New Beginnings

Retirement is not a word in my dictionary–that is, if I ever had to create my own word dictionary–retirement would never find its way in there.

There is something very final in the word retirement. Perhaps, it’s the connotations in today’s world. After all, if a person has been happy enjoying their work/profession for decades, then suddenly thrust into leaving a job they love because of their age or because of circumstances that forces an early retirement or just an excuse to make room for a younger, less expensive workforce,  retirement must seem like the end of a useful life.

I like to think of retirement as a graduation–a graduation to a life of freedom to do what you have always wanted to do. There is no reason or excuse not to become that full-time artist or writer or craftsman because we did finish school, got a real job and made something of ourselves. We have left behind our footprints and hopefully helped create a responsible world–at least, a teeny-tiny portion of a world where we have helped people and made a difference in someone’s life.

Now it’s your turn. You can seek your rainbow with an adventurous spirit. You can satisfy your insatiable curiosity for knowledge in matters unrelated to your previous working life. This is your time to fully leap into your part-time hobbies or activities that you always thought would be your full-time job when you retire.

Sound familiar? We have all said this at some time or other while we toiled away at our jobs. Now it’s official. You can do all the things you had thought about and regretfully put aside because other things like family responsibilities and life’s crisis made it impossible back then.

And hey, you know that age thing that got you retired in the first place? Don’t listen to those nagging voices telling you that you are too old to climb that mountain or fly that plane. You are too young not to aim for the moon, the stars and the rainbows.

Go ahead. Graduation is for everyone–not just the young. The world is really your oyster now because you have earned the right to grab your dreams and make them come true. After all, you have the battle-scars to prove it. So let’s raise that glass of bubbly to a New Life and New Beginnings–it’s waiting for you.

(This is dedicated to two good friends who recently retired after working a total of 82 years between them.)

 

It’s Good For You

Some people thrive on exercise. You know, the hard physical sweat of toting those bales and lifting those sacks. Being the 21st century, this is equivalent to the various metal monster gym machines that tests your physical abilities to the max.  Me? I’m the gal that loves anything stimulating the mind. If I can find an exercise that’s fun, stimulates the mind and gives a good work-out, you’ll find me there.

I’ve signed up for Jazzercise, Line-dancing, Golden Zumba, Burlesque-fit, Hawaiian dancing, Taoist tai-chi and the latest dance trend, Nuline dancing. All of these choices were fun and not at all like a dreaded exercise class.  I really enjoyed my “work-outs” as it also tested your memory in remembering the sequence of moves. They were all challenging and entertaining.

Recently, I signed up for the Yang style of tai-chi—learning 22 moves in 6 sessions. The lady registering me typed the last digit wrong and I found myself in a Qui Gong class instead. The brochure described Qui Gong as “These gentle, flowing movements combine breathing, movement and concentration to increase strength, flexibility and endurance while relieving stress.” Participants were further informed that Qui Gong was similar to tai chi, but easier to master as the movements were simpler. Well, here I was and I decided to give it my best efforts.

Glancing around the room, I noted there were 30 adults/seniors ranging anywhere from 55-80 years. I decided to stand near the oldest person in the room. This strategy would supposedly make me look more co-ordinated, especially if the elderly senior looked as if a puff of wind would knock him over. We chatted and his name was Ben. Ben was 82 and loved Qui Gong.

At first, the breathing exercises, movement of the arms and shifting of body weight did feel like tai-chi, even reminiscent of a hint of Hawaiian dancing. As the simple moves and holds progressed to more serious moves, Qui Gong felt like isometric core exercises with a dash of yoga thrown in.  If done correctly, it was like a “stretching” workout. Ben was doing it fluidly and effortlessly.

The instructor came over to assist me.

“I’ll support your arms above your head while you relax your body.”

Sighing, I stood straight. raised my arms above my head, bent my knees into a comfortable “sitting” position, relaxed my midriff by breathing through my belly button, tucked my chin onto my chest while fiercely concentrating on remaining loose and pliable. Then still gently supporting my arms straight above my head, the instructor whispered in my ear, “And don’t fall on me.”

Well  for goodness sakes, who can  hold that pose without laughing? I went home and glumly told my Hubby, “I will never make it as a monk.”

And he replied, “I hate to tell you this but women can’t be.”  Thank goodness. . .

 

The Little Things in Life

Over the years, I’ve found that it’s usually a series of little things that have a way of making you pause and savour; even pause and contemplate the oddities or action of that particular moment that captures your attention. If you’re receptive to noticing the little things, you may find that there are several occurrences during your busy day. My favourites are the little vignettes that springs up to make life interesting. And even if you find them annoying, hey, don’t sweat the small stuff—just let it go and remember to keep breathing without popping your blood pressure.

Whenever I can, I try to do a daily power walk. This is usually a 5 kilometer fast-walk that takes me through neighbouring streets, the Village and Bowker Creek Park. Sometimes I head in another direction that takes me along a scenic water view, million dollars estates with its lavish landscaping, the Marina with all its sail boats and yachts docked neatly side-by-side and a golf course that’s divided by a busy street. I find that when I walk, I can see things that are easily missed when I’m driving my car. Today I witnessed the mini-drama of a Dad teaching his 4 year old daughter to ride her bike. “Pump your legs, Carly. You have to keep moving your legs so your bike can keep moving too,” he encouraged. As his daughter got into the rhythm of biking, he casually let go of his hand steadying the bike. A moment of shocked silence and a happy shriek of, “Daddy, I’m biking all by myself!” For a parent, this would be a definite landmark, but for a casual passer-by, this is one of those little things that reflects one of Life’s  happy moments.

I love stopping at different coffee-bars because each place has its own unique quality of coffee beans. And of course, each place has its own unique assortment of home-made pastries that goes with a good cuppa. I decided to pause at the Marina, the half-way point of my scenic water route. With my coffee in hand plus a warm sausage wrapped in flaky pastry, I sat at a small outdoor patio table, enjoying the warm sun and watching the dockside activity. At the next table, a young child of about three years, sat between her grandparents. The couple were enjoying their coffees and sharing a plate of French fries with the toddler. Their obvious joy and delight of having their granddaughter for a brief period was evident on the couple’s faces. Grandpa picked up a French fry, dipped it into the small dish of ketchup, popped it into his mouth and chewed with gusto. The tot’s eyes grew wide with wonder. Grandma passed a small piece of French fry to her granddaughter who carefully imitated her Grandpa by dipping it into the small dish of ketchup and popping it into her mouth, chewing with enthusiasm and apparent delight. Grandma was about to pass another French fry to her granddaughter, but a seagull waiting greedily for his moment, grabbed the French fry with his beak and triumphantly flew away. Seeing both her grandparents laughing at the antic of the seagull, the little girl laughed too. This was such a delightful family scene for it was impossible not to smile at the toddler’s introduction to French fries and scavenging seagulls.

My homeward route took me past the Scented Gardens. This is one of my favourite places to pause for each  season brought scented flowers and fragrant shrubs for the enjoyment of people with low-vision and/or no vision. For those with vision, the colours, combined with the scents, creates a pleasant interlude. Whoever planned the garden made sure the scents were mere whispers, not cloying; it tantalized as its faint perfumes drifted by.  It remembers a time past when people actually sat and enjoyed a beautiful garden.

Life’s simple pleasures are often little things that are taken for granted, unnoticed,  yet there for anyone to enjoy.

The Flower Count

One of Victoria’s quaint annual customs is the “Flower Count”,  held in early March, usually two weeks before Spring officially arrives. The idea is to have volunteers and anyone with time on their hands, counting each bloom that pops out of the ground and officially entering it as part of the flower count. Those of us who abhor such boastings are pessimistic enough to feel the same bloom was probably counted five times by other volunteers.

Victoria was often the first to send their daffodils and tulips eastward. These blooms proved that Victoria had the mildest climate in all of Canada as well as the mildest winters. We seldom saw snow that lasted more than a day. We do have a lot of rain which is where the term “liquid sunshine” and “galoshes weather” comes into play.

But braggarts eventually do get their come-uppance. I remember one March, just as the flower-count got officially underway, the first snow-flakes began their lazy dance to the ground. Within a few hours, the bare pavements were covered in snow and the first signs of panic hit the City. Volunteers scurried frantically to make sure each flower had been counted and registered, including every daffodil bloom on the farms.  The snow kept falling and people began their slow migration home. Buses ran late; taxis were rarely seen empty; cars slowly and cautiously inched along the snow-covered roads. Victoria drivers are not good at driving in snow, even if it was newly fallen. The next morning, there was exactly 1-1/2″ of snow on the ground that had frozen over during the night. Victoria drivers are even worst driving on ice. There were three times as many “regulars” waiting at the bus-stops. By the end of the day, the snow/ice had melted and a light rain washed away whatever snow remained.

And the flower count continued.  That year was one of the best totals ever. . . .

 

 

Mittens

This post “From the Laundry Room” has been reposted to “Chocofigbee”–Tracy is my “soul sister” for nibbles at the computer. . . .

From the Laundry Room

I might be addicted to Wintergreen Life Savers.

I wasn’t aware a person could become addicted to Life Savers, save the rainbow candy ones. I thought wintergreen was safe, but I now have mint burn on my tongue because I’ve been eating handfuls of these suckers every day.

I’m trying to escape the “just one more” death spiral that usually only happens with Tootsie Rolls.

It started out simple enough, I have two jars on my desk—one for Jack’s treats and one for my treats. I sit at my computer a lot, so I need something light. As much as I like the concept of keeping M&Ms or Tootsie Rolls at my desk for those times I just want something sweet, that is not how I am made. Remember the jelly beans?

If I were to put anything remotely yummy in that jar, I’d have to refill it every night and size up…

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HUGS

My enormous Webster dictionary defines a hug as “to put the arms around and hold closely; to embrace tightly and affectionately.” That was the first of Webster’s four definitions. It all sounds very clinical and seems like a detailed scientific observation. My version? To be up close and personal,  sharing a very warm embrace in the arms of someone you care about and love.

Hugs are personal. It takes a special person to break down my barriers and venture into my private space. As you may have guessed, I’m not a spontaneously huggy person, especially when the Holiday Season rolls around and the hugger-muggers are in their full, sneaky mode. The hugger-muggers’ version of a hug is more of a boozy grab-and-squash rather than a nice, warm embrace that says “I’ve missed you–welcome back.”

I’ve ranked hugs in 5 categories, from the bottom of the list to the top. Number 5 is the boozy grab-and-squash. Now that I’m older and less agile, I thought I was safe from these but when the alcohol fuels the brain and clouds the vision, anyone under the age of 99 is fair game. I’m older and wiser now so I avoid these socials like the plague since that’s where the known grabbers hang out.

Number 4 is a grabber with finesse. He/she will be charming and chatty, when suddenly he/she will declare, “You’re so cute I just want to hug you to bits,” and before you can say, “I know my martial arts,”–you’re grabbed and squashed, but unlike #5, you’ll have a 2-second warning.

Number 3 is a puzzler. He/she will appear shy and quiet so that you feel obligated to chat with them. After all, who hasn’t been to a social function where the only person you know is somewhere in the crowd or making a late entrance and you’re grateful to have someone chatting with you. Sometimes, I find real gems as that particular person would have a fantastic background by being current in political events, music, arts and books besides being a veritable who’s-who of people in the crowd. On parting, he/she gently holds your hands and lightly air-hugs. In case you’re unfamiliar, this is like an air-kiss except it’s a hug that makes no contact, but is almost a hug.

Number 2 is a hugger by nature. He is like everyone’s “big brother.”  He will give you the same exuberant hug he gives his football buddies, his golfing buddies, his college buddies and anyone else he works and plays closely with. I’ve only encountered this in two of my male friend,, but I think it’s a compliment that they feel comfortable knowing that I will return their hug with an enthusiastic sisterly one. As for any consequences, my real big brother and these two taught me my defensive moves. . . .

Number 1 is the cream-de-la-crème of all hugs. This one is the up-close and personal hug that is caring and gentle and says “I love you” even if you’ve only been away for an hour. My Hubby gives the best hugs and he passes it on to my Mom and I. All his love is contained in his hugs and he doesn’t have to say a word because we know. Anyone who knows a #1 hugger is really, really fortunate–these huggers are rare and are definite keepers. They are caring and loving.

Scientists have done extensive research on hugs and have concluded that hugs help lower elevated blood pressures. Just think, eating dark chocolates lowers the blood pressure and now hugs do too. I may be as round as a jelly doughnut, but my blood pressure is great. . . and so is my Hubby’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Birthday

Birthdays are like jelly-beans—they’re colourful, fun, numerous and tasty. When we were younger, birthdays meant a happy day filled with laughter, family, friends and food–especially cake. Being young, we would anxiously count the years to 16 and our driver’s license; 19 and a chance to cast a vote; 21 and finally considered an “adult.”

Being older, we begin to look at birthdays a little differently. There’s a bit of tension when the 30s, 40s and 50s pass. Suddenly, you find yourself in the 60s and 70s. Where did the years go?

I have a different perspective. My mantra is “You’re only as old as you feel.” And, I feel like I’m still in my 40s–well, okay, maybe some days early 50s. It really depends whether I had a good night’s sleep and my nibble of dark chocolate.

Birthdays are an event that comes around every 365 days; 366 days if it’s a leap year and this year happens to be one. Who decided that we are older each 365/366 days? Why are we supposed to age? Whatever happened to being “young at heart?”  Hey, as long as one has good health, financially stable, a happy outlook and knowing you can do anything you want, (as long as it’s legal)–what more can a person need or want?

There’s so many things to tackle and not enough years to do it all. So far I have tried Jazzercise, Hawaiian Dancing. Burlesque-Fit, Line Dancing, Zumba, Nuline Dancing, Ukulele and Guitar–all of which trains the memory as one moves to music or play the music. It’s been fun and still is as a number the dance classes are social events as well as fun classes.

I firmly believe that we reach a stage in our life where you must enjoy what you have while you can. But one thing for sure, you have to keep moving, no matter what. I intend to keep exercising my body and mind; enjoying my family and friends; relishing every moment of being alive and knowing there’s more good stuff around the next bend. Remember birthdays are only a number and if you’re feeling younger than what the number says, then for goodness sakes, celebrate and enjoy!

It’s been a blast for me the last two weeks as I embrace another birthday and thankful I have family and friends to share the moment. Happy Birthday to all my January friends–keep moving and dive into that bucket list now!