A new toy for the retiree!

Roku 3500
Roku 3500

So several weeks back, my stepson presented a Roku to my oldest granddaughter as a birthday gift on her 19th birthday.  I quickly took an interest in this as both stepsons are techy guys and I knew they’d give me the low down on what it was and why I should have one.  If there was ever a time in my life to discover this – a streaming stick with hundreds, no probably thousands of movies and TV series that I could stream through a dozen or so sources, this was it.  Not one to shy away from technology (though admittedly I was among the last of my friends and family to learn to text after I realized it wasn’t just a fad), I hopped on Amazon, got out my $50 gift card (Christmas gift) and ordered via my Amazon Prime – incidentally one of those aforementioned streaming sources that I’ve had access to via Prime but was unable to tap into!  Oh joy, oh bliss.  Oh crap!  I couldn’t get it to install on the final step.  The booklet was more of an insert and didn’t talk about error code 011.  After trying to search out the answer online or via their LIVE CHAT channel (68th in line) I just called India (I’m impatient).  I spoke to a nice gentleman who explained that I needed to have my router set to a special security code and my encryption setting needed to be tweaked as well.  “Okay” I thought.  So I called Comcast/Xfininty and was connected to Clayton (coincidentally the name of my first love, but I digress).  Clayton was friggin’ brilliant and within minutes had changed those settings remotely and viola!  I had a working Roku!  Now the choices, the choice were…..infinite.  What to do, what to watch first?

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I started with “Orange is the New Black” and LOVE IT.  Spence and I are retired and in the midst of a cold Michigan winter and with our little pal Roku, have so much to watch.  Put a fire in the fireplace, pour a glass of wine and snuggle with the cats and hunker down as the snow fall.

“Bring me a bottle o’ wine por favor!”

And speaking of floating….

As I look out my window on a snowy, frigid Wednesday in Michigan, I fondly recalled a warmer day from this summer. My favorite Canadian and former co-worker Jess, invited us again this summer to the Port Huron Floatdown.  An annual “unofficial” event spanning 30 years, we’d missed it in 2013 due to our vacation but this year I was in.  Bucket list – right?

It was a hot, sunny day.  This was good as dependent on currents, it takes hours to complete. A tube was graciously provided for me complete with drink holders and head rest.  There was a flurry of activity to load up the tubes, kayaks, coolers, ginormous floats and rafts.  We were told  it’s “a bit crazy” to get to the launch site. Reality check: your designated driver gets as close as possible, stops in the middle of the street and you unload your stuff post-haste and hoof it to the beach then shoreline beyond.  I don’t recall how many were in our group – 30 or so?  So we’d all arrive, then tie up and off we’d go.  Right?

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It was a bit more involved.  Traffic and multiple arteries to get to the beach. Bedlam. Chaos.  A veritable parade of colorful floating vessels, life vests, coolers transported by thousands of swimsuited minions, teeming and careening through the shifting, soft sand towards the shoreline. I hung out with Bams, Jess’s grandma (one of the coolest ladies I’ve ever met, love her). We found a spot by a fence and offered to “watch the stuff ” (I’m good at that type of task) while the rest of our team ran back to work as spotters for the remainder of our flotilla, who arrived over the next 20-30 minutes blending into the throngs of floaters.  Once reunited, we quickly tied our stuff together.  In tandem, we pushed off the beach and into the water, leapt into our vessels (maybe gilding the lily about leaping – in my case flopping) launching at the same time as every other group who was ready to float.  And then we were off, starting our float just south of the magnificent Blue Water Bridge, which spans from Port Huron to Sarnia, Ontario in Canada.

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Shipping lanes were closed so the typical freighter traffic was not an issue.  Suddenly we realized we were missing some of our gang.  Leaving no man behind, Jess and her mom turned their kayaks around. No mean feat with our flotilla in tow, paddling against the current, passing other floaters shouting “hey you’re going the wrong way“. Undeterred, we spotted our lost friends and in short order, attached them and now floated en masse towards St Clair.

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We snacked, drank cold beverages, had our share of a variety of delicious jello and pudding shots.  And floated along this spectacular waterway, a bunch of friends having fun.

Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat.  With one modification, sunscreen on my thighs (which have rarely been exposed to that much sun in recent years).

You might be asking yourself, “where was Spence?”  Age 70 at the time of the float, Spence is a Viet Nam veteran with shrapnel and war injuries that have left him in constant pain. I wanted the decision to be his.  Ultimately, he decided that floating in the cold water for hours wasn’t going to make sense for him.  Always game for a day by the water and hanging out with these friends, he enjoyed the sun while relaxing on the deck with his cooler of beer at our finish line.

Good times for sure. Adventures in retirement continue. And on this cold day, it’s fun to flashback to that balmy summer day.

Sensory Deprivation or Floating Away Stress

Everyday in retirement holds infinite possibilities for experiencing new things, traveling new places. And I’ve been one busy young retiree.  Immediately after I retired my lifelong BFF found a 3 day Primordial Meditation Workshop – was I in?  Abso-freaking-lutely!  I knew meditation would be good for me but was always too stressed, too tired or too fill-in-the-blank to commit to it.  Fast forward to now. I’ve rarely missed a day, sometimes meditating twice a day. Using a free smart phone app called Insight Timer, I’m up to 221 days, 87 hours of meditation and that doesn’t count the meditation done in my private yoga class.  I began working with an awesome yoga instructor/life coach/spiritual guide every other week, leaving each class feeling more zen, younger and flexible.

So when my sister gave me a brochure to Great Lakes Floatation and asked me if I’d be interested in going, I thought “but of course”.  I deduced that being in such a great mental place, I could easily handle being inside a sensory deprivation tank for an hour. Just me floating in a mega-salt water bath, in the dark. My sister by contrast, approached our girls-day-out in the midst of a catastrophic, money-hemmoraging home repair nightmare that for two days prior to the float included jackhammering her basement floor.  I knew that she desperately needed this but wondered if she could “let it all go” and just float.

I needn’t have worried.  There is something magical about the silky, tepid salt water.  About the dark and total absence of sound.  I repeated my meditation mantra for awhile, I think I dozed off a few times.  I stretched and floated in a state of nirvana.  I liken it to transporting back to the safety of the womb. (too much?)

When we emerged from our private tank and after a shower, we met up in the after-floatation lounge.  I felt fantastic but the transformation in my sister was remarkable.  All the frustration and stress that she carried in with her, had “floated” away.

My tank

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My sister’s tank

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Great Lakes Flotation LLC
5232 South Morrish Road, Swartz Creek, Michigan 48473  – in case you’re interested

“Baby Got Back” and Finding the Right Pair of Yoga Pants

Being a woman of both stature (6 feet tall) and shall we say, possessing a “curvy bod”, I’d always appreciated the sentiment in this song about the virtues of a prominent derriere. (for those of you not familiar “I like big butts but I cannot lie…”)

One of the great joys of yoga and retirement is the need for YOGA PANTS.  I “needed” (seriously) new clothes in order to do yoga. Enter the discovery, via online shopping of Athleta.com who carries amazing stuff but to me, most importantly, Kick-Booty Yoga Pants – and in TALL SIZES.  I ordered them, free shipping (hoorah) and then patiently tracked the package as it sped my way.

When it arrived I was as excited as a child on Christmas morning, racing upstairs and stripping off whatever I had on.  I pulled them on, oh joy – comfortable, long, great fit all around.  Then I turned around and checked out my “Kick-Booty” posterior in the mirror.  It was magnificent! Needing further validation, I ran off to find Spence and model my new yoga pants.  I think I even attempted to twerk (not something a woman of my age should try, but hey, it’s all about testing your limits – right?).  Spence pronounced that I looked “amazing” and of course, at the end of the day, that’s what I was going for.

Kick-Booty Yoga Pants

And so it begins……….

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My last day of employment was February 28, 2014.  At 57 (nearly 58) I was so ready.  I’d talked about retiring relentlessly in recent years which kept my focus on that goal until everything aligned.  In retirement, I’d envisioned writing a book –  a cookbook, comic novel, blog, travelogue – perhaps even a children’s book (about the colony of feral cats who live in my garden oasis, but I digress).  It was always this “someday when I have time” kind of goal. I’d told friends, family, co-workers, customers.  Pretty much anyone who’s met me would tell you it was a recurring theme with me.  My lifelong friend, who also wanted to write, opened her home to a like-minded group of women and found an instructor willing to guide us. By the end of March, I was enrolled in a writing class!  Each class introduced us to a form of poetry which we were then instructed to compose, in that style “on-the-spot“. And then read what we wrote in front of the class!  I remember feeling a clench in the gut, thinking “don’t tank, don’t seize up” but then with a calm that I can only describe as divine intervention, this profound poem came out of me.  And from each of my classmates.  NO ONE CHOKED. (Thank God)  It was pretty remarkable.  And this happened at every class!  My blog took a bit longer to begin due to getting easily sidetracked by numerous “shiny objects aka procrastination”.  I’ve decided to get serious and quit talking about it, just jump in.  And so it begins….