Do I have a tribe?

I’m sittingIMG_5135ng on my deck, sipping at a cup of tea, looking at the mountain view to the west, and listening to – of course – CBC Radio. Today’s interview with Sebastian Junger explaining his new book “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging” gave me a couple of ah-ha moments.  Sebastian writes about the experience of soldiers, first aid workers, emergency workers, and others when they arrive home after a traumatic experience. He suggests the sense of belonging arises from being a part of a team or sharing a common experience and ultimately results in a sense of tribalism within that group.   He posits that once we leave these situations, we lose our sense of self and aren’t sure of how to behave. He shared a story of a soldier who came home after a very intense posting overseas. He was with his wife in the grocery store, surrounded by a plethora of choices. If I recall the story correctly, the soldier was so overwhelmed he couldn’t even pick out his cereal. He didn’t know how to make that choice.  I know I haven’t captured the full meaning of that conversation, but it made sense to me. I will need to listen to it again to fully “get it”. Perhaps I will even read his book!

The interview continued to discuss people’s experiences from events such as World War II, the Springhill Mine Disaster, and more.  My first “Ah-ha”moment – that’s why I remember so many of the seniors talking so gleefully about their World War II experiences.  These were young adults, sent off to “save the world” – and fight for their country. Yet when that fight is over, what is next?  Where do they belong?  How do they fit in and find their new place?

Fortunately I have not been through any such traumatic and life-changing experiences.  But his ideas did resonate.  Do we form our own tribe at work?  Is that sense of belonging developed from being with colleagues, employers, and others involved in our massive world of work, suddenly disappear when we retire?  I’d say yes.  I miss the sense of being part of that work tribe. Perhaps  I, and others like me, stay in somewhat unhealthy work relationships longer than we should – because we see no alternative tribe to join.  Carrying that deeper – I come from a big family – a tribe of 8 children and a large extended family.  Although I cherish my alone time, I still have always felt a need to belong to some group. I do better overall when I have a group activity or event to go to, even if I need my quiet time and space while with the group.

I think this interview gave me some better insights as to  why I feel such a need to join an adventure, belong to a club, and seek out a new tribe.  All part of the journey, isn’t it!img_0405.jpg


Some scenes from my weekend walk around Gilbert’s Crossing.  Every time I catch a glimpse of the mountain view, I am stunned by their beauty.  I never get tired of looking.  These pictures simply can’t show the true quality of this natural beauty.  The prairies creeping up on the rolling hills, overshadowed by the snow-covered looming rocky peaks of the Castle Wilderness area.  Right now the place is lush and green, as we just had a rain and snow shower go through.  When I look at these sites, i am momentarily grateful for all I have, for the opportunity to take in these views, and breathe the fresh, pungent mountain air.

This week the Wolf Willow are in bloom. Their sweet smell belies their modest origins – a spindly bush  covered in small, waxy, sturdy leaves can’t possible emit such a perfume. But it does.  I recall the book Wolf Willow by Wallace Stegner, the 20th century writer and social geographer who so profoundly captured the simple beauty of the prairies and foothills.  I think of W.O. Mitchell’s “Who has seen the wind” and his powerful descriptions of our scenery as told through the eyes of a young boy.  The smell of wolf willow permeated his story, weaving its way into a Canadian classic.   For years I tried to grow some on the farm, hoping to capture that part of the Canadian experience.  Alas, I have a brown thumb and couldn’t keep the twigs alive.   But now, the hillsides at Gilbert’s Crossing are loaded with them.  When I walk by them, I stop, take a deep breath, savour the smell and realize that just for a moment,  I have become part of the penultimate Canadian experience.  I, like thousands of other outdoor enthusiasts,  have  had the opportunity to simply savour the beauty of our countryside. My bucket list is slowly being complete.

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Curling Rocks!

Sometimes in life we made really, really, really bad decisions, but once in awhile, we get lucky and make a great one.  That’s what happened to me this winter.



Blaine bugged me all year to join him in Senior’s Curling in Lethbridge.  I just didn’t want to the big commitment.  Driving  all the way to the city  two days a week  – that means a 45 minute drive – leaving mid-morning so we get there in time to practice, staying for 3 hours to curl and chitchat with strangers, and then driving back home arriving around 4:30 or 5:00; well, it just seemed to much of a bother.  After doing that same grind (even longer) every day for almost 26 years of work, I just didn’t want to have to say yes.  But finally, in March I agreed.

Flash forward 6 weeks.  I know we must made our best decision in years.  We are together at a social event twice a week – it’s like “date afternoon”.  We are put onto different teams so we have to meet different people during reach game. I  I have been forced out of my winter hibernation comfort zone at a time when I needed it the most.

I’m not that great of a curler, but I have picked up more tips in the last 6 weeks that I have in 6 years.   I’m getting fit again.  Take note Jenny Craig, Weigh Watchers, Herbal Magic and all you other diet businesses – I have found a better way!  Today I fit into curling pants I haven’t even dare to try for over 2 years.  Who knew that curling twice a week could put me on the path to picking up my skinny jeans again (well, not for another few weeks yet, but I still can dream). Plus, because of curling, I found a friend that I can travel with. Last week we took a grand curling adventure to Swift Current Sk. to watch the first 3 draws of the World Women’s Championship. Now, I have a whole rink full of new friends to mull over the games, each of us offering our own so-called “expert” take on the games.  What a blast!

Team Canada
Team Canada enters the arena at the Opening Ceremonies – World Women’s Championship 2016

The best part – watching happy seniors stay physically and mentally well.   Sometimes I can look across the ice and see the kid in us all, no matter our age. It’s fun to laugh over a mistake, worry over a shot, and  high-five over a success with my new team mates.

I wish that more younger people could see the joy in our eyes – and see that life after 55 doesn’t mean we are out to pasture. Instead, it means we are still full of vitality! Unlike those of you younger beings, we now have the time to revisit our inner child and be a kid again, despite our creaky knees, saggy boobs, and thinning hair.

Rock on my senior friends – and Hurry Hard!

Opening Ceremonies for the Word Women’s Championship – Swift Current, 2016

Year End in Review – Not!

Sad news, happy news,  good news, bad news, same old news.  That’s the stuff of year-end reviews.  I used to love those annual wrap-ups. Sometimes I would stay up late catching as many of them as I could.  After the Christmas let-down, the year-in-review was a last blast of revelry, something to look forward to as the rush of the holiday season leaked away.

But since Freedom 55, I don’t care anymore.  The reviews seem redundant – tragedy after tragedy revisited, followed by political scandal and failings, followed by stories of brash excesses from so-called celebrities. I just don’t want to hear it anymore. Coming from a former news junkie brought on by a lifetime of teaching social studies, this behaviour is uncharacteristic of me – or at least the old me.  Perhaps retirement is forging a new me, someone who has totally different interests and passions.

Is it that I am no longer so future focused? I have spent my lifetime looking forward, striving to become the best I could be – to learn more, to work harder, to be a better mother, simply to be more. But now, none of that matters. There is no forward in the career path.  My parenting time is done. My son is grown up and has left home.  It is now time to focus on the present.

I haven’t figured this new me out yet, but I am on my way.  I am enjoying the present more than ever.  I am starting to let go of my past persona, unsubscribing from many of the previous expectations.  The annual year-end review is one of the many small pieces of the past that I am happily rejecting.

So my year end in review tradition will now be to sit down, enjoy a cup of tea and relax with a cheesy movie, a quick peek at Facebook, and a good book.  I’m saying  NO to the annual Year in Review!




55+ means….

Finally finished!

Being over 55 means many things. Recently I’ve discovered it means I finally have run out of excuses to avoid taking care of unfinished business. And so, I have dug deep into the pile of unfinished dreams. Voila! Over ten years ago Collen and I thought it would be fun to take a quilting course with mom.  We all started on the same pattern, and had a memorable weekend. Mom finished her quilt shortly after. That October I went to a conference in Ottawa. While the, I hand delivers it to Cathy who was living in Toronto at the time.  My project went into the closet.

Over the past few years I looked at my unfinished pieces, but put them back.  Always tight work de,ands were far more important. Every time I looked at my unfinished pieces pushed back nth th closet, I found a reason not to finish.  Marking needed to be done. Assignments needed to be created. Projects needed to be developed.   I was needed as assistant coach of my son’s volleyball team. Then I needed to chaperone the outdoor Ed trips,  the band trips, the sports trips, and more. I needed to be on school council , on the curling club, and whatever other committee needed someone.  I even was elected to be on our school board. Meanwhile, I worked full time. And I worked, worked, and worked.  UltimatEly whatever I was working and searching for led to stress leave. Even worse, after a lifetime of commitment to education and learning, my path led to being recognized primarily as a budget deficit in an increasingly business oriented world that saw educators ove 50 as liabilities rather than assets.

Meanwhile, I had a closet full of unfollowed dreams.  Of trips never taken, of hikes never walked, of race never ran. Of projects never finished.  And, of empty excuses not to do what I really and, but probably feared doing, thinking I just wasn’t good enough.

It is to late for me to be a star, to wind a trophy, to be the best teacher of the year. But I can take baby sets to catch some of dreams.  To make them more realistic and reachable.  And so, my time for excuses is over. I have to grab hold of the small victories and celebrate them. Consequently I have decided to finish some of those unfinished projects, and reach for those dreams while I still can,no matter how small.

One of those small steps… Finish that quilt I started a lifetime ago. This weekend I finally did just that. No more excuses. No more time to put it off. Just do it!  The quilt may not look great when I look closely; the seams are certainly not perfect. Nevertheless, It is a small victory, but one that I never would have wn had I not taken that wonderful step of “retiring” two years ago. It als symbolizes what a better state of mind o am now in.  Ironically, I am more confident than ever in my abilities and happier than ever.  I have started to check off those bucket list items. I am content.

So here’s to the growing list of small victories.

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