It seems to have taken just over one year after my official retirement date for me to feel like it actually happened. For the past year, it has felt somewhat surreal. I still looked forward to “weekends” (as if some “freedom” was attached to them). I still laid awake at night on Sunday nights, thinking about Monday morning and all the things I had to get done during the week. I thought about things that needed to be addressed at my former work organization and whether “someone” was taking care of that. I wondered what retired life should really look like and what I needed to do to make it so.
So today I am in the 24 foot motor home that my guy and I dreamed we would one day hop in and enjoy on many road trip adventures. We are parked on the shore of a beautiful BC lake, enjoying the sights and quiet time together. It is a Thursday, not a weekend. I finally realize that now I look forward to every day and that the week can be my weekend too (when it’s not so busy with everyone else vying for the same thing on their days off). If I am laying awake at night thinking about what I have to do, it is by choice and that there is something intriguing (and likely adventuresome) that is driving my mind to focus on it. I have accepted that I did a great job of leaving skilled and qualified people in my place to deal with all the things needed at my former work organization. It is still surreal, but more importantly, I realize that I am actually living what retired life “should look like” …and that is great.
“Retirement, a time to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, where you want to do it, and how you want to do it”. Catherine Pulsifer
Not only did the family farmhouses of old have character themselves, they sometimes also had a band of characters fondly associated with them. These characters and their personalities brought with them features, much like your home would, except as I remember them a much more colorful and experiential zest for life we can’t always find these days. Much like the featured image (also posted below) I started this post with, my grandparents’ farm had characters of all sizes, shapes, ages and real-life experiences. That’s me in the picture with the exhausting smile on my face that seemed to come over me every time there was a tractor involved in anything I was doing.
You will notice the smile on my grandpa’s face is similar to mine but the decades spent riding around on a tractor may have dampened his enthusiasm somewhat. It also could have been a sign of mild exhaustion that often came about from having a gaggle of grandkids around for the weekend (actually he really didn’t seem to mind!). My brother Mark is the one riding on the gas tank and wearing denim coveralls and rubber boots. While I can’t comment on his fashion sense I can say his somewhat reserved smile could be a sign that he is enjoying his day or just holding on for dear life. My brother Tim (sitting on my grandpa’s lap) appears serious and is possibly thinking that Mark shouldn’t be sitting where he is, but also understanding tractors are fun and can’t hurt you. My cousin Don who is closest to the tire has a look on his face that seems to threaten the photographer not to take this picture. I am not sure who was the holder of the camera but I can tell you that every time I look at this picture I get flooded with great memories and not only wish we could go back to those times but also share them with the kids we all have now…..if only! My sister Sue is missing from this picture as is my cousin Rebecca. Likely they were in the house at the time gossiping about how stupid boys were for liking tractors and such (eyes rolling).
When we built our home in the Okanagan we built a pool shed to house some of the pool equipment and pool toys. We needed to keep it under a certain amount of square feet otherwise it would be designated an accessory building and fall under a mountain of bylaws and regulations. In the background of my featured image you can see several other “accessory” buildings. They had colorful names associated with them like the “white shack”, the “granary”, and the “tractor shed”. The names made sense to us because their names told us what they looked like or did. The white shack was white, the granary had grain in it and the tractor shed had tractors stored in it. (Actually, I’m not really sure about the name of the tractor shed, but since I can’t remember for sure, that seems fitting.) I have a butler pantry in my current home now and while it does hold pantry-like goods it most certainly does not have a butler in it. Boy things were less complicated when I was a kid. If you were able to see past me in the tractor picture, behind the large fuel tank, I can tell you with a great deal of confidence that was where the most important building of them all was located. Yes, that is where the “outhouse” sat. Close enough to the house to get to on a cold night and yet far enough away to dissipate any of mother nature’s odors!
While we all enjoy our conveniences of today like indoor plumbing and running water, I believe some of the speed I had running and skating came from my years of going out to the outhouse late in the evening. This was not something as a young kid you looked forward to but a bladder is only so big and even when it is “pitch black” outside a person can only wait so long. Waiting for the sun to come up just wasn’t a viable option. From the farmhouse (west veranda) you walked down a slight hill to the outhouse. There was a light on inside that gave it a warm and inviting glow…lol. We turned the light on at the house so we could at least point ourselves in the right direction. Now as a kid who spent time around a farm when we grew up, we knew about coyotes. Not the ones who play NHL hockey in the deserts of Arizona but the ones who roam freely at night in search of chickens and kids with small bladders forced into the dark abyss by their parents. The trip down to the outhouse wasn’t the problem, it was the return trip. You looked up to see the farmhouse at the top of the hill and then saw infinite darkness directly behind you. I am sure it was safe, but as a kid we knew the darkness held hundreds of coyotes and other assorted monsters our parents never told us about. This made it necessary to run like a madman back to the farmhouse before something could catch and kill us. In the summer it wasn’t bad but in the winter it seemed I was never able to make it all the way without falling or losing a boot in the snow…..ugh. All in all a very terrifying ordeal to take care of something that mother nature would describe as natural. As you read on you will learn that coyotes weren’t the only things going “bump in the night” that I remember.
Sometimes the characters and personalities we came across in old farmhouses were not the people living in or visiting them. They were the ones we can’t see, touch or hold on to. My grandparents’ farmhouse had many of these characters inside its walls although, depending on who you talk to, our individual recollections may vary ….but my memory is better than theirs so you can believe me! I mentioned in my last post the possessed stove that sat in the corner of the kitchen. If you were making soup with the burner turned on while stirring the pot with a metal spoon and then you leaned against the stove you got a heck of an electrical shock. Ouch! My dad said the stove likely had a short in it somewhere, which is scary enough, but maybe there was some other “not of this world” explanation? Hold that thought while I continue. The farmhouse had an old set of stairs that took you from the main level to the upstairs. The second level had two bedrooms similar in size with one corner closet and a window at either end. My grandpa slept in one of the rooms. I was told that when my grandma was still alive and getting on in years, she slept in the second bedroom ( a pretty common thing back then). Well, in the winter the farmhouse would get quite cold and rather than going out and buying carpet for the floor my grandparents would put newsprint down on the floor to walk on. My grandma sometimes used to sit in bed at night and read, casually flipping through pages of magazines before going to sleep. I can recall times when I visited my grandpa in the summer, laying awake in bed at night and hearing shuffling footsteps on paper-covered floors above me or the sound of magazine pages flipping. In both cases the sounds came from rooms that only held furniture. Yikes. I also recall one specific summer visit when I would hear a tap at the window around the same time every night. This went on for several evenings and I made mental note of it. On the weekend when my parents and family joined me at the farm I shared my story of the late night tapping with them and they found it hilarious. They took turns sneaking outside and tapping on the same window just to p*** me off. Much to my disappointment the tap never did happen again that night but after I had fallen asleep the blinds on the window beside me flew up to the top with a crash and literally had me jump out of bed……it scared the crap out of me.! I’m sure my cousins would be able to share similar stories with you and while it was somewhat unnerving/frightening as a kid, my grandpa would tell us it was just grandma visiting. As an adult I can relate to such a belief and take comfort in knowing that was probably the case. As a kid though, it made for some nerve rattling evenings …lol.
There are two other things that stand out in my mind about the character of the old farmhouse. When I went to visit my grandpa every summer for a couple of weeks, I stayed on the main floor in the living room and slept on the hide-a-bed. The stairs that led to the upstairs were very creaky and squeaked with every step you took whether you were young or old. Us kids we used to slide down them on our butts as the treads had worn smooth as glass over the years. Sliding down these stairs was risky at best because if you failed to stop yourself at the bottom you ended up either slamming into the ringer washer that greeted you or sometimes you impaled yourself on one of it’s control handles. Then there was the furnace. When it kicked in it made the most unusual sound, almost like a plane engine warming up. The smells that would come out of the floor vents then were like a cross between a dusty musty smell, burning oil, and every other smell that celebrated and marked the passing of time. Even today on the rare occasion my nose will pick out a scent when I am out and about that I can’t quite pin down but reminds me of the old farmhouse furnace.
Well this post could go on for another 1500 words or so, but may end up being too much of a good thing. Looking back at all these old pictures has brought a flood of memories/emotions back to me and I have enjoyed sharing them with all of you. So having said that, I can’t guarantee that this is the end of them!
Please share with me any thoughts, feedback or stories you might have. I am always open to suggestions and a helpful critique of my writing.
No, I didn’t say Dr. House…..I said, “is there a doctor in the house?” We don’t always realize it but listening to our doctor needs to happen just as much when you aren’t sick as when you are. Often some of the best advice we can get happens when we are not feeling sick at all but are looking for ways to improve our overall health and lower our risk of contracting a major illness. Recently I came across an article in a magazine with an interview with Dr. David Katz who is an internationally renowned specialist in chronic disease prevention and weight management.
In the article Dr. Katz offers us all 5 easy ways we can outsmart illness. He says that what we do with our arms, feet and fork can cut our risk for chronic disease by up to an amazing 80 percent! What follows are his 5 top recommendations:
MOVE YOUR FEET (LOTS!) You should get at least 20 minutes of exercise and no fewer than 5 times per week. You need to not only make the commitment to do it but also keep it. I try to keep as active as possible at least 5 times per week right now and sometimes 6 times. I keep one “down” day to just take things easy and at a slower pace. My routine “right now” consists of a fast/aerobic-paced walk of at least 10 kilometers each day. Now that the snow and ice are gone I will once again substitute some of these walks with running. I don’t look at these outings as a chore, but more as something I choose to do and enjoy.
CHOOSE FOODS THAT LOVE YOU BACK You should never have to sacrifice great food (good tasting) for great health. Look for strategies where they can live in harmony. Low fat and high flavour is our motto at home and has become part of our lifestyle. That’s not to say that we don’t cheat once in a while, but we believe everything in moderation. Always keep lots of fresh vegetables and fruit around and if there are “not so healthy” things that constantly tempt you, then try just not picking them up. Often the “out of sight out of mind” trick works best.
TRAIN YOURSELF TO SLEEP MORE SOUNDLY Since I retired, this one has become easier for me but I still fall into some past bad habits. Dr. Katz recommends at least eight hours of sleep each night as well as sticking to a consistent schedule. I am always surprised at how easy it is to wake up at the same time each day without the aid of an alarm clock because I stick to a routine schedule and this supports Dr. Katz’s recommendations. He goes on to say we should avoid taking afternoon naps as they are likely to end up interfering with our sleep later on that night and so any possible benefit is lost. Since I have been blogging I was in the habit of looking at articles online each night on blogging and thinking about things I wanted to try or how I could fix on my page. The trouble is that I took these thoughts with me as I tried to fall asleep and ended up tossing and turning all night. So recently I have gone back to my old routine of simply reading a book before turning out the light and this has completely stopped the late night restlessness.
DE-STRESS WITH A QUICK “THOUGHT MAKEOVER” Dr. Katz states that research has shown people who report high levels of stress are more likely to eat more and exercise less which is not great when it comes to disease prevention. He recommends finding your “optimal tension-taming technique.” This could come in the form of meditation/visualization and even just old-fashioned exercise. I find how my mind treats stressful situations can make it better or worse. Staying positive and reframing things in a positive light definitely helps me lower the stress meter and get though it.
REACH OUT AND HUG SOMEONE No not your boss or some stranger walking down the street….that could turn out a bit weird. But Dr. Katz mentions the natural human need to feel close to others. Creating connections with others around us might be an even more important defense against stress than exercise. No matter how crazy our days get, my fiancé and I always make time for a cup of coffee together followed by our 10K walk, a run or a trip to the gym. In the old days we took care of all the other things life threw at us and then “if” there was time we got our workouts in. Now we take care of this critical element of our everyday lifestyle first, and then the rest of the day’s activities.
So based on my experience, my recommendation to you this week is to try and incorporate some or all of these strategies into your life. Your health and well-being are important to you and your families.
It’s a question I am sure many bloggers ask themselves after they start-up their blog and they have been doing it for a while. I had kicked around the idea for a blog for at least a couple of years before starting up this one. Originally my fiancé and I had thought about doing a blog once we retired. We planned to travel by RV along the southern coasts of North America stopping in every beachside hamlet and town we could find/seek out. We thought it would be a fun way of taking family and friends along with us on the trip without actually having them there “with us”…. lol. It was just the idea of sharing our experiences and stories plus some great information for those who followed after us. At least for now, this trip is on hold but in the mean time I thought it would still be fun to get blogging. 🙂
Shortly after I retired I read a book by Neil Peart (famous drummer from the Canadian rock band RUSH) called Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road In addition to the sensitive and touching true life journey he experienced, his natural ability to tell stories, share thoughts and insights inspired me. I thought I had lots of stories to tell, passions for life and living well, and just general opinions on “stuff”. I wasn’t really prepared for how much work getting started would be, nor was I prepared for how much fun I would have. Over the last couple of months it has been a great and rewarding “go to” activity for me. Therefore, my content is still evolving.
I have never considered myself to be much of a formal writer but someone who could share stories, a sense of humour and the appreciation of things I read or saw in everyday life. I can tell you one thing, school didn’t prepare me to blog but lifecertainly did. So off I went jumping in with both feet (sore ones as per my latest post – lol) and hoping to swim a little….. and maybe in time – a lot! Now a couple of months later and well into the learning curve I am beginning to understand what things “readers of blogs” can do that demonstrate their appreciation (or lack thereof) for the content they have so eagerly digested. I thrive on feedback, good or bad, so below I have shared some thoughts/requests in the hopes that “my readers and followers” might feel inspired to regularly help me out. 🙂
The biggest one for me (well two things) is to receive your comments and feedback as well as your ratings of what you read. It really doesn’t get any easier than clicking on the stars at the bottom of each post or leaving a comment in the comment box. These provide instant feedback of your thoughts and feelings as well as provide encouragement. Comments can also be used to provide your suggestions or share common thoughts or insights.
If there is a poll included, then please participate. The poll results become content for future posts as well as provide some information to the writer as to whether or not they have hit the mark.
Read the new posts and keep coming back for more. The more people who read and follow the more incentive is provided to keep going.
Rather than checking the blog out at random times or days simply sign up with the follow button and you will get email notices whenever I post a new article. Don’t worry, in most cases this may be once or twice in a week so not likely to fill your inbox.
Share the blog with other family and friends and promote it if you think they may be interested in any or all of it. Word of mouth (or keyboard) is often how blogs become well-known and grow in popularity. You can also share it by Tweeting it or posting it to your Facebook page.
If you also personally blog then share your link with The Retiree Diary and I will check you out! As a new blogger I am always looking to improve my skills and perfect the art.
In my short life as a blogger these are some of the things that encourage and excite me. Feedback is a wonderful thing and the vast majority of what I have suggested takes very little time. Really just a few minutes of your time.
For those of you who have been following for a while I give my heartfelt thanks! If you are just joining me or stumbled across my path – Welcome! Come on in – the conversation is warm – I’d like to hear from you and I hope you stay a while……..
Step one – get your house in order and I mean this figuratively.
Stepping into retirement really is about steps. Lots of them…treadmills, parks, pathways and beaches. I have known people over the years when asked about what the first thing they are going to do is, say “get their house in order”! Well, Ok this follows a quick second to they would sleep for a week. I can’t count the number of people that said to me in the first few weeks I was off work, “hey its a little early for you to be up isn’t it”? I just smiled and said “nope”! They would go on to exclaim that if it was them they would sleep for a week or more. As Sam Elliott put it so eloquently in the CLASSIC movie Road House, “I’ll get plenty of sleep when I am dead”.
I remember when my Dad retired after almost 38 years he and my Mom had a list of things to do around the house. Fix this, paint this wall, organize the storage room, etc. This truly was getting the house in order but I suspect for them it was also therapeutic in many ways. My Dad told me that I would be amazed how much energy I would have after six months of not working. He is a very smart Man and was bang on.
For me getting my house in order was/is about mind, body, and spirit. After my own 33 year career not paying enough attention to how and why I tick it was time to tune-up the old chassis. Too much time behind a desk, attending meetings, flying to places I didn’t really want to go can take its toll on the old paint job. The great philosopher Jimmy Buffet prophesized in one of his many great literary works how some people treat their body as a temple, and that he treats his as a tent! I think all of us can or have been able to relate to this at some point.
So I have been getting my house in order and let’s just say it is a work in progress. Each day sleep comes easier and is more restful, clothes fit better or need to be taken in, energy levels rise as do the corners of your mouth when you remember on Sunday night, “hey I don’t work tomorrow “!
It’s a great feeling….