Dear Vancouver Island….

I love you Vancouver Island. Truly I do. Although sometimes you behave like a ‘bad-boyfriend’…a really bad one!

When I met you, many summers ago, you were charming like no other. I was smitten. When we began to go steady in the summer of 2013, our relationship sparkled with promise. When I moved in during the summer of 2015, I shouted our love from the mountaintops. I could not have been happier. Then winter came. You were sullen and moody. Your cloudbursts were constant. It was difficult to be outdoors with you. I felt trapped inside. Everyone said that you had never been like this before. “Be patient,” they said. “This is a one-off. It will pass.” Summer came, and I believed them.

But you must admit, dear Vancouver Island, the past seven months have been rough. You have been cold and unpredictable. Yes, many of your relations far and wide had similar rough spells. It didn’t make things easier. That was them. I had believed with all my heart that you were different. You were the chosen one. Your unpredictability became worrisome. Truth be told, I considered breaking up with you.

Then last week, you started to flirt your warmth again. Ever so slowly your dark, gray moodiness began to lift. Not full time, but enough for me to see glimpses of your bright, intoxicating smile. At ‘Fire and Ice’ (that amazing ice-carving-hot-chili-eating festival that is a small sample of your island uniqueness) you flaunted your sunny and colourful side. Due to your unpredictable nature, I bought tickets to an indoor Shari Ulrich concert. At intermission, you beamed, beckoning everyone to take their break outdoors and bask in your radiance. We all did. Ironically, Shari, a fellow Islander, included a song that she wrote while walking her dog in the island rain…have a listen below.

This past week, my parents visited from out-of-town. Not completely hiding your tempestuous nature, and despite a few damp spells, you were a gallant host. You provided my mother with a wonderful Mothers’ Day. High Tea at Milner Gardens, MARS Garden Tour and a meandering drive to visit family in Sooke were highlights of the week. Even mom thought I had been too tough on you. “How could anyone not LOVE Vancouver Island?” she reprimanded.

You now promise an exceptionally warm summer. “Warmer than usual” are the predictions. Although I’m determined to stay strong, I know that I will fall helplessly under your spell one more time.

Happy Mother’s Day from Vancouver Island (and Happy Birthday Jo-Anne Tattersall)!!

Views from the same yard five months apart.
Vancouver Island: Qualicum Beach Annual Fire and Ice Festival
Qualicum Beach, Fire & Ice 2017.
Shari Ulrich - Who also lives on Vancouver Island
Shari performing “Rain, Rain, Rain”. Watch it here
Vancouver Island: Visiting family in Sooke.
Temporary sunshine while visiting family in Sooke.
Milner Gardens, Vancouver Island
Mother’s Day High Tea at Milner Gardens.
Vancouver Island watercolour by Pauline Pike
Along with highlighting a sample of private gardens, the MARS Garden Tour also showcased the works of local artists. Shown here is a reprinted water colour by Pauline Pike. Notice her portrayal of Vancouver Island! (Pauline gave permission for her work to be included here.)
MARS Garden Tour, Vancouver Island
Happy Mother’s Day from Mom, Me, Richard and Dave on the MARS Garden Tour (notice my rain jacket and rain boots…just in case)!.

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!!

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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?!

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?

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A Walk in the Hood

My friend, Louise, has a house and family in California. Still, she returns to Vancouver Island for a few months every year.  “It’s the small towns out here that continue to lure me back,” Louise has frequently proclaimed. “There’s just so much going on…so many cool things to try out….It’s never boring!”

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Today was an excellent example to substantiate Louise’s claim. For the first time in weeks, Richard and I awoke with nothing written on our calendars–no one expecting us anywhere, no place that we had to be. You’d almost think that we would lounge around in our PJs all day, drinking coffee and reading the Sunday News…that would make sense, wouldn’t it?

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Somehow that didn’t quite happen. The SPCA was hosting their “Paws for a Cause” walk at ten a.m. at a park nearby. That was a respectable hour to begin, and you didn’t need to register in advance. We made it there in plenty of time for signup (as well as to dig into the complimentary coffee and donuts). We then joined local dog owners, and their dogs of all shapes and sizes, for a two-and-a-half kilometer walk along our town’s beachfront. The scenery across the shoreline was in full majestic splendor, complimented by the crisp September air.

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Afterward, we joined in a few dog-themed games. Cody came in second in the ‘bobbing for hotdogs’ contest (seriously, we were shocked) …but dead last in the ‘sit on command’ game (that was no surprise at all). After the humiliation of the second contest, we headed to our local Starbucks. I had recently sampled their new Salted-Carmel Mocha, and I heard it calling my name!

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Sitting outside at Starbucks, we saw a sign for ‘Party on the Drive.’ This is an annual celebration, in one of our beachfront resort areas, that features music, food and a variety of works by local artists. Last year, over 7,500 visitors attended this one-day event (that’s more than half the population of our small town).  We checked Google Maps–it would be a pleasant thirty-minute stroll. That sounded great, so off we went.

It took us way more than thirty minutes to get there because there were so many interesting things to stop at along the way. The ‘Orange Bridge Flea Market,’ the local roadside seafood vendor, a visit to our favorite corner store and the side trip to the estuary that Cody insisted upon, were just a few of our delays.

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We finally made it to Resort Drive, and the event did not disappoint. The wood fire pizza alone was totally worth the entire trip! We spent much time browsing, eating, and listening to the featured performers.

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On the way back home, we stopped at a local fruit and vegetable stand to pick up a few fresh items for dinner.  After our earlier indiscretions of special coffees, donuts, pizzas…and much more, a nice dinner salad was totally welcomed.img_9234

Louise was right. Small town living, especially in an island resort area, possesses a most definite charm! How about you? What is a favorite feature of your neighbourhood?

 

Playing Hooky

Labour Day Syndrome—almost every student and educator has experienced this condition to some degree, even if they call it by another name, or start their school year at a different time. You know, that restlessness deep in your stomach that begins to churn as the last weekend of holidays comes to an end, and a new school year begins. Your mind races with all of the changes that lie ahead. As much as you are caught up in the excitement of that newness, your spirit pleads for just one more day of summer vacation.

This Labour Day weekend my husband and I spent tent-camping at French Beach Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. It was the first camping that either of us had done in over fifteen years. We fumbled along without some important items that we had forgotten to bring. (A comfortable pillow…who knew? An axe that actually had some hint of sharpness…seriously!) Nevertheless, we felt like MacGyver when we were able to make things work with alternate resources…or with Richard’s Swiss Army Knife.

Once we had everything set up, we quickly established a comfortable routine. This included much lounging on the beach, decadent reading time, long dog walks to the general store, and me stubbornly proclaiming that the tracks that we had just seen in the sand were not that of a dog but were most definitely made by a cougar…and quite recently at that! And, if I may humbly add, we had some incredibly delicious campfire meals. Seriously, Anthony Bourdain should have dropped by!

We had booked our camp reservations to include the three days before Labour Day and the one day after (when most other campers would be gone). That meant that the first three days were packed, filled with parents and children cramming in the final days of summer. On the morning of the official Labour Day, I awoke to a child’s screams of “I HATE school”, as his parents hastened to deflate their quickly fading, plastic summer gear and re-stuff it all into their van. Poor guy,  he definitely had a serious case of Labour Day Syndrome.

And then a strange thing happened. I felt guilty. Not quit-retirement-right-now-and-follow-these-crowds-back-to-work-guilt (surely, you jest)! But it was raw guilt none the same.  I know, I know.  I may have mentioned in more than one post that retirement (so far) had been a relatively easy transition for me. And I believe that it has been.

But still, the feeling that I was supposed to be doing something else…like I was currently ‘playing hooky’ was there. And it makes sense. For 53 years, I had experienced a finite last day of summer holidays immediately followed by the first day of a new school year. I acknowledged the feeling, respected it, and then let it pass.

I am now calling upon all retirees, and retirement bloggers, out there. Has retirement guilt caught you by surprise? If so, how have you handled this?

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French Beach Provincial Park is an amazing place to camp, or even just visit for a day hike or picnic lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shout out to French Beach Market and Owner/Artist Christopher Lucas.If you are ever anywhere near Sooke, BC, I highly recommend stopping by. Five dollars will buy you a coffee and muffin (with chocolate spoon included), or a hot shower and towel, or a much-needed bag of ice. And Christopher will gladly give you a tour of his artwork which is incredibly impressive!11400971_1400217626975575_6683808287373456558_n 11400984_1400217610308910_4584297985122178868_n img_9105

Canada 150 Mosaic: My (Brief) Stint as a Painter

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

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My Tile

 

 

 

 

 

-1More of Parksville’s Initial Mural

An Unforgettable Evening

It had been a perfect evening on the beach. The campfire was intoxicating and the s’mores (with their melt-in-your-mouth chocolate, and gooey marshmallows, precisely smushed between two crispy graham crackers) had never tasted so good. While we savored our meticulously roasted treats, marvelled at the majestic skyline, laughed and reminisced, our dog fervently dug a hole in the sand. Did I mention that it had been a perfect evening? We truly thought that it had been.

The next morning, when we went to take our dog, Cody, for his walk, he could barely move. His eyes revealed a horrifying and unmistakable pain. We immediately drove to a nearby animal clinic. A blood sample revealed a higher than normal reading for Cody’s liver. The vet sent us home with some medicine for Cody to take with his food. After hours of patiently trying to coax Cody to take even the smallest sip of water, it was painfully clear that Cody would not, or could not, eat or drink.

We drove back to the vet. An x-ray was taken. The result: Cody’s intestine was fully impacted with sand. How was that even possible? Cody has a (very well-deserved) reputation for being the most finicky dog around –almost always sniffing his food with extreme caution — and then refusing anything not to his liking. Why would he eat sand?

Apparently, dogs digest sand more often than we would think. Sometimes, the sand is simply consumed by dogs picking up sticks, rocks and tennis balls on the shore. At other times, dogs find a piece of discarded food on the beach that they gobble down–sand and all.  And, most likely in Cody’s case, when dogs are digging with their paws and snout, dirt or sand is inevitably swallowed.  It can all happen in the blink of an eye. If the sand accumulation is not diagnosed correctly and quickly, the results can be costly—and worse—they can be fatal.

Sand impaction is caused by sand entering the intestines, aggravating the lining and creating a blockage. Symptoms of sand accumulation in dogs include: refusing food, lethargy, nausea, diarrhea, dehydration, and pain. As the sand impaction does not allow food to pass through the intestine, vomiting is commonly associated with this condition.  A mineral oil solution was given to Cody to help loosen the sand and get it moving.  This treatment should only be administered by a veterinarian as mineral oils can lead to aspiration phenomena if the dog then begins to vomit. Other treatments may include: IV fluid therapy, stomach pumping, medications to break up the sand, and surgery. It can take days for the sand to pass through completely. For Cody, the oil concoction began noticeably working within seven hours. Twenty-four hours after that, the sand had all passed, and Cody was back to his old antics. Insert immense gratitude and relief here!

What did we learn? All of the above. We had no knowledge of this condition previously. However, our biggest takeaway was not new learning; rather it was an invaluable reminder.  In less than an instant, the most ordinary, or even blissful time, can go horribly wrong. In our retirement, Richard and I have been extremely grateful for our time together and our time with friends and family and with Cody (who turns eleven in June). This incident made us more mindful of slowing down to appreciate all that we have.

As for Cody, are his beach days now numbered? Absolutely not. He loves the beach and has been there countless times before. But, going forward, we will be much more vigilant. And, Cody will be totally busted from digging on the beach from this point on!

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Hope for the Driven Personality

In the time leading up to my retirement, if I had been given a dollar every time someone expressed disbelief that I would actually be content not working, I could have retired much earlier.

“But WHAT will you do?” and “Aren’t you afraid of being bored?” were common questions.

Focussed, organized, passionate and diligent, the words “relaxed” or “laid-back” were seldom used to describe me. Early on, I had begun to read much retirement research and had other research quoted to me. In short, it wasn’t good. With everything from failing health (due to the sudden decrease in activity and pace) to struggling marriages (due to the dramatically increased togetherness…and misplaced bossiness) it appeared the more driven one was in their work-life, the more dismal the predicted retirement outcome. I eventually gave myself a break from reading the research, stood with my husband on the retirement bridge and we leapt.

So far, on the other side of the bridge, the same “A-Type” features of my personality have actually become my savoir. Being cognizant of the research that I had read, I knew enough not to slow down abruptly. So I did in my retirement life what I did in my work life – I immersed myself. Housing, and then house set up took on a life on its own and included numerous intricate details which proved to be a fantastic transition from the world of work. I then did what every sixth grader who first starts Middle School knows to do, I got a copy of the activities sign-up book and I joined, and joined, and joined! Not all of the activities stuck (e.g. cake decorating…. I was a disaster)! But through the good and the bad, I was involved, present, met great people and continued learning about myself. And some of the activities did stick. I recently attended my 60th yoga class after joining only three months ago. Yoga has provided multiple benefits – physical fitness, mental relaxation, and meeting really cool and interesting people. As there are a variety of different classes nearby and a pay-one-price monthly pass, there is no excuse for me not to attend.

My husband recently commented on how at ease I seemed in retirement, and how well I have adapted. He has found his retirement transition to be a bit less seamless. Although he is happy to be retired, he misses the excitement of an international legal practice, the camaraderie with his colleagues and the daily challenges and responsibilities that his work provided. We both greatly enjoyed our jobs, appreciated our colleagues and, to a large extent, defined ourselves through our work.

What helps some people transition more smoothly into retirement than others? It is likely a myriad of factors, perspective playing a significant role. For me, I have felt a similar awe and wonder to my initial retirement as I did when I first began working internationally, and the first time that I stood in front my own classroom, 35 years ago, and began to teach. Viewing retirement as an exit or as an entry, as a new chapter, or a separate book closed, underscores everything else that follows.

With the combination of this perspective, and my driven personality, I have fully immersed myself into my retirement. I continue to wake up early with a burning sense of purpose – there are meals to be made, daily routines to address, yoga classes to dash off to, emails to answer, company to prepare for, reading that I want to do, blog posts to write, trips to plan, children and grandchildren to visit, new passions to explore… the list never runs dry – and it changes regularly. Yes the tasks are different from when I worked – which helps to makes even the mundane new and exciting. Also, after many years living overseas, I am immensely grateful to have regular, uninterrupted time with family, friends and self.

Although I am relatively new to retirement, I haven’t grown a third limb…at least not yet! My biggest take away from all of this? There is definitely cause for hope and optimism for driven personalities in retirement. Be true to yourself and play to your strengths. Go forth with a healthy mixture of pre-planning, openness and wonder. Talk to others about their retirement but know that the retirement experience cannot be forced and no two retirement experiences are the same. And on the flipside, don’t believe everything that everyone tells you. Your footprints into retirement will be unique to you–be thoughtful in preparing to shape what they will look like.

Location! Location! Location!

I am currently watching the snow steadily stream down outside the window of my home on Vancouver Island. Although snow is not a common sight in this particular area, nothing surprises me here, which makes me love this small town (population 12,300) even more.

Shortly after we moved here we noticed that so many other people, usually retirees, were new arrivals as well. (Seriously, is anyone left in Calgary?) The common question asked at these meet-and-greets was “why did you choose HERE?” This question was often especially directed at us since we had moved from Beijing and had never lived on the Island previously.   Invariably the most common answers included:

  • Mild temperatures and Mediterranean-like dryness which have given this region the nickname of “Canada’s Riviera” (today is definitely not a good example)
  • Reasonable cost of living
  • Minimal traffic and less hectic pace
  • Endless outdoor sports and activities, including numerous golf courses nearby
  • Uncrowded and unspoiled sandy beaches
  • Miles of pristine hiking trails–shared with black bears, cougars and other wildlife
  • The ability to live close to family, usually in Vancouver, while still giving everyone their space
  • Can golf in town and then ski at nearby Mt. Washington on the same day (although today you would have to be a true die-hard golfer, and a bit of a kook, to even dream about it).

Our personal answer to the “why here” question definitely includes all of the above. We had done quite a bit of exploring and research. From our initial visit, Parksville-Qualicum instantly felt like home.

As it is the emotional side of retirement that most interests me, I am keenly aware of what a huge role location plays in quality of life. In our global world people no longer need to live where they always did, and this is especially true in post-work life.

My husband, who was born in a very, very small town, likes to joke about living in a small town once again. The pace can be very slow, the person in front of you at the grocery store checkout always seems to have a (long) story to share, it is difficult to find a restaurant open after 7:30 p.m., nightlife is virtually non-existent, finding a doctor who will accept new patients is like winning the lottery and if the ferry doesn’t run… well, you simply do not go.   Also, as the average age in Parksville and neighbouring Qualicum Beach is 58.2 and 63.9 respectively, my husband also often refers to local gatherings and events as “the sea of grey” — um honey, have you looked at our own birth certificates or driver’s licenses recently?

Comparing the list of island advantages to the list of complaints about small town living, the decision to live here was a good one for us. Stay tuned for the post on bad decisions; we’ve definitely made a few!

My best retirement advice? Take your time, look around, think outside of the box, and then carefully choose where you would like to live –not where you, or others, think you should. Consider all of the quality of life factors no matter how mundane they may seem at the time. It is the smartest investment that I can suggest.

 

 

Retirement Reflections…and Beyond

Happiness Revisited: Donna Connolly

Somehow I am feeling behind on this blog even before I begin. I retired in June 2015 and had optimistically believed that I would have begun blogging that same month excitedly documenting my transition into retirement, and our lives back in Canada after 14 years living in Beijing, China. Two years ahead of time we had purchased a retirement home on Vancouver Island that we had earnestly planned to renovate before unpacking our stuff and moving in ourselves.

June was a whirlwind with catch-up with friends and family, visitors and settling into our vacation rental. July was filled with intensive pre-renovation work. August our youngest son competed in the 50K race-walk in the Pan Am games taking us to Toronto. August also saw the birth of our first grandchild … that started its own flurry of activity. Somewhere in the end of August we came to the stark realization that although we loved the home we had purchased, it wasn’t the right home for us at this time, nor did we really want to do the amount of renovation work required at this point in our retirement. September was the month of trying new things… canoeing, curling, bird watching, yoga and newcomers club. October we did the housing switch and purchased, and moved into, a renovation-free home (at least so far). November was the unpacking of over 100 boxes, some of which had been in storage for 14 years (honestly, the boxes were way over-packaged, but still, it was a lot of stuff). December was getting ready for Christmas…where we creatively housed our four sons, their partners and our grandson…totaling 10 people asleep on Christmas Eve in our 1700 square foot home (some of them sleeping more comfortably than others). This brings us to January 1, 2016. New year, fresh resolutions… a perfect time to take the leap and actually start this blog.

One of the delays in starting to blog was fear of lack of content. Although each day was filled with new adventures, what would I actually write about? And for those of you who are already retired, when would I actually find the time to write (trust me, I would never have understood this sentence pre-retirement). If I had actually taken the time to write during the June – December initial retirement whirlwind, here, in random order, are a few blog post titles that had briefly flashed through my mind, and what you may have been able to read about (or duly ignore).

And We’re Off!

Books and Coffee

Travels with a Siberian Husky

Housing, Housing and more Housing

Discovering Kijiji

Good Deals, Bad Deals and Bad Deals Disguised as Good Ones

Is there a Doctor in the House?

Rain Boots

Bringing Out My Inner Foodie

Starting to Relax

The Ever-Elusive Downward-Facing Dog

How I Murdered My Food Processor

Island Newbie

Busy! Busy! Busy!

So, if you think you might have liked some of those posts, feel free to leave a comment or suggestion. Now that I have this blog started, my New Year’s resolution is to write weekly and see where 2016, and this new adventure, take me.

Donna