Fairwell to 2016

As 2016 draws to a close, I have to agree with a number of the comments I’ve seen on social media. It will go down as an “annus horribilis”.

Tragedy, division and loss dominated world events.  The US election lead the way; a particularly ugly campaign this time, filled with gloomy and hateful rhetoric.

The loss of life from terrorist attacks, the Syrian refugee crisis and the suffering of those remaining Aleppo served as a reminder of mankind’s indifference to our fellow man.

Destabilizing events such as Brexit, the coup in Turkey and North Korean nuclear tests, created uncertainty for the future.

The world lost many talented individuals, many of whom were far to young to die, including David Bowie, Prince and most recently Carrie Fisher.

For me personally, I developed a case of extreme eczema, so bad that I had to lay around in cotton t-shirts and sweat pants for months on end. I fell over while practising yoga with what turned out to be vertigo (scary), and then stepped in a pot hole while on a walk and sprained my ankle. My life-long struggle with anxiety and depression proved a challenge as well.

Despite ending 2016 feeling beaten up, and the fact that Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States, I still choose to hopeful for 2017.  I do think it will be important for each of us to reach out and do something kind for another and that these acts of kindness serve as an anecdote to what-ever evils are in store for us in the coming year.

My reading list

I love to read and one of the benefits of being retired is having the time during the day to read. When I was working I would try to read at night and would invariably fall asleep after a page or two.

I am generally drawn to non-fiction books focused on historical events but also like a good mystery.

I just finished reading Empire of Deception by Dean Jobb.  It is the true story of an expert con man, who swindled friends and family out of their life savings in early 20th century Chicago. It is a great mix of crime and history and made for a compelling read.  If you enjoyed any of Eric Larson’s books, such as The Devil in the White City, you will likely enjoy this one.

Social Media Update

Last night I quit Twitter for my health.  In a post last August, I wrote about an article that I read claiming that diving into social media was healthy for older adults.  So I took the plunge.  Because I am a news junkie, I initially followed a number of media outlets and eventually was following well over 100 and combing through all the comments to the posts.  As we moved into the fall and the peak of all the ugliness surrounding the US election, I became obsessed, constantly checking for updates and somehow thinking that sharing my views with others would help the cause. What I finally realized that you are really just sending words out into the abyss, along with millions of others. The shear number of hateful and racists comments became overwhelming and depressing.  People feel that can say the most outrageous things under the guise of anonymity. Instead of bringing people together, it appears to me Twitter is pulling people apart and really not adding to the betterment of society. As far as social media goes, for now I will stick to Instagram, where I follow accounts that posts lovely photos of animals and nature.  Pretty things to sooth the soul.

Farm to Table

I never really had an appreciation for the concept of “farm to table” until I moved to the Niagara Region.  We are blessed to have an abundance of farms producing fresh, healthy produce and late summer/early autumn is peak season.  Drive down any country road and you will likely come across local farmers, selling their bounty at the side of the road. What I love, other than the freshness of the product, is that the transaction is on the honour system.  Makes me less cynical about the current state of the human race. At this particular stand, I deposited 3 twoonies and bought beautiful fresh tomatoes, beans and radishes..

Can't get any fresher!
Can’t get any fresher!

Exploring the Community

The Niagara region is one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations.  The most recognizable are the Falls themselves.  However there are numerous other attractions to explore; appealing to all ages and interests.  The Falls are spectacular but I admit that since I live in the region I rarely visit them anymore.  I prefer instead to enjoy a stroll through the Botanical Gardens and the enjoy the magic of the Butterfly Conservatory.  If you live in the area it makes sense to buy the yearly pass and visit often, especially when you need that winter boost.


Culinary adventures

Here in Niagara we are blessed to have an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available throughout the summer growing season.  One of my favourite farm stands – Gallaghers –  is just a 5 minute drive up the road.  Last summer, I noticed that toward the end of season, they would start selling baskets of tomatoes, cucumbers and other veggies for the home canner. I thought I would give it a try and bought a basket of tomatoes.  I found simple instructions on canning tomatoes on the internet and a way I went.  I started with a dozen jars and it worked out well.  You just need to follow the instructions carefully. We were eating my home canned tomatoes well into the winter months.  This year I tried it again, with a larger basket, resulting in 20 jars that I will use in sauces and casseroles over the winter. Will remind me of those nice warm days of summer and the bounty of the area.



To Tweet or not to Tweet

Recently I came across an article in a popular magazine that laid out the virtues of social media for older persons. In a nutshell, the author claimed that engaging in social media is beneficial for older/retired people because it helps keeps them current and builds important social connections, both important to healthy aging.

I had signed up to Twitter years ago, but was never really interested in participating.  Quite frankly, I didn’t get it.  This article however convinced me that now may be a good time to really try it out, and keep my mind active among other things.

I am a news/political junkie so I “followed” most of the top news sites and a few columnists I enjoy.   I like the almost “real time ” dissemination of news stories I receive through Twitter, as well as the links to the articles if I want more detail. I do however find some of the comments very upsetting. It is not unusual to find shockingly racist and very hateful speech coming from the keyboards of some very disturbed people.  I knew those people existed and heard social media has become an outlet for these folks, but seeing it staring me in the face sometimes leaves me lost for words.  I am a person that does not deal with injustices very well and I now find, especially with the current political climate in the United States, that my stress levels at times rise to uncomfortable levels.

I like to reach out and add my comments when I have something to say and think being active on Twitter has helped me stay connected to the world. However given the added stress levels I now wonder whether it is worth it?  If anyone knows how best to enjoy the benefits of social media and at the same time deal with the impact on your soul of some of the hateful speech that comes along with it, I would appreciate your thoughts..


Discovering my new home

I live in the heart of the Niagara Region, one of the largest agricultural areas in Ontario, Canada and also home of one of Canada’s premier wine regions.  Drive down just about any road this time of year and you will find farm stands with the freshest produce and lovely flowers.  Some of them like this are unattended, so you are on the honour system.  I love that the fact that there is still trust in this world!

My Pets

I love animals and currently have 4 of them.  Three cats and a dog.  Ruby is my Pom and my cats are Eddie, Lucy and Stevie.  All girls – even though the names don’t suggest that.  Eddie is named after one of my favourite characters from the British Sitcom – Absolutely Fabulous, Steve named after one of my favourite singers and Lucy named after one of the greatest – Lucille Ball.  I have been home with them full time for almost two years and have managed to spoil them even more than they were spoiled before. To the point where I don’t think I could even get away for a few days.  No one else could likely manage their different demands. Eddie has a hyperactive thyroid and is on a special diet, which the other two cats can’t eat because they are overweight.  So meal time is a balancing act.  Ruby is really fussy, so I make her food myself. She takes a bite and then walks away.  At that point, the overweight cats swoop in and try to eat her food. Because of that, you have to stand over her food dish.