Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Benefits of My Part Time Job

A Sampling of My Work

Last day of November and I'm stuck at home with an aching back that would prefer I didn't do anything at all.  How did this come about......actually it's quite a short story.  I have a temperamental lower back that occasionally likes to remind me that it can put me out of commission anytime I ignore or forget this physical limitation that haunts my existence.  Last Saturday I chose to ignore, and in my state of perceived youthfulness and indestructibility I dug a ten foot long, 2 foot deep trench through the layer of frost and the sandy ground below.  Regrettably, frost is stubborn and sand is heavy, and, in order to engage in the task at hand, I had to bend over.  A slight twinge in the lower back and....nothing more needs to be said......except that looking at my usually fantastic physique in the mirror is not very encouraging at the moment.  It looks like I was tackled  from the side by some malevolent force, and my back was frozen in time at the moment of impact.  Not a pleasant sight!  Actually looks real weird.  However, past experience leads me to believe that I will be okay in another 2 or 3 days.  I do constantly have to remind myself that my back will never be 100%.  Bummer!

Anyways, on to my main topic..... now that I have time to write.
I mentioned that I was stuck at home today.  I had originally been scheduled to head into work, but due to my temporary physical state I had to bow out.

No, I am not totally retired.  I have what I think is just about the ideal part time job.  I work one or two days a week at a local brewery.  It is not an easy job by any means.....rather it is one of the most physically demanding jobs I have ever had.  I work damn hard on the days I work, with few breaks.  Why, after working all my life up to now and finally reaching the promised land, would I want such a challenging job????  There are a number of reasons.

1.  First of all, I guess the main reason I work is to make a bit of extra money to play around with.  My pension income is generally not play money, but "survival during retirement" money.  I have a special account to deposit my brewery earnings into so I can save up for something special.....or...... I can just blow it if I want.  It's sort of like the first bank account that you have when you're a kid.  Maybe retirement is sort of like having that childlike freedom again.

2.  Secondly, this job makes me totally appreciate having been a teacher.  I made a decent salary, had great vacation times, stayed young because I was dealing with students who never seemed to get any older (or smarter), and had to remain sharp both mentally and physically.  Regardless of how we may at times complain, it is a fine and secure way to spend your working life.  Teaching is certainly not an appropriate job for everyone, but it worked for me.  On the other hand, I could not imagine myself having worked on a tedious, assembly line job all my life.  I would have gone absolutely crazy.  I do enjoy going to the brewery and working on the line, but if I had to do it 5 days a week, I would become mentally unstable and very likely drink far too much.

3.  Another REALLY important reason for working is to make me appreciate retirement.  Regardless of what stage we are at in our lives, it is essential that it is made up of a variety of different activities of varying degrees of difficulty.  Working at the brewery every week provides me with a bit of a jolt and helps me put things into perspective.   After working hard for a day or two each week I find that I really appreciate my days off.  They seem to be "fuller" and I don't for a minute take them for granted.  I believe that if you start taking time for granted, you start wasting it, and ultimately waste yourself.

4.  A side benefit of working part time is that you still stay involved in some capacity and feel useful to others (and yourself).  There are of course many other ways that you can do this.  Working just happens to be the way that I've chosen.  It's neat going into the liquor store and seeing all the wonderful beer that I've had a role in getting to market.  When I work I always challenge myself to do the best job I can..... it's how I get a lot of intrinsic satisfaction.  I fear that one of the biggest challenges that society faces today is the reluctance of many people to work hard for what they get.  It seems that the work ethic has been largely replaced by a feeling of "entitlement"...... a word and a concept that I really HATE.   There aren't many things I hate, but that's one of them.   I'm going to have to discuss that concept in a future blog entry.

5.  Another unexpected benefit is that working at a brewery is a bit of a physical workout.  On a typical day I would probably be packing and lifting about 300 to 400 flats of beer, each weighing about 35 pounds.  That's quite a few reps.  Sometimes it feels like a bit of an endurance workout.  Of course the next day I might be too tired to do any exercise, but that's okay.........we're supposed to have rest days. Incidentally, I'm also developing new skills, like getting real fast with a glue gun.  Of course the first day on the gun was pretty painful, and it took about a week to get rid of the blisters resulting from the inaccurate placement of hot glue.

6.  The socializing benefits of having a job must also be noted.  Instead of being at home doing things on my own, I am spending time socializing with a new group of people, most of who are not quite like the teacher bunch I am used to.  A couple of them are retired teachers like me, but others are from totally different walks of life.  One interesting aspect of the situation is that the "bosses" are all much younger than us retired teachers and other casual workers.  Fortunately, they are fairly reasonable and very hard working.  We all get along very well.

7.  Seventhly (is that a real word?), I do get a significant amount of beer to take home with me.  I am storing up for whatever eventuality may arise.  I think I may end up having to spend my hard earned wages buying a beer fridge.  Luckily the beer does have a shelf life of 6 months, and my garage is fairly cool.  I may never have to buy beer again (which will save me a lot of money).  Of course my car will never see the inside of the garage either.

 8. The eighth reason this is a neat job is that it's really cool to be able to tell my buddies that I work at a brewery, and with all the beer I get, I'm sure there'll be no shortage of buddies-in-waiting.

9.  Seriously, and in conclusion,  I do believe that in a number of ways, this job will help me to enjoy my retirement as well as helping to keep me young (and keep the joints well lubricated).

Epilogue ---  The best part of this, and any post-retirement job, is that if I really get tired of it, I'll just say goodbye and thank you.....................and find a new job at a local winery.
         Gotta love retirement in the Okanagan!!!!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Still Procrastinating in Retirement

I had  planned on posting every 2 weeks or so, but old habits die hard.  Even now, after retiring, I'm still procrastinating......still thinking things to death and trying to get them perfect before I publish.  That's gotta change.  I've got to just write, and realize I can edit things later if I want to.  So... here we go...just gonna write.

The topic of this post are the races I've done in the past couple of months.

First of all, I did compete in the first Kelowna Xterra at the end of September.  I was just about the oldest guy who was competing, but I don't plan on letting that stop me in any of my ventures.  (Side note - you'all should read "Younger Next Year" and do what it says).  Back to the Xterra....... I competed in the sport duathlon group which involved a 2.5 k run, a 12 k bike, and a 4.5 k run. Although I personally felt I did fairly well in my first 2.5 k run, the other 5 left me in the dust. Hey, but all of them them were younger than me (4 of them exceptionally so). The good news was on the bike.  After taking a bonk on the head during a head-over-heels spill in a squishy marshy area, I proceeded to pick off 3 of those young fellas and got side by side with a fourth before he edged ahead. Two of the three caught me again on the last run (4k). Ultimately I finished 5th in my group of 6.  I did end up getting a first place medal in the over 60 sport duathlonites. :) My running still pretty much sucks and I have to work harder at it before my next race in Victoria (8 k in 2 weeks).

Onto the Victoria race..........Barb and I drove to Victoria on October 9th and stayed in a charming old B and B in Oak Bay.  The next morning, in the dark, we drove to the race sight in downtown Victoria, and both got ourselves prepared to race - I was doing the 8k and Barb the half marathon.  Our large group (2674) started off at 7:15.  Barb started at 7:30 and finished with a time of 2:24.  I finished in 42:08, 458th overall and 11th out of 53 in the 60-64 male age group.  Although I would have liked to have had the mental endurance to go under 42 minutes (that was my goal), I really was pleased with my overall placing.  Regarding mental endurance and toughness... I find that element to be the most difficult part of running.  Physically, I no doubt need to gradually improve, but if that physical improvement is not matched by a corresponding growth in mental toughness, I won't reach the times that I'm shooting for.  (Another side note - I believe as we get older, we do become more mentally tough.  Our physical condition may not be equal to younger runners, but often our mental toughness can compensate and level out the playing field.)  During the race I was tired and my legs were feeling real heavy, but I found the biggest enemy was my mind.  I was telling myself that I was tired and I should probably slow down a bit.  Unfortunately, I listened to myself.  I should have done what Jens Voigt (a very cool biker who is one of the oldest in the Tour de France) does.  He tells his legs to "shut up and get to work".  If I could do that I'm sure I could have been under 42 minutes.  I do believe you should have nothing left when you cross the finish line!

The third race (kinda) that I've done this fall was the Kelowna Pub Relay.  Yesterday Barb, myself and 4 others (Carmelle, Rob, Lois, and Al) entered a team in this non-serious, dressup type race.  Each of us had to run a certain distance(anywhere from about 3 to 7k), from one pub to the next throughout Kelowna.  At the end of each leg, the runner had to chug a glass of beer.  My leg was a 5.3 km section from a pub up on Rutland Road down to one at Orchard Park.  I completed it in 27:14 and in the process ran a 5 k PB.  Okay, so it was more downhill than uphill and maybe I shouldn't count it as an official type time.  Besides, a couple of people (including a talkative girl) passed me during the run.  Anyhow, we all had a great time, drinking a bit of beer, wolfing down a buffet lunch, and winning a couple of door prizes.

The above three are the formal type races I've completed during the past little while.  As well as running, I've also been biking a couple of times each week.  Next on the agenda is skate skiing.  I've rounded up all my equipment and now all I need is snow!!!

Well, I should wrap up this post and publish it before I decide it's not good enough.  It has been primarily a newsy background bit that I needed to write before I can move on to the next.

I've already decided to write about my part-time dream job next.  Should be lots of food (and drink) for thought in that entry.

Oh, by the way, if anyone reading my blog ever has any comments to make relating to what I've written, please feel free to respond.  I'd love to "spar" with anyone who'd like to engage.  I'm sure I'm not "always" right.......... but I am right most of the time.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pets and "The Art of Racing in the Rain"

Been awhile since I wrote my first entry to my blog.  It's been a busy time.    This retirement deal is a lot more work than I thought it would be.  I've been working out regularly though because this weekend I am competing in the first Xterra event in Kelowna.  I'll be racing in the Sport Duathlon division, which involves 2.5 km of running through the woods, 15 km of mountain biking, and another 4 km of running.  I'm ready and eager for Sunday to come.  Although the weather has been iffy for the last little while, the outlook is good for Sunday!

But I don't really want to talk about the race right now.  What I want to discuss is a book that I just finished reading.  A book written from the perspective of a dog - The Art of Racing in the Rain (by Garth Stein).  Enzo, an intelligent and philosophical dog, talks about his life and his role in his adopted family.  According to a documentary he had seen on the Discovery Channel, Mongolians believe that when dogs die they become human beings in their next life.  As Enzo ages, he is rather looking forward to his  passing, as his current body (in his opinion) has two severe shortcomings - no opposable thumbs, and a floppy, uncontrollable tongue that does not permit him to talk.

I personally found this book to be very powerful, not only because I like dogs, but also because the events that are encountered by Enzo's family were quite similar to some I have had to deal with along the way.  It made me revisit some largely disturbing episodes from my past, and at times I considered not completing the book because it uncovered long-hidden feelings of anger and hopelessness.  These feelings were primarily related to the legal system (lawyers and their inhumane arrogance) and how ultimately, within the scope of it, money usually wins out over what is truly fair and just.  There were a couple of times thoughts reawakened by the book prevented me from falling asleep.  Finally, after failing to fall asleep after a particularly disturbing chapter, I decided to get up and finish the dam book!  Fortunately, the book generally had a satisfying conclusion, although a bit far fetched.

This now leads me to what I REALLY want to talk about.  Pets (primarily dogs and cats).  I have 3 pets - 2 dogs (Gabriel - a 7.5 year-old chocolate lab, and Angel - a 7 year-old golden retriever) and 1 cat (Zoe - my dad encouraged me to dislike cats, but during the past few years Zoe has converted me).  I have frequently sat down with one of these genuine beasts, looked into their eyes, and contemplated the processes within their minds.  If you read my first blog installment you might recall that one of my retirement goals was to spend more time talking to my dogs  because they know what it's all about.  I guess the book kind of reinforced my beliefs regarding dogs.  They live life rather simplistically and are therefore are generally content.  They don't second guess themselves, regret what they did yesterday, or worry about what's going to happen tomorrow.  They are inherently trusting, quick to love, and quicker to forgive.  I truly feel "honoured" to have 2 dogs and a cat living in my house with me.  Yes, I have to clean up after them, sometimes they wake me up in the middle of the night, and other times they impose limitations on our actions..... but I have never wished that they were gone.

The late evening that I finally finished The Art of Racing in the Rain, I went to bed and thought about the personally painful events that the book had awakened, and also contemplated the significance of my pets.  Zoe, my cat, chose that time to silently leap up onto the bed, gently make her way onto my chest and lie down.  This is something that she often does and tonight was not an exception.  But she did something extra tonight that caught my attention.  Something she had never done before, as if she "knew".  She moved her body up a little further than usual and gently rested her head on my cheek, and there she remained.  For some reason my eyes moistened and a tear appeared.

Sometimes spontaneous, seemingly insignificant occurrences can have a major impact.  Don't dismiss them or regard them lightly cause they are what make life meaningful.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Opening Retirement Comments

This first post to my brand new blog is meant to be an introduction to who I am and what I am about.  
The overall purpose of my blog is to record my thoughts and feelings as they occur.  Now that I am retired I need to debrief and understand my past, and plan my future.

I retired at the end of June after teaching for about 35 years.  On Friday, June 18 we held a retirement celebration at my favourite restaurant.  At this "wake" for my career we drank, ate, talked, and I had the opportunity to go up on stage to sing my version of "I Shall Be Released".  

I sent out an email to all of the guests and my other important friends a couple of days later.  I wanted to make sure that I had said all the things that I had intended to say (cause there may not be another chance to address the combined group).

Following is a copy of that email.  It will give a bit of an insight to who I am and how I work.  Hope you enjoy it.

I just want to thank everyone for the celebration that we had on Friday.  It really meant a great deal to me and I was really pleased to see so many of my good friends there.  I often don't know what to make of celebrations.  Do we have them because "we" want them, or because "somebody else" wants them, or because we're "supposed" to have them?? During our lives we do so many things that we are supposed to do or other people think we should do, regardless of our personal opinion.  One of my goals during my retirement is to not be a hypocrite.  I plan on doing what I want to do (because I think it is the right thing to do) for the next 25 or 35 years.  I do know that "I" truly wanted this celebration, and I thank every single one of you for being there, in body and/or in spirit.

I can't quite remember what I said when I was up talking on Friday (Brenda made sure I was well lubricated) but I hope whatever it was, it made a bit of sense.  I probably didn't thank you all for the "over the top" gift certificate to Fresh Air Experience.  Wow!  Money to spend frivolously, yet wisely.  An investment in Fun and Health.   Yippeee!    I am grateful that I am healthy at this advanced stage in life and am truly looking forward to retirement.  I'm not sure I like the word "retirement".  It sounds like an "old" type word.  I guess I'd like to call it "the time you get to do your own thing".  And I have a lot of things that I want to do.  Let me tell you about some of them...... those of you who get bored easily may want to skip this part and get back to doing your report cards..... What!! they're done already?......but I digress.

During my time of doing my own thing I want to do a lot of things including (I'll just put 10 of them here):
1.  Take care of my absolutely amazing wife........2.  Ride my bike like crazy.......3. Spend time with and talk to my dogs more cause they know what it's all about.......4. Learn to cook so I have great food to enjoy with beer and wine........5.  Watch the plants in my garden grow so I will continue to be amazed at life..........6.  Become a better swimmer and runner so I can keep up with my wonderful wife........7.  See the parts of the world that I want to see........8.  Spend more time talking to my brother cause he's older and wiser and the "best" person I know.......9. Spend more time with nature and just sit and listen and look .......10. Continue to challenge myself and LEARN. 

Incidentally, my major goal during the time of doing my own thing is to figure out what life is really about.

Thankyou to the choir for their heart rendering version of "A Bicycle Built for Two"  (how appropriate).  I'm glad you chose a tune that I'm not too young to remember and old enough to appreciate.

One more thing before I get back to my report cards.....................Peter.......Thanks so much for being a good friend.  I think we've shared a lot.  You blew me away when you read the kid comments.  They meant the world to me.  As a teacher, those are the comments that I long for.  I hope no one wrote that I did a really good job of covering the Grade 6 learning outcomes.  That would be disappointing.  I hope  (please, please, please) that I can have a copy of those valuable kid feelings, cause that's what it's all about.

Anyway, I've said enough.  I'll let my version of "I Shall Be Released" finish it off.

Thanks a bunch.................Erik

I Shall Be Released

Standing in front of you is a man with mixed emotions
A man who swears he's not to blame
All the outcomes weren't always taught
But at least the kids came out sane

Chorus:    I see my light come shining
From the west down to the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released

They say everyone can be replaced
I know my time is getting near
Rest assured I'll miss you all
As I bike and chug my next mug of beer.

Thanks for being at this joyous wake
Thanks for the times that now are past
This crazy job was a bit of give and take
But overall it was a blast