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February 2, 2017 / Retirementallychallenged.com

Thursday Doors: Tears for Quebec

I had quite a different Thursday Doors planned for today… until I read Norm’s on his blog Norm 2.0. His post was a departure from his usual intriguing but lighthearted #ThursdayDoors posts. What he wrote today was thoughtful, emotionally powerful, and it hit me in the gut.

Go ahead, read it now if you haven’t already. I’ll be here when you get back.

My husband and visited Quebec City this past June, just days after the horrible massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. That shooter killed 49 people and wounded 53 others before being shot and killed by the police. His reason for the rampage: Hate.

U.S. Consulate General office in Old Quebec, 2016.

U.S. Consulate General office in Old Quebec, 2016.

As we were touring Old Quebec, we came upon the United States Consulate General office located along one of the many lovely streets in this incredibly beautiful city. As awful as the news had been just a few days before, seeing a large rainbow flag flying at half-mast next to the U.S. Consulate door, made us proud of our country and our (then) government. The flag was a clear display of deep sorrow and a show of solidarity with a community that often finds itself maligned.

Now, we read about the massacre that happened in beautiful Quebec City. The gunman used a different religion to justify his action, his skin was of a different color, and his targets were a different “other.” But, his motivation was the same: Hate.

Evil feeds on evil. Rather than speaking words that lift us up and encourage our better selves, people in power – and those who seek power – are speaking words of hate and suspicion. They do it because it works, they do it because some people need to feel “better than” to feel good about themselves.

I’m not sure when this evil will stop, or if it ever will, but I know we need to speak out against it when we can. We need to defend the “others” who are victims of the hate and let them know that they are us and we are them; we are all in this together.

I wonder what flag is flying outside the United States Consulate General office today. I hope very much that it is one displaying deep sorrow and solidarity with a community that often finds itself maligned.

January 21, 2017 / Retirementallychallenged.com

We are the Storm

The concept for the Women’s March in Washington D.C. started as germ of an idea a grandmother in Hawaii had who was devastated by Trump’s presidential victory. Because she felt compelled to do something, she created a Facebook event page calling for a march on our nation’s capital. She expected a handful of people to sign up; a day after her post, she had more than 10,000 responses.

From that initial idea, a movement was started. Soon, in addition to the Women’s March in Washington D.C., solidarity marches were being planned all over the United States and around the world in opposition to President Trump’s agenda, and support of women’s rights and human rights in general.

Artist Brian Andreas created a poster just for the Women's March

Artist Brian Andreas created a poster just for the Women’s March

Today, my husband and I joined an estimated 30,000 – 40,000 of our fellow citizens to walk in the Women’s March in San Diego.

The crowds were large, loud, friendly, and optimistic. Some carried children and some carried signs, but all carried a determination to make their voices heard. As we stood in the on-and-off sprinkling of rain listening to a group of speakers, there was a palpable feeling that the crowd was anxious to start their march and show their numbers.

Travelers on a docked cruise ship watched and (some) cheered as we walked by.

Travelers on a docked cruise ship watched and (some) cheered as we walked by.

And march we did: from the Civic Center Plaza, down Broadway towards the Embarcadero, and finally culminating at San Diego’s Administration Building, one mile away. The crowds were so large that by the time the first of the marchers reached their destination, there were still those who were just leaving the staging area.

As I was walking with the other participants, I couldn’t help feeling that my mother and father were there right beside me. Many years ago, I joined them as they protested and marched against another very unpopular president and a war that exacted a huge human cost. If they were still alive, I am confident that they would have joined us today.

Media reports are indicating that the “sister marches” in all fifty states have shattered participation expectations. In addition, large crowds attended marches around the world, including, London, Paris, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and Sydney, Australia. A friend of mine currently visiting Oaxaca, Mexico joined about 500 marches there. Global estimates indicate that over 3 million individuals participated in the marches, up from the 1.3 million initially anticipated.

I am confident that this won’t be the last time we are asked to raise our voices in solidarity. And, it won’t be the last time I answer “Yes.” As was written on one of the signs held by a fellow marcher:

The devil whispered in my ear,

“You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.”

Today I whispered in the Devil’s ear,

“I am the storm.”

January 10, 2017 / Retirementallychallenged.com

GratiTuesday: A Most Perfect Day

My husband and I stopped buying each other special occasion gifts a long ago. Not only would we rather purchase items as they are needed, but, like so many people our age, we are more interested in getting rid of things than acquiring them.

What I can’t buy for myself – but certainly need more of – is quality time spent hanging out with my best friend. So, when my birthday rolled around a few days ago, I asked my husband for a day doing exactly what I wanted: a day spent with him, exploring one of our area’s most beautiful cities – Coronado.

We’ve been having an unusual amount of rain in Southern California this winter. It has come in waves… a few rainy days interspersed with cloudy days, then rain again. Because of our persistent drought none of us are complaining, but every so often, in between the rainstorms, we get a day that just sparkles. And, two days after my birthday, they were predicting one of those days – a perfect day.

It wasn't exactly on my birthday... but it was Elvis's birthday so it rocked.

It wasn’t exactly on my birthday… but it was Elvis’s birthday so it rocked.

Coronado Island, a small beach community just west of San Diego’s downtown, is home to the North Island Naval Air Station and the headquarters of the U.S. Navy Seals, but is probably best known for the historic Hotel del Coronado. You might recognize it if you’ve ever see the 1958 movie “Some Like It Hot” (starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon), which was filmed on its grounds.

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Marilyn.

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Surrounded by San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean, Coronado’s beaches go on for miles and the views are breathtaking.

Looking towards Point Loma.

Looking towards Point Loma.

The view of downtown across San Diego Bay.

The view of downtown across San Diego Bay.

After spending the day strolling on the beach, enjoying lunch in a lovely outdoor courtyard, admiring the gorgeous views, and exploring the grand Hotel del, we headed home… where the Caramelized Orange Birthday Cheesecake my husband made for me was waiting.

cheesecake

Worth every calorie.

I am so grateful for being able to spend this most perfect day in the most perfect way.

January 3, 2017 / Retirementallychallenged.com

GratiTuesday: A Blank Slate for a New Year

After my husband and I retired several years ago, we looked around a bit to find a good system for keeping track of our day-to-day lives. When we worked, we took advantage of our Outlook calendars on our office computers. Along with scheduling our business-related meetings, travel, and deadlines, we also noted doctor appointments, get-togethers with friends, and other non-work life events. Since we were on our work computers all day and they were linked up with our cellphone calendars, it was easy to keep everything straight.

Once we both were retired, we found ourselves missing a few important dates, including a quarterly tax payment due date (oops). That expensive mistake made us realize that we needed a system to help us manage our schedules. After several unsuccessful attempts at using fancy apps and digital assistants that others had recommended, we found that nothing had the same ease and appeal for us than just a simple desk calendar.

calendars

Now, after three years, we still swear by our yearly date books. We have found that not only do they help us manage our schedules in the current year, but the calendars from prior years can be a valuable tool to help us remember past events that our grey matter has lost. When did we take that trip? How long has it been since I’ve seen the dentist, where were we last February? – it’s all there for us in writing.

Now, it’s time to file away our 2016 calendar and start a new one for 2017. I’ve already jotted down a few appointments, important due dates (including quarterly taxes), and upcoming trips, but most of the 365 squares are blank and waiting to be filled.

I am so grateful to have this blank slate in front of me: empty of words but full of possibilities. Although it looks pretty bare now, I’m looking forward to all the special occasions, interesting classes, and exciting adventures that will soon start appear on its pages.

December 30, 2016 / Retirementallychallenged.com

A New Year’s Resolution for EVERYONE

I wrote this post a year ago but apparently not everyone was paying attention because we still have issues… big issues. Here it is again with a few updates… I hope it works this time.

I gave up writing New Year’s resolutions for myself years ago. As a kid, it was kind of fun to put together a list every year but, as I got older, I came to realize that they really never amounted to much. In the end, and despite my good intensions, there were few pounds lost and no better habits gained. Yep, I was pretty much the same old me after a month or two into the new year.

This year, rather than come up with resolutions just for myself, I have decided to make one big resolution for EVERYONE to share. I figure that, with us all working together, supporting each other, and gently nudging those that falter back on track, maybe, just maybe, we can succeed.

My resolution for the masses:

Don’t be Stupid

The best thing about this resolution for you is, because I’m sure – like me – you aren’t stupid at all, your part will be easy. Just make sure that everyone else doesn’t mess up.

Here is list of 10 ways your fellow humans can avoid being stupid. It’s far from complete.

  1. Don’t text or talk on the phone while driving. Competent multi-tasking is a myth. Even if it wasn’t, the task of piloting a vehicle that weighs over 3,000 pounds requires complete attention. This level of stupid could end up killing someone.
  2. Same goes for drinking and driving.
  3. Don’t believe everything you read, hear, or see on the Internet – check things out. Develop a healthy skepticism. Believing that the Pope supported Donald Trump was stupid. Thinking that reposting a “Privacy Statement” on your Facebook wall will protect your privacy is stupid. Reposting these fake stories (even with the caveat “this could be a hoax, but I’m posting it just in case”) makes the poster’s stupidity evident to all 1,000 of their closest friends. Snopes.com and Factcheck.com are your friends. So are critical thinking skills.
  4. Don’t equate the accumulation of things with the building of happiness. We all like a certain amount of stuff, but chances are the good feeling we get from acquiring something new will not last. Think about acquiring experiences and accumulating memories instead. Travel, spend time with family and friends, learn a new skill.
  5. Don’t over-inflate. I’m not talking about weight here (although, it could be argued that not properly nourishing and caring for the only body we have is kind of stupid); I mean the tendency to take a small incident and inflate it into something much greater. The controversy over Starbuck’s plain red cups last year and their green cups this year comes to mind, as do many stories reported on cable news. Over-inflating creates cultural distortion and promotes misinformation.
  6. Don’t miss out on glorious vistas or the witnessing of actual events or because it seemed more important to take and post selfies. The magnificence of the Grand Canyon isn’t improved with duck-lipped faces in front of it.
  7. Don’t compare yourself physically to models and celebrities. Chances are that they don’t even really look like that. Photoshop and good lighting can do wonders.
  8. Don’t dig your own grave. You’ll get there soon enough as it is. Stop maintaining habits that are self-destructive, staying in relationships that are toxic, and dwelling on negative thoughts. If you like digging around in the dirt, better to plant a garden.
  9. Don’t ever pass up an opportunity to pay a sincere compliment or tell someone that you love them.
  10. Don’t forget to live your best life. Always. It’s the only one you’ll get.

Have a wonderful, safe New Year’s celebration! And, please watch out for stupid people (especially those mentioned in #1 and #2).

new-year

December 27, 2016 / Retirementallychallenged.com

GratiTuesday: To You

thank-you

As any blogger knows, once a post is complete, it can be a little unnerving to hit “publish” and watch as our private words become public. Whether we’ve written something we hope will make people smile, or make them think, or we’ve shared an event or an adventure, we always pour at least a bit of ourselves into what we write. When we send a post off into the blogosphere, we never know for sure what will come of it. It’s the likes and comments we receive in return that help us know that our words are being read and appreciated.

Because of this, I want you to know how grateful I am to you for visiting, reading, liking, and (hopefully) following RetirementallyChallenged. I know that there are many, many millions of blogs to choose from, and I am beyond thankful that you have found and spent a moment with mine.

My deepest gratitude goes to those of you who take the time to leave such positive, insightful, and interesting comments – they are often the best part of each post. For the generosity of those who share their thoughts by commenting, I am more grateful than words can express.

December 16, 2016 / Retirementallychallenged.com

I Blame Pinterest

Well, not really, but…

When did the holiday season – and especially Christmas – get so over-the-top stressful? My childhood memories of pre-Christmas preparations include buying and trimming a tree, placing decorations around the living room, and stringing lights in front of our house. Granted, most of these tasks fell to my parents, but I don’t recall a heightened sense of stress related to any of these activities.

The tree wasn’t decorated in an overall theme, nor were the trimmings color-coordinated. The ornaments were a mixture of well-loved heirlooms handed down through the generations, holiday crafts that my brothers and I made at school, and decorations that my mother bought over the years at after-Christmas sales.

xmas-tree

Our living room shelves and the credenza beneath it had various Santas, reindeer, and snowman decorations placed among the books and next to the TV. As Christmas cards arrived in the mail, they filled up any remaining spaces.

xmas-house

The outdoor lights – the large, tear-drop shaped, multi-colored bulbs that everyone had – were strung in a straight(ish) line from the far corner of our garage, across the front of our house, then down to a couple of the bushes below.

It was pretty much the same thing every year… and we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Fast forward to the age of social media.

Friends on Facebook post pictures of perfectly decorated homes (inside and out) and lavishly prepared meals, Houzz offers a myriad of ways to accessorize our rooms for the holidays – in prices ranging from a lot to are you kidding me?, and Pinterest is bursting with photos of just the item, product, display, project, recipe, etc. that we need to purchase or create to assure our holiday is perfect.

Now, don’t misunderstand: I am not immune to the eye candy that is everywhere this season. I love to see what others have done to decorate or which appetizers, cocktails, or meals they have planned for their holiday celebrations. But, even as I admire their decorating talents (to say nothing about the off-season storage space they must have) or their creativity in the kitchen, I prefer the low-key way my husband and I choose to celebrate the holidays.

I realize that decorating every nook and cranny with just the right seasonal accessory or wowing family and guests by baking and serving a Chocolate Espresso Bûche de Noël fills some with joy. We’re just happier to eschew the tree (there really isn’t room for one anyway) and put out fewer, but well-loved, decorations. And, while we enjoy attending holiday parties given by friends who love to entertain lavishly, our get-togethers tend to be small and pretty casual.

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If I find myself grumbling about being stressed out or feeling like I don’t have enough time to do the things I “need” to do, I stop and consider how much unnecessary burden I’ve willingly put on my own shoulders. Am I doing what pleases me, or am I trying to emulate someone else’s version of the holiday? What works for one person, or one family, may not be a good fit for another.

And that’s OK.  This season isn’t about an exquisitely decorated home or perfectly prepared food, it’s about the people in our homes and those who share our food.

That’s where the memories are made.