Sunday, October 22, 2017

One Small Action

Spawning Sockeye*

Underwater Photography

As we get to know our new community, we have gradually begun to participate in activities and events here. Recently I attended a talk by a noted local underwater and landscape photographer, Eiko Jones. I was not familiar with Jones' work and had no idea what to expect.

As it turned out, I was completely blown away by his fabulous photos. Eiko Jones takes many of his underwater photos in local rivers and swamps on Vancouver Island, as well as in the ocean. His story of how he obtains his amazing underwater or split screen shots is almost as fascinating as the photos themselves. Essentially, he dives down and lies on the bottom of the riverbed, sometimes for more than two hours, taking hundreds of shots to get those one or two perfect images.

British Columbia (BC) and Alaska have one of the world's last great salmon habitats. Many of Eiko's photos showed the five species of returning and spawning salmon, and young salmon fry. Lately, in order to not disturb salmon in spawning beds with the bubbles from his scuba gear, he has taken to free diving.

I have lived in the watersheds of two of BC's major salmon bearing rivers most of my life, and am well aware of the importance of salmon to the ecology as well as to people, especially the First Nations peoples whose livelihoods depend on salmon. Eiko's photos of salmon who had fought their way back to their native stream to spawn and then die, along with his accounts of successful salmon stream rehabilitation, almost brought me to tears. Please click on the links to see examples of his photography.

Elder College Public Lecture

I have just discovered that there is an active Elder College program in my area. They are hosting a series of three public lectures in a nearby community centre. The topic for the speaker series is: Achieving Global Sustainability: A Decent Life For All. Unfortunately I missed the first talk, but I went to the second one in the series, which focused on global climate change and sustainable development.

I am deeply concerned about climate change. An obligation that rests heavily on my shoulders, now that I have retired, is to find ways to contribute meaningfully to society, and, in some small way, to help work toward solutions to the overwhelming and urgent problems that face humanity on a global scale. Climate change is one of many huge, interrelated problems, along with poverty, overpopulation, food insecurity, violence, gender inequity, and so on. It can seem overwhelming and hopeless. How does one even know where to start? How can one person's actions make any difference in the face of such urgent and difficult problems?

But thinking about it that way is defeatist. Trying to put pressing world issues out of mind and doing nothing does not alleviate my worrying about them because I still know the problems are there, like a monster in the closet. Having been present in Eiko Jones' talk, it was fresh in my mind how one person, through his exceptional photography, was gently educating people about ways to rejuvenate salmon streams, and why it is important.

As I listened to the sustainability speaker, I realized a couple of things. One is that almost nothing that he said about the causes and solutions to climate change and global sustainability was new information for me. Over the years, I have been reading and educating myself about these issues.

Another thing I realized is that many people from all countries of the world have been working for years to establish and implement global sustainability goals. In 2015, countries around the world adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This global agenda identifies 17 sustainability goals, readily available on the United Nations website. Also in 2015, signatories to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change agreed to take action to limit temperature change to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius.

So, in contributing my part, I am not alone. I am joining people around the world working toward a shared vision. One plus one plus one is how we get there.

A third thing that I realized is that I have been making choices for decades now to live in ways that are more environmentally conscious. In many little ways, I already have been doing things that align with the UN's 17 sustainability goals. Of course, there are many more changes that I could make. Just as people can join in one by one to work toward a shared goal, an individual can make personal changes one by one, and it all adds up. Here is a list of easy things to do: The Lazy Person's Guide to Saving the World. It is a great starting point.

One Small Act: #globalgoals

Upon coming home from the sustainability talk, I went online and read the UN's 17 sustainability goals. In doing so, I almost plunged into helplessness and hopelessness again. The problems are so big. The goals are so idealistic. 2030 is only 13 short years away!

But then, I decided that although I couldn't solve the problems of the world today, I could do one small thing today.

Goal 2 is to end hunger and increase food security, globally. This is one area in which we have made significant strides over the last 30 years. Although the world population has continued to rise, the absolute number of people in extreme poverty without access to adequate food has decreased. However, poor nutrition remains the biggest single cause of child mortality for children under five. For decades, we have known that the best way to improve the nutrition and health of babies and young children is for mothers to breastfeed. Yet Nestle corporation continues to market baby formula and powdered milk to the poorest countries of the world, making false claims that it is a more healthy choice.

So today, I joined the boycott of Nestle products. This link is to the most up-to-date list I could find for Canada. It includes links to the boycott lists for the USA, UK, and Australia. I printed the list and put it on my fridge. Then I sent it to three other people. That was my one small act for today.

*This is a free public domain photo by an unknown photographer. Follow the links to see Eiko Jones' photographs.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

What Really Matters

There was a time, not so long ago, that I thought I was doing pretty important stuff. Every day, Monday to Friday, I went to my office at 8:30 am and worked very hard. I went to meetings, figured out budgets, prepared agendas, mentored staff, and developed programs. Emails about important issues dropped into my email box all day long, some requiring immediate decisions and action, and others were from colleagues outlining their concerns about initiatives, or sending project updates, or communicating about personnel situations.

I worked so hard that I didn’t have time for lunch. I ate at my desk while reading through an eighty-five page agenda with attachments for the 1:00 pm meeting. I worked so hard that when most of the staff left for the day at 4:30, I would sigh with relief that the texts and phone calls had stopped coming in, and finally sit down to respond to the day’s worth of e-mails, or read a draft proposal, or write a report, or put together an agenda for a meeting of one of the many committees I chaired.

I worked so hard that I didn’t have time for supper. I would eat a snack at my desk and keep on working, finally heading home around 7:30 or 8:00 pm. On my nights to cook, we didn’t sit down to dinner until 8:30 or 9:00. As I hadn’t had time to exercise during the day, aside from rushing between buildings for meetings, I tried to go for a walk each night after dinner. But often I was just too tired. I missed my friends and family, all living so far away, so sometimes in the evening I would phone them, or they would phone me.

It was such important work. I had to give all my time to it. But, even working so hard, and even with a wonderful team who worked just as hard as me, I could never keep up with everything.

The weekends were for catching up on life. There were chores to do, exercise (because I hadn’t had time during the week), excursions with Rob, and gardening. And of course, sometimes there were work events on the weekends too. Even when I wasn’t at work, thoughts and emotions about work issues tended to predominate.

The work was so important.

Except it wasn’t. Now that I have retired, I look back at the life I was living, and I realize that it was crazy. As I wrote the description above, I just kept thinking, “Really???? Did I really believe that working such long hours was my only option, or that it was a good choice?” The new me wishes I could go back in time and shake some sense into the old me.

Stepping out of the workplace into my new retired life has been an experience of major perspectival shift. Not only do my old points of view seem foreign to me and somewhat bizarre, but I am seeing the other nonwork pieces of my life in a new way. No longer bits in the margins of my all-consuming worklife, it turns out that those parts of life are, in fact, what really matters.

I knew that I loved being a grandma. Visiting from afar every three months supplemented by occasional FaceTime was not enough. I could not do spontaneous things with the kids, like I can now that I have retired and moved closer to family members. For example Rob and I recently visited a Naval Base open house with my daughter’s family, as pictured below. My two little grandsons were very impressed with the helicopter, navy ships, and zodiacs at the base.

Captain of the Navy Vessel

Being physically closer to my grandkids, I can sometimes do grandma duty, giving their parents a chance to get away to do something together. Even though our move did not bring us physically closer to our other set of grandkids, we now have more time to travel to their community for visits, or to welcome visitors to our place.

One of the big surprises is how much I love being closer to my adult kids. Now it is possible to go to weekly yoga classes with one daughter, schedule a weekend in Vancouver to attend another daughter’s art show, and go for a hike on the local trails with my son. Yes, we did get together in the past too, but it always involved an airplane flight, and I was always in a state of exhaustion from work. It put a damper on spontaneity.

Fun with Auntie

I have realized that, just as when they were younger, having time to spend with my kids is one of the things that really matters. It doesn’t always have to be a special event. It can be having a cup of tea together, playing together with the grandkids, or walking on the beach. Of course, now that my adult kids are in the stage of life where they are very busy with little time off, my greater time flexibility as a retiree is helpful for making those moments possible.

Digging into Chocolate Cheesecake

My family and friends are at the top of the list of what really matters. This realization does not negate the value of my work contributions over the past decades. In the future I will continue to pursue intellectual, creative, and physical/health interests and activities. In the present moment, I am grateful that I have transitioned to this new and satisfying stage of life.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Why the Angst About Retirement, Dr Sock?

Hiking in the Landscape We Left Behind

Back at the end of May, one of my blogger pals, Donna Connelly, wrote to me and invited me to write a guest post on her blog, Retirement Reflections. It would be part of her Summer Series on Favourite Retirement/Lifestyle Bloggers that she planned to host.

I was thrilled to be invited! Donna's blog is excellent, and I read every one of her posts. The quality of her blog is noticed by others too. Retirement Reflections recently was listed as one of the Top International Retirement Blogs in 2017

Another really cool thing is that I have actually met Donna in person. Last winter, we spent a month on Vancouver Island checking it out as a possible place to retire (and as you now know, we did end up buying a house and moving to the Island). It was fun to meet face to face after first getting to know each other via our blogs. However, I unintentionally created an awkward moment for Donna, due to the fact that I blog under an alias and until recently have not posted any pictures of myself. Donna arrived at our meeting place a few minutes before me, and told the server that she was meeting a friend. The server asked her what her friend looked like, and Donna had to respond: "I don't know!"

Well, I am a person who is motivated by deadlines. So I sent Donna my guest post at the end of June, one day before her requested deadline. (What does it say about me that I was actually proud of myself for sending it one day BEFORE the deadline?)

Donna had suggested that I write about the experience of retiring, as I was just about to retire on June 30. So I did, pouring out my state of mind at the time. I titled it: Over the Threshold into Retirement.

I was filled with angst about retirement as the official date approached. I was focused on what I was leaving behind, and how hard it was to let it go. I decided to use this guest post to reveal some things about my work and identity that I had not blogged about before. Are you a little bit curious? Here is what I had to say:

After months – no, years -- of planning, I finally have walked through the door to retirement. I have received my last paycheque. In a couple of weeks, I will pack up my office at work.  I have bought a house in a different province, in a community closer to our kids and grandkids. And I have booked a moving date.  

Rethinking my Identity 

It has been an emotional roller-coaster. Regular readers will know that I have struggled mightily with the challenge of stepping away from my work identity. What you might not know, as I have not shared it until now, is why I have found it so hard to leave work.     Continue Reading...
An Island Hike
Now as I look back on my state of mind leading up to the decision to retire and the experience of crossing the threshold from work to retirement a few months ago, I kind of chuckle about the angst I felt.  As it turns out, I love being retired! It is an experience of more, not less.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A Day in the Life of a Retiree

So, we have arrived back "home" from our road trip to visit friends and family.

I know I had promised a post on the last half of the trip, but that will have to wait for a bit. I found it difficult to post while travelling because we had no wifi on the road, and whenever we arrived somewhere that had wifi, well, of course we were busy visiting and I had no time to look at my devices. In addition, Blogger does not seem to work well with Apple mobile devices; it could not seem to "see" photos on my new iPhone. So writing a post, and especially adding photos, required frustrating work-arounds. Does anyone else have this problem using Blogger with an iPhone or iPad? I would love some technical hints about what works for you.

But that is not my topic for this post.

I put quotation marks around the word home because, after having spent only 12 days here moving in, our new house didn't really feel like home when we returned to it a few days ago. It looked beautiful, and my son who was house-sitting had left it as neat as a pin. There were our furniture, dishes, clothes, and lots of boxes. The pets were delighted to see us. But we still felt as though we were unlocking the door to someone else's place. I guess it is time to settle in and actually start living here.

During the last few days, along with necessary chores, we have begun to explore the neighbourhood where we live. We have met some of the nearby neighbours, who seem very welcoming and friendly. We have gone to the local coffee house for coffee and snacks. We attended the Farmer's Market. We stopped in at a nearby farm that sells organic and locally produced meats and produce. My daughter's family came for dinner one evening.

Yesterday, we went for a short hike. There is trail access only a block from our house. Five to ten minutes of a steep rocky climb brought us to a viewpoint that overlooks a nearby lake and the ocean beyond.

View From the Lookout

Pausing for a Breather

The trail passed through a grassy open area where there were a number of Garry Oaks. Garry Oaks are the only oak tree native to western Canada, and their ecosystem is endangered. I was thrilled to discover that we have a couple of Garry Oaks on our property.

Standing among the Garry Oaks

There were also many Arbutus trees. These trees are the only broad leaf evergreen native to Canada, and they thrive on Vancouver Island. They are beautiful trees.

Standing by an Arbutus Tree

Arbutus Trees

The summit of our climb was the top of a high rocky bluff with magnificent views of the bay and mountains to the south. In this area as well, we found Garry Oaks and many Arbutus trees.

Hiking Across the Top

There has been almost no rain here all summer, and conditions are very dry. We later found out that the trails we were walking on have been temporarily closed to hikers because of the fire danger. We didn't realize it because the access trail we used had nothing posted about a closure. I guess we won't be hiking there again until we get some rain. Fortunately, rain is in the forecast for later this week.

I think I am starting to get into this retirement groove. Although really, it feels more like a lovely holiday in someone else's house in a beautiful oceanside location.

Here is what I did today:
  • I woke up at a reasonable (late) time, and sipped coffee while doing my online French lesson
  • I cooked a big breakfast, which included fresh blackberries we had picked ourselves
  • After breakfast, I read articles on the Internet about how to look after a goldfish pond. Yes, we have a goldfish pond!
  • Rob and I went for our first bike ride here. It is hilly. I am out of shape.
  • I had a shower and got changed, then walked down the street to a yoga studio in someone's home. My first yoga class here!
  • I walked home in the blazing sun and had a short nap.
  • We cleaned algae out of the fishpond, or rather, Rob did while I looked on.
  • We had a light lunch
  • I caught up on reading some blog posts
  • I did some laundry
  • I watered the garden
  • I unpacked my computer and set it up
  • I cooked a nice dinner -- lamb meatballs (with meat from the organic farm), rice, broccoli, and marinated bean and tomato salad
  • I did some more laundry
  • I wrote this blog post.
Our Bike Ride this Morning

The day that I described above is so very different from my typical day during the last 40 years. Right now, I find it blissful, and am so happy to have retired and made this move.

I am sure that soon enough, a little voice in my head will start to demand that I "accomplish something" each day. But for now, I am going to enjoy every lovely unstructured day, and learn how to just be. Of course, I'll spend some time unpacking boxes too. Tomorrow.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Retirement Bonus

When I decided to retire, one of the big motivating factors was that I wanted to get my life back. Working sixty plus hours a week left little time for creative pursuits and other other interests. As an administrator, I spent 11-12 hours a day sitting in meetings or hunched over a computer, and did not have enough time for regular exercise, healthy meals, and enough sleep. I especially missed having time to spend with family and friends, a problem that was exacerbated by living far away from the people that we loved.

Since stepping down from my administrator position a year ago, and officially retiring in June, I have loved being able to travel to BC to visit friends and family. Now that we have moved, we are closer to many family members and friends and will have the time to travel to visit those who are not as close by.

Just a week and a half after moving into our new house, we set off on a camper trip to central and northern BC. We attended the beautiful wedding of the daughter of our dear friends. I have known the bride since she was a newborn baby, and fortunately had the forethought to bring kleenexes with me to the ceremony!

The Happy Couple

Rob Shares a Moment With the Father of the Bride

Travel to the wedding was not without incident. This summer, BC has been ravaged by wildfires. When we left Vancouver Island, it was shrouded in smoke from fires in the interior of the province. Many communities had been evacuated as the fires encroached on their borders. The highway that normally we would have taken was closed because of wildfire danger. So we took a much longer route, and everywhere that we travelled, the air was full of thick smoke obscuring the sky and the landscape.

The worst of the smoke occurred in Prince George on the night of August 12th. We were at an event and even with all the doors and windows of the building closed, we could smell the choking smoke. When we came out of the building at midnight, apocalyptic ash was raining down from the sky like snow, and all of the vehicles in the parking lot were covered with a layer of black grit. Under the streetlights, the sky was a brown fog, swirling with falling ash. We later found out the the measures of particulate in the air had been off the chart, sixty times the recommended daily average.

On this trip, we visited with our other set of grandchildren. In fact, we were grandparents in charge for a week as their daycare was closed for a summer break. We had fun with the kids, and also with our daughter and son in law, who had just moved into a beautiful new home. We also had a birthday celebration with another son who came for a visit for a few days.

Granddaughter Going for a Walk

Backyard Soccer

Grandson has a Nap

Playground Fun

One of the highlights was taking the kids for a ride on the miniature train, which was followed, of course, by ice cream. Bubblegum was the flavour of choice.
A Train Ride With the Grandchildren

Enjoying some Ice Cream

Some Ice Cream Went into the Mouth

We have gone farther down the highway now, and are still travelling. I hope to do another blog post soon about the second half of the trip.

I feel fortunate to now have the time to travel and spend time with friends and family. Having time to spend with people I care about is my retirement bonus.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Moving to a New House

We have made the big move!

Sunday, July 23 was our last day to pack before the movers arrived. We had left the kitchen until last, along with the bed and bedding. That weekend, Canada had a record heat wave. of course, it had to be the day that I packed up the kitchen! I packed the kitchen in 35 degree Celsius heat (95 Fahrenheit) with the sun beating in. Our house, which does not have air conditioning, was usually reasonably cool because of a long overhanging roof. But not on that day.

On Monday morning, the packers from the moving company arrived. They spent the day packing all the fragile items: dishes, art, and electronics. Meanwhile, we finished packing the last of the bedroom and outdoor items, and packed the camper for our trip west.

On Tuesday, the truck and driver arrived at 8:30 a.m. Four men loaded the truck all day, and they were finally finished at 8 p.m. at night. After they weighed the truck, we found that we had 16,000 pounds of stuff! By late in the afternoon, the house was empty enough that we were able to start cleaning. I began wiping down kitchen cabinets, while Rob vacuumed the basement. After the movers left, we went out for dinner, then slept in our camper in the driveway.

The next day, we cleaned and scrubbed all day, and left the house shining. We finally set out on our journey west at 6 p.m. in the evening. We drove for a couple of hours, then camped near the BC-Alberta border. Another day of driving brought us into south central BC. Rob was driving the truck and had the dog with him, and I was driving the car, and had the cat with me. Because it was so warm, we couldn't stop for more than a few minutes during the daytime, as the vehicles became too hot for the pets as soon as the air conditioning stopped. We timed our lunch breaks to occur in high mountain passes where the air was cooler.

We expected the third day of driving to be a short one. But we had not taken into account the the Friday bumper-to-bumper traffic that choked all the highways in the Vancouver area. It took hours to crawl through the lower mainland, and we finally reached the Horseshoe Bay ferry at 6:00 p.m. At the ferry, we were directed into separate lanes, as the truck is considered an oversized vehicle. Rob had a one-sailing wait, and I had a two-sailing wait. I finally arrived at my destination, our new home, Friday at midnight.

We had a two-day break before the movers arrived on Monday to unload. It gave us time to deal with things like banking, see the kids and grandkids, and buy more hoses for watering the parched garden.

On Sunday, before the movers arrived, I washed the floors throughout the house.

Freshly Washed Living Room Floor

Moving Boxes in Our New House

On Monday morning, the moving truck arrived. They had a hard time backing from the street uphill into our driveway. The driver drove over some of the landscaping rocks, and scattered them down the hill.

Four men unloaded for the whole day. They needed to come back again a couple of days later to finish putting the furniture together.

We now have set up the most critical living areas, but still have many boxes to unpack. The first weekend, I took time out to go to the Parksville Sand Carving competition.

With My Daughter

Grandsons Enjoying the Playground

We are so excited to to have finally made the move! We love our new house, and are thrilled to be closer to some of our friends and family.

And now, after only twelve days in our new house, we have left the house in the care of of my son, and have headed off on another adventure in the truck and camper!

Friday, July 21, 2017

One Last Pie

Suddenly, the days are going by so quickly. In only two more days, the movers will be here. We have been labouring at packing up all of our belongings. The movers will pack the fragile items, art, and electronics. We are packing all the rest. It is physically exhausting.

Yesterday, I finished packing up my office at my workplace and walked away from it for the last time. Rob came with the pickup truck and handcart and loaded up 21 extremely heavy boxes of books and papers. They are banker's boxes, much smaller than the boxes I used when I moved into this office one year ago. I figure that with all the books that I have given away, and all the files full of paper that have gone to recycling, I am keeping only about one third of what was in my office. Still, 21 full boxes -- that's a lot to move.

This month we have experienced many "lasts." The last sushi meal at our favourite Japanese restaurant. The last haircut with my wonderful stylist. The last painting session with my painting buddies at the community art studio. The last pie.

A Raspberry Pie -- It Was Delicious!

A few years ago, I tore out one of the decorative garden beds in our backyard, and planted some raspberry canes, strawberries, and rhubarb. It took them awhile to get established, and this year the raspberry canes are heavy with fruit. So earlier this week, I picked raspberries and baked a raspberry pie. It seems I have finally figured out how to adjust my pie crust recipe for this dry climate; the pie was really good. But now we are off to the coast to move to our new home which has lovely gardens but no raspberry canes or vegetable beds. So we had to have one last pie!

Rather than moving all of our furniture, we donated some of it to a local charitable organization. On Tuesday, two fellows came by with a truck and took away our couch, loveseat, a table, some bookshelves, and so on. However, they took one look at my old oak office desk and declined to take it. They said that no one wants big old oak desks anymore, even for free.

I bought the desk from an office surplus store for next to nothing, and have had it for more than 20 years. However, I had decided that it would not be coming with me to Vancouver Island. The desk was too heavy for Rob and me to move out of the den. So Rob dismantled it, and I am sad to say, cut it up with his circular saw and took it to the dump. He was kind enough to wait until I left the house, because he knew how upset I was about it. The photo below shows my last glimpse of my desk.

Rob Dismantles the Desk

Something we have really liked about living here are all the wonderful hikes and walks in the area. I already have written about our last hike at Waterton Lakes National Park. We have discovered many camping and hiking areas on the eastern slope of the Rockies. Police Outpost Provincial Park is another favourite. Our last day of skiing at West Castle Mountain in March was the best powder ski day we have experienced at that ski hill in all our years skiing there. We were having so much fun skiing that we forgot to take pictures!

One of the things we have loved about our home is that is located right on the edge of the river valley. There are a number of trails nearby that we can access into the coulees and they go for miles.

One of my Last Coulee Rambles with Kate

Last Walk Down to the River with Rob

It has been interesting exploring the small towns scattered across the prairies. The autumn that I had a broken foot, we did a lot of touring by car. Some of the towns are quaint, some shabby or desolate, and some are insular and smug. One little town that we like a lot is Nanton, and also the Coutts Centre near it.

Last Visit to Coutts Centre

It has been an interesting five years. We won't miss some things about the place, such as the terrible drivers, the overt racism, and the extreme conservatism. We are eager to move back to BC, and we love our new house, and its location by the ocean. Now we just have to make it through the move itself.

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This work by Dr Sock Writes Here is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.