Reflections from a Half-Marathon

We spent this past weekend in Victoria, BC, watching our youngest son, Creighton, compete in a half marathon. A priority for our retirement years is to attend family events as often as we can.

It was a beautiful weekend—with our dog in tow. While waiting for Creighton to pass by the 16 K loop, we spotted an ocean view bench with a bouquet of flowers. That type of sight always saddens me.  This time, it hit me even harder. The bench was dedicated to Taylor, who was born in 1988 – the exact same year that Creighton was born. She died in 2004. That would mean she was just sixteen years old. I shuddered. How much in my own sons’ lives have I taken for granted that Taylor and her family have missed?

I became lost in a mixture of emotions — sadness and joy, fear and gratitude. My husband called my name, jolting me from my introspection. Our son was running past.

Creighton finished the race in second place (21 K in just 1 hour and 18 minutes). Without him knowing anything about the memorial that we had seen, he thanked us for being at the race for him.

My major realizations in retirement include: Life is short; family is everything; gratitude makes us truly alive.  I never want to lose this perspective.

 

 

Does Retirement Equal Irrelevance?

I’ve been surrounded by thoughts on irrelevance.

A blogger, that I recently began to follow, shared that she was overwhelmed with feelings of non-importance as she completed her final term of full-time work and prepared for retirement.

While I was mentally composing a reply, I glanced at a television program that my husband was watching. Irrelevance of the aging seemed to be the entire plot.

My head reeled with frustration.

I fired up Google and typed in the words “retirement” and “irrelevance”. The first article in my search encouraged me to embrace, and enjoy, my insignificance. The second suggested that I get a tattoo.

I wanted to scream!

As I near the one-year mark of my retirement, it is a great time to stop and reflect.

I loved my job, had tons of responsibility, and people regularly sought my advice. I worked with incredible colleagues and was part of something in which I truly believed. I am very proud of that. When I retired, my position was filled by an exceptional candidate who continued on where I left off. No chain was broken. I joked as I left that within a few months everyone would say “Donna who?”. It made people laugh. But it wasn’t really a joke.

Since I’ve retired, I have regained blissful heaps of family time. Throughout my retirement, I have had the privilege of extended, non-rushed, quality time with my husband, my sons and their partners, my mother, my stepfather, my niece as well as my husband’s family. I was able to be there the day that my first grandchild was born. I will be there again when our second grandchild is born this coming November. I have been able to spend time with my dearest of friends—one of whom I have known for over 44 years and others who have crossed the divide from colleagues to lifelong friends.

I am no longer responding to a job description. There is no one to whom I must report. I have been given the freedom to be me. Full on.

All of the people mentioned above are a significant part of my life. They are my life. I have known some of them for their entire existence, or for mine. They are unconditionally there for me, and I for them. When one of us is no longer here, there won’t be a posted job description or replacement. As with my father, my sister and my grandparents who have preceded me, a chain will be broken. But also, like these cherished family members, we will continue to live on in each. People will recognize my mom’s smile in mine; my laugh in my son’s.

I close my eyes and shudder at how lucky I am to have the luxury of uninterrupted time to spend with the people that I love. When they call, I can and will be there. I have never felt so relevant.

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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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On Blogging

One of the bloggers that I regularly follow just announced that he is ending his blog–or at least thinking about it. He hasn’t achieved the objectives he had set and is feeling the pressure of constant posting. He is witty and insightful. His posts make me laugh and reflect. Selfishly, I hope that he does not stop blogging.

It’s funny; I never really understood blogs when they first came out – and for many years avoided them like the plague (shhh, please don’t tell). Then I realized that much of what I was looking up on-line were actually blog posts – recipes, travel tips, how to fix this, what to do about that. Those on-line posts offered more than just information – they had a story and personality behind them. Then, when I began to plan my retirement, I was lucky to come across some great retirement bloggers. I loved the short, to-the-point snapshots of others who had retired ahead of me. Even when I disagreed, or couldn’t really relate to a particular experience, the posts made me stop and think.

Being a blog reader, I have found creative solutions to a variety of dilemmas. Blogs have offered voices of experience when I have ventured into a new territory. They have entertained me, made me laugh, and have had the power to move me deeply.

When I began blogging myself, I rediscovered the joy of creative writing – I had forgotten how much I had missed it. I was also able to keep in touch with friends and family around the globe and make new connections. I was able to shout to the hilltops my praise of another. My blogs have caused me to reflect deeply and to think things through in a new light. I didn’t have a particular goal when I started blogging – but I have been enjoying the process and the possibilities.

To me, starting a blog is like learning a language, playing a new instrument, or starting a new fitness routine. If you stop just because you reach a plateau, you will never know the rewards that may lie ahead. There have been a couple of bloggers I have followed that have now stopped blogging (or have taken a really long break). For me, it was like close friends moving away.

I get it…I do! It’s work and commitment. There are other things to get done. It is hard to constantly put yourself out there.  People may think that you stink.  But it is also exhilarating and challenging. And as the attached photos show, you can do it anywhere. I’ve actually composed several of my posts in the car, and two of them in the hospital waiting room. (Men over 65 + baseball = injury…irrefutably!)  Blogging can also give you something constructive to do when your spouse, for a random example, is caught up in watching too much Trump, or your youngest son (when back in town) is working on his research. And when you’re in the ‘zone’ there are few places better.

Of course, there is also the added dimension of reader comments. When sincere, and thoughtfully written, these comments have an incredible power to change writing from a solitary act to two-way communication and community building. Albeit, sometimes the community that we end up creating is not what we originally envisioned. The UK blogger mentioned at the start of this post, had set “the single goal of building an online community of retired men.”  While he may not have achieved that purpose (at least not yet), there is a community out there–and this response post is proof that it exists!

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Thanks, Mom!

Out of all of the gifts for which I am most grateful, being blessed with a kind, caring, and generous mother stands out among the best. This single good-fortune has helped prepare me for so much that followed.

I grew up with the confidence that comes from having a central person in your life always believe in you, always be there for you, and tirelessly support your dreams—even when they seem to be impossible. Countless times my mother has eased my mind from what, at the time, felt insurmountable. Consistently, she has modeled determination, courage, and gumption. She has taught me not to confine myself to anyone else’s mold or expectations for me.

Also an incredible grandmother, a successful business woman (now retired), an awesome cook, and an eloquent dancer (to highlight just a few of her talents), my mother has instilled in me the belief that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to do. And, as the attached recent photos reveal, she is also gorgeous (sorry to embarrass you here, Mom)!

How can you adequately thank someone who has endlessly shown you infinite love and unconditional grace? Although I am not sure that this can ever be fully achieved—I vow to give it my best try!

Geek alert: According to recent surveys, more phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than on any other day of the year —37% more in fact! Other surveys have shown that Mother’s Day has the third highest attendance at Church, coming only behind Christmas and Easter (ironically Father’s Day does not have this effect on Church attendance – and even ranks behind attendance for Homecoming Day).

The North American version of Mother’s Day was initiated by Anna Jarvis, in 1908, as a time to honor the sacrifices that our mothers have made for us (source). (source). Ironically, Anna, who was never a mother herself, became disillusioned by the commercialism that resulted–something that she had never envisioned or intended.

Being a lover of holidays and special occasions, I am grateful that today has been set aside to reflect on all that our mothers have done for us, and to thank them in our individual ways. As for me, I will start with this blog (my mom is kindly a devoted reader)! And to Anna’s chagrin, today will also include cards, and presents (as well as phone calls and Mass). But mostly, for me, today is a day of reflection and the deepest possible gratitude for all that my mother has done. I will be eternally grateful for being born and raised by such an incredible woman.

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On the Road Again: Traveling Through Canada’s Western Provinces

We have now completed our 4,900++ kilometer road trip from Parksville, British Columbia to Winnipeg, Manitoba and back. The primary purpose of our trip was to visit my niece and attend the interior design exhibition that was part of her master’s program. The time spent with my niece, as well as the exhibition, were both totally amazing.

Also during our travels, we were able to watch our eldest son join 42,000 others in the 10K Vancouver Sun Run, catch up with Richard’s best friend from 7th grade, in Cranbrook, BC, and visit relatives both in Edmonton, Alberta and Kelowna, British Columbia.   This trip has helped me to check off all Canadian provinces and territories, except for Nunavut, from my ‘been there’ list. I feel bad about Nunavut, but somehow Richard wasn’t game for us to add an extra 2,382 kilometers to our trip  just to complete my punctilious checklist…harsh, I know!

An unexpected takeaway from our travels was an even deeper appreciation for the sheer breadth and beauty of Canada than my husband and I already had. When planning this trip, we were constantly met by choruses of “Why Winnipeg?” and “Prepare for the most boring drive of your life!”  To the contrary, we were never once bored on our drive. Rather, we were greeted by scenic views of rolling farmlands, statuesque granaries, quaint towns, cool cities and brilliant flocks of Snow Geese en route to nest on the Arctic tundra. We passed two people wearing large signs saying that they were walking across Canada (one of whom was carrying a canoe on his back). We visited Canadian places with funky names that I was totally jealous of when I was in Primary School (Thus, we now have photo ops from Medicine Hat, Moose Jaw, Indian Head and Cut Knife…to name only a few.) We frequently diverged from our main path, whether it was to drive through the curious arches of Russell, Manitoba or to explore a bit of Lloydminster which sprawls across both Saskatchewan and Alberta. Llyodminister is Canada’s only border city incorporated by two provinces that share a single municipal administration (very cool!). And in Winnipeg, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, along with its current exhibit by blind photographers, was simply incredible…. definitely do not visit Winnipeg without stopping by!

The other bonus of these travels was that we were able to refine our road trip skills even further. During our last long car trip, we struggled to include everything that we would need, and eliminate all that was unnecessary. This time, we more successfully refined our packing, while still preparing all of our own meals (except for when eating with family, or during included motel breakfasts). And before you start imaging horror dinners of Fritos and granola bars…we ate very well with most fare including chicken/turkey, rice, dairy, veggies, bread/pita and fruit/nuts for dessert. These road trip meals were definitely healthier for us, with less time spent trying to find appropriate restaurants or waiting for our orders at the end of a long day, and it was a huge cost saving for our three weeks away.

Our next planned road trip is a much shorter one from Parksville, BC to Seattle, Washington this coming June. Our youngest son will be traveling with us to compete in the Rock N Roll full marathon. As our dog will also be in tow, we will need to reduce and refine our road trip skills even further. All creative car-packing suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

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Words on a Page

When working on my last post, and reflecting on ‘lists’ and on what I would miss, the following memory was provoked.

Many years ago, I was asked to select ten words, out of 100 listed, that I believed named what was most important to me. “A personal values assessment,” I said aloud. The examiner was unamused that I had so quickly predicted something that she had wished to reveal much more slowly.

Despite being given that ‘test’ more than 20 years ago, I remember the majority of words that I chose as if I had selected them yesterday. Although I have gone through many personal changes since that time, I believe that I would still choose most, if not all, of the same ten words today. That seems so strange and yet quite comforting at the same time. My life is much simpler in retirement, and hey, wasn’t I supposed to gain deeper wisdom as I advanced in age?

While I believe that the majority of my core values have remained the same, I know that many of them are now manifested quite differently. For example, diligence is a word that defines a large part of me, but how I now choose to apply that diligence is quite distinct from what it had been in my work life (including many of the benefactors). ‘Acceptance,’ ‘accomplishment,’ ‘acknowledgement,’ ‘challenge;’ are all secondary pillars for me (not my top ten, yet still important). These aspects of me have significantly altered in my retired life and now seem more personal and less extrinsically centered than ever before.

I did a search on-line to see if I could find the same (or nearly the same) assessment that I had taken those many years ago. Although I didn’t find the exact one, I did find others. The first one cited below is closest to the test that I had taken—although this version is much longer and comes with accompanying pages on eliciting and prioritizing your values, etc. , etc. (values1, values2, values3).

What do you think? Have you noticed a significant change in what you now value most from what you did previously? For those of you who are retired, do you see noticeable value differences as you simplify your life?

Photo Credit:  https://www.canva.com  NB – Words listed on the sample photo are not all my “personal words” (although some of them are included).  Rather, this picture shows a  broad sampling of words that are often included on Personal Values Assessments.

The List

Recently, I’ve been in a Nora Ephron phase. No, not lying around watching endless hours of ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ or ‘When Harry Met Sally’.

Jennifer Abrams, a communications consultant that I follow, mentioned Nora’s ‘What I Will Miss and Won’t Miss” list from I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections. I picked up a copy of Nora’s memoir and was immediately drawn into the funny, clever, and uncannily relatable stories (although to my knowledge, I was never in a smoke-filled New York newsroom in 1964, I now feel that I have been). I became engrossed in Nora’s style, fascinating life, and striking honesty.

What did disappoint me, at least upon my initial reading, was Nora’s ‘list’. Maybe I had built it up in my mind so much that I unrealistically expected more. I was sad that her ‘Will Miss’ section ended with ‘pie’ and that Nora directly referred more to missing food than to missing people (People: 5, Food: 10). This got me thinking about what would be on my list.

I haven’t yet set out to tackle either section of my list fully, but I do have some items floating around in my head that definitely will be included. Since I believe that I will never lose the essence of the most important people in my life, it is the little things about them that often come to mind.  I will miss:

  • My husband’s uncontrolled fits of laughter when he is alone watching TV, or reading, and thinks that no one is listening
  • My son’s habit of ALWAYS eating when we chat together on Skype (and since he will think that this point is lame– I will also miss the incredible travel that we have experienced together)
  • My stepsons’ storytelling – I laugh even anticipating their versions of a particular family event
  • The antics of our 11-year old Husky, most of which he learned from our Lab (who is very much missed)
  • The inspiration, and confidences, of my friends
  • My niece’s cut-to-the-chase honesty – and her deadpan delivery of this truthfulness
  • Being a grandmother
  • Shopping with my mother–which has nothing at all to do with shopping, and everything to do with my mom
  • My sister. I have missed her every single day for the past ten years

And if including food, it would have to be hot corn-on-the-cob, generously salted and dripping with melted butter…followed by fresh berries with vanilla ice-cream.

What I won’t miss includes meanness, arrogance, and self-righteousness in all of their related disguises.

Nora provided 31 items that she  ‘will miss’ and 23 items that she won’t.  This gives me plenty of room to continue with my own list, as I have much more to add.

What about you? What’s on your list?

 

 

 

 

 

Paint Night

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.

It wasn’t.

“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?

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Finding the Art of Saying ‘Yes’

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!

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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).