Six Countries in One Weekend

Last weekend, I had the privilege of visiting Brazil, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Gabon, Benin, and Barbados–all within the confines of Washington DC.

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It was Passport DC 2017’s Around the World Embassy Tour, the first of two consecutive weekends during which most of the DC area embassies are open to the public. Free.

IMG_4565I enjoyed hospitality in the form of informative presentations, traditional dances, tours that showed off objects d’art, food and beverage, and in the case of Barbados, a virtual reality tour.

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Tomorrow, is European Union Open House.  Tour the world by visiting the embassies.  http://www.euopenhouse.org.

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Twenty-Five Years from Now

IMG_4685I recently completed, “Rethinking Aging,” a free on-line course with Melbourne University, Australia, through Coursera.org.  It forced me to think about my future and how aging may impact my independence, living situation, health, and activities. I highly recommend this course for everyone, since knowledge can have a positive impact on how we adapt to aging. One of the most enlightening aspects of this course is the concept of aging in various cultures. At what age a person is considered old, how the elderly are treated in different cultures, and the best/worse countries in which to be elderly are just a few of the eye-openers.

Below I share my final assignment: my life twenty-five years from now.

My days pass quickly now that I take naps. I continue my routine of stretching and exercising upon awakening. It is increasingly difficult to limit this to just an hour. But instead of taking medication for arthritis, I’d rather clip and pop myself in place. I watch the morning news show to assist me in keeping track of time even though the news is so depressing. Wars, crime, and politics may not brighten the start of my day, but it’s the easiest way for me to keep track of current events.

After an hour, I finish my bedside glass of water, take my medications, and dress to either walk outdoors or go to the fitness center. If the weather is horrible I may stay home and walk on my treadmill and use my weights. Now that I’m 85, I eat a piece of fruit before I start my walk or leave the house. I used to work out on an empty stomach but now get dizzy if I try to burn calories I don’t have. I start a second bottle of water and try to finish it by the end of my workout. Dehydration could land me in a hospital.

When I’m through revving my metabolism, I dress for the day. Once a week I treat myself to the jetted tub. Once I get pretty, I’m ready for a healthy breakfast and to start on my day’s priority. Between volunteering at church, getting a massage, attending a writing critique group, reading the book selected by my book club, or writing, the day passes. I check my calendar for doctor appointments, upcoming trips, and when I will next enjoy the company of my children and grandchildren.

I now pay for some household help, but I still try to wash floors, change beds, and do laundry. I keep in mind that the less I do, the less I will be able to do. I still cook because I love my own cooking. About twice a week I have friends or family over for meals. It’s so hard to cook for one, and by sharing I receive invitations to eat with others. Too bad most of my friends can’t cook their way through a detailed recipe.

I always need something to look forward to. As usual, I have a bus trip scheduled to a casino and two future cruises booked.  I volunteer at local museums, which assures that I’ll know the dates of new exhibits. The Boardwalk Art Show is one of my favorite volunteer activities. I man (or woman) the information booth.

Traveling has become a bit arduous. Of course, I turn my luggage over to the first skycap I see and I don’t want to see it again until it’s in my cabin or hotel room. The airports are so confusing–too many people walking fast, too much noise, too many announcements. The last time I flew, I opted for a wheelchair and plugged in earbuds as soon as I entered the airport. My eyes were closed behind my shades, but who knew?  And once I’m at my destination or on a cruise ship, I make sure I keep a hard copy of the agenda on me and set the alarm on my phone to insure I’m on time for entertainment and meals. There are so many distractions that make me forget what’s next.

I’ve slowed down so much. I get tired during the day. No way can I miss my daily nap. If I don’t set my alarm to awaken from a nap, I may sleep for four hours. My sleep needs to be as routine as my meals or I get disoriented.

I miss so many of my friends and family who’ve passed on. I feel blessed that I make friends easily through my activities. Also, I’m fortunate to have relocated within a short distance from my children. I speak with my daughter every day, and my son a few times a week. This reminds me of when they had first established their own households. Only back then they’d call to share exciting news or for advice. Now they call to insure that I’m still alive, I guess. I don’t have any serious health issue other than the one for which there is no cure–I’m really old and things are bound to wear out. So I take advantage of the time I have left and do as much as I can.

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An Inconvenience of Life

IMG_3111Last week, my email provider informed me that it will no longer provide email service. My first thought: why me, as though I’m the only one impacted. My next thought: #!*#!  And finally, I’ll have to woman-up and deal with this awful inconvenience.

How many organizations, financial institutions, medical providers, subscription services, friends, and family must I notify of the change? And of those, how many won’t make the change and continue to send me messages that will wind up in some ethernet oblivion?

A cup of herbal tea later, I determined to turn this major bother into an opportunity. It’s about time I purged my contacts and deleted those whom I have no recollection of ever knowing. Also, I may call or send a line to contacts who’ve had a positive impact in my life yet I haven’t spoken to in years. What better time to reconnect than when deciding whether to delete the contact?

The major opportunity this mega-inconvenience provides is to learn all I can about the differences between email providers. After all, this past week Congress repealed a bill, Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services (see http://hosted.ap.org/ dynamic/stories/U/US_AP_EXPLAINS_BROADBAND PRIVACYSITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT). Not that there’s truly such a thing as privacy with the capabilities of the internet and a savvy searcher, but whichever I choose will likely make money peddling my personal information. I may as well select an email provider who affords some benefit to me that the others don’t.

I’m pretending to look forward to the task of changing providers. Meanwhile, I’m readying my right index finger to drum roll on the delete button to clear the uninvited from my in-box.

 

Management: Getting Things Done When Retired

IMG_4641Just because I retired doesn’t mean my management days are done. I read, write, submit my writing for publication, take classes, attend workshops, participate in a critique group, serve on a board of directors, take piano lessons, volunteer at church, travel, and truly enjoy my husband and family. Cramming all of this within 24 hours makes me wonder how I found time to work.

I no longer use a planner to schedule my activities. Nor do I maintain a to do list–except  when I have numerous small tasks to accomplish in one day, in which case I take great pleasure in scratching off accomplished tasks, like housework. But my primary means of getting things done are a quarterly plan for a calendar year and a priority chart.

My quarterly plan focuses on the craft of writing and personal enhancement. Each quarter has one main project or theme and specific tasks that I wish to accomplish. I get carried away with free on-line courses that detract from my quarterly goals. These courses now fall under the realm of leisure, which is scheduled for a few evenings and one day each week. Leisure also includes reading and anything electronic other than email and research for my main goal.

I refer to my plan when I seem to tread water instead of getting things done. At the end of each quarter, I assess what I’ve accomplished and what didn’t get done and why. If items not done are important, a status that changes over time, they are prioritized for the next quarter.  I then review my next quarter’s theme and tasks to insure that they remain critical. I’ve seen significant progress in getting things done through this system.

I’ve adopted the precept that I can only have one priority at any one point in time. So simple, yet so easy to forget. My priority chart is an in-my-face means to stay tuned to one goal. The chart stays on my desk. It is a file folder used in landscape orientation with four columns labeled Priority 1, 2, 3, and 4. Sticky notes with the next ten to fifteen items I wish to accomplish are stuck in each column. But only one may be in the Priority 1 column. That task gets some type of action each day even if it is only planning or brainstorming. The Priority 2 column can have no more than 3 notes, and only one can move up when the Priority 1 task is moved. When a task is completed, I annotate the date of completion and tape the note to the reverse side of the folder.

I may revise a Priority 1 task or move it to another column to upgrade another for action, which is rare. At any time, a note may be discarded should it be considered unnecessary. And when it seems I’m not making progress, I turn the file over and bask in what I’ve accomplished. At the end of each quarter, a new file is started after I’ve assessed my plan for that quarter.

I’m always looking for a better way to get things done, but for now, a quarterly plan and a priority chart  are my management tools.

 

Nouveau Retired

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Piano Forte by Kristen Morgin at the Renwick Gallery, Wash DC, Nov 2016

Much has been written about Generation X and Millenials but I’ve seen nothing about the Nouveau Retired, the group I belong to.  Allow me to introduce you:

  • We retired healthy and financially comfortable.
  • We participate in fitness activities: biking, jogging, walking, weight lifting, pickle ball, table tennis, and others. We’re not afraid to compete or encourage our own to do so.
  • Many of us prefer hard copy; it’s what we’re used to.
  • This doesn’t mean that we read USPS mail daily, but we do so at least once a week.
  • We may text but are not likely to respond to text messsges in .1 seconds. Give us a few hours to get around to looking at our smart phones.
  • Ditto for email. Not being employed, we take advantage of the luxury of looking at email when we get good and ready.
  • We make an effort to dress to show we know what year it is. However, We have some favorite pieces that we can’t bring ourselves to discard or give away.
  • We’re not cheap but often blurt that we remember how much something used to cost. This is a spontaneous utterance when in shock that a $0.05 candy bar is now half the size and selling for $1.89 plus tax at “convenience stores.”
  • We don’t fit the grandparent mold and get bored with sitting around when family visits. Consider scheduling an outing for a change of scenery.
  • Our values haven’t changed much although we try to sdapt to cultural changes. You, too, will look back two generations and wonder how morals declined so drastically.
  • We make the effort to maintain contact with multiple generations, which keeps us young. So share what’s new and help us with technology. Showing us how to maneuver within a program only once is probably not enough.

What Season Is This?

img_2934Here in Chesapeake VA, it reached 81º yesterday, and tonight at 10PM it is 35º. With sympathy for the many who are suffering flu like symptoms, I appreciate the balmy weather in the midst of winter.

I still have nightmares of childhood memories when I stood on packed ice waiting for a school bus in Queens, New York during never-ending winter months. It wouldn’t bother me if I never saw snow again, but I’m concerned about the impact global warming will have on various ecosystems.

It’s strange to shoo away mosquitos while stretching after jogging in February. A long period of frigid weather usually kills many mosquito eggs in my area, and I don’t look forward to the insect mob absent nature’s population control.

This morning’s news featured a story about a massive ice shelf the size of Delaware about to break away from Antartica. It’s summer in the southernmost region of our planet. The piece included videos of animals seeming rather confused at the absence of ice. No need to take a stand on whether or not global warming is real; it won’t be long before it’s glaringly apparent.

I’ll try to enjoy the weather yo-yo without thinking about the repurcussions of summer in February not far from the coastal city of Virginia Beach.

Mindfulness

img_4575With life-long learning as my theme for retirement, I aim to keep abreast of new topics–or those that are new to me. My main source is MOOCS, massive open on-line courses that are free. When I saw a course on De-Mystifying Mindfulness listed on Coursera’s website, I signed up to learn whether the course matched my preconceived notions of the subject. The source of the course, Leiden University in the Netherlands, was another attraction. The body of learners was likely to include a  substantial number from other countries, which should provide some unique viewpoints.

My off-the-cuff definition of mindfulness is a concept that promotes the study of consciousness though exercises that allow a person to focus inward and control the bombardment of thoughts that detract from concentration. In other words, meditation.

I began this year intending to learn how to meditate. For three consecutive days, I retreated to a quiet area in my home, closed my eyes, repeated a mantra to myself, and managed to be still for fifteen minutes. The last two days I opened my eyes after exactly fifteen minutes had passed, so if nothing else I’ve achieved an appreciation for the passage of time. I’ve also learned that the sitting positions I used were not comfortable after a few minutes. For reasons unknown, I sort of forgot about my intention to meditate on a daily basis.

The course on mindfulness reminded me that I could use a distressing technique, and I need to be reprogrammed from the multitasking that caused me to wonder if I’d developed ADD during my pre-retirement life as the sole attorney for a naval command. To get through a day, I juggled multiple projects, deadline dates, and recently learned names in the forefront of my mind. Which is why I believe work could, indeed, drive one crazy.

The prospect of uncluttering the jetsam of my brain that’s no longer necessary but washes ashore to haunt me (the dimensions of a Panamax vessel, updates for articles on the protection of personally identifiable information, case citations to support summary judgment motions) is irresistible. Perhaps I’ll be able to focus on one thing at a time and finally revise my memoir, redecorate my dining room, and consider purchasing a new vehicle. One…at…a…time. Or I may simply learn how to truly relax.