters worse, one of my friends suggested that I look at the Cochrane, Alberta Mural website, where you can see each individual tile, as well as the whole mural put together. My advice to anyone who is just about to paint their tile for this mural project is “Don’t look”! There was no way that I could have painted any of those tiles…not even the ones that were done by primary school students. I was seriously doomed.
I am nothing if not tenacious. After watching several YouTube beginner’s painting tutorials, as well as running out to our local craft store, I had a simple plan that I believed that I could follow.
Our community’s paint session happened over a lovely weekend on our town’s beautiful beach front. The organizers were friendly, easy-going and encouraging. Like the nerd that I am, I lined up my paint supplies, and my practice painting that I had prepared, and I began. My completed tile will never provoke any genuine “oohs” or “ahhs”, but I was proud of myself for trying…and for not embarrassing myself too badly!
This is one of the great joys of retirement. In my work life, I mostly stuck to what I knew…what I was confident in and what I believed that people expected me to do. In my thirteen months of retirement, I have already experimented with countless activities in which I have very little background. I no longer feel that I need to stay confined to what I believe I do best. The sky is the limit!
Special thanks to the Canada 150 Mosaic Team for envisioning, and actualizing, such a cool commemorative for Canada’s 150th birthday!
Feature Photo: The beginnings of the Parksville Mural
Did you ever agree to do something because it sounded like a good idea at the time, or because your friends were all doing it, or simply because you feared missing out? Then when the fateful day arrived, did you ask yourself why in the world you were doing this – but had no good answer?
Tonight was Paint Night.
Ironically, when I was at an out-of-town social event this past weekend, I was seated beside a man whose wife had given him a gift certificate for painting lessons for his 70th birthday. He was now 72-years-old, was in his second year of painting, loved every minute of it, and was planning a neighborhood showing of his work this coming summer. I told him about my trepidation with my upcoming painting lesson.
“I am sure it will be an abstract painting class,” he said confidentially.
“I know that you will be a much better painter than you realize,” chimed in his wife.
Sadly, I wasn’t.
“Whatever else, I know that you will love it,” he concluded.
I did love the pre-painting dinner, the drinks, and hanging out with my friends. I also loved seeing first-hand what great artists my friends were. Although the teacher was excellent and everyone was extremely kind, the painting part, for me, was a bit humiliating. I was actually far worse than I had guessed I would be (and my expectations were low to begin with)!
Would I go again? Absolutely–mostly because I feel a strong need to redeem myself.
Is there something that you have recently tried that was out of your comfort zone? If so, how did you do?
In a previous post, I referenced a fellow blogger who described her travel in retirement not as ‘vacation’ but as ‘an opportunity to say yes’. This way of thinking struck a deep chord with me. Isn’t that what retirement is all about– a chance to say ‘yes’ to invitations that had previously been overlooked, or never actually received, or for which there was never enough time?
In my current travel, this attitude has led me on long rides to attend short events simply because a friend or family member wished me to be there. It included our road trip from Vancouver Island to Nevada, Arizona, and California this past February. It also includes a brand new road trip from Parksville, B.C. to Winnipeg, Manitoba (2,446 kilometers) at the end of this month, as well as a hike along the Camino Trail planned for this coming summer (stay tuned for those posts).
In events unrelated to travel, this Nike-mindset has led me to frequent yoga, a twice-weekly walking group, monthly potluck dinners and an upcoming painting class (which the teacher and I are both very likely to regret). It has also prompted me to try out curling, bird watching, and more rigorous hikes than I would normally choose. With this determination, I accepted a social media position with our local Newcomer’s Club, and took part in home renovations that rivalled anything currently seen on reality tv. This way of thinking is the reason that I recently knocked on the doors of over 35 nearby residents to discuss a neighbourhood get-together (which, thanks to all, was a big success). It has led me to some volunteer work that has downright shoved me out of my comfort zone and caused me to ask for donations from local businesses (if you know me at all, this “cold calling” is a big leap for me…huge actually)! This approach has also prompted me to start this blog.
Today I embraced another ‘out-of-my-comfort-zone’ experience. I attended a seven a.m. ‘throwback fitness class’. Okay, so it wasn’t bungee jumping, but for me, it may as well have been. First of all, I needed to be up, dressed, and out of the house shortly after 6:30 a.m. (although this was my daily routine in my work life, the current me is stumped on how that was ever possible). This fitness class also contained more cardio…and sweating than I usually care for and involved (gasp here): running, jumping, grapevines, stride kicks and shaking parts of my body that I didn’t realize could still shake…all to thunderous (non-yoga-like) music.
If my husband hadn’t woke me up at 6:25 (I got dressed fast) I would have missed this opportunity. And if I hadn’t previously said aloud that I was attending, and had a partner ensure that I followed through with my intention, I would have easily talked myself out of it (or rather, slept through the whole thing).
The final result? I am glad that I attended, will definitely be attending again…and I have once again promised myself to give a nod to as many opportunities that I can. This doesn’t mean death-defying adventures, long-term commitments that I cannot keep or obligations that would restrict me from doing other things that I love (or negate the reasons that I retired in the first place). Simply it means embracing things that are otherwise easy to talk myself out of (and easy to shove into the ‘I’ll think about it later’ basket). And sometimes this means mindful choice and negotiation to select the best fit for me.
What about you? What out-of-comfort-zone opportunities have you tried recently, or are planning to attempt? By stating them publicly, you are one step closer to doing them!
Top Photo Credit: travelsadventures at https://www.canva.com/design/DABvoVwPoVY/3b-8Dd5drBalSEhPSn8O-Q/edit
Bottom Photos: Liz’s 7a.m Throwback Fitness Class in action. If you live in the area, give it a try! (Parksville B.C.’s Hot N Cool Yoga Studio).
Don’t you just love on-line personality quizzes? You know, the ones where you answer a few innocuous-seeming multiple-choice questions—press enter—and voila—you are assigned a set-in-stone personality type (that may or may not remotely resemble the you that you know). The retirement versions of these quizzes claim to be able to determine your ‘retirement personality type’, ‘retirement happy place’ and ‘retirement investment type’. I just took two of these on-line tests, as honestly as I could, and discovered that my retirement happy place is Boulder, CO (someplace that I’ve never been) because I am (apparently) “a cross between Georgia O’Keeffe with Henry David Thoreau…. an artsy-creative soul who understands the value of alone time and the freedom of the American West”. (Insert dramatic eye roll here!) Survey 1
I also discovered that I am “a seeker” apparently because “friends describe (me) as reserved, thoughtful, and as having a rich intellectual inner world.” Survey 2 (Feel free to replace these descriptions with adjectives of your own…but remember…I control the comment key!)
During our recent three-week road trip, we had the chance to visit with many great friends and family, all of whom are retired. Since I knew many of these people long before they left their jobs, it was interesting to see similarities and differences in their pre-retirement and post-work personalities. One of these friends, who now spends as much time dancing as she can, shared that other than at the occasional wedding, prior to retirement she had last danced when she was a teen. This past summer she danced at her High School Reunion and thought to herself, “why haven’t I been dancing all along. I LOVE this!” She immediately signed up for jive lessons, and has continued with a variety of dance lessons/local dances ever since. For me, it was creative writing. I did stacks of academic writing during my career (Language Policy anyone?) but it wasn’t really until retirement that I started creative writing again and discovered (thirty-five years later) how deeply I missed it.
This got me thinking about how our personalities can transform themselves in retirement – and what control we have over this (barring unpreventable circumstances). Retirement is the perfect time to refine, reinvent and let the real you come out and play. You no longer need to act a certain way because it is expected of your profession, or to do something (or not do something) just because you always did. It is a perfect time to break old habits, try new things and rekindle old passions!
A post from Starts At Sixty has been making its way around the Internet recently. You may have seen it.
I am a Seenager (Senior Teenager)
I have everything that I wanted as a teenager, only 50 years later.
I don’t have to go to school or work.
I get an allowance every month.
I have my own place.
I don’t have a curfew.
I have a driver’s license and my own car. The people that I hang around with are not scared of getting pregnant, and they do not use drugs, and they do not have acne. Life is great!
Okay, so maybe our skin may not be clear and smooth, not all of us should be driving cars, and many of us have a whole new version of medicinal drugs…but you get the point. There is no time to wait to be the you that you always wanted to be. What are you waiting for?