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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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Where — and how — do you want to live

When DH and I began planning our laneway we started by looking around at what was familiar to us.   We had a pretty conventionally designed condo, two beds and two baths,  and we couldn’t get around the idea that we were going to be living in less than half the space we had.  We thought about what we would lose, not what we would gain.

We looked at how other people were downsizing and building laneways, we saw what we liked and what we didn’t like.  And gradually it dawned on us that we shouldn’t just look at how other people live, or how we USED to live, we should look forward, to how we WANTED to live.  We let our imaginations go a little.  We didn’t just want an average house that had been shrunk, we wanted a new plan for us that would lead to a whole new life.  We knew there would be sacrifices (Like “space”.  And “things”.) But in the end we had exactly what we wanted.

There was no way to imagine at the beginning of the journey how it would end. And how it would change our lives.

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Among many other advantages our new life has given us is that we drive less and take transit more often. And we like it. When the car was available down a flight of stairs we used it all the time — whenever we went down town or out for dinner or over to the kids.  Even though transit was right there we didn’t even think about it, we had a car!  Why not use it?

But now we take transit all the time.  I take the 99 Express to work.  It takes a little more time than driving, but I read or knit, and there’s no problem getting a seat because I’m at the end of the line (both ends of the line).  We take transit down town, it’s less than half an hour and we don’t have to worry about parking.  We get down to Granville Island without going through the Hell that is finding parking on a sunny Saturday. If we want to take in a Night Market we can zip out to Richmond or take the Sea Bus to North Vancouver.  All in all Translink is a pretty good system.

So when Translink wanted to expand we were enthusiastically supportive.  Even when the Provincial Government said that the local governments would have to raise their share through a sales tax hike (.5%) we said yes.  But the Provincial Government wanted it put to a referendum; we said yes — but 62% of the region said no.

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I was pretty steamed. Although I could also understand it.  It’s the old problem of trying to see the end of the journey from where you are now (comfortably behind the wheel of your car).

Others were also frustrated.  Peter Ladner in Business in Vancouver pointed out it was a pretty dumb idea in the first place (or as he put it more elegantly “Determining complex funding and planning issues with a single yes-no vote is an abysmal surrender of political leadership.”) Follow the link, he points out other lessons learned through the referendum process. Hard, nasty lessons, but lessons all the same.

But it was a column by Peter McMartin that put all my inchoate rage into a coherent verbal form. Read the whole thing, please, but for me this is the key issue:

The questions pile up. But the most perceptive question was one I heard in a conversation with Gordon Price, director of Simon Fraser University’s City program. To him, the plebiscite asked a question much more philosophical than yea or nay to a transit tax.

“To me,” Price said, “it was an existential question.

“It asked Metro Vancouverites, ‘Who are we?’ ”

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Pete+McMartin+real+Vancouver+emerges+from+ruins+plebiscite/11187386/story.html#ixzz3fF1TYKXt

I have to agree with Peter McMartin that Vancouver is currently nothing special.  We’re in a lovely natural setting.  But we’re not living up to our reputation as innovative and free-thinking nature-lovers.  We just can’t imagine our lives without cars.

I want you to do it — to imagine your life with a dependable transit system that can take you all over the Lower Mainland.  Cheaply.  Easily. No congestion. Freeways with smoothly-running traffic from Horseshoe Bay to Hope.   Doing your shopping by hopping on and off the Broadway Skytrain.  Taking the family to the beach or the park on the bus.  No parking problems.  Less pollution.

Or how about this?  Using a service like ZipCar or Car 2 Go in combination with Transit.  Giving up the ownership of a vehicle that sits parked 90% of the time for greater freedom of mobility. Answering the question of Who are we? with “we’re the people with vision, we ARE the future, we embrace change for the better and accept the inevitability of the end of the automotive age. We are part of that change.”

Otherwise those of us who use transit will be forced to use a less reliable form of transportation:

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(Less) Power to the people!

I chatted with Ian and Steve at the Home Discovery Show  on CKNW about the difference in the amount of energy we use here at the laneway house.  It really hit me this week when I signed up for BC Hydro’s Equal Billing.  We are paying $35 a month for our electricity now, back at the condo we paid $64 a month.  That’s a huge difference because even though our new home is about half the size of our old one, our condo was on the second floor of a three-storey building, so we only had two exterior walls.  Now we have four exterior walls over 1.5 floors, plus a roof and deck over the entire footprint.

But we don’t have to depend on lower energy bills to know our laneway is energy-efficient. Our house received an EnerGuide rating of 83 from BC Hydro.

Developed by Natural Resources Canada, an EnerGuide rating is a standard measure of a home’s energy performance. A rating of 0 represents a home with major air leakage, no insulation and extremely high energy consumption. A rating of 100 represents an airtight, well insulated, sufficiently-ventilated home that requires no purchased energy.

Power Smart new homes are required to achieve at least ENERGUIDE 80, higher than what’s required by the B.C. Building Code.

That rating put us in the “highly energy-efficient new house” category in their rating system.

This is “Offtober” at BC Hydro.  Visit their site to see how you can save on special deals from retailers; PowerSmart Programs; and play contests.

EnergyStar

If you want to make some changes to your home you can take advantage of rebates and other incentives from the City of Vancouver, BC Hydro, and Fortis.   Find out more about that here.

If you are a low-income household you can take advantage of BC Hydro’s Energy Conservation Assistance Program.  Find out more about this here.

And if you just want to get started living a more sustainable life, pick up some hints here .

What does all this energy efficiency mean to us?  It means lower Fortis bills for a start.  We pay about $25 a month for natural gas for our heating and cooking (including our barbecue).  But it also means getting out of bed on a winter morning and feeling that radiant heat.  It means no cold corners, no nasty drafts.  It means comfort, as much as sustainability.

 

 

A long, hard slog, another moving experience

The good news is that our parents’ condo in Nelson has been sold.  The subjects have been removed and in mid-October a new owner will be moving in.

The bad news, of course, is that they want to move into an empty condo.  Everything had to be removed, all the furniture, all the boxes, all the pictures, everything.

Happily my sister had gone through the place in the Spring, tossing and re-packing, and had handled most of the heavy lifting.  But there was still a lot to do, so last weekend she and I climbed into a big, honking rented SUV filled with empty boxes and drove up to Nelson from Vancouver and we started sorting.  Everything that we put into our hands had to be either given away, thrown away, or packed to be brought back to our place. All I wanted were the photos, a quilt, an afghan, and the cutlery.  My son and his wife wanted a chair and ottoman.  A local charity was taking the rest of the furniture.

I don’t have to tell you how horrible it is to move.  Tossing away boxes and boxes of opened food, half-full bottles of cleaning supplies.  Added to that there was the mental strain of decision fatigue.  The emotional wrench every time we ran across a piece of paper with our mother’s writing, a card signed by our father.  We fell into our beds, exhausted, every night.  And rose to face it all again, chaos and mess and piles of things.

To save our sanity we took time for walks around town and even had facials.  To prevent the foolish choices that come from decision fatigue we quit at supper time, and spent the evenings relaxing as much as we could before early bed-times (we were pretty pooped after shifting boxes and bags all day, neither of us is in our first bloom of youth).

When we left after a last farewell tour of the now-empty condo we were relieved, but not comforted.  We were so fortunate that we could do it together, my sister lives on the other side of the country and it was just luck that she was on the West Coast to attend a course and could take some holidays, because it would be exponentially more difficult for one person (hauling a huge old TV to the recyclers was definitely a two-person job). And we could help each other winnow through the collections of chotchkes.

One job I will be undertaking right now! is the labelling of the photos and slides I brought home.  I have to identify all the faces I recognise and scan and email the ones I don’t to relatives (while they are still around) so we can catalogue them all.  Note:  pencilling “Dad” on the back of a photo with no date is not going to help someone trying to identify it 70 years later.

So it’s good-bye to Nelson, a beautiful city but one that we have seen frequently over the past 40 years.  Now we will take trips to other equally-lovely corners of this fantastic province.

A new addition

How have I been occupying myself the last couple of weeks?  Not by writing blog posts.  No, I have been waiting.  We slipped away for a week to our usual holiday spot, but the rest of the time I was waiting.  Brooding.  Sitting in my empty nest and waiting on the arrival of our newest BFF — our grandson. This long weekend I watched a Dr. Who-athon on Netflix and knit a little blue sweater as my daughter patiently waited for her son to be born.

And now he is here!

Andrew

He arrived on September 1, and is a bonny lad. We are all madly in love with him, especially his sister.  How like her he is!

The best thing about this wonderful experience is that we now live right next door to these wonderful people, and can visit them whenever we want!  There are not many grandparents who have that chance, and I realize how lucky we are.

Soon I will be back to the regular content of the blog, but for now I will be gazing into that beautiful face. Darling Douglas.

 

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