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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.

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 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.

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