Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Ready for the Reopening? Not So Fast

With the province of Ontario’s recent announcement of its plan for the removal of mask mandates and the easing of pandemic restrictions in the coming months, I wonder to myself if I am really ready for the grand reopening.

In some ways, I think it would be easy to say yes. I’d love to see my extended family and my friends again. I miss going to movies, plays, concerts and museums. I’d love to shop without my glasses fogging up all the time. And fine dining isn’t quite so fine when purchased from a take-out window and soggy by the time you get home.

I also look forward to the day that I can be more spontaneous and run quick errands as the need arises without having to map out detailed logistics including fluid intake, protein bar consumption and the anticipated bathroom breaks.

But after the last two years, I don’t know if I am quite ready to go back to the “old normal” or even the “new normal” as quickly as some other folks.

I don’t say that from a position of fear or even out of excessive precaution. I think it would be fair to say it is out of plain old fatigue. Over the last two years, there has been a lot going on: Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, mental health

Managing Energy Vampires

An overhead shot of a writing desk, containing a pen, a pad of paper and a cup of coffee.You would think that given the almost perfect conditions I have set for myself for the purpose of writing, my writing sessions must be fruitful and uninterrupted.

First, I retired from a very busy career of 33 years, which has freed up several hours per day.

… I have time!

Also, following my retirement, I have had several months to relax, catch my breath and to recharge my batteries.

… I have energy!

Given our relocation to a rural property, I can feel my mind, body and soul slowing down with every breath. The profound calm and serenity of this great location allow my spirit to disconnect from the distractions that were always present when living and working in the city.

… I have peace and stillness!

The icing on the cake is that I have a comfortable studio in our home where I have the right ambiance and all of the tools I need to make my writing dreams come true.

… I have so much for which to be grateful!

But despite the best possible working conditions to keep me focused and on track, I admit that one of the challenges that still lurks in the background is my personal fight with energy vampires. Continue reading

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Filed under Health and Wellness, mental health, Writing

My Car Booster Seat

Car cushionI admit that I have often chuckled at jokes referring to little old ladies who need to sit on telephone books to see over the car’s dash board. But karma has the last laugh when I open my car door and am reminded that I am the little old man who needs a booster seat.

Through my adult years, I can’t say that I have ever had an issue with my lack of height. I keep hoping for a sudden growth spurt – even at age 56 – but Mother Nature never seems to deliver.

When I do tell people exactly how tall I am, people have looked at me and said, “No way, I thought you were taller!” I guess all of those years of watching TLC’s “What Not to Wear” and incorporating wardrobe tricks for the vertically-challenged seem to have paid off. And I think that sometimes having a big personality probably helps too.

But whenever a friend or family member joined me for a ride in my car (pre-pandemic, of course), the wedge cushion that acted as my booster seat has been a conversation piece for the last four cars.

It doesn’t matter how compact my car might be and it doesn’t matter how many ways the seat can be moved up, forward or angled, the wedge cushion has been a necessity for me to get into the perfect position for driving. With a disc issue in my back that has lingered on and off for decades, my spine does not tolerate well the design of deep buckets in so many of today’s car seats. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, stories

Batman and Boundary Setting

A hospital sign indicating where the emergency department is locatedI don’t know whether it was nature, nurture, or maybe a bit of both that made me a “people pleaser.”

All I know is that deep down, I often felt a sense of responsibility towards other people’s happiness. It’s not a bad thing in itself to be sympathetic and empathetic towards others, but what an exhausting pursuit!

It was only later in life that I realized that the only way to mitigate my disappointment when I wasn’t able to please everyone (since as the adage says, “you can’t please all of the people all of the time”) was to develop better boundaries. When I did, not only was I better able to focus my attention where it mattered most, but it helped me to maintain a sense of harmony within myself.

But when I look back at my formative years, what pop culture role models did I have to understand the mechanics of boundary setting? When I think back to some of the TV shows I watched while growing up, boundary setting was certainly not a recurring theme. Continue reading

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Filed under Health and Wellness, mental health

The Joys and Pitfalls of Napping

A cute cat in the middle of a napI truly envy people who can survive on a few hours of sleep and for whom “nap” is a four letter word.

I envy them because I am sure that the items on their to-do lists are crossed out more quickly than folks like me who need their minimum seven hours each night and for whom naps are a precious weekend indulgence (or sometimes necessity, as the case may be).

It’s not a question of laziness, nor do I suffer from depression. I just happen to enjoy that feeling of fading out for a bit and waking up renewed and refreshed with the energy of a four-year-old on a sugar rush. It’s like having two opportunities in the same day to jump out of bed and yell “yippee!!” (yes, I admit that I am a bit of a morning person).

Interestingly enough, I really wasn’t a fan of naps in my pre-school years. But as an adult, I yearn for them and I enjoy them.

When I hear that “older” people don’t need as much sleep, I conclude that at 56, I mustn’t be “older” yet since a cozy nap with the cat (who uses my right arm as a body pillow) is a fairly regular occurrence. When that happens, I savour every moment.

The big questions: when a nap is imminent, do I set the alarm or do I let the nap go as long as I need? And if I do, will it adversely affect my bedtime?
There seems to be an algorithm for that: Continue reading

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The Joy of a Comfy Hammock

Just a few years ago, I experienced an important first in my life: the first time I enjoyed a moment of serenity, relaxing in a comfortable hammock.

This happened pre-Covid-19 closures, of course, while visiting a friend’s cottage.

The minute I laid eyes on it, I felt a little rush of adrenaline accompanied by a sense of wonder deep inside. I had never been in a hammock before and in fact, “relaxing in a hammock” was on my bucket list.

I confess, my bucket list isn’t filled with thrill-seeking sports or activities to draw out extreme emotions. After a busy career that drew out my extrovert energy on a daily basis, my dream activities are much more subtle and quietly introspective in nature. Peace and calm, as I experience now in my home in the country, is very much in line with these dreams.

Whenever I noticed a hammock making a cameo appearance on a TV show or in a movie, it always seemed to be in an ideal setting, on a perfect day, when the character was enjoying a quiet, easy-going moment. Deep down, I longed for more times like that.

I asked the hostess if I could give her beautiful hammock a try, to which she graciously confirmed that I could.

It was one of those rope-style ones that looked like a fishing net. I knew I had to be ever so cautious in getting into it as I knew my coordination (or lack thereof) sometimes translated into an accident waiting to happen. If I didn’t do this carefully, I could easily end up going through, around or under the netting, to the great amusement of the other guests. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, home

Overthinking the Food Court Experience

A few weeks ago I was so delighted to have the opportunity to step out of rural village life for a couple of hours and make a trip to the city. Even though the occasion was a simple dental check-up that would likely only last 15 minutes, I still looked forward to the change of scenery.

Clearly I didn’t get out enough over the last 17 months, if a trip to the dentist was so highly regarded as a joyful escape.

I knew that by the time my appointment would be finished it would be close to lunch time. I strategically parked my car at a nearby shopping mall where I knew I would have had plenty of gluten-free options to feed my ravenous appetite, following weeks of yard work and apple picking that had my metabolism revving on high.

When the dental appointment was over I made my way back to the mall and started exploring my options. Regrettably, a couple of my favourite vendors were no longer there. I understood the way that the waves of the pandemic had not been kind to businesses given the unfortunate closures that resulted.

But the flow chart for deciding what to have for lunch was considerably more complicated than it used to be. Covid-19, thou art an insidious bitch!

By that point, I estimated that I had likely applied hand sanitizer at least 47 times in my journey to, from and during the dental appointment. I had no issue with the extreme precautions to keep everyone (including myself) safe. However, even if I ducked into the washroom to wash my hands for several minutes, the potential residue of a morning’s applications of hand sanitizer might have left a lingering aftertaste. I already found that out the hard way. I eliminated hand-held foods from the list of potential meal options.

Next was the issue of where to sit to enjoy my meal. Continue reading

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Filed under food, Health and Wellness, stories

How the Olympics Inspire Me

Even though I am not what you might call a sport enthusiast, I definitely enjoy watching the Olympics.

Over the years, I have watched a wide range of Olympic events, including some that I admit I probably would not have watched had they not been under the Olympic banner. This year, between the CBC network’s curated coverage, supplemented by so many streaming opportunities for specific events, it made it so easy (and maybe a little addictive) to follow the action.

The variety reminds me a little of ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” that I used to watch as a kid (back when we only had 12 channels). The packaging of that show appealed to this curious young mind as it was a veritable smorgasbord of sporting events to discover. If I was more athletically inclined, who knows what inspiration could have been sparked later in life.

Unfortunately, my weak eye-hand coordination, my lack of overall coordination, my lack of physical stature and the lasting trauma of dodgeball in my pre-teens, prevented me from pursuing a career in sports.

Even after the Covid-19 lockdowns, it’s not like I was running out of viewing options, given the long list of binge-worthy streaming programming I had accumulated over the years. The Olympic coverage remained an enjoyable change of pace that I looked forward to.

Plus, as a recent retiree, watching the Olympics seemed even more special and more symbolic to me, as I could take in more coverage than I usually would have back in my working days. This year, the Olympics were an additional reminder of my new found freedom from the “9 to 5”.

Why do I watch the Olympics? Continue reading

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Filed under Health and Wellness, pop culture, Running, TV

Pre-Retirement Training: Learning to Relax

I’ll never forget the day when a psychologist came to speak at a pre-retirement seminar I attended and suggested “don’t wait until retirement to start on those big retirement plans”.

She then elaborated by offering examples like people who spend their whole lives talking about sailing around the world only to find out that they get sea sick, or people who talk about spending more time on a given hobby only to realize that they don’t really enjoy it that much.

Fortunately, I don’t think that will happen to me.

Most of my readers know that my #1 aspiration in retirement is to write. Thanks to the blog, I have been able to practice creative writing with (much to my own amazement) pretty consistent frequency over the years, which gave me the opportunity to write content so completely different from corporate briefing notes, issue sheets and instructional bulletins. Whether at home or at the office, I have proven to myself that writing is that one activity that for me, creates its own unmistakable energy and enthusiasm.

But surprisingly, what has actually been more challenging (in preparation for retirement) has been learning how to rest and relax. Who knew that I needed to train myself to do that?

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but have you ever had days thinking to yourself, “Am I ever tired?! … I better lie down” only to find yourself already in a horizontal position on a comfy couch, La-Z-Boy or bed in the comfort of your own home?… or worse yet, in a furniture store?

I’m not talking about tired in the sense of deep burnout, I am just referring to a sense of being pooped out from feeling like a perpetual motion machine.

I have come to learn that my own worst enemy in that regard is myself. I wouldn’t say I’m overly demanding, but after decades of living on my own, I had to develop a routine to stay on top of the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry and the home maintenance, because it wasn’t like the magic toilet scrubbing fairy would descend from the heavens. Someone had to do it, and when living alone, I invariably drew the short straw every time. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, Humour, mental health

Taking the Microwave Oven for Granted

I don’t think we realize how much we appreciate an appliance until it isn’t there for us.

And when the option to replace it quickly is not there either because microwave ovens are backordered everywhere due to supply chain issues resulting from Covid-19, that is when the reality check sets in.

A few months after we arrived in our new place, we were sitting in the living room, watching TV, when we heard the microwave making beeping noises. We weren’t cooking anything, we hadn’t left anything in it, and frankly there was no reason for it to be beeping, but it was. We dismissed it as just a random incident and didn’t think much of it.

But in the days that followed, it happened again and again. Not just one or two beeps, but a series of beeps like our microwave oven was receiving Morse code from somewhere, and for prolonged durations. Even in the quiet of the night, from our bedroom we could sometimes hear the beeping competing with our cat’s nightly choir practice.

We just chalked it up to another one of our house’s “stories of the unexplained”.

A few weeks later, without being asked, the microwave’s screen started showing us random recipe instructions and maintenance instructions, or going into “demonstration mode”. We started wondering if the microwave was slightly haunted. But we took the scientific approach and unplugged the microwave, waited one minute, and then plugged it back in. It seemed to work fine… for a while. Continue reading

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Filed under food, Health and Wellness, home, Humour