Friday, June 23, 2017

Five Things Friday

1. Sunshine! Much expediting beachwalks with visiting friends (see my IG for a photo). Like my Californian visitors last week, L, coming from a sweltering-at-38-degrees Bordeaux, claimed she would have been quite content with rain and grey skies, but oh, I was so happy to be able to show her how beautiful Vancouver is in the sunshine. . . .

This is the view from the common-area rooftop of our building, looking North to the still-snow-capped mountains. . . .so good to see some snowpack there, a bit of insurance against summer drought, and something I've been alarmed to see absent the past few years.

2. Friends to walk on beaches with. And take to Van Dusen Botanical Garden, as I did with a friend last week, an ex-colleague visiting from the island. And to meet for coffee, as I will with another friend,  one I've known since high school, this morning. And to have lunch with next week and try to catch up on our respective creative projects, our families, our travels, as I will with an island friend, one whose first gallery show I went to on the weekend. Friends who travel to visit me and whom I travel to meet for the first time. Friends whom I need to email to set up a meet-up now that I'm settled back home.

I posted almost a year ago about the transitions in friendship that I was experiencing and fearing and celebrating and becoming aware of throughout the process of, first, my retirement, and then our big move. I'm hoping to follow up soon with another post. For now, I'll just say that I feel richly blessed with friendships in ways that I couldn't have anticipated -- perhaps not even have appreciated -- two years ago.

3. When I posted about post-travel fatigue, about how it combined with my entertaining and catch-up efforts our first week home to lay me out flat,  "SmitoniusandSonata" wisely commented that "Just stretching out on the sofa , reliving it all is called for ... two trips for the price of one"
And that comment really resonated with me, made me aware of how much I still have to integrate, how much this trip is still working away inside me, demanding to be narrated, if only to myself. I'm trying to make a bit of time for this, despite my current Real Life calling me back. Wednesday's photo-heavy post about our train ride through Slovenia is an example of that effort. So is scrolling through the too-many photos I took, deciding which to delete.

Most likely to be deleted are the numerous screenshots taken to capture Google Map's directions to get where we were going without gobbling up too much data enroute. This one represented an easy jaunt, the tricky part coming in trying to park the car. . . .

But this last one, with its promise of 23 minutes to our destination, Ah, this one was a challenge. Let's just say that while 15 of those kilometres might have taken 15 minutes, the last 3 turned into at least 15 slow kilometres--and at least 15 minutes -- driven by Paul as I craned my neck trying to find a sign for Spinčićeva Ulice. . . .

 4. We've been whipping the terrace garden back into shape after our three weeks away (as well cared for as it was during our absence, there are nonetheless signs that it missed us -- we didn't expect the kids to do any pruning, and they couldn't do much about the wind damage that occurred). I've got a garden post in the works, but for the moment, I can tell you that there's a serious campaign directed against these . . . ugh, things!

When I first saw them, clustered in fives or sevens or even, shudder, tens, on the underside of hydrangea leaves, I thought they were grubs, although we never saw them move. But there was evidence of some chomping all over, and the hydrangea seemed poorly overall. We removed them manually -- again, ugh! shudder! yuck! -- and have been combing the shrub daily to pull off encouragingly decreasing numbers of them.

And I've finally figured out what they are, after I found one (putative) adult, a very homely critter that I quickly squished, a flat round disc of grey matter that made me think to check whether "hydrangea" and "scale" might yield results. Yep. Our hydrangea is infested with Hydrangea Scale, and the information on the beast isn't particularly happy news. Those "things" I first thought might be grubs -- I've photographed them inside my bracelet to give you an idea of their size, and perhaps you can notice the striations across the one on the left, the striations that let me imagine a grub -- are actually the egg cases. So instead of five, six, seven, even ten grubs to a leaf, we were removing hundreds and hundreds of eggs! Is that the good news or the bad news?!

We're hoping that doing our best to keep the numbers down for the next generation, and supporting the shrub as best we can through this season might be enough to let Nature sort itself out. I never used pesticides in our old garden, being able to count on the natural balance and a relaxed approach to imperfection. I sense this may not be so easy in our smaller space where we lack the predators such as snakes, wasps, dragonflies, and insect-eating birds that used to help keep the pest numbers down. We'll see. . . . Any thoughts? Suggestions? Experience with the dreaded Hydrangea Scale. . .

5. Heading out to meet my friend the other day, I caught a glimpse of my hair in the mirror, registered how long it's got again, that it's almost back to the length it was before I chopped it off to begin the Great Greying Project

 I know that some of you preferred my hair at shorter lengths, but I'm feeling much more myself as it's growing back in, and I have to say I'm very pleased with the mix of grey and what's left of my natural colour. And pleased doesn't begin to express how happy I am not to be scheduling -- and paying for! -- a colour application every five or six weeks. . . .

 So there we are -- Five Things Friday, and it's almost the weekend. Here in Vancouver, at least, we have sunshine at a very comfortable 23 degrees, and I'm about to get out in it.  You know what I'm going to say now: if you have a minute, I'd love to hear what you're up to, whether you have plans for the weekend, whether you've ever struggled with Google Map directions whether in your own or in a completely foreign language, whether you've been thinking about friendships, fighting hydrangea scale, growing your grey. . . . or just want to wave hello. Posts upcoming on most of those topics, but for now. Happy Friday to all of you!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Train Ride Through Slovenia. . . .

 I have another friend visiting this week, this time from Bordeaux, and while I'm showing her around Vancouver, I thought you might like to look through a train window at Slovenia. These are photos I took just a few weeks ago, following The Man in Seat 61's directions for travelling by train from Venice to Zagreb.  (We broke the journey with an overnight stay in Ljubljana -- I'll show you photos of that lovely city later).
 I have no idea whether Slovenia dries out with summer heat later in the season, but as you can see, when we rode through it was ever so verdant, lushly green. . . .
 You might wonder that I could tear my eyes away from this scenery at all, but I did do some reading on the train, and I posted about a few of the books I read over the last few weeks of travel. If you're looking for some new titles to pick up at your library or bookstore, have a peek here
 And now, if you don't mind, I'd better get ready to play Tour Guide. I had a few hours with my friend yesterday evening, but I only have a few more this morning before the conference she's here for begins.
 Oh, and maybe don't tell Lisa or Sue, but I finally managed to get some sunshine going for a visitor. L. has arrived from Bordeaux where it's currently 38 degrees, so she probably wouldn't have minded some rain, some coolness. But we Vancouverites are positively thrilled to see the sunshine, and the beaches were already filling up as L. and I strolled beside them last night.
Whoops! Have to confess that I ran off, right here, because I looked at my watch and realized I was late for my Tour Guide gig. We've been on the beaches again, and we've strolled through the Museum of Anthropology, and we've nattered all the way through lunch at one of the many brewpubs in my neighbourhood, and I've just hugged my friend good-bye, hoping that I might get one more visit before she flies home this weekend, knowing that if not, well, SIGH, I'll just have to head to Bordeaux again for a visit. . . .

Meanwhile, I've quite enjoyed reviewing my photos of our train ride through Slovenia, and I hope you have as well. I'd love to hear from any of you who have spent time there.
For now, though, I'm going to have a quick nap -- a wonderful prerogative of retirement! -- so I'll leave you with these photos.
Comments welcome,
as always. . . .

Monday, June 19, 2017

Reality Bites -- Or How I'm Getting My Groove Back. . .

After three wonderful days of visiting with Sue and Lisa -- which included a delightful catch-up coffee with the inspiring Melanie of Bag and a Beret--, the reality of jet lag; of the fatiguing effects of plane-train-and-automobiles and the concomitant hefting of cases; stressing over Google maps; anxiously checking the time in long airport security line-ups; the doing of a bit-too-much in foreign cities; the sleeping (and not sleeping) in unfamiliar beds; the eating and drinking in quantities and at times not always best suited to my natural biorhythms. . . . All that Reality hit Friday morning, some time after I got back from a session with my personal trainer.

In the days before that session, I'd pointedly ignored the stiffening of joints, the tightening of muscles, the attention-demanding clamour of my fascia, because I was so enjoying the rare chance to spend time with the California visitors -- I mean, wouldn't you?!

But Friday morning, keen though I was to get back into the fitness groove, I was stiff, awkward, and somehow ill-seated in my body as we walked into my trainer, Jenna's, studio. She's so encouraging, and we found so much that I could do -- I did bench presses! First time ever! -- that I was able to loosen up, gain some mobility, and feel much more hopeful about picking up the reins of physical activity.

Between the distance from her studio door to our car, however, the stiffening resumed, and by the time we got home, I was hearing a very loud, very clear message from my body.  It's a message I heard two or three weeks before we left on our trip, and which I ignored, pushing through a very ill-advised, distance-increasing run. Since then, I've worked on stretching and foam-rolling and stretching and foam-rolling and stretching and . . . well, you know. It's taking much longer to recover than I've experienced before, and yesterday the stiffness was accompanied by a deep fatigue.

So yeah, I listened.  A hot bath, some reading on the couch, some reading on the terrace, a little lunch, and then a Two Hour Nap! Some more reading, a cup of tea, then some catch-up with Madam Secretary, followed by dinner (fish tacos) on a tray in front of an episode of House of Cards. Bed at 9:30 and a glorious sleep right through until 5:30 (so at least I might be over the jetlag).

Writing this on Saturday morning, taking stock, feeling grateful for the full night's sleep but aware that my every cell still harboured considerable fatigue, and looking forward to a calendar studded with wonderful visits with out-of-town friends, dates that couldn't be rescheduled and that I refuse to surrender, I had to admit a few things: One, that I'm very lucky to be retired, able to tire myself right out through my leisure activities. As important as I might find my fitness regime or my post-career attempt to recover a social life, neither of these pursuits is tied to my ability to pay the rent or buy groceries or keep my children safe. I'm ever so fortunate to be able to slow down or modify my approach, even to stop completely and hibernate for a few days.

And Admission/Insight Number Two: I don't need to feel guilty about that Luck. Or rather, it isn't useful to feel guilty about it. It makes much more sense to deploy it wisely and productively.

And Three, and perhaps most significant, certainly most useful:  no matter how I've tired myself out, I'm still Tired to the point of risking my health, and Self-Care is in order.

So on Saturday, after writing my way to this realisation (which, I get it, was probably obvious to you immediately), Pater and I plotted together about how we could get to the opening of a Group Art Show a friend has paintings in, and how we might also participate in an Artwalk of the galleries in that neighbourhood.  It's about three kilometres from us, and we debated taking the car, but I knew I'd be impatient with the challenges of finding parking, and I was feeling impatient to move a bit (and in disbelief that I'd even be considering a three-kilometre walk a challenge!) We agreed that we'd walk -- but at my pace, not his -- and that if I felt the urge to whimper, we would take a cab or bus home.

We also decided to stop for lunch as soon as we were in the neighbourhood, allowing me to get off my feet for a while -- if you're ever in the South Granville neighbourhood, I recommend The Stable House, an intimate bistro/wine bar with a well-honed menu, many healthy but delicious choices, and friendly, efficient service.

Happily recharged, we then wandered toward my friend's show, stopping at a few galleries along the way. To be honest, if I'd been feeling stronger we would have spent more time looking at the exciting range of local art on view, and we would have socialised more as well. But I could feel myself fading, and I wasn't willing to delay recovery even further. As it was, the walk home was probably just a bit more than I should have done, but once back on my couch with a cup of tea, it was All Coddling for the rest of the afternoon, followed by an early bedtime.

Sunday, still fatigued even after a good night's sleep, Dance Class Duty (accompanying a happy Four-Year-Old to her dance class--best job ever!) and a walk to the post office for stamps was the limit of my activity. Again, an afternoon nap, and then last night I slept from 9:30 to 6 this morning. . . .

If you're still reading, thanks for your patience -- I know the account is perhaps too detail-heavy, and really, my tale of woe is a tale of privilege: Retired Woman gets Very Tired after travelling in Europe for Three Weeks. But I think it's worth sharing because so many of us are trying to re-calibrate after busy careers, trying to find the balance between things we Have to Do and things we Want to Do, trying to discern what physical decline is inevitable and what can be staved off by judicious physical training. And for those of us unused to such wallops of fatigue, the unfamiliarity can lead to a potentially dangerous denial. Many of us are used, as I have been, to pushing through and carrying on, and, honestly, I'm more than a bit shocked to find that, four, five days later, my body is still not allowing me to walk easily.

Today, an ex-colleague, a friend from my old life, is visiting the city and asked if we could meet up. Despite my current fatigue levels, I'm just not willing to say "No," even knowing that Tuesday and Wednesday I'll be busy with a friend from France. Instead, I've suggested we have coffee, then a walk in the botanical gardens nearby, followed by lunch (all so that I can get a nice mix of walking and sitting -- I suspect that the too-much-sitting of travel that played a role in upsetting my legs and back so much) -- and I've said that I need to be home by 2, although I may not have said that what I need to be home for is a nap ;-)

After these busy three days, life eases up a little, and I'm hoping that my energy and strength will begin creeping back. I have so much I want to do!  My trainer is fairly confident that I may get back to running eventually, although we're pretty clear that it's off the books for now (and please, I know that many of you are convinced that running is always a bad idea, especially at a certain age, but I've done considerable reading and thinking around the topic, and there's ample evidence in favour of running -- I'd prefer not to debate it here). Her approach is to focus on the many things my body can still do, and we're working on strength-training at the moment. More cycling and, possibly, a switch to swimming, are on the agenda, and overall, I'm feeling impatient but relatively optimistic that I will be moving more very soon.

But for now, I've scheduled blocks of reading and sitting in the garden and catching up on Netflix. I'm polishing a few posts (travel reports and garden posts and an outfit or two and a piece on post-move/post-retirement friendship). Oh, and I'm reading your comments. For example, I'd love to know whether you've experienced a check to your physical ambitions, a refusal by your body to keep up with activities you really wanted to do? I know that many of you will have weathered much more serious examples of this, and I'd be interested to read how you've dealt with the frustration -- have you found substitute activities? have you had to relinquish some plans completely or been able to compromise? Did you manage to get back to your old activity levels or did you find yourself clearly in a "new reality"? And how many of the physical challenges you've faced have had to do, do you think, with ageing -- or even with post-retirement changes to your lifestyle?

Thanks for hanging in, if you've made it to the bottom of this page. I promise -- more photos next post (oh, I have photos -- have you seen Slovenia? ;-)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Blogger Meetup: Visitors from California. . .

If you're curious about the out-of-town guests whose company Pater and I have enjoyed this week. . . .
 It's eight years now since Sue/Une Femme and I first met, here in Vancouver, and more than two years since we last got together, in Seattle with our spouses. Lisa (of Amid Privilege) and I hadn't seen each other since she showed Paul and I around San Francisco (Hello, Carnitas Goodness!!) at the beginning of 2011. Between those times, of course, we've followed each other's blogs, commenting back and forth, occasionally emailing, even once or twice a phone call, but man, we were overdue for the visit Lisa and I had promised ourselves way back when.

These photos were taken Tuesday evening when our Californian visitors came for dinner and checked out the terrace garden I've been figuring out since our move last year. After that, to be honest, I put the phone down and concentrated on catching up as well as trying to show Sue and Lisa our city, see it through their eyes. Wish we could have done something about this incessant rain and grey and cool temperatures, but they claimed to welcome the weather as a pleasant antidote to Too Much Sun (oh, just to imagine. . . . ).  And honestly, in their company, I didn't think much about the weather as well -- we all talked a mile a minute and laughed and hooted and might have hollered once or twice, wiped away a quiet tear or two at the powerfully moving First Nations exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology. Plotted world domination with the fabulously stylish and dazzlingly hilarious Mel of Bag and a Beret (over coffee at Thierry, where the rest of the coffee-drinkers must have been dying to join or table -- or perhaps just move theirs out of striking distance. Heh heh, as Mel would say)

Sue has posted about our days together, and she has included a few photos, so hop over there, if you haven't already visited.  Pater and I have a session with our personal trainer this morning, and I'm hoping to get back on track after our three weeks away. Also hoping to get back on track with some more sustained posting, but I'm trying to be patient with myself and to remember that blogging isn't supposed to be an obligation.

Besides the blogpost or two I hope to write over the weekend, and the words I'm going to add to my ongoing personal writing project, I'm excited about an Art Show Opening we're going to tomorrow afternoon -- a good friend had two watercolours accepted into a group show in a cool gallery here.  Also excited about the possibility of a break in the weather, which would allow us to get out on our bikes. And then next week, I have another friend arriving from (way) out of town, so I'm excited about that as well. . . Oh, and speaking of being excited, my daughter in Rome has (finally!) posted again on her blog about adjusting to life in Italy/Italian, and her cringe-worthy account of using the Italian word "eccitato" is pretty hilarious.

What about you? What are you excited about these days? What's on your activity horizon? Or maybe you want to tell us what guests you've hosted or whose guest you might have been, and where (and yes, I still have more to tell you about our visit in Zagreb with the wonderful hospitality of Dottoressa).

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Post-Travel Word-less Wednesday. . .

Pater and I are playing Tourist in our own city today, showing around a couple of friends. But before we pick them up for the day's adventures, I thought I could do a quick Wordless Wednesday post, just sharing a few of the myriad photos bulging out of my poor iPhone. Much easier said than done, it turns out, because surveying the photo files catches me up, whisks me back to Venice, Ljubljana, Zagreb, to moments I'd filed away for later consideration. . .

So I've had to give myelf a brief talking-to, and I'm really going to stick to showing, saving the "telling" for later, choosing to occupy the present as fully as possible.  After all, the Present (gift) of these friends being here is a fleeting one, and we want to savour it. Without further ado, then, a few images for your delectation . . .






 and that's all for now, but there are so many more where those came from.  . .

Monday, June 12, 2017

Chez Moi, Encore. . . . Home Again, Jet-Lagged Again!

4:14 a.m., and I've been up for an hour; jetlag, if I may be so blunt, is a bitch.  But she's a bitch who, if managed well, can lead to productivity. So. My morning pages are written, and I've brewed up a cup of Ceylon Select to sip while I try to re-establish a blog-posting rhythm back at home. So much to tell you about on several fronts, and, of course, I'm balancing all that against the inevitable chores of unpacking, laundry, re-stocking fridge and pantry, never mind the joys of connecting with friends and family again after three weeks away.
Photos for today's post brought to you by the sidewalks of Paris, which generously offer visual treasures which your eyes, at least, may plunder gratis!
 We pulled our light cases along R. St. Placide, Cherche-Midi, du Four, St. Germain yesterday morning (the desk clerk always remarks on the ride s/he could have arranged, or postulates Metro routes to the RER so we could avoid walking, but walking -- on a day that will be so full of sitting -- is exactly the point. The chance to stretch our legs and say good-bye to Paris again). Pushed them ahead of us through the Metro gates after we'd pushed our little tickets into their slots, grabbed them as they popped up the top (I can't ever do this without hearing the voice of the young man who helped us, 25 years ago, that first trip to France, as we clustered together trying to figure out the train from the airport to our hotel near Versailles after that long flight, with four very sleepy kids. He'd gently taken the ticket from one of us and demonstrated, "You put eet een hee-air, you take eet out hee-air." Gently, despite the fact that behind us and our bewilderment, a line was forming. A negligible moment in his life, but I've recalled and replayed it so many times).

The train went direct from Gare du Nord, so I relaxed, stopped imagining the potential problems that could have interfered with making our flight (in my mind, these problems are myriad), and relaxed with my book until we stepped out into CDG airport, busy already at 8 a.m. Everything went smoothly, my only complaint being that slightly more attention might be given to the need for coffee and a decent croissant than to the continuous clamour of the Duty-Free.

And then the strange magic of leaving Paris just before 11 in the morning and arriving in Vancouver just after 11, that very same morning. A do-over of the day, which really, isn't as promising as it sounds given the fatigue of having just sat for nine hours whizzing across the North Pole in a rather small seat watching at least one too many movies. . . .

Some people, though, don't fatigue as easily as others, and no sooner than we'd walked the kilometre or so home from the nearest Skytrain station to our home, than Pater was bouncing down to the gym (I know! I couldn't believe it either!). He did stop before that to survey the garden with me (more on that later, but spoiler: there are several tiny apples on our new tree. And a wind-burned shrub or two), but he had abundant enough energy that, while I napped, he made the dinner to which I'd invited both our local families. I must say, nothing chases fatigue quite like hearing the news and grabbing the hugs from a Two, a Four, and an Eight (Ah, I've just realised the inherent arithmetic of that little group -- will have to show the Eight, who I think will be tickled).

I don't see myself bouncing, Pater-like, for a few days, but I must tell you, before I go,  that there will be some excitement around here later this week. Let's just say that Pater and I will have an opportunity to "Pay Forward" (or Pass Along) a tiny portion of Dottoressa's wonderful Zagreb hospitality (again, more on that in a future post).  So watch this space. . . .

The sky is lightening now, 4:41 a.m. and with the solstice not far off, the day is almost ready to begin.  I'm not sure how long I'll last before today's nap, but I'm glad I got a chance to say good morning on my first full day back home. My plan is to return immediately to my regular practice of responding to your comments, and I'm also planning several travel posts, a garden-update post, and probably something about What I Wore, carry-on-travel wise and also with regard to switching back to my regular wardrobe (augmented by a few purchases I made in Paris).  Ready to hear from you. Let's chat!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Travel: Pressing "Pause" in Croatia

As I snapped photos of Pater and our "Rome crew" -- daughter, son-in-law-granddaughter -- in Diocletian's Palace in Split a few evenings ago,  a young man offered to take one of all of us. Lovely result, no? I've had so many photos of myself that I delete as soon as I see them, always thinking, now, of Mme. Macron (read Sue's post for some thoughts on the ugly response to one unguarded moment, captured and circulated digitally).

We had such a good time with these guys in Split (and I have a camera full of images to prove it -- you can bet I'll be sharing some of those later). After we said good-bye to them, we headed up the road to Trogir (so, yeah, we barely moved, 20 kilometres) where we've been very relaxed. Good wine, copious seafood, a desultory walk in the morning before it gets too hot, another in the afternoon after it begins cooling down again, some exploration of the wealth of architectural history here, retreat to our charming little hotel room with books during the siesta hours, and more sketching and writing in my journal than I've had a chance to do for a while.

Honestly, I had to struggle a bit to give us permission to take this pause, but it's what we needed to get back to our own comfortable travel rhythm, to experience this new place in our own idiosyncratic way. There are so many places in Croatia that I'd thought we might get to, and many of those are within easy day-trip distance. Or we could have spent one night in Trogir, then moved on for another closer to, for example, Plitvice Park with its beautiful lakes and waterfalls -- I'd thought for sure we would have visited those. I'd solicited a list of suggestions as we planned the trip and I thought we'd have done a better job of ticking them off the itinerary.

Not our style, though, I've reminded myself. We've been watching tour group after tour group traipsing through the squares of this beautiful little city (a World Heritage Site for its historical architecture). They hit all the high spots very efficiently -- most of them managed to get in and out of Saint Lawrence Cathedral in ten minutes, their listening devices swinging from the red or blue or green tour-group lanyards that identified and unified them. But we saw very few people in the narrow, cobbled streets that twisted quiet trajectories behind the hotel and shop façades and café terraces of the more expansive and open spaces.

And those narrow, cobbled, winding lanes revealed their secrets quietly only to those of us willing to slow down, to sit with a coffee or a juice or water or glass of wine at the table of a smaller venture. Sit and watch, sketch a window detail in a journal that no one but me will ever see, listen to the screech of swallows swooping for insects above us, marvel at the occasional one speeding through these architectural canyons at door-lintel heights with Star Wars élan.

This is not to say there isn't a time and a place for both kinds of travel, nor to scorn those tour groups. At our usual slower pace of travel, we wouldn't have managed to move through four countries in three weeks, getting a taste of Slovenia, a slightly more sustained impression of Croatia. Three days in Venice wasn't enough, no, but if we'd waited until we could spend an entire week there, we wouldn't get to it for some time.  On the whole, this trip has involved more moving than I'm truly comfortable with, but maybe travel shouldn't/can't always be comfortable, maybe there's an inherent discomfort that's eventually worthwhile, even productive.

And we're moving back into that more speeded-up travel for our last days of this trip, with one driving day, two different beds in two different cities, and two flights (one short, one long) before we're home again. So for now,  as sorry as I am that I missed so many of the Croatian sites and sights I thought we'd see, I'm glad we took advantage of an opportunity to slow down. . . Balance, right? It always comes back to balance, doesn't it?

Note that while I'm not posting many photos on the blog right now, I post a few each day on Instagram, where you're very welcome to follow along.
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