Category Archives: 50+

The Dreaded Super-Sized Grocery Cart

For as long as I can remember, when it came to grocery shopping, I was almost always a handbasket kind of guy.

Back when I was driving to work every day, it made perfect sense to make a quick stop on the way home to buy just the items needed in the short term, and then to breeze through the express checkout.

For those rare times that a handbasket wasn’t enough, I might have opted for the smallest shopping cart possible and going through a regular check-out lane, but that was fine. All in all, it was a pretty efficient system for me for many years.

But why might I have an aversion to super-sized grocery carts? It might be due to trust issues resulting from being stuck with the cart with the annoyingly bad wheel, no matter how infrequently I may use them.

Or possibly, is it just a hyper sensitivity to spatial awareness that I fume when I am stuck behind someone with the big cart, parked in the middle of the aisle, and having to wait for them to make a life-or-death grocery decision before getting through. With a hand basket, I could just suck in my stomach and go around them before they even noticed that I was there.

When my partner and I moved in together, I understood that shopping for two might mean using the small shopping cart more often. Of course, I was happy to make that change.

But then Covid-19 happened.

With public health officials advising us to stay home, to only make essential trips, and recommending less frequent grocery runs, it took some adjusting. But because making lists is one of the things I do with great joy and enthusiasm, it seemed like the transition to a 7-day shopping trip for two people should be easy enough.

But it took some adjusting there as well. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, food, home, Humour

My Growing Disconnection from the Corporate Ladder

With retirement just a few months away, what has been interesting to me has been taking a moment to step back and to observe how my mindset has changed, without deliberately doing so.

Things that used to occupy a significant amount of thought, energy and a constant state of preparedness have slowly faded into the background.

I think it started around the time I made the decision that after five times accepting short assignments filling in for a manager, that I decided management really wasn’t for me and that climbing the corporate ladder was off the table.

After so many years of being groomed for management, and having so many people say that they believed in me, it was a difficult decision as I didn’t want to let my mentors down.

But the reality was that while I was indeed capable of managing a team, I felt more fulfilled when I was rolling my sleeves up and delving into the technical aspects of the work, more so than when I was leading others through the work.

It also made me appreciate that much more the job I really enjoyed the most over the span of my career to the point of jokingly asking my boss for a “no trade” clause, as I had made up my mind that this was what I wanted to do until it was time to say farewell.

Those two decisions alone brought me so much relief in not having to actively look at job postings anymore, or going through the lengthy processes of applying, testing and interviewing, which always seemed to feel like “homework” when there were other things to which I would prefer to devote time and energy. Continue reading

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The Changing Perception of Time

When I turned 55 last fall, I admit that I had a bit of a “life flashing before my eyes” experience. It wasn’t because I was having a near-death experience or anything like that, it was just the inevitable reminiscing that takes place around a major milestone, much like we do at New Year.

In that same train of thought, last month, I chose the date I will be retiring (in late spring), another pretty big life event. Since then, the subconscious walks down memory lane are hitting me faster than I can keep up with them which in turn, had me contemplating how we perceive time.

In chatting with family and friends (remotely, of course) over the holidays, I was reassured to hear that I am not alone in how my perception of time sometimes seems a little out of step with the clock and the calendar.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am indeed 55 years old and that I have offered up 33 years of my life to the public service, but in some ways it just doesn’t feel that way.

Deep down, I still feel like the same guy that I always was. But before I can allow myself to get too cocky about it, arthritis pops up to remind me that I am not as young as I think I am… that, and the fact that it takes an afternoon nap and copious amounts of caffeine to be able to watch Saturday Night Live (live) these days.

While my childhood seems like a distant place in time, sometimes feeling like it was hundreds of years ago, other life events seem significantly closer.

It really doesn’t seem that long ago that I was nearing the end of my university years, completely sick of studying, exams and homework, and itching to get on with my life. I vividly remember the hope for that “big break” into the working world. These are the scenes that seem to be replaying a lot in my head at the moment. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Humour

Learning to Appreciate Snow Again

As I sit down to write this piece, all is calm, all is bright. Miss Ivy, the “guardian cat”, is snoring on the wing chair beside me while I sip my morning coffee. Just outside my window is the first major snowfall of this season.

What a great way to spend a weekend snow day. I am very fortunate indeed for this simple pleasure.

I look out my window and think to myself how pretty the winter wonderland is. Then I stop myself and say “Whoa! What happened to that guy who used to ‘hate’ winter?”

The answer is that things have changed quite a bit.

For so many years, I have equated snowfalls with stress, the fear of the unknown, and having to dig deeply for an extra dose patience.

I don’t know why in Ottawa the show must go on, even in inclement weather, but only in rare and very extreme weather conditions was work ever “cancelled”.

It always brings a smile to my face to see news reports from other cities that shut down when they had one or two inches of snow on the ground. “That would never happen here”, I always think to myself as one to two inches on the ground is just an average winter day in Ottawa. But it didn’t mean it was an easy day.

Back when I was taking the city bus to school or to work, a snowy day meant a longer commute time in an overheated bus, while wearing a winter coat, sweating like a pig, wishing I could take another shower by the time I got to my destination. It also meant the crap shoot of whether the bus will be late or if it will show up at all, meaning that extra layers of clothes were needed to stand outside waiting, to protect from the elements.

It also meant the risk of being late for an important commitment, which is excruciating for someone who prides himself on his punctuality. Continue reading

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Where is that Draft Coming From?

It didn’t seem that long ago that as an active young man, I could take a stroll on a fall or winter day with an open jacket, but no hat, no gloves, no scarf and not really be any worse off for it. I felt pretty invincible to shifts in cold temperature.

In my younger days, back when I used to commute by bus, it aggravated me to no end when I’d get on the bus on a humid summer day and open a window to let in some fresh air only to have someone board the bus after me, start looking in all directions, displaying the international signs of “where is that draft coming from?”, only to zero in on my open window and ask me to close it.

Ever the pacifist, I would usually respect their wishes and accommodate them, despite the sweat dripping through my Risk Astley-style coif and down my forehead and temples. But on really muggy days, I’d have to propose a compromise and say “It’s really hot in here, I’d prefer it open. How about if I leave it half way?”

Fast forward a few decades, and I wonder where that kid went. Now it is my turn to be that guy who persistently chases drafts.

I come by it honestly as it seems to run in the family. I recall days when we would have family dinners at the restaurant, my grandparents would get there first to check out the table that was reserved for us, and choose their seats, based on the restaurant’s air currents. It was easier to do it that way, rather than for them to show up last, and have to reseat the table of 12 (or potentially, displace other restaurant patrons) to get draft-free seating.

Who can blame them? They didn’t like the unpleasantness of having a blast of cold air hitting them on the back of the neck or in the ears while trying to enjoy a nice meal. And I guess as we get older, some of us seem to get more sensitive to that factor, including me.

But I know that we are not alone. It doesn’t take an expert in body language to recognize the signs of someone offended by a draft. Continue reading

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My Long-Standing Fascination with the Mail

When I was a child, I loved getting mail. It didn’t happen often, but when an envelope showed up with my name on it, I knew I could tear into it (before I knew what a letter opener was) and enjoy whatever was inside.

My first pieces of mail were birthday and Christmas cards, which always brought me supreme joy. Not too long after that, I had a few pen pals with whom I loved exchanging news from our respective parts of the world.

It didn’t really matter what it was. If it landed in our mailbox and had my name on it, it always had a bit of a surprise factor to it. It always warmed my heart and made me smile to think that someone was thinking of me and took the time to send me a note.

I wonder if that sentiment is what inspired me to reciprocate and to get into the routine of sending birthday and Christmas cards as I got older. Perhaps the mail service was also an opportunity for the emerging writer in me to break from the university or corporate writing routine, and to write letters for the pure fun of it… I know some people will disagree with me on that, but yes, I think it’s fun.

When I think back, I don’t fully understand why I was so fascinated with mail when I was a kid. I don’t know if it’s because it made me feel part of some sort of exclusive club to which I had been accepted as the mail was something I saw as typically reserved for grown-ups.

If I remember correctly, I think I twisted my Mom’s arm into getting me a subscription to “Vidéo Presse”, a popular French magazine for kids back in the day, not just for the content, but also for an additional piece of mail in my name. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Christmas, home, Humour, pop culture

Because I Said So!

When I was a kid, when dealing with grown-ups, there was nothing that exasperated me more than to be told “because I said so!”

As an inquisitive child, trying to understand the world, I think I had a pretty good sense of cause and effect. When I asked “Why?” it wasn’t to challenge authority, it was simply to connect the dots to understand the motivation behind the grown-up’s answer to the preceding question.

I also think it was a disservice to shut down conversations in this way and deprive me of the opportunity to develop valuable negotiation skills and propose counteroffers such as “I’ll go rake the leaves just as soon as (insert TV show name) is over.”

On a personal level, when a conversation ended with “because I said so!” I sometimes felt hurt. I worked hard for the acceptance of grown-ups, and to not provide any elaboration seemed to discredit those efforts even though I am certain that there were times that “because I said so!” had nothing to do with me, but rather, other related circumstances. But that wasn’t always conveyed.

I vividly remember vowing that when I grew up, I would never shut down conversations with “because I said so!” To this day, I am pretty sure that I kept to my vow, but I know that there have been times I went too far the other way.

As I grew up, I developed a reflex for not only explaining an answer, but over-explaining. I partly blame the math teachers who always insisted on “showing your work”… Careful what you wish for!

I admit that as my reasoning and communication skills developed, my reasons may not have been air-tight, but hey, it was a process like everything in life. Continue reading

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Needs and Wants in the Covid-19 Era

Five years ago, I wrote a blog post called “The Conquering Clutter Resolution” in which I discussed my wake-up call when I replaced flooring throughout the house, which meant having to pack and relocate everything.

During the process, I could not believe how much “stuff” I had. It was nothing on the scale of an episode of “Hoarders”, it was just mystifying how much I could hide in a closet when it was neatly and efficiently organized.

This prompted me to start a purging habit of getting rid of one cubic foot of “stuff” (aside from the regular garbage and recycling) every week. This was definitely an easy and achievable goal, even on the busiest of weeks, to see slow and steady progress.

Gone were the kitchen gadgets that got little use. Gone were the hobby items that never developed into an actual hobby. Gone were the collectibles that never really turned into a collection.

As the months went by, I patted myself on the back as I felt lighter with each donation and each extra garbage bag. I thought that by the next time something like that came up, moving my “stuff” should be a breeze.

But when I moved this past spring, despite my best purging efforts, my moving van was still astonishingly full. How did that happen? Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, home

In Search of Dim Bulbs

From the moment we walked into our new home, we have struggled to understand the lighting situation.

In almost every room, there is an overhead light fixture; no problem there. But switching one on usually turns into a scene from a vampire movie, with one or both of us shrieking in fright, shielding our eyes and yelling “Turn it off! Turn it off!”

The lights in this house are freakishly bright, the kind that could be used to land an aircraft.

What is puzzling is that these aren’t high wattage bulbs. Throughout the home, our previous owners left us with an assortment of LED, CFL and incandescents equivalent to 60 watt bulbs… which is considerably better than in one of my previous homes where the previous occupant left one light bulb for the whole place.

I don’t know if it is the bulbs themselves that are set to “harsh white”, or is it the fact that they are affixed to ceiling fixtures that their light bounces off the gleaming white ceiling making everything look brighter than it really is. Could it also be because some of the fixtures have three bulbs in them that the light radiating from them is more than we were used to, coming from homes with very little in the way of overhead lighting, mostly table lamps?

Either way, in a home with two people who are prone to migraines, this was a problem. Continue reading

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The Writer’s Dilemma: Say It or Save It?

When I first started blogging almost seven years ago, the process was pretty straightforward: get an idea for a post; scribble it down; scribble more ideas; write the post; edit to make it sparkle; review again; if happy with the end result, post to the blog.

There is also a whole decision-making process surrounding the possibility of “if NOT happy with the end result”, but in the interest of not boring you with the 53 loops of reviewing, editing, overthinking and playing with Ivy the Wonder Cat, I’ll skip that part altogether.

I have been very proud of the content in my blog and in how it has connected with readers around the globe. The response has been heartwarming, deeply gratifying and a definite incentive to keep going.

Regular readers know that this blog has been a way for me to spread my creative wings and to keep practicing a form of creative writing until such time as I retire from my career of over 30 years, when I will switch to full-time writer.

With that finish line in sight scheduled for 2021, which isn’t too far off, I often find myself debating whether an idea should be articulated in a blog post now, or whether I should save it for one of the stories I will write later. That is a whole agonizing decision-making process on its own.

Again, in the interest of not boring you with that roller-coaster trajectory, a diagram that is sure to have you running away screaming, I’ll skip the specifics. Continue reading

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