Playing with Fire

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you probably know that I’m all about having experiences instead of acquiring stuff. At this point in my life, I certainly don’t need many more things to make me happy. Of course, if an experience happens to result in a beautiful item I can brag about  show off  display, that would be OK too.

Over the Christmas holidays, my husband and I were treated to a glassblowing session given by an artist whose studio is in the beautiful Northern California town of Benicia. My brother and sister-in-law – the givers of the gifts – joined us for this extraordinary opportunity to play with fire that was raging inside a furnace operating at temperatures around 2,000 °F (1,090 °C).

I’ve always admired art glass and have acquired a few small pieces over the years, but I never thought I could actually be part of the creative process. Although David, the studio owner and master glassblower, was with me every step of the way, I came away feeling that the glass ornament was truly my creation. I got to pick and apply the colors, I manipulated the molten glass, and I blew into the pipe to expand the bulb to the correct diameter.

The four of us had such a great time. Our individual lessons not only resulted in four beautiful ornaments but gave us a deeper appreciation of the art of glassblowing. I don’t think any of us is destined to become a professional glassblower, but who knows? Retirement is supposed to be a time of discovery and we all had fun discovering a new way to express our creative selves.

GratiTuesday: Making a Gratitude Adjustment

I have been considering making a few tweaks to my GratiTuesday posts, and the start of a brand new year seems like the perfect time to put them in place. I really enjoy writing these posts and, judging by the likes and comments they receive, they are popular and appreciated. Just as I had hoped, thinking about possible subjects for my (almost) weekly posts has helped to foster a greater awareness of the beauty and goodness around me.

My original intention was for these posts to be short ones. Easy to write, and quick to read. Pretty soon, though, they began to morph into longer essays, which, of course, take more time to put together (have I mentioned that I am a tortured writer?).

Starting next week, my GratiTuesday posts will often consist of just a photograph and a short expression of gratitude or appreciation. Most likely, the comment section will be turned off for these posts too. Easy to write, and quick to read. Changing the format will also give me a chance to concentrate more on my photography, which is a retirement passionette of mine.

I am so grateful for the freedom retirement gives me to start, stop, revise, and adjust. Although I love the connections I make through my blog, I am looking forward to spending less time in front of my computer screen and more time enjoying this remarkable stage of my life.

A New Year’s Resolution for EVERYONE

I wrote this post a couple of years 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 intentions, 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.

So, 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, like me, you aren’t stupid at all, so your part will be easy. Just make sure that everyone else doesn’t mess up.

Here is a 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 a secret child-trafficking ring operated out of a Washington pizza parlor was stupid. Thinking that there are random people following you on Facebook and that you can block them one-by-one from your search bar 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 whatever color or design is on the seasonal Starbucks cup 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 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).

GratiTuesday: Our Adventures

On each of the four Tuesdays in December, I am highlighting what I have been most grateful for in 2017.

2017 has been an adventurous year for us and I am grateful for the many opportunities we had to get out and about. Some of the highlights (with links to previous posts) include:

Doing Rockabilly right!

Viva Las Vegas is an annual Rockabilly celebration that we have attended for the last few years. Some people go for the music, Some for the dancing, some for the fashion, and some for the vintage collections, including cars. Most go for a little bit of everything. I am grateful to the young people for keeping this genre alive… and making it their own.

In the spring, we spent five weeks in Oaxaca, Mexico. By staying in a single setting the entire time, we were able to better immerse ourselves in the culture (although, in many ways, we felt that we just scratched the surface). I am grateful for all the friendly, interesting people we met and the incredible sights we visited, and we look forward to returning to this remarkable city.

Quite different from the slow travel we experienced in Oaxaca, our travels to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska were jam-packed with activity. We enjoyed scheduled events, explored national parks, visited friends and family, and experienced the grandeur of glaciers. I am grateful for the freedom that retirement has given us so we can expand our time away to fit in everything we want to see and do.

And now we have just returned from our latest adventure in Northern California. We had a wonderful time exploring San Francisco, visiting family, hiking, and sampling delicious wines and champagnes in Napa Valley. I am grateful for the hospitality we enjoyed and grateful for our dear friends who took such good care of our home while we were gone.

It will be hard to top the adventures we had in 2017, but I am grateful for the opportunity to try.

GratiTuesday: My Husband

On each of the four Tuesdays in December, I am highlighting what I have been most grateful for in 2017.

When we got married almost 15 years ago – my first, his second – we had already been together for 13 years. There were many reasons why we waited but when we made the decision to make things legal, I knew that marrying my best friend was what I wanted to do.

Now I’m learning that not only does marriage provide a lot of emotional and practical benefits, but a happy marriage can help ensure a more enjoyable retirement and a longer, healthier life. Although we are still adjusting to being together 24/7 since retiring – and are still working out “we time” vs. “me time” – I am happy to say that my husband is still my best friend.

My husband is smart, funny, talented, a great dancer, and he’s a really nice guy. He also gets things done. I have always been a procrastinator, but that trait has gotten stronger since I’ve retired and face fewer hard deadlines. Because of him, to-dos get done and projects get accomplished. I may whine a bit lot, but I always feel better when we are finished and can check things off our list.

Around this time of year, I like to look at our 12-month desk calendar (yes, we still use a paper calendar) and remember all the things we did together throughout the year. Not only did we go on some fun adventures, other entries bring back fond memories too: The Woman’s March in January, interesting classes we took together, get-togethers we hosted or attended… even business appointments. It is usually more fun when we do things together.

I now have a new desk calendar waiting to be filled in with all the travel, activities, and appointments that 2018 has in store for us. I love that it is empty of notations, yet so full of possibilities. I’m sure, just like every year, there will be ups and downs, achievements and disappointments. But, wherever life takes us in the new year, I am so grateful to know that we will be on the journey together.

GratiTuesday: My Friends and Family

On each of the four Tuesdays in December, I am highlighting what I am most grateful for in 2017.

Maintaining meaningful connections with others can be a challenge once we retire. Missing are the easy social networks that work provides. Gone are the spontaneous lunches and happy hours with co-workers, and the smiles and quick conversations in the hallways. Suddenly, it is up to us to proactively manage our social lives.

Those of us who are more introverted may not be as comfortable taking the lead arranging get-togethers so it can be tempting to just stay home and read or work alone on our creative pursuits. But study after study indicates how important it is to have strong social connections as we age. Humans are not naturally solitary creatures and becoming socially isolated can be detrimental to our overall health.

I am grateful to still have a lot of childhood friends in my life. Since I live near to the community where I grew up, getting together with friends that I’ve known since grade school is not uncommon. I also have dear friends I’ve met over-the-years while working at various jobs. I am grateful that the bonds that formed while we worked together still are strong.

I am grateful for my two brothers, who I also consider my friends. I am lucky that they also gifted me two fantastic sisters-in-law, the sisters I didn’t have while growing up. I am also grateful for my extended family, including the family I gained when I married my husband. Although everyone is spread out far and wide, just knowing that we are family makes me happy.

I am also grateful for my new friends. Like many bloggers, I have discovered the unexpected bonus of acquiring blogging buddies all over the world. Although I have been lucky to meet a few face-to-face, most I have not. Regardless, I still consider many of these amazing women and men my friends, and I hope they consider me theirs.

Time spent with friends and family over this past year has enriched my life immeasurably. I am grateful to have people in my life – whether I see them often or not – who make my life richer by being my friends. I look forward to a new year with new opportunities to enjoy my friends, including those I have yet to meet.

GratiTuesday: My health

On each of the four Tuesdays in December, I am highlighting what I am most grateful for in 2017.

As I look back on 2017, I am very grateful to have enjoyed good health throughout the year. I may have had a cold or two, but no health challenges and nothing that slowed me down significantly.

Before I left the work-world, I read a lot of books, articles, and blogs about making the most of retirement. Emphasized over and over was the importance of maintaining one’s health. Eat a healthy diet and maintain a good weight. Get plenty of exercise and avoid being too sedentary. Minimize stress and negativity. I think I have been able to do these things for the most part, but I know I can do better.

I am lucky to be a generally healthy person. Over the years, I have experienced a few bumps in the road, but they are now in my rear-view mirror. I don’t have any chronic conditions or ongoing issues that require regular medical attention. I know that isn’t true for everyone, especially as we get older and our natural defenses are reduced. So far, anyway, I’ve reaped the benefits of inheriting healthy DNA.

Now, I look in the mirror and see the gray hairs starting to appear, wrinkles lining my face, and I notice that my body is shifting and softening, and settling in different areas. What I can’t see is what is happening inside, but I know things are changing there too. No matter how much I’d like to deny the inevitable, the inevitable is just that… inevitable. I want to ensure that I’m giving my body the tools that it needs to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

As I focus on maintaining – and improving – my health so I can continue to age well, I am grateful that I have access to healthy food and safe places to exercise. I am grateful that I am healthy now and look forward to an even healthier 2018.