Saturday, 30 June 2012

#291: Innovations That Changed My Life (Part 1)

That itty bitty black and white photograph yesterday reminded me how excited I was seeing my first coloured snapshot, probably sometime in the fifties.  It was like a little miracle.

When you think of it, our pre-boomer generation has had a whale of a good time experiencing a lot of neat innovations—probably more than our parents or grandparents, although they had the fun of discovering some real game changers -- automobliles, airplanes, electric washing machines, movie theatres.... 

Because I like making lists, I’ve been amusing myself, as a sort of holiday entertainment (it is our national day here in The Great White North) recalling the innovations that came along and excited me through the years. Mind you, I am a bit dismayed to discover that the things I have most appreciated seem rather trivial compared to atomic power -- but that doesn’t mean that I liked them any less.

Fifty years ago, I was over the moon to have discovered:
  1. PEZ candy dispensers -- What can I say?  Revolutionary!
  2. Cheese Whiz--It was the fifties and I was about 10.  What did I know?
  3. Cake Mixes -- a kid could make a cake.  Cool.
  4. Hula Hoops--Fun, fun, fun!  We all had one.
  5. Hair Rollers -- Goodbye bobby pins!
  6. Panty hose -- Whoever invented these deserves a medal.
  7. Snow boots --I can't believe that for most of my childhood I wore rubber boots over shoes in the depths of a prairie winter.
  8. Polyester fabric -- a dream to sew.  I didn't realize it was ugly until much later.
  9. Swanson Frozen TV dinners -- Oven ready (and I don't mean Microwave)
  10. Television -- it took a long time to get to Alberta.  We didn't own one until 1956.
You try this. I bet your faves includes a few of these must-have items, too.  Anyone can play, of course, but the older you are, the better the list!

Friday, 29 June 2012

#290: Not Losing My Mind

Have you ever lost something (car keys/wallet/wedding ring) and panicked for perhaps 5 minutes—only to experience that voila moment when suddenly there it is, right under your nose? Whew! Crisis averted!  Suddenly the world is a happy place again.  When the horror has passed, my pleasure is so palpable that I sometimes feel that it is worth the anxiety of a small emergency just to experience the euphoria of relief.

Of course, being older, I worry that I might someday truly lose the keys/ wallet/wedding ring and will never find them again because I will not be able to recall the details of mislaying them in the first place.  And I know I am not alone.  The fear of memory loss nibbles at our retired consciousnesses along with all those other aging related fears.

Yesterday, I began to worry that I can mislaid an entire relative, a sister-in-law by the name of Madeline.  I had received a note from a former colleague who confidently forwarded a tiny black and white photograph of this lady to me along with the explanation:  an older gentleman, Mr H, had come into the library to deliver the picture and details of who (Madeline) and where (Grand Bend) to Nancy

Barb, Toni, Wendy, Betty –those are my sisters-in-law.  There is no Madeline.  I was sure of it.  Our extended family does include a Madeleine, but she is my daughter’s sister-in-law. 

There was nothing to do but to call Mr. H, introduce myself, and see if we couldn’t sort this out. I hoped he wouldn’t insist Madeline belonged to me.  Finally we speculated that his Nancy worked at another desk in the library, although to verify the Madeline connection I had to get back to the former colleague who promptly contacted the probable Nancy.   And sure enough....the mysterious Madeline is her aunt. Whew!  (I’ll deliver the picture to her ASAP.) 

Librarians love to solve problems.  It is particularly nice to solve them and know that you are not losing your mind.  Not yet, anyway. 

Thursday, 28 June 2012

#289: Where Jackasses Retire

There is a very special animal rescue facility just outside Guelph: The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada.  It is open Wednesdays and Sundays, so being retired, my sister-in-law Toni and I chose to visit midweek.

Foolishly, I imagined that the Donkey-to-Nancy/Donkey-to-Toni ratio would be 1 to 25 (there are over 50 rescued donkeys on the farm) but the sanctuary was swarming with people.  And no wonder; the donkeys are sweet-natured, gentle and friendly.  Being with these delightful creatures is such a soothing, uplifting experience that I can imagine visitors drop in regularly to see their favourite donkeys, mules or hinnies -- just for a chat and a scratch behind the ears.

Apollo has such a noble profile. Who wouldn't want to pat that nose?
The 53 animals in the sanctuary are unique, each with a distinct personality and appearance.  But they are all rescued creatures, so they all have a past--often an unhappy past--although their stories now have happy endings because the sanctuary meets all their needs with respect and understanding.  The donkeys have opportunities for socialization,  making friends with other donkeys, with staff and visitors.  Chunky donkeys who require a special low calorie menu are together in a special enclosure for weight watchers. Older, more docile donkeys ("The Girls") have their own paddock as do the rambunctious males known to staff as "The Rowdy Boys".  The vet, the farrier, the dentist, and the massage therapist all make regular visits.

Katy and Peter are best pals.

Our donkey education went from zero to sixty in no time flat as we met all the four-legged residents and then joined a school group for a donkey Q & A.  I mentioned to staff that the sanctuary was like an animal rest home.  "Oh, it is", they assured me.  "We care for the donkeys until they die".

So here's one more retirement/nursing home facility that I could visit.  And they use volunteers, too.  

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

#288: I Feel Bad About Nora (And So Do You)

One of my favourite writers, Nora Ephron, has died.  How can this have happened?  She was only 71.

I know you are sorry to have lost this great talent, too, even if you don’t recognize her name.  Because, even if she seems unfamiliar, the movies in which she was involved as a writer and director are not.  Who doesn't love When Harry met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and Julie and Julia.  They are Nora Ephron to the core.

But Nora Ephron was, first of all, a journalist with a genius for turning everyday crises into laugh-out- loud articles and works of fiction. Her mother, with whom she had a rather difficult relationship, once offered advice about writing.  “It’s all copy” was her dubious comfort to Nora when things were not going well.  In other words, “When shit happens, write about it”.  That is just what Nora did, famously morphing a painful divorce from Carl Bernstein into the novel (and the film) Heartburn.     

Along with works of great humour and insight inspired by her family, her parents and her marriages, she also tackled the indignities of growing older (among other topics) in two thoughtful, witty books of essays:  I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing.  I consider these collections required reading for all older women.

It has been my intention to blog about the good (whimsical/weird/amusing/uplifting) aspects of retirement and aging, so technically, I should not be referring to her passing at all. It’s too sad. But , under the circumstance, maybe more Nora is just what we need.  She knew how to find the best in the worst of circumstances. Perhaps the best we can do to celebrate her death is dip into some of her hilarious writing and remind ourselves to keep smiling -- if only to detract from turkey-wattle neck.     

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

#287: Relatively Speaking

My sister-in-law Toni will be returning home next week and we’ll be sorry to see her go.

She is a pitch-in-and-help-out sort of guest, and that is just what she has done for the past month. She has extended our menu options (Bruce won’t eat fish? Too bad!), put together my new composter, and helped plan a 70th birthday surprise for You-Know-Who.  When I acquired 72 large print books at a library book sale, Toni helped to re-label them and today she is going to the retirement home with me to integrate these new items into the collection. 

Toni, don’t leave!  Alberta family and friends can get along without you for a little longer!

When she has visited in the past, I was working and I missed out on the day-to-day hanging around that is always a pleasant part of a long visit.  But this time we have had a very leisurely time together while still enjoying the usual expeditions to Toronto and other destinations in Southern Ontario.  And I keep thinking of other places to go and more things to do.

She’s just going to have to come back again soon. She’ll be able to see if I’m still in love with the rolling compost bin.  She may even hope that I have learned to embrace baking soda as an all-purpose cleaning product.  (Like her older brother, Toni is a whiz at kitchen clean-up.  A bit of a slacker, I am in awe of their speed and efficiency, but I recognize that they were both whipped into shape by that domestic goddess, Dorothy Ryan.  I thought the world of my mother-in-law, so having Toni here reminds me in the nicest way of Dorothy and her many kindnesses.)

And Toni is only one of Bruce's siblings.  For someone from a small family, marrying a guy with four exceptional sisters and brothers has been unexpectedly wonderful.  Too bad they all live out West.

But retirement does mean more opportunities to  visit family, and that is what Bruce and I will do in August when we head for Edmonton, Penticton and Vancouver.  We are pitch-in-and-help-out sorts of guests, too, so the Ryan relatives need to think of a few jobs we can tackle for them. 

Too bad Toni’s own composter is already assembed....  

Monday, 25 June 2012

#286: Long Distance 9 to 5

I can't believe that it took me a whole year of retirement to figure out I can now place overseas phone calls at my convenience.

Of course, I still have to do the phone math.

For example, I recently called a friend who is visiting New Zealand, but first I had to take into account the substantial time difference: Kiwis are 8 hours behind us, tomorrow.   So at 4:00 pm on Thursday afternoon, with a cup of tea in hand, I was able to call my friend in Auckland just as she was enjoying a Friday morning, breakfast cup of coffee.

And since no one was rushing off to work, we has a lovely, long conversation.



Sunday, 24 June 2012

#285: Decking Around

Is it a good thing that I am at home to observe our resident groundhog climb onto the deck and make a meal of my potted petunias? 

I'm not so sure. 
Dinner on the deck. 

#284: A Walk on the Mild Side

For the past few days, while temperatures have been out of control in southern Ontario, I have been going for an early morning walk right in my own neighbourhood.  At 8:30 (that’s early for me), people are leaving for work, kids are going to school but I am free to explore streets I don’t usually see up close at this time of day.  I love it. 

There are no snakes lying in wait (unlike the Bruce Trail) but there is lots of other wildlife.  It’s a zoo out there:  chipmunks, baby bunnies, squirrels, and whole families of cardinals abound.  I have no blue jays at my feeder, but here they are chattering in my neighbour's spruce tree.  I want to give them directions to my yard.

What I most enjoy, however, are my neighbours’ front yards.  Here in Guelph organic gardening rules, and lawns are regularly replaced with assorted hardy ground covers and larger perennials.  No wonder urban creatures are so plentiful. The guerrilla gardeners have colonized the boulevards, too, with various grasses, coneflowers and lilies although this space technically belongs to the City.  So I shouldn’t have been surprised this last week to discover a new trend: boulevard vegetable gardens.  Several tidy plots of carrots, peas, corn and zucchini are flourishing between the sidewalk and the road.

And now I am having the most un-neighbourly thoughts: this will be free food in a couple of months.  Will the rabbits get there first, or in August, will this public display of ripe produce encourage public harvesting?  Will homeward-bound pedestrians passing a boulevard herb garden help themselves to a few sprigs of basil to go along with the carrots and lettuce that they filched from the garden down the street? Or will the lettuce police, retirees all, be watching from their verandahs, ready to chase the culprits with a garden rake? 

Then again, perhaps the gardeners won't care.   What’s a salad between neighbours? 

 I can hardly wait to see how this drama unfolds. 

Friday, 22 June 2012

#283: Before I Die

A conversation with a friend got me thinking about a single item bucket list.

She is a high school librarian, and inspired by the book, the website, and numerous Before I Die walls, she devoted a bulletin board in her library to this cause.  Teachers and students anonymously complete a slip of paper:
Before I die,
 I want to....................... 

and post it for all to read.  Her display had only been up for a couple of days, when she had some action.

Of course, I asked her what people said.  She admitted that some wishes are obvious: guys hoping for sex with a particular school hottie, and girls wanting to marry Zac Ephron.  (Sex postings were removed, Ephron got to stay).  She knows which teachers have posted items and, so far, theirs have been somewhat materialistic (I want to own a Lamborghini).  The most sincere, probably from a girl, says Before I Die, I want to fall in love.

I was enthralled to hear about this project and I could see that it would be particularly appealing to teens whose potential for wishing is unlimited.  But what about us older folks?  Does the “Before I Die” challenge still have any meaning to the plus-65 set, or have our expectations been trimmed to fit our grown-up reality?

For the newly retired, or those thinking about retirement, I think the answer is obvious.  In fact, this may be the most important question we ever ask.  At risk of sounding all Oprahy, I think that we need complete this statement every day, we need to listen to the answer with our hearts, and if the same message keeps repeating, we really need to pay attention.  The desire for a Lamborghini may no longer get us out of bed in the morning, but something else will inspire us.  Hope is a bottomless resource.

Before I die, I want to........................ 

What do you want?

(I think I should just go buy the damn ukulele, and worry about learning to play it later.)

Thursday, 21 June 2012

#282: More Lee Valley Love

When we were shopping at the new Lee Valley Store in Waterloo, Toni and I observed that all the staff, with exception of one youngish woman, were older men.  Old men, some of them.

They were certainly of retirement age, and if I had had my wits about me, I would have chatted them up and heard their stories. I would love to know what they did before they came to Lee Valley. I'm willing to bet that they retired from careers in banking or education or whatever and used their woodworking hobby as a passport to a part time job where they could surround themselves with cool tools and give help to fellow hobbyists.

In any case, I think it is brilliant that LV employs people who look like they know what they are talking about.   Whom would you rather consult about a new lathe or bandsaw?  Some young whippersnapper who doesn't know an awl from an eggtimer or that kindly looking older guy who has an entire woodshop in his basement?

But if the company wins big time, so do these older employees.  They must be so happy to have found the perfect retirement niche where they are actually paid to do what they love.

And I also imagine a lot of happy wives who make plans for "ladies' day out" on those Lee Valley work days!   

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

#281: What Happy Turtles Know

If a happy marriage leads to longevity, (see yesterday’s post), wouldn’t you think that an older couple in a really, really long relationship would most likely be really happy?

Not necessarily.

The Klagenfurt zoo in Austria reports that their 115 year old giant turtles, mated since youth, suddenly want nothing to do with one another and now refuse to share the same cage.  In a fit of annoyance, Bibi even attacked her mate Poldi and chewed off part of his shell so that he had to move out.  The zoo has attempted therapy with the unhappy pair, but to no avail.  They may have to get a divorce.  

But wait.  Before they give up on the Turtles, those zookeepers need to consult other older couples who have had similar experiences.  Every retired husband and wife knows that suddenly living in one another’s pocket day after day after day is crazy making.  Imagine enforced togetherness for over 100 years.  No wonder poor Bibi snapped. 

The secret to a happy marriage in retirement is variety and activity; the partners need to keep busy and engaged outside of the relationship.  These turtles need hobbies.  Or opportunities to volunteer.  They need to feel good about themselves so that at the end of the day, they will have more to talk about than the size of their cage or what’s on the menu.

Come on, Klagenfurt zoo keepers.  Surely you can come up suitable activities for two elderly zoo turtles.   Mascot work, perhaps?  I bet Bibi and Poldi would love hanging out with visitors.
A happy resort turtle at work. 
Keep those turtles cheerful and busy!  In the long run, it will be cheaper than alimony.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

#280: Marriage: Anti-Aging Advantage

If you worry that my husband’s failure to embrace my composting plan with enthusiasm is a threat to our happy domesticity, don’t be concerned.
We’re solid. Bruce and I laugh a lot at one another’s foibles, and what we can’t laugh at, we tolerate.

So I was pleased to get the weekly email from RealAge, a health promotion newsletter which points out that a happy marriage is good for longevity.  Here is the important bit:
One big benefit of a happy marriage is you tend to keep each other in line. You encourage good behaviors, such as going to see the doctor, and discourage wild and crazy ones (e.g., smoking, drinking too much, eating poorly) in one another. You also give each other emotional support through good times and bad, in sickness and in health, which makes your bodies run better and boosts your overall health. Plus, you often laugh together, which is good for your body and soul.

I admit that I read this with considerable relief. Because – let’s face it—“encouraging good behaviours” is my specialty, and now I feel as if I have been given the green light. Sanctioned nagging! Who knew?
So now, when I gently remind brownie-loving Bruce that “you don’t need that” as he reaches for another delicious treat, I can meet his long suffering expression with the observation that “It is for your own good. You will live longer because I am saving you from yourself. I have science to back me up.”

At the very least I will have demonstrated my love.

And he will just laugh anyway, and eat the brownie.

Monday, 18 June 2012

#279: Rolly, the Compost Critter

I was not surprised by my husband's response to the new composter (aka Rolly).

Bruce doesn't see the point.   "The City collects our organic waste.  Now we'll have to sort twice -- green waste in one container and meat scraps and tissues/paper towels in the other."   For him, it is all about garbage.  He isn't the gardener, so he doesn't appreciate the value of turning coffee grounds and carrot peelings into rich (free) soil for my flower beds.

He also thinks that composting will be "work".  I explained that Rolly will need to be fed and exercised/rotated  regularly, and will want to sit in the sun.  I've already picked out a perfect spot at the end of our yard behind our barn (not many urban properties can boast a barn), and you would have thought I was going to put in a dog house.  Bruce's totally predicable comment:   "That's not very convenient.  It is your are going to have to do all this yourself." 

And I will. Happily. This is my retirement project.

And who knows?   Composting could be catching, so Bruce had better watch out.  If  I see him  sneaking scraps out to Rolly, I will want to suggest something even more organic.  That barn would be a perfect place for chickens....

Sunday, 17 June 2012

# 278: Lee Valley Love

My sister in law Toni and I recently made an afternoon, mid-week trip to the new Lee Valley store in Waterloo.  There were plenty of customers -- older men with serious interests and women on a mission to find a perfect Father's Day present for the practical, hobby-loving guys in their life.  But I was there on a mission for myself:  to buy a composter.

Toni, as a big Lee Valley booster, was aiding and abetting this aquisition.  She even had a composter in mind --the Dual Batch Rolling Composter-- and that is exactly what I came home with.

I love it because it is especially good for older gardeners.  The raised design makes the bins very accessible, and turning the bin will be good for developing upper body strength.  Best of all, "some assembly" was required.  The Lee Valley salesman solemnly informed us that we would need to set aside several hours for this task.  "There are a lot of screws", he warned.  "About 70 or so".  Toni and I practically clapped our hands in pleasure when we heard this detail.  A three dimensional problem-solving challenge is perfect for aging brains.  Weren't we lucky to have acquired a composter that had such an unexpected advantage?

It was Toni who got the brain-building benefits, however.  I had a meeting that evening, so she put Rolly the Composter together, single handed.  It did take several hours, and she is now all the smarter for her efforts.

I am so sorry to have missed the fun, but I have dibs on the next piece of Ikea furniture that comes flat-packed.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

#277: B and B and Me

Whenever I stay at a B and B, I imagine myself operating my own charming Bed and Breakfast in a charming historic house in a charming little town.  What a perfect occupation for a couple of retirees.  (And in Tobermory, retiree-owned B and Bs are everywhere.)

My delightful B and B would have tastefully decorated bedrooms, comfy public spaces, and a dining room that overlooks a pretty garden featuring Muskoka chairs, a birdfeeder and a variety of flowers that bloom all through the summer.  But aside from my enchantment with interior decoration and garden design, I suspect that the appeal of innskeeping is, for me  largely social.  I imagine that I would love meeting an endless variety of people and hearing their stories.

Realistically, however,  I can see that a B and B owners need other attributes. A passion for housework -- cleaning and laundry in particular--is mandatory.  Because, while I might be tempted to bid guests farewell and then simply smooth out the unsullied sheets and fluff up the pillows on the queen-sized bed that was used for only one night, that is just not acceptable B and B behaviour.  New visitors deserve new linens.  Those are the rules.

Then there is the "breakfast" part of "bed and breakfast".  It should be substantial, featuring specialties of the house (assorted home made breads and preserves, for example) and served between 6:00 and 9:00 a.m with incredible jolliness and enthusiasm.  Since I am hardly a "person" let alone a "morning person" before 9:00 a.m,  the whole breakfast thing might be a challenge. One is NOT allowed to be a sullen, grumpy B and B host.

So to carry this off, I might need to re-interpret "B and B":  Bed and Book?  Bed and Bath?  Bed and Brandy?

Well, it seemed like a good idea.....

Maybe I should stick to enjoying the charming Bed and Breakfasts managed by other retirees. 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

#276: Overcome by Spandex

The section of the Bruce Trail from Cyprus Lake Campground to Dyers Bay Road is described in the official guide book as the most difficult bit of the entire 800 km. hiking track that spans southern Ontario from Niagara to Tobermory.

Practically speaking, that means hours of slogging-- clambering over rocks, rocks, and more rocks, avoiding slippery roots, and climbing up for several metres only to climb right back down again, over and over and over for 18 km.  I would hate to do this stretch of the trail in wet weather, but fortunately we had a gorgeous day, and when the climbing briefly stopped, we were rewarded with fine views of Dyers Bay.

Not a bad place for a lunch stop.... 

Knowing that Ina (from the B and B) would have talked to many Bruce Trail hikers, we asked her how long it generally took to walk this particular section.  She recalled that the fastest time was about 4 hours, and the longest was 12.

With this in mind, we steadily made our way up and down terrain that reminded us of alpine avalanche fields only to be overtaken by four young people in bicycle gear and running shoes.  They briefly stopped to ask about landmarks and told us they had set out that morning from Tobermory and were intending to walk the last and second last sections of the trail that day.  When they completed the Dyers Bay section, they would have hiked twice as far as we did, and would probably do it in less time.

And so it was -- we actually did walk about of the bush about an hour apart.  While she was waiting to pick us up, my sister in law noticed "the spandex kids" as they exited the trail.   We felt old and creaky contemplating their energy and speed.  We imagined them leaping on bicycles and pedaling back to Tobermory for a game of beach volleyball while we were still easing our sore hips and feet into the waiting car. 

But hold on ...

It had taken us 8 hours to complete our walk, which when you think about it, isn't so bad for a couple of hikers pushing 70. (We should get Ina to qualify her times with details about age!)   Those "kids" are probably half our age--maybe less--so why shouldn't they go twice as far in the same amount of time? 

I need to get used to the fact that everything seems to take longer to accomplish as I age.  It's a good thing that I have more time.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

#275: Work and Play

On our second day, we walked the next-to-last section of The Bruce Trail and we did it in reverse, starting at Cyprus Lake.

An hour into the journey, we met a young man coming in the other direction carrying a huge pack.  He stopped briefly to chat with us, explaining that he had been at the Stormhaven campground on a boulder beach that we would eventually pass. "It's been fun but I gotta get back for work tomorrow."  He gave one of those what-can-you-do gestures and declared "But you have to work so you can play, right?" 

"You've got it," we agreed.

 Now there's one guy who is really going to love retirement.     

Stormhaven campground viewed from the rocky beach.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

#274: Bucket List Bonus

Ina, our Dyers Bay bed and breakfast hostess, has lived on the Bruce Peninsula for 30 years, and confidently told us that it is a mecca for retirees.  She estimated that the average age of the permanent population is 67. 

So one would have thought that we would have had some company the weekday we set out to walk the upper end of the Bruce Trail.  But we were the only hikers, young or old.

All alone in the woods, we were aware of all its noises.  That whirring like an extra-loud cicada?  A massassauga rattlesnake was coiled to strike as we clambered up a rocky slope.  Inches away, a squirrel lay belly-up.  Had we just missed the attack?  Was the snake looking for another larger victim?  We didn't stick around to find out.
Not "our" snake, but close enough.  We were not stopping to take pictures.

The woods are alive with sounds that I fancied might possibly be a bear. (There was one in the vicinity and I was sorely disappointed not to have spied him around a leafy corner.)  Mostly, though, we heard the chatter and song of numerous birds.  Over 240 species live in this corner of Ontario in the summertime, but I only recognized the usual cardinals, blue jays and goldfinches.  From atop a rocky ledge where we stopped for lunch we could hear the faint hooting of two loons, and then we watched as they chased one another in circles on the empty, turquoise surface of the lake.

My most memorable sighting, however,  was at the end of the hike as we drove along a country road. As I pointed out a bluebird box nailed to the fence, I noticed an occupant.   An orange-breasted bird was standing on the roof of the little house.  (Bluebird boxes, in my experience, are always vacant, but perhaps the little guys just go off for the day, like people, and come home in the evening to sit on the patio.)  I demanded that we stop the car, and I rushed out camera in hand just as the bird and his mate flew from their nest into the trees.  Blue feathers glinted in the sunlight as they disappeared. 
Yes, bluebirds are real.

My retirement "bucket list" list is now one item shorter.       

Monday, 11 June 2012

#273: Back from the Bruce

I sort of lied--twice--about our Georgian Bay, end-of-the-Bruce Trail hiking adventure..

Tobermony was the end of the journey (not the beginning) and our packs were not as light I imagined.

At the end of our 19 km. tramp yesterday, I could hardly wait to throw off the pack stuffed with rain jacket and pants, zip-up fleece, water bottles, bug spray, sunscreen, tissues, phone, and lunch.   I guess what I originally meant to say was "on the Bruce Trail we won't have to carry dinner, cooking utensils, toiletries, changes of socks and underwear, and sleeping bags."

Incidentally, it did not rain (it was 25 +  degrees for 4 days) and there was no phone service anywhere on the trail.  But you can never tell.  If we had left the rain gear behind,  it would have rained.  That's just the way it is.

So we did carry the darn packs and therefore got waaaaay more fitness benefit from our walking than if we had just been skipping along pack-free.

That's what I kept telling myself, anyway...

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

#275: Gone Hikin'

The blog is taking a holiday until next week.

Meanwhile, I will be working at staying upright as I walk the last leg of the Bruce Trail from Tobermory to the top of Georgian Bay.

The bad news: 20 kms walking per day is required if we expect to sleep in a real bed at the end of the day and not under a bush somewhere on the trail.

The good news:  no heavy packs, and no mountains to climb.  And I get to spend quality time with some of my favorite people. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

#274: Happy 100th

Did you notice in the news last week that the latest census shows Canadian retirees and soon-to-be-retirees are the new up-and-comers?  My older friends and I may be aging, but we will have lots of company.

The next big group to look out for are the centenarians.  Thanks to improved lifestyles, this group of super-seniors is now proportionately larger than at any time in Canadian history, and is expected to keep increasing.  With any luck at all, we could be celebrating our 100th birthday, too.

With that in mind, I listened with interest when my husband reported on a radio interview that he heard while travelling back from Toronto the day that the census data was released. A geriatrician had been offering advice about exercise for achieving longevity. 

Bruce boiled the physician’s formula for life-long-fitness down to three types of exercise to be undertaken as one ages: aerobic exercise for the first 50 years, weight bearing for the next 25, and exercise for balance and flexibility from age 75 on.

Wow.  Who knew it was so easy? And consider the implications for those of us past 65.

We are well past our aerobics best-before-date.  Whoo Hoo!  Does that mean I can stop trying to run on the treadmill?  (My knees and bladder will be absolutely delighted to heed this advice.) 

As for lifting weights—which I do several times a week—is there a more boring exercise?  Even if I break up the sets into smaller units, I am forever losing concentration and wandering off to check email or put in a load of laundry.  At least I only have six-and-a-half more years to go.

But taking up qigong, tai chi and yoga sounds like a breeze!  Finally, I have something to look forward to as I contemplate my 80th decade.  And I’ve already banked a few hours of qigong postures.  It feels like I’ve started the homework before the assignment has even been given.

So get with the program, folks.  Join a tai chi class! Take up yoga!  Because my fondest hope is that we can blow out 100 candles together.

Monday, 4 June 2012

#273: Little Boxes

I am finally going to do something with the small cardboard box (original contents: six bottles of wine) filled with retirement memorabilia.  It has been collecting dust on the floor of our study since last June when I returned from my retirement party; I put it down and I haven’t touched it since. 

I wonder why I didn’t immediately store the box in a drawer or closet.  Perhaps I thought I would want to peruse the contents at a later date.  Why else would I keep these souvenirs -- cards, photographs, newspaper clippings, the commemorative album created by my former colleagues and assorted other bits and pieces from my work life -- within such easy reach?

I am reminded of a similarly sized box of my mother‘s things on a shelf in the basement.  I may never throw it away.  Sometimes it is just too hard to accept a new reality and denial seems like the best option.

Or perhaps I am more sentimental than I imagined.  Our basement (which does get tidied from time to time) is an archive of our collective past.  Photographs, toys, favourite clothes, camping gear and other miscellanea are all labelled and put away on shelves.

At some point, I will cull the collection because I don’t really want to bequeath a basement full of boxes—even labelled boxes-- to my children.

But not yet.  

First, I need to tackle the contents of the bottle-box. I will throw out the two coil bound notebooks that kept me organized.  ( Did I really think I would find a use, in retirement, for that list of phone numbers or those reminders about a 2010 volunteer workshop?)  I will keep the “librarian action figure” that adorned my desk, and the other mementos.  And I will move it all into another more suitable, even smaller, container and label it "Nancy's Retirement".

There’s a little spot on a basement shelf right beside the box labelled “Mum’s Stuff”.        

Sunday, 3 June 2012

#272: Retirees Who Dress Alike

When I first started writing this blog, I posted an item about things I would never do with my retired husband.  The list included such activities as looking for lost golf balls, using a metal detector for fun and profit, and bowling in matching shirts.

I should have included wearing matching anything.  Anything at all.  My daughter Jenny reminded me of this oversight when she sent a link about a couple who have worn identical clothing for 35 years.  True, they started to dress alike to promote their florist business, but now they coordinate their custom-made outfits for every public outing. 

Joey Schwanke and her husband Mel attribute their long and happy marriage to their penchant for matching clothes.

What must it be like to be married to someone who would embrace this particular kind of togetherness?  I can’t imagine.

I recall trying to modify Bruce’s “look” (if he could be said to have one) about 40 years ago.  Fashion was undergoing a seismic shift in 1970 and I attempted to push him ever so slightly in the direction of wide-collared, coloured shirts and patterned scarves. Maybe a belted vest and flared pants?  Bruce explained, ever so logically, that even if he purchased such an outfit, it would be the only remotely fashionable thing in his closet.  If he went out wearing such garb, he would feel as if he were wearing a costume. 

And that was that.  He went happily back to beige.

Whatever fashion influence I have had with my husband over the years is reflected now in a closet full of blue shirts, mostly button-down oxford cloth.  So we could dress alike.  It wouldn't take much effort on my part (and I would be the one who had to adapt), but why would I?  The point of matching outfits is to say to the world “We’re a fun couple!  We like to do goofy stuff”. In button-down matching blue tops, we would proclaim “We’re as predictable as the six-o’clock news. We like to do geeky stuff”.  Either that or we’d both look like we had McJobs.
Bruce and I could totally pull this off--but we won't.

I wonder if Jenny thought that her father and I might suddenly splash out in matching Hawaiian shirts just because we were both retired?

I don’t think she needs to worry. In our closet, individuality rules.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

#270: Special Delivery

My retirement/volunteer activity for today:  delivering our community association newsletter to 50 or so homes in an older part of our neighbourhood.

This was an opportunity to admire a selection of amazing front-yard gardens and boulevard plantings and to get some exercise going from house to house and up and down driveways and front steps.

I also discovered that not all "front" doors are obviously situated, and that mailboxes are governed by their own set of idiosyncratic rules. I found mailboxes at the sides of doors and on the steps, at driveway entrances and at the back of driveways.  Sometimes there was a mail slot in the door, behind a storm door, which made for double delivery-effort.  I gave up on a couple of houses.  I stared so long at one residence trying to unmask its secrets that a jogger asked me if I was lost.

Then there was the weird stuff over which I had no control --the barking dog, for example, that startled me so that newsletters floated down behind a prickly bush up against the foundation. I was glad the ground was dry as I scrambled to retrieve them.

When all the newsletters were finally dropped off, I got to go home, and I won't have to do this again for 3 months.  But imagine this as your day's work.  Imagine trudging up and down all those steps and opening all those doors, prying open all those slots. The dogs that are not safely inside.... 

I bet letter carriers retire with way more enthusiasm than librarians.

Friday, 1 June 2012

#269: Fifty Shades of........Large Print

I have Large Print books on the brain.  

These books, designed for aged and aging eyes, have larger, bolder fonts (like this, or perhaps like this).

Right now, it feels as if much of my retirement is ruled by this format because of my volunteering and my occasional shifts at the public library where I was once employed full time.  I’ve been adding over 70 used large print books to the retirement home library, and at my public library, I am working on some book lists featuring large print.  So what with one thing and another, I’ve been examining these hefty tomes a lot.

And here’s the scary thing.  They really are easier to read.  When I go back to regular print my eyes struggle to re-focus.  I can do it, I can read squinchy little print, but it is a lot more work. And why would I punish my peepers when there are books to be had in larger print, well spaced?

Actually, there are a few reasons to avoid those easy-on-the-eyes editions.

The print is bigger but so is the book.  Some of these volumes are truly voluminous. Reading (and holding) the LP version of Jonathan Franzan’s The Corrections counts as weight-bearing exercise.  Besides, large print books are expensive ($50 compared to $25 for a regular hardback)-- unless you borrow them from the library.

But the real impediment for serious readers is lack of choice.  Well known authors of popular material fare well. (I could get Anne Tyler’s The Beginner’s Goodbye in large print, but not the excellent Language of Flowers by newcomer Vanessa Diffenbach.)  Canadian authors rarely get a look-see unless their last name is Atwood.  And then there is the inescapable fact that large print titles are intended for—dare I say-- an elderly readership; publishers often interpret this as a preference for undemanding, chaste prose, and happy endings.  I don’t expect that older women with poor eyesight will be lustfully lingering over the LP version of top bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey any time soon.

What, then, are we to do?  Are we supposed to suddenly develop an insatiable taste for Nicholas Sparks? 

We can keep reading regular print as long as possible—as the populations ages all print will gradually increase in size. Or we can embrace e-readers, that fabulous bit of technology that just happens to coincide, luckily, with my retirement.  I certainly intend to hide behind the pretty cover of my Kindle, adjusting the font to a comfortable level, reading whatever * I want.  *Nudge, Nudge*

* Fifty Shades is $11.51 (Kindle edition).  Or read the Download Library version for free.