A New Chapter At This Age?

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I am looking forward to reading the new book by Debbie Travis called…..

Deb Tra

Most people who know me are unaware that I am a dreamer. I can admit it now at this point in my life. I may be wrong, but I think most people see me as someone who does not take unnecessary chances and someone who likes to know exactly what is happening in her life at all times. Secretly, I like that they see me that way. It reassures me.

When I finished high school, I had grandiose dreams of becoming a fashion designer and owning my own business. I worked in retail for a couple of years and saved every cent. One day while taking the bus to work, I noticed a “For Rent” sign in a store window. I got off the bus and walked to the real estate office nearby that was advertised on the sign. I was 19 and had never had a business conversation in my life. Two hours later, I was the new tenant of that dusty, old property.

My family was shocked when I told them what I had done, but they pitched in and helped me clean-up and paint. I worked day and night to get the business up and running. My plan was to design and make ALL the clothes. I opened “The Misfit” in a few short months.

I was so proud of my accomplishment, but the small, blue-collar city where I lived was not ready for my sense of style. Two years later, I sold the contents of my business to another young entrepreneur. It was time to start a new chapter.

Now what? I saw an ad in our local paper. Air Canada was hiring flight attendants. I had never even been on a plane before, so what could go wrong? I applied, went for the interview, and a month later, I was heading to Montreal, Quebec, Canada to train.

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That’s me on the right!

That job that sounded so glamorous, and exciting was hard work, and I loved every minute of it, but life sometimes throws you a curve ball. I fell in love and got married. The job I loved did not work well with married life, and I had to make a choice. My marriage won out in the end, and I found myself once again starting a new chapter.

After several brief turns at a variety of retail positions, I decided to go back to school. Teacher’s College to be exact. It was definitely a last minute decision, but it seemed to be a good fit for married life and raising children. Unlike most teachers, I had never had a burning desire to work with kids. I had never even liked to babysit. Well, to my surprise, I discovered that I quite enjoyed working with primary grade students. Their enthusiasm for learning made the job very rewarding and I managed to remain at this job for 32 years.

After retiring from this long chapter of my life, most people assumed I would sit back and relax with my new found freedom. But I wasn’t ready! So, I volunteered at the local hospital and art gallery, did a short, seasonal stint at Chapters/Indigo, and took a position working with adults who were getting high school credits or their GED. These jobs filled my time and made me happy, but there was this burning desire in the back of my mind that had been there for as long as I could remember. I had always wanted to be a writer.

There was really nothing to stop me. All I had to do was write! Well, that sounds simple, but every writer also wants to be published. I took a few writing courses to improve my skills and network with other writers. Then I discovered “Chicken Soup For The Soul”. I submitted my first story to them. As I slid the envelope into the mail slot, I felt very vulnerable. It was like sending a part of me off to be judged. A few weeks later, the editor called and said he wanted to publish my story. I can’t even describe the feeling, but I have been submitting stories ever since.

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My latest story is in this year’s Mother’s Day collection.

No, they do not all get chosen. Rejection is just part of the business, and I have learned to deal with it.

So, have I finally written all the new chapters in my life? Absolutely not! I actually have some new plans in the works, but I will save those for another post.

How about you? What new chapter would you like to start working on in your life? Don’t let your age hold you back. Think of all the life experience you have had to this point. Use it and write a new chapter for yourself.

 

 

Thanks for reading,

Penny xo

Shop ‘Til Your Fingers Cramp

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I have always loved to shop. I admit it. I used to pour over sale flyers and advertisements on a Saturday morning with my coffee. Now, I simply use my Flipp App on my phone to check grocery prices and other items for my home. I can go several weeks without ever stepping inside my local Winners store. That is unbelievable! So what happened? Is it my age? Do I not care about what I am wearing anymore? Is there no extra money left from my pension to make frivolous purchases? None of these apply!

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I always noticed those ads that appear frequently on my Facebook news feed, but I never really payed them much attention. I would simply scroll on by. Then one day, an ad for twinkle lights caught my attention. Yes, I said twinkle lights. The picture of a garden alight with these teeny,tiny bulbs looked so beautiful, AND they were solar. I had never seen them in any store in my city. I was truly intrigued, so I clicked on the site.

There they were. Beautiful strands of 100 lights for a mere $19.99. I had to have them. So, throwing caution to the wind, I began to fill out the order form. I discovered that the more you ordered, the better the price. When I got to the payment section, I started to rethink my actions. Should I give out my credit card information? I mean after all, I knew nothing about this company except that they had something I really wanted.

I noticed a PayPal option. I had heard of it. I knew it was touted as the safest method of payment, but I did not have an account. Those lights kept twinkling in my mind. If I wanted them, then I was signing up with PayPal. The process was so simple, even I had my account set up in a matter of minutes. My twinkle lights were paid for with just a click of the mouse and before I could log off my computer, notification arrived in my email to confirm my purchase.

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It was all so easy. Now all I had to do was wait for my parcel which came in a matter of days. The lights were exactly as I was hoping and I love looking at them every evening as darkness moves across the sky.

And that is how easily I became an online shopper. Since then, I have purchased shoes and clothes, accessories and jewellery, tech items and more lights. The transactions are so easy, and I can do it any time day or night.

Now I am by no means suggesting you become a shopaholic. The same restrictions apply whether you are in a store or on your computer. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. I am simply suggesting it is the way of the future, and there is no need to think you can’t handle using the technology. Who would ever have imagined that you could shop all over the world from your own home? And just think of all the wear and tear on your feet. Save them for doing something more fun like dancing.

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Thanks for reading,

Penny xo

Woof, Meow, Squawk!

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I am an animal lover. I grew up with dogs and have always had one, but never did I appreciate them enough for what they brought to my life until I became older and lived alone. Despite the muddy paws, fur balls rolling across my floors, hair stuck to everything I own, and drool dampening my surroundings, I could not imagine my home without one. 

I am currently sharing my house with the massive fur baby above. Her name is Lola and we have been living together for almost 5 years. I’m not sure what it is about large dogs, but I seem to be drawn to them. Lola is of course a St. Bernard, but I have also shared my home with a Bouvier de Flanders and an Old English Sheepdog.

This is Columbus. 173154_1524523612_609273480_n I rescued him from the Humane Society several years ago. He was labelled not adoptable because of aggression issues relating to abuse. We were together for exactly one year when he randomly attacked me and sunk his teeth into the side of my face. He had to be put down. I held him and cried as he crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. I think of him all the time and wish I could have helped him more.

Sometimes an animal will come into your life in an unusual way. Such was the case with FUI_01Fui Fui who came here from the streets of Hong Kong. I learned about Fui Fui through a strange trail of connections. To make a long story short, Fui Fui’s mom was having to move, and she could not keep him. His story broke my heart, and I volunteered to take him in to live with my Bouvier, “Sydney” and I.  The transition was difficult for everyone, but especially Fui Fui. He suffered from separation anxiety. One evening when I was out for a couple of hours, he almost chewed through the door looking for his human. However, this story had a happy ending. His mom missed him so much that she decided to take him back and make other living arrangements. I had to give up Fui Fui, but I gained a new friend.

Although my pets have been dogs, I know people with cats and birds feel the same strong bond. Animals seem to know when you need them. They make you laugh, and they make you cry. They take away loneliness like nothing else can. It is amazing how they are using dogs, and occasionally other animals, in nursing homes. I think it would be beneficial to have resident pets in these places for the people who need to live there. Animals are proven anxiety relievers.

There are several other pets who have touched my life like my furry grand pup, Stella, the Newf. A sweeter soul has never lived.

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And then there are Tuesday (I think she has used up her nine lives a couple times over.),

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Miles, who takes time to smell the flowers,

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and Sideways, better known as “Baby Girl”. These three are my grand cats, and they all are rescues from the streets of Toronto.

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So, whatever your preference, enjoy your cat, dog, bird,or whatever. They are only in our lives for a short time, but the love and joy they bring us lasts forever. 

Thanks for reading,

Penny xo         

 

 

Planes, Trains, Boats, and Tourist Buses

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And here we are outside St. Peter’s

I love to travel. It is my favorite type of holiday. Yes, lying on a beach or sitting at a cottage are very relaxing, but I prefer to explore new places and cultures. When my kids were much younger, it was exciting to introduce them to little pieces of the world. I would scrimp and save all year just so we could go on an adventure. Later, I traveled with a couple girls I worked with because as teachers, our vacation times were the same.

As I got older, I began traveling with my girlfriends since most of us were both retired and widowed. Our families were grown and gone, so we had the freedom to do as we wished. And most importantly, we had known each other for so long that it was easy to spend time together. 

Several of the earlier trips were with large tour groups on those huge tourist coaches with a guide. I suppose it is a convenient way to travel, but I quickly grew to dislike the rigid schedule imposed. Whine Country Tours.As we gathered more confidence, it became fun to plan our own schedules, book our own hotels, drive ourselves, and eat when and where we chose.

Every trip has become an adventure, and most times you have to just go with the flow. I love to stay in small local hotels; you seem to get a better feel for the culture. I  have unknowingly made reservations in a tiny nine room hotel in the heart of the “red light” district in Rome, in an ancient monastery in the south of France (we had no windows or screens and the pigeons seemed to think they were welcome inside), in a converted palace in Florence (no elevator…our rooms were on the third level and the stone stairs were about 18 inches deep; I have still not heard the end of that one), and in London above the train station where we accidentally overflowed the bathtub and flooded the room. Ahhh the memories!

Not long ago, a friend and I decided to go to China and Tibet. Just getting a visa was an adventure. I think we were the only Caucasians in line with 100’s of Chinese at the Chinese Consulate.  The sixteen hour flight was exhausting. That trip took us on every mode of transportation from plane, train, boat, bus, and even a gondola ride.

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The sleeper car on the train found us paired up with two Chinese men who spoke no English. To get to the top bunk, you had to stand on the bottom bunk, step one foot onto a tiny ledge on the wall and hoist yourself up. Getting down in the dark at night to go to the bathroom was quite the endeavor. Mind you, trying to aim for the hole in the floor to pee while the train rocked back and forth was also a challenge.

Scariest of all was our trip down the Yangtze River. The region had been plagued by torrential rains previous to our arrival. Cities and villages along the river had flooded badly and large boats could not dock in their usual places. In order to get to our ship, we were taken by bus for about a four hour ride to where they could bring the ship close enough to shore for boarding. It was late at night, we were exhausted and hungry, it was still raining and muddy, and we had to carry our luggage down steep steps to reach the fast flowing, dirty river. They had roped together wooden dock sections out to the ship, and crew held flashlights so we could see. If you fell over, you would never be found. The next morning I took this picture of where we had walked the previous night.

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What the hell was I thinking?

All in all the trip was amazing and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Sometimes, you just have to take chances.

This all brings me to our next adventure. Four of us are going to Amsterdam this summer. And to make things even more fun, we have booked a houseboat in the old section of the city to live on for our stay. Check it out with this link….

https://www.bookahouseboat.com/rentals/amsterdam-the-netherlands-rustic-city-centre-houseboat-471

I will definitely keep you posted about this new experience.

 

Thanks for reading,

Penny xo

 

Where Do You Live?

People often ask me why I don’t move into a smaller place with less maintenance. Believe me, before I moved to my present home, I gave that question a great deal of thought. I used to live in a large four bedroom, four bathroom , two-story house that sat on a large city lot. When my two kids were still at home the space was perfect, but I knew once they left, I too would make some major changes.

I often thought that I would love a centrally located condo in downtown Toronto. It made sense in that both my kids lived in the city, and I truly love all that a big city has to offer. At the time, my eighty year old mom was still living, and I knew she was more comfortable having me nearby, but that was not the only consideration in my decision to stay where I was already living.

All my friends live close by, and I knew if I moved away, I would see a lot less of them. It was an important factor in my consideration. We do things together several times a week, so my lifestyle would have changed dramatically. Yes, I could make new friends, but at this point in my life, I am rather attached to the ones I have had for many, many years. I was definitely not prepared to trade them in.

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About a year after my kids moved out, I decided to look at some local condos and townhouses. It would definitely be a lot less work to move into something smaller, and the financial benefit was a given, but I could not get used to the idea of being attached to my neighbor, having little or no yard, and rules…lots of rules.

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So, I decided to simply down size to something more manageable. I hunted and waited until I found the perfect fit for my lifestyle. It ended up being a detached, two-story in an old neighborhood of my city. There was plenty of work to do to make it just right, but I loved every bit of it. It is less than half the size of my previous home, but plenty of room for my needs and best of all a nice yard to putter in. 

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My plan is to stay here until I can no longer manage by myself which I hope is never. People often remind me  that the stairs will be a problem, that I only have one bathroom on the second floor, that the yard is too much work, and on and on.

There has been a lot of buzz about “granny pods” recently. They look like small cottages constructed in your children’s backyards. It allows for independent living, but your family is close by to help out as necessary. MedCottage2

I’m afraid this is not an option for me; although, my son has offered his garden shed. He owes me after turning my shed into an art studio when he was in high school. There was no electricity! No problem! He ran an extension cord from the house for lights and an electric heater ALL winter. I don’t want to talk about my electric bill, but trust me, he owes me big time.

Another option that has come up in conversation with the girls is”cohousing”. Apparently, this new trend is becoming quite popular. Statistics show that seniors who cohouse with friends live ten years longer than their normal life expectancy. Socializing is a key component to a long life. About a year or so ago, my friends suggested to the owners of our favorite pub that they build apartments upstairs. That way we could live together, and not have to go far from home for wine. I think we were on to something before it became a trend. 10246695_10152384871960049_3597235499566508595_n

So, where do you plan to live as you get older? I guess no one knows for sure what lies ahead, but it is nice to have lots of choices. For now, I plan to stay right here in my own little piece of heaven and enjoy. 20180528_182906.jpg

Oh, by the way, if you are thinking of making a move and you are in the Toronto area, I happen to know an amazing real estate agent. Give her a call!

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Thanks for reading,

Penny xo

 

Seniors in the Limelight

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David hit the proverbial “nail on the head”. Oh, you don’t need to remind me that there are plenty of negative aspects to getting older; I have addressed many of them already in my previous posts. I have often heard younger age groups espouse the sentiment that your youth is the best time of your life, or getting married is the best time, or having children are the best years of your life. The fact is, as I see it, all these are true because at the time you have no idea what the future will bring. However, once you reach your senior years, you can look back and make the comparison with clearer insight.

Speaking for myself, I know I lived most of those early years trying to be the best wife, and mom, and person I could be. Admirable qualities for sure, but if I am to be honest, I often did and said things that I thought were expected of me, not always how I really felt. I’m not much of a gambler, but I would bet most of you went through the motions, just like I did. I think Helen Mirren echoed my thoughts when she said,

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As we move further into the twenty-first century, I think people look at seniors differently. We are not a group to be ignored  as though we have used up our usefulness. With better health care and lifestyle, many individuals are living well into their eighties and beyond. Many are fortunate enough to have livable pensions which obviously improves our lifestyle. However, I now know for certain that money cannot buy us happiness and contentment in our “golden years”. It is truly the people around us, both friends and family, who enhance our lifestyle and sense of well-being.

Just recently, I read a wonderful book by Frances Mayes called “Women in Sunshine”.

20180512_124242.jpg The story is about three women heading into their senior years. They meet when each decides to have a look at a retirement home. The unlikely friendship that evolves with these three very different strangers is amazing. Although they are moving into their retirement years, they are nowhere near ready to stop living their life to it’s fullest and enjoying new adventures. I really hated for the book to end and wished I didn’t have to return it to the library. It was so easy to imagine myself and my friends doing the same thing.

In past years, the “Golden Girls” were a comedy hit on tv. Four senior women living under the same roof and all with very diverse personalities. I know at the time the subject matter raised some eyebrows, but today it would seem completely normal. Some of the comments they made shocked the audience, but in all honesty, they were saying what many seniors at the time were thinking, but afraid to say.

Well, all that has changed. More and more seniors are living the life they want.

Who has not enjoyed the antics of “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix?

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Check out the trailer…. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3609352/videoplayer/vi4150769177?ref_=tt_pv_vi_aiv_1

These characters are my fantasy idols; however, I do not plan to live vicariously through them. I fully intend to live my own dreams as much as my circumstances will allow me.  My remaining years will not be spent doing arts and crafts or playing Bingo in a retirement home. I want to try new things and see new places. I do not plan to sit back and watch others live their life while mine ticks away a day at a time. Remember the saying, “It’s not over until the fat lady sings”.

So try something fun or something you enjoy. Or join my friends and I for the weekend. Tomorrow we are getting together at 5 am to eat scones, drink tea, and watch the Royal Wedding; at 6pm we will be off to karaoke and dancing at our favorite pub. Sunday we have plans to see “The Book Club” at the movies.

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What are you doing this weekend?

Thanks for reading,

Penny xo

Dressing Room Drama

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When was the last time you bought a bathing suit? For me, it has been many years. Our family no longer owns a cottage, and I don’t have a swimming pool, nor do my friends; however, recently, the girls have toyed with the idea of going away to a beach somewhere like Florida or a tropical island. At this point, it is only talk, but I always like to be prepared. Relaxing on a beach is not normally the kind of holiday that I would choose, and I now know why. The thought of trying on bathing suits is horrifying!

Remember the days when we looked like this….e565aaf5a831c1ff5c43d8391c0be40a
Well, now some of us look like this.

A few weeks ago, while wandering through a local shopping mall, I passed a store called Bikini Village. I paused to look in the window at the shapely mannequins in their colorful outfits. A large banner announced a “Welcome To Summer Sale”. I briefly recalled our conversation about going south and decided to have a look.

I wandered among the racks of bikinis and tankinis for a few minutes. Eventually, a store clerk asked casually if she could help me. I reluctantly admitted it had been a long time since I had bought my last swimsuit. She tactfully sized me up and led me across the store to the one piece suits. After she carefully selected three suits of varying styles for me to try, I followed her to the dressing rooms.

Ensconced inside alone, I slowly undressed remembering to keep my underwear on. I chose the first suit…a black one-shouldered number with ruching across the tummy area. It apparently hides bulges. I tugged and wiggled and yanked and squirmed until I was squeezed inside the stretchy fabric. It was exhausting, and I gasped for air. 4075f49a915dc139b393e748a8704cf2

I stood up straight to check out myself in the mirror. What the hell!!! The mirrors were arranged so you could see yourself from ALL angles. My loud outburst, “Oh my god!” brought the clerk running. She knocked on the door and asked if everything was alright. I apologized for my outbreak, but told her there should be a warning about the three-way mirror.

After another few minutes of pulling and holding my breath, I managed to extricate myself from the swimsuit and got dressed. I was not mentally ready for this task.

I thanked the clerk, and left the store.

A little further down the mall, another window caught my eye. This was more like it, so I headed inside. After looking around, I selected my perfect beach ensemble.

023ddc38b21707cd63cdb450e705f2cc1e5a2ddc9097d318ac0ec268e2f30808927f04ddc21f47aabcf25f95774deaa5 I am now ready to hit the sand. No worries about unsightly bulges, and I can save money on sunscreen. It is light and airy and stylish. And most importantly, easy to get in and out of. I can see myself now relaxing on a chaise lounge under an umbrella with a lovely pink cocktail in my hand. 

I know I need to address the actual swimsuit problem because I do enjoy the water. Perhaps something like this ingenious outfit. 07c654f92c114980a6d78664d2af7d80

I wonder  where she found it?

My only other option is this…66a99ae806df40816ae3795d10d4eaa8

and no one needs to be subjected to that vision. So, I will keep trying to find a suitable swimsuit, but until then, just look for me in my new beach wear.

 

Thanks for reading,

Penny xo