A Day Well Spent

How finding a place to volunteer helped me find myself.

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There is a certain type of satisfaction that for me, has been misssing for much of the past year of my retirement. As a teacher, a mother and a wife I have always believed in service to others.  My career was so satisfying because every day I felt like I was making a difference in the life of my students.

I started looking for a place to volunteer where I could contribute and feel like I was doing good work in the service to others.  Recently, I started spending time with some new friends of mine.  Today I hung out with Joey, Jasmine, Kula, Ruby, Chocolate, Adam, Adriana and Candy .  These are the amazing rescued and trained horses, mini horses and pony at Kachina’s Place in Cave Creek, Arizona.

Kachina’s Place provides therapeutic equestrian activities for children and adults with physical, cognitive, and emotional limitations.  I started volunteering at Kachina’s Place about a month ago and immediately I knew it was going to be a great fit.  These are my people, I belong here.

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Sweet Joey nosing around

I love horses and have always been aware of the keen sensitivity that horses demonstrate.  They are great readers of body language and can be very empathetic, not to mention the fact that they are beautiful, graceful animals that are lovely to watch.

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Ruby, the former racehorse is a sweetie

Volunteering at Kachina’s Place felt right from the beginning.  The stables and setting is beautiful and the horses are sweet, calm, gentle and very endearing.  Franky Greaves the trainer is patient, kind and has set up a perfect environment for the therapeutic riding and equestrian activities.

Kachina’s Place is a special horse ranch with four horses, three mini horses and a pony.  The ranch is in a picturesque location complete with mountain views, a garden, a grassy area for yoga and eight very well cared for horses.  Special needs students taking lesssons may also be asked to groom, feed, clean up after as well as ride the horses.  They may complete a yoga class in the grass, groom a horse with help or help clean up stalls and the field as well as learning to trust and ride the horses.

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Trainer Franky with a student practicing balance.

Recently several clients came and together we groomed some horses, did some yoga on the grass, cleaned stalls, took turns riding  and painted (with non-toxic paint) one of the mini horses, Adriana, who loves to be pampered and brushed.  We practiced teamwork, turn taking, responsibility and had such a wonderful time.  Everybody enjoyed themselves, especially me.

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Cleaning up after the horses with my buddy.

I love volunteering at Kachina’s Place and at the end of the day I know it has been a day well spent.

Kachina’s Place is a non-profit organization, if you would like to donate or learn more about this wonderful organization I encourage you to go to: https://kachinasplace.org

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The Often Bumpy Road To Retirement

The road to retirement often has detours and bumps ahead.

About a year ago I retired from nearly twenty five years of teaching.  I loved the job and the kids but I believe every good teacher knows when it’s time to leave.  I was lucky enough to be able to retire financially, but mentally I was still a teacher, longing for my kids and the joy that I felt from teaching.

I am spontaneous and a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person, but that was not working for me as a retired woman.  My husband had an eighteen month head start on his retirement.  He had a routine, a schedule, a cool hobby and his day planned out.  At first I felt like I was floundering.  Lack of planning was not really working for me.  Where did my day go?  At the end of each day I felt like I accomplished nothing, nada.

I needed to expand my world.  I started by substitute teaching for some other teachers.  I enjoyed it, but I always needed to remember that I was the visitor.  This was NOT my classroom.  I enjoyed spending time with the kids but it was not enough.

Slowly, things have changed.  My days no longer feel wasted and unproductive. I have come to a place of contentment and satisfaction. Retirement, to me feels like a great pair of jeans you have picked out long ago, saved for and finally just went out and bought. Initially, they were uncomfortable and foreign, maybe a bit too tight and restrictive, they did not feel “comfortable.”  After “wearing” my retirement for a while (nearly a year)  I now feel more at home with it.  It’s a much better fit than it was initially, and I like the way I feel at the end of my day. I have settled into my retirement.

When I first retired we traveled so much I really didn’t get a chance to manage my time at home.  I value every day and I realize that we may never know when it is our last day on this earth, so I need to make all my days count.

Slowly, I began to build my week. At the recommendation of a friend, I started with an outdoor fitness class three times a week.  I had always enjoyed working out and had recently left my long time workout group.  I don’t like change, who does?  But I was exhilarated with the new group.  I was modifying my workouts and felt great afterwards.  Unfortunately I hit a detour.  My doctor said no more working out while my foot fracture was still healing.  I was wearing the ortho boot but apparently my foot was not ready for the extra stress.

I was instantly deflated. I NEEDED to workout.  Swimming came immediately to mind and I signed up for water aerobics at a local community center.  I arrived early to the large facility, complete with a gym, rock climbing wall and multiple swimming pools.  Very quickly I was greeted by “the ladies”.  These nine ladies have been part of the morning water aerobics class for years.  They ranged in age from sixties to eighties.   I was the young one in the group.  I was also the third Nancie, so they referred to me as “Nancie number 3.”   I removed my boot and stepped intrepidly into the warm water.  After sixty minutes I was beat!  This was going to be fun!

In addition, I started a watercolor class.  For several hours each week I would learn some new techniques and meet new people.  Most of the people in my class were obviously very talented.  I don’t consider myself talented necessary, but I am motivated and driven.  I set up my casita with painting supplies and most days I will spend several hours painting and enjoying the solitude.  I have not yet completed a painting that I’m going to frame, but I’m getting closer.

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My hummingbird, a work in progress
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Free form tulips
I make time to see my family and friends.  My schedule is flexible so I love it when I can enjoy a leisurely lunch or activity with a good friend.  My photography interest have expanded and I do try to find opportunities to take interesting photographs.  I now control the hours in my days, and that is a very good feeling.  I am now back at my outdoor fitness class and water aerobics, it feels great.  I have also located a charity that I may volunteer at, my dance card is filling up.

We continue to plan more travel and I have been researching some of the places that we plan on visiting this year.  They include:  Chicago, Annapolis, Miami, Key West, the Caribbean, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Madeira , and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  That will keep us kind of busy, and I really do enjoy having the freedom to be as busy as I want.

This blog began about a year ago.  I love reading other blogs and hearing from people that take the time to read my blog.  Thank you for reading my thoughts.  I would love to hear from some readers about their retirement journeys.

Day Trippin’ In Arizona

Why you need to take a road trip in Arizona

Some days you just want to get out and get moving.  Recently I had one of those days.  I said to my husband, “Let’s take a road trip on the Apache Trail.”

He was silent for a few minutes, because he is a planner and a thinker but he asked me how quickly I could get ready and thirty minutes later we were on the road.  My husband is the driver for two reasons:

  1.  He is the constant line leader.
  2.  I am a lousy driver.
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My husband, an excellent driver

 

Even though we’ve  lived in Arizona for over thirty years we have never visited the Apache Trail.   The scenic road is named after the Apache Indian tribe that originally used the trail.  We begin our road trip catching AZ 88 in Apache Junction through Tonto National Forrest.

President Theodore Rosevelt compared the beauty of the Apache Trail to the Alps, The Grand Canyon and The Rockies.  “To me it is the most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful.”  He was right.

Slowly we drove along the  steep, narrow and winding road, with saguaro covered hills that runs for roughly forty miles.  Along the way we passed several single lane bridges.  There is an aspect of trust you need to have to get on one of these bridges.  You have to trust that the guy on the other side will wait for you to cross.  Luckily for us the route was not busy

.  This is not a drive for the timid motorist.  Often the road was very narrow with hairpin curves and dropped steeply down to canyons.  I’m not going to lie, when I get scared, imagining a fall down the rocky crevasses I simply close my eyes and think about being somewhere else.  Yet another reason why I am not the driver.

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View of the colors along the Apache Trail

An hour into our journey we happened upon Canyon Lake, a man made reservoir with stunning views of cliffs and bright green and yellow colored desert plants.  So many boaters and campers were out enjoying the idyllic weather.

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Canyon Lake
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Another photographer pointed out this lone bright orange poppy

We drove for about five hours past the Superstition Mountains, Lost Dutchman State Park, Goldfield Ghost Town, Canyon Lake and the tiny tourist town of Tortilla Flat, but did not complete the trail.  Towards the end of the drive the road turns to gravel.  We stopped often along the way to take pictures and appreciate the beauty around us.  In our hectic and busy lives we often ignore what is in our own backyard.  I know we will return again to enjoy the splendor of the desert.

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An ocotillo ready to bloom with the colors of the desert in the background
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Superstition Mountains in the background
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Even though we couldn’t alway pull the car over, we still enjoyed the view
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Century plants, ocotillos, brittle bushes and prickly pears along the way

 

 

 

 

 

Springtime in the Desert

I live in Phoenix Arizona.  People think of the desert as a hot, dry, brown place.  That could not be further from the truth.  This year during monsoon season Phoenix experienced heavier rainfall than is typical.  Following those torrential rains comes the promise of spring wildflowers.  Super bloom time has arrived in the Sonoran Desert.

The desert is bursting with wildflowers.  It’s a beautiful time to see the colors of the Sonoran desert.  Even though I can’t hike yet due to my injury, I did drive to a trailhead to experience that beauty firsthand.

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The buds of the Jumping Cholla  ready to bloom
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Honey bee feeding on Baja Fairy Duster Flower

 

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Close up of a Pink Baja Fairy Duster Flower
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This is not the brown deser, this is super bloom time..
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Saguaro in the colorful desert
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The Creosote bush emits a lovely scent following a rain storm, we think of it as the smell of rain.
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Eleganat Brodiaea

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Desert Marigold dot the landscape throughout the Sonoran desert.

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Lupine flowers

 

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This ridge of iconic Saguaro cactus is near my home

For years I’ve driven along one particular road and never noticed the majestic ridge of Saguaro cactus, until the other day.  This time it wasn’t about completing a hike, it   was about taking time to notice and see the beauty around me. The old adage is apropos.  Take time to smell the wildflowers.

Getting Older, Apparently it’s Unavoidable

Getting older is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

Age is a sticky subject for me.  I don’t like to admit that I’m getting older but the reality of life is that getting older is better than the alternative.

I guess when you admit that you are getting older you also become more accepting of the reality of your own mortality.  And that is something I’m not ready for.

Maybe one of the positive things about age and maturity is that your perspective changes.  Now I don’t worry about what people think about me.  Gone are the days of insecurity.  You can like me if you want, but it’s not something that I crave any longer.  I am not afraid to give people my honest opinion.

Knowing that life is precious and fleeting, I really want to experience everything I can.  I do try to live my dreams.  Going to Australia and seeing the Great Barrier Reef last month was something I wanted to do since I was a kid.   I fell in love with the spectacular pictures of the Great Barrier Reef, and the idea of visiting a far away place.  My brother Neal, who keeps EVERYTHING  from our childhood (and archives it  )recently sent me the National Geographic School Bulletin from 1968.  This was the magazine that ignited my desire to to see Australia.   On the cover was Australia’s Barrier Reef.   As a nine year old,  I saw those pictures and knew I had to go there.   It was on my Bucket List.   It may have taken me almost fifty years, but I got there.  It no longer looks like it did in 1968, but it was wonderful nonetheless.

 

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Captivating article about Great Barrier Reef “one of the most awesome spots on earth.”

I was finding Nemo inside the magazine in ’68, thirty five years  before Pixar even dreamed of the movie.

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Clownfish from 1968 magazine

Right now I’m dealing with the realization that my body doesn’t always do what I want it to.   I fractured my foot a couple of weeks ago, climbing the stairs.  No, it didn’t happen when I bungee jumped off a building, or when I was snorkeling , or hiking or riding a speed boat.  It happened when I was just climbing the stairs!

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My new “boot”

I’m in a walking boot now  and it is very uncomfortable to walk in.  When I went to the store yesterday I sat in a cart scooter, acknowledging my disability .  I drove around Costco and knocked over a couple of displays, but no people.  Those things are really slow, and loud when you back up.  It took me twice as long to shop as it usually does.  I felt vulnerable and old.  Two things I wish to avoid.

I may accept the realization that my body isn’t as strong as it once was, but I am not giving up.  I realize this is my new reality. It’s probably time to give away my roller blades.  But I refuse to let it slow me down.                                                                                Age is only a number.

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My rollerblades, not for sale……. yet

 

 

 

 

Exploring Down Under

Taking in the sights, sounds and flavors or Sydney and Auckland

When our cruise ship arrived in Sydney at sunrise I was awed by the absolute beauty of the city.  The Sydney Opera House, Harbor Bridge and gorgeous downtown were all so spectacular.

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Harbor Bridge, Sydney
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Downtown Sydney at sunrise

We had only one day to spend in Sydney before we headed to Auckland, New Zealand so we wanted to make the best of it.  We checked  into our hotel and because it was a Sunday we headed over to the Market at The Rocks.  The Rocks are located on the site of Sydney’s historic city center.  We shopped some of the stalls of hand made and recently imported items then ate a terrific lunch along the way at playfair cafe.  They offered sandwiches and salads but we also decided to order the berry crumble, which was the better than you could ever imagine.  The owner, Sean told us it was worth the wait and was going to change our lives.  It was and it did.  We ate it so quickly I forgot to take a photo of it in all of it’s deliciousness.

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Home of the life changing “crumble”

We walked along the ferry terminal to the  Opera House.  It is spectacular up close as well .  I had no idea that the surface was covered with tiles.

 

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A bit of a different view of the Sydney Opera House

We have some friends from Phoenix who now live in Sydney so after our shopping we met them for dinner at Ripples.  It is located outside a community pool and has a beautiful view of both the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge.  The food and wine were so delicious and it was so very nice to spend time with our expat friends.  After dinner they suggested we walk the bridge.  It was a short walk and the evening views did not disappoint.  It was also free, not the  $250 charged by the company that escorts walkers slowly across the highest point of bridge.

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Seafood salad from Ripples

 

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My friend Brooks and I outside Ripples Restaurant in Sydney

 

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Beautiful bridge architecture
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View of the Sydney Opera House from the bridge

The next morning we were at the airport headed to Auckland, New Zealand for a few days.  We arrived in Auckland and recognized the SkyTower before we even hit downtown.  We checked into our Airbnb in the center of town and were ready to explore the city.  Since we only had four days in New Zealand, we decided to explore Auckland and the surrounding area by foot and by ferry.

We went to the ferry terminal and took Fuller’s  Harbor tour, which provided us with a nice narrated cruise with view of Auckland’s downtown from the water, Bean Rock Lighthouse, the Auckland Harbor bridge and stops in Rangitoto, an island created by volcanic rock, and Davenport.

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Downtown Auckland from the harbor
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Bean Rock Lighthouse
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A seagull perched on top of a roof in Rangitoto

I may get scared easily, but ultimately I am an adrenaline junkie.  I like to be scared.  As soon as I saw people bungee jumping off of the Sky Tower, I knew I had to do it.  A thrill, with very little risk in my estimation.  After you sign your life away, participants are weighed, placed in jumpsuits and harnesses and sent up to the top of the tower to free fall for about twelve seconds.  It was terrifying and exhilarating. I screamed the entire way down and loved it.

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Freefalling from the 630 foot Auckland Sky Tower

We celebrated after the jump by enjoying a New Zealand delicacy, Green Lipped mussels.  They were gigantic and fabulous.

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Green lipped mussels, order the small portion

For our final day in Auckland we booked a day long wine tasting tour with Waiheke Island Wine Tours. We were met by our driver Wayne, a life long resident of this picturesque island, who explained the history of winemaking on the island as well as information about native Maori culture.  We visited three wineries and finished with a gourmet lunch at The Shed at Dunleavy Vineyards.

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A view of the small marina from Waiheke Island
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One of the many vineyard in Waiheke Island
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Wine tasting at Miro Winery
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Luggage for the trip home

The next morning we woke up early for a very long travel day back to America.  We were able to keep our baggage down to two suitcases and two backpacks. For our return We did check our luggage since they were now heavy and expanded to maximum capacity, also we needed to put our wine somewhere..

We have completed our journey of thirty one days visiting the other side of the world.  We tried new foods, met new friends and experienced things that we will never forget.  There is no one else in this world that I enjoy traveling with more than my husband.  As we waited for our Uber to arrive a bus passed us by and on that bus was the message of our travel.

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