Adjoining Walls

New neighbours moving in, muffled sounds coming through my living room wall.  The adjoining wall.  That unusually thin partition that both separates and joins me to my neighbours.  The common wall.  Possibly only a dry wall.

I’ve learned a few things about common walls.  Never put the head of your bed against one.  Either you’ll keep your neighbour awake with your snoring, or they will keep you awake with their lovemaking (or vice versa if you are fortunate).

Don’t put your stereo, TV, computer, gaming device or similar repetitive noise maker (a relative) against one.  You’d be amazed how far sound travels and how loud it is next door, above and below you.  I am startled by how many people who insist on doing this don’t know what headphones are.  It’d solve most of the problems, save the talkative relative.

There are hundreds of things to complain about whenever you share a dwelling with 400 other people, but noise tops the list.  It’s all those things happening on the other side of those adjoining walls.  Of course!

But right now I am the offender.  I have a very bad cold.  Very bad.  I spend the wee hours of the night with a dry hacking cough. I curl up on the sofa in the living room to spare my neighbours sleep, but at 2 a.m. probably everyone within 5 floors of me has heard I am sick.

I am currently blessed to be nestled between two very quiet neighbours.  But I dream of living somewhere where the adjoining walls are with nature.  The only form of pleasant annoyance would be birds, crickets and frogs singing, rain pattering, wind whooshing, maybe waves lapping.  Or perhaps, the sound of nothing at all, like I experienced in the desert.  And I won’t disturb anyone.

However, as I get older, and a bit deafer, I tend to get louder and my neighbours quieter, strange that.

Think I’ll go practice my flute now.

Don’t worry – it’s only for 25 minutes.

In the dining room.

It’s 2 p.m.

Mostly it’ll be a few toots, mixed with coughs.

All of you are at work.

Far from adjoining walls.

NOT on the Buses

Nasty day.  Not snowing yet, but that rain is near ice.  The bus is late, difficult to gauge by how much, they come when they feel like it, sometimes two arriving together, and then nothing for days.  My feet start to get cold.  A bus passes, too full to pick us up.  This is the daily attempt to commute to work.  Repeat the scenario on the way home, the wait so long, I could catch the next bus back to work.

Nothing can accelerate work place burn out faster than a lousy commute.  Perhaps the commute started the burn out in the first place.

Forget the advice to spice things up by going a different route.  I take the shortest, and only route available.  If there was another way, it would be infinitely longer – why would I want to do that?  Get up earlier and come home later?  Na.  And in the winter it is dark a.m. and p.m., not much change of scenery there.  Finding another route is as bad advice as standing on a bus without holding onto anything to improve your balance (yes this piece of wisdom is on the internet).  Advice doled out by people who never take the bus.  Ever.

It’s not the scenery that dulls the mind.  It is the waiting. Looking hopefully down empty roads and seeing no vehicles, of any kind, in sight.  Just blowing snow.  Or sheets of rain.  Or a nice sunset on the good days.

Once on a bus, packed in like sardines, our bulk is smashed to one side as bus takes corners on two wheels, and folded up like an accordion on sudden stops and starts.  And it stops at every. single. stop.  We get every. single. red light.

Eight a.m.  The driver sings at the top of his lungs all the way to work, in two languages.  A lot of tremolo, but not gravel down a tin chute, thank goodness. But at 8 a.m.?

Move closer to work?  Are you kidding me?!  The repercussions of that should be evident.

But busing beats walking. Walk?  I had to during bus strikes.  In January.  It took an hour and a half one way.  And I had it easy.  Some people had to walk hours and still put in a full day.  I near froze, got buried in a snow bank by a snow plow and generally believed my life would soon end.  Bicycle?  Dangerous. But brave souls do it. Koodoos to them for sure.  Plus they save a huge amount of money and get in shape.  Winter must be a blast to bicycle in.  I used to in the summer, but bike thefts are common.  So nice at the end of the day to find your only ride home is gone or worse, mangled.  No room in current office for safe stow away of bike.  I know, I have an excuse for everything.

Of course everyone has their own horror stories of taking the bus.  I could curl your hair with some of mine.

I am, of course, ranting.

I figured it out.  I have gone down the same road almost 6000 times during the past twelve years.

If I get to retire when I want, it means maybe only a thousand more trips.

I won’t miss it.

Second Childhood

I laugh to say this –

“Technology had to catch up to me”

Especially since I was a hold out on landline telephones until this year.

Locked in me is my 5 year old creative self.  So many interests that, unfortunately, in the mindset of 1960’s middle class dumb were not valid careers.  At least, not for a woman.

Acceptable career choices were like frame selections for glasses – four.  Round, cat eye, aviator and engineer glasses (plastic top, wire bottom).  Secretary, Stewardess, Telephone Operator, Housewife.  Breaking outside of these boundaries were not for the faint of heart as any woman who did can now attest.

Creative endeavors were regarded as cottage industry crafts.  Lots of manual labor, little profit.  But I saw a world beyond craft sales.  I wanted to have my own column in a magazine and publish my stories in books.  Display my art on book covers and advertisements.  See my photo’s in journals and coffee table books.  Design clothes and merchandise.  Most of all, I wanted to make epic movies like Cecil B. DeMille, Sergio Leone and John Huston.  Not very likely to happen for a middle class suburbia girl.

Careers slightly outside of the norm lacked imagination.  Thus, because I excelled in math, my parents envisioned a career in accounting.  The only creativity I could find in that involved food – fudging the numbers and cooking the books.  I was bored to tears and quit.  My head was off into astronomy, physics and mechanics.  I had a love affair with cars.  Exploration of these pursuits were confined to books, museum visits, and much to my parents chagrin, tinkering with mechanical beings – including the car.

Womanhood arrived, dragging with it, office work, the killer of imagination.

Severely strangled, but not snuffed out, all my interests stayed with me through an emotional adulthood.  They surfaced occasionally, wrecked havoc with the boredom of office work, fought with me constantly to be expressed and whenever possible completely took over all my senses and caused me to quit viable jobs.  Left and right brain waged war.

Enter the digital age.  My knight in shining armor.

Publish?  Design?  Create?  Permission granted!  No panel of judges to determine if I am worthy.  Software and hardware abound!  Upon the discovery of this new world, I plunged in with a custom built computer, affording me ten years of epic film making.  Bless the internet – I publish books, design merchandise, I have my own Blog!

I don’t much care if no one ever sees my stuff.  I am a child once more.  That is enough.  My second childhood.

My Stuff, Your Stuff

A white shoe box was tucked securely under her arm, slightly crushed from a tight squeeze.

“Can you keep this for me for a couple of months?” she hands me the box, the lid askew.

“Sure.” Having worked for ten years at this Seniors Centre, I was used to strange requests.

She pulled up a chair in front of my desk and collapsed into it.

“Oh thank you!” she sighed heavily.  “My daughter is cleaning out my apartment and is throwing everything away!” and then she burst into tears.

Mementoes.  Keepsakes.  Things of interest.

All gone.

Except for the shoe box.

Inside she shows me some black & white photos of her late husband.  His war medals.  A picture of her as a decorated war nurse.  Trinkets and souvenirs from vacations.  Things that had memory and meaning.  Bits of this and that.  She runs her hand over the lid as she closes it and smiles at me.

“It’s just about all I’ve got left” she gasps.

I offer to save more for her if she wants.

“No.  No, it’ll be fine.  That’s enough”.

It is not the first time I’ve heard of daughters on a house cleaning rampage.  They mean well.

My Mother had a lot of stuff.  It wasn’t junk or dirt or a mess.  Her apartment was filled with pleasant memories and interesting things.  There was no reason for me to have a fit and clean things out.  I didn’t live there.  It was her stuff and her place.  Just as I have my stuff, and my place.  After all, she had decades more years of memories and things representing those experiences than me.  Such things are like old friends and very comforting.  They made her feel safe.  When it came time for her to let go of things, and move into a home, I let her choose what meant the most to her to keep.  She requested that I keep some things.  Just knowing I had them was a great comfort to her.

Months later this woman retrieved her shoe box and held it lovingly in her arms.

“My daughter moved me into a seniors home” she lamented.  “I only have room for this”.

When we’ve got more years behind us than ahead, we take delight in things past.  What is wrong with surrounding ourselves with the things that remind us of a life well lived?  The young show off their trophies of places they’ve been and photographs of things they’ve seen to impress others.  We have emotional ties to our trinkets and treasures that provide us with a feeling of home, security and love.  We realize such things have little if any meaning to anyone else and we don’t expect them too (but are a little disappointed they don’t).  However, they sure warm our hearts and keep us grounded in an increasingly hostile world.  So be careful with our treasures children, and gentle with us, please.  You can do what you like when we are gone.  You just might find some new meaning in them then.

Technologically Challenged

When the electronic age began to pick up momentum in the public, we were amused by it.  New gadgets and wizardry were mostly expensive toys or luxuries.  I remember getting a private line telephone, a luxury that freed us from the intrusive party line.  When I went to Expo 67, Bell demonstrated video phones where we could see the person we were talking to and we didn’t like it!

I let technology get way ahead of me with this mindset, which wasn’t all that bothersome.  I lived happily in the dark ages for a long period of time.  I was able to function.  I had my share of crappy cell phones with limited range, far too small screens and buttons, and never used them much. They were an interesting thing to have, but not a necessity.


I was going to visit my brother.  I haven’t traveled in decades.  The trip required 3 connecting flights.  As is the case, quite frequently, I now understand, my first connecting flight was delayed.  The airport was under construction, so I was not surprised that the one pay phone I found was not working.  No worries.  Lots of time left. I can call him when I get to Denver if I am going to be late.

I am going to be late.  12 hours late!


There are rows and rows and rows! of phones at the Denver airport.  And not one of them work.  I know.  I tried them all.

So I see a big guy sporting an even bigger cowboy hat and a badge that said Information.

“Am I doing something wrong?” I ask him about the phones.

“Nope.  None of them work.  Haven’t worked in months.  Is your phone dead?”

“I don’t have one.”

He shrugs and walks past me.

Around me everyone has their face illuminated by blue phone light.  I don’t even know how to use one.

I walk over to a man with his nose to the screen.  “Kind sir.  I am in a fix.  I will pay you $20 to make a phone call for me.”

He looks at me, blinks in disbelief.  He hands me his phone “Go ahead” he says “You don’t have to pay me.”

I explain it is a long distance call.  He says that doesn’t matter.  I hand the phone back to him.

“Can you dial it for me? – I don’t know how.”

He gives me a silly grin as if I am joking, but dials the number. “Just talk into the screen” he is half serious.  He stands there gawking at me, suspecting some kind of prank.  As fortunes have it, the line is busy.  “Can you try another number?”

Mission accomplished, I get to leave a message. He waits as I collect my suitcase, give him a heartfelt thank you, and head for the nearest eatery.  He looks around, waiting for some TV host and camera crew to show up, tell him it was all just a gag and can we use it on our show?

My unfortunate brother had to page a reply to me at the airport and pick me up at midnight, instead of noon.  And oh yeah, he waited quite a while at the airport for me, didn’t get my message until he went back home.

“Get this” he shows me the blue screen when I arrive.

I comply.

Now I’m hooked on the thing.  How did I ever manage without one?!

Aging GraceLESSly

Someone is trotting down the stairs behind me.  Footsteps rapidly grow louder and gain momentum until the owner sweeps past the landing and encounters me.

“Oh” a young man pops out earbuds and looks at my feet “Can I help you?”

“I’m just slow” I reassure him “I have a sore knee”

He looks concerned but never looks me in the eye.  “Really, go ahead” I touch his arm which brings his eyes to mine.  I give him my best smile ever.

“Okay” he pushes his ear buds back in.  The first few steps away he hesitates, then he dances away.  I spend the next ten minutes navigating a one minute stairway.

I forgot I can’t do stairs for a while yet. I hurt my knee several weeks ago and it doesn’t like to bend anymore.

It makes me feel very old to be inflexible, it always did.  But now injuries take a long time to heal.

Of course this current injury is my doing.  It comes from a common fault of getting older.  Your brain and your body do not agree on your age.  The brain says I’m 19! Whoopee!  The body says nothing at first, but shows you your real age very shortly after.

When I was young the mind ruled.  My body followed.  I could bounce back from most of my punishments in record time.  If I wanted to lose weight it only took several trips to the gym, or a good run.

Now the body rules and the mind, well, is just stupid about this change in power and wisdom of the body.  It does not understand age – what is age?

We wage war with this.  We try to defeat age.  But age is not a phase you are going through or a disease that you get better from with the right exercise and diet.  There is no battle to fight.  Age is a process.  It is Mother Nature.

Science and consumerism give us promises of renewed youth; perfect eyesight, dancing until dawn, or sex all weekend, with chemicals and surgery.  We come from the Star Trek generation where lasers can fix anything or, simply make you vanish.

Not to say some of this isn’t useful.  But once you have your twentieth birthday you cannot go back.  Ever.  In any way.

Thank God.

I would not ever want to go back to those emotional years.  Things are SO much better emotionally. I will probably blab about that later.

It is good of course to be physically fit and as healthy as you can be.  You cannot let yourself go to seed at any age, this just adds problems and takes away the ability to have a good quality of life (and later on, you will pay).  But it is going to take a lot more effort after 50.  You’re gonna be tired.

I still have a lot to learn, but I do get this.  Slow – exercises must be done slowly and carefully until I am back in shape.  Consistency – No more run once in a while.  Exercise has to be daily to maintain a certain level.

For now, I try to find elevators.


My parents had a traditional retirement.  Winters in Florida.  Good pensions.  Interest rates were at an all time high.  They sold their home and lived well in a beautiful apartment.

The definition of retirement then was to stop and do nothing, or walk forever on a beach and collect sea shells. Although my parents had the ‘traditional’ retirement they were far from inactive. My Dad became an amateur geologist and my Mom and him traveled all over in this pursuit.

Things are a lot different for me.


Times have changed.

I have read a depressing number of books happily informing me that there is absolutely no way I can retire.  I basically have two choices; work until I drop, or live in poverty.  I am penalized because I am not married, I don’t own a house, I am a low income earner, I didn’t save a ton of money either, and good grief, I am a woman!

I don’t have a pension, or any benefits other than an annual vacation from work.  Although I have a degree, I never used it in a professional way (life got in the way).  And I really don’t have enough time, energy, interest or money! to come up to speed and pursue a new academic career (this topic I will pursue later).

I know, I really messed up my life.  But it ain’t over yet!  I can mess it up more!

When I examine the whole idea of traditional retirement, I realize it is a fairy tale, at least for me, in line with the knight in shining armor.  Retirement needs a new definition. Do I want to live happily ever after – YES!  So what is my definition of that?

Well, first of all – stop reading crappy retirement books, and take a look at myself and what I can make happen in the years I have left, with what I have left of me!  Perhaps I can inspire you to do the same.  That is what I am going to share with you in this blog.