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.

Neighborhood Watch

I started to notice the changes about a year ago when I talked to her at neighborhood get-togethers or chatted with her when she was out walking her dog. Because I have a partial hearing loss, I first thought it was me. I must have misunderstood her words, or maybe they were muffled so I lost the context of what she was saying.

After a while, though, I started to realize that it wasn’t me. I may not have heard every word she said, but I knew that her sentences often didn’t make sense. She’d start talking about one subject and end up on another one altogether. She would forget a word and substitute another with a similar – but not equal – meaning (“big” for expensive, “little” for cheap). Every now and then she forgot the names of neighbors she had known for a long time.

Lately, other neighbors have started to talk about the changes they’ve observed. At first, we approached each other carefully because we didn’t want to set off any false alarms: “Have you noticed…?” “I’m not sure it means anything, but….” She is a well-loved neighbor; smart, funny, generous in spirit, and it breaks our hearts to see her struggling. Although an official diagnosis has yet to be made, we are pretty sure she isn’t going to get better.

Before Nancy retired, she had a high-powered job running the Special Ed program for a local school district. Although she loved her job, it was stressful, so she retired as soon as she was eligible for a pension. Not one to sit around, she filled her days with family, friends, and volunteer work. When her son and his wife had their daughter, Nancy embraced her new role as a grandmother. She happily looks after the baby several days each week and tells anyone within earshot how much she loves her granddaughter and relishes being her part-time caregiver.

Her son and daughter-in-law live fairly close and have witnessed the changes too. Although she doesn’t want to discuss it when her son tries to broach the subject, she apparently has willingly given up control of paying her bills. Her good friend and across-the-street-neighbor looks in on her regularly and helps her with once simple tasks that confuse her, like sending emails with attachments.

Her son wants her to be able to stay in her home for as long as she can. She is happy and, so far, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for a change. Fortunately, she lives in a neighborhood where everyone knows – and looks out for – each other.

So, we, the neighbors, worry and we watch. Worry for her and for her family; watch as someone we care for goes through a decline… one we are terrified to see in ourselves.

U.S. National Parks on Sale!

I first posted this last year in February. If you are 62 or older and haven’t already taken advantage of this wonderful offer, the time to do it is now! The National Park Service has announced that the price for its Senior Pass will be raised from $10 to $80 sometime later this year. Here, with a few updates, is information about obtaining your pass.

So little, yet so mighty!

 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.

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, if by mail or online), 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??!!

As soon as my husband turned 62, we drove to our local National Monument for a hike and to get his Senior Pass. We’ve already used the pass several times, and look forward to using it more in the future.

Even if you, like me, won’t be 62 until after the price increase, $80 is still a great bargain, and the increase will help the Park Service address its estimated $12 billion maintenance backlog. If $80 is too steep, another option for seniors is a $20 annual pass. Either way, The National Park System is an amazing resource and, especially with federal funding a bit shaky right now, well worth the investment.

Other discount passes are 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). An $80 Annual Pass is available to anyone of any age 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.

Then, get out and explore!

GratiThursday: What I don’t need

I postponed my weekly GratiTuesday post until today when we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States. So, just for today, this is a GratiThursday post.

cicero

As I took apart our newspaper this morning, I was struck by how many Black Friday ads it contained. Dollars off this, a huge percentage off that. Best of all, you can take advantage of these tremendous offers TODAY! Get to the stores early… fire up your computer… shop!

As I dumped all of the advertising flyers into our recycling bin, I thought about how grateful I am that I don’t need any of what was being advertised. I didn’t even really want any of it either.

At this stage of my life, I choose quality over quantity and I do more with less. Just like an artist knows the worth of incorporating negative space in their paintings or photographs, I don’t need to fill up all of the open spaces of my world. I have fallen in love with my life just the way it is.

I am so very grateful for the abundance in my life.

Cycling to the Chute

 

Street rider

Québec City – like most Canadian cities we visited on our recent road trip – is very bicycle-friendly. When we mentioned to our Airbnb host that we like to cycle, he recommended a ride that would take us from Lower Old Québec to Chute-Montmorency, Québec’s majestic waterfall on the Montmorency River.

Fortunately, Québec City not only has a wonderful network of hiking and bike paths, but they have several rental shops that are happy to provide bikes, helmets, locks, and a helpful map. For about $25 dollars (Canadian) each for a four-hour rental, my husband and I had everything we needed to explore the area via pedal-power.

Me rider

The ride to Montmorency Falls was a pretty easy one. Just under ten miles and fairly flat, it took us alongside the harbor, under and around railroad tracks, and through parks, residential areas, and some commercial zones. We made the ride on a Saturday but, because we started early, we didn’t have a lot of company on the trail.

Montmorency Falls Park is just a few minutes from downtown Québec City and is easily accessible by car (but, I really encourage anyone to go by bicycle if they can). There is plenty of parking, several picnic areas, and a visitors’ center where we picked up a map of the park and bought tickets for the aerial tram.

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The waterfall is 275 ft (84 m) tall, which is actually higher (98 ft or 30 m) than the Niagara Falls (as you will be proudly told more than once) and is truly spectacular. The park is really laid out nicely with well-groomed paths, a suspension bridge that spans the top of the falls, and an amazing 487-foot wooden stairway that hugs the side of a cliff. We opted to ride the aerial tram from the bottom of the park to the top of the falls and come back down via the stairway, but plenty of hardy souls take the stairs both ways. And, for the real adventurous types, there is a zip line across the falls and rock climbing opportunities.

Bike path home with Quebec City in the distance.
Bike path home with Quebec City in the distance.

After spending a couple of hours enjoying the falls, we returned to beautiful Québec City for our final afternoon and evening. We were happy to find that the main avenue had been closed off for a street fair and enjoyed several hours of music and people watching.

Then, to top off a glorious day, we were treated to a spectacular sunset. We had to leave in the morning for our next destination, but we knew that some day we’d be back.

Summer reruns

summer break

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer officially begins this coming Monday and our daily life is starting to get increasingly active and full. House guests, festivals, and get togethers with friends and family are all beginning to converge at once. I love summer, but it can get hectic (what did I do before I retired?).

In order to have more time to devote to not making myself too crazy, I will be taking a few weeks off from blogging. I might be able to get one or two simple GratiTuesday posts up, but probably not much more than that.

I have been blogging since 2013 and, like most bloggers, I had just a few followers for longer than I’d like to admit. All those early pearls of wisdom and only my husband and a few loyal friends were lucky enough to read them… so sad.

Anyway, for those who missed my early posts (and that would probably be you), I will rerun some of my moldy oldies favorites over the new few weeks. If you are reading them for the first time, I hope you enjoy them. If you’ve read them before, thanks so much for sticking around for so long.

See you in a few weeks!

Could you travel full-time?

Map

About twenty years ago, when we were about to embark on a major remodel of our house, my husband asked an interesting question: do we want to continue on our path to spend many thousands of dollars adding a master suite and several hundred square feet of living space, or should we instead spend the money traveling around the world?

We had spent months of searching before we finally found the home we bought. It was in a great neighborhood and had a wonderful view, but it was definitely a fixer-upper. When we purchased the house two years prior, we did so with the intention of tearing most of it down and starting over. When my husband asked his somewhat facetious question, I didn’t hesitate long before answering that I wanted to continue with the construction.

Looking back at that decision, I’m glad we chose that path. I love our house and our neighborhood and I don’t regret spending the last twenty years enjoying our life here, but I thought about my husband’s question recently as I was reading one of the several travel blogs I follow. The decision we made twenty years ago was the right one for us at that time. But, now that we are retired, I wonder if we could make a different choice. Could we lock up our house—or maybe rent it out long-term—and start to travel the world full-time? Is that a lifestyle we could embrace and thrive in?

Michael and Debbie Campbell have been travelling the world since July, 2013. They rented out their home and took off with the intention of being gone for 12 months. Almost three years later, they are still on their journey, mostly staying in Airbnbs. You can read a summary of their adventures in their April 18th Senior Nomads in Europe post.

Tim and Joanne Joseph sold their house in 2013 and have been traveling almost non-stop since then. Their wonderfully engaging blog, A Note from Abroad, (About page) often makes me want to jump on a plane and go.

Lisa Dorenfest is following her dream of circumnavigating the globe on a sailboat. Her journal of the multi-year “sailbatical” she has taken is captivating and her photography is stunning. Currently somewhere near Australia, Lisa will take you along with her One Ocean at a Time (Introduction Page).

I think it takes a certain type of person to make a commitment to living a life of continuous travel. As attractive as it might sound, most of us enjoy the comforts of home too much to be on the road (or seas) full-time. We yearn to see different places and have new experiences but, when we return to the familiar we are refreshed and rejuvenated.

The beauty of retirement is that we can stretch out our travels as much as our comfort and budget allows. My husband and I love to take short trips lasting several days to a week or so. We’ve also taken a few longer trips which have been wonderful, but traveling for three or four weeks at a time is about our limit. After a while, we want to go home and decompress.

But, who knows; one of these days we just may find the perfect house sitters or tenants, and we’ll hand over the house keys for a year or more. The time to do that is now, when we both are healthy and relatively courageous (gulp). At some point it will be too late; we will start to experience aches and pains significant enough to keep us close to home and/or we might feel less sure of our abilities to deal with stressful situations. When that happens, will I be satisfied with the life we chose or will I regret the path not taken?