Friday, April 4, 2014

Learning, Leaving & Moving Forward

My constant challenge is to find balance in everything I do. It applies to all aspects of my life, from fitness and nutrition to finance and friends.  Most naturally, it applies to wasting time and having purpose. I have weeks when I feel like there is a plan and that I am moving toward a result, and at other times I tend to wander.  No two weeks are ever the same.   Sometimes I think it is just a side-effect of retirement and being able to control my own time.  But, there are also times when I think it has more to do with personality. Basically, I have two speeds, "all in" or "nothing."  While that knowledge keeps me from feeling guilty about the down time and energized during the busy times I still long for and strive toward balance.  

I just painted the interior of my mother-in-laws house.  It was a thirty-hour project spread out over several weeks.  I love to paint, and at the beginning of the project I was full steam ahead.  At about twenty hours in, I hit the wall and couldn't imagine painting one more room. I was also starting to get sloppy.  So, I cleaned everything up, explained myself and took a three week break.  Then, I went back refreshed and ready to finish the job.

I have kept a journal for most of my life and there was a time when I wrote daily.  These days I am likely to let weeks and even months pass without writing a single word. But, that is fine because I am still writing. Just not always in my daily journal, and with a different priority in mind.

Same with this blog.  I had one for a year prior to this, but it was compromised with malware.  I removed it, took a break to regroup and reeducate myself and then started over with this blog. It is more specific to ME and less about trying to provide information or to gain readers.  I like this new, casual version of my Life Out Loud, that has no posting schedule or expectations. If time passes and I don't make a post, it's okay.   I just let it go until I have something to say.  It's the perfect balance between all or nothing.

Some time ago, I decided to sew little dresses for charity.  I kept my sewing machine out on the table for months and worked at a steady pace until I finished about thirty or so dresses. It was a very rewarding experience, but toward the end I got tired and sloppy.  I packed the sewing machine away and did not touch it for over a year.  Lately, I have had a resurgence of energy toward that project and have just completed three little dresses and I have five more cut out and ready to sew.  When those are done, I will, once again, pack away the sewing machine.  This time it will not be because of burnout, but because I am content with my effort.

Clearly, there is a pattern to my existence.  I have hobbies, interests and projects galore, but not one of them is a singular focus for very long, with the exception of tennis which has been a life-long passion that I discussed in a previous post.  Also interesting, is that while I can walk away, I usually come back.  That compulsion to return is not because of obligation, boredom, or simply to fill gaps; it is because of passion. If it was there in the beginning, it's probably still there.  While this start/stop approach will never lead to expertise in any area, it does provide purpose and in a strange way balance in my daily life.  I am not compelled to singularity, but I do require consistency.

My mind is curious and my body is able, and while that is so, I will continue to explore and learn. Interests, hobbies and short and long term projects will come and go, but their collective impact will be a life that was filled with purpose and balance. And  I'm okay with that.  Jack of all trades, Master of none..... as long as the product is joy.

Speaking of moving on, it saddens me to see that one of my favorite retirement Bloggers Tamara, at Early Retirement Journey has written her last post.  I, of all people understand. Life evolves and priorities shift. She has a wonderful retirement Blog that is filled with a variety of excellent stories and resources.  I am happy that she chose to leave it for all to enjoy in her absence.  Maybe one day, she will find her passion rekindled for something that was once an important part of her life.  Until then, I know her life will be one big adventure after another and I wish her well.

Curious people can't sit still.  There is much to discover.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

City Mouse - Country Mouse

I have just returned from another stay-cation at our daughter's condo in Miami and once again I am reminded of how invigorating and intimidating it is to be surrounded by youthful energy and a city that doesn't sleep.  I arrived, parked the car and did not move it from it's space for three days.  That sounds like I was holed-up in the condo and honestly I could have since our daughter keeps a wonderful assortment of menus from restaurants that deliver.  But, I was there to relax, enjoy and experience the city through her eyes.

I had fun pretending to be a city dweller for a few days, but honestly, I would not want that life again. While everything is, or appears to be convenient, it does comes at a price.

The market might be just four blocks away, but, heaven forbid you forget something and have to return. Also, you have to be careful not to purchase more than you can carry.  If you take the car out for bigger purchases be prepared for a hassle.  You have to pull up to the front of the building, walk to the managers desk, exchange your ID for a push cart, unload your purchases into the cart and leave them unattended in the lobby while you park your car.  You then take the elevator from the parking garage to the lobby to retrieve your belongings and back up again to your apartment.  You're not done yet.  Remember, the manager has your ID and you have the push cart.  So, back down the elevator with the push cart.  Now, if you forgot your key fob you'll not be allowed out of the elevator on your floor, so you must return to the lobby and ask the manager to "key" the elevator through to your floor.   Whew!  Meanwhile, of course your ice cream has melted.  None of this is from personal experience of course - wink, wink! I've been living in suburbia for so long that I had forgotten how essential good planning is to that lifestyle.

People in the city always seem to be in a rush and distracted with their phones.   Even so, they are completely aware of the light at every crosswalk and will push right over you if you don't move at their pace. Depending on the time of day, people are either professionally dressed, dressed to go out, or in workout clothes.  Regardless, they are all beautiful and fit!  Some of the women waiting for the light to change look like "girls on the corner," if you know what I mean.

 Mini-skirts and high heels have been completely redefined since my generation.  Even though,  my daughter assures me that they are most likely Doctors, Lawyers and Financial consultants.  Sure...

Try as I might to look a bit more hip when I am in the city, my clothes still manage to scream tourist.  So, I have learned to keep it simple.  JCrew shorts and a white tee for day and black slacks and sleeveless (solid color) blouse for night.  Jacket and jewelry complete the evening look, while sneakers or sandals are the order of the day - every day.  The climate may be tropical, but the fashion isn't - unless you never leave South Beach.

Speaking of evening; reservations at a "good," translation, "posh" restaurant must be made two to three weeks in advance to get the optimal time slot, which in Miami is 9:00 or later.  When I say optimal, I mean when the "crowd is out." And, if there is a Kardashian in town, just forget it. I'll never understand that obsession.   Anyway, the "in" restaurants think everyone eats like a model, so don't expect to be served much more than an appetizer portion for your main course.  For which of course, you will pay handsomely.

Add before dinner drinks, valet parking and after dinner "clubbing" to the cost for the evening and you will be out several hundred dollars - yes, several hundred.  My evening ended just before midnight which is considerably past my bedtime.  As we were leaving the restaurant, my daughter pointed out the line to get into the hotel club.  Unless your name is on a list or you know someone who knows someone be ready to pay up, big time.  My small mind can't wrap around that either.

The cost of entertainment and the insatiable appetite for "see and be seen" experiences make no sense to me, but it was interesting to 'look through the window' for a short while.

City living has advantages that can't be found in small towns and bedroom communities and I thoroughly embrace the good parts.  In particular, Miami has unrivaled art, culture, beaches, entertainment, restaurants and ethnic diversity that make it such a unique and wonderful place to visit.  I just wouldn't want to live there, or any city for that matter.

I always take a deep breath and exhale slowly when I come home. The air feels cleaner, the pace is slower, life feels normal and I fit in.  So what if I can't get a Latte delivered to my door at 3:00 in the afternoon.  I can take my bike (without going to a storage unit on the 6th floor) and ride it to the nearest coffee shop completely hassle-free.

There is a reason why no one retires to a city.

Life is good!

Friday, February 28, 2014

What's Your Game

I have almost always played tennis.  At the age of 20, I bought a racquet and learned to play on the city courts near my house. It was love at first sight and I cannot imagine my life without it.  Which, is part of the reason why I still play tennis at the age of 58 (some people think that is young for the sport) and plan to play at a competitive level until I am at least 80.  The physical benefits of playing tennis are obvious, but I have long determined that there are also a number of mental and emotional benefits derived from the game.

Win or loose, I always feel good after a few vigorous sets.  The game provides physical challenges and is a great outlet for my competitive energy.   And, because I think about how to construct each point,  it keeps my mind fully engaged.

During the past 35 years, I have never been away from the sport for more than a year.  That time was due to injuries and not loss of interest.  Other than my husband, it is the only thing in my life that has consistently held my attention.  I truly love the game and need to play it.  It is not my only form of exercise, but it is by far the most enjoyable and the one that I devote the most time  to.

Recently I ran across an article printed by the USPTA (United States Professional Tennis Association, that confirmed  the health benefits that I equate to a lifetime of playing tennis, alone with many of the mental and emotional benefits that I have enjoyed as well.

The bullet points below were taken directly from the article that you will find in its entirety here.

• People who participate in tennis three hours per week at a moderately vigorous intensity cut in half their risk of death from any cause, according to the late Dr. Ralph Paffenbarger, who was an internationally recognized exercise authority and studied more than 10,000 people for 20 years.
• Tennis players scored higher in vigor, optimism and self-esteem while scoring lower in depression, anger, confusion, anxiety and tension than other athletes and nonathletes, according to Dr. Joan Finn and colleagues at Southern Connecticut State University.
• Since tennis requires alertness and tactical thinking, it may generate new connections between nerves in the brain and promote a lifetime of continuing development of the brain, reported scientists at the University of Illinois.
• Tennis outperforms golf and most other sports in developing positive personality characteristics, according to Dr. Jim Gavin, author of "The Exercise Habit."
• Competitive tennis burns more calories than aerobics or cycling, according to studies in caloric expenditures.

Need more motivation?  Tennis is a sport based on angles, geometry and physics, therefore,  problem solving skills are enhanced over time.  It's about teamwork, communication and trust; all important life skills. And like most sports, playing tennis builds character.  Personally, I like meeting the physical challenges year after year, I enjoy the instant connection that I have to other tennis players regardless of our differences and I appreciate the way the focus and drive that I learned from tennis spills over into other aspects of my life.

If you are reasonably fit, it is never too late to learn tennis and to encourage others, like your children or grandchildren to learn to play.  The USTA offers some great programs throughout the US and even if you are not a member of a tennis club, there are most likely community (free) tennis courts in your area.  Find them and join the game.  It truly is a life-long sport that can be enjoyed by anyone.

How About You?

Have you had a life-long love affair with a sport?  Do you put all of your energy into one sport or do you like variety?  Has your devotion to your sport changed or evolved in any way during your retirement years?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Rail Bums

We booked a one way flight to San Francisco which will be the first leg of what promises to be a most wonderful Spring trip.  During the next couple of months we will fill in the details, but for now, the destination is clear. We will fly to San Francisco, on April 22,  meander there for a while, hop on the California Zephyr, travel cross-country to Chicago and fly home.   Of course, by the time we complete our plans, we will have managed to turn a four day train ride into a three or possibly four week odyssey.

Observation Car on the Zephyr
Cross-country train travel has been on Malcolm's bucket list for years. It would not have been possible when we were working, but with no constraints on our time in retirement, why not.

While I have no romantic notions about this mode of travel, he does, and  is convinced that we must do this before we get too old and feeble to enjoy the experience.  It will take some careful planning to coordinate our hop-off points, rental cars, hotel rooms and activities, but that is what Malcolm does best, so I will leave the logistics up to him.

My job is to scout various locations for points of interest and make a list of things to see and do.  I also need to educate myself regarding rail travel, so yesterday, I read several blog posts which included some helpful hints and offered a realistic picture of what we should expect.  It is very different from rail travel in Europe, since reservations must be purchased in advance to ensure availability on any given day.  That takes spontaneity out of the equation, so we have to make a schedule and stick to it to avoid additional expense.

As always, the challenge is to plan a trip that is well balanced with periods of activity and relaxation. We want to be busy, but not overloaded.  We also do not want to be on the train for more than ten to twelve hours at a time.  Late afternoon boarding means that we will sleep on the train at times, so we considered a sleeping car but dispensed with that idea after reading comments from passengers regarding the pros and cons of general seating versus a sleeping car.

I quite like the idea of seeing the interior of the US without the stress of driving and if all goes well, I think we might consider a West Palm Beach to New York trip sometime in the future.  But, I don't want to get ahead of myself just yet.  One new thing at a time.

I'd love to hear from anyone who has had a similar experience or is planning one in the near future.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Making Whoopie!

Pies, that is.  If you have never had one, please do yourself a favor and make a batch soon.  My husband and I made these yesterday morning as our contribution to the Super Bowl party that we attended last night. Notice the Seahawks and Broncos colors.  I was quite pleased with myself as I hovered near the dessert table stating as often as possible, "Malcolm and I made whoopie..........pies this morning.  Please try one." It got a chuckle every time. I had to do something to liven up that game - ugh!  Congrats Seahawks fans.  Your team definitely earned it.

Now, back to my Whoopie Pies. There were about thirty on this tray and not one left over after the game.  I saw a few guys go back for a second one.  I would not recommend that.  At about 500 calories each, it might take more than a walk around the block to balance the calories in/energy out quotient for the day.

A single batch makes roughly 12 - 15 depending on the size of the chocolate cookie that sandwiches the rich gooey goodness (marshmallow cream and butter) on the inside.

There are many recipes on the internet for this dessert, but we used this one from a blog.  It was straight forward and easy to follow.

Besides making whoopie........pies this week, ha, gotcha again, I have been busy maintaining my balanced lifestyle by cooking healthy meals, exercising (mostly tread-mill), reading and watching Netflix movies. Did I mention we have had a LOT of rain lately.  We have also devoted some time to planning our next destination, which might possibly come in April or May. We have short trips secured for June and August, but can't quite nail down exactly what we will do in the spring.  

Where and when we go will depend largely on price.  Since retiring, we have few constraints on our time and can pack a suitcase and leave home with little notice.  Being flexible and having a long list of desirable destinations serves us well.  Taking advantage of travel discounts has become as much of  a hobby as it is a necessity at this stage of life.

April and May are good months for affordable "re-positioning" cruises, so if the stars align we might find ourselves in London, Rome or Barcelona in the spring.  Another possibility is a cross-country train trip, from New York to Los Angeles, with several stops and stays on the route.  We have been invited to hope off the train for a few days in Grand Junction, CO and in Chicago, IL to visit with friends.  The idea of having personal tour guides for areas we know nothing about is very appealing.  Rail passes won't break the bank, and we will make conservative choices regarding lodging, car rentals, and activities along the way.

I am excited about the possibilities and will be patient as the plan unfolds.  In the meanwhile, I just have to say it one more time.  Let's make whoopie............pies!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Places To Go Before I Sleep

The first week of 2014 brought a varied weather pattern to South Florida, with lows from the 30's
to highs in the 80's.  My mood was just as extreme - mostly due to the fact that our daughter returned to school a few days ago.  I am always a bit sad when that happens.  The day after she left I started dismantling decorations. Another lovely Christmas gone by.  There is nothing to do but surrender to the emotion when that sort of sadness sets in.

A call for assistance from a girlfriend in need set my mind and feet in motion as I  regained my focus and jumped headlong into fulfilling her request.   "Centerpieces, I need centerpieces for my son's rehearsal dinner," was all it took to pull me from the aftermath of Christmas and into my first destination of 2014. I love having creative work to do. It is completely satisfying on many levels and quite frankly, I forgot about the extremes in weather.

Well, almost.  Playing tennis in 40 degrees with wind gusts of 20 mph is not the most pleasant thing to do, but someone has to, right? That's winter in South Florida. When the alternative is shoveling snow, I guess it looks pretty good.

On Thursday I will take an inaugural ride with the newly formed Palm Cove Cycle Club.  There are currently four members. We will ride ten miles.  Don't laugh.  It's just the beginning. Hopefully it will be one of our 80 degree days with no wind.  Our intention is to add another ride with a duration of 18 to 20 miles on Sunday, which will make the week fairly substantial in terms of exercise, but mostly, the destination is socialization.

We found out just today that our daughter had a very successful semester in law school and will enter her MBA program on a high note.  It doesn't get much better than that.  Christmas will be complete when we celebrate her success in Miami later this week -another destination.

My WORD has already taken me to so many wonderful places in just one week.  I am excited for the future and I hope you are too.

Enjoy life one sip at a time.

Monday, December 30, 2013

My Word For 2014

Goal setting is something that I do naturally this time of year.  I enjoy looking back at my blog, journal and Shutterfly album with a sense of accomplishment as I begin to make plans to start all over again.  Ultimately, the end game does not change with regard to what I want to achieve year after year,  so last year I decided to choose one word that would serve to illuminate my path.  The word I chose for 2013 was perspective.  It helped me to evaluate my plans and expectations within the scope of my own path as opposed to comparing myself to others.  I liked the feeling of satisfaction that perspective brought to my life. This year, I have chosen the word "destination"  and anticipate a similar result.  After all, most good plans should begin with a destination in mind.

Steven Covey wrote, "Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen," as step 2 of his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  It makes perfect sense when you think about it.  Without a clearly defined destination it becomes much too easy to lose my way or be led astray.  

So, this year I will ask myself the following question with each new endeavor I consider - "What is my destination?"  In other words, what is my desired result, what do I want to accomplish by doing this, will there be sacrifices or consequences, does it contribute to the overall balance I want to achieve in my life and is the end result worth my effort?  Doing this will allow me to clearly define my motivation and hopefully avoid foolish decisions that are made on a whim instead of after careful consideration and for the right reasons.

There is a cinnamon bun sitting on the kitchen table and it is calling my name.  Now, I have to stop and ask the question - what is my destination?   My answer -  "I want to be indulgent."  And that is what I will do because I rode my bike this morning.  That fact justifies my actions and takes away negative consequences so I am able to enjoy the moment instead of feeling guilty about it.  Yesterday, it would have been denied and tomorrow it will be denied. It is all about keeping an eye on the big picture - the destination.   You get the idea.  My word can be applied to any situation - large or small, silly or of consequence.

When I checked for synonyms for the word destination, the one I loved most was "haven."  It's a very pleasant word that evokes feelings of comfort, fulfillment and contentment.  That is what I wish for you and for me this new year - many havens.  

Ringing in the New Year - Florida style