Tag Archives: opinion

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. . .

 

Those After Christmas Sales

I sympathize with my California friend, Eva S, who lost a sock  somewhere in the stratosphere (www.notesfromthecupcakerescueleague.wordpress.com/). My loss has been much greater—I lost 3 giant rolls of silver and gold  embossed Christmas wrapping paper plus 2 boxes of sparkling-snow-scene-with-cute-puppies Christmas cards. I know I have them because I fell for that after Christmas sales of wrapping paper, bags and cards that were 75% off at the store. I felt I was a giant step ahead for next Christmas when I had my supply of cards and  gift wraps. And yes, I did put them away in a safe place so I could put my hands on them as soon as the month of December loomed into sight. It was tucked in such a safe place I couldn’t find it when I needed it.

After Christmas sales, also known as Boxing Day Specials—can be a boon to some but disastrous to others. First of all, there is no such thing as a “bargain”–not unless it’s in the technological field and at least 80% off, if they want me inside their store. I remember my friends camping out overnight just to be the first through the door when the electronics store opened on Boxing Day. Back then, there were some great bargains.

My dilemma with the missing wrapping paper and cards came to the fore-front when Hubby and I walked past the card-shop. Yep, there were boxes and boxes of cards plus stacks of glittery, Christmas-y wrapping paper AND all for 70% off the regular price. I’m not falling for that this year–besides  it was a bit more reduced last year. Hubby and I walked on by.

I know I have at least 3 past post-Christmas sales of wraps and cards tucked somewhere in a secret hidey-hole. AND I just know that when I need some special occasion wrapping paper, my Christmas ones will fall out of the closet instead.

So Eva S–don’t worry about your missing sock. It’s probably with my missing wrapping paper and cards. Somewhere, they are commiserating with other misplaced items until their owners  finally reunite with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WILD AND FREE

Nature is having a tough time surviving in this 21st century. With new developments claiming virgin forests, untamed wilderness and spectacular scenery, the wild life are being pushed out of their natural habitats and forced to forage in urban and rural areas for their survival.

Victoria is synonymous with gardens. No matter where you are or where you look as you roam the city, gardens and flowers are everywhere. Now, there are signs  for something new. By the scenic road that winds past the prestigious Victoria Golf Club, there are signs that warn motorists to watch out for Mama Duck and her numerous babies. Mama tends to lead her ducklings across the road at the worst moments and always, there is the rebel duckling with his/her own sense of where it wants to go. Lately there have been new signs popping up around the city. These signs show the silhouette of a Mother Deer and/or Rabbit with their off-springs. It is a warning to motorists that these wild-life frequently cross the road. It made me stop and ponder how the deer, raccoon, rabbits, squirrels and occasional cougar can survive in urban settings.

I use to work in an acute-care hospital outside the city limits and built on a piece of cleared wilderness. It is a strategic location for highway or industrial accidents happening north of Victoria. It is also a great dumping place for pet rabbits no longer considered cute after Easter came and went. The few existing wild rabbits were no doubt rapturous at meeting such an abundance of eligible bunnies. The rabbits did what rabbits do when meeting their soul-mates. It didn’t take long to notice hundreds and hundreds of cute bunnies hopping, nibbling and doing what rabbits do, literally covering the massive grounds above and tunneling beneath. It is a marvel of bunny engineering the hospital foundation didn’t sink due to all the hundreds of interconnecting tunnels proliferating underground!

There were occasional cougar sightings. These wild cats ventured down the highway, crossing city limits in their search for food. It seemed ironic they had missed the best feeding grounds enroute to the city. It may seem cruel that these plump furry bunnies could have been some cougar’s dinner, but this is Nature’s way of culling the rabbit population. Humans spent months on agonizing debates and discussions to decide how best to cull the rabbits. Volunteers raised the necessary funds and labour to humanely capture thousands of rabbits that were supposedly shipped to a “rabbit refuge” somewhere in Texas. A few “escapees” found their way to the University of Victoria’s undeveloped and wooded areas where they happily settled to do what rabbits do best–creating the same problem in a different location.

When Hubby and I moved to our house, we were amazed to see our first deer stroll casually past our front yard. Initially, it was a novelty to be so close to something wild as it ventured into our neighbours’ yards to nibble at the roses, azaleas and daisies. I’m talking about an established and developed urban neighbourhood, well within the city limits. In the past few years, the deer problem became very real and very serious.

Like the rabbits, there have been numerous committees, discussions and debates on finding a humane solution to the deer problem. For every person against shooting or trapping the deer, there is someone vehemently for. At the moment, the deer have been left alone. This is not as humane as it seems for these beautiful animals are literally starving from human kindness. If they had been left to survive in the wilderness, it would be by survival of the fittest. Left to survive in urban surroundings, there is not enough food to sustain these animals and their constantly expanding families. The deer are becoming aggressive and extremely territorial if any humans cross their path. They are merely protecting whatever “turf” they have managed to keep in their daily fight for survival.

A decade ago, the city belonged to humans. It was rare  to see any wild animals strolling through the neighbourhood. Today, deer, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and the occasional cougar are a common sight because people are driving them out of their natural habitat. It really makes you reconsider that dream-house with the spectacular view and the woodsy backyard. Which Nature’s  creatures was evicted from their wilderness home to give you yours?

Dark Chocolate Heaven

I love chocolate.  If it’s Belgian chocolate, 70-72% dark, that’s really great. But if it happens to cover small pieces of dried mangoes or tart cherries with roasted almonds, that’s the absolute best!  Costco is my favourite place for sourcing out any Belgian dark chocolate fruit or biscuit. Their supply seems to change all the time.

The big jars of 70%  Belgian  Dark Chocolate Clusters of Tart Cherries with Roasted Almonds, were available for at least three trips to Costco, before these jars disappeared forever. It was replaced with 70% Belgian Dark Chocolate Dipped Slices of Dried Mangoes and believe me, there was nothing “dried” about the mangoes. The entire chocolate treat was tasty and the fruit was moist enough not to taste like dried shoe leather. But then again, how can anything dipped in dark Belgian chocolate taste awful?

The mangoes simply disappeared one day to be replaced with 70% Belgian Dark Chocolate Almond Bark with almond slices sprinkled generously throughout the thin chocolate slabs. These almond treats were packed as thin pieces inside a sturdy paper bag. Needless to say, these replacement treats were too deadly to ignore. This involved several trips on the highway to replenish the dark Belgian chocolate supply of almond bark, but on that last trip, there was also a 70% Belgian  Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Bark as well. It too was deliciously decadent.

I was at Costco yesterday and the almond bark, as well as the pumpkin seed bark, has disappeared to wherever the cherry almond clusters and the mango slices in dark chocolate retire to. In a prominent place on the aisle, there were bags and bags of—yep, you guessed it–70% Belgian Dark Chocolate Dipped Figs. Figs? Yes, figs. And let me tell you, I’m not especially fond of figs, but in my case, I think you can chocolate dip a lima bean and it would be great—as long as it’s dipped in Belgian 70% Dark Chocolate.  Um-mm, anyone heading to Costco. . . ?

PLASTIC REWARDS

I just realized something—plastic is the 21st Century mode of monetary exchange and rewards. I have my credit cards from the major department stores, the debit card from my bank and my Visa card. I also have each of my vendors” “Reward” cards, of which I counted at least six.

Reward cards are rather annoying, but does have its positive side too. For my “Air-miles” card, it’s good because this is flashed each and every time I head to my favourite grocery store. I actually do accumulate points which eventually gets me a minimum of $10 off my grocery bill. Often, certain products in the store will give you 2, 5, or 10 extra points just for purchasing—and, of course, the store’s wily marketing expert makes sure it’s a product that needs to be tossed in the shopping cart. With the extra points collected, the total needed for the discount gets accumulated faster.

I  have a reward card for another grocery competitor. It, too, works in much the same way, but instead of actual money being deducted off your bill, “cashing” in some of your points will net you “free” merchandise such as breads, milk, eggs, butter, veggies, etc. including travel tickets. Since I don’t have teenagers to boost my food bill, it takes longer for my Hubby and I to build up enough points for any  travel tickets. A number of my friends, who have growing teenage grandkids, have had enough points accumulated for several airline trips.

I also have reward cards to two pharmacies. One is a national chain and it doesn’t take long to accumulate enough points to take $10 or $20 off your bill. It helps if you have to purchase your meds there. The other pharmacy is also a chain but with individual owners, so my reward card is for one location only. Needless to say, this pharmacy, plus the others in the chain, is much more than a drugstore. One has to traverse through half the store before you actually reach the serious pharmacy stuff. BUT, it is always an adventure to slowly traverse through the fun stuff like unique pieces of frivolous, costume jewelry, fun magnets, funny mugs, unusual decorative knick-knacks, colourful silk scarves and so much more to stop you in your tracks—definitely a distraction from the serious stuff.

I have a plastic rewards card from my Esso station. Points are accumulated each time I fill my gas tank and eventually sufficient points gets me a free tank of gas. That one took me a year to achieve. In the meantime, one can cash in the lesser points for free cups of caffeine, lottery tickets or snack foods.

I also have a reward card for my favourite stationery store. It gives a discount each time I purchase my paper, pens, ink cartridge for my printer and so much more.

Besides the plastic cards, I do have a cardboard reward card from one of my bakeries.. You have to purchase 20 large loaves of any of their breads and when the card is filled, you get one large loaf of your choice free. And, I do have a flower card that is punched each time you purchase a $20 bouquet. When this card is filled, you get back a free $20 bouquet.

In case you think I’m a push-over for reward cards, I did refuse a few reward cards that are entered into the computer, eliminating the need for you to carry the card with you. I figured these computerized cards will track your sale preferences, where you are and so much more. Those marketing Pooh-Bahs definitely know how to do their jobs!  However, even though my other reward cards probably do the same thing, it’s much more rewarding, don’t you think?

A Writer Writes

There is an old Chinese proverb that says: A bird does not sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.  This can be paraphrased to apply to writers:  A writer does not write to seek an answer; a writer writes because he/she has a story to tell.

Writing a story is very much like cooking creatively. Anyone can cook chicken, fish or a roast, but to present a tasty meal, well, that takes creative talent.  I’m talking the kind of meal where the aromas not only tantalize the senses, but stirs up the taste buds and sets your tummy to humming in anticipation. By the time the veggies are plated artistically alongside the main entrée and placed in front of the hungry diners, the cook instinctively knows that he/she doesn’t need that special prayer to the Kitchen God because the cook knows the meal will taste as good as it looks.

It’s the same with a good story. Reading the cover blurp may entice readers to sample a few beginning pages. And, if those first two pages doesn’t grab you by the throat, then the writer has lost that initial momentum; that initial advantage of luring readers into his story early.

Canadian crime writer, Grant McKenzie, created a throat-grabber with one of his early books, “Angel With a Bullet.”  Writing under the pen name of M.C. Grant, the story is told in the first-person voice of a female journalist named Dixie. Judging from the excerpts, I immediately liked this ambitious, feisty and funny reporter who counted ex-boyfriends in lieu of sheep on those hard-to-fall-asleep nights and would, no doubt, end up working on her ex-lover’s messy murder staged like an apparent suicide. All this from the opening chapter. Doesn’t that make you want to rush out and find a copy of “Angel With a Bullet?”

James Rollins “Blood Line” is another thriller that captured my attention from the first sentence: They once called her a witch and a whore.  Of course I had to read more but since it’s frowned upon to read the entire book in my favourite bookstore, I bought it.

James Patterson and Howard Roughan’s “Don’t Blink” hooked me with a delicious description of Manhattan’s  Upper Eastside “Lombardo Steakhouse” and reeled me in after page one because I just knew something terrible was about to happen. And my killer instincts were right.

Writers not only have to reel in their readers, but once the readers are hooked, keep them anxiously turning the pages. That’s what the great writers do—give readers that unexpected. I like the unexpected, that special twist.  Like a creative cook who can toss together crimini mushrooms, sautéed beef chunks, fresh oysters, herbs, seasoning and chopped veggies–all simmered together with a bottle of dark ale to make this hearty stew for those cold nights by a cosy fire. I didn’t know combining the unexpected could taste so good!

Books that hold you enthralled, captivates you with words, feeds your imagination are often the product of creative writers who wield a magic pen. I salute all creative writers, artists and cooks—you all deserve that celebratory glass of bubbly for producing your masterpiece.

As I said at the very beginning: A writer does not write to seek an answer; a writer writes because he/she has a story to tell–a story that needs to be told as only you can.