Winter Vacation

Our winter vacation is different this year. Rather than being on a beach, we are heading into the Rockies. With aging parents, we didn’t feel comfortable leaving the country this year. We wanted something within a couple hours of home.

I’m fortunate to have friends who have a vacation home in Canmore, AB. They’ve offered it to us in exchange for looking after their dog while they go on a skiing trip. It’s not two weeks at an all-inclusive or revisiting a Hawaiian island, but it’s four days away from responsibilities at home.

I asked ChatGPT what the top 5 things are to do in Canmore. It gave me this list.

  1. Hiking – Yeah. I know. Kananaskis Country and Banff have great hiking trails. I’d like to get out to Johnstone Canyon and Grotto Creek.
  2. Skiing and Snowboarding – No thank you. I don’t like heights so ski lifts are out of the question. I’m a prairie girl. Cross-country skiing on level ground is my comfort zone.
  3. Wildlife Watching – I just finished developing a course on Wildlife Safety for a client. I have no intentions of going out and seeking wildlife. I fully expect we’ll see elk and deer, but my life is full if I don’t encounter a bear or cougar.
  4. Canoeing and Kayaking – Yeah. It’s winter. There will be none of that.
  5. Shopping and Dining – One of my curses is to be with a man who loves to shop. Canmore, and nearby Banff, have some interesting shops. I’m quite sure at least one afternoon will be spent exploring the downtown core of each. As for dining, Martin is an excellent cook and he enjoys it, so we prefer to eat at home. Besides, with all my food allergies and sensitivities, it’s just easier.

For the next five days I’m leaving my computer at home. It probably wasn’t the best time to start a self-imposed 30-day blogging challenge, but it’s life. It never goes how we expect.

I’ll be sure to share our adventures once we’re home.

Remember “The Jetsons”?

Do you remember watching “The Jetsons” as a kid? They were the complete opposite of “The Flintstones”. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, “The Jetsons” was a cartoon about a futuristic world where we’d all have robot servants and transport ourselves via individual spaceships rather than cars.

I’ve been thinking about that show quite a lot lately.

I remember 25 years ago when I was starting my career as an instructional designer. Getting my first Palm Pilot made me feel like I was “with the times”. You’d have to be close to my age to remember these, but these devices were able to track contacts, notes, to-dos, AND sync it to a desktop computer! Whoa! It did away with paper DayTimers. It was revolutionary.

Fast forward 25 years. The phone I carry in my pocket has more computing power than my first desktop computer (probably, several of my first desktop computers). I can run my entire business from it. If I didn’t fear repetitive strain injury for my thumbs, I could write my storyboards, communicate with clients, do my banking, stay in touch with friends, take photos, create videos, and so much more (because I know I’m not using my phone to its full capabilities) with something I carry – In. My. Pocket.

We’re in an age where self-driving cars are becoming a reality. We can watch air traffic with an app (which is how I found out Martin’s flight home last week was re-directed to Edmonton after circling around Calgary for 40 minutes). I can pay bills, visit with friends, and buy groceries without leaving my house.

I remember when getting a cordless phone was a big thing. My first cell phone was the size of a brick and carried in a bag. For years, I was adamant I only wanted a mobile phone for emergency purposes. Now, I base my upgrade decisions on the camera capabilities because I dislike dragging my DSLR on vacations.

Given how much technology has advanced in the past 25 years, it makes me wonder – what will it look like 25 years from now?

I’d really like those individual flying machines to get around, but I’m not so sure I want robots living with me (no, I don’t own a Roomba).

Understanding Dreams

Dreams are a mysterious and fascinating aspect of human experience. I’ve been intrigued by Vanessa’s accounts of dream yoga.

When we sleep, our brains create vivid and often bizarre scenarios that can feel just as real as waking life. Have you ever had dreams where you are in a familiar place, yet it’s not one you recognize, with people from different times in your life? I often wake up thinking, “What was going on in my head last night?”

There are several types of dreams, including lucid dream and prophetic dreams. Lucid dreams are those in which the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming and can often control the dream’s narrative. I’ve had lucid dreams, but I’ve never been able to control the dream’s narrative. It’s as though I’m in the dream and watching it at the same time.

Prophetic dreams are those that seem to predict the future. I’ve had a few experiences where, after dreaming something three times, it has come true. The one that stands out the most that showed me my dog was going to win the Canadian Flat-Coated Retriever Nationals. I dreamt that I was at a teacher conference and my dog was with his handler. I recall walking down a flight of stairs and having people congratulate me on Riker’s win. This was the third time I’d dreamt of him winning. The other occasions must not have been as significant as I can’t recall them.

There are several theories of dream interpretation, including Freudian theory, Jungian theory, and cognitive theory. According to Freudian theory, dreams are expressions of unconscious desires and conflicts. Jungian theory posits that dreams are a way to connect with the collective unconscious. Cognitive theory suggests that dreams are a way to process and consolidate memories.

If I had to choose, I lean towards the cognitive theory. I think dreams are a way of processing and consolidating information in our minds. I also think it’s a way for the mind to figure out what it wants to store and toss out the rest.

Whenever I’m under stress, I have dreams of being a student and having to write an exam for which I’m not prepared. Or, I have dreams that feel as though I’m in a movie and being chased. I’m sure Freud and Jung could have a field day with those. For me, they’re a reminder that I need to take a step back and look at changes needed to live a more balanced life.

What dreams do you recall? Have you had a prophetic dream? I’d love to hear about it.

(This post was written with the help of ChatGPT)

Date Night Ideas

Martin is home tonight and has three weeks of vacation. Since we aren’t going anywhere this year, I thought I’d ask ChatGPT for some date night ideas.

  1. Have a picnic: Pack a basket of your favorite foods and head to a nearby park or beach for a romantic picnic.

    It’s winter in Alberta. No picnics for us for a few months.
  2. Cook together: Spend the evening cooking your favorite meal together. Choose a recipe you both love or try something new.

    Cooking is Martin’s thing. He likes to do it alone. I can choose the recipe and go shopping with him, but he insists the kitchen is his domain.
  3. Go for a hike: Find a scenic hiking trail and spend the day exploring the outdoors together.

    Yes, we do this on mild days. However, our definition of “mild” differs.
  4. Have a game night: Stay in and have a game night. Play board games, card games, or video games together.

    This is something we often do. We love playing chess, Monopoly, cards, and Wii games.
  5. Take a dance class: Sign up for a dance class together and learn a new style of dance. It’s a fun way to get active and spend quality time together.

    Hell will freeze over before Martin ever agrees to a dance lesson! It works in my favour. He wants to go ice-skating on the lake. I’ve skated as a kid and I don’t like it. I told him I’ll skate when he dances.
  6. Have a movie night: Rent a movie or stream one on your favorite platform and cozy up on the couch together.

    We do this. The trick is finding a movie he won’t fall asleep to while watching it.
  7. Try a new restaurant: Go out to a new restaurant and try something different. This is a great opportunity to try new foods and explore new places.

    We don’t go to new restaurants often. We have a couple of places where live music is played and we like to go there.
  8. Go stargazing: Find a spot away from city lights and spend the evening stargazing together.

    We did this when we were in Mexico and Hawaii last year. We don’t do it much at home.
  9. Have a spa night: Pamper yourselves with a spa night at home. Give each other massages, put on face masks, and enjoy a relaxing evening together.

    Funny thing – Martin likes giving me massages but he’s not a fan of them for himself. I’ll see if I can talk him into a face mask.
  10. Take a mini-vacation: Take a weekend trip to a nearby city or town and explore a new place together. This is a great opportunity to create new memories and have an adventure together.

    We did this two years ago and we’re doing it again in a couple of weeks. We also like to take day-long road trips to explore the small towns around us.

All-in-all, ChatGPT came up with a good list.

What’s your favourite date night activity?

ChatGPT on Elder Care

I’m taking some time today to explore ChatGPT and what it has to offer. I’m always looking for new things I can incorporate into my work.

I decided to ask it for advice on elder care. This is the response. I have to say – it is ‘spot on’ from my experience. I like how the last three points are for the caregiver and not solely the elder.

Caring for an elderly loved one can be a challenging and rewarding experience. Here are some tips for elder care:

  1. Get organized: Create a care plan and schedule to help you manage your loved one’s needs, appointments, and medications. This will help you stay on top of things and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  2. Communicate: Communicate openly and regularly with your loved one about their needs, concerns, and wishes. This will help you provide better care and avoid misunderstandings.
  3. Practice patience and compassion: Caring for an elderly loved one can be frustrating and stressful at times. It’s important to practice patience and compassion and take the time to listen to and understand their needs.
  4. Prioritize safety: Safety should always be a top priority when caring for an elderly loved one. Make sure their living environment is safe and secure and that they have the necessary equipment and support to prevent falls and accidents.
  5. Provide emotional support: Elderly loved ones often feel isolated and lonely, especially if they are unable to leave their home or care facility. Provide emotional support by spending time with them, engaging in activities they enjoy, and staying connected with family and friends.
  6. Seek professional help: Don’t hesitate to seek professional help when needed. There are many resources available, including home health care services, support groups, and counseling services.
  7. Take care of yourself: Caring for an elderly loved one can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in regular exercise and self-care activities.
  8. Know when to ask for help: If you are feeling overwhelmed or unable to provide the level of care your loved one needs, don’t be afraid to ask for help. This could mean reaching out to family and friends or hiring a professional caregiver. It’s important to prioritize your own well-being and the well-being of your loved one

Elder Care

Let me tell you, elder care is not for the feint of heart. My parents moved in with me 5 years ago. I had this romantic view of what it’d be like – my mom and I would go shopping; Dad and I would go fishing. They’d be able to go to all of my son’s basketball and football games. Dad would have a place to garden again; Mom would have space to read and do her puzzles. It seemed perfect.

I had no idea it would be so much work. My dad had cataract surgery shortly after moving in with me. A few months later, a heart attack. Mom was also dealing with severe depression and anxiety. She was convinced Dad was getting Alzheimer’s. I cannot tell you the number of medical appointments we went to in a month. There were at least two or three a week between the two of them. It wasn’t short-term, either. The medical appointments were constant. They always wanted me to attend as they didn’t trust themselves to remember everything they were told.

It didn’t stop after Mom died and Dad went into assisted living. There are fewer medical appointments since a nurse and doctor are on-site, but there are specialist appointments. It’s never just one. One appointment leads to another…and another. Dad is now completely blind. He doesn’t move as well as he used to. A 20-minute appointment is now a 3 to 4 hour excursion. By the time I get to his home, get him in the car, to the appointment, and back to his room, half a day is gone.

Hearing aids never stop working at the same time. I take one in and a week or two later the other needs to be fixed. There’s always something Dad needs me to get for him.

Martin is experiencing this now that we’ve moved his dad to be closer to us. It’s never-ending. With both of the dads, we ask if they need anything. “No, no, I’m good.” A few hours later or the next day…”I need…”.

It’s a tough situation. We want to be there for our parents. We also need to live our own lives. From an observer’s standpoint, it’s fascinating to watch. The older they get, the more toddler-like they become. They can’t walk as well. They are fussy eaters. They need help doing almost everything. They can only focus on what what is an immediate thought or need.

I try to frame my mindset to “I get to …” rather than “I have to …”. I’m fortunate to still have my dad. I know that. I know how much he and Mom did for me as a child. Still, when I’m tired, part of me thinks, “They chose to have children; I didn’t choose this.”

It’s normal to have these feelings. I still have an young adult at home. I work more than full-time hours every week. Getting enough exercise is important to me. There are all the ‘adulting’ things that need to be done. Sometimes, Dad feels like one more obligation. There’s a reason respite is offered to caregivers.

My dad lost his wife of 53 years and his vision within two years of each other. He can’t do any of things he loves to do. Yet, his attitude is still one of, “Well, it could be worse” or “Well, what can you do?” He loves his family. He’s so very proud of the adults his grandchildren are becoming. He stays in touch with his extended family. If I ever need anything, Dad is there.

As exhausting and frustrating as it can be, being able to look after my dad is a gift. He will be 85 in April. He’s already outlived everyone in his family. He won’t be here forever. I’m fortunate we are still able to create memories.

Car Shopping

I took my 20-year-old son car shopping last night for his first car. When he first got his license, he drove a hand-me-down the ex and I had at home. Since the divorce, he’s been driving my car or using Uber. Now that he has a good job, it was time for his own.

He originally started in the 8K-10K range. He wanted something to get him to and from work and the gym. He also wanted to finance it so he can start to build a credit rating.

We started at a used car lot. At the first one, we drove into the lot and drove out. The building itself was derelict. While it may not reflect on the condition of the cars, our thinking was, “If they can’t look after their building, do they really look after the cars?”

The second used car lot told us we wouldn’t be able to find anything decent under $20,000. Since neither of us are mechanically inclined, and the people selling cars privately wouldn’t allow us to have them inspected by a mechanic, we then decided to go to the reputable car companies and see what they had for used cars, knowing the budget would increase.

At the first dealership, they had nothing. But, the woman was the same age as my son, clearly smitten, and tried her best to sell him something. She had to “go talk to her manager” so many times, we finally got up and left. (It wasn’t lost on me that, after she commented on his braids, he took off his jacket so she could see the results he’s been getting working out at the gym!)

At the second dealership, there was a fully loaded, 2017 Chevy Cruze with two sets of tires (important here in Canada where we need winter and summer tires), still some warranty and the salesman would sell it for $20,000 taxes and fees included. However, there was hail damage on the car. I could tell my son wasn’t impressed. The salesman, sensing there wasn’t going to be a sale, started the hard sell – “We had a lady looking at this yesterday. I can’t guarantee it’ll be here tomorrow”, then “Let me run the numbers…OK, if you finance for 7 years….”

He held firm. He knew what he was prepared to spend, what length of time he wanted the financing, and this car wasn’t it. The more I suggested we keep looking, the more frantic the salesman got. I finally said I needed to go make a call in my car. My son was too polite to simply say, “Thanks for your time and walk away” when the salesman started to show him even more cars he wasn’t interested in, I made the call. To my son. I told him what to say so it sounded like he had to leave immediately.

I took him to the Mazda dealership where I bought my car a year ago. That’s where he found the car of his dreams. Having grown up with BMWs, he has an affinity for German cars. He test drove a 2015 Mercedes Benz C-300 and immediately fell in love. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so happy.

When we went back inside to talk numbers, the total came to over $27,000. He was devastated. That was too much. So, he started negotiating. By the end of the night, he got the car for $21,000 taxes and fees included. We’re waiting on financing to go through but, since I co-signed, I don’t think that’ll be a problem.

I am so proud of my son. His football coaches have always told me he’s a leader. I didn’t see it at home. I live with an introverted young man who doesn’t care to talk much. He seems content to go with the flow of whatever his friends want to do.

Yesterday, I saw a young man who can stand up for himself. A young man who looked at his overall financial situation and decided what he was comfortable spending. A young man who saw the car he wanted, had the down payment, and did what he had to do to get it. A young man on the cusp of adulthood making his own decisions.

As good a negotiator as he is, he won’t win the last battle. My car parks in our single garage. Momma pays the mortgage.

Strength and Restore

I tried a new class last night – strength and restore. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Strength training, for sure, and maybe some yoga?

There were 14 people of all ages and genders in the class. Later, I learned that’s 12 more than usually show up. No wonder the instructor was so excited.

It was a good class. We used steps, dumbbells, and mats to do various exercises to strengthen our muscles. All are exercises anyone could at home with minimal equipment. After intense sets of exercise we had periods of active recovery. No yoga – that’s OK.

The instructor was a tiny woman with a big voice. She’d be merrily chattering along giving instructions, when she’d suddenly shout “HALF”, “NO QUITTING” or some other point she wanted to emphasize. I got a kick out of her.

I was concerned about how my leg and shoulder would feel today. I’ve been having some issues with them. They feel great. I’m thinking this might be the class that slows me down and helps me strengthen my weaker areas. I’m looking at this class as a version of physiotherapy (I see one regularly so I know what I need to be working on and how to do it safely). I can take it twice a week and fill in the other days with water workouts, spin classes, or the weight room.

I’ll be boxing again next winter. 🙂

My Valentine

It’s Valentine’s Day and I feel the need to gush about the special man in my life. Anyone who reads our blogs on a regular basis knows about Martin. I didn’t realize until just now that I have him hiding behind sunglasses or a mask in every photo. Probably just as well. He’d prefer it this way.

Our relationship is one that makes the REO Speedwagon lyrics, “What started out as friendship as grown stronger” speak true. We met at a time neither was looking for anything serious. We wanted a friends-with-benefits arrangement. It didn’t take long before we both realized we really liked spending time together – doing whatever. It was six months after our first date that we realized there were genuine feelings.

Martin has seen me through my dad’s loss of vision and moving him into a nursing home, finding out my ex-husband is gay, my divorce, buying a new home, one job loss, two new jobs, my adult son moving in with me, becoming a freelancer, and menopause. Throughout it all, he’s reminded me of my strength, my resiliency, and told me how proud he is of what I’m able to accomplish.

His belief in my abilities sometimes surpasses my own. He encourages me to try new things, to take time for myself, and to have fun. He shows an interest in my work and how I do it. He’s curious about life and loves to learn. There are so many things I love about him.

We don’t make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day, but we do recognize it with cards. He’s at work this week. I snuck a card into his backpack before he left. Last night, I was cold so pulled down his favourite sweatshirt from the closet (mine too, because it’s snuggly and smells like him) and a card fell out. He knew I’d be wearing it at some point while he’s gone. With everything going on with his dad’s health, I didn’t think he remembered this year. It made me smile.

I smiled again this morning when he sent me a text to look under the mattress. There was another card. I don’t know why, but he has always bought two cards for Valentine’s Day, birthdays and Christmas. It’s his thing.

For so many reasons, he’s the perfect-for-me life partner.

Trying New Things

There was a cancellation this morning and I was able to get into my first deep water workout. Yay!

Well, let’s just say, at nearly 56 years old, I was one of the youngest in the group. I don’t know what I was expecting but, suffice to say, I was expecting more. Sure, I got to hang out in deep water for 50 minutes and move my body. When the water dumbbells were brought out, some resistance was added so my arms, back, and chest got a bit of workout. I think I’d have preferred to work with the dumbbells the entire time. I wanted….more. I like the feeling of being utterly spent after 50 minutes of exercise. I didn’t get it.

I watched as the next group came in for the aqua fitness class (the one for which I was originally registered). They were even older! Is this my demographic now?

I’m not ready for the slower fitness classes. I want to lift weights and punch bags. I want to work on increasing my bone density, flexibility, and strength. By my age, both my parents were starting to feel the effects of arthritis. I don’t have that yet. I want to keep it that way.

Tomorrow, I’m signed up for a Strength and Restore class. I’m hoping it’s a weights and stretching class. I’ll let you know.

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