GratiTuesday: Couple Friends

Enjoying the friendship of other couples is a delightful part of our marriage. I have female friends that I do gal things with and my husband has male friends he does guy things with. Although we like each other’s friends, sometimes when we’ve introduced a friend’s spouse to the mix, things haven’t clicked as well as we’d like. The spouse may be a delightful person on his or her own, but, for whatever reason, the group dynamic just doesn’t work.

When my husband and I discover a couple whose company we enjoy equally, we feel as if we’ve won the lottery. We know that when we get together as a foursome, the conversation will flow, and the time we spend together will be fun and engaging.

This past weekend, two blogging friends and I met up to discuss – what else? – blogging. This was not the first time I have gotten together with Donna from Retirement Reflections and Kathy from Smart Living 365, and I consider them good friends as well as fellow bloggers. I knew that the three of us would have plenty to talk about and I had been looking forward to our gathering for quite a while.

Kathy and her husband live in the community where we met, and Donna and her husband were staying close by in a home exchange. My husband and I drove a few hours from our home to join them for the weekend.

Knowing what wonderful husbands my friends have and knowing that my husband is pretty terrific too, I had no doubt that we’d enjoy each other’s company. What I didn’t anticipate – and was thrilled to discover – is how well all six of us meshed together. Even though blogging brought the three of us women together, I was delighted that our husbands enjoyed commonalities and mutual interests too.

Kathy and Thom, Donna and Richard, me and Paul enjoying a warm desert evening… oh, and wine.

I came away from our weekend together with much to be grateful for. I am grateful that Donna, Kathy and I were able to meet and talk about a subject that means a lot to us (more about that later). I am grateful for the generous hospitality that my husband and I were shown. Most of all, I am grateful that the six of us – husbands and wives – were able to break bread together, share our stories, and enjoy the bond of friendship.

GratiTuesday: Post Labor Days

My husband and I went to a neighbor’s Labor Day party yesterday. There were about 25 people in attendance and, by my count, over half of us were no longer working at a regular, full-time job. Some of us are officially retired (as in no longer receiving a regular paycheck) and some are involved in a few part-time, money-making ventures out of want, not need (which still qualifies as “retired” in my book).

I remember when Labor Day felt like a final hurrah before summer bid adieu. Even though the weather might still say “summer,” school and work told us different. The Labor Day parties were always fun but bitter sweet. We enjoyed the company of our friends, but we also knew that it was probably the end of outdoor gatherings for a while.

Now that we are retired, Labor Day feels more like a beginning than an end. From now on, the roads will be a little less crowded, the beaches more accessible, and businesses less busy. Just like before, the weather will still say “summer” but there will be fewer people competing for space to enjoy it.

In addition to the joy of dwindling crowds where we live, we can also take advantage of fewer crowds when we travel. What are called “shoulder seasons” – typically spring and fall – are prime travel times for those of us who no longer live by someone else’s schedule. The weather is often still nice, but the crowds are lighter and the prices cheaper.

We still have a lot of summer left and the time to enjoy every moment.

Last night at the party, the conversations we had with our neighbors and fellow retirees were full of stories of how we spent our summer and how we were planning to embrace the months ahead. We talked excitedly about travel plans we’ve made and interests we wanted to pursue, about projects we planned to work on and events we hoped to attend. What there wasn’t was any talk about school schedules, work piling up, or the end of another summer… and I think we were all grateful for that.

GratiTuesday: Walkable San Miguel de Allende

Tell someone that you are going to Mexico and often the first things they’ll picture are beautiful sandy beaches, warm ocean water, and sipping margaritas in a cantina. While I have nothing against any of these pursuits – and have happily done all three on past trips – that “Mexican experience” never felt very authentic to me.

Our five-week trip to the city of Oaxaca last year was the first time we visited an area of the country that wasn’t next to a large body of water… and we loved it. After that experience, we were anxious to explore other parts of Mexico’s interior, and San Miguel de Allende was high on our list of possibilities.

San Miguel de Allende is a small colonial town located in Mexico’s semi-arid central highlands. It is known for its charming atmosphere, historical architecture, vibrant culture, and artsy expatriate community. The region is also known as the cradle of the Mexican independence movement and San Miguel was the birthplace of many of its heroes, including the city’s namesake, Ignacio Allende.

According to local history, the self-taught draftsman who designed the facade based his design on a postcard depicting a French Gothic cathedral.

The most famous landmark in San Miguel is La Parroquia (which simply means parish church), a neo-gothic church whose pink sandstone facade, towering spires, and pointed arches preside over the lively town square.

One benefit of slow travel (staying in one place for an extended period) is being able to explore with a relaxed schedule. Many mornings, we just picked a direction and walked. We could hardly turn a corner without finding an interesting scene: a beautiful old church, an intriguingly narrow walkway, richly painted facades, or a street vendor selling everything from colorful trinkets and toys to straw hats and flowered hair pieces.

I bought a hat from him on the condition that I could take his picture.
Women in traditional dress sell their wares to tourists.
Templo de la Inmaculada Concepcion
A horse-drawn carriage transporting newlyweds to their reception.
Dos amigos enjoying a rest.
The Bellas Artes courtyard is the perfect spot to relax and cool off. 

It was hard not to be constantly looking around as we walked San Miguel’s streets, but it was also important to be aware of where we were stepping… the narrow sidewalks and cobblestone streets made turning an ankle or tripping a very real possibility.

It was important to watch where we were walking.

Much of what there is to do, see, eat, and experience in San Miguel can be accessed by foot. For anything outside of walking range, there are plenty of options such as the ubiquitous green taxis, Uber, and hired drivers. We enjoyed being car-free for the seven weeks we were there and, although I didn’t bring my Fitbit, I am confident that I easily met my daily goal of 10,000 steps… and then some.

We learned the importance of taking it slow and staying hydrated.
More stairs!
The evening’s golden hour paints a picture with light.
You can see the spires of the Parroquia peeking out from behind the dome.
An early morning balloon flight.
The Parroquia could be seen from all over the city.

My husband and I love to walk, and I am very grateful that we are fit enough to navigate the sometimes hilly terrain. San Miguel is a city best enjoyed by foot.

Housesitting and the Importance of Saying Yes

It all started with an invitation… and we weren’t even the ones being invited. My brother and sister-in-law had dinner with friends who suggested they visit San Miguel de Allende, a colonial town in the center of Mexico. These friends manage vacation rental property in San Miguel and they thought B & SIL would enjoy the beautiful city.

Convinced, B & SIL decided to book a 2-week stay beginning July 1 and asked if we’d like to join them. We, of course, said “yes!”

San Miguel de Allende

Then, at my book club meeting, I happened to mention our upcoming trip. One of the members said that she knew someone who lived in San Miguel and when her friend traveled, she often needed a house- and pet-sitter. Would I like to be connected? Ummm… “yes!”

After exchanging a few emails, this friend asked if we’d like to stay in her home the month of June while she was housesitting for someone else in another part of Mexico. Even though we weren’t planning on going to San Miguel until July 1, the opportunity seemed too good to pass up, so we said “yes!”

Once we committed to a 7-week stay in San Miguel – 4 weeks housesitting and 3 weeks in an Airbnb – we contacted good friends of ours who often housesit for us while we are away. Their enthusiastic “yes!” assured us that our house would be well cared for… while we were caring for another person’s house and cat… while that person cared for the house and the dog of another.

Our home away from home.

I follow several blogs written by full- and part-time housesitters and that lifestyle has always intrigued me. Although it can be fun to travel from place to place, slow travel – staying in one location for an extended period – is especially appealing to us. Housesitting makes slow travel extremely affordable because there is seldom any monetary compensation involved. The homeowner knows that their home and, if they have one, their pet will be well taken care of, and the sitter enjoys the comforts and convenience of staying in a home for little or no cost.

I’m pretty sure that this won’t be the last time we will housesit when we travel. I’ve already checked out a few of the housesitting websites for opportunities (there are tons) and the homeowner (and now our friend) in San Miguel has assured us that we are welcome to sit for her again when she travels.

There are lots of lodging alternatives when traveling today. In addition to traditional hotels, we have other options such as Airbnb, home exchanges, and housesitting. Each has their pluses and minuses, benefits, and trade-offs. The important thing is to research the various alternatives, consider your personal preferences, and, most important, choose to say “yes!”

GratiTuesday Guest Post: Gratitude for the Young Ones

GratiTuesday guest post by Lynn, An Encore Voyage

Recently I wrote a blog post about retiring without having had children.  It’s rather easy these days to speak disparagingly of many of today’s young people.  There are those who seem unable to string two sentences together without benefit of fishing line…

But in keeping with Janis’s GratiTuesday theme, I’d like to share with you my

Gratitude for the Young Ones

Just recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Seattle to witness the thesis defense and presentation of a doctoral degree to my dear friend’s son.  From the time he was born, I have watched this young man develop into an extraordinarily gifted shining star.  Now, he and the brilliant young minds he works with are engaged in world-altering research.  They are the ones who are curing AIDS, cancers, and illnesses which have plagued the world for our lifetimes.  Such accomplishment in one so young!

I can remember getting a bit freaked out when I first went to a doctor who was younger than I was.  How could he possibly be old enough to have completed medical school?  Then, as my doc used his iPad to flip through my medical records, and swiftly and easily breeze through the technology to show me the most recent of treatment options, I realized I really don’t want to go to a doctor who still uses a flip phone!

For the past two seasons, hubs and I have been enjoying the Broadway productions that come to our city.  We recently dined with a gifted young woman who is just beginning her career in the theatre industry.  Her passion and enthusiasm for her craft made something abundantly clear…It isn’t us crusty retirees who are bringing these beautiful productions to life.  It is daring, talented young people who are bravely and energetically sharing themselves through Broadway, Shakespeare, Contemporary Theatre, music, and dance.  I am grateful to them for creating magical opportunities for all our benefit!

So, here’s to the Millennials and Gen Z-ers who will be such a changing force in this world.  While many may poke fun at your man-buns and essential oils, I am grateful for your many contributions that will alter the landscape of this country!

And now, I’m headed off to my dentist.  He’s a brilliant Millennial – He’ll be using a laser to fix my cavities!

From Janis:

Thank you, Lynn, for sharing your GratiTuesday guest post with us! Thank you for your reminder of the positive contributions the younger generations are already making to our world.

For those of you who haven’t yet discovered Lynn’s blog, please check it out. Follow her journey after she and her husband gave up their lifelong careers and reinvented their lifestyle.

I will be back with my own GratiTuesday post which I’m pretty sure will include my profound gratitude for all my guest posters.

GratiTuesday Guest Post: Smiles

Guest post by Laura, Crafting My Retirement

I am grateful to Janis for inviting me to write a guest post for her GratiTuesday blog segment. Janis is an amazing blogger who every Tuesday posts about the things in her life for which she is grateful. From family and friends, to a beautiful day at the beach, to people and organizations who are making a difference in the world, Janis’ blog and accompanying photographs are both beautiful and thought-provoking.

I’m also grateful to my family and friends who have allowed me to use their smiles in the “Smile of the Week” portion of my blog.

The Smile of the Week is an extension of my Smiles are Contagious campaign.

Last August, I attended a graduation party for several of my work friends. Knowing I’d be retiring soon, I brought my camera along to take photos of my friends so I would have memories of those people who mean so much to me.

That evening, as I reviewed the photographs, all I could see was their beautiful smiles. Joy and happiness lit up my computer screen. I realized I was smiling back at them as I scrolled through the pictures.  I went through the photos several times and each time, I couldn’t help but smile back. It dawned on me, smiles are contagious.

Reflecting further on the day, something very special began to emerge. In this small gathering of friends, smiles from nine different countries were represented.  Smiles are not only contagious; smiles break down cultural barriers and bring us closer together. The gift of a smile is universal.

Thus, began the Smiles are Contagious campaign. I wrote about them, started signing off my work emails and my blog posts with the quote; “Smiles are contagious; let’s start an epidemic.” Then, I took it to the streets, smiling at people in the gym, the grocery store and parking lots. I got a few strange looks, but mostly was gifted with a return smile.

Smiles are welcoming

Smiles are heartwarming

Smiles are life-changing

Smiles are beautiful

Smiles are healing

Smiles are a gift for both the giver and the receiver

Smiles are unique.

From the Cheshire Cat to the Mona Lisa and every smile in-between, each is different.  Whether dimpled, shy, toothy, captivating, radiant, playful, or crooked, all smiles are capable of changing the world. I am grateful for yours.

Smiles are contagious; let’s start an epidemic

From Janis:

Thank you, Laura, for sharing your GratiTuesday guest post with us! I love that you started a personal campaign to promote smiles. I think we can all get behind that!

For those of you who haven’t yet discovered Laura’s blog, you are in for a treat. Although she is relatively new to both blogging and retirement, it’s obvious that she has both well in hand.

Please stop by next Tuesday when Lynn from An Encore Voyage shares her gratitude.

GratiTuesday Guest Post: Bloggers Who Inspire

Guest post by Marty, Snakes in the Grass

Many thanks to Janis for inviting me to guest blog on her GratiTuesday series. To my regular readers who’ve followed me over here today, I do recommend that you check out her blog on a regular basis. Janis took the retirement plunge around the same time as me. Her posts are all about making that transition in as graceful and enjoyable way as possible.

In trying to figure out how I could submit something meaningful here, I have to admit that I was momentarily bereft of ideas. In fact, my first thought after agreeing to participate was to immediately think about my own struggles when writing about gratitude.

Each year during the week of Thanksgiving, I write a post on my blog where I give a listing from A-Z of all the things in my life that make me feel grateful. It’s an arduous undertaking because not only have I put myself into a position of having to come up with 26 items, but I also need to be watchful to not repeat too much of what I used previously. For instance, I seem to regularly blank out with the letter Q. Realizing that I can’t list the Who album “Quadrophenia” each time, last year I simply left it blank and pleaded with my readers to offer up their own suggestions. The lesson here is the same one I learned in 30+ years of government service: if you can’t do it yourself, contract out the work!

Some of us, though, just have a way of a better way of expressing themselves. Take Janis, for instance. Back on the April 17th tax day, she wrote a great post which singles out the virtues of how her tax money is spent. My first reaction after reading it was unmitigated jealousy because I hadn’t thought of writing it first. But my second reaction was admiration and even… <wait for it>gratitude that in this era of antigovernment, anti-progressive fervor, she had the tenacity to say what so many of us are thinking.

[Unsolicited advice to prospective guest-bloggers: always suck up to the host blogger. It ensures you’ll be asked back in the future.]

Which at last brings me to my point: other than finally having the time to read big, huge books I mostly avoided during my working years, I really had no retirement “bucket list.” The one desire I did have, however, was to write whatever entered my head and post it to a blog I could call my own. After doing just that, I came into regular contact with other bloggers whom I now choose to believe are my new colleagues — except we don’t get on each other’s nerves, and to my knowledge none of us ever forgets to wipe down the microwave after using it.

The bloggers I follow here on WordPress bring me unique perspectives, plus glimpses into their struggles and life experiences. They are at times utterly hilarious when sharing the foibles and calamities we all occasionally face; fascinating with recollections of earlier years; heartbreaking when providing us a front row seat into the challenges they face; and admirable because of just how gifted and talented some people are as writers. Please click on each of these links to see what I’m talking about.

So, here’s to all you bloggers who inspire me regularly. I am very grateful.

From Janis:

Thank you, Marty, for sharing your GratiTuesday guest post with us! I, too, am grateful for all the fabulous bloggers whose posts I read on a regular basis, including yours. And, yes, you are invited back as a guest writer anytime 😉 !

For those of you who haven’t yet discovered Marty’s blog, I encourage you to check it out. Although some serious content appears every now-and-then, his great sense of humor always shines through.

Please stop by next Tuesday when Christie from So What? Now What? shares her gratitude.