GratiTuesday: Moving beyond retirement into jubilación

Yesterday, as we were out running errands, I mentioned to my husband that it was the 2-year anniversary of my retirement. His response was, “Wow, really? Time has gone so fast, hasn’t it?”

Yes and no.

Although he was right that the two years went by rather swiftly, I also feel as if I’ve been living my retired life for a long time… and I’m getting pretty good at it. In fact, I don’t really feel “retired,” as if that word defines a specific post-work chapter of my life. I’m not just moving through a phase; I am fully engaged in my life. The Spanish word for retirement is jubilación, which I think is much more fitting.

Jubilacion, La Paz style
Jubilacion, La Paz style

A few days ago, I was at an event where I didn’t know many people. I thought it would be interesting to do a little experiment if when anyone asked employment-related questions. I wanted to avoid describing myself as “retired” because I’ve found that often that word can be a dead-end to a conversation. I was interested to see if a different response could generate more engaging dialog.

It didn’t take too long to find myself in the familiar, polite back-and-forth that often occurs with a stranger in a social situation.

Polite Stranger (PS): What do you do?

Me: I dabble in photography, write a bit, read, and travel whenever possible.

PS: I mean, what work do you do?

Me: Some housework, although not as much as I should, perhaps. Also, yard work.

PS: No, full-time. I mean, what do you do full-time?

Me: Oh. I guess I don’t do anything full-time. There is so many great options that it would be impossible to pick something to do full-time.

PS: Really? Tell me about some of the things you are doing.

And, then the conversation really got interesting. I don’t think it came up that I was retired until quite a bit into the discussion. I also don’t remember if PS told me what kind of work she did… it wasn’t important. I learned some interesting things about her that had nothing to do with how she spent 8-9 hours of her day. Who we are is so much more than our chosen career. And, when we are no longer wrapped up in that career, being retired is just a single data point, not a description of who we are.

I am so grateful that two years ago I had the good fortune to be able to leave the work-world behind and embrace jubilación. The word may mean the same thing, but it sure sounds more like how I feel.

Shared memories… or not

memories

Yesterday marked the 26th anniversary of my husband’s and my first date. I probably wouldn’t remember that specific day if it hadn’t occurred on Cinco de Mayo. My husband? He wouldn’t remember it at all if I didn’t remind him.

After 26 years together, we have mountains of shared experiences. We’ve been on numerous trips, attended countless events, and celebrated many, many milestones. We’ve also remodeled two houses together, dealt with several family tragedies, and supported and cheered each other through life’s ups and downs.

We’ve been through a lot together over the years; what I find fascinating is what each of us remembers… or not.

I guess there is only so much we can cram into our cranial cavities before some of it leaks out. What sticks tends to be what, for whatever reason, resonates with us; what doesn’t stick becomes jetsam that our brains jettison to lighten the load.

In addition to the date of the first time we went out, I remember other bits and pieces of relatively useless information that has long-abandoned my husband’s brain. I have a fairly vivid memory of the layout of most of the houses we looked at before we decided to purchase our home. I remember restaurants where we ate years ago, and often what each of us ordered. More useful, I have a much better memory of all of our vacations, where and when we went, what we did, and who we met.

My husband has almost no retention for the dates of past events and his memory of the homes we visited is almost nonexistent. If we are sitting in a restaurant we’ve dined at before, he will often have no recollection of having been there. When I tell him what he ordered, his usual response is, “did I like it?” Often, when I mention a shared experience from many years ago, he will look at me blankly.

My husband, on the other hand, has a much better memory for specifics of presentations we’ve attended, conversation we’ve had or been party to, and movies we’ve seen. When he recites snippets of a presentation or a conversation, I desperately try – often unsuccessfully – to rummage around in my temporal lobes for the same memory. He’ll harken back to a movie we saw months ago, recalling the plot and, often, reciting the dialog. I’m lucky if I can remember the name of the movie we saw the prior evening.

As far as we know, neither of us is experiencing age-related memory loss… it’s always been this way. Each of us is just better with different types of memories. I find that my memories tend to be more emotional and visual, his are more verbal. One’s not better than the other—both tend to be filled equally with useful and useless tidbits of information—they are just different.

After 26 years together, I think that it is safe to say that we’ve forgotten more bits and pieces than we can remember. Fortunately, it really doesn’t matter if he forgets the details of our first date or I can’t remember a movie we saw two months ago. What is really important is that we continue to make memories together. That and maybe we both should take notes.

Spanning seven urban bridges, 4 – 7

In my last Spanning seven urban bridges post, I wrote about a recent hike my husband and I took called the Seven Bridge Walk. The 5.5 mile hike traverses through several older neighborhoods in our city and crosses over a mix of historic and newer bridges. That post featured the first three bridges we crossed; the four remaining bridges are just ahead…

Quince Street

The Quince Street walking bridge is a wooden-trestle bridge that was built in 1905. It is 236 feet long and rises 60 feet over Maple Canyon. Although the cost for the original construction was less than $1,000, the cost to repair the bridge in 1988/1989 was closer to $250,000. Even though I knew the bridge was in good repair, it was a little unnerving to look over the sides and see what looked like a hodge-podge of wooden planks holding it up.

Spruce1

Probably my favorite bridge on our walk is the Spruce Street suspension bridge located in the Bankers Hill neighborhood. It was constructed in 1912 to serve as a passageway for early residents to get to the newly built trolley lines. The bridge stretches 375 feet across and rises 70 feet above Kate Sessions Canyon, named after a horticulturist responsible for many of the plantings found throughout the city. The bridge swayed a little as we walked along it, but it didn’t feel dangerous at all.

After stopping for lunch in the always interesting neighborhood of Hillcrest, we next reached the Vermont Street Bridge. This modern steel bridge was built in place of a deteriorated wooden trestle bridge that dated back to 1916. Rather than replace the beloved original bridge with a merely utilitarian passage, local residents fought for something more interesting and reflective of the two neighborhoods it connects. As we walked over the bridge, we read walking-themed quotes written by people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Kate Sessions, Pythagoras, and even long-time San Diego resident, Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Can you figure out the word puzzle?

Craftsman

As we journeyed towards our next bridge, we passed through an older neighborhood dotted with beautiful craftsmen bungalows. I imagine an artist lives in this one.

Georgia1

Finally, we reached our seventh and last bridge: the historic but hazardous Georgia Street Bridge. A redwood bridge was originally built here in 1907, but it was replaced in 1914. The “new” concrete Georgia Street Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I’ve heard that it is scheduled for an $11 million dollar overhaul, including seismic and structural retrofits… hopefully they will begin soon before the bridge crumbles apart.

After crossing our final bridge, we zig-zagged a bit more, then headed back along Park Boulevard towards Balboa Park and our car. At 5.5 fairly flat miles, the walk wasn’t too strenuous but it was a lot of fun and, when we were finished, we felt a little like we had also traveled through time.

GratiTuesday: Making travel plans in the digital age

My parents were great travelers and encourage us kids to follow in their footsteps. Although I’ve visited many of the places they traveled to—and several they didn’t—I feel as if I’ve just dipped my toe into the deep well of possibilities.

Because they traveled so much, my parents had a close, personal relationship with their travel agent. Helen knew my folks’ likes and dislikes, preferred way to travel, destinations of interest, and budget considerations. Although they seldom encountered any problems while traveling, they knew that they could call Helen if they needed help and she’d work things out.

Despite all online resources, I still love paper maps.
Despite all online resources, I still love paper maps.

I am currently firming up travel itineraries for two upcoming trips, and making some preliminary plans for a few more that are on our radar. Like most people in today’s digital age, I am not using a travel agent to help me plan and book our trips. The resources available to me online are vast, powerful, accessible, and, sometimes, a little scary.

I can research our destinations using multiple travel websites and helpful blogs. I have reached out to blogging buddies who live in the areas we are visiting for first-hand recommendations (and, hopefully some meet-ups). Using mapping apps, I am able to chart our route and look for points of interest along the way.

Once we know where we will stop on our journey, I can book our hotel rooms (after reading extensive reviews) online. For the first time, we are also going to try Airbnb, whose website is robust and pretty easy to navigate. Tickets for attractions can be purchased in advance and I can often load them to my smartphone so I don’t need to worry about misplacing pieces of paper.

And, of course, any airplane and rental car reservations are completed with a few keystrokes and a credit card.

There are pluses and minuses to planning travel this way, of course. Using a travel agent provided my parents with valuable peace-of-mind and allowed them to tap into Helen’s professional knowledge and years of experience. Since she did most of the work (and, as I remember, the service was provided for no, or very little, cost), my folks didn’t have to spend hours doing research. Helen’s agency was a one (or two)-stop-shop for planning, finalized itinerary, and tickets.

By making our travel plans online, I have a lot of control over our itinerary. I don’t need to rely on someone else’s preferences or affiliations. I can spend time looking at different options and search-out deals and off-the-beaten-path opportunities. Once on the road, we can take advantage of apps that will help us to find places to eat and points of interest to visit. I can read about the history of an area, check out the weather, and even avoid road construction and accidents up ahead.

Although we may not have someone like Helen to provide travel assistance and hand-holding, I am so grateful that the internet has given us the power to design our individual journeys and create our unique adventures.

Spanning seven urban bridges, 1 – 3

One of my very favorite things to do is to get out and walk. I enjoy walking for exercise either by myself or with a friend. I love to walk the hills of my neighborhood, or go down to the bay and walk along the shore, or up to the local mountains and hike the trails. I also enjoy walking as a way to discover hidden gems in unfamiliar places. Walking allows me to see the small details I would miss if I was in a car, or even on a bike. When I’m not trying to raise my heart rate, the less hurried pace allows me to observe my surroundings and to stop and take a closer look or snap a picture.

A while ago, I read about an urban hike in our city called the Seven Bridge Walk and was intrigued. The hike is about 5.5 miles long and meanders through several older neighborhoods and crosses over a mix of historic and newer bridges. The walk sounded like the perfect combination of exercise, sightseeing, and  a bit of history, so I filed it away as something to do in the spring.

Finally, last Tuesday, my husband and I decided it was the perfect day to put on our walking sandals and go.

This was the trunk of a very strange tree.
This was the trunk of a very strange tree.

The route begins on the east side of Balboa Park, near the succulent and cactus gardens. After spending some time playing in looking at the plants, we crossed the first – and shortest – of the seven bridges.

A55837D5-5F01-4B1A-BA75-1F86BB66AD02

This concrete walking bridge was built fairly recently to provide safe passage over a busy street. The bridge has a graceful design and it was a nice way to enter Balboa Park, San Diego’s jewel and the nation’s largest urban cultural park (which deserves—and will get—its own, separate post).

Cabrillo_Bridge

Continuing west along El Prado through the middle of the park, we reached the majestic Cabrillo Bridge. The bridge was constructed in 1914 and is the first multiple-arched cantilever bridge built in California. Although Cabrillo Bridge originally spanned a small lake, cars traveling on State Route 163 now pass underneath its arches.

You can see a downtown high rise, San Diego Bay, and the end of Point Loma off in the distance.

After a few zigs and zags and several stops to take pictures, we reached the third bridge on our walk. Built in 1931, the First Street Bridge is the only steel-arch bridge in the city. It was built in a fabrication plant in the Midwest, dismantled, and then shipped to San Diego to be assembled again.

Come along to see the remaining bridges on our walk in my Spanning seven urban bridges, 4 – 7 post next week.

Searching for balance in retirement

Sometimes it seems like it’s been much less than two years since I was wrapping up my final weeks of employment and looking forward to the day I retire. At other times, it’s as if I’ve been living this leisurely lifestyle for many years and I can hardly remember having full-time work obligations.

I had a lot of plans for my retirement: I wanted to take classes, travel, socialize with friends, complete household projects, and explore my creative side. I also wanted to allow enough leisure time in my non-existent schedule to relax, read books, and daydream.

Mission accomplished… sort of.

Is it possible to have too much leisure? Maybe so.
Is it possible to have too much leisure? Maybe so.

Since retiring, my husband and I have gone on some amazing trips (and more are planned), I’ve taken advantage of free—and nearly free—educational opportunities, I’ve joined a wonderful book club, we’ve completed multiple house projects (and have more in the works), and I’ve spent time writing and improving my photography skills. Life is good.

But, just recently, I’ve started to struggle with the feeling that I would like to do more, that I want to have more to show for my time. This doesn’t mean that I desire to go back to full-time work, or even that I want to find part-time employment. What I want is more balance in my life.

Besides receiving a regular paycheck and subsidized healthcare insurance, going to work every day provided a lot of intangible benefits. Daily interactions with colleagues wove a social network that helped to make work a pleasurable experience. Because I worked for a large company, my network web included people from a variety of backgrounds and with diverse interests and skills.

I miss that.

I also miss the feeling of working together towards a common goal. We took on projects and supported each other as we met our objectives. In addition, work gave me opportunities to challenge myself and to enjoy the feeling of satisfaction when I successfully expanded my comfort zone.

I’m not sure where this sense that something is missing will lead me. Exploring volunteer opportunities might be a good start. Perhaps I need to get involved with a cause that I believe in. Maybe some type of part-time employment will supply the diverse community I miss. Perhaps it’s a combination of all three possibilities, or maybe something else.

I fully realize how lucky I am that I actually have a choice about how I spend my time. If I make no changes at all, I have a pretty good life. But if I can find something that allows me to make a positive contribution, I think my retirement could be more purposeful and satisfying. It also might help me re-discover some or all of those missing elements: enjoying an expanded and more diverse social network, being inspired by a vision shared with others, and embracing the opportunity to help others and to challenge myself.

The key will be to find something that also allows me to travel when I want and to enjoy the retirement I envisioned when I said good-bye to full-time employment.

May I have this dance?

I remember the moment that I decided that I must learn how to dance. I was out to dinner with my boyfriend and, while waiting for a table, we were seated next to a large, nearly empty dance floor. I don’t remember the type of music being played, but my attention was grabbed by a lone couple gliding across the floor in seemingly perfect harmony with each other. After watching the dancers for a while, I turned to my boyfriend and said, “I need to be able to do that.”

The next day I researched local dance class options, and signed the two of us up for jitterbug and swing lessons. As I remember, my boyfriend was less than thrilled but he was nice enough to humor me.

From the beginning, I was hooked. I loved the music, the moves, the exercise, and the community. Even though it was a challenge to learn the steps, I had a clear vision of where I wanted to end up: I longed to be able to dance like that couple.

The boyfriend didn’t last, but my love of dancing did and, to this day, it is one of my favorite things to do.

I was reminded of my first dance epiphany when I read a recent post by Donna on her blog Retirement Reflections, in which she wrote about a retired friend who was learning how to dance. Because this friend enjoyed dancing at her high school reunion so much, she decided to sign up for lessons. Much like me, she discovered – then embraced – a hidden passion.

I was in my late twenties when I took my first dance lessons. At first it was just jitterbug and swing, but soon I was also learning to waltz, foxtrot, cha-cha, tango, and even to do the hustle (remember that??). I was never what anyone would call a gifted student, but I enjoyed the challenge and loved learning different dance styles.

Jitterbugging at a 50s party 26 years ago
Jitterbugging at a 50s party 26 years ago

 

Learning to dance has introduced a lot of positive aspects to my life and I often encourage others to give it a try. Many classes don’t require having a partner – in fact you will become a better dancer when you dance with a variety of partners. You can pick just one type of dance, or branch out as your skills and interest develop.

Here are some other reasons to consider learning to dance:

  • It’s a great way to get exercise while having fun
  • You’ll enjoy a sense of accomplishment as you master a new skill
  • It’s social – you can meet people you may not otherwise encounter and it is a great excuse to get out of the house and go
  • It’s challenging – crowded dance floors require timing, balance, and mental focus
  • Music is a language used all over the world; learn it and you have learned an almost universal language
  • You can take your dance skills with you on all your trips and it takes up zero space in your luggage
  • If you are looking, taking dance lessons can be a great way to meet someone special. I met my husband 26 years ago in a jitterbug class and dancing became our early connection.

Although my husband and I haven’t taken lessons for years and the opportunities to go dancing don’t present themselves as often as they used to, we still enjoy getting out on the dance floor when we can. Our moves are a little rusty and we sometimes struggle to get in rhythm with each other again, but soon, the muscle memory returns and we start to glide across the floor just like that couple did so many years ago.

The heART of La Paz

La Paz was not a destination that had been on my radar screen. There are several other locations in Mexico that we plan to visit, but when some friends asked if we’d like to join them in southern Baja for a week, we said “yes” (“yes” being our favorite word now that we’ve retired).

La Paz Map

Although we were headed for a resort a few miles from the city, I knew that my husband and I wouldn’t be satisfied staying in the cocoon of the compound. We wanted to explore the surrounding area, especially the city of La Paz.

The bit of research we did before our trip told us:

  • La Paz, which translates to “The Peace,” is located close to the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. With about 250,000 inhabitants, La Paz is the capital of the state of Baja California Sur.
  • Because it is located on the coast of the Sea of Cortez, La Paz is known for water-centric activities like swimming fishing, sailing, snorkeling, diving, whale-watching, and kayaking.
  • The city of La Paz has a nostalgic and provincial atmosphere, with a laid-back lifestyle, friendly residents, and wonderful cuisine.

What my research didn’t tell me about was La Paz’s rich and ubiquitous art scene. As I walked around the city, I was thrilled to find richly colorful murals, whimsical sculptures, and small pocket parks that not only offered quiet places to relax in the shade, but also beautiful and thoughtful design.

The weather was perfect, the sea a tranquil mixture of turquoise and deep blues, and the resort where we stayed was gorgeous, but it’s the city of La Paz and its art that will bring me back some day.

(I’ll show more art in my next post. Apparently WordPress has a limit.)

Mural 2

Mural 1Mural 3Mural 5

GratiTuesday: Home, sweet home

My husband and I just returned home from a trip to La Paz, Mexico. We enjoyed a week of lovely weather, beautiful vistas, wonderful food, and pampered relaxation. On most of our trips we tend more towards the Best Western or Hampton Inn-type accommodations. We are much more inclined to spend our money on our daylight adventures and less on where we lay our heads. This trip was different; some friends invited us to take advantage of a deal they found through Expedia and join them at a lovely beach resort near the tip of Baja.

IMG_3991

Our trip couldn’t have gone any smoother or our travel companions been any more compatible. The resort was lovely and, although it was off-season, we enjoyed picture-perfect weather and warm ocean water.

Tomorrow I will finish unpacking and doing the laundry. I will start having to plan meals and making lists of errands that need to be run. I will miss having fresh towels provided and our room cleaned every day. I will especially miss the pool that was just outside our door, and a nearly deserted white sand beach that was just a few steps further.

But, right now, I’m so grateful to be back in my home. I am always sad when a trip is over, but I love to return to my comfortable and familiar surroundings. No matter how interesting and beautiful the world outside my little bubble is, there really, truly, is no place like home.

U.S. National Parks on sale!

There are a lot of opportunities to save a few dollars here and there when we pass certain age milestones. Some businesses offer deals for customers as young as 50, but most of these “senior discounts” don’t kick in until we reach age 55, 60, or older. Many restaurants, hotels, airlines, rental car agencies, and retail shops try to attract our money by offering a dollar amount or percentage off… but often only if you ask (so, ask). Some of the deals are good, but many require the customer to purchase something they may not have wanted in the first place.

Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah should be on everyone's bucket list.
Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah should be on everyone’s bucket list.

The very best senior discount opportunity I know of is the one offered by the National Park Service. For just $10, plus a $10 processing fee, any U.S. citizen or permanent resident age 62 or over can purchase this lifetime pass to over 2,000 recreation sites. Senior Passes can be purchased online, by mail, or in person and will admit up to four adults (any age) in one non-commercial vehicle for free. How flipping great is that??!!

I have been anticipating the day my husband turned 62 so we can purchase a Senior Pass and, now, I am so excited to get my his hands on it! The National Park Service turns 100 in 2016 and we look forward to using the heck out of it to explore this amazing resource we are so fortunate to have in the United States (you can read my previous post about the National Park Service here).

If you aren’t yet 62 (I’m so sorry for you), there are other discount passes available, including one for current members of the military, people with disabilities, and 4th graders (I assume I don’t have any 4th graders reading my blog but some of you may have children or grandchildren who qualify). The $80 Annual Pass is available to anyone and is a great deal if you plan to visit more than one or two participating parks during a calendar year.

To learn more about the National Park Service and their discount passes, visit their website (nps.gov), or go straight to: nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm.

So little, yet so mighty!
So little, yet so mighty!

Then, get out and explore!