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Category Archives: Life

100 days of solitude

Well, this was….unexpected?

Whatever I was forecasting for 2020, this wasn’t it.  And I know it’s the same for you.  We just could not have imagined the changes we would be put through.

It’s like watching a movie showing the “future” of the 20th century.  No one imagined cell phones, or having instant access to information anywhere, anytime through the world wide web.  Carrying cameras, movie cameras, movie studios in our pockets. Drones affordable for average folk.  No one got streaming music and movies.  Or the gig economy. Or how inexpensive and extensive foreign travel would be.  Or how we wouldn’t get flying cars.

Who, in 1970, would have imagined people would STILL be marching against systemic racism?

For myself, I’ve been knocked out of the comfortable life I’d built for myself. For two years after I retired I had been looking after our youngest grandchild (la belle princesse) every Thursday.  We would go to a playgroup and hang out at the park and I really loved it.  But she started full time daycare and just like that I was not needed.  No more getting up at 5 am and going out to the suburbs; (quiet sob) my time was my own.

But it wasn’t.  I had signed up for Tourism Vancouver city host volunteering, and so once a week I would approach touristy-looking people near the cruise ships dock, and offer directions and maps and suggestions.  I loved it!  I wore a nice uniform.  The people I helped were grateful, my fellow volunteers were all well-travelled and well-informed about the rest of the world.  I had so much fun that I was soon doing it twice a week.  But the cruise season ends at the end of September, and thus so would the volunteering until Spring.

So I signed up to do some temporary office work.  I loved that, too!  Going to different industries, using my old skills.  And if I didn’t like the situation, I’d just ask not to be assigned there anymore.  I made money, which I put away for our planned trips to foreign climes.

But now….

I am staying two meters from the grandchildren, even when I get to see them.  Or, if I’m babysitting them while their Mom is out I wear a mask — no cuddles. No volunteering this year, all the cruises have been cancelled and the border has been closed with our nearest neighbour and biggest tourism customer.  And as for temp work, the few jobs that are available are going to younger, braver workers. A trip I had planned to Great Britain with my sister has been cancelled. Our usual hostelry in Penticton will not open this year, so we’ve cancelled that trip as well.

This is not an uncomfortable life, and I realize how privileged I am that I am able to live it. But I could never have guessed things would turn in these directions.

For us, some of these changes like delivery of pet food and specialty foods will be more or less permanent for the immediate future, we’ll have to forgo our trips to Granville Island or West Broadway on transit.   What other changes?  Who knows?  Maybe voting by mail-in ballots. More and more online shopping.

I had thought we’d be getting grocery delivery until the vaccine comes out but when I asked my husband if there was anything he wanted added to the list, he looked off into the distance and said “I’d like….to go to the store.” He knows I am still very apprehensive of going into any sort of crowd, but he said he’d take it on.  The heavy stuff we can still get delivered like liquids and canned things, but for produce, meats, bakery and deli items, he’s ready to head into the fray, masked and cautious. That’s great news because it’s difficult to get exactly what we need when ordering, you can never get unusual items like bavarian meat loaf or English bangers, and there’s so much waste from what we over order.  Add in the cost of the delivery and we’re throwing money away.

What changes can we all look forward to? Fewer brick and mortar stores?  Better take out and delivery meals from restaurants? Architectural changes so every home has a space for a home office to accommodate more people working from home?  Apparently electric bikes are selling like hotcakes as we all try to get outside without crowding each other (and we live in a very hilly part of the world, with the older crowd trying to get back on the bike after abandoning it).  Will our traffic patterns change? Will offices be redesigned to avoid face to face meetings?  Will people work longer hours but shorter weeks because they don’t have to commute hours each day? What about education?  Health care? Fashion?

Who can say what things may come?



Oh Dad, Dear Dad

Of course I’ve been thinking a lot about my father lately.  It’s Father’s Day, after all, and Facebook keeps reminding me of all the times my father appeared in my Father’s Day Posts.  All the online and TV ads mention dear old Dad.  The media is all about the Dad.

But I would have been thinking about Dad without all this, because of the marches and the protests about police brutality and the knowledge that racism is part of our country and our heritage. 

My father would be 97 this July if he hadn’t passed in 2013; he grew up during the Depression, and that was a very racist time.  Black dogs were frequently named “Ni**er”.  The only screen actors of colour were forced to perform burlesques of white prejudice like Stepin FetchitAmos and Andy were white radio actors who perpetuated stereotypes of black indolence.  

But of course, there was no immigrant group or religion that could not be denigrated with a single word.  Kike. Chink. Mick. Dago. Wop. Bohunk. Frog. These were terms that were used every day by “nice people”. 

Yet somehow, Dad wasn’t racist.  He wasn’t prejudiced against “others”.  He didn’t seem to view people of other races and religions differently.  

He had a regular customer during his cab driving days in the late ‘40s who was gay.  He always asked for Dad because he knew Dad would treat him like a regular customer.  Wouldn’t beat him up or try to rob him.  Treated him like a human being which unfortunately was rare in those days.

The only time I saw my father angry at his mother (and my grandmother could be exasperating) was when she used the term “darkies” in front of me. He once caught some of us children taunting a local young lady of questionable virtue.  He told us that we must never mock people no matter who they were.  He taught me the phrase “Rather to be pitied than scorned.” Not everyone has the same choices and opportunities that we have.

I don’t know why Dad wasn’t prejudiced.  It’s not something we talked about.  I don’t know if he just mixed with a lot of people from different cultures and came to realize the value of each person.  If he did I don’t know how, pre-WW2 Vancouver wasn’t known for its cultural sensitivity and integration.  But Dad escaped that snare.  

What that meant for my sister and myself was that we never heard about “Chinese drivers” or “Jew bankers” or “Sneaky Japs”, or “Dirty Indians”; things other people said every day.  If you’d accused them of being racist they would have been aghast!  What about their (insert minority term here) friend?  Racism, like white privilege, was often invisible, only displayed behind closed doors.

Not that Dad liked everyone!  Far from it.  He once worked with a lad so incompetent that he referred to him as “Charlie Stupid.”  I don’t think I learned his real name, but it wasn’t Charlie.  All my friends liked Dad, he could stand about two of them.  As for the rest, he would just roll his eyes to the ceiling if I mentioned their names.  There are still people who tell me they felt my Dad was a good friend to them.  He tolerated them, but he was always polite to them.  

He avoided those people because they were unpleasant or humourless or hypocritical (the worst sin in Dad’s eyes).  Their nationalities or religion had nothing to do with how he felt.

So thanks, Dad!  I won’t say I’m not a racist — who among us can truly say that?  But I try to be the best person I can be.  And I think he would appreciate that.


Food delivery roulette

Anyone who knows me (or has seen me) knows that I love to eat and I love to cook, and both these activities are super important during our isolation. It’s very comforting to have a nice meal every day, just a little oasis of normalcy in these chaotic times.

We are relying on food pickup and deliveries these days, with the occasional trip to the grocery store

The first delivery I received at the end of March contained no eggs, and had substituted skipjack instead of albacore tuna (who can tell the difference?  DH) and of course there was no toilet paper.  So when our supplies ran out, and the next pick up scheduled for over a week away, I had to go to Superstore in person.

Fortunately, being old has its rewards and the store is open only to the elderly and disabled from 7 to 8 am.  DD said she would give me a ride so we set out at dawn for the store.  It was the first time I had left the house in a week.  I was overly excited, ridiculously so.

Give me my groceries!

And that’s how I found myself staring at a cooler full of meat and thinking “no bangers!  What is this?  Soviet Russia?”  There were dozens of types of sausages, but no bangers.  And the only ground beef was in big packages.  Definitely not as bad as the previous week, when DH went to a supermarket to find that the only meat available in the cooler was chicken gizzards and hearts.  But still, I had my heart set on some nice bangers and mash……

But I digress.  Because this isn’t about bangers and mash it’s about security of our food supply.

So far, so good.  In our home we did run out of some items but we’ve been really good about staying out of the stores. DH wanted to make hamburgers for dinner the other night and I made our own buns, and mayonnaise, and even baked onion rings.  Yes!  Just like the pioneers!

We are not crazy about supermarket coffee, because we drink decaf and there are very few mainstream coffee brands with good decaf.  But JJ Bean sent us some out of the goodness of their hearts because I ordered it online.

The only worm in the apple is that sometimes delivery orders are cancelled, seemingly capriciously.  And you never know if your order has been cancelled until the time it’s supposed to be delivered, so you can’t plan ahead.

And we know that there may be food shortages of some items in the future due to disruption in the supply chain.  And some have likened this to the shortages during the last war (WW11 I mean, not Afghanistan).  But that’s ridiculous.

For one thing, Canada supplied half the meat consumed in Britain during the war, and that led to shortages here and there, and eventual rationing in Canada.  In just one year, 1942, coffee, tea, and sugar were rationed here in Canada.  Imagine getting through a disaster with limited tea and coffee and no cookies! Butter was rationed, starting the widespread acceptance of margarine as a substitute. The loss of Japanese Canadian farms in the Fraser Valley meant some crops including strawberries were ruined.

More information can be found here.  Seriously, check it out, it’s very interesting. Because we were coming off the great Depression, and because the first of Canada’s Food Guides was published, even under rationing people could be eating better than they ever had.

Thanks to the people who are on the job making sure we are getting our food, from the pickers to the packers to the truckers to the cashiers, everyone is risking their health to make sure we can be fed.  And safe.



Wartime thinking

I was watching The Darkest Hour last night, and drinking scotch in solidarity with Winston Churchill.  I’m sure I’m not the first to think (and hear) that our experiences during the COVID 19 pandemic are similar to those of people during World War 11.

Well, yes.  But mostly no.

Yes, we have a common enemy.  And we all have a responsibility to our fellow citizens. And it’s going to be a sacrifice of one sort or another.

But things are a lot better today than they were then.  I realize that I’m supposed to look back on those times as being somehow nicer, kinder, when people were more cooperative and could count on their neighbours. But those nice, kind people stood back as thousands of their neighbours were rounded up and sent out of the city, and sometimes out of the province, to what amounted to concentration camps just for the crime of having Japanese ancestry.

Also polio.

My mother left the rural community of Aldergrove to work in Vancouver for the telegraph exchange in 1943 or 1944.  I sometimes wonder how her life was different than mine.

Clothes, for one.  I can go online and order anything I want and it will be brought to my house for my approval.  At the beginning of the war in Canada:

Everyone was given a book of 66 coupons to use to buy new clothes for one year. For example, a men’s shirt cost 16 coupons. This reduced to 48 coupons in 1942 and 36 in 1943.

By mid 1941- silk was no longer available since it was used as the material for parachutes. Therefore, women rushed to purchase all the silk stockings available.[1]

In fact, later in the war, Saba’s, a ritzy store that specialized in silk and other expensive fabrics, had a regular riot on their hands when 500 women stampeded the store to buy 300 pairs of nylon stockings (luckily, no one was hurt). Nylon was just as rare and special as silk.

So clothes had to last as long as they could.  They were darned, mended, rehemmed and remade until they were ready to fall apart, and then they were remade into something else.  None of this fast fashion of today.

And clothes were borrowed and shared.  In the boarding house where my mother lived girls would often exchange clothes to have a “new” look for a date.

So let’s do a little wartime thinking.

So let’s take this opportunity to think about how we mindlessly shop for clothes until we have closets and drawers overfilled with cheap, disposable outfits that we never wear.  Let’s start thinking about how much clothes really cost, think about buying fewer pieces and wearing them more often.



Plague journal

Apparently William Shakespeare and Isaac Newton wrote some of their best stuff while under quarantine for the plague.  I think I can do better than those two dilettantes, so here goes, my own Plague Journal.

I knew it would come, eventually, when I heard about the “flu-like disease” epidemic in China.  People compare this to the Spanish Flu, which travelled around the world in two years.  We all knew it would come to us somehow.  It was all a matter of time. Like smallpox  Or polio.  These bygone diseases would spread through a community, sometimes decimating it.  Our time would come.

When the first cases appeared in Vancouver, just 3 weeks ago, my son and daughter-in-law asked me to stay home and not accept any temp jobs.  I assured them that I would go to the hospital at the first sign of illness.  Of course there were no more temp jobs available.  No one was letting a stranger into their spaces. And the hospitals were already filling up.

Just 10 days ago I attended a choir recital “starring” my oldest grandchild.  I had half-heartedly considered not going, but ….. I rode a crowded bus, bought a coffee at the crowded Starbucks, and sat in a crowded church and listened to those adorable children’s harmony, and watched them perfect Os with their little mouths.

But I don’t do that anymore.  I stay home. And I have been for a week.

Our government closed borders to those from stricken countries, then to most countries, then to all countries. We were urged to avoid gatherings of more than 200 people, of more than 50 people, of more than 10 people.  To stay home. Our neighbours to the south…..not so much.

I thought it summed up the different approaches to the difference between how the pandemic is being managed in Canada and the US to see how the leaders handled press conferences on St. Patrick’s Day. Our PM standing alone in front of the house where he is in a self imposed isolation. The US president crowded by other people on a dais in a closed room in close proximity to the press.

For 12 weeks, their president said that it was a hoax, that it was not serious, that the US certainly had enough tests for the virus, enough ventilators, enough beds in privately-run hospitals.  All were safe.  We wondered why he was so blind to the situation, but of course, we were naive.  The government of the US was downplaying the pandemic to prop up the stock market for long enough for a privileged few to sell their stocks before the crash.  I have never heard of anything so disgusting.  Oh wait, there was that one store in Manhattan who was selling bottled water at a highly inflated price to rescuers on 9-11.

We may see worse before the end of this.

What is our situation now?  I can only speak for myself and my husband.

We are fine.  We are better than fine, luckier than most of our neighbours.  I am retired, and those checks will continue to pop into our bank account whether we leave our house or not. He works for himself, his clients may be in Richmond or in Denmark. He provides voice production, delivered online to his customers.  I bank online, shop online.  Tuesday I awoke to a box of cat food lying outside our door beside the daily newspaper.  Monday a delivery of groceries will appear to feed us through the week.  If I need to top up throughout the week I can go to a local store that is offering special early-morning shopping for seniors. We venture out across the street to the government liquor store as we need to, keeping our distance from our fellow shoppers and dousing ourselves in Purell before we wash our hands at home.

Coffee might be a problem.  We like Starbucks ground coffee, and the local outlets are likely to close in the next few weeks.  We may have to substitute grocery store coffee.  A small price.

We know how lucky we are. I am taking an online guitar course.  I download new books for my Kindle.  I may finally watch the Marvelous Mrs. Maizel.  Yesterday I was contacted about checking my CPAP machine and reviewing my needs.  I explained that I would not be dragging the machine to their office on the bus, and was told that all data could be delivered from my machine to them by BlueTooth!  Fantastic!

We’re not exactly the citizens of Eyam during the plague. But we’re doing our parts.

Let me ruin Blade Runner 2049 for you

I loved this movie.  I thought it was beautifully shot and wonderfully acted.  I saw it a week ago and have been thinking and talking about it ever since.*  Just like the original Blade Runner movie it’s got layers and layers and layers, enough to keep you pondering for ages. You can take it apart and examine each portion of it from every angle. I have a feeling film students will be writing essays on Deckard’s dog 35 years from now.  If you disagree with my opinion please feel free to write a blistering rebuttal. I’ve only seen the movie once, so if I’ve forgotten or misremembered anything, please correct me in the comments.

DISCLAIMER:  This ain’t no “Siskel and Ebert at the Movies.”  This missive is nothing but one spoiler after another and is strictly my own take on it. so if you haven’t seen it, better leave the room.  We’ll wait.

Blade Runner 2049 is rife with (surely) deliberate misogyny, ageism, ableism, and probably a bunch of other isms that I didn’t notice.  Unlike the original movie which was populated with flabby humans with all their foibles, by 2049 any human with ability and ambition has fled the earth for the outer planets leaving the megalopolis populated with replicants, designed and manufactured by a genius with the mind set of a Donald Trump (but, you know, competent).  In this disposable work force there are few replicants of colour, no disabled, no gays, hell, there are no FAT people.  They are still living in a dystopia of catastrophic climate change and rotting urban landscapes wrought by rampant capitalism.

MISOGYNY MUCH:  With the exception of K’s boss, played by Robin Wright, and the rebel leader (Hiam Abbass) EVERY woman exists solely to attend to her master’s every need and desire.  And every woman is preternaturally beautiful. It’s like an MRA wet dream. (So how is that different from any other movie?  Ha! Right.) There is no plot-driven reason that UberVillain, Nander Wallace (Jared Leto) should have a beautiful woman assistant/assassin/henchperson in stiletto heels and bangs, yet.  Even Wright’s character is named Madame and dresses like a dominatrix, make of that what you will.

These “women” apparently cannot make a decision that does not directly benefit their masters.  When K uses his bonus to present his computer wife, Joi (Ana de Armas) with a device that will allow her to exist away from the holographic projector in his apartment, she uses her new-found freedom to hire a prostitute/surrogate so the literally untouchable Joi can give K a sexual experience.

And women are disposable.  A naked, vulnerable replicant is sliced open just as a demonstration of Wallace’s power of life and death over his creations.  Faux Rachel is murdered when she is no longer needed.

YET this seemingly inviolable obedience and devotion is just an illusion, as fake as the home-cooked steak dinner that disguises K’s meal of Soylent Green pottage.  When Luv kills the human Madame, she explains that she is making the decision by herself, and states that she will LIE to Wallace regarding her reasons. His supposedly complete control over her is a fallacy.  The giant interactive hologram of a naked JOI basic model who accosts K implies by her nudity that he will be able to attain a physical and emotional intimacy that cannot be.  He will never be able to touch her, and his most personal and poignant moments with his wife are shown to be just part of her program. There is no true allegiance, no love or even respect, even though that is what they were supposedly designed for.  There is just deceptiveness and self-deception.

Thanks to Morgan for pointing out that K’s story is that of the Little Match Girl.  He has been sustained by the illusions of his own making, and at the end, stripped of all these comforts, he sits alone in the snow.

Thanks to Cal for explaining that the anachronistic PanAm sign is a nod to Kubrick’s 2001, PanAm is the carrier that takes Dr. Floyd to the moon and is likely the method the humans take to the outer planets.

Thanks to Rhys for showing that Luv is one of the most deeply interesting characters, who cries at the sight of death.

Things that I cannot explain (if you can, please do):

Wallace seems to be suffering from cataracts.  Why?  Cataract surgery is one of the oldest and most common surgeries.  Has human medical knowledge degenerated to the point where they cannot treat a simple condition?

What’s with the bees?  Out in the desert there are no plants for them to pollinate, why are they there?

That’s enough to think about for now.  It’s just a movie after all.

The balcony is closed.

*Unlike say, Dr. Strange, which I enjoyed while I was watching it but afterwards realized that they had put a goatee and a cape on Benedict Cumberbatch and wrapped him in the sets of Inception.  And I would watch Benedict Cumberbatch read the phone book if such things still existed.  Actually I wish I had watched THAT instead of Dr. Strange.

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?

How do I get there from here?

My Facebook pal, let’s call her Ann, has retired after 24 years in a civil service job.  Now she is ready to take on her next career – real estate agent.  She has taken the courses and got her license, and she is raring to go!  And more power to her for following her dream.  But it’s not my dream.

Ann loves being around people, loves being part of their lives. In short, she is not like me at all!

Planning for retirement is like planning for so many other things.  Weddings, education, vacations — for all these life-changing events it’s a highly personal journey.  And when you’re on a journey, the first place to start is with a map.  (I know, the first place to start is the internet, but go with me here).  A personal map, that shows you all the marshy bits and pitfalls that you might not be aware of.

X marks the retirement

X marks the retirement

So a couple of days after my most recent birthday, I signed up for and filled out a Retirement Success Profile. This is a series of questions that focuses on how you feel about retirement, and therefore, how prepared you are for retirement.   There are 15 factors that are examined and each is rated for your expectations, your present behaviour, and the variance between the two.  A large variance between what you expect in retirement and what you are doing now means that you will have to do some work in that area to transition to a happy retirement.

I’m not going to give you a complete rundown on my scores because it would be of no more help or interest to you than if I showed you my x-rays.

Chatting with the counselor who explains the results was very helpful and interesting.  But I found it most enlightening that the test scores showed three areas I should work on — focus factors:

  • Health Perception
  • Leisure Interests
  • Replacement of Work Function

The first was a surprise to me because I’m in pretty good health and don’t complain about it much.  But I also realize that this is a bit of a wake up call because I’m now aware that I’ve been taking my good health for granted and I know I’ll have to exercise more and work at staying healthy. The counselor  pointed out that when I retire I will not be taking transit every day and will not be exposed to the amount of germs and viruses I am now (that knock me out on a regular and seasonal basis).  Also I will have enough time to go to the gym and take fitness classes, maybe get a personal trainer to help me get back into shape.

The flag on Leisure Interests intrigues me.  And it ties in with the replacement of work function.  Because I’m kind of an introvert (a loner), I rely on my work for a lot of my socialization. I also rely on my workday to schedule my time.  Again, the counselor pointed out a couple of things I hadn’t thought of:  I’ll have time to take courses in anything that really interests me (currently I am quite fascinated by geology.  Yes, I meant to say geology.) Also there are meet-up groups for various activities.  I love to read (not really a hobby as such, I regard reading as necessary as breathing) so could join a book club.  Also cooking classes could expand my repertoire, and maybe lead to a group of like-minded people to hang out with.

Obviously a lot to think about.  But I have time to make some plans. The next question to be answered:  Can I afford to retire?










The little old lady who lives

I had a photo taken recently, just a head-and-shoulders, taken in natural light.  A little something to update my LinkedIn page.  And, looking at it, I realized something…I look my age.

This is not a terrible thing, of course, there is nothing wrong with looking your age.  It’s just that without deluding myself, my face could cheat a little.  I used to hear it all the time, “You look too young to….be a grandmother, have cataracts, remember the 60s.” They say that mirrors don’t lie, but mine does, its kind light filling in all the little crinkles and wrinkles and throwing a camouflaging shadow beneath my softening jawline.  But a photograph is proof.  I am looking my age. I am getting old, not just older.

There’s more reminders.  A news report describes someone younger than me as “elderly”.  A visit to my employer’s Pension Fair reminds me that my retirement age, once soooooo far away, is approaching.  Rapidly.  I stopped colouring my hair last year, wondering what my “natural” colour would be.  It’s grey, a kind of pewter rather than silver, but grey it certainly is.  There’s a shortness of breath when I attempt to climb a long flight of stairs, a reminder of the pneumonia I had in the spring that does not go away.  I am too tired after a full day’s work and two hour-long commutes to go to the gym, or a concert, or the movies.

It seems to me that youth is inherited at birth.  And you ease into middle age; the male gaze slides over and around you rather than lingering, people seem more willing to help you out, and you realize well, that’s over.  But old age seems like a decision.  You accept your grey hair, you opt to take the escalator more often, you make plans to retire.

And that’s the rub.  I have been working for over 40 years.  When I had small children I worked for them.  Other than the child-bearing years I have held paying jobs, and all of that comes with its own regimen.  Your days are nicely laid out for you, even your weekends are defined by the fact that you are not working for two days, it’s your chance to catch up on everything you didn’t have time for during the work week.

But just thinking about retirement…day after day with no one telling me what to do, no duties arranged in a never-ending list.  It’s disconcerting.  And even the flexibility we have now to retire at age 55 or 60 or 65 or 67 and-a-half or 70 is stressful to think about.

I don’t have any big plans for retirement.  We want to travel, but there are no solid plans, just a general wish to do so.  I haven’t put off writing a book, or getting a degree, or taking up flamenco dancing, waiting for my retirement to get it done.  My children and grandchildren need and want my help, but that’s not a full-time gig, they are quite independent and want to stay that way.

So I have decided to approach old age the same way I would any new challenge — by learning all I can about it.  The more I learn the less intimidating it will be.  And I’ll be ready to face it. With this face:


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Artist and Desert Dweller with Big City Style.

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