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?

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, 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.

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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.

GratiTuesday: Daylight Savings Time

This past Sunday, I preformed one of my favorite rites of spring; I adjusted all of our clocks forward one hour. As I made the change, I didn’t mind in the least that I instantly lost one hour of my day. For me, it was a very small price to pay for the extra hour of light I’ll enjoy each evening until November 6, when I have to turn the clocks back.

Daylight savings sunrise
Daylight savings sunrise

When I was working, I remember that at first it was a little hard to adjust to getting up in the dark. But, slowly, the summer sun would work its way toward the equator and, in a few weeks, my 6:30 am wake-up time would again be bathed in light. What made those dark mornings well worth it was knowing that it would be light out when I left the office and that I’d still have a few hours of daylight when I got home.

Now that I am retired you might think the time change wouldn’t be as exciting for me as it was before. After all, I can get up whenever I desire, spend whatever time I want to outdoors, and then go to bed when the spirit moves me. While that is true for the most part, I still live in a world of appointments and schedules, and sunset at 7:00 or 8:00 pm feels very different from sunset at 5:00 or 6:00 pm.

I realize that not everyone is enamored with daylight savings time. Some people don’t like the hassle of changing their clocks twice a year. Others have schedules that benefit more from having the extra daylight in the morning. Those people might be happier living in one of the several states or territories that have opted out of observing daylight savings time, including Hawaii, most of Arizona, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

I was horrified recently to learn that one of our state senators has introduced a bill that would affectively end daylight savings time in California. Noooooooooooooooooooo! I’m not sure whether there is any threat of having the bill pass, but I would be happy to buy the senator a oneway ticket to Arizona so he can enjoy standard time year-round and leave the rest of us alone.

Switching to daylight savings time makes me happy. It signals that spring is just around the corner, and summer is not too far off. It means baseball and barbecues and drinks out on the deck. I am so very grateful for the extra sunshine at the end of my day, where it belongs.