Ten years!

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At the end of this week, it will be ten years since Richard and I walked out of our Alberta classrooms for the last time and entered a brand new phase called retirement! Where did the time go? It amazes me to think that we’ve been retired for an entire decade already! Over the past few days, I’ve been looking back and marvelling at all the things we’ve done during that time.

I often say once a teacher, always a teacher. We knew that even though we were retiring, our teaching days weren’t entirely behind us. We’d long had a dream of teaching English overseas after we retired and we accomplished that by spending one year in Japan and a semester at a university in China. Those were amazing experiences and we treasure the memories and the friendships that we made! I’ve also spent some time doing online mentoring and we both volunteer with our local literacy program. I meet once a week with two young women, both members of the Old Colony Mennonite community that moved into our area over the past few years. They are fluent in English, but neither of them ever had the opportunity to learn to read or write, even in their own language, so I’ve been teaching them. Richard tutors one of their husbands.

We’ve discovered that there are no end of things to do in retirement, even in a small community like ours. Richard has been serving as the Deputy Director of Emergency Management for our town for the past few years, a volunteer position that involved quite a bit of training. He also serves on our Community Hall board. Because we come and go a lot, we hesitate to commit to too many activities that require us to be present on a regular basis, but we give our local food bank a thorough cleaning once a month and occasionally work a shift at the thrift store that’s operated by three local churches. In addition, we hold positions in our own church and participate in many activities there. Lately I’ve even had to say no to some opportunities because I felt that I was becoming too busy!

Two of our grown children were already married when we retired, but our family has grown over the past decade to include another daughter-in-law and five grandchildren! Though none of them live very close to us, being grandparents is one of the best things about this stage of life and we spend as much time as we can manage with our little ones.

The past decade has brought some surprises, some good and some not so good. We certainly didn’t anticipate becoming seasonal farm labourers, but I believe in living life to the fullest and I’m always ready to try something new. As a result, this city bred girl learned to operate some pretty big machinery and loved it! For several years, I drove tractor in the spring and combine in the fall as we helped a farmer friend with seeding and harvest.

Travel was always part of our retirement plan. During the first few years, we visited nine Canadian provinces and fifteen American states plus Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Macau, Saipan and Costa Rica. In 2013, I was diagnosed with a little-known incurable cancer which slowed us down a bit and keeps us from being out of the country for extended periods of time, but since that time, we’ve managed to tour Israel and visit Mexico twice. I’ve also been on a girlfriend trip to Las Vegas and we travel to Vancouver regularly to spend time with family. Last fall, we spent two weeks in Nova Scotia and celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary while we were there.

We continue to stay physically active. Golfing is a summer passion for both of us. We also love to hike and we recently purchased a tandem kayak. During the winter we keep active lifting weights, bowling in the local seniors league, and going to dances.

Writing was always something I always knew I’d return to in retirement. Though I’ve had one magazine article published and I’ve done some freelance editing, it’s blogging that I’m most passionate about these days. I love the opportunity it gives me to interact with my readers. Even my blog has changed over the past decade though. I originally started it to share our Asian experiences with friends and family back home, but I loved writing it and I’ve kept it going ever since. Though I still share travel stories whenever I can, it has morphed into more of a lifestyle blog that includes a weekly fashion post reflecting another interest of mine that grew and developed in my retirement years.

Perhaps that’s been the key to a successful and happy retirement… we’re still learning, growing, and exploring new interests. I am extremely grateful that we were able to retire as early as we did. I’m just now approaching 65, traditionally thought of as retirement age, and Richard is 67, but we’ve already been blessed with ten wonderful years of retirement. We loved our teaching careers, but as we watch our younger colleagues wrap up another school year and see their weary, stress filled faces, we don’t for one moment regret retiring when we did!

What will the next ten years hold, I wonder? Much will depend on my health, but at this point, I’m doing well. With a few restrictions, I’m able to lead a normal and active life. I don’t think we’ll be leaning back in our rocking chairs and putting our feet up anytime soon! There’s still a lot of world to see and new adventures await us!

Growing it out

LogoDry hair, oily hair, straight hair, curly hair, thick hair, thin hair, coarse hair, fine hair… is there such a thing as a woman who is truly happy with her hair? It seems that we always want the hair that someone else has! Apparently, we’re also willing to spend a lot to get it. I have no idea how accurate it is, but one estimate that I read recently stated that American women on average spend approximately $700 annually on their hair. That would include haircuts, perms, colouring, shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, and other styling products, as well as accessories including combs, brushes, curling irons, straightening irons, and clips.

Like most women, I get tired of my hair. A few months ago, after keeping it short for many years, I started wondering if perhaps it was time to try a longer style again. I asked you what you thought and several readers urged me to let it grow. Here’s what happened:

 

In today’s photo, I had just come from the hairdresser. She trimmed the ends, shaped it a bit, trimmed the front and thinned out the top. She also had fun playing with my natural curl so it’s a bit wilder looking than I usually wear it.

I still haven’t decided what my ultimate goal is or how long I’ll let it grow, but reaching the point where I could tuck it behind my ears was a milestone. Summer probably isn’t the best time to be trying to grow it out, but it helps a lot to be able to tuck it under the edges of my cap when I’m golfing, especially in the wild winds that we’ve been having lately.

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While we were chatting today, my hairdresser (who has only been doing my hair for the past couple of years) asked how long it’s been since the last time I had long hair. I honestly couldn’t remember, but it must have been back in the 90s. Here’s a photo from way back then!

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Yes, I’ve aged a bit (okay, maybe a lot!) but I still have incredibly thick hair. I lose a little after each of my cancer treatments, but still my hairdresser has to thin it! I know… some of you would love to have thicker hair. I wish I could share a bit of mine with you. As I said, we always want the kind of hair that someone else has!

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Retail therapy

LogoI’ve never indulged in retail therapy. I don’t shop because I’m feeling lonely, stressed, depressed, or bored. I confess that the fact that I live 85 km (53 miles) from the closest mall might have something to do with that! On Tuesday, I travelled that 85 km to spend two hours sitting in a dentist’s chair. On the way, I stopped to have several vials of blood taken for post treatment testing. No one could blame a girl for adding a bit of shopping to a day like that, could they?

Just before I left home that morning, I checked my emails and discovered that Payless ShoeSource had a BOGO (buy one pair, get a second pair half price) sale starting that day. Of course, I had to stop in and check it out!

In my world, there are two kinds of shoe shopping. If I’m looking for shoes (or boots) that I’ll be doing a lot of walking or hiking in, I want quality, support and comfort. I’m willing to pay for that and Payless isn’t the place I usually go looking. If, on the other hand, I’m looking for something fun and I don’t want to spend a lot, it’s definitely my go to. I’ve actually been surprised, however, to discover that most of my Payless purchases have stood up well and have been very comfortable. Hopefully that’s true of Tuesday’s purchase! Here they are, the Fiona Pointed Toe Ghillie Shoes by Brash.

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I knew they were going home with me the minute I tried them on! They’re perfect for wearing with summer’s shorter pants. Here, I’ve styled them with a pair of capris that I bought off a sales rack in the middle of winter and the white sateen crop pants that you’ve seen several times before. You first saw the black lace top here.

Shopping Payless, especially their BOGO sales, is a bit like thrift store shopping in that they don’t always have a particular shoe in the size you wear. I was lucky to find this pair in my size, but I couldn’t find a second pair I wanted, so I bought a package of socks to take advantage of the BOGO savings. I can always use more socks, especially at half price. The shoes themselves were a fantastic buy. Marked down from $49.99 to $16, they actually rang in at $13! Bonus!

I’ll be back to town for more dental work next Tuesday and the Tuesday after. Hopefully retail therapy doesn’t become a bad habit!

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Wink!

It’s Wink Day again today, a day set aside by the Canadian beauty industry to bring awareness to the appearance-related effects of cancer. For over 20 years, the industry has helped tens of thousands of Canadian women undergoing cancer treatment look and feel like themselves again with programs such as Look Good Feel Better and FacingCancer.ca.

Last year and the year before on Wink Day, women were encouraged to post pictures and videos of themselves wearing blue eyeshadow (with the hashtag #winkday) as a way of raising awareness of the Cancer Blues. The Cancer Blues is a term used to describe the emotional distress caused by cancer and its treatment, an often ignored consequence of the disease that can seriously affect a person’s ability to fight and thrive through the ordeal. On both of those occasions, I happened to be in Calgary visiting my daughter, so we both took part.

This year they’ve dropped the blue eyeshadow and are simply asking women to post pictures of themselves winking and share who it is that they’re winking for. It could be a family member, friend or acquaintance; anyone who is experiencing the effects of cancer treatment. I decided to wink for neuroendocrine tumour (NETS) patients worldwide. Since the zebra is our symbol, here’s my attempt at a zebra wink!

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An unusual find

LogoAs many of you know, I love thrift store shopping. It’s the thrill of the hunt and finding something unique or special that keeps me going back. That, and the prices! It’s not looking for something that I need, but finding something I can have even if I don’t need it because every item in the store is so affordable.

When I saw this particular garment, I knew I needed it. Well, actually I just wanted it really badly! I wanted it to fit perfectly. That’s the only problem with thrift store shopping; everything is one of a kind. If it doesn’t fit, there aren’t any other sizes to try on.

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As is often the case with second hand clothing, the size tag had been removed, but it looked like a possibility, so I headed for the dressing room and discovered that I was in luck! $2.50 made it mine!

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I’m not actually sure what to call it! Made of delicate translucent polyester with slits almost to the waist in front and on both sides, it clearly isn’t a dress. Perhaps tunic is the right word.

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Whatever it is, it’s incredibly lightweight and comfortable and the black piping is a nice finishing touch.

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In these photos, I chose to wear it with black and white camis and last year’s white sateen crop pants, but it looks great over black leggings too. Though I haven’t tried it yet, I think it would also look good worn unbuttoned as a long vest which gives it added versatility. Its final advantage is the fact that it packs well taking up almost no space in a suitcase and adding virtually nothing to its weight, something that I almost always consider when buying clothes.

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How much is too much?

LogoIf you know me or you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you already know that I’m not a Trump supporter, but what does that have to do with fashion?

Earlier this week, while traveling with her husband, Melania Trump stepped into the Sicilian sunshine wearing a colourful appliquéd jacket by Italian fashion house, Dolce & Gabbana, that sells for $51,000 USD.

Excuse me?

$51 000! 

And that probably doesn’t even include the matching clutch!

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For those of us north of the border, that’s almost $70 000 CAD!

Contemplate for a moment the fact that electing Donald Trump was considered a triumph for the common man. He fashioned himself as a proud champion of the ordinary American who was fed up with big money running the country. Then consider that his wife’s jacket sells for just $5516 less than the median household income for the United States in 2015 (the most recent year for which data is presently available) which was $56 516. I don’t know of any common man, or woman, with a clothing budget like that one!

I can’t help wondering what the common American would do with that $51 000. Pay off their mortgage? Send their kid to college? Pay for health insurance? $51 000 would buy a lot of groceries!

One of the things to consider when trying to decide if the price of a garment is too high is cost per wear. It makes sense to put more money into an investment piece that will be worn many times season after season than an item that will only be worn a few times. If Mrs. Trump wore her jacket once a week for the next five years, it would still cost almost $200 a wear!

Unbelievable, and in my opinion, inexcusable!

Paddling the Battle

Our new kayak’s maiden voyage on Sedgewick Lake yesterday afternoon just whetted our appetite for a longer paddle today. The Battle River, a tributary of the North Saskatchewan, meanders its way across central Alberta and western Saskatchewan. We headed for Burma Park, a small campground on the river about a 40 minute drive from here. The park itself is located on the south side of the river where the bank is too steep and unstable to access the water, but we found a perfect spot just across the river on the north side.

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We spent an hour paddling upstream enjoying the beautiful sunshine and the breeze which kept the mosquitos away. The only sound was our paddles in the water and an occasional bird call. Paddling steadily against the river’s flow, I was very thankful for the weights I lifted all winter!

When we decided it was time to turn back, we lifted our paddles out of the water, leaned back and let the river carry us for ten minutes while we enjoyed a snack and simply enjoyed the solitude. After that it was only fifteen minutes of easy paddling before the vehicle came into sight again.

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Though much of our kayaking will probably be done further from home when we’re on holiday, I also foresee many more hours paddling the Battle in our future.

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