Category Archives: 50+

Why “1000 Words per Day” Might Not Be for Everyone

With the finish line in sight for retirement from career #1 and my transition to career #2 as a writer, I look forward to some solid years of finally getting a lifetime of ideas, plots and characters committed to paper.

Some of those characters (and their families) have been taking up residence in my head for so long that I look forward to sending them eviction notices from my brain.

But in writing circles, I often hear why wait until tomorrow what you can do today? …Why wait until retirement?

The answer is a pretty simple one: at the end of most work days, I’m tapped out.

I am extremely fortunate that my career already offers me the opportunity to create, write, proofread and edit a variety of corporate documents.

That is a choice I made and I stand by it, as it has offered me the gift of thirty years of challenging emails, memos, presentations and user manuals. What is most rewarding is that in writing for different target audiences and on behalf of a variety of executives with differing styles and approaches, my creative muscles have been stretched like silly putty in multiple directions. I couldn’t have asked for better training in writing. Continue reading

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Savouring the Calm Country Life

When my partner first suggested moving to the country, I cannot say I was hugely conflicted by the question.

There were indeed a number of factors to consider and this move would be a pretty big change for this city boy. But the part that required no thought whatsoever was the prospect of having almost no neighbours… and almost no neighbour noise. That part sounded like heaven to me.

I could write a book about my dealings with noisy neighbours, having experienced the good, the bad and the ugly over the last 30 years.

When we pick a place to live, there is always a package deal of pros and cons to consider before signing on the dotted line. No matter how perfect a place may seem, there will be irritants for which patience and some degree of compromise will be needed on both parts.

And just like anything in life, nothing is really certain nor permanent. Great neighbours, as well as the lousy ones, come and go.

As much as I enjoyed my last house for 19 years, it wasn’t without its moments of blaring stereos, roaring cars, screaming kids, disobedient dogs, industrial vehicles and 3:00 a.m. parties, but that’s life in the city when you have neighbours. Part of that package deal was ideal proximity to transit, shopping and an abundance of cultural events.

It didn’t matter if “quiet enjoyment of premises” was supposed to be a reassuring clause in each of my apartment leases or in the big book of condo rules, but someone’s urge to make noise always seemed greater than my craving for the calm to recover from the roar of city life. Continue reading

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The Housing Market Roller Coaster (Episode 4)

Up until now, my only experience with self-storage has been the occasional viewing of the TV show “Storage Wars”.

As much as I have witnessed self-storage facilities sprouting up throughout the city at a crazy pace, I never really gave them much thought as I assumed that they were just for people with too much stuff.

When my real estate agent suggested that I needed to edit out some furnishings to help certain rooms feel bigger, I didn’t really resist the idea as I trusted that my agent knew best.

Frankly, I relished the idea of trying out the self-storage solution as I knew that this would be an interesting new adventure for me.

Shortly after we put the offer on the house, I called the storage facility company to check on availability, knowing full well that I may need to do some editing. Last summer, a friend of mine was put on a waiting list because demand was so high at that time, so I worried that might be the case for me as well. My fears were put to rest as they said (at that time) that there were many spaces for rent in all sizes.

When the real estate agent gave me her official verdict on the staging situation, when I called to make arrangements for a space, the size I was looking for was no longer available, so I went with the next size up.

The day that the movers came to haul some boxes and the marked items to the facility was also my first time setting foot in the warehouse. With my signed contract already on file, it was just a matter of handing me the keys to my space, showing me around the facilities, and demonstrating the security features to access the space. Continue reading

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The Housing Market Roller Coaster (Episode 3)

The moment that we decided to put in an offer on a house, the part that scared the crap out of me the most was the inevitable next step: staging my home.

In most of the pictures of homes for sale that I had seen in recent years, all I could see was empty rooms. I kept wondering if people were still living there given how sparsely they were decorated. And if they were living there, where was their stuff?

I have seen enough HGTV network shows to know that some people have a hard time visualizing themselves in a home. And frankly, I have yelled at the TV in exasperation when buyers reject a whole house because of a paint colour or because the drapes were blue.

But I do understand that during a showing, prospective buyers aren’t interested in seeing the story of André. They need to see their own storyline, and their own needs and wants for the home to strike the right chord. For that reason, some decluttering is needed.

While I wouldn’t consider myself a pack rat, I am not a minimalist either. Like most people, I have stuff.

So the burning question: where does people’s stuff go to make the house look that empty and how much effort will it take for me to get there?

Fortunately, over the last years, I witnessed a shift in my own mindset, less focused on possessions and more focused on experiences. Along the way, I have indeed been chipping away at the stuff, shredding old papers, donating gently used belonging and tossing things that were past their prime for anyone to reuse. Was that enough effort for staging purposes? Probably not.

But where it gets complicated is how much more do I need to edit out, and can I do it without throwing out my degenerating disc in between arthritic flare ups in my hands…  the joys of being over 50! Continue reading

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The Housing Market Roller Coaster (Episode 2)

When my partner first suggested moving to the country some time ago, it really didn’t stir up any apprehensions on my part.

I grew up in a suburb of Ottawa in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, at a time when it had a small town feel to it. In its infancy, our tiny subdivision offered the best of both worlds: the amenities of city living as well as the space for young families to grow and thrive. At the time, it was small enough to have its own sense of community and identity, separate from the city a short drive away.

Even though my memories of “village” life are from the perspective of a young boy, I have often entertained the idea of returning to that calmer, quieter, gentler pace as I got older and as life got more rushed and complicated.

Today, my forehead is chronically bruised from the number of times I smack my palm to my forehead for the idiotic things city dwellers do, whether on the commute to or from work, to deal with the daily reality that common sense is not so common anymore, or for the need to repeatedly set boundaries with certain neighbours (i.e., “No, your dog poop in my yard is not acceptable!”)

This is not to say that moving to the country will completely eradicate these problems, but with less density in population, I’d like to think that my forehead bruises will get a decent chance to heal.

When we went to look at the house in the country that seemed to check most of the boxes of what my partner and I were looking for, I admit that my heart started to flutter. Continue reading

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The Housing Market Roller Coaster (Episode 1)

My sincere apologies to my readers for the break between blog posts. It wasn’t exactly planned, but it was one of those unavoidable cases of life getting in the way of writing.

As much as under normal circumstances, my little writing voice always seems to be talking to me, the little writing voice just seemed muffled by the sudden spurt of activity recently.

While I like to think of my writing as a way to feel grounded and a way to feel a sense of balance when things get crazy, there was simply no time nor headspace to work on a blog post, even if just to edit one that was close to finished.

The big event that ended up being the centre of my universe for a few weeks was the process of buying a home, and then selling the one I currently live in.

Regular readers might recall that there have been a number of posts in the last year about my (mis)adventures in home renovations: “Fixing the Eyesore Door”, “Don’t Touch the Walls!”, “Why Watching Paint Dry Can Be Fun”, among others. Those posts were no accident. For the last year, I have hit the fast forward button on home renovations in preparation for this very moment.

Even though I knew it was coming eventually, the moment my partner sent me the link to a house for sale out in the country in an email saying simply “OH!”, something started to percolate in the pit of my stomach. Something told me that this was the one and it was time to pull the trigger on the process.

The housing market is pretty tight these days. To see a charming Hallmark-movie style home out in the country that checked most of the boxes on the list of what we were looking for meant jumping into action. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, home, Humour, mental health

A Dose of Guilt from the Medicine Cabinet

As I was starting this year’s installment of spring cleaning, I found myself in the medicine cabinet again checking expiry dates
Even though I could have sworn I had just done this last year, the evidence seemed to tell another story, as I pulled out bottle after bottle that expired in 2014, 2015 or 2016. How did that happen?

My surprise yielded to delight when I read between the lines that I must be doing something right from a health and wellness perspective if these bottles and tubes have been sitting here, unused and some, unopened.

But my healthy delight gave way to good old-fashioned Catholic guilt, instilled by my elders of the “waste not, want not” generation. How silly of me to not have used up all of this valuable product.

True enough, despite my occasional klutzy ways and resulting need for bandages, gauze, ointment and the once-in-a-blue-moon pain pill, I seem to have a very well-stocked medicine cabinet for someone who rarely needs its contents.

I started rummaging through and asked myself why I have been buying these enormous bottles and then discarding so many unused pills when they expire. Similarly, why do I buy large size tubes of ointment when a little one would probably do?

And should I ever see the bottom of one of the smaller packages, how hard is it to go get more, especially there’s a pharmacy right across the street, and at least 22 other branches of pharmacies on my way to and from work.

Even though I was never actually a boy scout, you’d think that I was, given that “be prepared” was the family motto for as long as I can remember. I am living for the day I discover our family coat of arms and find “be prepared” or something along those lines written on the bottom. It would be perfectly fitting for a family of planners.

Little domestic accidents can happen so quickly. On those rare occasions when I might have blood gushing out of an appendage, that’s not the ideal time to walk, run or drive to the nearest pharmacy, especially if light-headedness and dizziness could result.

Just knowing that I can open a cabinet and have 3 sizes of gauze pads, assorted rolls of surgical tape and 10 sizes of bandages seems to satisfy my yearning for emergency preparedness. It may be excessive, but it brings piece of mind to know that I have on hand the perfect bandage for any wound and the ability to make it look like a perfectly wrapped gift package! I call it “first aid with style”!

Also, raised by the waste-not-want-not generation, how can I resist a bargain? When a larger size is on sale and only a dollar more than the smaller size, why wouldn’t I go for the larger one?… until the expiry date passes and I realize that I didn’t use 99% of the product.

But I think with that goes a sense of not knowing what the future may hold. Sometimes, an injury that needs daily attention for a few days or a few weeks could have a patient running through the supply in no time. And if the patient is not in a position to make multiple trips to the pharmacy, having a little more on hand is a good thing, until the patient is feeling better.

So while having larger economy sizes does have merit, I still feel guilt for returning stacks of unused expired meds to the pharmacy for safe disposal.

The lesson learned from this year’s spring cleaning is a resolution to stick to smaller packages. Unless my medical needs suddenly change, I’ll try to ignore the sale prices for larger economy-sized packages especially when I never seem to see the bottom of those containers.

Buying a size that is more in line with my actual needs will be less wasteful, I’ll save a few dollars in the long run, and it will keep away the healthy dose of guilt caused by my medicine cabinet.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox. Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Are You a Tag Saver or a Tag Ripper?

There seems to be two kinds of people in the world: tag savers and tag rippers. I have rarely met anyone who was somewhere in the middle.

When I refer to tags, I mean those things we find inside of clothes that offer all kinds of useful information like the brand name, what the product is made of, the size and the care instructions.

These same tags can be found on pretty much any textile product including mattresses, comforters, table cloths and pillows.

I confess, I am an unapologetic tag saver. Why wouldn’t I be?

As an impressionable (and sometimes anxious) little kid raised in the era of “Do not remove by penalty of law” tags, there was no way I could have slept at night if I ever ripped off a tag, even by accident.

And throughout the years, I always saw good value in them and learned to live with them.

When I found a piece of clothing that I really enjoyed (or one that possibly drew compliments), if I wanted to go back to the store and get another one in a different colour, the tag would make that task easier by telling me everything that I needed to know. Continue reading

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50 Things to NOT Do Immediately Before Bedtime

You’d think that after 54 years, I’d know better than to start something right before bed and think, “It’ll take just five minutes.”

That’s usually when I lose track of time and the next time I look up, it is well past midnight, having overshot the estimated “five minutes” by about twenty times.

We all know that when we get ready for bed, we should be aiming to wind down to a relaxed state, to lead to a more restful sleep.

But sometimes it doesn’t take much to fall down the rabbit hole, stirring up one’s enthusiasm (or emotions) and messing up those plans.

Here they are, my 50 things that I suggest should not be done immediately before bedtime:

1. Calling a cellular/TV/Internet carrier
2. Tinkering with electronics
3. Downloading or updating apps… that’s usually when there will be technical problems like a device freezing up or a time-consuming reboot is required.
4. Learning to play a new electronic game
5. Checking out TV channels you don’t usually watch
6. Previewing the binge-worthy show everyone recommends highly
7. Watching cute pet videos
8. Watching funny baby videos
9. Watching music videos
10. Watching videos of people doing embarrassing things Continue reading

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My Thunderous Rumbling Stomach

It seems like just yesterday, I had a stomach made of steel. When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I had a pretty fast metabolism and could eat anything and everything, any day, any time.

Where I used to be able to pack away large quantities of food and still remain technically underweight, today, a handful of potato chips is enough to have me retaining water like a sponge.

But the tide can turn from time to time. For me, all it takes is the return to a regular exercise regimen, like the one I have successfully incorporated into my routine last year.

When that happens, not only does my metabolic rate go up, but it’s like revisiting my teens and 20s all over again as I seem to be hungry… ALL THE TIME!

While logically, it should just be a case of finding an extra snack or two to tide me over until the next meal, it’s a little more complicated than that.

As much as you would think I could take advantage of the situation to indulge myself in the goodies I only consume in moderation (since I’m not technically underweight anymore), in reality, I don’t crave them when I work out regularly. The empty calories leave me hungry and wanting something else soon thereafter.

I tend to crave healthier snacks that sustain me better. If I don’t, I get so hungry that my arrival home is like a scene from “Animal Planet”, as I demolish leftover roast chicken like a lion devouring its prey. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, food, Health and Wellness, Humour, Running