It’s almost as if Terri (Second Wind Leisure) knew that my husband and I would be spending a few days up in the mountains when she came up with The Great Outdoors as this week’s Sunday Stills photo topic. Although I often have to search my files for images when I join in on one of her photo challenges, this time all I did was walk out the door of our little cabin and there it was… the great outdoors!
We were delighted when our friends, Kathy (Smart Living 365) and Thom, invited us to join them for a few days at their mountain retreat in nearby Idyllwild. The cabin they have rented for a number of years has a mini-cabin situated just a few steps away. It’s perfect for the hosts and the guests – lots of opportunities to connect, but enough separation so that everyone can have some privacy and alone time.
We hugged trees (and each other):
We moved boulders:
We watched the sunset… :
… just before the full strawberry moon rose:
We enjoyed great conversations:
And, we marveled at nature’s artistry:
The few days that we were able to enjoy the clear mountain air and expansive vistas were just what we needed. There is nothing quite like spending time in the great outdoors to reduce stress, encourage reflection, and help us appreciate the gifts of Mother Nature.
Despite the current global crisis, it wasn’t too difficult to find things to be grateful for this week. Although I’d love to snap my fingers and make this all go away, I have found that – just like before – it’s often the simple pleasures that give me the greatest joy.
I am not an accomplished seamstress, but I do have a sewing machine and plenty of unused fabric. After watching a few YouTube tutorials, I was able to make several cloth masks for my husband and me, as well as for friends who don’t have the same resources.
We recently signed up for home delivery of produce and other food items and had our first box delivered to our doorstep today. It’s not the cheapest way to go, but these regular deliveries will cut down on our need to go to grocery stores.
Like a lot of people, I’ve been spending way too much time on my computer. Fortunately, in between the worry and stress, I’ve found moments of laughter and reasons to smile. Here are a couple of my favorites (with links), in case you’ve missed them:
John Krasinski, the actor, delivers good news from around the world via his in-home Some Good News “studio.” He has recorded two episodes so far and they are delightful. I guarantee his news will make you smile.
Although the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles may be closed, they have found a way to encourage people to remain engaged with art by challenging their social media followers to recreate a work of art with objects found around their homes. The submissions are wonderful and often hilarious. You can find the results all over social media, but here are a couple of links with examples.
It seems like it has been spring here in Southern California for several months. I started to notice buds on trees back in February and then the March rains brought forth even more. Now, in early April, just about everywhere I look, Mother Nature is showing off with displays of colorful blossoms and heady scents.
For her weekly Sunday Stills photo challenge, Terri Webster Schrandt has asked us to “blow up WordPress and the rest of the Internet with gorgeous flowers!” Since most of us are sticking much closer to home, this week’s theme encourages us to find beauty in our neighborhoods, in our yards, or on our balconies.
The pictures that I’m sharing are from my yard and from walks around my neighborhood.
If you have images of your own, please share them with us by linking to your post on Terri’s blog. As she said, it “will be like we are sending each other wonderful bouquets.”
I have been thinking about bringing back regular GratiTuesday posts for a while. Not only do I have much to be grateful for, I firmly believe that maintaining an attitude of gratitude improves mental health. And, frankly, who couldn’t use a bit of a mental health boast right about now?
I entered this special community of bloggers a little over six years ago. At that time, I was mainly focused on coming up with interesting topics, writing clearly and concisely, and trying not to embarrass myself too much with typos and grammar fails. Never did I envision the tremendous riches that I would get back. Through this community, I have learned about life in various parts of the world, discovered fascinatingly different lifestyles, been introduced to talented writers and artists, and – most of all – I’ve met the most kind, welcoming, engaging, and generous group of people.
Now, as we hunker down all over the world and do what we can to flatten the curve, I’ve come to appreciate my blogging community even more. Through what we write on our blogs and in our comments to each other, we show our concern for each other’s safety, we share our worry and challenges, we help each other remain positive, and we connect in ways that makes us feel less alone.
Whether we write about the topic du jour or we help take everyone’s mind off it by writing about anything but, the virtual connection is what’s important. Through our blogs, we are saying: “we’re here,” “we’re OK,” “I hope you are doing well,” “we’ll get through this.”
It’s easy to feel unmoored right now, but the blugs I’ve received from the bloggers I follow have made me feel less adrift. Blogging has always been a great way to connect with others, now blugging has made those connections even stronger.
The Beatles song, When I’m 64, appeared on the Sgt. Pepper’s album in 1967. Each of the four band members were in their twenties at the time. This year, Paul and Ringo – the two who are still with us – will turn 78 and 80, respectively. They may be losing their hair but, as far as I know, they aren’t filling their days mending fuses and digging weeds, nor are they scrimping and saving so they can rent a cottage on the Isle of Wight.
I was eleven when the album was released, and 64 sounded ancient to me. Now that I’m that age, I’ve discovered that it isn’t so old after all. I’m happy to say that, yes, they still need me and, yes, they still feed me, when I’m 64.
A few days ago, as I was thinking about my birthday, this poem started to write itself in my head. It’s about how the way we think of ourselves matters, and it is often our choice.
We Get to Choose
I am old
I am young
I see the finish line
I’ve just begun
I’ve seen it all
So much to see
I’ve set my limits
I am free
I’ve lived my life
I haven’t yet
My options are few
Nothing is set
Each is different
Both are true
It’s up to me
Which one I choose
It started off innocently enough. A little back and forth messaging between two bloggers. I don’t remember which one of us suggested it, but we agreed to meet for coffee at a location half-way between. You know… to talk about blogging.
Including that initial rendezvous in 2016, Donna (Retirement Reflections) and I have now managed a meet-up four years in a row. Not bad, considering we live in different countries. The first three visits were made possible because she and her husband, Richard, had an annual home exchange just a few hours from where I live in Southern California. Kathy (SMART Living 365), who also lives in the area, soon joined our little group.
Since Donna and Richard decided not to travel to Southern California this year, we changed the venue to Vancouver Island, where they live. Kathy and her husband were planning a road trip to Canada anyway, and my husband and I had a block of days on our calendar that needed filing, so plans were made.
Spending time with Donna and Kathy no longer feels like “just” a blogger meet-up. While we often discuss blogging, we have become good friends who simply enjoy each other’s company. Best of all, our husbands have happily fit right into this special friendship.
For our recent get together in mid-July, three other bloggers joined us. Erica (Behind the Scenery), Jude (Dr. Sock Writes Here), and Ann (The Unretired Life), all of whom live on – or near – Vancouver Island, enthusiastically accepted Donna’s invitation. It was a treat to meet these interesting and accomplished women and they added unique perspectives to the discussion.
Although one whole day was set aside to discuss this crazy obsession of ours, the rest of the time we enjoyed chatting, hiking, eating, chatting, seeing the sights, eating, and chatting. There may or may not have been some wine involved too.
From the start, I knew the six of us women would get along just fine and have plenty to talk about. The happy surprise was how much our husbands also enjoyed themselves. That first day, while the women talked blogging, Richard kept the men busy seeing local sights and visiting a favorite lunch spot (where beer was definitely involved).
Many thanks to Donna and Richard for their generous and warm hospitality. They did everything imaginable to make us feel welcome. Thanks also to Jude and her husband for hosting a delicious luncheon at their home. We also appreciated meeting a group of Donna’s women friends, who invited us to join their afternoon gathering.
I imagine some (non-bloggers) view blogging as an isolating pursuit. After all, we sit behind our screens, write for an unseen audience, and send our posts out to the interwebs, hoping someone will read them and comment. In reality, many of us have developed connections all over the world through our blogs. When those connections develop into friendships, we realize that – far from isolation – our blogs have exposed us to people and experiences we may not have otherwise known.
As my blog has been still for longer than I anticipated, I figured this would be a good time to join Terri’s Sunday Stills photography challenge. Her theme this week, Stillness, has a special appeal to me. I have always been more comfortable in quiet than in noise, prefer writing to talking, and, although I enjoy social interactions, I need a certain amount of solitude to recharge my batteries.
All but one image that I’m sharing this week are from my husband’s and my travels. Although it can be a challenge to find quiet and stillness when traveling nowadays, it is possible. Sometimes you just have to get up earlier than normal.
Other times, we get lucky and manage to find a spot that feels as if it was set aside just for us.
I found the (not so) little gal below hanging out on a Sticks on Fire succulent plant in my yard. After weaving her beautiful web, she remains very still until some unfortunate prey blunders into her trap.
As scary as she may look, she is harmless to humans. Unfortunately, this isn’t true for the male spider. They are much smaller than the females and up to 80% are cannibalized after traversing the web to mate. That doesn’t seem very nice, but I guess she prefers to enjoy her stillness alone.
Sunday Stills is a photography challenge hosted by Terri Webster Schrandt on her blog Second Wind Leisure Perspectives. Please visit her site to see how other bloggers have interpreted the weekly challenge or add one of your own.
Even though we don’t experience winter snow and frigid temperatures where we live in Southern California, I still get excited when the calendar flips over from March to April. I know that spring officially started a couple of weeks ago, but April has always felt like the true beginning of the season. The weather noticeably warms, the exuberant, bright-yellow orioles return from their winter sojourn in Mexico, and the rich, heady fragrance of budding citrus trees perfumes the air.
Where we live, citrus trees are ubiquitous, and they often bear fruit year-round. So many people have them growing in their yards that, if an unexpected need arises for a lemon or an orange, a quick call to a neighbor will often result in an offer to pick one from their tree.
So, we really didn’t need to plant citrus trees of our own. If we couldn’t get what we needed from a neighbor, our local grocery stores always have a good supply… and they are usually fairly inexpensive. Unlike some other homegrown crops, like tomatoes or corn, a store-bought lemon doesn’t taste all that different than one freshly picked from a tree.
But here we are, two April Fools. We purchased dwarf Meyer Lemon and Bearss Lime tree(lets), bought a couple of large pots, and loaded up several bags of the perfect combination of potting and cactus mix. Then, we spent most of the day preparing the trees’ new home. Going forward, of course, we will provide lots of water and fertilize them regularly.
All told, I can imagine a per-fruit cost of about $5.25.
Yes, we are April Fools… now. But maybe we won’t feel so foolish one future summer day, when we are sitting on our deck enjoying the fruits of our labors… perhaps in the form of freshly-baked lemon bars and a pitcher of mojitos.
Last October, I decided to give myself a blogging vacation over November and December. During those months, I wouldn’t write any posts (mission accomplished) and I wouldn’t read any of the many blogs I follow (mostly accomplished… although I cheated now-and-then).
I had great plans for all the free time my blogging break would give me. In addition to going on a two-week road trip up to northern California around the holidays, I looked forward to having more time to get organized, reduce clutter (mostly on my computer), enjoy neglected hobbies, work on house projects, and think about things other than my next blog topic.
Isn’t it amazing how quickly freed up time can get filled? Any of you who are retired have probably wondered how you were able to get anything done while you were working. The vast amounts of free time we envisioned having are nowhere to be found. Instead, we find ourselves just as busy – if not more – than we ever were.
At least that’s my excuse.
I did manage to accomplish many of the items on my to-do list, but I fell short in a few areas… and, you know what? That’s OK.
As much as I missed my friends in the blogosphere, I also enjoyed a feeling of freedom. Yes, I felt guilty about deleting unread posts; yes, I missed the connections made commenting and replying; and, yes, I still jotted down some ideas and took a few pictures that I thought would work for my blog. But I reminded myself that blogging was completely voluntary, and, at that moment, I chose to focus on other pursuits.
Several bloggers I follow also took time off over the holidays and are returning in the new year. Interestingly, a few have written about changes they will be making to their blogs going forward. Whether it’s because of an illness, the desire to pursue other interests, or the realization that blogging – as much as we may love it – takes an amazing amount of time, they are pulling back. Some a little, some a lot.
Although I don’t have any formal plans, I will be less active in the blogosphere too… at least for a while. I never had an actual blogging schedule, but the timing of my posts will probably become even more haphazard. Topics too. I will, of course, share my thoughts and write about my retirement journey, but only when I really have something to say. I enjoy my GratiTuesday theme… but I won’t be posting one every Tuesday. As I explore my interest in photography, I imagine there will be more, simple, image-centric posts.
However my blog may change over time, what will remain constant is the enjoyment I get from interacting with the people who read, like, and comment on my posts. But, in retirement – and life in general – realigning ourselves now-and-then keeps things interesting and allows us to discover new paths to happiness and fulfillment.
I don’t know if it’s still done, but I have happy elementary school memories of making construction paper May Day baskets and dancing around the maypole on the school playground. Even though spring officially begins in March, it didn’t feel like it had really arrived until the first of May, when we all dressed up, performed the folk dances we learned, and wound the brightly colored ribbons around the maypole.
This winter has been especially challenging for many of you, and spring never really made an appearance until just recently. Many have written about the relief they are feeling to say goodbye to April’s snow and sleet, and welcome to May’s warmer temperatures.
In our corner of the U.S., we’ve experienced quite the opposite. Both winter and spring temperatures have been warmer than average and the little rainfall we received has been especially disappointing. In fact, it looks like we may be in the middle of the driest rainy season on record. Ironically, local meteorologists are predicting a 50% chance of rain starting this evening and into tomorrow. After that, zilch for the foreseeable future.
It looks like we will have another bumper crop of blueberries this summer
Lemons and bougainvillea
Aeonium in bloom
Grevillea… a favorite of bees and hummingbirds
Despite the unusual weather we’ve been experiencing just about everywhere (or, maybe it’s the new normal we all need to get used to), I love the promise of May. Maypoles may be a relic of the past in most places but the warming weather, longer daylight hours, and emerging flora and fauna still make me want to do a little dance of gratitude to Mother Nature.