Monday, April 30, 2012

"The Wedding" Cross Stitch Project-April Update

It's been slow going with cross-stitching this past month. Travel, spring cleaning, work. But the Bride is progressing and the purple bows are starting to appear, one stitch at a time. The bows and flowers are tedious with multiple changes of threads. Once they are in place, the white and cream will go very fast. I also received the cream beads to accent the neckline and skirt.

Here is a link to the original post. These pictures show progression (most recent to oldest)
Bows are added.
More of the dress takes shape and the bouquet is almost done. 
The bouquet begins to appear. 
The Bride takes her place beside her groom. 

Pin It Now!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Walking is My Exercise of Choice

Walking has been part of my life for over 5 decades. From walking to elementary and high schools, to walks through the neightbourhood and trails close to home and when travelling.

No running, no biking. Walking. I choose to walk for health because I enjoy it. Not because it will help me lose weight because I have found after all this time it won’t. 

I do it because I like it. 

I know others who are at the gym 2 hours a day, 6 days a week. Good for them. It’s not for me. I didn’t renew the gym membership this year. 

Over my lifetime, I have tried various gym pursuits, including running, but always fell back on plain and simple walking. 3-5 km a day, most days of the week. And you know what? It’s something I like to do and it is the only thing I have kept up for all these years. Snowshoeing in the winter, hiking in the summer and the treadmill at times. We're on our 3rd treadmill having worn out the previous two. Now I will admit months can go by where I just sit at home, but then something clicks and I'm off again. Lacing up the runners, plugging in the headphones and walking around the neighbourhood. 

Last year on our Riverboat Cruise down the Danube, I noticed a bunch of walkers, with poles trekking along the path which runs along the river. It was intriguing. 

When a friend invited me to go with her to a class in Nordic Walking (also called Urban Poling), I jumped at it. Nordic walking uses poles while walking or hiking. The poles give you an upper body workout, an all over body conditioning. Here is the class info for the group I joined in my area (Ottawa, Ontario) called Nordic Walkfit

Saturday was my first "walk". I loved it.

There is something exhilarating being out in the fresh air, sun shining down, heart pumping. Knowing that each step keeps you alive and well.

So I’ll move along, poles at the ready, maybe even take up yodelling to pass the time as I head over vale and hill.
Pin It Now!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Will I be Ready to Retire?

When I originally conceived this blog, I thought it would help me make a plan for retirement. 

I had even created a tab which proudly stated: My 5 Year Plan. You don’t see it up top, do ya. Because it isn’t there anymore. 

My job involves a lot of process improvement. I'm actually a Process Architect. I make lots and lots of flow charts and lots and lots of instructions on how things should work. In the workplace. I was envisioning a bunch of Visio diagrams which would get me to a successful retirement when it struck me that I have never really followed a plan. 

As more and more people talk about "retired" life, I realized I couldn’t come up with a final plan because how does one actually put down on paper a “Plan” for any life event. Did I have a detailed plan when I went to University, started working, got married, had kids… 

Not really. Just high level dreams. Some came true and others were nightmares (thankfully not many). 

As I flipped through a bunch of blogs, I found advice on retiring happy, retiring successfully. Copious amounts of financial advice, spreadsheets, charts and lists to make sure I had enough money to live without working. Can anyone ever have enough money?

I also discovered that what one person likes to do in retirement isn't exactly what I would want to do. Many men I work with say they will golf every day. But here in Ottawa we have 4-6 months of snow. The golf courses are closed and I don't golf. Others say they will travel. But will they actually travel 52 weeks of the year? And will they have enough money to do that. Others will volunteer. I was told an interesting statistic at a retirement course: Of the people who say they will volunteer when they retire, 95% stop doing so after the first year. Those that stay have usually been life long volunteers. 

Will I be healthy enough to do the things I think I want to do. As I mentioned in my last post, my mom developed Multiple Sclerosis in her 40's and was in a nursing home by her late 50's. Their plans, if any, were screwed. 


Figuring out what to do if you aren't working isn't as easy as it sounds. I guess I still have some stuff to think about. 
As I look at my age, I see a date, March 2018, approaching where I plan to retire and yet I really don’t know what it will mean to retire. I have a cool countdown gadget to tell me how many years, months, days and hours I have left before my planned date to walk out of my job on March 15, 2018. It’s in the lower right corner and keeps counting down. 

It now says less than 6 years before that date. I'll be 64. If my hubby lets me. His plans are for him and me are to work until we’re 90! But that is him and this is me. Yes we are a couple, for the last 30 years and plan to stay a couple. I expect at least another 30 years of life in both of us. 

I have only worked full-time for the last 11 years. I'm a public servant. A new federal budget came down two weeks ago with huge cuts to the public service. Things have been pretty tense around here wondering who will be cut. It is estimated that 19,000 to 30,000 jobs will disappear over the next 3 years. For now I am told I still have a job but it made me more aware of what would happen if I was "pink slipped". 

To see where we stand, I made a list of our monthly expenses and projected income. On an Excel spreadsheet of all things. We haven't been much for actually making or following a budget. My house was paid off years ago but there are still many expenses each month. I listed every thing I could think of and also included a very generous Miscellaneous amount as well as a monthly amount for Travel. 

I will receive a small indexed pension but not the same as someone who has maxed out with 35 years of service. The more years I work, the more pension I will receive. By my estimated retirement date I will have accumulated 17 years of service and expect about half of what most of my colleagues will receive. But it is more than a lot of people will get. We will both receive CPP (Canada Pension Plan) and Old Age Security (OAS), although my pension will be reduced by the amount I receive with OAS. I have no worries about healthcare costs. Those are covered now and will be for the rest of our lives. My hubby is self-employed so my estimates include his income. He's a Chartered Accountant which makes spreadsheets a very sexy communication tool. I haven't shown it to him yet. I need to pretty it up. Maybe do a little pivot chart.

Looking at the raw numbers, we could survive but if I can last another 5-6 years in the work force, the extra money I would be able to put away for retirement will make things a lot nicer. More travel, more activities, more of everything. 
But retirement isn't just about needing money. My BFF retired at the end of December. We both graduated from Teacher's College in 1977 and she has taught all those years. Me, I hated teaching and pursued other interests. But it made me think when she announced she was eligible for retirement with a full indexed pension, that maybe I should have stuck it out all those years ago. Alas, we cannot go back and must move on with where we are now. She actually took retirement earlier than planned to care for her mother and her brother who is gravely ill. 

Life got in the way of "The Plan". 

She had no master plan prepared which is probably a good thing. We had been tossing around ideas about what we would do when we retired but that's all they were. Ideas. It's one day at a time right now. Being a caregiver is immensely hard and time consuming. But also rewarding. She'll figure it out and keep herself busy now that the daily grind of teaching is gone. These next few years will be a journey of discovery for both of us for living the rest of our lives. 


I will explore what will make me happy. Now. 

And from there I won’t see retirement as something that has to have a final plan in place but an extension of my current life. I just won’t need the alarm clock to get me up each morning. 

Unless I want to get up early.

Pin It Now!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Dad

My Dad died 12 years ago, on April 7th, 2000. He was 72. This is just a walk down memory lane for me. I wrote this on my other blog two years ago before I had lost weight and began my quest for health.
1958: My dad, Garth (30 yrs old) and me (4 yrs old) playing checkers.
(He quit smoking cold turkey shortly after this picture was taken)
My Dad came from a large family—he was the whoops kid, born 10 years after his closest sibling. He was from near Norwich, Ontario and that is also where he is buried. Most of his life was spent in Southern Ontario. 

He had a Grade 10 education, sailed on the tankers on the Great Lakes and quit for a land job at an oil company when I was born. He worked shift work all his life and made sure we all got through University—all five of us! When we were young my parents packed us up every summer to go camping. Later we got a trailer, then a cottage.
Wedding Day: September 11th 1948.
They were married on September 11, 1948 and three years later my older sister was born on September 11th which made 9/11 her 50th birthday. That day had always been a celebration in our house. 

I don’t remember much of my childhood, bits and pieces that pop up every once and awhile. My dad was just there. He taught me to use tools, to change a tire and how to drive—with all the yelling and screaming. I build things like him. I fix things like him. As I get older, I also look like him. He was there to reassure us in 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis when we all thought we were going to die in a nuclear war. He worked two jobs to support 5 kids and my mom. He loved Oh Henry bars and so do I. Sometimes when he worked afternoons, he would call my mom and have her keep us awake until midnight because he was bringing home Kentucky Fried Chicken (now KFC). A bucket with all the trimmings cost $4.99 (ok, it was the 60’s). He didn’t drink much but had a beer or three and loved hockey—the Detroit Red Wings were his team until Bobby Orr became the star of the Boston Bruin’s. He watched old war movies on Sunday’s and hunted deer and moose in the fall.

Life seemed to be going well for all of us until 1974 when my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She was 45. I was 20. When I married in 1981, she was in a wheelchair and in 1986 we put her in a nursing home because of my dad’s ill health. She was only 58 and so was my dad, the age I am today. By the time they had enough money to travel, my mom was hit by MS and that never happened. They were able to go to Hawaii with her in the wheelchair. I think that is one reason I have tried to travel so much and have not waited until I am old. You might never reach “old” and even if you do you might not be healthy—my biggest fear.

My dad became ornery as he aged, angry at my mom’s illness, ticked off that all their retirement plans were now gone. He had angina, diabetes and a small stroke by his late 50’s and didn’t take good care of himself. He had a pot belly but wasn’t more than 30 pounds overweight. None of us kids were around much as most of us lived hours away and rarely visited. So the work of taking care of my mom fell to him. We all dealt differently with her illness but mostly avoidance of being with them. He continued to work but found it lonely which led to him having a girlfriend who cooked for him and travelled with him. When my mom found out, we kids were drawn down the deadly slope of choosing sides. Mom never forgave me for wanting to continue to have a relationship with my dad. She died in 2008, so no more guilt coming my way.

Diabetes did him in. That year (2000) he returned from a vacation with an infected toe which put him in the hospital. He was there about 2 weeks before anyone knew. He hadn’t even called my mom. In fact no one could get in touch with him to tell him his brother had died. He was devastated when he found out he had missed the funeral. After multiple tests, he had his toe amputated but they also discovered his circulation was so bad from the poorly controlled diabetes, he would have to go home to build his strength and then return for major bypass surgery. 

The day he was leaving the hospital, he got up, collapsed and died of a blood clot to his lung. Quick. It’s how we all want to go. 

It was a blessing because I knew in my heart that he would probably not survive the second surgery. I called him in the hospital before his toe was amputated and just before I hung up I said "I love you". I don't think I had ever said that to him before. I didn't get to speak with him again, but in thinking back, I guess I had said everything I needed to say.

As I sit here writing this, I think of what he went through. I used to think, why doesn’t my dad just do something to get healthy. Diabetes is preventable, so is high cholesterol, high BP and heart disease. Why doesn’t he lose weight, exercise and eat right. Well as I got older I started experiencing some of the same problems which I've sorta, kinda have under control but it took a long time to hear that inner voice repeating to me: “Why don’t you just lose weight, exercise and eat right”. I still have high blood pressure controlled by drugs. And after losing weight my cholesterol skyrocketed so again, now on drugs. But I do not have diabetes.

Seeing my dad die young from preventable diseases did kick my butt and look at my health. I can’t say if my dad is watching over me right now but I think so. I am a big believer in signs and they were evident in the days following his death. Some of those Woooo moments that you don't fully understand but seem to be signs from above. I see pennies on the ground and always say, “Hi Dad”. My hubby was in Sri Lanka at the time of dad's death and I had not been able to reach him by phone for the previous week. When I placed the call that Friday afternoon, it immediately connected. I was able to ask him to come home for the funeral and his business associate made all the travel arrangements. He made it home less than 48 hours later only hours before the funeral. I think it was my dad who made it possible for the phone to connect that day. 

I also believe that we carry a part of those that have died in our hearts. No matter how hard we try not to be like them, it is inevitable that we will, in some small way. They are in the memories and pictures we have, the mementos that they left us and the lessons they taught us. 

So I leave with a “Hi Dad, I’m working hard to be healthy”. I know you would have understood. And if any of you got this far, spend a moment to think of someone you have lost and just say Hi to them.

Pin It Now!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

There are Starving Kids in Africa

Remember when we were kids and didn't eat what was put in front of us for dinner and our parents would say "eat it, there are starving kids in Africa". Our reply was "send it to the starving kids in Africa". I think I might have even said it to my own kids.
As I get older and a little more aware of my health, I tend to read lots of stuff about the prevention of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes. Issues such as obesity and diet. I'm a bit nerdy because I like reading studies and papers and statistics, some good, some bad, some outlandish and really bad information. I love digging down. Finding out if they have any meaning or relevance in my life. Weeding out the good information from the crapola.

I like to read Dr. Sharma's blog and his post led me to the World Health Organization (WHO) website and lots and lots of statistics. The statistics that make most people glassy eyed. Sort of like advanced calculus class. Read it. Write the exam. Don't fully understand what you are doing. Then forget about it.

Statistics don't lie but if you can't read statistics just walk through the food court at the mall. 
We are fat.

That stuff our parents told us: Eat up, clean your plate or no dessert. Well maybe we should have stopped eating and sent the food to Africa. But we ate it all and got fat.

What an eye opener as I dug through the WHO site. I'm more a visual person, so went straight for the maps.

This first map shows the percentage by country of Overweight and Obese Females: 
Orange and Red are NOT good!

And this map shows the percentage by country of Overweight and Obese Males: 
Orange and Red are NOT good!
Click here to see other maps and other WHO stats. Here for Female Stats and Here for Male Stats.

The report shows the rankings of the 192 countries surveyed. I wanted to see where my country stands. I live in Canada. We are 66 out of the 192 countries and here are a few other countries:
Click this PDF to access the full list of Countries with the Percentage of Overweight and Obese Females & Males.

I was feeling quite smug that there were so many more countries with higher obesity rates than Canada. Yup, thinking how we beat a lot of you. But the realization hit that this wasn't a contest. It wasn't the Olympic hockey game where Canada beat the USA or Russia. It's a global health problem. And people are dying at both ends of the spectrum.

I actually looked at the numbers. They were stunning. Last on the list for females was Ethiopia. Just under 4% or less than 1 out of every 10 females are overweight. It rises to 8.6% for males, not the lowest but still near the bottom of the list.  Go figure. They are starving in that country and have for many, many years. I doubt there is a McDonald's in the country. They have civil wars, little food, little comfort and they die young.

Now on to Canada. Let's round it off to 60% or 6 out of every 10 females over the age of 15 in Canada are fat and almost 7 males out of every 10 (66.9%). In the US it is almost 8 out of 10 females (76.7) and more than 8 out of 10 males (80.5%) are overweight. The rest of the developed world isn't any better.

Now look around you at 10 people, including yourself. Do these stats make sense?

I won't mince words trying to say the politically correct terms so I'll say it again.

We are fat.

I am not a big fan of the BMI ranking but they are a snapshot of our bodies. I can look down and see the fat, I don't need to get on a scale or have my girth measured. We are in for huge medical problems and huge medical costs in the future. We hear these stats over and over again through the years but what do they really mean? On the WHO website you can filter the data to BMI >30 (Obese) but since it is very easy for someone who is overweight to slip into that category, I decided the best information was to use the BMI >25.

Which makes me a statistic. I am fat. Overweight in fact. My BMI is ~27 right now, the overweight category. It was almost 35 (obese) a few years ago. But I lost some of that fat and greatly reduced my chances of developing debilitating conditions—preventable conditions—like diabetes.

And I truly believe we all can.

Yes you. Just you. Forget about the other billions, if these stats apply to you or someone you are close to forget about arguing and making excuses. The ball really is in your court. No one can do it for you. It's a struggle to lose and keep off weight, develop healthy habits. It's a constant battle. But I can also tell you it is so worth it. And as one of my docs keeps saying "Just keep trying, and never give up on yourself."

Aren't you just a little tired of studies and statistics. It’s time to get our butts in gear and work against this disease called obesity. One step at a time. We can't change the world but we can certainly change ourselves. And for our kids sake, we must. Don't you really want to live long and be around to enjoy your grandchildren? Wait, for them to live long enough to actually have children.

So maybe stop cleaning our plates and start sending food to Africa.

Or start sending the money we waste at McDonald's or KFC or (add your own favourite fast food joint) to African aid perhaps we could save a few of those kids who really need our help.

Last but not least I leave you with some Big Food images for your visual enjoyment. Can anyone give me a thumbs up on getting rid of stuff like this?

End of Soapbox!

Pin It Now!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...