Category Archives: Retirement



I like the freedom of it, constructing my days as I like, an extra cup of coffee in the morning, maybe a massage in the afternoon, an extra glass of wine in the evening

Exploring the wide world, the delight of a grandchild’s love, stretching my comfort zone, reading books in stacks, time to create and think and write and volunteer

No longer at an employer’s beck and call, I can defy convention, have opinions of my own, spend time with those I like, do things my way 

More cavalier about my appearance, less attached to “stuff”, open to new adventures, long walks

The twinge in my knees, knowing my mother only as a memory, a friend’s cancer diagnosis

Lost keys, a missed appointment, the forgotten name of a former student

Repeating stories, mourning lost ideals, confusing screens bombarding me with Twitter and Facebook and What’s Ap and Instagram

Like the screen on the heart monitor erratic and then slowing to a flatline. 

When I taught high school English I used the poem about smoking below to introduce my students to the art of contrast poetry. Then they had to write their own contrast poems.  This last week the Glaser poem inspired me to write the contrast poem about aging that opens this post.  

Smoking                        by Elton Glaser

I like the cool and heft of it, dull metal on the palm,

And the click, the hiss, the spark fuming into flame,

Boldface of fire, the rage and sway of it, raw blue at the base

And a slope of gold, a touch to the packed tobacco, the tip

Turned red as a warning light, blown brighter by the breath,

The pull and the pump of it, and the paper’s white

Smoothed now to ash as the smoke draws back, drawn down

To the black crust of lungs, tar and poisons in the pink,

And the blood sorting it out, veins tight and the heart slow,

The push and wheeze of it, a sweep of plumes in the air

Like a rack of horses dragging a hearse through Old,

London, at the end of December, in the dark and fog.

Other posts……….

A Fine Balance


Growing Old is Not for Cowards



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Filed under Poetry, Retirement

A Fine Balance


Giving folks from Siloam Mission a tour at the art gallery

Death closes all: but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done…..

Come, my friends,

T’is not too late to seek a newer world….    –  Alfred Lloyd Tennyson

walking in iceland

Walking in Iceland


Earth’s crammed with heaven, 

And every common bush afire with God

But only those who see take off their shoes;

The rest sit around and pluck blackberries. – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Those two quotes represent two different aspects of retirement, not necessarily in opposition to one another but requiring a fine balance.  

Beverly McLachlin

I read the first quote by Tennyson in a Macleans Op Ed written by recently retired Canadian Supreme Court Justice Beverly McLachlin.   McLachlin who is some ten years older than I am, is certainly taking Tennyson’s words to heart.  She just retired in December but has already completed writing a novel that will soon be published and has accepted a part-time post as a foreign judge on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. She is finding ‘work of noble note’ even as she approaches the last decades of her life. 

mom and dad in their flower garden

My parents in their flower garden

I read the second quote by Browning on the Facebook page of a chaplain in a retirement facility.  Retirement offers us an opportunity to take a break from constant work and really notice all the beauty around us here on earth, to ‘take off our shoes’ and soak up the wonders of nature, the kindness of strangers and the excellence of a good book.  Browning warns that if we are so busy working we won’t have time to notice that beauty around us. 

The challenge lies in achieving a balance.  Doing some noble work so we have a purpose, so we still feel like we are making some small contribution to a ‘newer world’,  but also making sure we have time to revel in the beauty of the natural world, spend time with family and friends and enjoy literature, music, theatre, physical exercise, travel and art. 

It’s a fine balance. I often am tilted too far to one side or the other, but I know how lucky I am to have the opportunity to try to continue to balance my life before ‘death closes all.’ 

Other posts…………

Self Care

Start and End Happy

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Filed under Poetry, Reflections, Retirement

Keeping A Record

We’ve been in Saskatoon this week helping my 94-year-old aunt move into a personal care residence.  We had two days to sort through all her belongings and pick and choose just a few things to go into her new small living quarters.

Aunt Vi

Aunt Vi

My aunt was a record keeper.  She had a journal for every year noting interesting or good things about each day. She had ledgers where she tracked virtually every penny she’d spent since she got her first teaching pay cheque in 1943.  She had journals and photograph albums cataloguing her travels around the world. She had a stack of guest books signed by  the hundreds of people who visited her home. She had folder upon folder with notes pertaining to speeches she had given, volunteer work she had done, committees she had served on and events she had planned. She had photo albums chronicling the life of her family, her friends, her plants and her needlework projects.  We even found boxes full of notecards where she recorded the meals she made for people so she didn’t ever serve them the same thing twice on their visits to her home. She had autograph books, address books, year books, birthday books and boxes and boxes full of cards she had received.

Me and Aunt Vi 1957

Me and Aunt Vi 1957

Of course it was impossible to keep all of these items for space reasons and even if we could have, my aunt’s eyesight has become very poor and the tiny written script in most of her notebooks and journals and the old small black and white photos in many of her albums would not be accessible to her.

My aunt looks at one of her autograph books

My aunt looks at one of her autograph books

I felt very sad and somewhat guilty about having to get rid of this record of my aunt’s life but someone wisely reminded me that all those journals and albums had already served their purpose. My aunt had enjoyed  compiling them and she had enjoyed reminiscing whenever she read them and reread them and looked at them. In  2011 she used them to write and publish a detailed illustrated history of her life.

 I too am a record keeper and chronicler but for many years already my journalling has been done electronically on this blog and in computer files.  So when it is my turn to go into the personal care home my children will not need to spend days and days getting rid of my records. They will just need to press delete.

Other posts………….

Aunt Vi’s Autograph Book

Visiting Aunt Vi


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The Week Whirls By

art project Monday I was at the art gallery for a professional development meeting. My colleagues and I tried out one of the new art projects we are going to do with our school age groups. It was lots of fun! 

flowers from dinner guestsTuesday two of my aunties and a cousin came over for supper.  Lots of good visiting.  They brought me these beautiful flowers. 

Homer Watson Near the Close of a Stormy Day public domainWednesday I gave a tour to grade ones at the art gallery.  They loved looking for signs of the passing storm in Near the Close of A Stormy Day by Homer Watson. We had fun creating a noisy storm of our own with the art gallery’s cart full of musical instruments. 

luncheon with student teachersThursday I hosted a luncheon at one of the schools where I’ve been visiting student teachers.  What a great bunch!  We had a lovely lunch and a good visit. 

birthday giftsThis morning we have a 6 am. departure time for Saskatoon to celebrate our grandson’s fourth birthday.  I’m ready!!

Where has the week gone? 

Other posts………..

Paint Nite

Lynch Family and Lead Belly

Early Morning Walk in Saskatoon

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Filed under Family, Retirement, WInnipeg Art Gallery

The Magic of Tidying Up

the-life-changing-magic-of-tidying-upI read the life changing magic of tidying up as I was beginning my annual clean up of our living space.  For the last four decades or so I’ve taken a couple of weeks each year to go systematically through every single drawer and shelf and cupboard of whatever place we happen to call home at the time and toss and organize and rearrange. I thought I’d been doing a pretty good job of this but Marie Kondo’s book proved me WRONG!

People's discarded items on sale at a thrift store.

People’s discarded items on sale at a thrift store.

She advocates laying out in front of you every single thing you own, one category at a time, be that books or clothes or photographs or kitchen utensils. Then you need to pick up each item and consider it carefully, asking yourself the key question  does this item give me joy? Kondo says you will be amazed at how many things you can part with after asking that question.

Reading Kondo’s book was helpful. I didn’t have the time and space to lay everything out as Kondo suggests but I did ask her question about many possessions and in addition three others ” When was the last time you used this?” “Will you ever use this again? “  “Will my children have any interest in this item once I’m gone?”  Those questions plus Kondo’s question about joy made it possible for me to part with more things than I ever have before.


Things that still bring me joy.

Before Kondo’s book came out and she became a best-selling celebrity she made her living helping people declutter their homes. She claims a nearly 100% success rate with her clients. Once they had done a massive one time clean up of their living space using her principles and methods they never let things get cluttered again.

drawer organized kondo styleI did reorganize all our clothing drawers according to the Kondo folding system and so far I’m liking it.

Kondo calls her method magic because she says once your living space is tidy and organized you feel so much happier and so much more relaxed. Your organized home will help you organize the rest of your life and inspire you to achieve things you never thought possible. Some of Kondo’s methods and rituals seem a bit far-fetched and almost obsessive compulsive but that fact that she has sold millions of copies of her book means she has obviously touched a nerve with a public that is feeling overwhelmed by their possessions. There is certainly value in reconsidering our attachment to things especially if buying them and looking after them stands in the way of our relationships with people.   And the key at least for me is that I need to  be much more judicious and thoughtful about the things I acquire in the first place. 

Other posts…….

Obsolete Things

Why Do People Collect Things?

Beauty in Ordinary Things

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Filed under Books, Retirement

When Did You Stop Drawing?

Elizabeth Gilbert author of a new book on being creative called Big Magic,  just did a Facebook post about the fact that people stop drawing at the point where their artistic abilities were first shamed or ridiculed.  I’ve blogged before about how that happened to me in grade eight when a teacher made fun of my art in front of the whole class.

my-version-of-bill-browridgeElizabeth quotes Lynda Barry  who says when people who have been  “non-artists” for a long time start drawing again, their images  will look like they were made by a child the same age as the person was when they stopped drawing.  That means we can pick up where we left off and start moving forward in our process of learning and growing creatively.  

hockey-artworkIn her Facebook posts about her new book Elizabeth has been encouraging people to embrace their creativity and try dancing, or writing or singing or drawing even if they haven’t done it for decades. She encourages us to stop denying our creative inheritance as human beings and not be scared or embarrassed about nurturing our creative instincts. 

esthers-drawingWith the help of my friend Esther I’ve been trying to do that over the last year. She gave me the courage to take a drawing class and since then she and I have been getting together every month to sketch.  I’ve illustrated this post with the results of our October drawing outing at the Mayberry Gallery where I tried to re-create a portion of the work of Bill Brownridge.   With Esther’s help I’m going back to my younger art self and have started drawing again.  By showing my work here I am trying to get over the embarrassment of my  13-year-old self and celebrate the chance to be creative in a way I thought was closed to me. 

Other posts…..

Using the Other Side of My Brain

Finding my Inner Artist

Finding Wayan of Eat Pray Love


Filed under Art, Childhood, Education, Retirement

Music, Great Conversation, Spiritual Journeys and Flowers

faith and life male choirMy husband Dave is now a member of the Faith and Life male choir and I joined him when he gave his first performance at a fundraising banquet for a Mennonite nursing home this week.  I was seated beside a delightful woman named Marian who told me all about her years living in Berlin during the Cold War, the four-year old orphan she and her husband had adopted from Vietnam, and the wine tasting fundraiser she is hosting in her home in November for the Winnipeg Singers choir. We found we had endless connections. She and her late husband were good friends with the former editors of the Mennonite Mirror, a magazine for which I was a staff writer for many years.  Marian’s husband was born in Gnadenthal where my Dad was born. Marian had lived in Newton, Kansas and knew my aunt and uncle there. She had been a nurse in the hemodialysis unit at St. Boniface Hospital where my mother was an out-patient and Marian had visited Hong Kong where I lived for six years.

bethania nursing home fund raiser programI really enjoyed the talks at the banquet by the nursing home chaplains who described some of the things they try to do to enrich the spiritual journey of people nearing the end of their lives. This included assisting them in writing their memoirs, planning meaningful worship experiences, listening to their stories, helping them reconcile with their children, singing with them, guiding them down the path of forgiveness with people who may have hurt them, and in one case helping a woman find and reunite with the child she had given up for adoption. 

flowers centrepieceIt was an interesting evening. My husband’s choir sounded great and I got to bring home this beautiful table centerpiece. I took the Henderson Highway bus there and had the pleasure of walking the last kilometer or so to the Douglas Mennonite Church down the beautiful Chief Peguis greenway pedestrian trail. 

Other posts……..


Musicians Encountered World Wide

What Will You Be Building?

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Filed under Family, Music, Religion, Retirement