Last, But Definitely Not Least

Have I learned something new everyday from this course?

Yes, pretty much.

Frankly, I enrolled for this course more because my friend suggested that we (older than 50) women need to stay current.  So before I had even started the first evening, I planned to go and check it out for the 1st or 2nd class, then likely cancel and get my money back.   The registration page said that you could still get a full refund after 2 classes.   Besides, the subject was just a mild curiosity.

To my surprise, that first evening was so dynamic and engaging that I thought I’d give it one more chance.  The students were more like me than not—trying to learn something new.  My head got further into the subject and I stayed.

What have I learned?

University was far more stimulating that I remembered.

I actually knew more about some things than my classmates—my brain is AOK.

I was the oldest person in the room and it felt absolutely great.

Lack of confidence, great conversation, and need for connection are timeless and ageless.

Social Media is far more interesting than I had understood.

Staying current is energizing.

Every week  of a good course with a good instructor is a new experience—loved it.

I didn’t keep up every week with the work—definitely my mistake.  I would have gotten more out of it if I had.

This video is not terribly useful, but fun…

This is a short blog and I may not get full points for it, but that’s OK.  Thank you for the new experience.  It was remarkable.




Travel Temptation

Ahhh, the temptation to drop it all and just travel!  Is there anything that expands a person’s mind and appreciation of life more than a combination of travel, education and experience?  To go beyond our own geography and 4 walls is truly invigorating time for most of us.  Education, both formal and informal, speeds up our knowledge of the world.  And surpassing all, experience is the mother of all learning.  Travel more. Buy Less.

One lifetime is not enough to do everything that expands our mental horizons, so I’m learning, to make the most of every travel opportunity.  On line information and asking friends about their travels and experiences keep feeding my list of where to go and what do.  The next generation will have even more opportunities, they have many tools to take advantage of them.

What are some shortcuts?

Keep a list and prioritize the destinations.  Add places to stay and things to do.  Costs.

Hopper:  This is a free app that will track costs and shows various times that flights are more expensive and cheaper.  You feed in the departure city, destination city, and dates and it will show you current cost variations, based on ‘000s of variables, and dates for almost a year.  It helps predict the cost risk of waiting or purchasing now.  The colours groups the trips into $$ categories:


YYZ deals:  This website shows travel deals as they are identified, leaving from Toronto.  It directs you to the travel company and dates that the deal is available.  You may find a surprise destination that is incredibly cheap but you need to act fast and be flexible.

Expedia/ Hotwire/ Kayak:  These are all deal sites, but I find that their offers are all basically the same.

Airline sites:  Always worth a look to compare with the ‘deal’ sites.  If the prices are close, my experience is that is is better to book directly with the airline.  Responses are faster to questions and changes.

Points:  Aeroplan, Aventura etc. can be terrific and often offer more flexibility if you need to change, than doing through one of the ‘deal’ sites.  The challenge of course, is to accumulate enough points, as they seem to bump up the point requirements regularly.

So, plan your next adventure.  You have everything to gain!






The One Week (but let’s get real, a lifetime) Learning Plan

Every day is an opportunity to learn things, but what our learning priorities today and are they different tomorrow?  I’ve recently reviewed a great web article:

and below are the first 7 ideas that I’m processing for myself.  They will take more than 1 day each, so I’m thinking of them as a focus for this week and ONWARD HO!

  1. Understand Yourself

Socrates says, as he did in Phaedrus, that people make themselves appear ridiculous when they are trying to know obscure things before they know themselves. Plato also alluded to the fact that understanding ‘thyself,’ would have a greater yielded factor of understanding the nature of a human being.

I know that I could improve Know Thyself every day.

Eva and Rita Hiking Pic.

  1. Create the habit of cultivating new skills

The character of being open to learning new skills and creating this kind of ongoing personal energy is a habit.  I’ve had times in my life where my energy just wasn’t available to be cultivating new skills and learning new things.  So, every day think about what energy you are cultivating for yourself.  Are you keeping open?

  1. Simplify

I love this goal.  What are the 5 most important things in my life?  Am I living my hour, day, week with those in mind.  And although trendy, the recent book by Marie Kondo “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” by Sarah Knight were both truly life-changing for me.  I highly recommend these books.

  1. Become organized

Similar to #3 but the next level.  Take care of the important things first.  Someone once said to me “Touch paper once.”  Meaning, do whatever you need to do with the paper immediately (pay a bill, take a picture of it).  A very great skill to develop.  I’m learning to  be organized so that I stop wasting time on non-important things.

  1. Take Care of Yourself

Know that when you take care of yourself you can probably be more beneficail to everyone else.  I bit of Ayn Rand philosophy that I understand.

  1. See What Genuinely Interests You

This ties in with #1, but may need a refresh on a regular basis.  Regroup with yourself regularly—is this my thing?  Am I willing to devote my precious time to this?  Does it feel right and right now?

  1. Learn to Negotiate

Another one that I love.  Some of the most interesting and fun people that I have met have also been the best negotiators that I have met.  In many situations, it just takes the presence of mind to not answer too quickly.  And keep the negotiation positive for both.  Life is a series of negotiation—with yourself and others.  Make it a good experience.

This One Week Leaning Plan may be ambitious but I’m feeling positive about it.  What are you going to learn this week?

Feed Your Hobby Horse

As my awareness of time takes more centre stage, daily life survival efforts kindly take a step back at times, and I find that I, shockingly, focus much more on creative experiences– is that ‘hobbies’?  Do you have hobbies?  As a kid, outside of school activities, I enjoyed ordinary things– brownies, swimming, skating, softball, reading, playing.  As a full-fledged adult I’ve tried many activities but never really hooked onto any one hobby as a playful-fun-can-totally-occupy-me-with-mental-flow-for-years kind of thing.   I’m more of a serial hobbyist, bestowing my free time willy nilly.

“To be happy in life, develop at least four hobbies: one to bring you money, one to keep you healthy, one to bring you joy, and one to bring you peace.”
― Stan JacobsThe Dusk And Dawn Master: A Practical Guide to Transforming Evening and Morning Habits, Achieving Better Sleep, and Mastering Your Life 

That’s a bit prescriptive but I like the general idea.  Hobbies help you to meet new people and experience new adventures.  Who doesn’t want those things!?

Is this you?  I do some activity for a while, then grow bored (long before I get good at it), and move onto something else.  The theory, by Malcolm Gladwell, that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become great, has been challenged by other thinkers.  However, 10,000 hours or not, it does take practice to become sufficiently good, to really enjoy most hobbies.  So, how to decide what to invest your precious time in practicing?  And do most people try a bunch of different things?  Sports? Art? Social Events?

Generally speaking, a hobby is anything that we do just for fun.  Usually you aren’t getting paid to do it and it may cost money to get involved in the hobby.  It is something that you like to do with your free time that helps you decompress and sometimes, connect with other people or accomplish something new.

My definition would also include a creative outlet and it definitely has to add a new,interesting and positive element to your everyday life. Some of the hobbies that I have tried as an adult:  tap dancing, calligraphy, making pottery, improv at Second City, colouring (although I’m kind of embarrassed about that for some reason), travel, gardening, ukulele, harmonica, a plethora of different sports including boxing and tennis,  book clubs, bridge clubs, hiking clubs, baking, horseback riding and cooking….am I missing anything?

I’ve tried to stick to trying one new hobby each year to become good enough to know if it’s a worthwhile hobby for long term investment of my time.  Some have been successful—curling, although frankly it took about 2 years before I started to enjoy that a lot, and some have not been successful at all—ukulele anyone?  My mother played the harmonica, which I thought exceptionally cool, but alas I don’t have the persistence to play more than the Beatles “Please Please Me”.

So, this month is my latest new (and I admit,  feels very creative) hobby– painting old wooden furniture bright and shiny colours.  The furniture must be an interesting shape to me, and, basically free.  Here are 4 chairs from my friends’ grandmother.

Blue Chairs #1

I have an interestingly shaped small table to tackle next, so will show you when it’s finished.  Anticipation!

“Legendary innovators like Franklin, Snow, and Darwin all possess some common intellectual qualities—a certain quickness of mind, unbounded curiosity—but they also share one other defining attribute. They have a lot of hobbies.”
― Steven JohnsonWhere Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

So my experience and advice is to keep trying new hobby things, and don’t worry too much if  you loose interest after you’ve given it a good effort.  Those geniuses knew that many hobbies, whether talent is involved or not, may be good and interesting things for  expanding the heart of your life.

Volunteering Visions

“Good afternoon. My name is Russell. And I am a Wilderness Explorer in Tribe 54, Sweatlodge 12. Are you in need of any assistance today, sir?”



I, too, would like to earn my volunteering badge.  I just know that there is something redeeming and human about it.  Right?!

I love Russell and, in general, all people who volunteer, whether to assist the elderly as he does, for anything that they volunteer to do.   I mean, they volunteered!  YAY!!  They organize events, raise money for good causes, and deserve our praise as the grease in the cogs of community.  I appreciate the people who volunteer at our curling club and the volunteers at my local hospitals.

So, everything that you read and hear about volunteering is that is a truly fulfilling experience.  Is that true for you?

Volunteer 2

My own experience has not been so great, and I take full blame. Little things like bringing snacks or driving a group somewhere is no big deal.  However, my history of more robust volunteering attempts have been flops.

Volunteering at a Co-Op Nursery School:  Years ago I volunteering to be the secretary at my kids’ co-op nursery school.  I was working at a demanding job (and who isn’t) and the committee meetings at the nursery school were every 2nd Monday night.  The new volunteer president, who had been a corporate manager and was now at home with her kids, was very excited and poured herself into her role.  She headed the committee and set the agenda.  First meeting with all parents, we had to do a spiritual activity and individually talk about our delight and emotional journey of being parents.  I love being a parent and, even still, would have been quite OK to skip this part.   My exhausted eyes kept rolling back into my head as this sharing exercise took 2 hours.  (Even the memory of this sucks the good right out of me.)

Then we did something else business wise for 30 minutes, but by then I was in a coma.  Maybe my note taking was a bit scattered. I was doing my best with the raw material that I had.

The next meeting, the president introduced a new sharing exercise (even after my skillful feedback about meeting agenda!) where we talked about the special talent of each child.  Again, we were each really just interested in 1 child.  Guess which one.

This took most of the evening. The business part of the meeting took 30 minutes.   The president decided that I, the esteemed secretary, would be happy to redo all of the past meetings’ minutes in a different format.  She also voluntold me that I would be creating detailed documents that she was envisioning for future fundraising.   As we were to have no discussion about this, and I was then in survival mode, I quit on the spot.

Volunteering at a Hospital:  My second commitment to volunteer regularly was at our local continuing care hospital.  I had, admittedly idealized, visions of helping these patients/ residents write heartfelt personal letters, play fun card games, chat thoughtfully about their life, do their nails or hair.   I went 6 times and each time helped several of the patients put their markers on bingo cards–the only activity that needed my extraordinary volunteer skills.   After organizing my day to be there at my scheduled Saturday mid-afternoon time, several times I found out when I got there, that the hospital was on shut down because of flu virus.  No phone call or communication until I showed up.  After this happened 2 times, I quit.   I know that my expectations may have been a bit unreal and their communication could have been better.  I still felt bad.  An official volunteer quitter.

How is someone a good volunteer?  How did you find a volunteer gig that worked for you?  Do I just keep trying until it works?  Readings say:

  1. Find something that you feel passionately about. (I’m happy with ‘quite interested in’)
  2. Be realistic about how much time you have to volunteer regularly.
  3. Talk to the organization and see what the needs are—are you a match?

Volunteers 1

So, to add something to my things to learn list, I’m just putting ‘volunteering successfully’ out there.  If you would volunteer your ideas, it would be appreciated.

Relationships, Friendships, Familyships and being Good Neighbourships

That’s a lot of ships crossing on our personal sea.  What a truly HUGE topic, and beyond the clichés, what do I know about the mysterious social connection, called relationships?  Pretty much nada.

I mean, other than life itself, is there anything more complicated, mysterious and crammed with risk and reward and wackiness, than human relationships?  We are social animals and vulnerable to what social connections include—emotions, sensitivities, awkwardness, love, hate, warmth, joy–you can pretty much name anything.

Here’s my truth.  Relationships are totally baffling to me.  Are they to you?  If you say you understand them, you may be smoking something.

Family—So let’s just throw all family into this bucket and give it a good stir.  We’re talking husbands and wives, partners, kids, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents.  Who are these people and why am I related to them?  Is there anything more past, present and future than our family?  I think not!  They are the sum of your history and like it or not, a big big big chunk of your future, all with caveats attached.  Yes, we are related, but let’s face it, sometimes we like to pretend we’re not.

And most families are a little insane.  When you ask people about their family, they will recite a few facts about what someone is ‘up to’, but no, don’t really want to share the truly horrible parts.  For example, at the family reunion last year my sister and I drank too much, and for the first time in our lives, screamed at each other while throwing things, in front of our kids.   It was like a scene from some unsupervised, off the rails,  sitcom.  The next morning, we sheepishly apologized and hung our heads.  At the same time that it was idiotic, it was slightly funny.  So, hmmm no, let’s not share that.  And you know how people say “If Josephine wasn’t my sister, we wouldn’t be friends.”  Well,  of course you wouldn’t be friends—no one would be with their sibling.  But that’s not the tie that binds us.  It’s much more primal and profound than that.

I guess when you get right down to it, it is the unique combination of molecules and events that make a family tick.   The things that you would never do or say to anyone else.  The secrets and insecurities of multiple years, that you would never admit beyond the family cone of silence.  If it was all beautiful and flowers, well, then it would not be a family.  Families are challenging and messy and complicated.  So let’s just take a moment to salute our family for the lunacy and irrefutible magnetic bond that it brings to each of us.

Marriage and live in partnerships are a subset of the family insanity.  I’ve had close friends leave their spouse, when they seemed quite content together, and close friends stay together when they seem totally and irreconcilably miserable.  And people who partner up, surprising everyone, and make a go of it.   Take a gander at these tweets:

For 42 years I have admired a married couple– Barry and Marg.  They are the parents of 3 friends of mine.  Barry and Marg’s relationship has shown me what an amazing partnership looks like and feels like—humour, fun, tolerance, and as Barry once told me, “I work at it every single day”.  They have had almost inconceivable life tragedies– the death of a daughter and granddaughter in a horrific accident together–that would sink many couples into total hopeless despair, but they held each other up constantly and without wavering.  And their resilience kept filling a wide and deep well of humour and fun and strong friendships in their lives.   Human, not perfect, and exceptional role models.

As for siblings, my mother once told me that siblings are the only people who you will know for your entire life.  So, take care of them.  This was a lesson that I have tried to teach my kids—take care of each other.  Even when they (adult siblings or children?) may be whacking each other witless on the head.


Family picture, with the presentable ones.

So, families, here’s to you!  In my extended family, I have learned that we each see each, in a unique way, and from our own experience.  But overall, our excitement to get together, our sense of fun and relentless humour take over whenever we are within spitting distance.   And the best sign is that my kids love our family get-togethers.  Props to you, Mom and Dad.

“Family life is a bit like a runny peach pie—not perfect but who’s complaining?”  Robert Brault

Friendships may be slightly less mysterious.  Good friends accept each other, have a communication connection, and often mutual interests.  Bad friendships tend to be off balance—one respects or likes the other more.  So, a ‘like and respect’ balance needs to exist.  And friendships often connect, disconnect and reconnect over time.  That’s part of the evolution.

I have learned that each friend brings something specific to the connection, as do I, I suppose, and that no one friend can be everything to the other.  So now I don’t expect it.  This perspective has taken a great weight off my expectations, and I can accept friends more readily for who they are and what we bring each other.

I’ve realized that I have a small handful of close friends, not many, and that is how I roll.  Our friendships range from 5 years to 42 years.  And I’m learning to put the care and time into being a better friend to that handful— doing new and more frequent things to connect.  With email and text taking over, I am finding recently that a phone call adds a new friendship dimension.  Ha!  Ironic, isn’t it?  A phone call feels like a new relationship tool!

How would you describe your friendships?  What do you value in your friends?

“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can; all of them make me laugh.”  W.H. Aude

Good neighbours mean different things to each of us.  I don’t want to be best friends with my neighbours, I just want to be a good neighbour.  What does that mean?   I’ve learned to do a few things:  take their empty garbage cans back to their garage, in our mutual driveway; occasionally invite neighbours over for a BBQ; make the time to stop and chat for a few minutes whenever we meet.  If they won’t split the cost of a new fence, just build the fence and move on.  I would like to think that when asked, they would help me and I would help them.  I’m sure there is more that I could learn about this—any ideas out there?

So in this short blog post, I’ve exposed my perplexity with relationships.   Relationships are organic entities and evolve, sometimes dissolve, and sometimes reboot over time and circumstance.  Some can take a licking and keep on ticking.  Some do not have that kind of stamina.  It’s not easy to forecast a relationship’s trajectory.  But, by all means, be aware of which ones are important to you.  Today I have reminded myself to invest in those ones.

What have you learned about relationships?  I’m all ears, my friend.

“Want to see who your real friends are?  Screw up and see who’s still there.”  Anonymous.

Health—and the seduction of doing bad things.

Today I’m going to eat 6 cookies at lunchtime and maybe a bite of salad.  Then I’ll skip the exercise class because, again, I just don’t feel like it.  Tonight I’ll stay up late watching ‘House of Cards’ because this season is just out on Netflix, ignore my headache (I can take Advil in the morning) and I won’t call my  friend back.  Tomorrow I can catch up everything.  Easy.

OK, we all know the drill.  We all learned years and years ago what we control for good health: nutrition, exercise, sleep, social activities, and a few more things.  So why are we easily charmed to do bad things?   Can I learn something new?


Nutrition: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”  Michael Pollan. Simple.   Science, our grandmothers, common sense all confirm this.  But, even though I’m full, that red velvet cake with cream cheese icing that I DO NOT WANT, is being sliced right in front of me.  My mouth won’t let me say no thanks.  It opens and closes like a goldfish.  My eyes shift from side to side to trick myself into thinking that I might refuse.  My hand takes the fork and my slice is gone.  I discretely trim the uneven parts of the cake that is left.  Something in my brain has given up.

I’ve learned that I have a sugar addiction—seriously.  I haven’t learned anything good about it, just that I seem to have it.  It’s crept up on me and seduced me with those gentle words of love, “Just a small piece, slice, spoonful my darling.  Here have a little more. Kiss Kiss Kiss.”   I’m so vulnerable to its wily ways, because this love affair is new.  How did this happen?

If it’s called food, I like it.  I’m trying to learn to take anything, and everything, in small portions.  Today have I learned?  I’m not hungry at all and right now I did not snack on a delicious fresh bagel that I just bought this am, and was considering while I was writing this blog post.  Lesson accomplished.  Seriously, nutrition can be discussed at length, but the main thing is that we all know what to do.  The word ‘self-discipline’ comes to mind.  Consider:  What have you learned about your eating habits?  Has anything changed lately?

Exercise: I once heard that there is no medicine that any doctor can prescribe for you that will do you as much overall and preventative good, as regular exercise.  And everything that you read about physical, mental, emotional health supports this.  So why do most of us bump exercise off our schedules fairly easily?

My brother Mike recently recommended a 2007 book, ‘Younger Next Year’ by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D.  While I don’t usually read these self-help, and then flagellate yourself, kind of books, Mike’s enthusiasm for it grabbed me.  Very easy read, by the way.

The lightbulb that went off in my head, from this book, was that you need to exercise…ready for it….every day.  Yes, every day.  And not just exercise, but actually work up a sweat.  That may seem like a lot but lately that’s what I’m trying.  And honestly, it makes me feel pretty good.  Sweaty and sexy even. I’ve learned not to overthink it too much—in fact don’t think at all, just put on the gear and go.

Sometimes I’m excited to meet my running friends, sometimes it’s been raining and sleeting and my lip actually curls up in a sneer as I step out the door.  But every time,  I’ve learned to mentally celebrate the fact that I did something physical—Go Me! And trying one new physical activity each year has led to some new good things—my hubs and I now have a standing date to curl every Friday night in the winter.  Key learning—exercise has to be fun for you, and do some every day—check out the nuns:

See how much fun they are having!  What do you want to learn?

Sleep:  ahhhhh, “to sleep, perchance to dream” (Hamlet).  When I sleep through the night, the next morning it’s as if I’ve been transported to a new and beautiful planet where everything is good. Since having kids, starting 21 years ago, sleep has been a bitch.  I know that it affects health, mood, coordination, lots of things.  And yet, I feel not so much that I can induce sleep, but that I need to wrestle it into submission—get everything just right, pillow, light read before lights out, glass of water nearby, so that sleep will magically happen.  So, no caffeine after noon, go to bed at the same time, yada, yada.

What I am learning is to not worry about it so much.  If I get up after a lousy night of tossing and turning, I’m learning to ‘fugget about it’.  Worrying about this lack of sleep actually makes it worse.  So far today, my new skill of not worrying is working.

Social: Some people find social connections easy to create.  I think.  It’s often been more of a mystery to me.  If you have kids, socializing often comes from your kids events and the parents that are hanging around also.  When the kids grow up, you have to put a different kind of effort into your social life.  For me, learning new things is an interesting way to socialize.  More on that in my relationships, friendships, familyships and good neighbourships blog post which is under development in my head.

I recall my Dad saying that health isn’t 75% of anything, it’s 95% of everything.  Take care of your health, my friends.

What did I learn today?  In my yoga class we did a new position.  I didn’t like it, but I may learn to like it next time.  Not a bad thing.