Category Archives: Retirement

Light A Multitude of Candles

Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.

Those are the opening lines in one of my favourite novels, Anne Tyler’s Back When We Were Grownups.

Rebecca, the main character is a widow with four grown children who starts wondering if she is really happy. She begins to think about what her life would have been like if she had made other choices both professionally and personally. What is her purpose now?

Like Rebecca, as our life circumstances change, we often stop to reflect on what our new purpose might be or how the choices we made in life have impacted where we’ve arrived.

There are two key pieces of advice I always take away from Back When We Were Grownups when I reread it.

1. Don’t waste your time with regrets constantly thinking about what might have been.

Rebecca puts it this way. “Your true life is the one you end up with, whatever it may be.”

2. Live as richly and as fully as you can in the here and now. Rebecca tells this story to make that point.

When I was eight my aunt gave me a beautiful tall white candle with white lace around it in a spiral. I thought it was so elegant I saved it in my drawer to use on some momentous occasion. One day four years later I came across it in my drawer and it was all yellow and warped and the lace had crumbled. I’d never seen it burning and now I never would. Since then I light my candles any chance I get. I light them by the dozens, all over, all year. Multitudes of candles!

This Christmas in particular, when we may be feeling regretful that we can’t celebrate the season in the way we’d hoped to, or with the people we’d hoped to, it might be good to remember Rebecca’s advice to light multitudes of candles while making the very best of what life has given us right now.

Other posts……..

Another Year For Dave

The Big Picture And Finding Your Own Happiness


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Filed under Family, Holidays, Reflections, Retirement

Dave Considers Becoming A Dog Walker

We began our second day here in beautiful Canmore with a long walk in the chilly morning air. When you are staying in a household with two dogs getting them outdoors for some exercise is the top priority. After breakfast, we hit the trails gorgeous with autumn colours to take Archer and Josie the two dogs that belong to our niece and her fiancé for a walk.

Dave decided to try his hand at walking the dogs, first with Archer the puppy and then with Josie the older dog as well.

The dogs really responded well to him and he managed to keep them on course even though both have a tendency to want to venture off the path to chase squirrels and rabbits and birds and could get a little excited when we met other dogs.

Even when we spotted a herd of elk on a neighbourhood soccer field Dave kept the dogs in hand.

Our niece told Dave dogwalkers typically make twenty dollars an hour. Since Dave lost his job as a driver for a car dealership during the pandemic, he has been thinking about trying a different sort of part-time employment. He may have found it.

Other posts………

Coop the Great- A Book That Isn’t Just For Dog Lovers

Fifteen Dogs and Writing Poetry

Ten Thoughts About the Movie Call of the Wild

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Filed under Canada, Retirement, Western Canada Travels

Do It Or Write It Down

I was having lunch with my friend Irene the other day and we were talking about how we are at the stage in life where we have ‘senior moments’ and forget to do things.

COVID hasn’t helped because we’ve had fewer items on our calendars for over a year, and now that our lives are getting back into a busier mode it seems to be even harder to remember things. We are out of practice.

Irene told me she and her husband have a little mantra “Do it or write it down.” When they think of something they need to do they either do it immediately or write it down so they will remember later that they need to do it.

I am getting ready for a trip and I started packing days ago. When I think of something I need to take along I either put it in my suitcase immediately or I write it down on a list.

Do it or write it down. Great advice!

Other posts……….

5 To Do List Alternatives

Galileo’s Grocery List

Making Lists

Keeping Up With Technology


Filed under Retirement

Volunteer and Live Longer

Many of my fellow guides at the Winnipeg Art Gallery were volunteers. I started out there as a volunteer too for a number of years before I became an employee.

A University of Harvard study of 13,000 American adults found that people over the age of 50, who volunteer for two hours a week have a substantially reduced risk of dying or getting sick. Their mental health is also better. Volunteers feel less hopeless, depressed, and lonely.

My Dad was a volunteer at the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum in Steinbach during his retirement

An ever-increasing body of research is linking altruism to longevity and quality of life. Dr. Eric Kim one of the authors of the Harvard study says even during the pandemic we should try to find ways however small to contribute to the healing of others and the quality of life in our communities while continuing to follow health guidelines. Once the COVID-19 crisis is over we need to establish even more structures within communities that help people to volunteer.

Jimmy Carter building a Habitat for Humanity House – photo Mark Humphrey

Former American President Jimmy Carter is a great example of this. At age 96 he still volunteers his time annually to help build houses for Habitat for Humanity. He and his wife Roslyn have helped build and repair nearly 5000 homes in 14 different countries. Carter says that throughout his life he has seen the difference volunteering can make.

A plaque at Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach pays tribute to the volunteer work my mother did to support young children and their parents

The Harvard study shows that by volunteering we are not only helping others we are really doing ourselves a favor too.

Before the pandemic, my husband Dave was a regular volunteer at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival

Although there were times during the pandemic we couldn’t volunteer at all my husband Dave and I have been able to restart some of our volunteer commitments. He supports a service program at our church that brings in young people from other countries to do humanitarian work in Winnipeg and I volunteer at a Thrift Shop.

I know that being able to volunteer once again has certainly improved our mental and physical health. The pandemic has helped to make us even more aware that volunteering is good for us.

I volunteer at an MCC Thrift store with women from my church. My usual job is sorting, packaging, and pricing Christmas items that are donated. Profits from the store go to support service projects around the world.

Other posts…….

A Dedicated Fringe Volunteer

Look What I Found!

A Fine Balance

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Filed under Retirement

Should There Be Mandatory Vaccinations for Long Term Care Workers?

In the latest update from the personal care home where my father is a resident, we were informed that visiting privileges would be expanded to include anyone who is two weeks past their second vaccination date. Previously only two designated family members could visit and now others will be able to visit as well, as long as they are fully vaccinated.

All visitors however will still need to wear masks and goggles, do a covid questionnaire, have their temperature taken before entering and stay six feet away from their loved ones.

Ironically another section of the same newsletter responded to numerous inquires from families about whether all the care aides who look after people in the personal care home have been fully vaccinated. The administrators of the home simply don’t know.

Vaccination is still voluntary according to the provincial government and employers cannot ask if a worker is vaccinated. They can offer on-site vaccinations, encourage employees to get vaccinated, and educate employees about vaccination, but they can’t terminate their employment if they aren’t vaccinated.

Image from an excellent Policy Options article about what needs to be done to improve compensation and working conditions for long term care workers.

I would be the last person to criticize long term care workers. Every day when I visit my father I see the vital and very challenging job they do. According to a Canadian Health Care Institute-funded research paper long term care workers are generally middle-aged women, with a high school diploma, who speak English as their second language.

They are paid on average in Canada $18.95 an hour and 25% of them work in more than one care facility for financial reasons because they can’t get enough hours at a single placement. This despite the fact experts recommend long term care facilities should have a lower patient to caregiver ratio than they currently do.

I understand that much needs to be done to improve long term care workers’ salaries and working conditions. We are not treating them fairly given the extremely important work they do. But is it fair to require them to be vaccinated?

A City News story earlier this month said Ontario is making vaccination mandatory for all long term care workers and British Columbia is considering it as well. Is it something Manitoba should consider too?

Other posts……….

A Realistic Look at Aging?

Growing Old is Not For Cowards

We Are Vaccinated But…………


Filed under Health, Retirement

Keeping Up With Technology

I got a new computer last week. Mine was seven years old. It needed a new battery and the Apple technician informed me it was headed towards what they call the obsolete category.

I was happy to have a new computer but was feeling a little overwhelmed with all the things I needed to figure out and learn as I set it up. New programs, new versions of old programs, new passwords, and new ways of organizing things. It was a bit of a puzzle and I am still in the process of discovering all the solutions and possibilities.

I was complaining to my brother about the myriad of stuff I had to learn in order to get my computer operational and he suggested I shouldn’t see it as an obstacle but as an important and helpful opportunity for me to keep up to date on the latest technology.

He has met several seniors lately who haven’t kept abreast of new technology and it has really left them disconnected particularly during the pandemic. They don’t know how to do business or maintain social connections online and it’s made life difficult and isolating for them. My brother said it reminded him how important it was to keep up our technology skills particularly as we age.

So I’m going to look at my work to get my computer all set up and my journey to become familiar with all its new features as an important step in keeping myself current in the ever-changing world of technology.

Other posts……….

Will the Pandemic Change The Way We Work? 

The Social Dilemma



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Filed under Retirement

Ready to Die?

My husband Dave in a cemetery in Vik Iceland

“I’m preparing to die. ”  Four years ago I visited with a woman in her eighties who told me she was spending a fair bit of time reading, writing, learning, talking and thinking about death.  Even though she wasn’t terminally ill she wanted to be ready to die. She felt the more she could prepare herself for death and accept it as a natural part of life, the easier it would be for her and her family. 

Perhaps because we are faced each morning with a new death toll from the pandemic many of us are thinking more about dying, especially those of us in what is considered the vulnerable age population for COVID-19. 

Madeleine L Engle- image from her Twitter page curated by her granddaughter

In Madeleine L’ Engle’s book The Summer of the Great Grandmother she describes the last summer of her mother’s life. L’ Engle says we experience a series of letting go events or deaths that can prepare us for the end of our life.  

L’ Engle suggests we die to childhood and are born to adolescence. We die to adolescence and become adults.  We die to our single selves when we become someone’s partner or parent. When we move to a new place or a new career we experience a kind of death. She thinks these experiences can teach us things that will make the end of our lives easier. 

We spend much of our childhood and adolescence being educated and prepared for our adult lives. Many couples attend counselling sessions to prepare for marriage.  I took prenatal classes and read books to prepare for parenthood. Many people take seminars and visit a financial planner to prepare for retirement.  It makes sense that just as we prepare for these other deaths and rebirths during our lifetime we should also prepare for our final death and rebirth.  

I provide support for a 97-year-old family member who has prepared very well for her death.  She has her financial affairs in impeccable order. She has paid for her funeral and burial plot. She has written and published her life story.  She has given away or sold most of her personal belongings. She has designated which charities will be the beneficiaries of her estate. She is at peace with God.

I suspect it is never too early to begin to prepare for death. As Steve Jobs once said, “Death is the destination we all share.” As we travel through life we need to think about how we can live to the fullest but yet prepare ourselves for eventually reaching that destination.  

Other posts…….

Death Toll

Wind Blessings

Hold Their Hands And Say Their Names As They Die

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Filed under Reflections, Retirement

What Is It?

I am a volunteer at the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Store on Selkirk Avenue. The first thing I do when I arrive on a weekday morning is tackle the pile of Christmas related items that have come in since I volunteered last. Often that takes all my time, but this week I only needed to pack up and price one box of holiday items and then I switched to sorting and pricing things for the housewares department. It wasn’t long before I came across this item. What in the world was it?

It was in the shape of a fish so it must have something to do with preparing and cooking fish. But what? Why did it open and close? Why did it have those holes?

I showed it to all of my fellow volunteers and no one had a clue. So here it is. Does anyone out there know what in the world this fancy fish is for?

Looking forward to your answers.

Other posts……..

What Is It? Inuit Art

What Is It? St. Boniface Sculpture Garden

Is It Art?



Filed under Retirement

A New Writing Challenge

I became a member of the Winnipeg Friends of the Library Board this past fall.  I helped to found the Friends of the Library group in Steinbach many years ago and as I contemplated retiring from my part-time job at the University of Winnipeg I was looking for other ways to get involved in my community.

The board has been a good fit and a good challenge so far.  Friends of the Library groups located in North America, Europe, Australia and South Africa fund all kinds of special programming in libraries. One of the ways I thought I could support the Winnipeg group’s work was by writing articles for their newsletter called NOTES which is printed several times a year. The most recent issue just came out and I wrote four articles for it.  Each provided an interesting experience for me.  

For my first article, I had the privilege of interviewing Carolyn Gray the current writer in residence at the Winnipeg Public Library and recently appointed editor of Prairie Fire magazine.  Carolyn and I  met at a local coffee shop and had a wonderful chat.  Among other things, I found out she was an accomplished puppeteer, shared her home with a Golden Retriever named Minnie and had recently completed a Masters degree in Fine Arts from the University of Saskatchewan. I also was assigned to write profiles of four new Friends of the Library board members, including myself.  I learned such interesting things about the people who sit around the board table with me.  I found out Rita loves the Bombers and the Jets almost as much as she loves ballet and the theatre. I discovered Kim loves to cook, is a marketing and communications consultant and has a family cottage.  The interview questions Chelsea answered revealed she loves playing board games and her favorite writer is a Japanese author named Haruki Murakami.  The editor of Notes asked me to contact the latest winner of Governer General’s award for English language fiction Joan Thomas to see what books were on her nightstand and write a short What Is She Reading piece. Joan was so gracious when I contacted her and quickly sent me a message about what she was reading. Finally I collected comments from folks who attended our group’s annual fundraising book sale at Grant Park High School. They were excited about their experience at the sale.  These were incorporated into an article by the book sale manager. 

I have all kinds of ideas about how we can make our newsletter an even better vehicle of communication with our members.  I am looking forward to perhaps implementing some of those ideas in the future.  In the meantime I am finding it interesting and challenging to be a kind of roving reporter for NOTES.

You can learn more about The Friends of the Winnipeg Public Library here.   And you can read the NOTES newsletter online here. 

Other posts……….

Five Wives by Joan Thomas

This Was Crazy Wonderful

Winnipeg’s Millennium Library

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Filed under Retirement, Winnipeg, Writing

Look At The Bathroom Floors

Recently my husband Dave has been inviting guests to come and see our bathrooms soon after they arrive. “Just look at those floors,” he will say.  Most guests are puzzled particularly if they have been to our home before.  “Did you change the flooring?” they will ask. “It kind of looks the same.”  At this point, I usually intervene.  “Dave washed the bathroom floor and he wants you to notice what a great job he did.” 

In December we did some minor renovations to our two bathrooms.  New toilets, new hardware and newly painted cabinet doors.  I also wanted to replace the flooring which readily shows any speck of dirt and needs to be swept or washed far more often than I like to do it.  However, after consulting with a friend who is a flooring expert, Dave decided taking out our old tiles and putting in new ones would be far too difficult and costly. So he made me a counter offer. “How about from now on I wash the bathroom floors?”

I accepted without hesitation.  After some forty years of cleaning bathroom floors I was ready to turn the task over to someone else.  And not only does Dave clean the floors of our bathrooms he has taken to doing all the other cleaning in the bathrooms as well.  I am thrilled!  Knowing he will take care of that loathsome task makes the rest of my housecleaning less onerous and dreaded for me. 

If having my own personal bathroom cleaner means our guests will be treated to a bathroom viewing at the start of their visits I can certainly live with that.

Other posts……….

I Don’t Make My Bed


Doing Housework in Costa Rica

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Filed under New Experiences, Retirement