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September 20, 2016 / Retirementallychallenged.com

GratiTuesday: My Public Broadcasting Stations

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The annual membership renewal notice for our local public broadcasting station came in the mail the other day. My husband and I have discussed our current contribution level and I think this will be the year we increase it substantially.

We usually begin our day listening to our local National Public Radio (NPR) station and, in the evening, we often watch the Public Broadcasting Station’s (PBS) NewsHour to catch up on the day’s news. When I’m driving around in my car, my radio might as well be permanently fixed on NPR because I rarely listen to anything else. In addition, we watch many of the quality shows our local PBS station broadcasts in the evening such as Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Masterpiece Theater, and anything Ken Burns produces.

Yesterday, while I was in my car running a few errands, I listened to an in-depth report on climate change, a security technologist discussing the growing threat that hacking poses, and a fascinating story about the three months Leon Trotsky spent in New York City in late 1916, early 1917. I didn’t have to put up with inane chatter or people yelling at each other, vapid commercials weren’t assaulting my ears, and I didn’t hear the same few songs played over and over again.

When I listen to NPR or watch PBS, I am always entertained and I usually learn something new; sometimes the topics are already of great interest to me and sometimes the subjects weren’t even on my radar. Either way, I always get something out of the time I spend watching or listening to this most valuable public resource.

I am so grateful for public television and radio and the diverse programs and services that are available to inform, educate, enlighten, and enrich us all. Public broadcasting stations are operated as private not-for-profit corporations and partially rely on contributions by their listeners.

I am also grateful for those who support public broadcasting.

If you haven’t given your local public broadcasting station a try, tune in sometime and see if what they offer is of value to you.

If you do watch or listen – or both – but are not yet a member, consider joining. Your support will help ensure the continued success of smart, thoughtful programming.

If you are already a member: fabulous! If you can, think about upping your level of support. Also, please consider including your local station in your estate planning so that future generations can enjoy this valuable resource too.

September 13, 2016 / Retirementallychallenged.com

GratiTuesday: Lucky Thirteen

 

My husband and I were married thirteen years ago, on the thirteenth of September, after being together for thirteen years.

We didn’t plan it that way; it was just how everything happened to align.

One of my husband’s favorite anecdotes about our getting married is that he never really asked me to marry him.

It’s true, at least in the formal, romantic proposal, actually asking me sense…

A little over a year before we were married, we attended his high school reunion in northern California. I didn’t grow up in the same community so most of the people there were strangers to me. During the event, introductions were uncomfortable since most people assumed that I was his wife. Referring to me as his “date” wasn’t at all correct, “partner” sounded stiff and business-like, and I was certainly more than a “girlfriend” (by that time we owned a home together).

On our drive home, I told him how awkward I felt because we didn’t have a simple way to define our relationship to others. That’s when he very innocently said, “Well, maybe we should think about getting married.” Silly man… I was thinking that it was about time too and, before he knew what hit him, we had a date set and wedding plans beginning to form.

wedding

I am so very grateful for my husband and the life we have built together. Although it took us thirteen years to make it official, we’ve been together for twenty-six years and I’d happily marry him again today (whether he asked me or not). God knows we can drive each other crazy at times, but the inscription on our wedding invitation thirteen years ago is still true today:

This day I will marry my friend…

The one I laugh with, dream with,

live for and love.

September 9, 2016 / Retirementallychallenged.com

Oh, Ottawa!

Oh Canada you're looking good for 149 and with Justin on the Hill it's only getting better, keep it Trudeau Canada!

Oh Canada you’re looking good for 149 and with Justin on the Hill it’s only getting better, keep it Trudeau Canada!

We had mixed feelings as we left Toronto and made our way to Ottawa, the penultimate stop on our road trip (the last stop would be an overnight stay close to the airport in Montreal). We had been traveling for almost a month and were a bit homesick, but we also were having a great time and didn’t want the trip to end.

Our Airbnb apartment in Ottawa was definitely the nicest one we experienced on our trip. The host, a young, self-described “day-trader” who owned several apartments in the building, was helpful and very welcoming. The apartment was clean, quiet, nicely decorated, and well-located. Once we parked our rental (free parking was included – bonus!), we were able to walk everywhere we wanted to.

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Parliament Hill is the political and cultural heart of Ottawa. The Gothic-style government buildings overlooking the Ottawa River are open for free guided tours (the tickets are first-come, first-served, so get them early). Our tour of the Centre Block building ended with an elevator ride to the top of the Peace Tower which provided sweeping views of the city and the river.

Another tourist favorite during the summer months is the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place each morning on the front lawn of Parliament Hill.

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The Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. There are 45 locks along the 125 mile (202 kilometer) length of the canal. It was completed in 1832 as a precaution in case of war with the United States and remains in use today primarily for pleasure boating (and ice skating in the winter). The canal begins (or ends, depending on the direction of travel) in Ottawa where the large wooden lock doors are opened and closed using hand cranks. The park surrounding the locks was beautiful and we spent a relaxing few hours just watching the process of the boats making their way up through the gates.

Standing on very spindly legs next to the world-class National Gallery of Canada is the Maman sculpture by Louise Bourgeois – a 30-foot bronze cast of a spider.  The title is the French word for Mother, which explains the sac on her belly containing 26 marble eggs. Similar Maman sculptures can also be found at art museums in the UK, Spain, Japan, South Korea, and the US.

We also enjoyed exploring the historic and trendy ByWard Market, one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets. It was just a few blocks from our apartment and the four-block area was full of shops, cafes, pubs, and galleries.

As we left Ottawa after only a few days, we once again felt that our too-short stay only allowed us to scratch the surface of this beautiful city. I’d love to return some day and explore all that we missed this time around.

September 6, 2016 / Retirementallychallenged.com

GratiTuesday: Our summer has just begun!

Most people mark the beginning of summer in June on the Solstice, or when the kids get out of school, or when the weather turns reliably warm. But, for many people who live in my city – especially those of us who are retired or have flexible schedules – our summer begins after Labor Day.

After months of sharing our city with visitors and putting up with roving packs of teens and pre-teens, all of a sudden a kind of quiet descends over us. Most of the tourists have gone back home, the kids are starting back to school, and we look forward to what is often our best weather in September and into October. We rejoice that our beaches are far less crowded, restaurants are quieter, and we no longer have to share our favorite hang outs with the masses.

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And, it gets even better: even though we will celebrate the Fall Equinox on September 22 this year, Daylight Savings mercifully doesn’t end until November 6. Then, it’s just over a month until the Winter Solstice, after which the sun begins to make its way north again and daylight hours start to get longer and longer.

Even though we continue to struggle with the drought here in Southern California, I am so grateful that I live in an area where winter doesn’t mean months of snow, spring feels right around the corner even in September, and the delights of summer can often be enjoyed well after those living in colder climates have traded their flip flips for boots.

I’d also be very grateful for a good dose of rain, though.

September 4, 2016 / Retirementallychallenged.com

Vibrant Toronto

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Toronto is Canada’s biggest and busiest city, and its most diverse. Over 140 languages are spoken there and it is estimated that over half of its residents were born outside of Canada. The most populous city in Canada, it is the fourth largest city in North America (behind Mexico City, New York City, and Los Angeles).

Even knowing all of this, I found myself a little overwhelmed at first by the size and vibrancy of Toronto.

Our Airbnb was located on a side street in the downtown area, between two busy boulevards. It appeared that most of the residents of the tall apartment building were students, possibly attending the nearby Ryerson University. The flat itself was quiet and nicely appointed and, because it was up on the 21st floor, we had a nice view of the downtown.

Although we didn't sit around much, our Airbnb flat was very comfortable.

Although we didn’t sit around much, our Airbnb flat was very comfortable.

As we did during most of the other stops along our recent road trip, once we parked our car (free, off-street parking was included – a huge plus in this busy city), it remained unused for the three days we were there. We were able to get everywhere we wanted to go either on foot or using public transportation.

Dancers enjoying the Salsa Festival.

Dancers enjoying the Salsa Festival.

In addition to a high-quality outdoor art show (top picture), we were delighted to discover that there was also a food festival and a Salsa music festival taking place on the days we were in town.

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All within walking distance from our flat was Toronto’s Chinatown, the funky Kensington Market neighborhood, Old Town Toronto’s famous St. Lawrence Market, the Entertainment District, the busy Waterfront, and lots of tempting places to eat.

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Like other Canadian cities we visited, street art seemed to be everywhere in Toronto. Much of it was big and gorgeous, but there were also plenty of unauthorized contributions.

After just a three-day stay in Toronto, we felt that we hadn’t even scratched to surface of this amazing city. It’s loud and messy and crowded, but the vitality and energy is infectious. Although our travel schedule didn’t allow us to stay any longer, we agreed that a return trip – one that included much more time to explore other neighborhoods and indulge in additional culinary delights – could quite possibly be in our future.

August 30, 2016 / Retirementallychallenged.com

GratiTuesday: The blogging community

When I first started my blog almost three years ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect beyond having an excuse to write now and then. At the time, I was approaching my retirement and I thought blogging would be a good way to work through the uncertainties I was feeling.

What I didn’t expect was that my blog would become an entrée into a community of interesting, generous, and inspiring fellow bloggers. As I got more and more comfortable with the care and feeding of my blog, I started to meet other bloggers who were on similar journeys. That led me to find still others who, although they might have been on different paths, had interesting stories to tell.

In many ways, I feel as if I can call many of the bloggers I follow – and who follow me – friends. Through our posts and our comments, we celebrate positive events, support each other through challenges, and share simple bits and pieces of our lives. If a blogger I’ve been following stops posting – either unexpectedly or with prior notice – I often feel as if I’ve lost a friend.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet face-to-face with several bloggers I follow. Each time, the transition from blog persona to actual person was easy and the conversation comfortable. The get-togethers have felt like meet ups with friends… because that’s what they were.

My most recent face-to-face meeting was with Joanne of My Life Lived Full. Several months ago, when my husband and I started to plan our road trip back east, I reached out to her to see if she’d be interested in getting together while we were in Toronto. Fortunately, she was and she generously arranged her day so we could meet for lunch.

Joanne meetup

Just as I expected, Joanne was as nice (she is Canadian, after all) and interesting in person as she is on her blog. We talked about her family (which I already felt like I had met), our travels, and a whole host of other topics. After a couple of hours of easy conversation, I was sorry when it was time to go.

I am so grateful for the community of bloggers that I have become a part of. I had no idea when I started my blog that it would provide me not only an opportunity to write, but also the chance to meet new friends from all over the world.

August 27, 2016 / Retirementallychallenged.com

The Power of Niagara Falls

Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe Falls

I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to see many amazing sites over the years – natural wonders, great works of art, and man-made structures of historical significance. Many have inspired genuine awe, but only a few have brought me to tears; bowled over by their impact deep inside of me. The Statue of David, the Grand Canyon, and Mount Rushmore are a few that come to mind. The Niagara Falls is another. I’m not sure where the heightened emotional response comes from, but it’s powerful when it hits.

We arrived in Niagara Falls well after dark but, thankfully, not too late to see the 10pm fireworks display. Our Airbnb was located down-river and as we hurried towards the main observation area, we started to hear the relentless pounding of the water before we could see the falls. When they came into view, my eyes immediately welled up and my heart started to beat with what felt like the force of the falls. Their incredible beauty and power stopped me in my tracks.

My husband and I were back in Canada after spending almost half of our month-long road trip in the U.S. (Vermont and Upstate New York). On the other side of the Gorge from us was Niagara Falls State Park – America’s oldest state park – but we had read that the Canadian side has the better views and accommodations. Our Airbnb – it actually turned out to be a B&B (Lion’s Head http://www.lionsheadbb.com/) – was nicely situated and the delightful owner, Helena, a trained chef, provided incredible breakfasts for her guests each morning.

Our room at Lion's Head B&B

Our room at Lion’s Head B&B

After a restful night’s sleep and sumptuous strata for breakfast, we headed off to see the sites. In order to get the most out of our one full day in Niagara Falls, we decided to purchase an Adventure Pass which allowed us to visited four main attractions (White Water Walk, Journey Behind the Falls, Hornblower Niagara Cruise, and the 4D film, Niagara’s Fury). The pass also included bus transportation.

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The Niagara Falls were formed at the end of the last Ice Age when the glaciers receded and the water from the newly formed Great Lakes began to carve a path towards the Atlantic Ocean.  The three waterfalls – Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls – are geological wonders estimated to be about 12,000 years old. Millions of gallons of water spill over the falls every minute – about 750,000 gallons each second. The water’s force has been producing hydroelectric power since the first generating station was built in 1881.

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I read recently that New York State is planning to divert the water from the American Falls sometime in the next few years so they can replace two 115-year-old stone arch bridges. If this happens, it will be the first time since 1969 that the water flow has stopped.  The American Falls was slowed to a trickle in 1969 to study the effects of erosion and buildup of rock at the base of the falls. When that happened, people came from all over the world to see the falls turned off.

1969 water diversion. Photo credit: Niagara Falls Public Library

1969 water diversion. Photo credit: Niagara Falls Public Library

If they do in fact divert the water – a once (or twice) in a lifetime event – it could be a perfect excuse for us to visit Niagara Falls again.