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Now is the summer of my discontent made glorious autumn

I mentioned last month that my asthma was back, and it was pretty much ruining my summer.  I spent many days lying on our sofa like a consumptive cockroach, coughing with any exertion, trapped inside by the smokey air outside.  Week after week, whenever the air was hazy I was wheezy (my least favourite Disney dwarf), even when we went on our vacation to the Okanagan. It was kind of awful, and it was scary, too.

Nothing makes you feel old like ill health.  Actually, isn’t ill health the very definition of being elderly?  Not able to do the activities you love, the boundaries of your world shrinking, your physical frailties becoming more and more apparent. Needing help with everyday tasks (DH was responsible for EVERYTHING.  He never complained, but it made me feel like a parasite).  I am not ready for that.

Fortune is once again shining on me because the sun is not.  Autumn has brought rain, which calmed the forest fires and cleared the atmosphere.  I’m still using my inhalators and meds but now they are actually keeping the asthma under control.  I’m back, baby!

Autumn used to mean the start of a new school year for me, and I always looked forward to that.  Autumn meant the things I was good at (reading, writing, etc.) and the end of things I wasn’t so good at (swimming, hiking).  There’s a freshness in the air that signals new beginnings.

Here’s five reasons I love autumn (and none of them is pumpkin spice*).

  1. Grandchildren.  The teachers in the family have gone back to work.  And I am needed for baby-sitting.  Right now I am responsible for the youngest (15 months) one day a week, and for the others now and again.  Grandchildren really are the greatest!
  2. Exercising.  It was too freaking hot and humid to get out for walks this summer.  Just a trip to and from the grocery store left me with sweat dripping off my nose.  Of course, the answer to that is customarily getting up early and getting out and about before the heat hit (about 8 am).  But I was coughing every morning.  Now I can use my errands to get a brisk walk, get out to the gym 3 days a week.  It’s not just fun, it’s good for me.  Nothing keeps the symptoms of old age at bay like exercise.
  3. Cooking.  The kitchen of our little laneway hit 30C every afternoon.  I would close the blinds to keep the sun from heating the furnishings, open all the windows to get a through breeze, turn on a fan.  And still the heat was brutal. Just putting on the kettle raised the temperature by a couple of degrees. That meant barbecue and salad for dinner every day.  And that’s great, but we miss casseroles and roasts, long-simmering soups, the occasional batch of muffins or cookies.  Now we can use the stove all the time, and the oven was cleaned in preparation for months of use.
  4. Sleeping.  Our bedroom is specifically designed for temperature control and darkness.  It’s built into the slope at the back of the house, with a window that can be kept open all night.  But even with a fan running 24-7, it was hot and sticky.  We would take cool showers before we went to bed, and would wake up soaked with sweat.  Also asthma likes to give you little visits in the night, you wake up gasping and coughing.  I don’t miss that.
  5. Hobbies.  Ironically, although I spent many hours sitting (all right, lazing) on the sofa this summer, I wasn’t able to keep up with my knitting.  My hands would start to sweat, and pretty soon the yarn would stick to my fingers and the gauge would be all wrong.  It was kinda creepy feeling, too.  So I read, and read, and read.  But I missed all my other hobbies, knitting, cooking, and taking walks.
  6. Hallowe’en!

I retired so I could do more of the things I love.  And now I can.  The season change has led to a much brighter mental feeling for sure, and it’s given me a boost.

*Pumpkin spice.  Of course it’s really just the spices you would put into a pumpkin pie were you to bake one (pumpkins aren’t actually spicy on their own).  But don’t dump it in everything!  And why does everyone make everything so sweeeeeeeet?

Smoke and mirrors

Just a few years ago, we Vancouverites were naively chuffed to be told that global climate change would mean warmer, dryer summers.

Imagine! No more rained out picnics!  No more soggy camping trips!

We didn’t think it would mean the whole place would burst into flame.  It’s the worst forest fire season in nearly 60 years.  Right now there are almost 600,000 hectares of BC on fire.  And smoke from those fires is spreading throughout the province, filling our skies, chasing people from their homes, threatening power systems.

And they are really bumming out my retirement.

The smoky air is filled with tiny particles, and according to the Weather Channel’s Air Quality Alert,

Fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, refers to airborne solid or liquid droplets with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less. PM2.5 can easily penetrate indoors because of their small size.

Persons with chronic underlying medical conditions should postpone strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease.

That’s me!  I had asthma as a child, and it’s back again.  I have my inhalers and take them as prescribed, but just walking around the block leaves me wheezing and gasping for air.  I hide inside, but like the advisory says, those tiny particles easily get into our home.  Plus, this place was designed to let air flow through it, there’s no air conditioning.

So although the first 3 weeks of my retirement meant regular trips to the gym, long leisurely walks, visits to Playland with the oldest grandchild (twice!), the last 3 weeks have meant days on the couch, reading, binge-watching TV and coughing, coughing, coughing.

I’m not going to make too big a deal about my problems, there are people who have far more serious health problems, and their troubles are real and even life-threatening.

In a week or so the smoke will blow away and my temporary disability will fade into the background again.  But for now it’s a good reminder that my health has got to be my number one concern, and not ever to be taken for granted.

How to make everyone mad at you — three easy steps to frustration and fury!

Lately the City of Vancouver has been telling us all how they are looking out for us, working to find solutions to the problems of minimum housing stock, diminishing numbers of heritage homes, and keeping Vancouver green — reducing our carbon footprint.

Now, according to this story in the Globe & Mail,  they’ve managed to crush any good will they may have developed in these areas in just three simple steps:

Step One:  Buy a heritage home and leave it empty for over a year

The COV purchased a lovely, restored, 1919 home at 3030 Victoria, in a great neighbourhood in 2016.  They didn’t rent it out, no, they didn’t subdivide it so it could house more citizens — although the area is zoned for duplexes — no they left if empty for 17 months.  Sure, they could start collecting money from themselves with the new empty houses tax, but that would not be a sustainable plan.

Step Two: Announce plans to rip down the house — and all the heritage houses on the block

Yikes!  Lose housing stock AND lose valuable historic properties all in one move.  The city planned — and still plans — to buy and tear down these homes to add more space to Trout Lake Park.  It’s a nice park, my granddaughter plays softball there (Go Diamondbacks!) but tearing down these homes will apparently add a mere 1% to the existing space.  Often the city buys a house, rips it down, and the other people on the block line up to sell their places.  But in this case they didn’t want the other homeowners to hike up the already high housing prices once it was known that it was the city that was buying so they kept these plans on the DL.  Now that’s another thing — each of these houses, eight in all, cost well over $1,000,000.  In fact, if you could get them for under $1.5 million each it would be a miracle, 3030 Victoria sold for $1.6 million. So 8 houses = 8 x 1.5 million, or $12 million dollars just to increase the size of the park by 1%.  And just to flog a dead premise — lose valuable HERITAGE housing stock.

Step Three: Send hundreds of tonnes of materials to landfills

Just 3 years ago, the COV was bemoaning the fact that heritage homes were being destroyed .  And they were concerned about the amount of waste created by each demolition:

the average demolished house adds 50 tonnes of waste,

Even if significant portions of each house was recycled, and that’s not likely, it still means many truckloads of housing materials being dumped into the landfills.

I’m pretty steamed about this, and have already emailed the mayor and council ( to ask them to reconsider this plan.  That email address is a link, by the way, so feel free to vent a little spleen on our elected officials.


So far so good

As my last day at work drew to a close, I started disappearing from my job.  I was locked out of some websites, my email stopped, I was informed that my name was stricken from the directory.  It was like in Back to the Future, when Marty’s family starts disappearing from photos.  But in a way it felt good.  I am no longer part of that organization.  That part of my life is over.

The first day of my retirement I arose at 7:38 with that lovely feeling that you get on Saturday, with the whole weekend ahead of you.  The second best part of waking up was that I wanted to get up around 7:30 and without an alarm clock, my body obeyed my wishes.  I spent the morning just sitting around, starting the preparation for breakfast, reading the newspaper, the grand kids dropped by for a visit and they brought the littlest one, who was spending the day at the main house while her parents went to a wedding.

And every now and again I’d get that little thrill.  “It’s always Saturday now.”

Visiting West Broadway on a sunny afternoon with my husband to pick up the necessaries for a Greek feast, I sat on the bench waiting for the bus.  One of my favourite Saturday things is getting the food for a special meal and taking it home to cook.  And now it’s always Saturday.

I got out the hose as the sun left our back yard and gave the plum tree a good spray with some soap (aphids, ugh!).  Doing a little gardening is another Saturday treat.  And now it’s always Saturday.

This morning (nominally Sunday, but still, Saturday #2), I got up (7:32 am) and got into my gym togs.  I promised myself that I would get back to the gym on a frequent basis.  But I only LIKE to go to the gym first thing in the morning.  If I sit around and think about it I have dozens of reasons not to go to the gym. Work mornings started at 5:45 to give me enough time to get ready and get to work.  But I told myself I would do it as soon as I retired.  And I did!   Sitting here in my slightly damp gym clothes I feel like I’ve already accomplished so much! Early mornings at the gym was an occasional weekend thing — but I’ll do it again on Tuesday, and Thursday, and next Sunday.

Because it’s Saturday every day.

Now I’m off to the showers.  In the middle of the day, when the sun pours in through the window and you feel like you are in a sun shower.

See you next Saturday.

My last day at work

The weirdest thing about my last day at work was that it wasn’t that weird.

I walked down the halls thinking “this is my last day here!  I’ll only ever be a visitor here, never a part of this organization!”  But it didn’t feel any different.

And of course, people still expected me to work.  Do my job, make up reports, file, get the mail, ordinary stuff.  And it felt ordinary.

Everyone was congratulating me, but really all I’ve managed to do is to age.  Gracefully, of course, but it’s the genes that’ve kept me going for 65 trips around the sun.

Then I was clearing out my personal cache on my computer and I ran across all the recipes I’d downloaded (yea, I downloaded recipes on company time.  Gonna fire me?) and I got an actual frisson of excitement.  I can plan meals and shop at specialty shops, go down to Granville Island any day, not just on the weekends.

Take Indian and Chinese cooking classes!

Then my daughter texted me that Playland is free for seniors.  FREE!!!! And my daughter and granddaughter have season tickets!!!! “Oh, grand-person, want to go to Playland with Nana?  Anytime????” It’s magical!

So gradually and imperceptibly I have become used to the idea of being retired. And I like it.



My penultimate work day

The day-before-my-last-day of work was weird.  Really weird.

I cleaned up my desk, did some filing, said good-bye to a few people who won’t be around tomorrow.  It made it even stranger that the office was nearly empty, with co-workers at meetings downtown or on their vacations.

Over and over I got the question (more of a statement, really) “Are you excited?”  Yes I am excited, but I’m a bit nervous, too.  And happy and sad.  And ready and not ready. Everything has an air of unreality to it.

Like any major lifestyle change there’s a lot to consider.  And believe me, I’m considering it.  But also like marriage or parenthood or surgery or anything really big, I am not going to know exactly what I’m getting into until I’m in the middle of it.

Retired friends assure me I’ll love it.  And I already have my first afternoon grand-kid sitting gig lined up for next week.  But I know I’ll be finding my way for a while, working out what works and what doesn’t.

It’s a long journey, maybe 30 years long.  And I’ll be taking my first step in just two days.

The days dwindle down to a precious few….

Poor DH is tiring of the phrase “You know, when I’m retired…” but I can’t help thinking of everything I will enjoy when freed from the structure and stricture of the workday week.

Now that my retirement is in site (39 days!  I got the countdown app!)  I view every weekend as a sort of rehearsal for the real thing.  This weekend being a long one (Thanks Queen Victoria) I am practicing my mad retirement skillz every minute. I can’t believe that I’m ever going to be able to take these things for granted:

1. Enjoying my Home Town

Saturday DH and I tidied the home (small houses clean up in a matter of minutes) then headed down to Granville Island.  We took Skytrain to Main Street Station and walked along the south side of False Creek.  It is a spectacular walk, nature all around, and across the water the towers of Downtown Vancouver rise in glassy glory.

Vancouver’s Science World relfecting in the water of False Creek with the downtown Vancouver in the background under a sunny blue sky with clouds.

At the Island Market we purchased victuals for a sumptuous repast, then transit home.  It’s fun to do on a weekend afternoon, but when I’m retired we can do it mid-week and skip the dense crowds.

DH barbecued the steaks and I sauteed the mushrooms.  A delightful way to end the day — any summer day.

This is a beautiful city and I can’t wait until I can be a tourist in it every day.

2. Hobbies

Sunday was a day for puttering in the garden.  It’s nice to get out in the yard before the summer sun heats it to a toasty goodness, then scoot inside for an iced tea.  We’ve had such a brutal winter and a wet spring (it always seems to rain on the weekends) that I wasn’t able to get everything I wanted done (even in our tiny garden I wanted to weed the bulb bed and de-clump the rhubarb).  I even sprayed our one fruit tree with a soapy solution to keep down the aphids and deter the wasps.  Next Spring will be different because I’ll be able to get out on a sunny weekday.

Then I pulled out the Kindle and read.  For hours! Then I started dinner!  In the middle of the afternoon!

DH and I are even talking about taking guitar lessons in the Fall with the folks up in the big house. Maybe we can get a deal on group lessons.

3. Family

This Fall I will be watching my delightful grand-daughter one day a week.  I did this for my grandson, too, and I really loved it, but I had to take vacation days and work a nine-day fortnight with the attending increased hours to do it.  I’m looking forward to being able to see her, and to be a big part of her life, without having to sacrifice vacation and leisure time.  I’ll also be available to pick up the other kids from school or daycare if DD and DSIL are busy or take a hand if the kids are sick and have to stay home.

I’ll be able to skip up to Kelowna to see my sister for a girl’s weekend, travelling on the weekdays to get the whole weekend to enjoy.

Even just slipping into the back yard to see the kids enjoying themselves, without interfering or imposing ourselves on their play.

All these will be possible because I won’t have to be at work for 40 hours a week.

4. Health

Don’t believe Donald Trump!  That is always good advice, but never more relevant than when it comes to exercise.  Exercise is vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially when you are getting older.  Did you know that exercising with weights can stave off dementia?  It’s true! And building a strong core of muscles in your torso can help older people avoid falling, a major cause of injuries and even death!

For the past few years I’ve been unable to get all the exercise I want.  I know, excuses, excuses, but I am at work for 8 hours, and my commute is at least two-and a half hours round trip.  I get out for a half-hour walk every day during my lunch when it’s not raining.  This winter that meant I could get out maybe twice a week.  I have tried going to the gym after work, but that’s the busiest time of the day, and I just couldn’t stand waiting 10 minutes to get a spot on a machine or a place to lay my mat.  Plus, after work and a commute I was tired.  Weekends I try to get in 10K in steps, but it’s not always possible.

And in our laneway there is literally not enough free floor space to do a set of sit-ups.

It bothers me that I’m not exercising enough.  BUT when I retire I can go to the gym anytime, in the middle of the business day when it’s practically empty.  On days when I want to take a walk but it’s raining I can hop the Skytrain and be on the treadmill in a half hour.

Before I was hired in my most recent job I spent a year unemployed.  I went to the gym regularly, built my visits into my daily routine, and I’m looking forward to doing it again.

I plan to get healthier and healthier — kind of like Benjamin Button.

So much to look forward to.  Is it any wonder I am getting restless during my days at work?

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