Monday Morning Musings

Posted on January 21, 2019 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

A time to ponder things

 

Real life.

My brother and I have logged hundreds of kilometres over the past three weeks. We walk twice a day and those walks are somewhere between 1-3 hours. Besides admiring the scenery, we talk a lot about politics, sports and food. (He is an amazing cook) Living, aging and dying are also regular menu items. We also have periods of silence when nothing needs to be said. We have seen magnificent sunrises, gotten drenched a few times and usually stop for a coffee along the way.

Dying, you say? Both of us are north of sixty and one of us (me) is closer to seventy, so discussing health matters and our ultimate demise is not all that unusual. And because neither of us fears death, we speak about it openly. I believe that baby boomers are getting better at discussing these kinds of weighty matters. Death will not be swept under the rugs and avoided in conversations. Actually, some boomers think they’re going to live forever!

When I was in the financial planning business, estate planning was always at the top of my list for retirees. There’s not much point in toiling all your life in order to enjoy retirement without properly planning for the unexpected (disability or dementia come to mind) or the expected (death).

I promise that I will not be preachy but, if you haven’t already done so, I would urge everyone to make certain that they have a current will, power of attorney and personal directive. Here’s a brief primer: a will deals with your estate upon death. You need one or more executors to carry out your wishes. They don’t have to be legal scholars. An enduring power of attorney gives someone the right to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated in some way. This person (persons) typically handles all financial matters during a period of incapacity. They can pay your bills and make all other financial decisions as if they were you. Obviously, this person(s) need to be extremely trustworthy. A personal directive (living will) is most commonly used for making medical decisions. In this document, you lay out in detail how you want health care matters to be managed when you are in failing health. It could include such things as a “do not resuscitate” order.

Even if you don’t have a large nest egg or significant assets, having these documents will provide you with peace of mind and peace of mind for your loved ones. It’s just the responsible thing to do.

End of sermon.

The movies.

For someone who sees about one movie every ten years, I have been on a movie tear in the past month. I saw “Mary Poppins” with my granddaughter in December before coming out west… a movie ideally suited for the young or young at heart.

In recent days, I have seen “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “A Star is Born”, and “Green Book”. If you’re a fan of Freddy Mercury and Queen, this is a must see. Prior to seeing “A Star is Born” I knew nothing about Lady Gaga, the lead role if this remake. Wow! What a set of pipes. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and am now viewing the documentary on Lada Gaga’s life story.

While I enjoyed all of the above movies, my clear favourite was “Green Book”. It’s the true story of an African American piano player who is planning a tour of the Deep South during a time marked by racial tensions. Sadly, many of these tensions are surfacing south of the border again. Some would suggest that they never left but were merely in hibernation. The piano player hires an Italian from New York as his chauffeur (and body guard). The “green book” was used by African Americans as a guide to which hotels to stay in, the restaurants where they were permitted to eat, washrooms they could use etc. It is a powerful story of the ugly face of racism. But it is much more than this. I won’t spoil it for you. Go and see it. This is a timely movie during African Heritage month.

Have a great week.

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on January 17, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

Mini library at Redfern Park – Victoria, B.C.

 

I think it is fair to say that young children, who have been read to by parents or grandparents, have a distinct edge, not only when they start school but with life in general. Young people are sponges and learn at an astonishing pace. When the light finally goes on and they start to string words together, it is absolutely magical.

But what happens at the other end of the spectrum when the light begins to dim, when eyesight fails or words themselves become incomprehensible? The aging process robs many people of their innate abilities and very often their dignity.

I spend a lot of time with an elderly population, performing music at one of our excellent local nursing homes. I see the power of music as it reawakens memories of the past. In the last days of my mother’s life, when conversations about everyday things was no longer possible, we spoke to each other through music.

Most of us know how difficult it is when a loved one is ill, hospitalized for a long time or is spending their final days in a nursing home. You run out of things to talk about. Much of the conversation revolves around health and how they are feeling on any given day. It often leads to depressing small talk. This grows old quickly and become tedious for all involved. What can one do to fill this void?

Story telling.

I read an excellent piece in last weekend’s Globe and Mail by Meghan Cox Gurdon called “Magic Words.” Here’s what she had to say: “Reading aloud is something we associate with children and bedtime stories. But for grownups, and especially the elderly, it can also tie us together, improve our minds and ease our loneliness.” While her piece is not ground breaking it certainly reaffirms that reading at every age has positive outcomes.

Not everyone can sing or play a musical instrument but most people know how to read. The next time you visit someone sick or infirm, why not try bringing along a few books and reading a paragraph or two.  I have found that playing songs from a different era easily engages the elderly. It’s what they know and what they like. My hunch is that it would be the same with books. But one never knows. Something splendid and spellbinding like Harry Potter might work too!

More and more nursing homes are seeing the value of therapy dog visits, cats wandering the halls, birds chirping in cages, along with art classes, gardening, writing classes and improv. Let’s face it; these are all the things of our childhood that made life joyous and wondrous. We were constantly improvising, spending time with pets and drawing, singing and reading.

I just wrapped up my three week dog sitting gig in Victoria. I am not a lifelong dog person but I really enjoyed my twice daily walks with Cooper and having his company around the house. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!

Have a great weekend.

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on January 14, 2019 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

“Sitting on the dock of the bay, wastin’ time.”

 

Most people who do any amount of traveling use a checklist to make sure that they don’t leave something important behind, like a curling iron. The most important thing one needs when venturing outside the borders of their countries is a passport and in many countries, you also need a valid visa. If you happened to read my most recent book about my time in India, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Most of my trips are pretty routine so the checklist is short and packing is minimal.

I have never done a long walk before. Yes, I have run several marathons but I haven’t done a sustained month long trek across a country. Such will be the case if I tackle the El Camino in Spain later this spring. I have been getting several tips from my brother who did this walk last May. Obviously, one must travel light so everything has to fit into one compact backpack. This includes walking poles.

My brother had already agreed to loan me his backpack so when he made the offer of collapsible poles, I happily agreed. Have you ever used walking poles? Neither have I so I decided to take them for a test walk the other day to Robinson’s Outdoor Store to have them properly fitted. I click clacked my way from Oak Bay to downtown Victoria. Apparently these poles are important for stability, especially for going uphill and downhill. I have been going downhill for some time now and might add walking poles as permanent aides.

Over my lifetime, I have taken part in numerous public events. I have been an emcee, a performer and a spectator. One of my pet peeves is attending a public event to discover that the people running it haven’t double and triple checked the technology to make certain that it was in good working order. For me, faulty microphones or PowerPoint presentations that fail to show up on a screen are borderline inexcusable.

Back to the poles. At Robinson’s store, they have a demonstration area to show neophytes like me how to assemble a backpack and understand the nuances of walking poles. I laid the two poles on a table while Erin, one of the owners of the store, deftly took the poles, collapsed them and reassembled them in a matter of seconds. I grabbed the second pole. It looked easy but my legendary ineptness and two cups of coffee less than an hour before had me fidgeting to the point of sweating and swearing. Collapsing the poles was easy. I’m a pro at breaking things down and destroying them. When it came time to turn them back into a walking pole, I couldn’t get the very last piece to click into place. I tugged and pulled, first gently (as suggested by one of Erin’s fellow workers who had become a spectator) and then with brute force. No luck.

I handed the pole back to Erin and then to her colleague. Neither of them was able to get the disenchanted pole to cooperate. While I wiped perspiration from my brow, the offending pole was taken out back to another employee. It was concluded that the pole was faulty and would need to be replaced.

I had this mental image of arriving in southern France in the shadow of the Pyrenees (one of the starting points of the walk) ready to tackle the Camino only to discover that a critical piece of equipment was malfunctioning. I could see me pole vaulting the offending object off of the mountainside and impaling myself with the good one.

I was handed a brand new pole and within seconds I was brandishing it around like I was Zorro.

I exited the store and was waltzing down the sidewalk when I passed over a grate and the tip of  one of the poles momentarily got stuck. A woman was passing by and commented that this often happens with her high heel shoes. I said that I have the same problem. She did a double take and then guffawed heartily.

Two quick food tidbits. I was out visiting some friends the other day at their house. We had a fantastic lunch which included great coffee and stollen. Stollen is a German fruit bread of nuts, spiced and dried fruit coated with powdered sugar or icing sugar. My friend’s husband is gluten intolerant. He decided that he just had to have a slice of the delicious bread and within minutes he had a coughing fit. One might say that he was a gluten for punishment. (Insert groan)

Most of my siblings (including me) have a notorious sweet tooth. A few nights ago, my brother, feeling a bit peckish, raided the freezer late in the evening, He confessed to eating five cookies. I commented on our morning walk the next day that he showed amazing restraint stopping at only five cookies. His answer was telling. “There were only five cookies in the container.”

Have a great week.

P.S. I have a favour to ask. If you read my latest book and liked it, would you consider going to the Amazon site and doing a short review? Thanks. https://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=chaos+and+wonder%3Asix+months+in+India

 

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