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.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Big Changes are Happening!

Well, we are right back into the groove of our messy old ways of housekeeping. But this time, we have a good excuse. Our house has sold, and we are packing! Yep, it has finally happened.

We have a confirmed move date. The movers will be here two weeks from today. As we are packing everything except the fragile items, art, and electronics, we have a lot of packing to do.

The Moving Dates

Rob already has started on the packing. Since the conditions came off on the sale of the house a few days ago, he has packed the entire family room (aka the man cave). He has brought home boxes and made a dump run. Meanwhile, I have been going off to the office frantically trying to wrap up a project before the move. Then I will pack my office.

Mountain of Boxes

Although I haven't packed much yet, I haven't been completely uninvolved with the moving plans. I have been doing the coordinating and arranging. I have arranged the move dates, and a pickup of furniture that we will be donating rather than taking with us. I have been working through the checklists of moving tasks, and stripped beds not in use and washed all the bedding in preparation for packing. I have begun going through our home filing cabinet sorting and throwing away papers - so much paper! How did we ever accumulate so many files of useless junk?

Recently, my son made a final visit here to sort through all his stuff and decide what to keep and what to donate or toss. He packed up his room. Now he has gone back to BC and is house-sitting our new house for us.

While he was here, we took some time out for a day hike on the eastern slope of the Rockies. We did one of our favourite hikes, one to Sofa Mountain. It is a hike up into a cirque, mostly through alpine meadows. The scenery is spectacular, and includes three waterfalls. At this time of year there are so many wild flowers. Of course, we picked a really hot day for our hike, and we're glad that we had brought a water filtering pump so that we could replenish our water bottles in the creek.

Jude, Rob, & Kate in the Lower Meadows

Wandering Through the Cirque

Hikes to Sofa Mountain and elsewhere in Waterton Lakes National Park will be one of the fond memories that we will take with us when we leave this area.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Painting Canada's Landscapes

     Prairie Landscape

I began painting several decades ago. I started taking community workshops in oil painting when I was a highschool student in a small northern Canadian town.

I was part of the baby boom generation that created a bulge in the school system. There were more students than classrooms or teachers. During my elementary school years, it was typical to be placed in classes of 40-42 students. We pushed our desks together to make double rows so that we could all fit into a standard-sized classroom. By the time that I reached junior and senior high school, the demographic bulge was putting pressure on the availability of elective courses. For example, in Grade 8, there were not enough spaces in Home Economics classes, so a few girls were allowed to opt to take shop classes instead, for the first time ever.

One of the ways that the bulge affected me is that my highschool discontinued offering Art 11 and 12, and the teacher was reassigned to teach other courses. I always had loved doing art, and was disappointed that I would not be able to take Art as an elective in highschool. So, I signed up for evening adult art classes.

My parents bought me a portable easel, and I used my babysitting money to invest in a starter set of paints, brushes, and canvas boards. Our instructor, Quentin Robbins, taught us the basics of oil painting. On wintery nights, we painted a series of still life scenes that he set up for us, or scenes from photos. However, Quentin's real passion was painting landscapes. He especially like to paint rural scenes of old tumbledown barns.

I discovered that I too loved to paint landscapes. I continued to sign up for painting workshops as a teenager. However, after I left my hometown, I rarely had opportunities to paint. Sometimes a decade would go by between periods of painting. But this last five years, I have made it a priority to find time to paint. I haven't painted as much as I would like -- maybe 2-3 hours a week or every two weeks.

      Plein Air Painting at Coutts' Centre

One of my new discoveries has been en plein air painting. I love to stand outside in a field or near the mountains, painting. One truly gets a sense of a place by painting on location. Sure, there are bugs, wind, changing light, and weather to contend with. But it is such an intense experience.

A couple of weekends ago, I attended a plein air paintout at the Coutt's Centre for Western Heritage in southern Alberta. It is a family homestead that Jim Coutts donated to create a heritage centre. It is a spectacular location for painting outdoors, with a number of heritage houses and barns on the homestead, gardens, fruit trees, wooded areas, and a pond. The mountains are visible in the distance, and there are many sculpture pieces tucked away along the various pathways.

I set my easel up at the edge of a lawn dotted with large boulders. They were arranged similarly to a sundial, but one of the other guests told me that he believed that they represented a teepee ring. Beyond the circle was an area of tall grass, then bushes, and behind that a barn, trees, and sky.

Because I wanted to finish my painting during the day, I used a small canvas, 11x14 inches. Although I prefer to paint larger, I have found through experience that that I cannot a finish a painting in one session if I start with a larger canvas.

My position behind a large cluster of bushes was perfect; it protected me from the wind which otherwise might have blown my easel over. The only problem was that there was no shade there, so I was standing in full sun all day. However, I slathered myself with sunscreen and went to work.

It was a magical day. Although I find that my plein air landscapes have a rougher, less finished look, there is nothing like the experience of being immersed in the landscape and really looking closely at it.

      Blocking in the Willow

I also have started a small studio painting recently. It is from a photo that I took in Grand Forks, BC, in the springtime. A couple of large weeping willow trees near the river were just coming into leaf. The evening sun illuminated them, creating a brilliant yellow flow of colour. I haven't gotten far with that one yet. My painting time has been limited with all the of business of buying and selling houses and preparing to move.

Painting is a wonderful mental holiday from everyday tasks and worries. Landscapes, to me, represent something important about Canada. This is why I am writing about landscape painting on Canada's 150th birthday.

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