Tag Archives: free time

A Taste of Retirement

Andrew Haydon Park, September 2015

Andrew Haydon Park, September 2015

Just before turning 50, I decided that my birthday present to myself was to take two weeks off from work for an easy-going staycation.

Originally, my partner and I had kicked around the idea of a trip to California to celebrate the big occasion, but a lower Canadian dollar made our trip to New York City in the spring a little more expensive than expected. Combined with a special assessment from my condominium corporation, there was a little dent in my cash flow which made California a little pricey at that point in time. After tossing around a few other more affordable ideas, just chilling close to home seemed to be the option that resonated most with me.

It did not take long to find the benefits of two weeks off to take life at a gentle pace, away from the commuting, the meetings and the deadlines. Also, given that I did not have a pressing list of appointments or major home maintenance projects ahead of me, a fairly quiet two weeks increasingly appealed to me. Reconnecting with life’s simple pleasures would be good for the soul: good sleep, good food, time to write, fresh air and exercise.

Vacation time kicked off with an exciting overnight trip to Toronto for a chance to see Janet Jackson in concert. I could not say no to the idea of crossing “Miss-Jackson,-if-you’re-nasty” off my bucket list of concerts, especially since I had never seen one of her live shows before but was always a huge fan of her music and videos.

The opportunity to see Janet worked out beautifully as a way of launching the vacation in style while quickly transitioning my mind away from the office. It was a fantastic show, sure to appeal to all loyal fans, in offering a set list of all of her hits and a few new songs from her latest album “Unbreakable”, packaged together in a high energy concert of brilliant dancing, staging and light show. For me, this Janet Jackson concert was definitely worth the wait.

Not long after returning home, the realization that I was on vacation quickly set in. The problem for me is that this sensation usually heralds a nervous energy spurt to start cleaning in the corners I don’t usually have time to get into on a week-to-week basis. But this time, it felt different. Because I wasn’t trying to wedge in a lengthy to-do list in a matter of a few days, I had the luxury of time to just try attacking one or two items per day. This allowed me to keep the rest of the day to myself and to decide in the moment how to spend it.

However, the recent arrival of Ivy the cat Continue reading

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Being Bored Was Not An Option

Children Playing SignIt is a beautiful summer day. The sun is shining and the birds are singing. Mother Nature has really outdone herself in the beauty of the day she has provided today. The windows are open and I am enjoying a great cross-breeze flowing through the house as my little cat snores away on the couch, in the same summery happy place as I am. It is one of those ultimate moments of calm and serenity.

Then the moment is interrupted when I hear one of the neighbourhood kids, through my front window whining, “I’m booooooored”. Maybe it’s just me, but that statement is like fingernails on a chalkboard.

I understand it is a different time, but one of the most vivid memories of childhood was that being bored was not an option, no matter how bored you were. Being bored was illegal in 1974, wasn’t it?

Keep in mind that back then, on Sundays, EVERYTHING was closed. We only had one TV and only 12 channels, but of course Dad had control of it, and it was tuned exclusively to the sports he wanted to watch. So if I wanted to see anything else, I was out of luck. Period. No negotiation.

We had bikes, playgrounds, neighbourhood friends and convenience stores. We had arcades too but playing video games on stone tablets required a lot of upper arm strength. We also played with rocks, mud and our imaginations.

If that wasn’t already a solid foundation for boredom I don’t know what is. But still, Continue reading

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Just for Laughs 2015

Hahaha1This past weekend, John and I took a short road trip to Montréal to join in on some of the festivities of the 2015 edition of the Just for Laughs (JFL) festival.

Founded in 1983, the festival is a major cultural event, showcasing comedy in all of its forms, from leading performers in stand-up comedy to the very best in performance artists, and everything and everyone you could imagine in between. For the festivities, the street in front of Place des Arts turns into a pedestrian mall, a feast for the senses with food and beverage trucks, buskers, mini stages for performance art and any number of things you will only see at a comedy festival. I could have sworn I saw a character that looked like “Polkaroo” from the kids’ TV show… or maybe it was the wine speaking… in any case, there are plenty of sights you won’t see anywhere else.

When we attended Just for Laughs two years ago, we thought that the stars had lined up so perfectly when we had the privilege of seeing a parade of fine stand-up comedians in three gala shows hosted by Kristin Chenoweth, Kathy Griffin and the legendary Joan Rivers. How could anyone do better than that?

The icing on the cake of our 2013 visit, was a one-woman comedy show starring the fantastic Canadian comedienne Debra DiGiovanni. Debra’s style of humour resonates with me on so many levels with her high energy delivery, her great references to pop culture and her excellent timing when it comes to relaying stories of observational humour.

By the end of that weekend, my cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing so much. It was a weekend of really great memories while crossing events off our bucket lists… but could JFL top that?
This past spring, when the emails started hitting my inbox, announcing the galas and headliners, it looked like the stars were lining up again for a spectacular season, so we took the plunge and bought tickets.

Our weekend began with an unexpected brush with celebrities as a few National Hockey League players and their buddies were having a grand time, partying at our favourite restaurant, Bâton Rouge.

Then after dinner, with very full stomachs, we hiked up Sainte-Catherine Street 15 minutes to Le Théâtre l’Olympia De Montréal (Olympia Theatre) for another bucket list show, featuring the brilliant Margaret Cho. I guess that buying tickets early paid off as we were only 2 rows away from the stage, and able to get the full effect with every sight, sound, gesture and change in Margaret’s facial expressions. I must admit I laughed until I cried… twice. We both enjoyed her performance and would highly recommend seeing Margaret if the opportunity presented itself.

Our next stop was Continue reading

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Top 10 Things I Will Miss About The Bus

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter being a daily bus commuter for 35 years, I did the unthinkable… I got a parking pass and started driving to work.

Last year, my office relocated just a few kilometres away from our previous job site. In theory, that move should not have created much of a disruption to my commute, but in reality, my total daily commuting time crept up to a 2 ½ to 3 hours.

After 35 years of doing the right thing for the environment and in doing my part in not cluttering up arterial roads, I felt the balance had sufficiently tipped. Three hours per day was a huge overhead cost to me personally. But once I got into the driving habit and I reclaimed some serious time in my day, every day, I knew this was the right decision for me.

However, I do want to express my deepest gratitude to our bus company, OC Transpo, for getting me where I needed to go throughout my high school, university and career years. It was efficient, affordable, reliable service. I was a clear supporter.

After 35 years, there will be some things I will miss:

10 – The “cosiness” of a bus filled to capacity with fellow commuters;

9 – The boundless generosity of commuters who demonstrated huge courage in leaving their sick bed, braving the work day and selflessly sharing their cough and cold germs with their fellow commuters;

8 – The extreme warmth of buses on cold winter mornings, especially when Continue reading

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In Just Five Minutes…

Are visits to your “pit crew” of professionals like a trip to confessional?

“Forgive me Dr. Smiley, for I have sinned. I wasn’t able to floss every night. Well, as a matter of fact, I’m lucky if I can floss twice a week. And, sorry, I nosh on gummy bears when I’m stressed… and I’ve been stressed lately”

“Forgive me Dr. Limber, for I have sinned. I wasn’t able to do my stretching exercises every night. Well, as a matter of fact, I’m lucky if I can do them twice per week. And, sorry, I nosh on gummy bears when I’m stressed… and I’ve been stressed quite a bit lately. They’re stretchy, does that count?”

“Forgive me Mr. Lugnuts, for I have sinned. I haven’t done my oil changes as often as prescribed in my owner’s manual. Well, as a matter of fact, I’m lucky if I make it for maintenance twice per year. And, sorry, if you’re wondering about that red and green blob on the dashboard , I nosh on gummy bears when I’m stressed… and, I’ve been stressed lately”

Why is it that we hire the best people to surround us, take care of us and give us the best advice on how to keep our bodies and our lives running smoothly (those are the people I refer to as my “pit crew”), yet there never seems to be enough hours in the day to incorporate all of the advice that they provide? Continue reading

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The Gift of Time

Clock“Consider asking your doctor for the shingles vaccine, when you go for the big check-up when you turn 50” was the advice provided by the doctor who spoke on health issues when I attended a pre-retirement seminar one month ago. Shingles was described as quite unpleasant, with some people experiencing severe itchiness and pain. It was in the spirit of proactive health care that I wrote myself a big reminder, bookended by huge asterisks, to look into it when I turn 50 next year.

How ironic to visit the doctor a few weeks later to hear the diagnosis, “you have shingles”! Continue reading

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The Calling Answered

TypewriterIf you have been following my blog, you are probably aware of the determination with which I started taking definite steps toward achieving my long-term dream: to become a full fledged author by the time I retire from my day job. In the last six months, I launched my blog, got into a habit of posting weekly, picked up a few books on writing techniques, started developing some of the ideas I had been kicking around for years and I created a separate Twitter account in order to follow members of the writing community and soak up any knowledge, expertise or wisdom they were willing to share.

What a rush! I could not have foreseen the journey on which I had embarked.

First of all, I could not anticipate the generosity with which people would share information on Continue reading

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