Ten years!


image source

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!


What does retirement look like?

What does retirement look like to you?

One of my favourite blogs is Over 50 Feeling 40 by San Antonio, Texas blogger, Pamela Lutrell. While essentially a fashion blog, it’s much more than that. In Pam’s own words, it’s “a style blog about strength, confidence and joy.” She encourages midlife women to not only look their best and feel their best, but to be the very best that they can be. The one topic that Pam and I seem to disagree on is retirement.

At 62, I have been retired for eight years. At 61, Pam doesn’t see retirement in her future. She recently left her position as a high school journalism teacher and is presently searching for a new career. Why? “Many think we are suppose to retire to the golf course and put hard work behind us. I ponder how long I will work hard a lot lately… I think it is healthy and want to continue doing it as long as possible,” she wrote in a recent post.

Though I may be putting words in her mouth, I get the impression that Pam sees retirement as similar to being put out to pasture; no longer being able to accomplish anything of value. Not me! That’s definitely not what my retirement looks like.

So what has it looked like so far?

Retirement has included fulfilling long held dreams like teaching English in Japan and later, China. One might argue that that wasn’t retirement. After all, we worked hard and we earned a paycheque. It wasn’t really about the work or the money, however. Those were simply what allowed us to be there. It was all about adventure; about living shoulder to shoulder with the people of another land and learning about their culture. It was about traveling to other locations in Asia during our holiday breaks. You can read about those and other retirement adventures by clicking on the appropriate country names in the sidebar.

Retirement brought some unexpected surprises. Learning to operate a tractor and a combine definitely wasn’t part of this city bred girl’s retirement plan, but several years of helping a friend at seeding time and harvest gave me more joy than I could ever have imagined and instilled within me a love for the land that I never thought possible.

Retirement has included volunteering; everything from driving elderly friends to medical appointments to spending a summer doing pastoral supply on the tiny Pacific island of Saipan. Over the past two years, my health has curtailed our ability to spend extended periods of time overseas, but how thankful I am that we retired early enough to do those things while we could! These days, volunteering includes online mentoring, helping younger women deal with some of the issues that made my life most difficult during my younger years.

We’ve always believed in lifelong learning, so retirement has also included further education. Thanks to the internet, over the past year, I was able to audit two university level courses through Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas from the comfort of my own living room.

Retirement has also given me more time to pursue my passion for writing, mostly through the blog, but I presently have another article awaiting publication as well. In addition to my own writing, I’ve edited university papers and a masters thesis for friends and family and I was even contacted by a university professor in Portugal who sometimes publishes research papers in English. He was looking for someone to do editorial work for him and found my name online. Every now and then, I receive an email from Jose with another research proposal or paper for me to edit.

Retirement has meant time on the golf course, but believe it or not, we’ve golfed much less since we retired than we did before! We simply haven’t had time. Life has been too full, too busy, too exciting.

My husband’s favourite definition of retirement is being able to do what you want to do when you want to do it. For me, that meant purposely lying awake for about a hour at 4:30 this morning listening to the music of the rain outside my window (we’ve been experiencing a severe drought here in central Alberta) and then sleeping in until 9:00. Other days, it means an alarm clock ringing early in the morning so we can set off on another adventure.

I realize that we were fortunate to be able to retire as early as we did and that not everyone has that luxury, but we lived carefully throughout our working years with that goal in mind. My pension doesn’t come close to being enough to live on, but fortunately, my husband’s is adequate to meet our needs.

Do we ever regret retiring as early as we did? Never! Would we do it again? In a heartbeat! We loved our careers, but they didn’t define us. Unlike Pam, I don’t need a job to go to to give my life a sense of purpose or to make me feel fulfilled.

What about you? Are you retired yet? Do you want to be? What do you think is the perfect age to retire?

What does retirement look like to you?

Are they or aren’t they?

It always boggles my mind that new rocks mysteriously appear in farmers’ fields each season! Though it seems as if they must simply drop from the sky, I’m told that it’s actually frost action that brings them to the surface. Today, while I was harvesting in one of the most recently cleared parts of Louis’ land, the combine picked up one of these rocks that lay hidden in a swath of canola. In addition to plugging up the machine, it broke three teeth on the pick-up auger as well as the chain that turns it.

Climbing down from the machine, I proceeded to unplug the pick-up by hand all the while wishing that I’d thought to bring a pair of work gloves with me. As the scratches on my arms will attest, canola straw is brittle and sharp. Eventually I cleared enough of it away to expose the rock wedged in underneath. As I pulled it out, what could have been nothing more than an annoying delay became something much more intriguing. Could that possibly be a ribstone in my hands?

Ribstones , carved by the natives who wandered this windswept prairie more than 1000 years ago, are thought to depict the ribs of buffalo, the animal that provided for so many of their needs. We first saw this type of rock carving at a native ceremonial site on a high point of land located about 24 km north of here. Here’s one of the rocks found there

and here’s the rock I found in the combine today.

Is it only my imagination or do you see a similarity?

While Louis went to town to buy a new chain, I picked up other rocks strewn around the area and piled them up so that they can be easily found and removed from the field before one them causes another mishap. I looked closely at each one before adding it to the pile but they were just ordinary rocks void of interesting markings of any kind. A little stone, too small to be a threat, caught my attention only because its light colour stood out against the darker field. Picking it up, I noticed immediately that it fit snugly into my palm. Examining it more closely, I realized that it appeared to have been carved into its present shape and that one edge formed a sharp blade.



It was easy to imagine a young brave chipping away at this rock turning it into a tool that his iskwew (is-KWAY-oh, Cree word for woman and the word that our term squaw is likely derived from) would use to scrape the hides after his next hunt. Perhaps it was an elderly man, one too old to join the hunt, who spent his time making tools like this one.

As you can see, hours on the combine leave plenty of time for my imagination to run wild! Are these simply unusual rocks or are they artifacts; remnants of times long past and people who roamed these parts long before the fields were cleared and cultivated? When harvest is over, I hope to do some research and try to find out and I’ll probably be back in that field picking rocks again in hopes of finding more of interest!

Dressing like a girl

I’m a blue jeans kind of girl. Perhaps that has something to do with growing up in an era when girls were required to wear skirts to school every day. I took my final year of high school in the Northwest Territories. The only good thing about that was the fact that we were allowed to wear pants to school from the beginning of November to the end of February, a concession to the fact that the school remained open even when the temperature plunged to -50°F (-45°C) or lower! By the time I entered an Alberta classroom as a teacher five years later, dress pants were permitted and during the last few years of my career, Casual Friday had made its way into the schools. Finally I could go to school in blue jeans!

Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to spend my retirement working as a seasonal farm labourer but at this time of year, I can be found wearing faded, well worn blue jeans and a t-shirt or sweatshirt while operating a combine! I often wear dressy jeans to church but at this time of year, after dressing like a farmer all week, I love to dress like a girl on Sunday. That’s when my skirts are most apt to come out of the closet.

I’m especially glad that I chose to dress up for church yesterday. Our local high school has a long standing tradition of holding graduation in mid September. It makes absolutely no sense to me especially considering that this is a farming community where a fall grad invariably falls in the middle of the busy harvest but tradition is tradition and it isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

The morning after the big celebration, the graduates in our congregation traditionally come to church dressed in their graduation finery and each is presented with a Bible with their name engraved on the cover. They’re sometimes a bit bleary eyed after the festivities of the evening before but it allows all of us an opportunity to share in their special moment.

Yesterday, three young men showed up for church looking much more formal than usual. I was delighted when one of their mothers asked me to pose for a photo with them after the service. It doesn’t seem like very long ago that they were little boys in my Sunday School class & look at them now! Matthew, the one on my right, is studying engineering while Rylun and Jason are apprenticing mechanics.

photo by Michelle Edey

I’m glad I was suitably dressed for the occasion!


(an-tis-uh-pay-shun)  noun
1.  realization in advance, foretaste
2.  expectation or hope.
3.  a feeling of excitement about something that is going to happen in the near future

So what am I anticipating? First of all, did you know that August 18 has been designated International Geocaching Day, a day devoted to the hobby we’ve grown to love? Until recently, I didn’t either. Apparently today thousands of geocachers will attend one of more than 100 International Geocaching Day events around the globe. We won’t be amongst them but we wanted to do something special to honour the day. From the moment that we began geocaching 4 months ago, we’ve been planning on placing a few caches of our own around our area for other searchers to locate. The only reason that we didn’t place our first cache before this was because we haven’t been home enough but what better way to celebrate our first International Geocaching Day than to hide our first cache. We actually hid it yesterday as we knew we wouldn’t have the opportunity today but it was first published on geocaching.com this morning. So, I’m anticipating someone finding it soon! We also planted our first trackable in the cache. A trackable is a geocaching game piece that is moved from cache to cache by geocachers like ourselves. The goal we gave our trackable, attached to a Canada flag keychain, was to visit all 10 provinces and 3 territories of Canada as well as all 50 US states so I’m anticipating following it’s journey as it travels around North America.

I’m also anticipating being very busy this coming week. I spent this morning over at the church decorating for Vacation Bible School which starts at 9:00 a.m. Monday morning. We’ll spend every morning from Monday to Friday with an energetic bunch of kids helping lead them through a fun filled week of learning that “Everything is possible with God” (Mark 10:27). I’m also anticipating our house being busier than usual this week as we host 3 of the Bible school students who are coming to direct the VBS program. Though I thoroughly enjoy our empty nest, I’m looking forward to the excitement that youth bring with them!

Most of all though, I’m anticipating harvest! The reason that we’re not out searching for geocaches this afternoon is that Richard is swathing canola! That means that I’ll soon be out on the combine, one of my favourite places to be. While we were busy holidaying in BC, our home area was enjoying one of the best growing seasons ever. Lots of rain and lots of hot sunny days have resulted in grain that is ready to harvest much earlier than usual. Months ago when we agreed to help out with VBS, we had no reason to expect that it would conflict with harvest so next week we’ll spend mornings at the church and the remainder of each day in the field.

How boring life would be if we had nothing to anticipate!

What are you anticipating right now?

Five years!

Tomorrow is the last day of school and also marks five years since I walked out of the classroom for the last time. It amazes me to think that we’ve been retired for that long already! Where has the time gone? For the past couple of days I’ve been doing some self-evaluation, asking myself what we’ve accomplished over those five years and whether or not we’ve done the things we wanted to do. Overall, I think the answer is a resounding yes!

We had some pretty specific goals in mind when we retired:

  • teach English in Asia for at least one year – done
  • travel – never completely done but 9 provinces and 15 states plus Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Macau, Saipan and Costa Rica are a pretty good start
  • short-term mission work – one summer in ministry has only whetted our appetite for more

Becoming grandparents was something we hoped for and though we can’t take any credit for that being accomplished, grandchildren have been one of the most delightful additions to our life since we retired. Four of them are firmly attached to the family tree and there are five others who also call us Gram and Grandpa. Four of those belong to two families in Japan who ‘adopted’ us while we lived there and with whom we’ve been able to carry on a relationship since our return to Canada.

The past few years have brought other unexpected surprises including becoming seasonal farm labourers! That definitely wasn’t part of the plan but we’ve enjoyed it immensely. For the first time since returning from Japan in early 2009, we weren’t involved in seeding this year’s crop. Louis, our 83-year-old ‘boss’ and very good friend, passed that part of the process on to his stepson and grandson this spring. He still plans to have us help him harvest the crop this fall though.

Surprisingly, we haven’t golfed as much as we thought we would since retiring. In fact, we haven’t golfed as much as we did before we retired! We’ve been too busy fulfilling our other goals. This year eight of the nine greens on our local course are undergoing reconstruction. The course is open but the temporary greens are pretty pathetic so the desire to play hasn’t really been there. It was a good year for us to take up a new hobby; geocaching. Though there are geocachers of all ages, many are retired. In fact, the activity is highlighted in the most recent issue of News and Views, the quarterly magazine published by the Alberta Retired Teachers’ Association.

Writing was always something I planned to return to in retirement. I thought I’d be freelancing again, sending my work off to publishers and waiting with baited breath to find out whether it would be accepted. Instead, I find myself blogging! Though I did experience the thrill of publication, in my early writing days I also received enough rejection slips to paper a small room! Blogging is so much more satisfying and I enjoy the opportunity to interact with some of my readers.

Do we ever regret retiring as early as we did? Never! Would we do it again? In a heartbeat! Have I enjoyed every moment of it? To be completely honest, no. Most of the time, I absolutely love being retired but there are moments, especially in the depths of our long Canadian winters, when I long to be doing something more meaningful with my days; moments when I join the writer of Ecclesiastes in lamenting that “Everything is meaningless, utterly meaningless!” Fortunately, those days are few and far between. I don’t think Richard has experienced them at all. Maybe that’s because he spends so much time playing Farmville that he doesn’t have time for such thoughts. His ‘farm’ is something else I didn’t expect to be part of our retirement but it keeps him happy!

As this school year comes to a close, I wonder what the next five years will hold. Our goals remain the same… more travel (we haven’t seen Europe yet) and more short-term mission work. I’m sure there will also be more unexpected surprises along the way.



Cross Canada tractor trek

photo credit

The source of information for western Canadian farmers for the past 89 years has been the weekly farm paper, The Western Producer. Every now and then, our farmer friend, Louis, passes his copy of the paper on to us when he finishes with it. Often there’s a specific article that he wants us to read, usually related to some topic that has come up when we’ve been working for him. Occasionally, however, he simply tells me “I think there’s something in this one that you’ll enjoy.” He knows me well and he’s usually right. Most of the time, I can figure out which article he’s referring to but this time I’m not quite sure. The latest issue has several possibilities but if he thought that the one entitled Immigrant farmer takes long way to farm would catch my fancy, he was absolutely right! It might be the gypsy in me but the story of Eduard Bomers has definitely captivated me.

Several years ago, Bomers, a Dutch dairy farmer, decided that he wanted to leave that profession and try his hand at grain farming. Dairy farming is a 24 hour a day, 365 days a year commitment. He wanted more out of life than that and so began the transition. He put his dairy farm in the Netherlands up for sale and set his sights on buying land on the Canadian prairie. He visited Alberta in 2008 then spent last year working on a Saskatchewan grain farm to gain experience. Last month, he took possession of his new farm near Sheho in southeastern Saskatchewan.

A century ago, western Canada was populated by European farmers looking for new beginnings. What makes this one any different? The adventure of a lifetime, that’s what!

Last month Bomers returned to his home at Eesveen in the Netherlands, packed his household belongings into a trailer, hitched it to his Fendt 936 tractor and set off for the port city of Antwerp, Belgium a long day’s journey away. There the tractor and trailer were loaded onto a ship destined for Halifax, Nova Scotia. After some delay, the ship docked in Halifax the day before yesterday. In the meantime, Eduard had flown back to Saskatchewan and driven his pick-up truck over 4000 km to Halifax picking up his friend, Jakob, on the way.

Early yesterday afternoon, the tractor and trailer were released from customs and an amazing cross Canada trek began! Yes, while Jakob drives the pick-up back to Saskatchewan, Eduard will make the trip behind the wheel of his Fendt tractor! What an audacious undertaking! Some might think he’s crazy but I think the world needs a few more people like Eduard Bomers! Why not join me as I follow the Boer on Toer here!